Allison's Book Bag

Just Kids by Ellen Senisi

Posted on: October 8, 2012

English: A special education teacher assists o...

English: A special education teacher assists one of her students. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For anyone who wants to know more about kids with special needs, Ellen Senisi has written an informative juvenile book on the topic called Just Kids. By depicting the experience of a special education room through the eyes of an elementary-aged girl, Senisi has helped the topic feel personal instead of just a dry read of facts. Photos from a real classroom  also provide balance to an otherwise text-heavy book.

According to the afterword, Just Kids is based on a real experience. Everyone has probably heard a student call another “retard”. In Just Kids, Cindy’s teacher took action when this happened. He requested a meeting with the principal and the special education teacher. Together, the adults decided that Cindy should visit the special needs classroom for two weeks to help her understand the kids in that room. By the end of her visit, Cindy had learned a lot about kids whom she had previously ignored or teased.

What information exactly can you find in Just Kids? Well, first, the special education teacher gives Cindy an overview of her class: “All of the children in this classroom gave disabilities. This means that they cannot do some important things that other kids their age can do, like read or spell or speak. You may know someone who cannot walk or hear. These are disabilities too. Disabilities are caused by problems with the brain….” This is the reason that one often sees more than one adult in a resource room. Multiple adults are needed to give the extra attention needed for students who struggle to learn best.

Next, the special education teacher introduces Cindy to different students and answers questions about their needs. Within the resource room featured in Just Kids, one meets kids who have:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: they act more impulsively and energized than their peers, which causes them to struggle with paying attention
  • Autism: they find it more difficult to understand people’s conversations and actions than their peers
  • Down Syndrome: they are born with a disability that keeps them from growing the way they should
  • Behavior Disorders: they struggle with self-control and sorting through emotions
  • Learning Disabilities: they have trouble with the way their brain handles information, causing schoolwork to be more difficult than for their peers
  • Physical Disabilities: they need extra help with moving and coordinating their bodies
  • Speech Disabilities: they struggle with pronouncing sounds and words

Third, the special education teacher explains the forms of support students might receive. It could range from pull-out to mainstream to inclusion. Pull-out is one side of the spectrum. With it, students receive much of their support in the resource room. Inclusion is on the opposite spectrum. With it, students spend their whole time in the regular classroom and are simply visited by their resource teacher who provides support as needed.

If all this sounds like an incredible amount of information to give to young people, I agree. One thing I appreciate about Just Kids is how thorough and detailed its coverage is. No one could accuse this book of being for little kids. At the same time, because it’s from the perspective of a fifth-grader and because of all the photos, this book is certainly suitable for students in elementary school and upwards.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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