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Torey Hayden - Somebody Else's Kids

(This is repost from LJ)

In this book Torey Hayden has officially lost her class to inclusion laws that force kids of special needs to go the classes with other children (that's sometime in the 1970's somewhere in the East Coast of USA, I presume, but could as well be Finland of the 1990s). First she does only some extra teaching but eventually Hayden ends up with a small, new class to call of her own. And in the process she ends up being accused of idealism more than once.

There is the first-grader Lori with a minor brain injury that makes her unable to learn to read unlike her twin sister; Seriously autistic Boo with interracial parents (note that Hayden does not blame the marriage) who can only repeat sentences but may suddenly take all his clothes off to jump all around; violent and aggressive older kid Tomaso, who apparently expects to be hated, almost tries to ensure that it'll happen and emphasizes that he's Spanish, not a Mexican; and finally the 6th grader Claudia who is expelled from her Catholic school when he gets pregnant at the age of twelve.

The story also includes some criticism of the school system (thought I do not know if it reflects the conditions in that particular state or federal school policies). For example, Hayden writes about alphabet books that were apparently made more for the adult's aesthetic tastes than for children's educational needs (like most of the children's music where I live).

Then there's Edna, the very old-school teacher who thinks that Lori's inability to read - and probably other children's similar problems - are just a signs of laziness and subordination (I have heard similar attitudes in other fields of life). One of her methods is public humiliation. (I wonder if she was the kind of teacher who tried to force left-handed to become right-handed. Maybe mentioning that would have made her too easy to recognize…). And Hayden feels that she does not have enough clout to resist her.

Boo looks prettily innocent and at first he seems to connect with smell, but he rarely talks in his own accord - just repeats the previous evening's weather forecast. Only in occasion he seems to recognize other people, even if Lori makes her talkative best to connect.

After Hayden refuses to be aggravated, Tomaso seems to find the gentlemanly side of machismo and ends up helping Lori who refuses to be afraid of him, even if during one outburst he threatens to kill the teacher. Claudia hovers between extremes of expecting that everything will be just peachy and gloomy moments when she wonders what's she'll do.

As for Lori, Edna's methods and attitude just makes things worse. Eventually Hayden tries to emphasize things Lori is able to learn to do, especially when there seems to be nothing wrong in any other way, but the school system does not take exceptions into account.

If this class is a composite of Hayden's different pupils from different times, it works well. Because this story is based of reality, everything does not go all that well but there is no tragedies. According to her website, Tomaso is the only one Hayden has not heard of after a brief mention in the newspapers.


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