Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book review: Out of My Mind

Heather Morgan wrote to me about her daughter Kaitlyn (above) who wears leg braces for problems with bones in her feet. Kaitlyn, 10, had read Out of My Mind, a book about a girl with cerebral palsy, and could relate to many of its themes. I interviewed Kaitlyn to find out more about this book.

BLOOM: Describe the book Out of My Mind.

Kaitlyn Morgan: Out of My Mind is about an 11-year-old girl named Melody who has cerebral palsy and can't talk or control her body. She goes to a special class for disabled kids in her school, but the lessons are really boring for her, because she is really, really smart and has a photographic memory. In Grade 5, she starts inclusion classes with the regular kids in her school, which she really enjoys. When one of the kids in her inclusion class gets a new computer, Melody has the idea to get herself a 'talking' computer, so she can communicate better than with her Bliss symbol board. With her new computer, she joins the quiz team, and is chosen as one of six kids to represent her school in the city competition. She and her school win the tournament, and will move on to the country competition. But when it's the day to leave, her team goes on without her.

BLOOM: What is the character Melody like as a person?

Kaitlyn Morgan: Melody is a really kind person. She would be my friend if I met her.

BLOOM: How did you relate to Melody? In what ways are you similar?

Kaitlyn Morgan: I relate to Melody in many ways. We both are different than regular kids. We would rather be normal. We're both smart and enjoy similar things. We've been teased for our differences. It's hard to be the only kid in my school with braces and reading a book like this was almost like I had a friend like me.

BLOOM: What have you been teased about?

Kaitlyn Morgan: I have been teased before about my braces and that I talk funny.

BLOOM: How do things change for Melody when she gets voice technology?

Kaitlyn Morgan: When Melody gets her talker, she can stand up for herself better. She can show how smart she is and prove she's not stupid. She can tell her parents she loves them.

BLOOM: In the book Melody is initially in separate classes for kids with disabilities. What do you think about that?

Kaitlyn Morgan: I think some of the time, you want to be with people like yourself. But you also need to be with other people. Regular kids need to learn how to cope with people who are different. You can't blame them for not being like you.

BLOOM: In this book Melody primarily has physical disabilities. What if she had also had intellectual disabilities, and it was more challenging for her to learn?

Kaitlyn Morgan: If Melody had intellectual differences, the book would be very different! It's sort of based on the fact that she's so smart and can't share any of it. But, if she couldn't learn the same, I think that she would still be smarter than people expected her to be. She's just a clever person!

For children who do have intellectual disabilities, I think you need to work a little harder to be with them. I think that if you set your expectations to a lower level though, you might be surprised. The kids might be really smart.

You just have to set the right expectations. Not too high, not too low.

BLOOM: Who do you think would enjoy this book?

Kaitlyn Morgan: I think anyone from age 9 to 13 would enjoy the book. I love reading, and I find that the closer your age is to the main character, the more you enjoy the book. I also have leg braces and this book is one of my favourites because Melody is different, sort of like me.


Dear Kaitlyn,

What wise words for all of us to remember: "For children who do have intellectual disabilities, I think you need to work a little harder to be with them. I think that if you set your expectations to a lower level though, you might be surprised. The kids might be really smart."

I think that you're just as smart, or even smarter, than your favorite character, Melody.

I know that being teased at school is difficult sometimes, as I was once young too, wearing leg braces and walking with crutches (something which I will always have to do), but I found that if you are willing to educate other kids about your disability, most will listen, and a few may even become your friends. Those, whom continue to bully you, can be ignored and forgotten. Believe me, "You are stronger than them."

I also need you to remember that you are, and will always be, normal or just like everybody else; we only do things a little differently sometimes.

Some people will say, "Their disability is a part of them, but not all of them", and they are right. However, I like to go one step further by declaring, "My disability is a wonderful part of who I am." I hope and pray that you can one day say the same. Personally, "I think you will."

Moreover, I would ask your parents, if you could get involved in some competitive sports, such as swimming. Look up a woman by the name of "Vicki Keith" on Google, and plead with your Mom to contact her. You may be interested in "taekwondo or wheelchair basketball" –call Variety Village in Toronto. Participating in competitive sports is a great way to meet new people, earn a scholarship to university, go to the Paralympics, and travel the world.

I truly thank you for such an outstanding book review.

May you never stop running in the direction of your dreams, while always reaching for the stars!!!

Your friend,

Matt Kamaratakis