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A Child, A Family, A School, A Community

A Tale of Inclusive Education


Diane Linder Berman and David J. Connor

This book is a true story of one family’s journey into inclusive education. Having previously been told that her son Benny had "failed to function" in two exclusionary special education classrooms in New York City, Berman’s family set off in search of a school where Benny would be accepted for who he was, while having the opportunity to grow and flourish academically, socially, and emotionally alongside his brother, Adam. Connor’s interest was piqued when Berman shared her desire to document the ways in which the new school community had supported Benny throughout the years. Together, they thought, surely other teachers, school and district level administrators, parents of children with and without disabilities, teacher educators, and student teachers, could learn from such a success story?

The result of their collaboration is this book in which Berman skillfully narrates episodes across time, describing ways in which children, teachers, educational assistants, parents, and a principal came to know Benny—developing numerous and often creative ways to include him in their classrooms, school, and community. Connor’s commentaries after each chapter link practice to theory, revealing ways in which much of what the school community seems to "do naturally" is, in fact, highly compatible with a Disability Studies in Education (DSE) approach to inclusive education. By illuminating multiple approaches that have worked to include Benny, the authors invite educators and families to envision further possibilities within their own contexts.

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Prelude: Summer 1972


My family rents a summer home on Fire Island. There are no cars. We walk barefoot and I learn to ride my bike without training wheels. The water seems to be everywhere and the air smells a little like pickles and sprinkles my face with salty droplets. I do not even miss my home; I could live here forever. I count the days. At first thirty seem like forever, but then they begin to slide away and I do not want to leave. It feels like a fairy tale come to life. We go to the bay and then the beach and carry groceries home in a tiny wagon. My mom lets me play outside alone and walk by myself all over. I make a lot of new friends.

I meet Jill while trying to learn to fish. She comforts me when I cry because of the worm and then the fish which twist on the hook until we can pull them off and throw them back, now damaged and it seems like a really mean thing to do to them. She is older than I am by a whole four years, almost ten. But she likes me and it feels good to have an older girl, with beautiful hair, want to play with me. She has puffy reddish cheeks as if she is wearing makeup but I know she is not. She seems to know so much, I guess, because she is ten. She has...

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