Emily Included – Cerebral Palsy

Emily Included9781926920337_p0_v1_s260x420Emily Included:  A True Story

Kathleen McDonnell, Author

Second Story Press, Biography, Mar. 1, 2012

Suitable for Ages:  8-12

Themes:  Cerebral Palsy, Disabilities, Special Needs, Inclusive Education, Supreme Court

Synopsis:  Emily Eaton was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy (CP) and had many physical challenges.   As a young child, her body was “floppy,” but she eventually defied doctors predictions and learned to sit, feed herself and walk with a special walker and leg braces.  She uses a wheel chair.  Verbal communication was difficult, although she learned to communicate with facial expressions and body language. Emily also had visual difficulties.  Because of her special need for therapy and teachers, Emily had attended a school for children with disabilities.  But at age five, her parents decided to enroll her in a public school so that she could interact with other children and become part of the community in which she lived.  Emily was nervous at first, but grew to love her school and new friends.  She attended school two years before the board of education intervened.

Little did Emily know she was about to face a great challenge in her life  — a school system that only saw her disabilities and not her abilities.  She was denied access to her second grade class.    This very strong girl only wanted the right to attend school like a regular kid.  With the support of her family, Emily  confronted the local board of education first.  This courageous girl ended up taking her case to the Canadian Supreme Court in the late 1990s.  Her fight became a battle for all children with physical and mental disabilities to have the right to be included in public schools.

What I like about this book:  Kathleen McDonnell has written an inspirational narrative about Emily’s remarkable journey to attend school with non-disabled children.  What I found fascinating was that Emily’s teachers and students found how much they benefited from her participation in school.  They all worked together as a team and enjoyed her presence in the classroom.  Teachers reported here were so many valuable lessons for everyone involved.  Her inclusion in school was groundbreaking for a child with severe CP in the nineties.   According to the author, there is still a lot of work to be done because “resources and funding remain major roadblocks to facilitating these rights in classrooms today.”   Emily however, graduated from high school.  You may visit Kathleen McDonnell at her website.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

32 thoughts on “Emily Included – Cerebral Palsy

  1. Oh, wow. Thank you for sharing this with us, Pat. I would have thought that by the 1990s we, as a society, would have been more compassionate toward special needs kids. I’m so grateful she was able to take her fight to the Supreme Court. So many kids have benefitted from her actions, and, as you say, we still have so far to go.


    • Glad you appreciated her story. Emily was very courageous to take her case to the Supreme Court. I think the compassion is growing, but I do think there are many parents of children with special needs who have mixed feelings about inclusion in both our countries. It depends upon the quality of the inclusion program, and resources. I am hoping some of others speak up.


  2. I love books like this. I work with a lot of special needs kids in our school and at hospitals. I find them all to be courageous individuals. And their parents are as well. We have a strong inclusion program in our schools, but I think that many parents face big obstacles trying to find the right answers for their kids. This is a very important topic! Thanks for sharing this book. I’ll have to check it out!


    • Thank you so much for your input. I was hoping individuals with experience in this area would share experiences. I know where I live the school systems are very involved in their inclusion programs. I hoped elsewhere too. It is such an important topic.


      • The inclusion process seems to not always work like we would like for it to, but it also seems that for the most part the special needs kids are accepted pretty naturally by the larger population of kids. It’s always encouraging to see them included in activities and looked after by the other kids.


      • Thanks for the additional comments. It’s nice to know that you experience a natural acceptance by the larger populations of kids. My daughter was always a helper in middle school to a girl with CP and she loved it. But, I know that some families have had problems. But, it is a tough decision for parents to find the best learning experiences for their kids. It’s nice knowing that you are involved as a teacher.


  3. What a great book! I like the argument Emily and her family had with The Board. It is a pretty important thing. My parents had to fight with our school board (well the old one before we moved) because they wanted to put my sister in a class that wouldn’t have her with the rest of the kids. She is in a regular class but gets help now.


    • Wow Erik! So you and your family know first hand how challenging it can be for a differently abled child to go to a regular school. Josie was very courageous, as were your parents. I’m glad you liked the book about Emily!


      • Hi Patricia. This is Erik’s mom, Ginny. Erik told me to read this review as he thought I would like this book. We did have a fight with Josie’s school, not the whole board, but the district’s special education department. They wanted to, and did put Josie in a “special” class which did not allow her to be included in any typical classes or activities. We were under the impression she would be able to attend some classes with the traditional students, but Josie was asking why she couldn’t be with the other kids and we found out she was isolated along with the other kids in the special class. We pulled her from public school and sent her to a private school as we battled for her to be in a traditional class with appropriate help (we used the “least restrictive environment” argument). The district finally acquiesced and she had a successful rest of the year. Unfortunately, that district looked at children with different abilities as a “one size fits all.” It is one of the reasons we decided to move. She is thriving at her new school (as is Erik). I am curious to read this book to see where some of these laws were formed. Thank you for this thoughtful review.


      • Wow, what a story! Josie is lucky to have you as her advocate. I am so happy she is thriving in her new school. Emily lives in Canada. I’m not sure that there were any specific laws that prevented Emily from attending, but rather the district’s concern about resources. Emily attended the school for almost two years before the district spoke up. During that time the teachers felt Emily’s participation was important because of how the students interacted with her. So teachers enjoyed having her in their classrooms. Emily had a personal aid who helped with her needs. Bottom line, the school was concerned about the expense to the school district by letting Emily attend. Allowing Emily to attend opened the door for other students. Her case went through many appeals courts before she found herself before the Supreme Court. The book is an easy read and I think you will find it of interest.


  4. Much like Emily’s family, I found that the teachers and kids are more than happy to have children with different abilities in their class. The problem we have run into is administrations thinking they know what’s best for a child (which usually means what costs less for the district). It happens more than people think. We have friends battling with our old district right now with a similar situation. Unlike us, they don’t have the luxury of being able to move. I ordered the book and am looking forward to reading this.


    • I knew that most of the resistence is “cost” over “in the best interest of the child.” It’s a shame in this day and age that you have to fight for your kids. My daughter was bi-laterally hearing impaired and wore hearing aids in both ears, and ADHD. She had to wear an FM system strapped to her and the teacher wore a microphone so that her voice went directly to my daughter’s hearing aids. I know it cost, but the district paid for the euipment. She attended pre-schools for hearing impaired children, which helped her with speech. Then we put her into regular school. I was lucky I didn’t have to fight. She also attended speech therapy at school and privately. My concern was the bullying on the bus and playground..


      • Districts have monies set aside for children who need extras, they just try not to spend it and not let you know they have it. I am glad your daughter was able to get the accommodations she needed. I should not paint all school districts with the same brush. The one we are currently in is very accommodating. It’s one of the reasons we chose it. Ahhh – the bus! I drive the kids to and from school because Josie was bullied on the bus. Josie is just an easy target and the bus driver wouldn’t let Erik sit with Josie because they separated the kids based on grade! Imagine a brother can’t sit with his sister!


      • You are smart to drive them. I didn’t always have that option. Erik won’t always be there to help her. Can’t believe they wouldn’t let a brother/sister sit together. The bullying led to challenges later on and impacted her self-esteem. Friends who loved to play at our house, turned on her at school. Believe you and I have a lot to chat about.


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