One of the toughest things about Disability World is the way that some people react to my children’s disabilities. Sarah Kate’s gait is distinctive, and Nathan’s facial features scream “Down syndrome!” It’ll always be that way, for me and for them. Visible disabilities carry a stigma, plain and simple.
But in some ways I’m thankful that their disabilities are easy to spot.
No one doubts that Sarah Kate has cerebral palsy or that Nathan has Down syndrome. We aren’t searching for a diagnosis or fighting an uphill battle to “prove” that they have special needs. We are still in the early stages of Nathan’s school experience, but Sarah Kate has been in the public school system for over seven years now, and her experiences have been positive thus far and our IEP and 504 plan meetings have been fairly pain-free.
But what about kids with less visible disabilities?
Many children struggle with depression, ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other mental diagnoses. Does my children’s school do as good of a job with these children as they do with mine? I simply don’t know.
Dan Habib, creator of the internationally acclaimed documentary, Including Samuel, has a new film project, Who Cares About Kelsey? which documents the lives of students with emotional/behavioral challenges and shows innovative educational approaches that help these students to succeed – while improving the overall school culture and climate. A full-length trailer and film synopsis can be found below.
Synopsis of Who Cares About Kelsey?
When Kelsey Carroll entered high school, she was a more likely candidate for the juvenile justice system than graduation. Diagnosed with ADHD and carrying the emotional scars of homelessness and substance abuse, as well as the actual scars of repeated self-mutilation, Kelsey was volatile, disruptive and, by her own admission, “not a nice person” to be around. As a freshman at Somersworth (NH) High School, she didn’t earn a single academic credit, but she did get suspended for dealing drugs.
During Kelsey’s sophomore year, a new school leadership team implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a youth-directed planning process called RENEW, and other reforms to improve the school’s culture and reduce the dropout rate. This schoolwide overhaul gave Kelsey a chance at a different outcome.
Who Cares About Kelsey? follows Kelsey through the ups and downs of her senior year. As the film delves into Kelsey’s life, we watch her navigate the halls and classrooms of her school and the fraught terrain of family and romantic relationships. Kelsey interacts with a military father who questions her account of the past and dismisses her plans for the future. She manages her relationship with a mother trying to atone for past failures that set in motion some of Kelsey’s most destructive behaviors. She spends much of her time with a boyfriend she cherishes but whose loyalty and support for Kelsey’s newly forming independence are uncertain.
Who Cares About Kelsey? will make viewers reconsider the “problem kids” in their own high schools and spark new conversations about an education revolution that’s about empowering–not overpowering–our most emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth.
For TV broadcast air dates and locations, visit the Who Cares About Kelsey? website.