Out of my mind – A truly mind blowing book on seeing into and beyond disability

Out of my Mind is the story of 11 year old  Melody Brooks, a brilliant girl with cerebral palsy, who has a million words and thoughts swirling inside her , but does not have a voice.  From the very first “Thoughts need words. Words need a voice.” , we realize how much we take for granted in our lives, even as we make small talk everyday!

Through the incredible variations and turns of human behaviour , we get an unflinching and acutely realistic view of the world from a feisty, strong minded protagonist who clarifies the obvious “What your body looks like has nothing to do with how well your brain works!” . While she faces challenges and adversity and emotional highs and lows – we sigh, grimace and wince as she  sits in  inclusion class and endures the taunts of classmates and some infuriating ignorance of doctors and teachers . We see the immense struggle for her parents , who stand by her strong but yet do not see her completely at times. We marvel at the ease of her wonderful  neighbor/caregiver (Mrs. Valencia), and her college-aged aide, Catherine who see  Melody for who she is and come closest to treating her normal and fighting  to make her strong enough to push through.

 A type-and-speak computer allows Melody to talk for the first time in her life, and reveals her prowess at knowledge quizzes leaving teachers and classmates stunned! Yet the very opportunity it opens up , an equal chance at national competition leaves her staring at the unfair world.

While emotional in places and a tad extra melodramatic /unexpected in the end, this book certainly does not evoke pity , instead it shows us a mirror and make us reflect deeper into our own unexamined prejudices and labels.

Quotable Quotes

“I’m always amazed at how adults assume I can’t hear. They talk about me as if I’m invisible, figuring I’m too retarded to understand their conversation. I learn quite a bit this way.”

“Maybe I’m not so different from everyone else after all. It’s like somebody gave me a puzzle, but I don’t have the box with the picture on it. So I don’t know what the final thing is supposed to look like. I’m not even sure if I have all the pieces.”

“We all have disabilities. What’s yours?”

Discussion Questions…

#Disability and Bias

…How often do we equate a physical shortcoming to an inability ? 

…Explore inspiring true stories like Emmanuel Yeboah, a one-legged cyclist from Ghana ( Read here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHUDh82sZYs)

…How often have you considered someone who does not speak English /has an accent to be less smart?

#Inclusion  

When Melody flails her arms and legs or drools, the other students either look away in embarrassment or make jokes

…Have you seen people who look away because they don’t know what to say when they encounter someone ‘difference’. What does the interaction with Miss V or Catherine or even Melody’s own desire to be photographed as a team , not just her picture tell you?

…How would you make someone who is unable to eat without help /makes a mess feel comfortable at a dinner table?

#Technology and Its benefits

…Think of how technology can make life inclusive. Think of Melody’s physical obstacles like stairs and bathrooms.

#Friendships and Groups

…Almost sad that this talk always opens up a scar for every kid. Have you ever been left out of groups? Have you pretended to not like someone , just to in the “popular” group? When did you stand up for someone left out last?

…Comparisons to Wonder are obvious, and we wonder what would the story be from her ‘friend’ Rosie , or the mean girl ‘Claire’ or even her aide Catherine

Overall, uplifting and upsetting at once ,this book is a valuable insightful read for all and probably inspiration for all those struggling that no matter what your situation is ,with indomitable will and a touch of humour , we can ride through the storms easier!

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