Sunday, August 19, 2007

Somebody Else's Kids

Title: Somebody Else’s Kids
Author: Torey Hayden
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

An emotionally and powerfully autobiographical account of one year in the author’s life as a teacher in a class for special needs children, Somebody Else’s Kids by Torey Hayden is one of those stories you just cannot put down until the last word is read.

In all schools, there are children who do not fit with the traditional classroom learning environment. Torey Hayden, a young woman with an abundance of patience and kindness took on the role of teacher, counsellor, nurse and most importantly friend, to four children everyone else had given up on.

Her first charge was Boo, a severely autistic seven year old who cannot communicate meaningfully but can recite large passages of conversations and weather reports he had heard. Shortly after came Lori, a spirited, delightful young girl who cannot grasp the concept of written language or numbers due to the lesions on her brain caused by the beatings inflicted on her and her twin sister by their parents. Tomaso, a violently angry, confused boy who witnessed the murder of his father at the hands of his stepmother and Claudia – a gifted twelve year old student who falls pregnant, causing shame and embarrassment to her deeply religious family - made up the rest of Torey’s unique class.

I was quite shocked to learn that this book was originally written and published twenty five years ago but re-released now. Every word still rings true, undated, as if it were a new novel. I found this to be a sad reflection on our society that in quarter of a century very little has changed.

This book itself really resonated with me. I found the lengths Torey was prepared to go to for these children, even to the point of sacrificing her personal life, touched me deeply. People like Torey are rare gems and sadly there are not enough of them. Similarly, I was also deeply touched by the back ground stories of the four children in her class. Their turmoil and tragedy, and their ability to triumph over it was both inspiring and motivating; perhaps none more so than Lori. As the media brings us more and more stories of the near epidemic rates of child abuse in our country, it was soul lifting to read of a child working to overcome the ravages of the beatings she had suffered and how this abuse had never failed to crush her generous and loving spirit.

A highly charged, haunting true story, Somebody Else's Kids by Torey Hayden shows the extraordinary courage and determindation that both the author and her amazing class exhibit every day in their battle to overcome staggering educational and emotional hurdles. It is an uplifting and inspiring story that will make you thankful for teachers like Torey Hayden.

No comments: