Spotlight on Samuel

“Ms. Hopkins, you know Doctor Who?” Samuel asks me at the end of class about once per week. He always follows this question up with a conversation about a highly specific topic of the BBC show, which I admit I have not yet watched (despite much encouragement from lowed ones). Samuel is one of the most endearing students I have ever known. I have had the pleasure of teaching him two years in a row, first in math and then in English, as his special education provider.

Samuel works harder than any student I’ve known. He does his homework each and every night, working independently as often as possible. He does the best that he can on every assignment. He also infuses joy into our classroom each day. I do not know what I would do without his jokes to keep our class’s spirits high!

However, Samuel struggles significantly to read, write, speak, and listen. His language functioning skills have gotten in the way of having meaningful conversations with teachers and peers. Samuel has difficulty stringing together sentences in a way that makes sense in English. We cannot figure out what the root cause of this challenge is– we can only determine that it is a source of great frustration for both Samuel and those who love him.

The other day in class, Samuel was describing a scene in a book to some of his general education classmates, and he was struggling to recall the word he had in his mind. He said, “Ms. Hopkins, you know… Howaio?” I said, “Hawaii, Samuel?” And he said, “No… The state next to Michigan– I can’t think of the word!” As soon as I guessed, “Ohio,” he beamed. “Ah, that’s it!” We’ve all been there–it’s frustrating to have a word at the tip of your tongue and then seeing it slip away and being unable to think of it. Now imagine that happening to you every 5-10 minutes. That is how often I see Samuel struggle to remember the words he wants to say. I can only imagine how tough it is for him to have these amazing ideas in his brain and to struggle to express them.

Despite his challenges with communication, Samuel never stops trying. He comes for extra help multiple days per week. He smiles often. He does his homework. He converses about Dr. Who and Star Wars. He has friends. He celebrates birthdays (including his own) with pizza and cupcakes in his advisory. He learns more and more. And he continues to grow. Students like Samuel are the reason why I get up every morning. And someday, I’ll get around to watching Dr. Who so that we can hold a deep conversation about it…

–Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor

Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at

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