Usually, a child from one of the minority communities has to overcome more challenges. The minority status may be as a result of disability, ethnicity, language, race or nativity. It has been proven by many studies that a school environment can be very hostile for a vulnerable child. The ability to “belong” to a peer group can lead to undesirable tendencies in the child, some of which will undermine its growth. Children coming from dysfunctional family environments are a high risk group. And so are the ones who have had a history of emotional or sexual abuse. They all tend to display inadequate social skills and hence, put their acceptance in the mainstream school culture in jeopardy. The difficulties confronting children with special needs (be it physical one or psychological ones) are all the more daunting. The Butterfly Circus underscores the crucial role played by educators/caregivers/mentors in inspiring and encouraging special needs children to test and push their limits. It is only through trials and errors that come with persistent trying that they will be able to overcome their inhibitions and doubts and become self-sufficient, independent and successful. Hence, as a special education teacher, I will carry these messages of the film with me.
As I completed watching the film, my mind tried to place the message of the film in the context of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), the country’s special education law. Though originally debated in the Congress in the 1970’s to ensure that children with special needs and disabilities had adequate opportunities to get appropriate public education, on par with children of normal ability, the recent amendments to the law were the most comprehensive, the final document of which was published two years back. It sets out many key components of IDEA as well as guidelines for educational institutions in regard to providing “special education and related services to more than six million eligible children with disabilities”. The three important components of IDEA are: Its Alignment with the No Child Left Behind Act, Early Intervening Services and Individualized Education Program (IEP). All these new requirements from the law are set to positively impact the way special needs children receive their education. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if they meet all their objectives. I am just hoping that the provisions under IDEA help special needs children achieve their full potential as was brilliantly shown in The Butterfly Circus. I will also keep in mind a key message of the film – the social support a child receives in the form of its family, community, peers and school goes a long way in mitigating negative consequences – and try to provide such support to my pupils.
Weigel, Rebekah (writer), & Weigel, Joshua (director). (2009). A Butterfly Circus, US