Intellectual Disabilities Resources

In this unit, we teach students that someone with intellectual disabilities may have challenges with learning, moving their muscles, and social and self-help skills due to the way their brain functions, but can still accomplish many things.

The themes we focus on in this unit are:

  • People with intellectual disabilities can do many things, but it sometimes may take them longer to learn how to do them.
  • People with intellectual disabilities are unique but can have multiple challenges, including language, academic, social and motor skills, and activities of daily living.
  • Name-calling is hurtful and cannot be confronted passively. Use modern language and be a friend and an ally.
  • Sensitivity and respect for children and adults with intellectual disabilities is important.
  • People with intellectual disabilities have hopes, dreams, and goals like everyone else and are able to live very productive lives.

Suggested reading

Sam’s Top Secret Journal: We Spy (Book 1, Middle Grade Mystery) by Sean Adelman

This book is available for free at this link:
Or we suggest reviewing our extensive guide to finding suggested reading titles online, for free or at very low cost, here

Cover art image from Sam's Top Secret Journal book shows drawing of a girl and boy hiding behind a trash can and looking down a neighborhood sidewalk

Join Sam as she embarks on her first big adventure in this middle-grade mystery. Sam is a middle school girl living a typical life except when she is sometimes bullied for the differences kids perceive in her. Sam has Down syndrome. See how she and her brother John work together to find some stolen money, help a new friend and escape real danger in this exciting adventure.

The author of this book wanted to write a story with a main character with Down syndrome.  All of the things Sam does in the book are based on his own daughter’s abilities. 

Questions to consider

  • How does Sam first help and connect with her new friend Michael at the rehab center?
  • What was Sam’s mother’s advice about how to make new friends? Has this ever worked for you?
  • What did Sam learn about herself at the rock climbing gym?
  • Why does Sam compare Clive to the bullies? What does she hope is true?
  • Why does Sam get worried about Michael? How does talking about Michael with her dad, and then talking to her friends, help?
  • How did confronting the bully make Sam feel? Do you think she did the right thing? Why?
  • How does Sam feel about her role in capturing Clive and rescuing Michael?
  • Does it help Sam to learn who Megan is? How?
  • How has Sam has grown and changed by the end of the book? How does she feel about herself? How do other people see her?
  • Why does Sam write in her journal? Do you enjoy reading Sam’s journal?  Why?

Offline Activities

Friendship activity: It’s important to remember that everyone wants friends. In the book Sam’s Top Secret Journal, Sam has a lot of good friendships, with girls and with boys. On this Friendship page, here are suggestions for friendships in the book to write about:

  • Sam’s friendship with her best friend Abby
  • Sam’s friendship with Andrew, and some challenges they faced
  • Sam’s new friendship with Michael, even though they are very different in many ways
  • Or a friend who is important to you

Image is of a downloadable worksheet about friendship

Top Secret Spy fun:

In Sam’s Top Secret Journal, Sam’s brother John loves to invent things, and especially likes adapting his toys to use for spying. He has a remote control spy tank, night vision googles, and a bottle of invisible ink. When John spies on Sam, she gets angry and John is disciplined by his parents. It’s true that spying has a big role in the book and helps find out who is doing something wrong – but we always want to be sure not to watch someone who hasn’t given their permission!

Have some fun with the idea of spying with these activities:

Learn to make your own binoculars, and use them to focus on a plant or tree outside your window. Watch every day to see how the tree changes as it gets warmer and write it down in your spy journal.  Or, spy on the moon and make notes of how it changes. 

And, you can also develop your own secret code and see if someone can crack it.  This is a great way to keep your observations top secret! Here is a quick how-to with a few different ideas:

Cool Secret Codes For Kids – Free Printables

Want more Sam’s Top Secret Journal books?  There are two more!

SamsTopSecretJournal2  SamsTopSecretJournal3

Web-based resource: Learn about Collette Divitto and her business, Collettey’s Cookies

Learn more about what people with Down syndrome can accomplish.  Collettey’s Cookies is a business is owned by Collette Divitto who has Down syndrome (like the hero of Sam’s Secret Journal).  Do you think Sam could become a business owner like Collette when she gets older?

Image is of a smiling young woman, wearing an apron and gloves with a large container of cookie dough in front of her; links to About page for Collettey's cookies

Learn about Collette, how she started her very successful business, and her goals here:

Watch this news clip from WCVB Channel 5 Boston about Collette and her business:


Learn about Collette’s new organization, Empowering Your Abilities, which she founded to help others succeed and to encourage people to be entrepreneurs (start their own businesses):

Read an article Collette wrote about her life. 

Image is of Collette Divitto speaking