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Intellectual Disabilities Unit

Now that you’ve had the Intellectual Disabilities unit, here are a few follow up activities so you can learn more and have fun. Choose one, two or all three!

Read the book

Book Cover illustration of Top Secret.  A drawing of two children hiding behind a rock spying on something out of view.

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

To find the book, check with your school librarian or your local library.  For more ways to find books, you can click this link: Find Books!


Book Description

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?
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Try This!

After you read this book, try this 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

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!

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Try This!

Have some fun with the idea of spying :

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. 

Get to Know Someone with an Intellectual Disability

Web-based resource: Learn about Collette Divitto and her business, Collettey’s Cookies
You have already heard from a guest speaker during your UOD presentation. Now, 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?

Photo shows a smiling young adult woman wearing a blue apron and food safe gloves in front of cookies on a sheet

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


The Understanding Our Differences curriculum is protected by copyright, © 2010-2023. Understanding Our Differences, Inc. All rights reserved. The Understanding Our Differences curriculum is not to be altered, photocopied, shared with other entities, or reproduced in any way, and is not to be resold.

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