Anyone Can Learn: 3 Things About Supporting Students with Disabilities I Learned from Remy the Rat
One of my all-time favorite Disney movies—a fan-favorite for many—is Ratatouille.
For those of you who have never seen it before, Ratatouille tells the story of a rat named Remy who dreams of being a chef. But, because he’s a rat, everyone continuously tells him that his dreams are impossible.
That is everyone except for Remy’s inspiration, the late Chef Gusteau. Gusteau’s motto echoes in Remy’s ears throughout the entirety of the movie: “Anyone can cook.”
And the movie shows this line is true over and over again. Even though Remy is a rat and no one thinks he should be able to cook, he can. And he’s great at it. And he’s even better at it when he has the support of others.
It doesn’t matter that he communicates differently than the humans in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter that he needs to navigate the recipes in his own way. Remy can cook.
The last time I watched this movie, I couldn’t help but wish that everyone could be as positive as Gusteau; I wished everyone believed that anyone can cook. And I couldn’t help but connect all of it back to my work.
When it comes to students with disabilities, people are always telling them and their families what they can’t do.
“They can’t learn equations because it won’t mean anything to them.”
“They can’t be in my class because of their behaviors.”
“They can’t come to our school because they’re disabled. There’s a separate, special school for those students.”
To all the naysayers out there who are constantly telling disabled students what they can’t do, I want to challenge you to start imagining what they can do. Because anyone can learn.
And that’s only one of the many lessons I’ve learned from Ratatouille about supporting students with disabilities. I’ve also learned that:
You should never underestimate people. Remy’s family and the other chefs constantly underestimated Remy’s ability to cook the same way that many people underestimate disabled students’ ability to learn. But Remy being a rat wasn’t the real barrier to him realizing his dreams. The real barrier was society’s beliefs. When we work with students with disabilities, we should always presume competence because it’s the least dangerous assumption. All students can learn, we just have to give them the right environment to do so.
We work better when we work together. Remy was good at cooking on his own, but it wasn’t until everyone in the movie accepted him and worked alongside him that they could make something truly remarkable happen. Whether it’s educators working with other educators, schools working with families, or nondisabled students working with disabled students, it’s crucial that we learn to understand one another and make teamwork a priority.
You should be an advocate for yourself and for others. Remy always stayed true to himself and his love for cooking. And his friend Linguini supported him along the journey, standing up for him when others doubted his dreams. No matter if you’re a person with a disability, an educator trying to make a difference, or a parent who is determined to help their child be included: keep advocating for what you believe in. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it.
As you continue on your journey of inclusion, keep in mind that whether they’re nonspeaking or a wheelchair user, every child has the ability to learn. They might need to learn in their own way and they may need supports throughout their schooling journey, but that’s true of all students. Anyone can learn and all children deserve to learn in their neighborhood school.
Inspired to think inclusive? Here are three ways you can help us spread the message:
Kayla Kingston is the Communications Specialist for MCIE. A recent graduate of the University of Dayton, she loves reading, writing, and supporting all things inclusion.