I am Sam

I Am Sam

In this movie, Sam Dawson, is a developmentally disabled adult who has been raising his daughter Lucy for seven years. He receives help in raising Lucy from a group of friends that also have developmental disabilities.

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Although Sam provides a loving and structured environment for Lucy, her intellectual development begins to surpass her fathers. Because Lucy’s school reported their findings of Lucy’s developmental progress possibly being altered by Sam’s disability, Lucy was taken by a social worker and placed in foster care.

Sam, who is faced with a nearly impossible-to-win case, decides to fight they system and pairs up with a popular attorney named Rita. It seemed impossible for Sam to win back custody, but he shoed people how much love and structure he gave to Lucy. Sam and Lucy’s love for each other made the people realize that they couldn’t keep Lucy away from her father. (Herskovitz, Soloman, & Nelson, 2001)

The main character, Sam Dawson, is an autistic 40-year-old man and is in the young adulthood developmental stage. He may have developed mental disabilities, but he does not have bad health and is physically fit. However, Sam does not always make healthy food choices, as he likes to go to IHOP every Wednesday and eat pancakes with a lot of sugary fruit toppings. Sam has very good gross motor skills and fine motor skills. However, his process may be slower than others.

Sam uses his fine motor skills to write Lucy’s name repetitively on paper while in the courtroom. Sam uses his gross motor skills to make coffee at Starbucks. Making coffee can help him develop better hand-eye coordination, which means his brain is letting him multitask while working. (Herskovitz, Solomon, & Nelson, 2001)

Sam has a circle of four disabled friends that help and support him when it comes to Lucy. I would say Sam is very much like his peers because he also, has a developmental disability and is loving, supporting, and caring just like his peers. Everyone develops differently in the young adulthood stage. Many studies have examined what young people view as the important markers of the transition to adulthood. The most important markers are accepting responsibility for oneself, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent. The young adulthood age group is said to be the importance of learning to stand alone as a self-sufficient person without relying on anyone else. (Ametti, 2012)

It seems that Sam has learned to be self-sufficient as he is employed, pays his own rent and other financial responsibilities, and provides for Lucy. Sam also takes responsibility in realizing that he cannot parent Lucy independently. Sam recognizes he has a disability that doesn’t allow him to function like other people in his age group. He realizes he can’t work in a good paying job because he lacks the skills. Therefore, he struggles to be financially independent and take care of Lucy. Sam’s disability doesn’t disqualify him from being a young adult, he is just developing at a slower rate than others in that age group. (Sigman & Ungerer, 1984)

During the movie, Sam’s cognitive development was the reason why people believed Lucy didn’t belong with her father. Sam had so much love for Lucy, but he had the intellectual capacity of a seven-year-old child. Because of his disability, his daughter wanted to stop learning; she didn’t want to be smarter than her father. Sam read the same Dr. Seuss book every night to Lucy because those words he actually memorized, not realizing that Lucy wanted to read much bigger books that had more difficult words. Although Sam memorized the Dr. Seuss book after reading it so many times, he struggled with remembering how to make coffee. Sam had to verbalize how to make the coffee and point to items, as well. It is said that people with autism display a unique style of visual processing. They seem to access and focus more easily on local information than on global configuration. (O’hearn, Franconeri, Wright, Minshew, & Luna, 2013)

Sam had good morals in that he would not lie nor allow Lucy to lie. I would say he has more morals than some people who do not have disabilities. However, Sam was able to understand that he couldn’t raise Lucy. For people with mental retardation, their eventual level of social development has implication for the degree of support needed in their literacy arrangement and their integration in the community. (Singh & Akhtar, 2009) Support and understanding was exactly what he needed to get his daughter back.

The transition to young adulthood is a time of heightened opportunities, but also of new risks. These challenges relate to the individual, the family, and the social service system. For example, the individual with mental retardation may seek increased independence. (Blacher, 2001) Sam sought to have independence with his daughter. He has great relationships with peers and receives help from them when it comes to Lucy. Sam is a very honest, patient, open and loving person who cares about others. For example, he showed empathy for the psychologist who attempted to work against him. He also showed emotion toward his lawyer who was having her own personal problems with her husband and child. Sam’s emotional experience and case, was able to teach others how to care and love. Everyone saw that Sam and Lucy’s bond was stronger than his disability. It isn’t about having a high intellectual capacity to raise a child, it’s all about love and patience.


Arnett, J. (2012). Human development: A cultural approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Blachner, J. (2001). Transition to adulthood: Mental retardation, families, and culture. Journal Information, 106(2) Herskovitz, M. & Solomon, R., & Nelson, J. (2001). I am Sam. Germany, US: New line Cinema. O’hearn, K., Franconevii, S., Wright, C., Minshew, N., & Luna, B. (2013). The development of individuation in autism. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, 39(2), 494-509 Sigman, M., & Ungerer, J.A. (1984). Cognitive and language skills in autistic, mental retarded, and normal children. Developmental Psychology, 20(2), 293-302 Singh, A.R. & Akhtar, S. (2009). Social Development of children with mental retardation. Industrial Psychiatry, 18(1), 56-59.

Retrieved from http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/activities/PMC3016702/

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