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Learning Profile of Children With Disabilities

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PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION:  James is an attractive stocky, eight year-old, with dark eyes, black hair and sallow complexion, who was referred to the observor because of behavior problems in school, and the presence of developmental lags associated previously with emotional and behavioral difficulties.  James has been tested by neurologists and clinical psychologists, and is currently receiving pharmacological therapy, in order to stabilize his behavior. 

James has normal-to-high muscle tone, mixed skin tone and full range of motion in all four extremeties; his motility, proprioceptive, vestibular and other gross motor behaviours appear to be below age level; his movements lack smoothness and integration from one sensory mode to another.  For example, he reverses directions, runs, hops, bends and stretches one action at a time, but does not simultaneously stand and catch, or rotate his head and hold his hands on his knees.  These are some of James' movements that show a weakly integrated response to motor, auditory and tactile processes.

James generally exhibits low average coordination.  He uses lateral, digital and pronated fine motor grasp; he writes, cuts, tears, stacks and draws at slightly below age level, adjusting his head and trunk position awkwardly, tilting toward the surface upon which he is writing or drawing.  He uses a “close-in” downward head position, which allows him to scan close range.  In the sitting position, James is able to catch a ball and let it go, but uses erratic eye movements to search the environment. 

James spends a lot of energy and time visually checking with the observor to see if he is correctly complying with requests.  James' visual field changes normally at near to middle distances, but he loses accuracy when scanning from neat to far distance range (15 to 20 feet).

LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT: James smiles easily and often, happily using two and three word phrases (more often than sentences) to tell the observor what he likes and dislikes; his conversations contain some questions, a small vocabulary and few descriptive words, but his communication skills and receptive language denote symbolism and meaning.  He uses slang, plurals and other informal oral strategies, and can be readily understood by unfamiliar observers. 

RECOMMENDATIONS:  A 90 minute observation does not take the place of repeated observations of James in a variety of settings.  Because of his birth history and early environmental and genetic experiences, the effects of probable fetal alcohol exposure and subsequent neglect cannot be ignored, but can be put into perspective.  James clearly can benefit from efforts to enable him to learn self-control and to take responsibility for his own behavior.  He is at an age, when he can learn academic skills by a process of acceleration.  James' success in school depends on strategies that accelerate, rather than a slow-down his learning.

We know that children with chronic developmental and behavioral lags are not served well by instruction that stresses the prevailing approach to teaching children with developmental handicaps – repetition and a focus on functional skills.  Rather, there is considerable evidence that James needs to learn to use his natural ability to “reinvent” mental and social images, given instruction that emphasizes a multi-sensory integrated approach.  It may be that James' inability to smoothly integrate visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic sensory information is, at least partially, responsible for his inappropriate behavior and developmental lags.


TEMPERAMENT PERSONALITY:  James' personality can be characterized by an average to low energy level, average regularity in his eating, sleeping, bowels and bladder habits, an average level of attention to new and novel stimuli (such as the observor’s array of objects), a pleasant mood, and a high level of persistence.  The intensity of his responses to adult interference, commands and directives is high; he proceeds from a high level of acceptance to complete refusals and demonstrates a high level of distractibility.  He is engaging and friendly, but also frequently withdrawn, reflective, and impulsive, according to parent report.


SOCIAL AND INTELLECTUAL STRENGTHS:  James demonstrates knowledge of logi-mathematical and reasoning skills at an older six year old level.  James attempts cursive writing, reading and story-writing with abilities associated with “Level Two” spelling and basal work (later part of first grade and beginning second grade).  He likes to read and correctly identified and recognized ten new words when shown how to string words to make a sentence, even a nonsense sentence.  He counted without losing his place, going from 1 to 40.  James smiles often and enjoys making words from pictures.  He is not oppositional or confrontational by nature, exhibiting a high level of social need for contact and approval. 


James' ability to estimate amounts of substances or mass, to visually measure length and width, or perform any conservation tasks, was one-to-two years below age level.  His linear abilities are more clearly observable than his insight, perceptual memory or problem solving skills.  His sequencing, ordering, naming and recall skills are at a 60-64 month level.  James' concentration and short-term memory skills are lagging a year behind his chronological age.


Cognitively, James manages his academic learning in a classroom with  age-mates, but he appears to have difficulty integrating his abilities into his personal-social sense of self.  He appears to lag behind in his ability to integrate a social sense of what is expected or what he thinks is appropriate with his ability to reason. 


James is motivated by the need to “move in” on people, in order to see what their reaction will be, even if it is a risk to him, socially.  James  expresses his needs and wants both orally and physically, demanding tactile and vestibular interaction.  He also shows defensiveness against tactile contact from others.  For example, he pushes a child then stares blankly at them when they push or yell back.

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