Individual Differences Student Profile Kim Richmond Instructor: Kurt Scheffler EDUC 205: Development / Individual Differences Fall 2013


Individual Differences Profile I have spent over twelve years in the educational system working in various non-teaching positions at the high school level. During this time I have developed a deep appreciation for all that effective teacher’s do every day to keep every student in their class engaged and challenged. When that is combined with students that have exceptionality the job becomes exponentially more difficult and important. I observed one such student at a local developmental preschool classroom this semester. General Information The student I observed, who I will refer to as Tommy is a Caucasian, boy who is three years and 4 months old. He has no language outside of the limited sign language he has been taught by his parents in order to communicate. He also has refused to eat or even mouth food since he was born and as a result he has a feeding tube. He attends preschool Monday thru Friday in the afternoon session. For him that means fifteen hours a week of instruction. He

generally is brought to school with his sister, currently in kindergarten at the same school, by both of his parents. His parents are both currently unemployed and the family is at a low socioeconomic level that, while creating difficulties for the parents, creates a lot of opportunities for the children to bond with them. To me they seem very loving and involved in their children’s lives. The home is the only environment this child has known which might have been a good thing given his needs. This being his first experience in a school setting Tommy is having a difficult time separating from his parents. When they drop him off, he is usually crying and refuses to engage with the teachers or other students, however, after he is given a few minutes


he does come around to the activates that the class participates in when they first arrive, music and singing. Tommy’s sister is very outgoing and not showing any signs of needing special education services. She seems to take a very motherly position when around her little brother. The family, to me, appears very close and loving. Physical Development Tommy is a fair child with blonde hair and blue eyes. To look at him there are no signs that he has any disability. Tommy is, however, slightly smaller than most of the other children his age. This could be due to his limited nutritional intake; however, having addressed the problem of his refusing to eat early he has been able to develop physically at a normal rate. This is not always the case with children who have these types of disabilities (Feeding and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) in Children, 2013). He does have a couple of physical anomalies I have noticed. He tends to walk on his toes predominately and holds his fingers up and flexed almost always, similar to what I have seen exhibited by children with autisms. Tommy’s teachers tell me he doesn’t have a diagnosis of autism, however. His other small motor skills seem to be a little delayed as well. He is not manipulating writing utensils or scissors but does seem to prefer his right hand during play. Tommy’s most obvious physical development issue is his feeding tube as lack of desire to eat. There could be many reasons for this development in children from esophageal issues to reflux or metabolic disorders to a nervous system disorder such as cerebral palsy (Feeding and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) in Children, 2013). Tommy loves to play outside on recess and sometimes fights returning to the classroom. He can climb steps to the slide and enjoys


repetitive play focusing on only the slide, for example, the entire recess. He can run and jump but doesn’t have the eye hand coordination required to play organized sports such as kickball or tetherball. In general he requires help on the playground equipment to stay safe and prefers to play on his own without other children. Cognitive Development Tommy is too young to have an academic history to draw from. His parents have provided him with his only form of instruction since birth and have had many struggles. His complete lack of speech including letter sounds has required his parents to establish some basic sign language with him in order to communicate. I’m not sure if his limited signing is because his parents have only taught him a small amount or if he only is capable or motivated to use a small amount. He has a good understanding of language, however, and will follow simple instruction when given. He responds well with music and dance as well as audibly engaging toys. When playing on his own with a toy that doesn’t make a sound he will vocalize continually. His vocalizations, however, do not form words or word sounds and will continue regardless of what is going on around him. When working one on one with the Speech Pathologist, Tommy has had limited success with letter sounds requiring help with tongue placement and instruction on how to hold his mouth. Her comment after his last session was that he was going to need a lot of time and work. Tommy has a short attention span when working in large or small groups and doesn’t seem to have much motivation to complete tasks given or receive praise from the teachers. Tommy’s cognitive development according to Piaget’s model is at the beginning of the Preoperational Stage. This stage is identified by the child’s ability to develop language skills


and the ability to think about things symbolically. Their thinking is based on intuition and not on cause and effect. Memory also develops at this stage (Berns, 2007). For Tommy this is evidenced in his desire to play with toys that pop or make sounds when some manipulation is given. He remembers what the manipulation is to repeat the desired effect but seems surprised and delighted every time he gets the desired effect. He also is still entertained by the most basic peek a boo games you might see evidenced in smaller children. He will be stalled in this developmental stage until he is able to expand his communication to the point of understanding more complex ideas and be able to express himself to others (Berns, 2007). Social-emotional Development Social and emotional milestones are skills that increase self-awareness and selfregulation. Evidence of these can be seen in the ability to pay attention and transition from one activity to another easily (The Whole Child). Tommy has a disability that by its very nature makes interactions with others, both peers and adults, very difficult. With work, he can learn to communicate and interact with others through sign language and speech therapy; however, at this point in his development he shows little sign of motivation to interact with others beyond meeting his physical needs. In normal development, children by the age of two or three begin to play in groups giving them the ability to take on roles they couldn’t in the family environment (Berns, 2007). By early childhood, age’s two to five; children generally would rather play in groups than alone. Tommy doesn’t exhibit these same desires. He prefers to play alone and while allows others to play with him, if they try to role play with him they are ignored by him completely. He doesn’t like to share his toys and doesn’t engage in sharing or taking turns.


Erickson theorized that children develop in stages and the coping mechanisms learned in one are critical in dealing with difficulties in the next (Berns, 2007). Tommy is stalled between Early childhood: Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt and Play Age: Initiative versus Guilt. He has the physical and cognitive maturation needed to be self-sufficient enough to separate from his parents and explore his environment yet lacks the communicational ability to move into the play age. Children at this level, generally three to five years old, learn about their world and their place in it through role play and learn lessons about consequences guilt. Summary Tommy faces many difficulties that are going to affect his academic future as well as social development. His lack of speech and aversion to eating make his inclusion in activities with his peers unlikely without help. He is luckily surrounded by people who love him and want to see him succeed from his sister to his parents and family to his educational team. His attention problems will also be an area of concentration to his teacher and parents and will make his learning more difficult if not addressed. Implications In order to best service Tommy academically, he is going to need to work intensively with a speech pathologist who collaborates with his special education and general education teachers to not only help him produce sounds and words but string words together to form sentences and utilize it in academic and social environments. Working in small groups will help support Tommy’s speech and language development as he moves forward into higher grades. His instructional environment will play a role in his success as well. Things like ensuring he always has visual contact with his teacher and defined areas for different activities will help keep


his focus and attention. Also, teaching methods such as direct instruction, which emphasizes highly structured step by step instructions with guided independent practice, and applied behavior analysis, such as enforcing communication to preform actions and reinforcing positive results, will help Tommy develop the skills he will need to progress (Ronald L. Taylor, 2009). For Tommy, instructional technology may be helpful not only in engaging him and helping him to model sounds but to help the teacher in evaluating his progress and understanding. Conclusion Tommy is a sweet boy with some severe disabilities that are going to make his education difficult, challenging, and very rewarding. I hope with the help of his IEP team and social support from his family Tommy will be able to overcome his speech problems and eating disorders and develop the social skills necessary to become and independent learner. With these skills I believe he will also learn to direct his attention and focus on his instruction. Years ago Tommy would be a child left behind. In today’s educational system Tommy has the chance to overcome his obstacles and lead a productive, independent and successful life.


Works Cited
Berns, R. M. (2007). Child, Family, School, Community socialization and support. Belmont, CA: Thompson Learning, Inc. Feeding and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) in Children. (2013). Retrieved December 06, 2013, from Ronald L. Taylor, L. R. (2009). Exceptional Students. New York : McGraw-Hill. The Whole Child. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2013, from