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Individual Difference Student Profile

Jackie Herrell

Instructor: Natalie Raass

Development/Individual Differences

Spring 2017
Individual Difference Student Profile Essay

Over the course of 2 weeks I had the privilege to observe a sweet little boy, whom I will

refer to as Billy. Billy is a six year old, energetic first grader and attends a small Public Charter

School. He suffers from a combination of disabilities; including Autism, ADHD as well as a

language disability. He has blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. Besides his learning disabilities

and Autism there are no other major health problems. Billy is white American and his primary

language is English. He lives with both of his parents and has one older sibling who is an adult

and does not live at home. So essentially he is being raised as an only child in his home

environment. The occupation of his father is unknown and his mother is a former ER nurse; who

now works at the school to be able to have the same schedule as her son.

General Information

As previously stated Billy is a six year old first grader. Because of his disabilities there

are accommodations and an IEP in place to help him succeed in the general education

classroom. Besides his learning disabilities, Billy has struggles in his socio emotional

development. I had the opportunity to observe him during PE where all of the gymnasium

stimulation was more than obvious. He struggled to play with the other students when given a

task that required cooperation. Individual play is where he seemed to be in his element. He

enjoyed all of the intense movements that he was able to let loose on. He played soccer with such

strength. I would assume he had a sense of release. His body seemed to calm for a moment

before the next kick. He had a tough time controlling everything that was going on in his mind

and his little body and yet, it seemed to calm him. Almost like the eye of a storm.
Physical Development

His eyesight and hearing are normal and he writes with his right hand. Besides his height,

although his mother is shorter, physically he appears to be at the same maturation as his peers in

his class. His eating habits are like many six year olds, picky and only interested in snack foods.

While I did not sit in on his lunch time with him, we did have a conversation about his lunch

items. I am guessing he falls into that same category since it was all finger foods and snacks he

had in his lunch box over the course of those two weeks.

He struggles with his fine motor skills and that is something he works on this with

occupational therapist. He is brought out of the general education classroom for Occupational

Therapy once or twice a week. During my observation he worked on his fine motor skills and

his gross motor skills. He began by doing some punching into a bag. This was helpful in

releasing some pent up energy and work out any frustration. Next he focused on working his

fingers. Since a pencil, a crayon or a computer mouse are used so frequently, his fine motor skills

are practiced consistently. His growth is challenged each time he meets with his OT, as a process

of adaptation or adjustment. As theorist Jean Piaget believes, Billy is challenged in Assimilation

and Accommodation. Which is when he uses an existing schema to deal with a new situation and

when and existing schema does not work. The key then becomes what will the reaction be? He is

constantly being challenged to use the tools he is given daily. During his OT time, Billy also

played one of his favorite games that had colorful marbles, called Mancala. The idea was to work

on a technique called squirrelling. Where you can only use one hand to pick up marbles. I

noticed in that moment he became extremely engaged with the color blue and he became calm.

After he was able to have some fun with the game, the OT was able to engage him in writing out

his basic math facts. Something he was able to do with a bit more ease compared to when he was
in the general education classroom. He wrote out his numbers and was requested to say them

aloud as he did the math problem. I once again noticed when he was given the color of choice for

his writing tool he chose a blue dry erase marker. At that moment it became clear to me, the

color blue was a huge motivator for him. It seemed to impact his participation and mood. When

he was able to use blue he engaged with less resistance compared to the general education

classroom, where assignments are done with a lead pencil with no color. He was able to focus for

longer periods of time. I know part of this was due to the fact that he didn’t have all the

distractions that come along with being in a busy room. He gets overwhelmed when too much is

going on; the brightness of the room, the colors and the how his peers approach him determine

his instant reaction.

Cognitive Development

When we dive into the struggles that Billy faces everyday they include a speech and

language disability and appropriately applying his fine motor skills to daily activities. Because

of these things he struggles to form meaningful relationships. He struggles to connect on the

same level as other first graders who are six and seven years old. His language impairment being

the main reason he has a tough time connecting with his peers. I noticed a few intense moments

with his peers where they tried to communicate and he lacked empathy, which also was a

contributing factor.

Billy is surrounded by stimulation, which sets him off in different ways and in a variety

of degrees. As he sits and works he blends right in. You wouldn’t really know he has a disability

at first glance. However, when left to his own accord, he tends to be calm and mild tempered.

When it is just him and his thoughts he thinks things through, ponders and evaluates. He also

seems to have an easier time processing when things are quiet. He interacts on a healthy and
level in the classroom. When all is quiet and calm is when he thrives. He responds to questions

and can do assignments when they are read to him. However, he tends to get distracted, which is

why they are read by a paraprofessional. Inclusion is the best fir for Billy. When he has to

complete an assignment on something he feels like in his mind he has already accomplished, he

gets frustrated and needs to be coursed into completing his assignment. I feel as though his self-

esteem is challenged here. It seems as though he doesn’t want to be wrong and instead of trying

with the chance to learn he disconnects. He then needs to be coursed back into learning. Once the

assignment is completed he seems to relax a little and his attitude and mindset tend to settle

towards his paraprofessional.

Socio-Emotional Development

During his time in PE and at recess, his behavior tends to mirror each other. The

stimulation tends to take over and he reacts accordingly. His impulse control in challenged

within this environment. He becomes aggressive, doesn’t seem to understand the boundaries and

has trouble connecting with his peers. He lacks empathy for others during this time of extreme

stimulation. You can see his sensory cues hitting their peak during this time. Because of this I

tend to think he also has a sensory processing disorder as well. The teachers were having a

tough time controlling him in that environment. Many times he had to get pulled aside and

spoken to about his behavior choices.

During his reflection concerning his behavior choices his attitude towards his

Paraprofessional was rather cold. It took her some time to get his to calm down. The

stimulation caused such an inward reaction that the cooling off period took a while. She used a

technique called cartooning, where she would draw it out on a white board and he would provide

thoughts and feelings in the thought bubbles above the heads of all involved in the problem. This
was so helpful in the calming process. I can see how this was helpful in providing him a chance

to say what happened, how he felt and what he could do differently next time.


Billy is a respectful student and he doesn’t really have any problems with following

directions. As mentioned before, he does struggle with concepts he feels like he has mastered. He

gets impatient with certain concept and want to move on from them. It’s only in those moments

his attitude changes. He seems to be so confident that it is hard to regain his attention to try when

he hasn’t really mastered the skill in question. His responses to his teachers tends to mirror that

of a teenager. While he isn’t trying to be disrespectful, the teachers are all great at redirecting.

He is an extremely creative child which I was able to observe in his art pieces as well as

during computer time. He enjoyed describing everything going on in his assignments even

though they made no sense to me, he knew exactly what it all meant and with detail. He needs

constant behavior reminders as to what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t.

Billy falls in the learning initiative verses guilt (purpose). According to Erik Erickson,

psychosocial crisis occurs during what he calls the “play age.” Learning to play and cooperate

with others is a one way we grow in our development when we are young. Waiting his turn and

understanding that being physical with your peers has its boundaries. PE seemed to be one of his

biggest weaknesses. There was an aggressive behavior that would come out, but only during PE.

When all the students were being loud and the acoustics of the room seemed to drive that in him.

When the class is calm and when the lessons are informative in a way he understands he engages

rather well with minimal difficulty. Overall, with the support that is currently in place, Billy will

be able to learn how to overcome his disabilities.


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