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Individual Differences Student Profile Elena Kuzmenko Instructor: Kae Jensen EDUC 205: Development/ Individual Differences Online Fall 2012


Individual Differences Student Profile As a future educator I realize how important it is for me to be knowledgeable about what I can do to educate students with special needs to the maximum extent possible. Every student is different in his or her individual needs, requiring a unique approach in helping each student learn. In the following paragraphs, I will introduce an exceptional student I had the opportunity to observe. Further, I will provide details to explore the students physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development and then summarize my findings. Through my exploration I will present specific strategies that could be used to support the students learning and development. General Information I had the opportunity to observe a unique and amazing first grader. For the purpose of this student profile, she is named Kate. Kate is seven years and five months old. She is of Caucasian descent and lives with both her mother and father, and a one year old baby brother (Chander). Kate is at school from nine in the morning to three forty five in the afternoon most days, except Monday and Tuesday because she has to attend physical therapy. Monday she is only a few minutes late, and Tuesday she does not arrive until eleven fifteen in the morning (Chander). Information was not available to me regarding her after school activities and with whom she spends time. Physical Development Kate has pretty hazel eyes, long blond hair, pale skin and a slender body type. A few distinguishing physical characteristics I observed of which I do not know the cause, are a small horizontal scar beneath her nose, a constant dilated right eye, and a slightly noticeable jaw shift to one side. Kates physical maturity seems to be somewhat behind compared to other students in her class. She wears glasses and sometimes uses a pair of noise muffling headphones. During my


observation I noticed she used them when the students in the classroom were louder and she also used them during an assembly she attended. Observing the way Kate walks, I noticed she has a slight limp and does not hold a straight posture when walking. Kate does utilize some forms of assistive technology. Kate is left handed and while writing with a pencil she uses a pencil grip to improve her writing. Even with the assistance of a pencil grip, Kates handwriting is not as neat compared to other students in her class. Sometimes Kate uses a desktop writing slant board for additional assistance. This slant board is kept under her desk so she is free to use it whenever she feels the need to. Kate appears to be in good physical health. She participated in regular activities during her physical education class but I noticed she has some difficulty with eye-hand coordination with the way she bounced a ball while walking around. Observing Kate do various activities it does seem her muscles are underdeveloped. Kate participates in school lunch of which she has a variety of foods. She has a great appetite and takes her time eating. Cognitive Development Kate is a first grader and is placed in a regular classroom setting. She attends all of the same extracurricular classes as her peers, such as physical education, music, and health class. During regular class time Kate has a tendency to be distracting, she sometimes sings, hums or makes mouth noises. When working on assignments in the classroom she often gets side tracked and complains of headaches when she does not want to do her work (Kohls). The teacher has tried using a positive reinforcement strategy of putting a chart on Kates desk where she would receive a star if she was on task and focused but it only worked for a short period of time. Kate does not usually have an Extended Resource Room (ERR) assistant working with her. There is another student who sits next to Kate who receives assistance from an ERR assistant and while


they are helping that student they may also help Kate. Sometimes an ERR assistant will come in and do a half hour observation of Kate for data and help her if she needs it, but it is not regular. The only other time an ERR assistant will come in to help Kate is if one of their other one-onones is absent or doing something else. If Kate does not finish her work in class, sometimes she is sent to the ERR room at the end of the day or during recess time to finish at least part of it (Chander). Working with Kate during my observation, I had to constantly ask her to stay focused and motivate her to keep going. When she did well or stayed on task, I praised her and told her she was doing great but it did not last long. Her attention span seems to be very short and someone has to constantly remind her of what she needs to be doing. A few times the teacher had to come up to her and remind her, if she could not stay caught up with the class, she would need to go to the ERR room. Academically Kate is a pretty good reader but she struggles more with math and writing. She actually does decent in math, but it all comes down to motivation, focus, and paying attention to actually completing the tasks. Her strength is definitely in music and motion; she loves music and loves to learn through music (Chander). During the concrete operational stage of Piagets stages of cognitive development children begin to reason logically and organize thoughts clearly (Benaroch). Kate presents evidence she is in this stage of Piagets theory. During a math assignment I was overseeing her work on, she explained she did not need to use her counter pieces to help her solve the math problems because the worksheet provided pictures she could use to help her determine the correct answer. When obtaining the answer to the first math problem Kate said if she subtracted the same amount she had added she would end up with the original amount, demonstrating that


she understands reversibility, which is also a characteristic of this stage in Piagets theory (Benaroch). Socio-Emotional Development Interactions vary depending on the day; sometimes Kate is very receptive to adults and compliant, but other times she does not feel like talking or doing anything. I observed that Kate does not communicate very well if she needs help or if she wants something. When she needs to use the restroom she does use an American Sign Language sign to communicate to her teacher that she needs to go, which I found was a great way to help her be less distracting. With her peers Kate does well, but they are starting to notice the differences in some of her behaviors, and there are times on the playground that she has been teased by the students who are not in her class and do not know her very well. Kates class mates are pretty good about including her. There have been a few instances where students have been frustrated by the noises she makes or some of the other habits she has, but the teacher discusses being tolerant and patient and talks to Kate about appropriate behavior in each situation (Chander). Regarding Kates self-concept and self-esteem, at this point in her life, she seems to be pretty happy and positive. Sometimes she gets frustrated and she notices she is different than the other students, but she does not verbalize it very often (Kohls). According to Erikson, the social process consists of eight phases. In Eriksons theory of psychosocial development, Kate shows to be in the fourth stage, Industry versus Inferiority, or competence. The important event at this stage is attendance at school. As a student, Kate presents a need to be productive and do work on her own. In this stage interaction with peers at school play an important role. Kate has a wide variety of events to deal with, including


academics, group activities, and friends. If she has difficulty with any of these, it leads to a feeling of inferiority and incapability (Stages of Social-Emotional Development- Erik Erikson). Summary, Conclusions and Implications In summary, Kates present level of exceptionality has minor challenges regarding physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development but as expectations increase it will become more difficult for Kate to keep up and challenges will become more difficult to handle. With Kates lack of motivation and self-determination, eventually she will need more one-to-one help resulting in time spent in the extended resource room with an assistant (Kohls). Through this profile I have made conclusions that compared to other students, physically Kate shows signs of underdevelopment. Even though Kate seems to fall into the typical level in both cognitive and socio-emotional development, her attitude and motivation often get in the way of her success. Kate is a smart girl but she needs someone to help her realize that even though she is somewhat different from the other students and learning can be challenging, she can be successful. I think Kate does not get enough attention at a personal level. She does not receive adequate encouragement and praise. She is looked at as just another struggling student in the class, along with the many others who need help. At one point while working with her, she turned to me and told me she loved me. How often does a child who has just met you tell you they love you? I took extra time to help her out and made her feel normal by having some fun with her and I think she really appreciated it. Telling her she was doing great only encouraged her to do better. Kate would really benefit from one-to-one instruction. I understand that someone may not always be available to work with Kate, therefore one-to-one instruction could even include Kate working on a computer with well-sequenced materials. Kate does decent in


math but her lack of motivation and focus make her struggle to get things done. Instructional technology could increase her motivation, increase her attention, and provide her with immediate feedback to let her know how well she is doing. Computer-assisted instruction has been shown to improve academic performance in math and reduce off-task behavior (Taylor). For activities that do not include a computer, Kate may benefit from the use of an attention maintenance technology, such as a toneprompt system which will remind her to stay on task, instead of having a teacher constantly reminding her. This would also help her self-esteem because she would be monitoring her own self to stay on task. It has been a great opportunity to observe Kate. I see so much potential in this amazing girl. I feel that if someone would take that extra time to see where she struggles and what she is going through, the strategies needed to help her become successful could be implemented. Imagine how much more Kate could accomplish if she had the motivation and the selfdetermination she lacks? In order for a student to be successful and receive the best possible education, it is important for the teacher to be knowledgeable about what he or she can do to educate students with special needs. Collaboration is essential in the path to meeting the goals for each unique, exceptional student. With collaboration, knowledge is shared and educators can better understand their students development in all aspects.



Benaroch, R. Piaget Stages of Development. WebMD. November 06, 2012. Web. December 12, 2012. <http://children.webmd.com/piaget-stages-of-development> Chander, J. (2012, December 12). Email interview. Kohls, A. (2012, December 6). Personal interview. Stages of Social-Emotional Development- Erik Erikson. Child Development Institute. December 12, 2012. < http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/childdevelopment/erickson.shtml> Taylor, R. L., Smiley, L. R., & Richards, S. B. (2009). Exceptional Students Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.