Sometimes it is difficult to be objective and to observe the obvious. Michael is a full-time Year 4 student at XYZ School in which he is in a mainstream classroom supported by a full-time teacher aide. Michael is a 9 year old boy who lives at home with his mother and he is an only child. Michael’s Father passed away in 2006 following a myocardial infarction. Michael has Congenital Cerebral Palsy and is primarily mobile by the use of a wheelchair and some use of a walker at home and school, and is visually impaired. Michael was referred to me due to the teachers concerns about his poor social skills. Members of the assessment team agreed that Michael has a limited number of friends and has difficulty in making new friends. Another concern is that Michael has difficulty reciprocating relationships with his peers and lacks understanding around basic social interactions.
Michael has a number of strengths including his outgoing personality, good sense of humour, and his story telling abilities. Further strengths include being passionate about animals, the Story Maker Programme, and he has a willingness to participate socially with his peers.
After a comprehensive assessment that included classroom and playground observations, accessing previous assessments, and interviewing Michael’s teacher, his mother, teacher aides, and other professionals it was clear there was barriers that were preventing him from accessing and participating in social interactions. My assessment found that the opportunity for Michael to develop social skills was influenced by being vision impaired, his mobility, and the classroom environment.
It appeared that Michael lacked some social competencies. However, I observed him as having a number of pro-social skills but they were being compromised by poor vision. Thus, Michael’s visual problems are severely underestimated. Michael was criticised for not knowing any of his peers’ names. This is because he has difficulty seeing them. Attempts to correct this problem through the use visual aides have been unsuccessful as the materials used are not conducive to assist his vision, i.e. they were too glossy. Michael has been criticised for being self-centred. This must be attributed to limited access to social situations due to vision and mobility barriers and a high degree of care and one-to-one attention that has been required over the years. Furthermore, opportunities to develop social skills, reciprocate social interactions, and further and develop friendships are compromised by Michael unintentionally not being included in group classroom activities and due to the classroom layout. Observations clearly showed that Michael sits at the opposite end on the classroom and away from the main social area of the classroom – the mat. Even Michael’s teacher admitted that it is difficult to include him in mat time, so he just remains at his desk with his teacher aide.
The special education needs coordinator should work with Michael and other professionals to determine the best visual materials conducive for learning.
Include Michael in small group activities and provide him with leadership roles.
Re-position Michael’s desk to be near the matt so he can be involved in matt time.
De-clutter the classroom so Michael can access social areas.
Privacy Note: Any photos attached to this article are not of the child. The child’s name has also been changed to protect his/her privacy.