Jennifer

Jennifer is a 15-year-old 10th grader with a multitude of strengths. She has done well academically, and enjoys the challenges of her advanced placement classes. She also has a strong aesthetic sense, and is able to create lovely drawings. Recently, Jennifer helped a neighbor with his landscaping by designing the plans for his new rock garden. She enjoyed learning about the plants and flowers that would go into the garden. Jennifer generally enjoys working and interacting with others.

Physical education class, however, has long been a struggle for Jennifer. She has always been awkward in athletic activities, and the pressures of participating in the demanding and competitive activities of PE class have increased over time. 

Jennifer is very self-conscious about her motor skills, and is hyper-aware of how others judge her abilities. Her lack of motor coordination has impacted her sense of body image, and has begun to impact her self-concept in general. Increasingly, Jennifer has shied away from athletic events of any kind, even though she is interested in school sports, and wishes she could be involved in athletic activities both in and out of school. She simply feels embarrassed by her inability to succeed in athletic activities.

Strengths:

  • Academic abilities (advanced placement classes)
  • Aesthetic abilities (drawing)
  • Collaborating with others (neighbor's rock garden)

Affinities:

  • Enjoys the challenges of her courses
  • Working and interacting with others
  • Learning about gardening

Areas in Need of Improvement:

  • Gross motor abilities, motor coordination
  • Self-conscious, poor body image and self-concept
  • Embarrassed at lack of athletic success
  • Avoidance of athletic events

Possible Management Plan:

It is important that Jennifer have the opportunity to experience some degree of satisfaction related to motor activities. By leveraging her many strengths and affinities, as well as by providing some simple accommodations and interventions, we can increase the likelihood that Jennifer will feel successful in athletic activities and events.

It will be important to involve all of those that impact Jennifer's opportunities for athletic involvement into the management plan, including the physical education teacher, team coaches, etc.

Leveraging Strengths and Affinities:

  • Build upon Jennifer's affinity for working with others by finding alternate ways for her to participate in an athletic activity or become a member of a team. For example, her aesthetic abilities may be invoked by designing flyers and posters for upcoming events, her academic skills may make her an excellent sports reporter or statistician, etc.
  • Encourage Jennifer to explore gardening as a rewarding motor activity that does not depend upon athletic abilities. 

Accommodations and Interventions:

  • Consider whether Jennifer might benefit more from self-paced sports in which she initiates and controls the activity (e.g., swimming or running), rather than externally paced sports where she must respond to the motor demands of the activity (e.g., tennis or soccer).
  • Encourage Jennifer to say the required steps aloud while doing a motor activity, to increase her ability to remember or perform the steps. In time, she may move from vocalizing the steps to whispering, and finally to just reviewing the steps in her mind.
  • When explaining a physical activity, model the steps for Jennifer and allow her to practice the steps, for example, kicking or throwing motions, along with you as you model them.
  • Help Jennifer work on athletic skills by practicing the activity in a series of steps, rather than all at once. For example, first practicing kicking a ball while standing still, then walking up to the ball and kicking it, then jogging up to the ball and kicking it, etc.
  • Be sensitive to Jennifer's feelings when in group settings by not placing her in situations that may be humiliating to her. For example, if she is having difficulty with a particular gross motor skill or activity, do not ask her to perform that skill in front of her peers.