Matt

Matt spends every day dreading sixth period. That's when he and his sixth grade classmates go to P.E. class. Matt was on the school cross-country team in the fall and he loves to go running, but as soon as he hears the words "today we're going to play basketball" his heart sinks. Matt has never been able to catch or hit any ball-a baseball, basketball, volleyball, or tennis ball-it doesn't matter. Matt can't judge where the ball is in space and where to move to catch it. Even when the P. E. teacher tries to explain how to catch or hit a ball, Matt can't picture what he is talking about or make his muscle do what he wants them to. 

Matt's other teachers are always amazed at how many things he loses. He is always misplacing his homework and Matt's mother was not happy when she had to pay for a school calculator that Matt lost. Matt just can't remember where he puts things. His mother and teachers don't understand since Matt has such a good memory for things he reads or hears. Matt has also confused his teachers because he is so organized about managing time. He can plan out the time needed for doing a long term project. The problem is, when Matt is ready to turn the project in, he usually can't find it! 

Matt loves English class. He is great at class discussions and his favorite book is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Recently he made a map of Huck and Jim's trip on their raft for a class project and it was a disaster. He gave a great explanation, but things were spread all over the page without any organization to it. 

Matt is becoming frustrated. He's tired of misplacing things and his grades are going down because he keeps losing his homework. Now that the cross-country running season is over he doesn't feel like he can do anything right. Matt has started making excuses for not participating in P. E. and last week he skipped class. He is embarrassed every time it is his turn up to bat or someone throws the ball to him and he misses it. 

Strengths:

  • Class discussions
  • Memory for things he reads in class
  • Memory for things he hears in class
  • Managing time

Affinities:

  • English
  • Running

Areas in Need of Improvement:

  • Sports with spatial demands
  • Misplaces homework and materials
  • Organizing materials on paper

Possible Management Plan:

Things in space seem to be a problem for Matt. Matt has difficulty whether it's a ball flying through the air or drawing a map for history class or remembering where he put his math book. Someone should explain to Matt that a lot of people have a difficulty with managing materials and even the best athletes are not good at every sport. Matt, along with all students, needs adult protection against public humiliation in front of their classmates. When talking to Matt, his strengths should be emphasized and it will be important to involve all of those teachers that can help Matt, including the physical education teacher, team coach, etc.

Leveraging Strengths and Affinities:

  • By leveraging Matt's many strengths and affinities, we can increase the likelihood that he will feel successful in athletic and non-athletic activities
  • Encourage Matt to continue his running. The P. E. teacher may want to organize the class so that not every student is practicing the same task. His approach would allow Matt the opportunity to work on areas in need of improvement as well as improve his running.
  • Use Matt's time management skills to help him plan a training schedule to get ready for the cross-country running season. This does not need to be an aggressive training schedule, but one that will allow Matt to enjoy using his motor skills.
  • For his other spatial difficulties of managing materials, Matt could present projects using his great language skills rather than projects that he needs to draw or arrange materials on paper. Matt could also team up with another classmate who has these strengths so they could work on the project together.

Possible Accommodations and Interventions:

  • The P. E. coach needs to physically demonstrate the task as he describes it to the students. This will help Matt as he learns to create visual images of the directions.
  • A management plan should include matching Matt with a sport in which he most likely to feel success. For Matt, this is easy-he already loves to run and is involved in the cross-country team. 
  • One of the reasons Matt might have difficulties remembering where he put things is that he has difficulty making a mental picture of where he put them. Matt might benefit from learning different methods for organizing their own notebooks, materials, etc. A time could be assigned in the classroom for 'staying organized', e.g. fifteen minutes every Wednesday to reorganize desks, backpacks, and notebooks.