Colin hates fifth grade. He spends each day dreading that his teacher is going to call on him. Colin can never come up with an answer fast enough so his first response is always, “I don’t know.” His classmates laugh at him but he’d rather say “I don’t know” quickly than struggle to come up with a response. Colin’s teacher thinks he knows the answers to the questions she asks, but can’t get the answers from his mind to his mouth.

Colin has become a great writer but his trouble with spelling slows him down. He is also good at understanding math concepts, but has a hard time mastering math facts. Nothing is automatic. Because of this, Colin has become anxious about taking tests. He has trouble recalling information fast enough and draws a “blank.”

Colin has been told he has great graphic design skills. The one class he enjoys is art class, but it is only two times a week. Colin also likes taking things apart such as old computer parts and phone equipment. There is a museum near his house that Colin would rather go to every day than to school. It has a whole room full of old computers, TVs, and VCRs. There are tools to take things apart and Colin loves to take two different pieces of equipment and see if he can hook them together to make a new invention.

Colin also has a hard time expressing his opinion. He struggles to remember things he has learned and can’t find the right words to say what he’s thinking. Colin recently got into a fight with what used to be one of his best friends. Colin and his friend were having an argument and when Colin couldn’t think of what to say, he hit his friend instead.

Colin’s teachers are worried about how little Colin is enjoying school. He has begun to give up on tests and doesn’t even try to answer questions that his teachers ask.


  • Spatial functions (art, graphic design)
  • Fine motor function
  • Creativity
  • Writing


  • Art
  • Working with old computer parts and equipment
  • Creating new inventions

Areas in Need of Improvement:

  • Recalling facts quickly
  • Elaborating thoughts
  • Recognizing patterns in math

Possible Management Plan:

Colin would benefit from a discussion in which he thinks and talks about his own strengths and weaknesses. Comparing his difficulties with recalling information quickly with his strengths in rebuilding computers, for example, may help him see how he can begin to apply the same strategies he uses for creating inventions to solve problems in school.

Colin needs to feel success in school and safe and supported when responding to questions and taking tests. He needs to understand that he knows the information and what he wants to say, but he’s having a hard time getting that information into words. Specific strategies in a management plan might include a balance of accommodations and interventions, as well as an integration of Colin’s strengths and affinities.

Leveraging Strengths and Affinities:

  • To work on pattern recognition, have Colin do a class project on the similarities in the different machines he uses in his creations. He could investigate and describe to the class how different types of computers are similar and different and how his inventions have made improvements on the original designs.
  • Colin could use his affinity for art by designing scenery for a school play. This would provide him with a sense of importance, a chance to work with other students, and to feel some success.
  • Colin could also create posters, art projects and engage in a variety of activities that would help him receive recognition for his strengths and affinities.

Accommodations and Interventions:

  • Help Colin relate what is learning to information already stored in long-term memory. For example, when learning about the state history, have him talk about places he has visited in the state.
  • Provide Colin with questions the night before they will be asked in class. This will give him time to prepare possible answers.
  • Have the class share answers to questions with the classmate next to them.
  • Once Colin feels comfortable, encourage him to summarize and paraphrase frequently in order to enhance the registration of information into memory. For example, this can be done by listing (“Colin, please list for me the three key facts that have been covered so far . . .”), paraphrasing (“Colin, please summarize this morning’s lesson. . .”), or using review questions at various stages (“How did we answer the first three questions on the board?”).
  • Teach Colin to use self-questioning at strategic points to help trigger their recognition of patterns and to develop memory strategies. For example: What does this remind me of? What can I associate with it?
  • Use hands-on learning to add a sensory element to cognitive activities in the classroom. Adding a sensory element may enhance both the storage and retrieval of learned information. Follow-up field trips and hands-on activities with classroom activities, such as group discussion, journal writing for reinforcement.
  • Have Colin make up stories using concepts he is learning, e.g., a plant undergoing photosynthesis, an adventure through a geometrically shaped house, a role-play of a special time in history, etc. Such stories may help provide a context for the concepts and create associations in his mind.
  • Modify the nature of memory tasks by allowing Colin to use recognition memory instead of recall memory. For example, provide prompts such as cue words or mnemonic reminders, use fill in the blank questions instead of short answer, or cloze techniques in which certain elements of a task, passage, etc. are provided for him.