Joshua is not your typical third grade boy. Unlike most kids his age, Joshua’s favorite subject in school is not PE. As a matter of fact, Joshua dreads going to the gym for physical education class. Many times he has tried to talk his teacher into letting him stay in the classroom.

Joshua is a good student who excels academically. He is an excellent reader, often reading (and understanding) books above his grade level. Whenever Joshua finishes his class work, he immediately finds a comfortable spot in the classroom to read. Joshua’s mother observes this same behavior at home. “He always has his nose in a book,” she told his teacher. His favorite topic is professional athletes, especially professional football players. In addition to being a good reader, Joshua is highly creative in the area of storytelling. He can create and write amazing stories.

Joshua’s hobbies include swimming, which he does quite well, and building intricate models using Legos. Some of his models have been entered in contests and have won prizes. Joshua’s parents are very proud of his accomplishments. They describe him as a wonderful child who is the joy of their life. He is well-behaved and respectful toward adults and other kids.

Joshua’s teacher finds his reluctance to go to PE very unusual. She has observed him during recess and has noticed his tendency to be uncoordinated at times. When the class plays kickball or baseball, Joshua sometimes stumbles when running from base to base. When he shoots a basketball, his arms and legs appear to made of rubber. He doesn’t seem to have much control over these muscles. The physical education teacher commented on Joshua’s performance when they were learning to square dance. “Joshua looks like he has two left feet.” The teacher’s concern led her to talk to Joshua about PE. “When the coach explains how to do something, I think I understand. Then when I try to do it, I can’t make the move turn out like it is supposed to,” he said, “I wish he would show me what to do instead of just telling me what to do.”


  • Excellent reader
  • Uses strong language skills to write and tell wonderful stories
  • Respectful of adults and other kids
  • Good swimmer
  • Uses fine motor ability to build Lego models


  • Swimming
  • Building models
  • Reading about professional football players

Areas in Need of Improvement:

  • Coordinating the large muscles of the body
  • Creating mental pictures of verbal directions given in physical education class

Possible Management Plan:

It would appear that Joshua is embarrassed by his lack of athletic ability in PE class. He may feel some degree of humiliation when he has to perform an uncomfortable task in front of his peers. It also appears from his comments that Joshua is very much aware of his areas in need of improvement. He would greatly benefit from talking with his teacher about this issue. Through demystification, she could help Joshua to understand why he is experiencing these difficulties and what can be done to help improve the situation. Joshua’s parents should be a part of this conversation so that they can reinforce the ideas and strategies at home without the fear of humiliation from his peers. 

Leveraging Strengths and Affinities:

  • Use Joshua’s strengths in swimming and model building to help him understand how muscles work together to create movement of the body. Ask a swim coach to explain which groups of large muscles are being used to accomplish various strokes.
  • Use Joshua’s reading ability and affinity for professional athletics to increase his understanding. Encourage him to read about other occupations related to professional athletics which he may want to one day pursue
  • Relate Joshua’s strength in storytelling and writing to physical education. Help him to see that just as he creates mental pictures of the stories he tells, he can also create mental pictures of what the coach is asking him to do. This mental imagery may also be part of Joshua’s ability to create great Lego models.

Possible Accommodations and Interventions:

  • Just as Joshua suggested, the PE coach needs to physically demonstrate the task as he describes it to the students. This will help Joshua as he learns to create visual images of the directions.
  • The coach may also want to organize the class so that not every student is practicing the same task. This approach would allow Joshua the opportunity to work on areas in need of improvement as well as areas that he does well.
  • The use of light weights may enable Joshua to be more aware of his body movement and provide him with more feedback from his muscles.