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A Student With Behavioral Disorders, Case Study Example

Pages: 13

Words: 3634

Case Study

Description of Jacob

Jacob lives in a large urban city; he is ten years old. His parents are Orthodox Jews. It is important to mention his faith because some of the difficulties he is experiencing are related to teasing (bullying) from other students about the customs of his faith. In addition to his religious differences, Jacob has been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He is viewed as a troublemaker in school. His teachers report that he tends to be a “bright” youngster who is easily distracted and unable to concentrate on his studies. His parents state that he functions well outside the expected parameters of his faith at home; his teachers have observed difficulties in his ability to gain success in in-school academic or social events.

Descriptions of the Student’s Characteristics that Impact the Problem

Sometimes it is difficult for even the most knowledgeable professional to identify ADHD from normal child behavior (Cohen, 2003). For instance, ADHD children can usually concentrate on activities they enjoy. However, when tasks are either boring or repetitive they have trouble maintaining focus. Cohen observed that some students with ADHD are hyperactive while other ADHD students are not overly active; instead they are inattentive, appearing to their teachers and other professionals as being spacey and unmotivated. Each year in every classroom across the United States millions of report cards are sent to parents. In the space allotted for teachers’ comments many of them read that the student is inattentive and unmotivated. In reality however, not every child with those descriptions have ADHD, making it difficult for teachers and sometimes even parents to identify which children have the disorder and which children may be a bit slower than their peers in cognitive development (Centers for Disease Control, 2012).

Burt (2009) observed the symptoms of hyperactivity in children. These include:

  • Fidgeting and squirming constantly
  • Often leaving his or her seat to run around in the classroom (or elsewhere, for instance, in a library) in situations where quiet is expected.
  • Constantly moving around, sometimes running and climbing in inappropriate situations
  • Talking excessively without control even those the classroom teacher may have asked the class not to speak. This can be especially difficult during independent study or at test-taking time.
  • No matter how hard he or she tries the student can never study, play, or relax quietly.
  • As if driven by a motor the child is always on the go.
  • The student displays a quick temper sometimes called a “short fuse.” If things don’t go exactly how the child expects events to occur they quickly lash out, sometimes causing unintentional bodily harm to others.

Although all of the symptoms listed above are characteristics of ADHD, they may not be (McBurnett & Pfiffner, 2009). Classroom teachers need to keep months of notes about observed problems the student is having with reading, writing, language, and motor skills. Parents in conjunction with the child’s classroom teacher need to look at conduct disorder and possibly oppositional defiant disorder. School or medical counselors need to discuss major life events including traumatic experiences. These may include parent divorce, a death in the family, or a parent who is abusive to their spouse or to their offspring. A psychologist needs to observe the student for signs of anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.  Finally, a physician (doctor of medicine) needs to examine the students to determine thyroid disorders, neurological conditions, epilepsy, and sleep disorders.

Because of their busy schedules all of professionals described above who evaluated the student may not be present at the assembly of an individualized education plan (IEP), but to keep the IEP as comprehensive as possible each professional should submit a complete report of his or her findings. In most schools the principal leads the IEP committee; creating an IEP that is in the best interest of the student requires that all of this information is readily available Weishar, 2001).

Academic Characteristics of the Student

The school that Jacob attends is located in an upper socioeconomic community. This is an important observation because many of the classroom teachers still use rote learning. For instance, lower grade mathematics still requires memorization of multiplication tables while upper-grades mathematics still use geographic models illustrated in a textbook. Reading is still done in a round-robin method where everybody, regardless of ability is forced to read out loud. Many students find these instructional methods to be boring; the school board has been slow to react because the principal has been in the school for many years and is friendly with many of the neighborhood residents. Although other students are bored, sometimes with grades reflecting their boredom, Jacob is frequently out of his seat running around the classroom arbitrarily taking other students’ work and sometimes books piled up in the back of the room and tossing them around the classroom. An examination of test data reveals that students who, according to the state-approved achievement tests are capable of producing high grades are instead only reflecting mediocre grades. Jacob may be capable of producing better-than-average grades in these same subjects but his behavior is detrimental to these occurrences. Therefore, while other students are producing Cs, Jacob is usually producing an F and is in a far greater chance than his classmates of being retained in the same grade.

The science teacher in the school has gone above and beyond the parameters of teaching demonstrated by other faculty. The science teacher is relatively new to the education community, having recently graduated from the university. In science the teacher uses a computer and computer-linked projector to demonstrate 3D moveable models of different aspects of science. Students can look at the projection screen and see the planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, watching the rotation on their axis and their orbit around the sun. This type of learning demonstration is extremely interesting to all of the students in the room, including Jacob. Being enthralled by this experience Jacob tends to sit more quietly throughout the class, although because some of his cognitive skills are lacking his grades are below other students. Jacob’s teachers have observed that although Jacob’s grades are lower, indeed, he is still passing.

Social Characteristics of the Student

Jacob displays poor socialization skills. Because he is usually running around, talking or yelling while others are trying to concentrate, and throws his classmates materials in a pile on the floor he is considered a social outcast by both his teachers and his classmates. In addition, because Jacob is an Orthodox Jew his mode of dress is somewhat different from most of his classmates. Jacob wears a fringed garment under his shirt but the fringe generally hangs out of his trousers as is the custom of Orthodox Jews. In addition, Jacob is permitted to wear a skull cap at all times, again, part of the customs of his faith. The characteristics of ADHD displayed by Jacob plus the mode in which he dresses (somewhat different from other students in his class) causes other students to tease him. The teasing makes worse the symptoms of his disorder. As stated in the previous section: Jacob produces consistently failing grades except in science which he finds both interesting and stimulating.

Motivational Characteristics of the Student

In order to remove the repetitiveness from some of Jacob’s tasks (repetitiveness is often responsible for setting off his ADHD) many of Jacob’s teachers often ask him to help with small chores: pass out test papers, neatly stack textbooks, erase and wash the chalkboards. Tasks like these give most students a sense of pride. They feel they are being singled out to help their teacher and that makes them special.  Based on his behavior, when Jacob is assigned those chores, like his classmates, he feels special. Where things go awry is when the task(s) lasts longer than 15 minutes. Something in Jacob’s mindset creates a feeling of repetitiveness and Jacob returns to the negative behavior he usually displays. Therefore, if the teacher is capable of giving Jacob tasks which will only last a few minutes before reassigning a different task, Jacob can finish the chore without losing interest. Unfortunately, Jacob’s teachers have a student population of 25-30 students in each classroom. Sometimes the teacher’s day is so hectic she/he loses count of exactly how long Jacob has been consumed in a task.

Description of the Environmental Factors that Impact the Problem

Almost all of the teachers employed in the school Jacob attends have been teaching for 20 years or more. All states require that teachers take continuing education courses during their own time in order to renew their teaching licenses. Although these courses often introduce new and interesting ways to help students to learn, the school principal where Jacob attends believes that the older instructional methods are suitable and it is these methods she encourages. Therefore, regardless of the number of professional development courses taken by Jacob’s teachers most of them rely on what the principal calls “tried and true” instructional methods. Reading remains round robin. Some students read very astutely while others consistently stumble over words, sometimes sounding more like they are reading the phonebook than narrative. Likewise, in the lower grades teachers still expect their students to memorize multiplication tables while in the middle and upper grades students use one-dimensional geographical figures illustrated in their textbooks. Grades suffer for all students in the school because the principal prefers these older style teaching methods. In fact, in a published analysis comparing student growth and improvement on the state achievement tests it was suggested that most of the students at Jacob’s school were performed lower than other schools in the same school district (Kosner, 2002). For Jacob, a student who has ADHD, learning was even more critical because rote instruction is a major cause of boredom. Although general education students may be affected by these instructional methodologies, the scenario is even more detrimental for Jacob—who becomes easily bored and who, as a result of his boredom will act out.

Additional proof that rote instruction doesn’t work can be found by examining the instructional methods of the science teacher, a professional who is a recent college graduate. This instructor produces 3D science models on a movie screen. Because these models are computer generated they move—for instance, the planets both revolve on their axis as well as orbit the sun.

Since the dawn of time, given the correct situation, children can be very cruel toward their classmates. Although bullying is a social issue recently recognized by schools, it has been going on for many generations. Students are bullied because they act different, talk different, get higher or lower grades than their classmates, dress differently, and the list goes on and on. Remember, Jacob’s family practices Orthodox Judaism, suggesting that Jacob dresses differently and is required to recite prayers, albeit in a low tone, before he eats, uses the washroom, and other  normal daily living practices. In addition, he is constantly out of his seat, running around the classroom while disturbing others and displays only a minimal attention span. When examined singularly, any one of these actions would probably result in minimal consequences. However, when lumped together they cause a grievous situation where Jacob knows he doesn’t fit in and his inability to fit in only makes his behavior worse.

Analysis of the Problem(s)

In 1975, the United States Department of Education enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA, 1975). Prior to this act public schools educated only one in five handicapped children. The act also required mainstreaming of handicapped children. A research study conducted by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (2010) showed an increase of 14% for those handicapped children who were mainstreamed.

The most serious side of mainstreaming is that the classroom teacher has to take instructional time away from non-disabled students in the class to concentrate on offering special help to the child with special needs. Professionals often ask, “Although mainstreaming is helping a student with special needs, is the rest of the class learning what is being taught?” This can be a serious situation when one realizes that at least some members of the class may be college-bound.

Jacob is a 10 year old male student in the fifth grade of an elementary school. The school is self-managed (as opposed to centrally managed); this was suggested by the fact that the principal directs her teachers to use older styles of teaching even though newer and more effective instructional methods are available. The school principal, Jacob’s teacher, and an assortment of counselors and physicians have diagnosed Jacob as having ADHD. Although there are prescription drugs available which would help his condition the drugs have been shown to only sedate the student. Sedation will cause Jacob to relax and even enter a sort of twilight sleep but he will not be conscious enough to gain anything from his studies. When the professionals involved with Jacob meet to prepare an IEP they need to take into consideration that Jacob’s ADHD condition is behavioral, not medical. The concern will be how to control Jacob’s behavior so that he will sit quietly in class and gain at least some knowledge from what is being taught. If Jacob does not gain any knowledge by being in the class these professionals need to be concerned with two items. First, if Jacob can sit in-class without causing disruption then the non-disabled students in the same classroom stand a better chance of garnering more of the teacher’s attention and becoming more successful in their studies. The second issue falls squarely on how the professionals view Jacob. If Jacob sits in class, albeit quietly, but learns nothing, what is the value of being in the classroom? The objective of school attendance is to acquire some knowledge although the amount of knowledge acquired varies from student-to-student.

Summary and Conclusions

Jacob is a 10 year old male student in the fifth grade. He displays the symptoms of ADHD: short attention span, constant talking whether or not he is being addressed, and out his seat running around, sometimes destroying classroom materials or the schoolwork of other students in his classroom. In addition, Jacob wears the garments of an Orthodox Jew, making him dress and look different from his other classmates. Although the 21st century term politically correct term is bullying, the results are that many other students openly make fun of him because of his different clothing style. Jacob rarely takes medicine for his condition because his parents feel that the drugs only sedate him while doing nothing to cure his illness. The school administrator where Jacob attends does not believe in newer instructional methods and things like rote learning can be repetitive, which is exactly one of the things that can “set-off” an ADHD student. This is more so exemplified by Jacob’s science teacher who is a recent college grad and uses computer generated models to teach science. Jacob is quiet while in his science class and in many instances produces grades at least equal to the other students in his class.

Goals and Recommendations

The researcher does not believe that removing Jacob from a mainstreamed classroom to educate him along with children having other special needs will be beneficial. In a special education classroom the teacher usually puts simple materials on the board which occupy young minds but which does little to produce learning. Since Jacob’s problem is defined as behavioral the researcher believes that Jacob will benefit the most by remaining in a mainstreamed education program.

It is well-established that it usually costs more to educate children with special needs (McBurnett & Pfiffner, 2009). Therefore, part of that extra expense could be used to employ a paraprofessional who has the task of remaining at Jacob’s side throughout the school day. This way, when the mainstreamed teacher assigns lectures, demonstrates, or assigns work to his or her class the paraprofessional will be available to work solely with Jacob, removing the regular classroom teacher’s need for taking extra time with Jacob at the expense of the remainder of her/his students. Although unevaluated as a part of this document, it’s possible that the closeness that may develop between Jacob and a person assigned to help him may create a kind of friendship where Jacob will not feel as frustrated and will create less disturbance.

Highlighted in other parts of this document, the researcher noted that Jacob attends a school where the administrator seems to be old-fashioned in her expectations for her teachers. The principal encourages rote learning even though studies have been completed over the last several years which suggest that new instructional models produce more interesting lessons and better grades for all students (Kosner, Oakes, & Thomas, 2000). This is exemplified by the science teacher who insists on using computer generated models to teach her subject. Jacob fits easily into her class, finds the coursework interesting and challenging and does not act-out to the degree he does in other classes.

In addition to using rote learning in his school, it was noted elsewhere in this document that Jacob is an Orthodox Jew. Thus, he dresses and acts differently according to the dictates of his faith. Whether called bullying or just “horsing around,” other children constantly pick on him. The school in which Jacob is enrolled is probably not the best for him. First, he does not find rote learning interesting which, in part, causes his negative behavior. For that matter, many other students in Jacob’s class and throughout the different grades are not meeting state goals. Although unknown, it is assumed the principal has some kind of political connections which allow her to remain at her school enforcing outdated instructional methods. A different school, perhaps sectarian, may hold more interest for Jacob. Certainly he will still have ADHD but studies have shown it can be better controlled in programs which the student finds personally interesting and challenging (Williams & Taylor, 2006).

Interview

  1. Jacob, what do you enjoy most about attending school? What do you like least?
  2. How are you doing on your homework? (The researcher is not seeking a one-word reply. Rather, the question is a precursor for some discussion about whether Jacob can work quietly on his studies or whether he loses his concentration in a short period of time).
  3. Can you tell me what your classmates or teachers do that upset you (trigger a response)?
    4. When you become angry would you like it if your teacher immediately found something for you to do to help her? (The question is designed to find out if Jacob’s anger can be channeled to a worthwhile task instead of simply lashing out at his classmates).
  4. What do you do during free time? (Examples of an expected answer: (1) Watch television. What kinds of shows keep Jacob’s attention? It may be beneficial for Jacob to keep a pc tablet at his desk. (2) Play action sports such as dodge ball may help Jacob to work off his extra energy. (3) Practice the dictates of his faith suggests that Jacob may be better off enrolling in a sectarian school).

Summary of the Interview

The interview questions were designed as a guide only. From these questions the interviewer was able to ask additional questions based upon the interviewee’s replies. The interview was done during a single 20 minute session conducted in the counselor’s office. Beyond the 20 minutes the researcher found that Jacob started to lose interest, and visibly fidget, talking louder and in shorter sentences, as if he was becoming irritated with the interview process.

Jacob is absolutely an ADHD student. He is reasonably smart but his behavior and short attention span limits his ability to show any achievement in school. This is exacerbated by his parents’ unwillingness to let him take medication for his ADHD. According to Jacob’s parents the medicine only sedates Jacob and does nothing more. There is huge medical field available to them and the researcher believes that if the prescribed drugs are not working a qualified physician should be able to prescribe some other kind of treatment. Students who control their ADHD can usually achieve in both elementary and high school and research has pointed to success in admitting some of these individuals to college.

In addition to Jacob’s behavioral disorder, two other factors need to be considered in Jacob’s placement. First, he is enrolled in a school where the principal supports old-fashioned rote learning. None of the students in the school are achieving as best as they can. For unknown reasons the school board has decided to not change the administration of Jacob’s school. Jacob probably needs to be enrolled in a school where the lessons are more interesting; if he can acquire some of that interest he might find some relief in his ADHD. Second, because of Jacob’s stronger beliefs in his faith he is more actively involved in the dictates of that faith than are most school children, regardless of their respective faiths. The two reasons together suggest that Jacob may be better in a progressive sectarian school. Although travel to and from a different school may be cumbersome, the benefits gained from such a transfer may prove beneficial to Jacob’s learning and control of his ADHD.

References

Burt, S. (2009, July). Rethinking environmental contributions to child and adolescent psychopathology.  Physchological Bulletin 125(4): 608-637.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (November 13, 2012). Facts about ADHD. A white paper published by the CDC discussing ADHD. Washington, DC: Author.

Cohen, D. (2003). Broken brains or flawed studies? A critical review of ADHD studies. The  Journal of Mind and Behavior 25: 29-56.

Kosner, J. (2002). White paper written for National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Chicago, IL: Author.

Kosner, J., Oakes, D., & Thomas, L. (2000). New curriculum handbook. Internal document prepared for use in Illinois supported schools. Springfield, IL: Illinois State Board of Education.

McBurnett, K., & Pfiffner, I. (2009, November). Treatment of aggressive ADHD in children and adolescents: Conceptualization of and treatment of comorbid behavior disorders.  Postgraduate Medicine 121(6): 158-165.

Weishar, M. (2001). The regular educator’s role in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process. New York: the Clearing House 75(2): 96-98.

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