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Chapter 8: Case Study 2

Robbie is a 10 year old 4th grade student attending Baker Elementary School. Robbie was premature and was in intensive care for the 1st two weeks of his life. His early developmental milestones were delayed. His parents attributed these developmental delays to his premature birth. By the time Robbie was 2 years old, he was a strong, healthy toddler. Robbie’s parents separated when Robbie was 3 years old. His parents had joint custody, but Robbie spent most of his time with his father, as his mother was often ill. She died 3 years ago when Robbie was beginning 1st grade. He currently lives with his father, his stepmother, and his 9 month old baby stepbrother.

When Robbie was in the middle of 3rd grade, Mr. Vern, Robbie’s father, began having some concerns regarding Robbie’s “quirkiness.” Sometimes Robbie seemed to “space out” and lose focus. Robbie, a bright child, talented mechanically and artistically, had trouble explaining things. Also, Robbie didn’t “get things” that Mr. Vern felt that Robbie should understand. He didn’t make logical connections. When Mr.Vern brought his concerns to Robbie’s 3rd grade teacher, she reassured Mr. Vern that Robbie was doing fine in school. She believed the sporadic inattentiveness and forgetfulness she observed in class were due to the major changes in his life: the recent loss of his mother and his new family situation. She thought it unlikely, but wondered if Robbie might have ADD.

Reports from previous teachers indicate that Robbie has been an average student from kindergarten through grade 3. He has made the Honor Roll in 2nd and 3rd grades. He has been a conscientious student, and his teachers remark that he is a hard worker. His past teachers describe him as sweet, outgoing, talkative, and somewhat absent-minded. He has never been a discipline problem.

Mr. Vern’s concerns for Robbie have increased this year. This past February, Mr. Vern met with Dr. Stevens, a child psychologist. In March, a physican diagnosed Robbie with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) called Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND).

Robbie’s core 4th grade teacher, Mr. Sweeney, and Mr. Vern have requested a Student Study team meeting. Mr. Vern plans to discuss the FASD diagnosis with the Student Study Team. Mr. Sweeney is concerned that Robbie is anxious and seems to be struggling to keep up in some areas. Robbie used to love attending school and now it seems to be quite stressful for him. Mr. Vern reports that Robbie does not want to go to school and often comes home in tears. Robbie has told his father that school is too hard, and he hates math. Mr. Vern reports that math has never been an issue for Robbie in the past.

Mr. Sweeney reports that at the beginning of the school year, Robbie was completing all of his assignments. Robbie was outgoing and seemed happy. He worked slowly but steadily. However, as the school year has progressed, Robbie has become quieter and more withdrawn. Several of Robbie’s mid-year homework assignments and class assignments are incomplete, and some have not been turned in to the teacher .

Academically, Robbie has always been strong in language arts. Mr. Sweeney reports that Robbie consistently receives As and Bs on his weekly spelling tests. Robbie is an active participant during oral reading, and he always follows along. His decoding skills are satisfactory for 4th grade. He is able to sound out multi-syllabic words and has a good 4th grade vocabulary. During class discussion, Robbie demonstrates a basic understanding of what he has read, usually understanding the plot of a story, characters, and the setting. He is less able to accurately make predictions or draw conclusions regarding class novels. Some of his responses to comprehension questions are way off target, answering questions with his wishes or his experiences. Sometimes he does not respond at all. While he appears to be paying attention, it’s possible he’s daydreaming. Mr. Sweeney wonders if he’s seeking attention from his classmates even though this seems uncharacteristic of Robbie. When directions are presented verbally, Robbie does not always seem to know what to do even though he can repeat the directions back. Mr. Sweeney has discovered that if Robbie hears the directions 2 or 3 times, then he seems to know what to do.

When a written language assignment is short, Robbie does quite well. He willingly writes captions to his drawings, cartoons, and paintings. When an assignment requires writing more than 2 or 3 sentences, he resists. He is able to explain what a paragraph includes, but his paragraphs lose their original focus. He has difficulty sequencing his written ideas unless an adult helps him organizes his thoughts. Written language assignments begun in class are rarely completed in class. Instead, Robbie finishes his assignments at home. Several of those assignments are not turned in. Robbie says some of the missing assignments he did complete, but he just doesn’t know where they are. The written language assignments that are turned in are typed up on the computer. Robbie says that writing assignments are easier for him when he uses the computer. He has produced very little for his portfolio this year.

In 4th grade, the students are placed in ability groups for mathematics. Robbie leaves his core class to attend math class with Ms. Kazan. Robbie seems to be having difficulty transitioning from one class to the next. He is often late to class, and if he remembers his math book, it is disorganized. Some of the other 4th grade students experienced similar difficulties getting used to the 4th grade routine of switching classes. However, at this late point in the school year, most of the students have become comfortable with the routine. Robbie continues to seem anxious and concerned about the transitions.

He takes pride in knowing his math facts, does well on quizzes, and enjoys playing math games. Long division has been difficult for Robbie; he does not consistently remember the sequence of steps required for long division. He has struggled with problem solving, especial- ly when more than 1 operation is needed. Surprisingly, he cannot read a clock. When a new math concept is presented in class, Robbie sometimes looks agitated and squirms in his seat. Other times he is found doodling. He never disturbs anyone else. When the lesson is over and the other students are working independently, Robbie asks for help. Robbie does not turn in all of his math homework. When questioned about this he says, “Sorry, I forgot.” Losing recess has not changed his intermittent pattern of turning in homework.

Science continues to be Robbie’s favorite subject. He is very curious and actively participates in science class. Robbie likes science lessons that involve marine animals, plants, and astronomy. Most of the science classes are hands-on and group work. Robbie is a strong class participant and a valuable member to the science class.
Robbie’s next-door neighbor, also a 4th grader, has been his best friend since 1st grade.

Robbie gets along with other students but has few friends. He is a follower, not a leader. He seems to enjoy individual sports (bike riding, swimming) and does not tend to play group sports games at recess. During free time, Robbie chooses computer games or card games with 1 student. He does not join other students when they play board games during free time. Robbie is the class artist and enjoys drawing and painting. He paints all the class posters for bake sales and open house. He is a whiz at taking things apart and putting them back together.

Ms. Kazan and Mr. Sweeney both raise some concerns:

Robbie is clearly very bright and quite capable verbally.

Does Robbie have emotional issues that are interfering with his academic progress? Does Robbie have ADD?
Is it possible that Robbie has some learning disabilities?
Is Robbie lazy or seeking attention?
What does the diagnosis ARND mean? Does this affect Robbie’s school experience?