This is a case study to show you how to use the information we have explained in the previous section Understanding Support Needs in Schools, please read this section first.
This and the other case studies show how sometimes small things, both in school and out of school can make a difference. The children in these three case studies are fictional, but the substance of their stories and challenges come from real examples shared by parents.
We have tried to keep these relatively brief, to show the process without going into too much detail that might not be relevant to your child.
Case Study 2 - A child with some additional support needs in a mainstream school (CVI Classification 2)
Mark is nine and is in a mainstream school but needs extra support. Mark has mild reduced visual acuity (6/24) but also, only recently discovered, simultanagnosia and optic ataxia and a suspected lower visual field impairment. He is a sociable little boy but has on a few occasions acted physically aggressively towards other children, three times on the playground, once in the dinner queue and once during sports. Mark's father is noticing changes in him including a reluctance to go to school, and once out of school and home he is really stressed and angry, like he's about to burst. Mark struggles with reading and writing and maths and is aware that he is 'bottom of the class'. Mark's teacher has suggested that he should be assessed for either ADHD or ASD.
Mark's dad writes:
My son who has CVI, is in a mainstream school but is struggling. He has a right to learn and be included, and not be frightened or worried. He is clever, but his work is being affected. His vision is ok, he has mild acuity problems, the biggest issues are his visual attention, guidance of reach and lower visual field impairment. These make him clumsy, trip over things, miss things, not understand things and generally struggle on every level, but he tries so hard, it breaks my heart. He's changing, I feel like the little boy I know and love is disappearing before my eyes.
Mark: Before school: Personal Attention
We have a very strict morning regime which Mark enjoys. His clothes are always laid out for him the night before, and he gets up, brushes his teeth, gets dressed and comes downstairs for breakfast. His bag is always organised and ready too - we learnt this the hard way from mad mornings full of screaming and tantrums. Mark just likes to know where things are and what is happening and he is fine. Mark is always ready to leave by 8.30am and waits for his friend who knocks for him.
Mark: Before school: Getting to School
Mark walks to school with his friend, there are no roads to cross and lots of children all walking in the same direction so I think it is safe enough. Once Mark's friend was off sick, and Mark waited and waited until he was late. He went on his own and got completely lost - even though he does the trip everyday with his friend and the school is literally at the end of the road and around the corner. He was found by a mum three streets away sitting on the pavement crying. Now, if ever walking by himself I either walk with him, or wait by the door and ensure he turns the right way at the end of the road where he will see the school gate. I do worry if he is ever out and about with the school, thinking how easily he gets lost, and how stressed he became:
Need: Request for extra supervision when on school trips or away from the school, for example sports events.
Mark: At School: Playground
The playground is a nightmare for Mark, but it is key to all the social activities. He just wants to be involved with the other children but gets very stressed very quickly. Once he lashed out and pushed another child over - he's not aggressive at all, I think he just panicked.
Going in and out of the playground is mayhem, and I think if someone walked him both ways, he would be able to enjoy playing more, but would need the security of knowing someone was nearby if needed. A playground supervisor is not enough - if they are attending to other children they cannot attend to my Mark, it has to be a dedicated person, and ideally the same person.
Need - 1:1 person to escort to and from playground during morning and afternoon break, and after eating lunch, and supervision throughout playtimes.
Mark: At School: Sports
My son loves being active, but certain sports are really challenging. Team sports in particular, and it's not just the game. When in a team peoples' personalities can change, as their competitiveness comes out, and my son finds this very confusing and once cried for two days because he was shouted at by a classmate when trying to play football - he apparently missed the ball but said he didn't even see it! I don't think he is ever going to enjoy or be able to play team sports, particularly those with a ball, but he is an amazing swimmer and I hope will swim for the school one day - maybe even the district! Forcing him to play team sports just makes him stressed and knocks his self-esteem. I know that this will mean he is not playing an inclusive role, but it's about balance and finding the path that is best for him.
Need: To be excused from team sports and alternatives (swimming, climbing, long distance running) to be offered as an appropriately supervised alternative.
Mark: At School: Classroom
It sounds silly, but my son cannot find empty seats and it completely stresses him out. Wherever he needs to be, whether it is in a class, in a changing room, the dining room, in assembly or on a coach. Every few weeks the class is moved about and he has to learn a new place to sit, and the classroom is so crowded and busy, that by the time he learns one place to sit he has to move again. They regularly move to sit on the floor in a carpeted corner - this is the worst because there are no rules. He was once told off for standing against the wall, and he was so stressed and upset that he tried to find a space and ended up sitting on a girl and everyone fell about laughing. These things sound silly and trivial, but they are increasingly becoming upsetting for Mark. I've also noticed that Mark now feels the chair before sitting on it, he has on several occasions fallen to the floor when trying to sit on a chair and missed it, again to the amusement of everyone else in the class.
Need: A fixed seat in class, and when sitting on the floor a marked out place that is easy to find, maybe using a special cushion in a particular bold colour that would be easy for Mark to find. Also, the children need to be taught about disability and how to understand and cater for it, not laugh at it, although sensitively, and certainly not singling Mark out.
Mark: At School: Lunch
Finding an empty seat is hard (as described) - there are no rules in the dining room, and sometimes older children pressure younger children to move along.
Need: A reserved seat in dining hall for lunch where his friends can also sit, by a wall at the end of table so easy to find, and someone bring his lunch box to the table. Also, any further seating consideration, for example on a school trip and in assembly.
Mark: After School
Mark doesn't wait for his friends, he runs out, finds me on the playground (I have to stand in exactly the same spot and can never be late) and literally drags me out. He is completely wired and takes a good hour to 'come down', sometimes he sits and watches tv, muttering and shouting to himself, other times he bursts into floods of tears. We have talked about it and he needs a break during the day. Lunch break is a long stressful hour, if Mark ate his lunch and had a short play, he could have a quiet half an hour in the library to read, or just zone out. I mentioned this to Mark thinking he would hate the idea of missing play but he actually begged me to make it happen!
Need: Quiet half hour in library for second half of lunch break, and see if it is possible for the school to have a calm chill out room both for mark and other children that need to zone out for a while.
Mark: Tangible Quantifiable Demonstrable Needs carried forward:
Your generous donations will be put to immediate use in supporting our charity...
At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.