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Case study: Overcoming severe learning disabilities

Case study: Overcoming severe learning disabilities

A decade ago Jannes and his parents were standing at crossroads. Due to severe learning difficulties Jannes was referred to a special school. It might be different in other countries, but in South Africa attending a special school severely limits one’s choices for a career. Going to university is out of the question. His parents decided to not follow this road, but to do Edublox. The result is that Jannes completed Grade 12 with university exemption and embarked on a B.Sc. degree in Mathematical Sciences. This is his story:

Jannes was supposed to start school in January. Because his mother realized that he was not ready for school yet, in November she requested for Jannes to be evaluated by the school psychologist. Mrs. Opperman was told that, due to his age, Jannes had to start with Grade 1 the following year, and that his problem would sort itself out. As a result, Jannes was not evaluated.

Grade 1: During Jannes’ Grade 1 year Mrs. Opperman realized that he had difficulties with reading, spelling, writing and mathematics. When writing, he often reversed letters, such as s, f and k. When writing he started most letters and numbers from the bottom, for example é i; é p and é d. He read word by word and reversed words when reading. If he did not use his finger he would lose his place and battled to find it again. Mrs. Opperman was worried about his progress, but she received no feedback from the school. Jannes passed Grade 1 with three B’s and four C’s.

Grade 2: In his Grade 2 year, his parents received a letter from the school stating that Jannes needed remedial therapy. Since the school did not have any remedial teachers, it was decided that his class teacher would give him some remedial help during normal school hours. The principal also informed Mrs. Opperman that although her son was promoted to Grade 2, he actually should have failed Grade 1. The principal regarded him as “very weak.”

In March, Jannes was tested by the school psychologist for the first time. The school psychologist recommended remedial therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and referred Jannes for a neurological evaluation.

The Oppermans arranged for Jannes to be evaluated by an educational psychologist. His findings were that Jannes fell within the moderate intelligence range. Due to a big discrepancy between his verbal and non-verbal intelligence scores, the educational psychologist diagnosed Jannes as follows: “…it can indicate aphasia, psycho neurological dysfunction, fear of verbal exploration and language confusion.” The psychologist recommended a complete neurological examination, as well as remedial therapy and occupational therapy.

A visit to the neurologist was next, who found “definite neurological difficulties,” and recommended remedial therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. He also recommended that Jannes attend a special school.

The Oppermans ignored the recommendation of special education and tried to help Jannes at home to get his work up to standard. He also received occupational therapy for three months.

In August the school psychologist again summoned the parents and told them to stop all the extra help at home, including the occupational therapy, as the strain of all the pressure from the parents on one hand and the work load on the other was becoming too much for Jannes. The parents complied with this request.

Jannes failed Grade 2. His parents were informed that he had to be transferred to a special class. The parents refused, and with the help of the school psychologist he was transferred to another school close by, one that had a remedial teacher. He would have to repeat Grade 2, but would also receive remedial therapy.

An example from Jannes’ math work:

Grade 2 (repeat): Jannes now found himself in a much bigger school, where he was one of 30 children in his class. The principal informed the parents that, due to a long waiting list, Jannes would not be able to receive further remedial therapy unless he made adequate progress. At the end of March, after three months of remedial therapy, the remedial teacher described his rate of progress as “very slow,” but the principal agreed to let him continue with remedial therapy for another term.

In April Jannes started with Edublox. Due to the fact that his parents had been criticized for their previous efforts to help him at home, they decided to remain silent about doing Edublox at home. Results started showing within weeks. Already in June, the remedial teacher reported that Jannes “does not show any specific delays” and that his work was “up to standard.” By December, his spelling was noted to be above the class average.

At the end of the year, Mrs. Opperman described Jannes progress as follows: “His handwriting has made a complete turn about. Jannes rarely makes any reversals. His spelling and his mathematics have improved. He has started to construct proper sentences. His concentration has improved, so has his ability to recognize sounds and words. The discrimination of sounds, which previously he found very confusing, such as ‘b’ and ‘d,’ is no longer a problem to him.

“Although he is still a slow reader, he does not read word by word any more. He does not reverse words when reading and does not lose his place when jumping from one line to the next.”

Examples from Jannes’ math work 4 months after starting with Edublox:

Grade 3: Jannes continued with Edublox until April.

A decade later: Jannes embarked on a B.Sc. degree in Mathematical Sciences. Well done, Jannes!

Case study Edublox Online Tutor April 14, 2015