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The Problem:

Joselyne has been having difficulty in school. At the beginning of the school year she seemed to be on task. Now, her grades are falling. She is quiet and withdrawn. She is not participating or speaking during group activities. Even at lunch while the others are talking their hearts out, Joselyne is silent. She was always a quite girl, but now she seems to have completely withdrawn. Although according to research1, Haitian children often respond nonverbally by looking down, hiding their faces with their hands, or displaying long pauses, Joselyne’s behavior was beyond this. Her symptoms resemble those of a learning disability. Children with learning disabilities may become frustrated, lose interest in schoolwork, and often withdrawal.

The Teacher- After noticing Joselyne’s lack of communication, the teacher first decided to talk to her. She asked her to stay after school for a few minutes. Alone Joselyne talked a bit more but not very much. When she did speak, it was just a faint whisper. The teacher asked her if she liked school and Joselyne said she did. The teacher asked Joselyne if she thought she was doing well. Joselyne replied, “I don’t know.” The teacher asked if she needed any help with her schoolwork and Joselyne just shrugged her shoulders. Then she asked if she understood her schoolwork and Joselyne again just shrugged her shoulders. The rest of the meeting continued at about the same pace. Joselyne did not really give any answers that could have helped. During their last math unit, Joselyne did not ask any questions, did not say she needed any help, and did not consult any of her classmates. The teacher knew math was Joselyne’s best subject so she thought Joselyne understood the lessons. When Joselyne took the unit test, she got a 52%. Her reading was also not progressing at any noticeable rate. Joselyne was having trouble understanding and comprehending much of what she was reading. The teacher’s next task was to talk to her parents.

The Parents- After the teacher explained her side of the story to Joselyne’s parents, she was surprised by their reaction. The parents were not receptive to the suggestion that there may be a problem with Joselyne. In their perspective, Joselyne was not withdrawn. She just needed friends. The parents blamed her grades on the fact that Joselyne does not have any friends so far in the year. They suggested maybe putting her in a group to get to know more students. The teacher then explained that Joselyne has been in groups and has not responded. They wanted so much for her to become a part of the American culture without losing her own culture. Her teacher felt they were losing sight of the problem. Her parents feel that having friends would make the difference with Joselyne’s situation.

The School Counselor- Next the teacher went to the school counselor. She explained the situation and gave her perspective, along with the parents’ perspective. The guidance counselor suggested she meet with Joselyne, look at the work she has been doing and then meet with her parents if she felt there was a problem. After meeting with Joselyne and examining her work, the counselor agreed with the teacher that there could be a learning disability. She wanted to meet with her parents and discuss having her tested.

The ESOL Teacher- The ESOL teacher had also noticed a problem and was going to discuss it with her primary teacher. At first she thought it might just be a temporary stage that she sometimes sees in her ESOL students. As time went on, though, she has noticed that the problem is more than a just setback. The ESOL teacher agrees with the counselor and the teacher in testing Joselyne to see if she could have a learning disability.

The Principal- The teacher wanted to inform the principal of all the aspects of Joselyne’s case to see if the principal was in agreement with testing her. The principal reviewed her records, spoke with the counselor and the ESOL teacher and concluded that Joselyne should be tested. The principal thought it would be beneficial to have a meeting with herself, the counselor, both teachers, and her parents.

The Special Needs Teacher-The principal has asked the special needs teacher to be present during the meeting. The special needs teacher can explain the benefits to having Joselyne tested and can answer any questions that may arise.

Joselyne- Joselyne has become quiet and withdrawn because she feels intimidated and out of place. She does not understand what is happening in class, although she does try. She wants to get good grades and succeed in life, but feels that school and all that is involved is too difficult. When she reads, she doesn’t comprehend what the story is about. It is hard for Joselyne to communicate with the teacher or anyone else about how she is feeling because she doesn’t understand what is happening.


1 Hudicourt-Barnes, J. (2001) Bay Odyans: Argumentation in Haitian Creole Classrooms (Online), June 22, 2004

Author Unknown (2003) Learning Disabilities, Medical Library, American Academy of Ophthalmology (Online) June 22, 2004


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