JAMAL IN SCHOOL
Jamal is a cheerful boy, aged 12, who attends Year 6 in his local mainstream school in a regional town. Jamal has a wide circle of friends who always provide him with physical assistance in getting from one place to another in his wheelchair. Jamal lives near his school with his parents and two younger brothers, and often spends time with his school friends at home interacting or doing leisure activities with them at their homes.
Although Jamal is probably able to detect only light or dark due to cortical blindness, he has an ability to laugh at many things that amuse him and is acutely aware of touch and hearing sensations, perhaps more so than his friends at school who do not experience the same physical and visual limitations and challenges. Jamal has excellent hearing and actively reacts to jokes, songs and banter from peers or siblings. Jamal uses smiles and some very specific sounds to indicate preferences, given that he has little formal speech. People who know Jamal well enjoy engaging in a chat and reciprocal interactions with him, supported by the advice of a visiting speech pathologist and input from Jamal’s family and siblings about his preferred activities and sensations.
Jamal spends the majority of the school day in a customised wheelchair as he has little voluntary control of his legs. From time to time Jamal is assisted to move a little way, such as from one activity station in the classroom to another, in a walker, assisted by two people. Sometimes class peers will do this with help from the teacher assistant or teacher. These motor control challenges also extend to Jamal’s manipulation of items, such as simple cutlery and pens or pencils. Jamal can use a fork, with guidance, to spear pieces of food and take them to his mouth, and move a pencil or paintbrush when doing art activities, again supported in the motor movements that are involved.
Jamal’s grasp of items is assisted by built up handles or grips accompanied by physical prompting supports from peers or the teacher assistant/teacher. Most days and in all curriculum areas, Jamal receives a high level of learning support in the classroom and playground to help with eating and participating in other learning activities. His individual learning plan emphasises quality interactions with teachers and peers and the encouragement of verbal utterances that have different tones to indicate agreement or disagreement to ideas and experiences. The underlying goal of this plan is to maximise the amount and the quality of participation in all learning activities involving Jamal as a member of the regular class and school community.
At times Jamal can appear to be inactive and non-responsive. Those who know him well believe this type of passive withdrawal usually happens when Jamal is tired, or at times when multiple requests are being made by peers and others around him and he is feeling overwhelmed.
Generally though, Jamal is a vital and involved member of his class community who strives for as much independence as possible and enjoys connecting with those who know him well.