Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation Observations During the S.T.E.A.M. class, the children and adolescents made sling shots out of plastic cups and balloons and complex catapults out of pencils, rubber bands, and balloons. One of the children who was participating in this class was a 7-year-old Hispanic American boy named Manny (pseudonym), who has partial blindness. He was sitting down in the chair with a volunteer on his right side who was scaffolding some of the steps to make the sling shots.
Immediately, I recognized that his higher cognitive functioning was intact. He was able to pay attention to the volunteer who was instructing him on how to make the sling shot. He was able to follow the directions given to him throughout the process and understood the sequence necessary to put the entire sling shot together. He also was able to understand and recognize that that the separate parts needed to be combined in order to make a complete slingshot, meaning that he understood the concept of the activity.
The typical development for 7-year-old children in middle childhood includes being able to perform mental operations without exerting a huge amount of effort. The children are able to problem solve in a more flexible and complex manner and they are able to follow instructions and organize steps in their heads. They also have an increased competency in organizing and discriminating different objects and tasks (Case-Smith, 2015). When Manny got up to shoot mini marshmallows in the waste baskets with his hand-made sling shot, he was able to understand the difference between left and right when the volunteers told him to aim towards a one or the other.
When he began to make the catapult, he was able to count how many pencils were needed to make the catapult base. Manny demonstrated many of the same typical cognitive development patterns for his age. Manny was able to verbally communicate with the volunteers who were helping him to build the sling shot and catapult. He was able to understand their language and respond to them with the appropriate language.
He also was able to demonstrate the appropriate tone of voice during his responses. However, he had difficulty enunciating his words in a clearer manner. Although he spoke using sentences with more than 10 words, he did not speak a lot and I was not able to observe the extent of his expressive vocabulary. Typically, at his age, children are able to understand language and converse with others using the same language. Children have an extensive expressive vocabulary and can articulate their words more clearly.
They are able to respond to questions and ask questions as well, which is also an appropriate social skill for their age level. Socially, Manny had great social interaction with the other volunteers and children in the class. He displayed appropriate body language, tone of voice, and overall age-appropriate social behavior within the environmental context he was in. Being in a public community setting with other peers and adults, he displayed respect for others and their personal belongings, used an indoor voice, and participated in the class without having to be redirected or told to modify his behavior accordingly.
Manny demonstrated emotional regulation and was extremely patient while making the sling shot and catapult. He waited to take his turn to speak and only used the supplies he needed without invading others’ space and materials. Although the sling shot did not require a lot of time to build, the catapult was more tedious to make. Manny was able to express his emotions appropriately throughout the activity. Despite getting frustrated at one point, he was able to maintain self-control and move forward with the task with a positive attitude. Typical development of social and emotional skills includes increased cooperation with others, less egocentricity, less impulsivity, competitive behavior, and ability to regulate behavior. They also increase their engagement with peers and have friends or are part of cliques. Although I did not observe Manny interacting much with the other children in the class, he exhibited many of the social skills of typical development.
During the S.T.E.A.M. class, the children were able to take small breaks whenever they needed as well as a lunch break in which the volunteers provided everyone with food and drinks. During the lunch break, I was able to observe more of the self-help skills that Manny had, such as being able to independently feed his self. He was able use his collapsible cane to locate the trash can during clean up. He uses the collapsible cane to navigate around his environment and is able to independently operate it, fold it, and put it away. Large beeping plastic eggs were an assistive device that he utilized for echolocation in the room.
The volunteers had placed the eggs on the floor next to all the waste baskets used in the game. Due to their beeping noise, Manny was able to locate which basket to aim his sling shot to. Typically, children at this age level are able to navigate, self-feed, help to clean up, independently use the toilet, and are able to perform basic hygiene skills such as dressing, washing hands, and showering. Manny displayed many of these skills. Although I did not see his skill level for toileting and washing his hands, I observed that he walked into the bathroom independently without an aide acting as a human guide technique.
To perform many of the skills mentioned above, adequate gross and fine motor skills are required. Manny had good postural stability while sitting and while walking around. In addition to using a collapsible cane, his walking speed was slower than the typical 7-year-old child due to a little foot drop that he seemed to have. He had the strength to pull the sling shot back and endured the activity. He seemed to be aware of body and movement, despite moving more slowly as compared to the typical developmental skills. While working at the table, he was able to cross midline and maintain trunk stability in order to reach for objects.
Typically, those in his age group are able to perform many gross motor skills for play occupations, such as running, jumping, hopping, skipping, and throwing a ball well at long distances. There is also an increase in their speed, strength, and precision of their movement. Manny’s visual impairment may be a barrier to his gross motor performance as he requires slower speed and requires more attention to navigate his environment. Balance and coordination also typically improved during middle childhood.
Due to the small foot drop, Manny’s balance can be a little unstable. Manny’s fine motor abilities were intact as he was able to successfully build the sling shot and catapult. He had adequate fine manipulation as he wrapped the pencils with the rubber bands for the catapult and good grip strength as he pulled the rubber bands for the sling shot. He demonstrated good pincer grasp as he picked up the mini marshmallows and bilateral coordination as he manipulated two different objects in his hands at the same time while building.
Typically, children at his age level have good dexterity for crafts and construction using small objects, which is exactly what Manny was doing. They demonstrate bilateral coordination, more precision in finger movements, and increased efficiency in using tools such as scissors. Manny independently used the scissors to cut the tape and the balloon needed for the sling shot. However, he did require some assistance in cutting the plastic cut and the volunteers had scaffolded the activity by precutting the cups. Typically, children are able to perform these skills with increased speed and precision. Although Manny is able to perform these tasks as well, he required a slower speed to ensure precision as he must rely on more tactile touch to correctly manipulate the objects and make less errors while building due to his low vision. For example, he gave more attention to how the balloon felt in order to cut the right amount off.