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The Problem with Simone

Simone was struggling in Lisa Flannery’s second grade class despite Lisa’s efforts to adapt her lessons and support from the bilingual department. Simone’s family emigrated from the Philippines with high hopes of Simone becoming a doctor one day. Lisa suspects Simone is having learning problems but her family is unwilling to accept a special education label for her.


"May I have your attention class" Lisa Flannery exclaimed as she attempted to get her second graders settled. "Please pull out your reading books and turn to page 14 for today’s lesson," she continued, writing the title and overview of the lesson plan on the board. "You should be at lesson number three titled Nouns and Adjectives," Lisa stated, pointing to the board.

Simone Arduro wriggled in her seat as she opened the text to page 14. Lisa suspected that Simone was having difficulties with the regular lesson plan as outlined in the book, so she had prepared a special adapted lesson plan for her. She explained the directions for Part One as she slowly walked over to Simone’s desk to deliver the adapted worksheet.

"For Part One the directions say that you should identify the picture on the left and pick out words from the list on the right that you would use to describe the picture. If you need help or have any questions, just raise your hand. Any questions?" Lisa continued, looking around the room for raised hands. "Good. Please work on Part One for the next 20 minutes.  If you finish early, you may quietly work on your puzzles at your desks."

Simone slumped down in her desk as Lisa approached. Language processing was an arduous task for Simone and Lisa made every attempt to make this task a little easier.

"Here you are Simone," Lisa said as she handed her the paper. Simone did not respond. "I have underlined the words I would like you to try to write next to the picture. Do you think you can do that?"

"Can’t do." Simone mumbled quietly.

"Please give it a try and then I will help you." Lisa bent over slightly to make sure she was getting eye contact.

Lisa suspected that Simone had some problems beyond those outlined as bilingual. Simone had exhibited what Lisa thought to be language processing difficulties, such as being unable to follow two-step directions and being unable to follow and participate in class discussions. She also had difficulty completing assignments without a great deal of help and was falling further and further behind her classmates. Lisa had discussed with Mrs. Downing, the district psychologist, the possibility of having Simone tested. Lisa told Mrs. Downing that she was very concerned that Simone would continue to fall behind.

Simone had entered Lisa’s class at Hardwood Elementary at the end of the second month of school. Her parents, Carlos and Matley Arduro, had recently move to the area after Carlos accepted a promotion in the computer technology division of his company. The Arduros were very intelligent and hard-working people.  They had moved to the United States from their native Philippines when Simone was very young, hoping to start a new and more prosperous life. For four years, Carlos worked his way up the company ladder from assembly worker to his new position as a division manager. Early on, the Arduros spent a large portion of their earnings to enroll Simone in kindergarten at an exclusive Catholic girls' school where she received intensive one-on-one tutoring in English and math. Mr. and Mrs. Arduro had hopes of Simone becoming a doctor someday and returning to the Philippines to help her native people.

Matley Arduro had no trouble finding work as a housekeeper but did not get home until late in the day. Carlos Arduro’s parents, who only spoke Tagalog, the native language of the Manilan culture, lived with the Arduros and were responsible for Simone during those after-school periods when her parents were at work. Lisa had a great deal of admiration and respect for the Arduros but was concerned that their high expectations for Simone would push her too hard, not giving her the chance to be a child.

Simone was the Arduro's only child. At age three, she had open heart surgery to repair a heart murmur. Since then, her parents had been extremely protective of her, even to the point of not allowing her to play with the other children after school or participate in slumber parties. They even carried her book bag for her on her morning walk to school.

Nine and one-half weeks had passed and Simone was not meeting the objectives specified in the second grade curriculum, even with support services from the bilingual department. During a meeting with Simone’s parents and Mrs. Downing, the district psychologist, Lisa stressed the need for Simone to be tested to see if she had learning problems that would require additional intervention and services. After some gentle coercion, Simone’s parents hesitantly agreed to the assessments and Mrs. Downing assured the Arduros that she would have only highly qualified individuals administering the tests. A language/speech specialist was called in to test language processing skills and a resource specialist conducted various tests in achievement. Mrs. Downing also conducted a battery of tests to assess cognitive, social, and emotional development. The full battery of tests included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III, the Test for Nonverbal Intelligence, the Beery VMI, the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement/Revised, the Bender-Gestalt, the Kinetic Family Drawing and Draw a Person, the Speech and Language Battery, the Test of Early Written Language, the Test of Early Math Ability, and the Test of Early Reading Ability.

A meeting to discuss the test results was scheduled. The participants included Principal Cummings, Mrs. Flannery, Mrs. Downing, and the Arduros. Lisa opened the meeting with a brief overview of some of the behaviors she had observed in class that led her to request the testing. Mrs. Downing followed with a concise accounting of the test results. Mrs. Downing handed Carlos Arduro a copy of Simone’s file, which included the actual tests results.

"The assessment data indicate some uneven psychological processing skills with strengths found in her performance skills and deficits found within her verbal processing skills," began Mrs. Downing, scanning the report and making an attempt to communicate clearly only the most important aspects. "Furthermore, the current data indicate that Simone is functioning overall within the low-average to average range of cognitive ability on non-verbal skills and within the intellectually deficient range in verbal skills. Academically, she demonstrates inconsistency and her performance varies depending on the measure." Mrs. Downing paused to carefully explain each test in terms that she thought the Arduros could understand. After a brief synopsis and overview of each test, Mrs. Downing continued with the report. "On the WJ-R, Simone is functioning overall in the low-average range in reading and written language skills. On the TOWL and TORA, her reading and written language skills fall within the significantly-below-average range which is two standard deviations below the norm for her age. Significant delays are also evident within math skills and these results appear closely aligned with her current performance in the classroom. Visual motor integration is approximately three years below age expectancy at this time and improves when structure is provided. Assessment data indicate the presence of significant psychological processing deficits within language expression and auditory processing domains. These deficits are believed to be significantly interfering with Simone’s academic achievement in all academic areas. Standard scores from the achievement tests are discrepant from her measured nonverbal cognitive potential." Mrs. Downing glanced over to the Arduros to see if they were following her. She noticed a puzzled look on Mr. Arduro’s face and decided to further clarify the findings.

"I am sure that much of what I have just reported makes little if any sense to you at this time. Basically, what all these tests have indicated is that there is a large discrepancy in your daughter’s potential to achieve and her actual achievement. What we would like to do is to make educational recommendations based on these results and our best judgments so that Simone can receive the assistance she needs," explained Mrs. Downing. Mrs. Arduro acknowledged that she understood with a simple nod. Her husband, however, did not respond.

"Based on the test results," Mrs. Downing continued, "we would like to recommend that the IEP team determine appropriate placement for Simone. At this stage we suggest that, in addition to the bilingual support services, Simone receive special education support services in her regular classroom and attend a special class for one hour a day with students with similar learning difficulties. I can assure you that we will continue to work closely with Mrs. Flannery to adapt lesson plans so that Simone can be successful in her classroom."

"The problems Simone is having at school are due to the fact that she has not mastered the English language," Carlos responded. "We try very hard to work with her on her English whenever possible at home, but, because her grandparents do not speak English, most of the time we converse in Tagalog. Simone is our only child and we want what is best for her. Being labeled mentally incompetent or retarded is not in her best interest and if you persist, we may be forced to return to the Philippines where she can receive a proper schooling."

"Mr. Arduro," Mrs. Downing said, focusing on the disappointed look on Mr. Arduro’s face, "Mrs. Flannery has made me aware of your hopes and dreams for Simone to someday become a doctor. By no means have we given up on Simone. Quite to the contrary, our hopes for Simone are that she will learn strategies that will help her cope with her difficulties and someday become successful in whatever field she chooses to pursue."

At the present, however, Mrs. Downing’s attempt to comfort him had little meaning to Carlos Arduro.


Assessment Report

Student: Simone Arduro C.A. 8-1 School: Hardwood Elementary

Simone has received additional help with small group and individual instruction. Even though she has received help from the bilingual instructor, she continues to have difficulty with simple sentences and phrases. Slow progress has been noted even at levels such as demonstration of concepts with manipulatives and repetition of concepts.

Tests administered:

Wechsler Intelligence Scale For Children-III                         Verbal   - IQ                        62

                                                                                           Performance IQ                    80

                                                                                           Full Scale                              69

                                                                                           Verbal Comprehension         67

                                                                                           Perceptual Organization        73

                                                                                           Freedom From Distractibility 52

                                                 Information        6                                             Picture Completion    8

                                                 Similarities         4                                             Coding                      13

                                                 Arithmetic          1                                             Picture Arrangement  3

                                                 Vocabulary        3                                             Block Design             6

                                                 Comprehension 2                                              Object Assembly        4

(                                                (Digit Span)


Test of Nonverbal Intelligence                                            Quotient:              93
                                                                                        Percentile:            32


Beery VMI                                                                      Standard Score    80
                                                                                        Percentile:              9


Speech – Language

Articulation: Age Appropriate

Receptive/Expressive Language

  1. Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test
    Age Equiv. = 7, Extremely Low Range
  2. Test of Language Development (TOLD-Prim.):

    Composite         Quotient

    Spoken Lang.      54

    Listening               67

    Speaking             57

    Semantics            64

    Syntax                 59

    C) Woodcock Oral Language: SS=69: Grade Score = 1.0, Age Score + 5-8

    D) ITPA (Grammatic Closure): SS=11 (4SD below mean)

    E) Test of Auditory Perceptual Skills (TAPS): SS=2; 4th %ile

    F) Test of Problem Solving                       Age Score = 4-6
                                                                   Total SS = 29
                                                                   Age Equiv. = below 3.5
                                                                   All subtest scores fell below norms (2-4SD below Mn)

    G) Language Sample - Revealed inadequate ability to express ideas orally with multiple types of syntactic errors:

                                                                     -1) Noun-Verb Agreement ("The girl want to ...")
                                                                     -2) Is/are usage/omission ("She happy")
                                                                     -3)Pronoun Usage ("Her sad") (them/they, him/he) (Subjective & possessive)
                                                                     -4) Irreg. Past Tense (get/got, etc.)


III. Voice/Fluency: Age appropriate


Brigance Inventory Of Basic Skills

    Much scatter was noted in the profile. Readiness skills were as follows

    1)  Recognizes all colors.
    2) Was not able to find all the figures that were the same as the first one in a row which
         were letters or short words, but was able to get the two most difficult ones.
    3)  Tried to verbalize visual sequence, but was only able to do those in the K grade level
    4)  Able to draw figures appropriate for K, but not for 1 and 2nd grades.
    5). Doesn't know all directional/positional vocabulary for K and new some in 1st grade level.
    6)  Has trouble with buttoning.
    7)  Could not demonstrate verbal fluency for all of K skills.
    8)  Was not able to remember and execute verbal directions appropriate for K.
    9)  Was able to articulate initial sounds of all but /uh/ and /z/.
  10)  Unable to give street address and phone number which is appropriate for K.
  11)  Remembers sentences with four (4) syllables, which is below 1st grade level expectancy.
  12)  Recited the alphabet omitting "n."
  13)  Was able to recognize and match quantities to 10.
  14)  Recognized all upper case letters but missed lower case "r."
  15)  Able to write first and last name and could say middle name but couldn't write it.
  16)  Word recognition level for reading was just barely in the 2nd grade level.


     Chronological Age: 8-1 Grade: 3 Based on age norms
     Key: S.S.=Standard Score; %ile=percentile; G.E.=Grade Equivalent

SUBTESTS                           S.S. %ile            G.E.

Letter Word Ident.                  86    17            2.3

Passage Comprehension          71     3             1.4

Calculation                              77      6             2.2

Applied Problems                    57     .2             K.2

Dictation                                  83     13          2.0

Writing Samples                      79        8           1.8

Science                                   91       27          2.5

Social Studies                         64         1           K.05

Humanities                              78         7           K.4

Broad Reading                        77          6           1.7

Broad Mathematics                 62          1           1.4

Broad Written Language         80           9           1.9

Broad Knowledge                  76          5            K.9

Word Attack                          73          4            1.3

Quantitative Concepts            56          .2            K.6


Writing Fluency                      85         15            2.3

Punctuation/Capitalization       83         12            2.0

Spelling                                  86         17             2.3

Usage                                    75           5             1.2

Basic Reading Skills               80           9             1.8

Basic Math Skills                   61           .5            1.5

Basic Writing Skills                78           7             1.8

Written Expression                 80         10             2.1


                                                       Quotient                %

Test of Early Written Language                   64                    1

Test of Early Math Ability                           71                    3

Test of Early Reading Ability                       65               <1.0

Bender-Gestalt                     SEE RESULTS

Kinetic Family Drawing        SEE RESULTS

Draw A Person                     SEE RESULTS



Speech and Language Battery       SEE RESULTS


Background Information                           Developmental Age Equivalent: 5-0 to 5-1, %: <5                                                                                                         

Simone is an eight year, one month old girl who is currently enrolled at Hardwood Elementary School as a second grade student. She has attended Hardwood School since first grade. Prior to entering first grade, she received private tutorial instruction in reading and math.

Speech and language screening was conducted several times. Results indicate that Simone did not begin communicating in English until she was six years of age. Tagalog is spoken at home by grandparents. Parents speak both English and Tagalog with Simone at home. Results from previous screening recommended re-screening for expected development of oral language skills in English. Re-screening results demonstrated receptive, expressive, syntactical, and dialectal variance difficulties. At this time, she was referred to the Student Study Team. Speech and language was included as part of this full psycho-educational assessment.

A review of her cumulative record indicates a history of weak academic skills, need for one-on-one assistance, and difficulty with oral participation. Parents had enrolled Simone in speech therapy for one year to help with her English development and she has also had tutoring in the past.

Developmental milestones were attained within age expectancy. No deficits were noted within motor or speech and language skills. Mother indicates that Simone had a speech exam when she was three years old. Her health history includes an open heart surgery due to a murmur at three years of age. No current significant illness or injuries were reported   Simone failed her vision screening in November, 1994: current status of her vision is unavailable.  She passed her hearing screening in February, 1995.

Behavioral Observations

Simone was cooperative and followed all examiner directions.   Motivation and effort appeared minimal.  She has a flat affect, appeared subdued, and put her head down once.  She stated that she got plenty of sleep.   Success and failure did not seem to make an impression on her.  She spoke very softly and was barely audible.  She responded using 1-2 words and rarely spoke in complete sentences.  She did not speak spontaneously and often mumbled her responses.   There was limited eye contact.  During verbal tasks, she was very squirmy, her feet were swinging and she played with her shirt and hands.  She appeared frustrated when the examiner asked her to elaborate on her initial verbal response.  On a subtest requiring her to put puzzle pieces together, she stacked the pieces on top of one another on the last two items.  It was difficult to ascertain whether this was done out of frustration or due to visual perceptual difficulties.

Test Results and Discussion

Simone's cognitive processing skills were assessed with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children-m (WISC-m) and Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI-2).   According to the WISC-m, there is a statistically significant discrepancy between Simone's verbal and nonverbal abilities in favor of her nonverbal abilities.  This indicates that visual perceptual skills are better developed than her auditory processing skills.  Although her verbal abilities are in the intellectually deficient range, her perceptual and nonverbal abilities are in the low-average range.

Simone's verbal abilities are generally in the intellectually deficient range.  This includes verbal abstract reasoning, word knowledge, social judgment, and short-term auditory memory skills.  She demonstrates significant strength in factual knowledge.  Numerical reasoning ability is an area of relative weakness.   Simone's nonverbal skills are generally in the low average range.  This includes visual attention to detail and visual integration.  Fine-motor speed is an area of significant strength.  Visual sequencing and visual inductive reasoning are areas of significant weakness.

On the TONI-2, she demonstrated average cognitive potential.  Her performance improved on this measure because of the non-language component of the test.   As scores on the WISC-m indicate, her performance declines considerably when the test is language-based.

Simone's achievement was assessed with the Wood-Johnson Revised Tests of Achievement administered by the Resource Specialist.  Broad reading and written language skills are in the average range.  Broad mathematical skills are generally in the well-below-average range.  In the reading domain, word attack skills are at the 1.6 grade level and reading comprehension is at the 1.4 grade level.  In the mathematics domain, calculation skills are at the 1.6 grade level and applied problem-solving skills are at the 1.1 grade level.  In the written language domain, spelling skills are at the 1.8 grade level and knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and comprehension are at the 1.5 grade level.

Separate tests in written language, math, and reading were administered to further assess her achievement level.  There is considerable difference between her performance on these tests compared to the WJ-R tests.  Her achievement in all three separate tests is significantly below average range with percentiles ranging from below 1 to 3.  Academic results are inconsistent.  She does demonstrate consistent significant delay in mathematics.  Language arts skills vary from significantly-below-average range to well-below-average range.  Please see separate report for complete results.

The three tests of early ability probably give a better indication of what Simone is currently doing in regards to achievement.  These tests require skills at levels more geared towards readiness in the early years of school.  As can be seen, she is functioning in the significantly below-average range of achievement.   Simone's quality of answers was consistently scattered.  She often didn't seem to understand directions, which are intended for young learners.  She couldn't repeat the directions even when they were repeated to her.  This would obviously make it difficult for her to put things into her own words, which would demonstrate some level of understanding.  Even in math, where she has slightly higher ratings, her comprehension showed lack of understanding of counting in increments, counting backwards, or recognizing numbers with three digits.  All these readiness skills are to be mastered before more complicated math concepts can be manipulated for higher learning.   In the reading section, the technique of "tap and sweep" to aid blending was not clearly advantageous as she would get the sounds out of order as she said them.

Simone's speech and language skills were assessed by the Language/Speech Specialist.  Results indicated severe delay in communication skills.  Please see separate report for full results.

The Bender-Gestalt Test of Visual Motor Ability and the Beery Development Test of Visual Motor Integration were used to evaluate Simone's visual-motor skill development.  According to these two measures, her visual motor integration skills are well below age expectancy at this time.  Overall, Simone had difficulty copying the stimulus figures with precision and accuracy.

On the Bender-Gestalt, Simone made a total of 13 errors which equates to a development age equivalent of 5-0 to 5-1.  This places her below the 5th percentile of students her age.  She demonstrated poor planning and organization skills.   Her performance improved on the Beery VMI, which has structure built into the test.   She attained a standard score of 80 which places her at the 9th percentile of students her age.  This is within the low-average range. 

The Kinetic Family Drawing and Draw A Person were administered to evaluate social and emotional development.  Simone's Draw A Person is approximately 6 inches in height.  The mouth is open with teeth which indicates the presence of some aggression.  The arms are stiff at sides, which may indicate inhibited personality.   The figure is drawn with a hat and shoe laces which all resemble flowers.  She also drew flowers in the background.  Simone states that this is a 10-year-old girl who is getting plants and flowers in the woods.  On the Kinetic Family Drawing, Simone drew a total of 5 figures including those of her mother, father, gradma, grandpa, and herself.  Her grandma, father, and mother are drawn with wing-like arms, although her grandpa and Simone are drawn with no arms.  She also included her dog and rabbit.   Her mom and she are drawn inside a square box, and the rest of the figures are outside of this box.  She states that she and mom are cooking.  Grandma is reported to be fixing her room, dad is going to work, and grandpa is walking.  She appears to be most closely aligned with her mother.


Simone is an 8-1 year old second-grade student currently attending Hardwood Elementary School.  Assessment data indicated some uneven psychological processing skills with strength found in her performance skills and deficits found within her verbal processing skillls.  Current assessment results indicate that she is functioning overall within the low-average to average range of cognitive ability on non-verbal skills and within the intellectually deficient range in verbal skillls.

Academically, she demonstrates inconsistency and her performance varies depending on the measure.  On the WJ-R, she is functioning overall in the low-average range in reading and written language skills.  On the TOWL and TORA, her reading and written language skills fall within the significantly below-average range; these results appear most closely aligned with her current performance in the classroom.  Math skills are more consistent and show performance to be within the well- below-average range.   Significant delays are most evident within math skills.  However, she appears to also demonstrate delays in language arts.  Visual motor integration is approximately three years below age expectancy at this time and improves when structure is provided.

Assessment data indicates the presence of significant psychological processing deficits within language expression and auditory processing domains.  These deficits are believed to be significantly interfering with Simone's academic acheivement in all academic areas.  Standard scores from the achievement tests are discrepant from her measured nonverbal cognitive potential.


Discussion/Study Questions

List what you learned/know about each of the characters in the case.

What do you think is motivating the thoughts/actions of each of the characters?

What are the issues/problems in the case?


Additional Questions

How do you distinguish between a language acquisition problem and a learning disability?

Are the conclusions Mrs. Downing drew from the test results valid? Why or why not?

Was the eligibility meeting with the Arduros conducted in an appropriate and effective manner? Why or why not?

What are the Arduros’ perceptions of Simone? Do you think those perceptions are valid?

Was the selected battery of tests appropriate? Why or why not?

CEC Competencies/Knowledge Areas Addressed in the Case


Major Areas:

Assurances and due process rights related to assessment, eligibility, and placement for students who are culturally and/or linguistically diverse.

Appropriate application and interpretation of scores.

Appropriate use and limitations of each type of assessment instrument.


Other Areas:

Basic terminology used in assessment.

The relationship between assessment and placement decisions.

Variations in beliefs, traditions, and values across cultures within society and the effect of the relationships between child, family, and schooling.


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