The child that I chose to observe was a nine year old boy that I will refer to as Dan. Dan is a highly gifted child who, unfortunately, suffers from cerebral palsy, as well as panic attacks. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother, who has remarried. His father who also has remarried, does have contact with him, though the relationship is somewhat strained. He comes from an upper middle class background, and has no brothers or sisters. I observed Dan in the waiting room for about an hour (his mother was good enough to bring him in for his appointment a little early so that I could observe him). The room contained many toys and books for varying ages, as well as a number of magazines for both kids and adults. The walls were covered with different pictures and posters, and there were a number of chairs. Observation
Dan’s mother, Molly, helped him into the office by supporting him under his arms. His upper body works normally but he has trouble with his legs, particularly his lower legs, and is unable to walk on his own. His mother took him immediately to the corner of the room containing the toys and books, then lowered him to the floor. Dan picked out a science book that appeared to be geared towards children a few years older than he. Lying on the floor, he began to read aloud and frequently questioned his mother, who sat in a nearby chair, about pronunciation of words, as well as dates and background information on famous scientists mentioned in the text. His mother answered all of his questions, and when she did, he engaged her in further conversation about the subject until he was sure that he understood.
His mother was then called into the office to speak with the doctor alone. Before leaving, she asked Dan if he needed to use the restroom (he needs her help to do so). He told her he was fine, and she went into the office. At this point, Dan and I were the only two people in the room. He continued to read aloud after his mother had left. With her gone, he engaged in private speech when he came to a word he did not know, or a subject he was unfamiliar with. His conversations with himself were very similar to those he had with his mother.
About ten minutes after his mother had left, Dan began looking over at me occasionally, but only for a second before going back to his reading. When he was unsure of a word, he repeated it several times before moving on. His reading grew gradually quieter until I could not always make out the words. At one point, he came across a word that he did not know and began reasoning to himself as follows: “This must be an English word…although I speak English, so maybe it’s from a different country… or maybe they only use it in England.”
Dan looked at me several times as he attempted to reason through this, but did not ask me for help. After that, he closed the book and looked around the room. He pulled a rock the size of a large marble from his pocket, and began brushing it lightly against first a nearby chair leg, then his own sneaker. He sat up, experimented with throwing the rock at his left hand, which he held open, palm facing his right hand. I should note that he did not appear to be trying to catch it, but I could not be sure. At any rate, he never did catch it in the several times that he threw it. He then rolled it down his arm a couple of times, before throwing it straight up in the air, leaving his hand out, but not moving it at all as the rock fell past it.
At this point Dan looked at me for about five or ten seconds straight, the first time he had done more than glance at me. He then pushed the book away and crawled over to a large aluminum can with a lid on it that was filled with toys. He brushed the rock lightly against it, but did not open it. Next, he looked at me and smiled. He asked me if he was bothering me and I told him he was not. He told me he did not want to distract me if I was studying. I answered that I was...