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Observational report

Observation Report

This observation is of a 10 year old male child during his lunch recess at an elementary school located in the South Bay area. The student participates in a day treatment program for children with emotional/social difficulties. The length of this observation was approximately forty five minutes. For the purpose of confidentiality this student will be referred to as John. In the first section of this observational analysis a brief description of the program which John participates in will be given. This will be followed by an analysis of John¹s activities during the observation.


The day treatment program John participates in is located on the campus of a public elementary school, and is supported by a local private mental health agency. In general, children referred to this program experience some form of emotional and/or social deficit. In addition to John, there are nine other students enrolled within the program at present. John currently attends a mainstreaming class three times per week, where he has developed several friendships with his peers.

This observation began as the students in the day treatment program were let out for recess following lunch. After leaving the class John ran to the designated play area with another student. The designated play area of the playground where the students of this program are restricted to consists of a ³jungle bar² set ; This play structure consists of ³monkey bars² with tall vertical poles for sliding down attached at each end, three parallel bars of varying height, and horizontal bars constructed in a ladder fashion for climbing on. Additionally, the designated area includes a tether ball court, and a balancing beam constructed in a ³Z² shape. The staff has restricted the students of the program to this area due to these childrens' limited abilities to demonstrate social skills, and in order to better supervise the group during recess activities. However, other children at the school are not restricted from this area and interact freely with the children from the program.

After John had arrived at the play area he immediately jumped onto the parallel bars and began to swing back and forth, and launched himself into the air landing awkwardly almost falling down. John preceded to jump up onto the ³monkey bars.² John climbed about half way across, where he was confronted with another student who was crossing in the opposite direction. At this point John jumped off of the bars and ran back to where he had begun, and proceeded to attempt crossing the bars again and made it. John went back to the parallel bars where he proceeded to swing, jumping off periodically. At one point John attempted to gain the staffs attention to watch what he could do on the bars; John swung himself repeatedly and then let one hand go, this spun him to one side where another parallel bar was located, which John grabbed onto. The staff shouted ³good job John,² which seemed to motivate John to repeat this trick a few more times.

After playing on the bars for a while longer, John went over to two other peers from his class who were engaging in pretend play. These children appeared to be playing a game of ³army combat,² as they were running about shooting each other. John ran around the play area attempting to shoot his peers with his machine gun, and ended when they began pretending to be in hand-to-hand combat . At this point this point the staff directed the students not to get too physical, and the small group of children ran off.

John played with this group for a while longer, as they would shoot at each other periodically and ran around the play area. John disengaged himself from playing with this group as he was distracted by a nearby puddle of water. John jumped over the puddle, and was prompted by the staff not to step in the water. After this warning John jumped over the puddle a few more times before picking up a stick, which he used to poke and investigate the tiny pool. John seemed very interested in this activity, and spent approximately five to eight minutes investigating what he had found before loosing interest and returning to the bars.

There were more children now playing on the bars then had been earlier, and John seemed to grow inpatient; There were about four children occupying the parallel bars doing various tasks when John approached the bars. John waited for a short time (about 1 to 2 minutes), and then began to yell at a younger student to move so that he could do something. The child did not respond to Johns request to move, and John crossed his arms and began to pout. After another minute or so, John went to the staff saying that the other kids were just sitting on the bars not letting him get on. The staff prompted the students that they had to take turns on the bars. Following the staffs prompts one of the children allowed John onto the bars. John swung back and forth and then got off by launching himself into the air as he had done previously. This time however John landed more solidly then he did in his first attempt. John was called over to a nearby basket ball court by the staff who asked John if he wanted to shoot some baskets, and John agreed.

The group of children who were shooting baskets included two girls, a boy (who were not apart of the unit), and John. John recognized the other boy, and told the staff his name remarking that he was ³a good shot.² John proceeded to shoot baskets with the other children, and seemed to take a particular liking to one of the girls; John would run after the ball after it had bounced out off the back board and give it to the girl, forsaking his turn to throw the ball. John did this several times throughout the time they were playing. When the staff was demonstrating to this girl how to throw the ball and make a basket, John jumped in helping the staff demonstrate how to make a basket and continued to assist the girl in making baskets till the bell rang marking the end of recess.


Although John participates in a day treatment program for children with emotional and social deficits, John interacted much as one would expect a child would of his age. In accordance with Erikson¹s developmental theory, John should be entering (or in the middle of) industry vs. inferiority. This stage of development may be seen in John¹s activities performed on the ³monkey bars;² Where John crossed the bars after his efforts had been blocked by a peer, as opposed to giving up on the task.Thus showing goal directed behavior at the mastery of a skill. This appeared to be an important situation, as John¹s second attempt reinforced his belief in his abilities to complete a task. This attempt at gaining mastery of skills could also be seen in his performance on the parallel bars, where John sought the staffs attention and approval. This instance of the observation can also be viewed through developmental theory of the behaviorists; Where John¹s repeating (and thus attempt at increased mastery) his ³trick² could be seen as being motivated by the staffs voiced approval of John¹s performance on the bars.

Finally, John¹s participation in the social activity of playing with a group of peers on the basketball court can be viewed through the behavioral paradigm of social learning theory. It could be argued that John (being somewhat socially handicapped) viewed the staff in a social context with other children. Furthermore, John observed this social contact as possibly beneficial to him (e.g., a chance to make friends outside of the program). The staff acted as a model of those behaviors appropriate to the situation (i.e., cooperation, helpful, outgoing, etc.), and John molded those behaviors once he was involved with the group. And again, depending on the value John might place on such interactions, this might potentially motivate similar social behavior in the future.

In conclusion, it would appear from this brief observation that John is approximately at a normal developmental level according to Erikson. John seems to be attempting to gain mastery of those skills which he has difficulties with (i.e., social interactions and motor skills).To aid him, John is using the staff as a model to determine the appropriate skills needed to meet his goals, and is using external cues such as the staffs praises as a guide of his abilities.

Source: Essay UK -

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