Klinefelter Syndrome and School
Males with Klinefelter syndrome often have decreased immediate auditory recall. As a result, they have trouble remembering what they have just heard. Parents and teachers can help them remember by approaching memory through visual channels. Illustrating words with pictures may help. Gesturing is another useful technique. For example, a teacher might accompany the word "yes" with a nod of the head. Similarly, shaking the head from side to side is the universal gesture for "no." Other useful gestures include waving goodbye, showing the child an upraised palm to indicate "stop," and holding the arms outstretched to mean "so big."
Males with Klinefelter syndrome frequently have trouble finding the right word to describe an object or a situation. Parents and teachers can help them build vocabulary through a variety of techniques. One way is to provide them with synonyms, such as pointing out that a car is also called an automobile. Another important teaching tool is categorizing -- showing the child that an item belongs to a larger class of items. With this technique, a child could be told that cars, buses, trucks, and bicycles are all vehicles -- machines that carry people and things from place to place.
Because boys with Klinefelter syndrome have difficulty expressing themselves, they may do poorly on essay-style test questions. Multiple-choice questions will give teachers a better idea of what a child with Klinefelter syndrome has learned -- and prove less stressful for him as well. Similarly, rather than asking an open-ended question, parents and teachers may wish to present alternatives. Instead of asking, "What would you like to do now?" they may wish to offer a choice: "Would you rather work on your spelling or work on your math?"
Parents and teachers can help boys with Klinefelter syndrome develop the ability to express themselves through solicited dialogue by engaging them in conversation through a series of questions. The same technique can be used to get the child to develop his narrative (storytelling) abilities. For example, a parent might begin by asking a child what he did at recess that day and then follow up with questions that get the child to talk about his activities: "Did you go down the slide? Were you afraid when you climbed all the way to the top of the ladder? And then what? Did you go on the seesaw? Who sat on the other end?"
Parents can also help boys with Klinefelter syndrome develop their expressive language abilities simply by providing good examples. Through a technique known as modeling, they can help organize their child's thoughts and provide him with examples of how to express himself. For instance, if a younger child indicated that he wanted a toy fire engine by pointing at it and grunting, the parent could hand it to him while saying, "Here you are. This is a fire engine." Similarly, if an older child asked, "Are we going to put the stuff in the thing?" the parent might reply, "Yes, we're going to put the oranges in the shopping cart."
Research indicates that boys with Klinefelter syndrome may do poorly in an open classroom situation and seem to prefer a structured, tightly organized environment centered around familiar routines. First, teachers can reduce distraction by placing them in front-row seats. Teachers also should present information slowly and repeat key points several times, if necessary. Boys with Klinefelter syndrome should not be given tasks that have many small steps. Rather, each step should be presented individually. On completion, the child may then be asked to work on the next item in the series.
As mentioned previously, boys with Klinefelter syndrome may withdraw from material they find difficult and retreat into daydreaming. A teacher or parent should gently regain the child's attention and help him to focus again on the task at hand. Similarly, boys with Klinefelter syndrome may have difficulty putting one task aside and beginning another one. Again, the parent or teacher should gently shift the child's attention by saying something like, "Drawing time is over. Let's put away the crayons and take out the math book."