Written by Dr. Michael Postma, September 16, 2016
Reid Day School, located in Newport Beach, California, was specifically developed to address specialized needs of gifted/twice-exceptional students and thereby ‘fill in’ the yawning gap that exists within the pubic school system. Founder Dr. Lisa Reid, a former staff member at Bridges Academy, has an insatiable drive to ensure that 2e children, and their families, find a safe haven to learn, grow, and thrive. That passion fueled the creation of Reid Day School and its unique approach to holistic child development. In addition, the school is supported by the Summit Center, led by Dr. Dan Peters and his staff of specialists; a group who have a flawless reputation in the field of gifted and twice-exceptional child development. Dr. Peters was instrumental in assisting Dr. Reid with the creation of the school and continues to assist in ensuring the success of its students.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT?
Brain Based Learning: One might ask, what is this specialized approach…how do they ‘crack the code’ of gifted/twice-exceptional teaching? There are a number of ways that Reid Day School stands apart from the crowd in this particular field. In the first place, they use a brain-based approach to teaching and learning. The gifted/twice-exceptional brain is different from that of the typical student and therefore must be taught differently. The latest neurological research has shown that the gifted/2e brain is actually larger than that of the average brain and contains more ‘White Matter’. White Matter are the strands within the brain that allow it to communicate to all the different sections within the brain (over 120 sections have now been identified) that in turn communicate with the body. In a nutshell, the gifted/2e brain is able to learn quicker, make quicker connections, and store more information than the average learner and therefore the gifted/2e child must be taught with these characteristics in mind. However there is a catch. The twice-exceptional brain varies in that the White Matter is twisted in some areas resulting in intellectual deficits that need to be addressed all the while ensuring that one is addressing the ‘giftedness’ as well. Few educational institutions understand this fact, nor do they address it in the classroom. This is a fundamental basic that must be addressed when working with 2e children. The school must use the child’s strengths to remediate the weaknesses. The ‘deficit’ based approach taken in most schools is actually the worst strategy that one can employ with our students. It will only lead to building frustration, behavior issues, and social/emotional alienation. Reid Day School understands this and has specifically designed instruction around this fundamental truth through a specialized curriculum and personalized approach to instruction.
In addition, the twice-exceptional brain develops a larger Sensory Input capacity than that of the average child. This means that at a very early age, 2e children have the capacity to intake sensory experiences that are deeply felt and deeply experienced leading to Sensory Processing issues. At the same time there is a price to be paid for this incredible intake capacity. The Limbic System, that part of the brain responsible for self-regulation, takes longer to develop in 2e children producing a conundrum of opposites: A highly intelligent brain capable of thinking and learning at a rapid pace frustrated by some sort of disability and the inability to meta-cognate. For the majority of school staff, unfamiliar with the research and untrained in pedagogical methodology, the 2e child is an unknown quantity; an average learner at best; a intense behavioral problem at worst. In most cases, the twice-exceptional learner scuttles through school carrying any number of labels: lazy, problem child, un-teachable. Many languish in well-meaning special education environments stuck in remedial hades. Again, Reid Day School understands these children and provides them individualized support plans that ensure success in each and every student. This ‘hands on’ approach is exactly what is needed for the child to experience success and continual progress towards holistic development. In short, compared to the pubic system, this scenario could not be any different, nor, for that matter, the results.
Dr. Lisa Reid, founder and leader of Reid Day School, relates the story of a young boy who recently enrolled at Reid. As is typical across the country (I have worked with 2e families from a number of states and countries), this twice exceptional child came into the Program with a thick binder of both behavioral and academic reports composed in the short time he had attended a local public school. Similar to many cases of 2e students’ experiences in the system, this boy came with many labels: emotionally disturbed, ODD (Oppositional Defiant), and a behavior risk. After only one and a half months at Reid, further evaluation revealed a severe Auditory Processing issue, one that had apparently been ‘missed’ by the school. A brilliant, misunderstood child who could not comprehend or know how to communicate his needs is a child prone to Limbic meltdowns and behavioral compensations. Lisa reported that, after much therapy and trust building exercises over a three-month period, the child now is able to participate in class and has actually made friends. This case begs the question: Would your school take the time, resources, and energy to really understand and accept your child? Or, would they take the time to create a safe, nurturing environment of progressive learning? Given the preponderance of evidence to the contrary, the answer is almost assuredly no. Given the extreme nature of their individual make-ups and corresponding intensities, both the 2e and profoundly gifted child find themselves at odds with societal norms. A significant period of each child’s life is spent in schools that are not designed for these types of outliers. In hundreds, if not thousands, of documented case studies, the convergence of the two has yielded disastrous results: intense behavioral reactions, depression, psychological underachievement, severe mental fatigue even breakdowns, rising drop out rates, and perhaps the most important issue: the loss of extreme potential. Schools designed specifically to empower the gifted/2e student, like Reid Day School, can quite literally, save your child’s life.
Personal Pedagogy: Another distinction that separates Reid Day School from the crowd is its ability to personalize the educational approach to fit the needs of each of its students. Often, twice-exceptional students are traumatized by their regular school experiences and require a specialized methodology for rebuilding trust. The children need to evolve from being the ‘bad’ kid to being a productive child. In a sense it is a process of ‘re-dignifying’ or feeling human again. This process, as seen in the case above, can take months and requires a delicate balance of structure, balance, freedom and flexibility, and finally, realistic expectations of growth and productivity. In addition to offering this unique approach to teaching and learning, Reid Day School also encourages self-advocacy through the systematic teaching of meta-cognitive skills through expressive language development, role-playing and situational simulation, and the extensive use of accommodative technology. What all of this translates to is an incredible and powerful, research based, personalized pedagogy for each and every student, an asset that cannot be found in any public education institution.
Empathetic Staff: I have hired many teachers over the years for a variety of gifted programs and the one singular quality that I seek in prospective staff above all others is empathy. If you do not understand or relate to the gifted/2e student, you will not be able to teach them effectively. At Reid Day School, all staff are experts in working with this specialized population of children and have proven that they both empathetic and experienced in the field. Very few Programs can replicate this model, and quite simply, most do not.
Other Advantages: The Reid School also provides extraordinary opportunities for students that are rarely found elsewhere. Each student is afforded time each week to meet with counselors well versed in the issues surrounding gifted/2e children. This time is used to address personal issues as well as plan for personal growth targets. These types of ‘trusted’ connections are very important to both gifted and 2e children as it is rare for them to be able to ‘unburden’ themselves with a caring adult that is not an immediate relative. In addition, the Reid School employs a curriculum designed with flexibility, choice, complexity, depth and breadth using 21st Learning Fluencies and personal interests while maintaining adherence to state standards should a child need to reintegrate into the public school system. Other benefits include participation in ‘Passion Project Fridays’ where each student is given the opportunity to probe deeply into an area of interest or passion. Finally, the school’s ‘no homework’ policy reduces the stress and anxiety most 2e, and even gifted, children feel towards homework that in most cases consists of unnecessary ‘busy work’.
If you are looking for an appropriate educational environment for your gifted/twice-exceptional child due to continued issues with your local school, look no further than Reid Day School. Carefully crafted for the specific purpose of meeting the social, emotional, and academic needs of gifted/2e children and their families, Reid Day School can become your educational haven; a place where you need not worry about your children reaching their true potential; a place where you will feel like family. If you have any doubts, give them a call, schedule a visit, or attend an open house. It will be a life-changing event that you will never regret.
Dr. Michael Postma is a consultant, speaker, and author dedicated to the holistic development of twice-exceptional children and other non-typical learners through his company Agility Educational Solutions.