Why Reid Day School?

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’.

CONCLUSION

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.

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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. 

The Importance of Self Regulation – Reflections by Our Director Dr. Lisa Reid

Elementary school age children

Self-regulation (the way which students’ independent thoughts, feelings and behaviors are utilized toward realizing goals) not only impacts students social/emotional well being, but their academic achievement as well. It is essential that this aspect of child development be fostered because it is only after students become able to self-regulate and control the outcome of their performance that successful academic independence will occur.

Fostering the development of self-regulation within students involves helping them to take responsibility and become actively involved in their learning process. Doing so allows for them to develop an understanding of the relationship between their progress and their process. The cognitive ability of children to self-regulate, and their tendency to do so, changes over time within the adolescent years. This is to be expected given that self-regulation largely relies upon interrelated cognitive and affective elements that are in a crucial stage of development from both a biological and social/emotional perspective. It is during this stage that students’ long-term attitudes toward learning and toward themselves are shaped.

It is expected and accepted that young children will have automatic affective (emotional) responses toward things that they like as well as things that are non-preferred, or uncomfortable. With youngsters, there is minimal self-awareness, or sense of personal control toward circumstances. That is acceptable during the early stages of life, but as children develop into young adults and are expected to begin to manage multiple facets of their life independently, it becomes essential for them to increase self-awareness and actively regulate their affective responses. This is not to say that children should not express their emotions. Rather, by developing awareness and understanding of their emotions as well as healthy responses to them, students become able to take the risks necessary to progress socially, emotionally and academically. If development is asynchronous, or if for some reason student development in these areas is thrown off track then challenging issues can arise. Young adulthood is a fragile time, especially if there are special needs present, but with a caring and thoughtful approach, all students can be guided to a path of confident and gratifying learning.

Essential components of self-regulation include locus of control and motivation. Locus of control describes a person’s belief that there are factors that control the events and outcomes that occur in their life. Depending on circumstances, this individual belief can range from an internal locus of control (I determine the outcome of situations) to an external locus of control (My situation is determined by factors that are beyond my control). Student’s perception of control is directly related to their academic achievement and their motivation is impacted by whether or not they recognize a causal relationship between their behavior and the result of that behavior. Research has been conducted to investigate student’s perception of the cause of their success or failure at different grade levels. Within this research, a significant positive relationship between student perceived control and achievement was found. Interestingly, this was found to be the case more so with fifth grade students than with sixth grade students. This is perhaps because by the time students are in sixth grade; they have become more aware that intrinsic factors impact their learning. Sadly, at this stage, many students most often express a desire to change a behavior not to improve their progress or learning but instead in response to a fear of failure or appearing incapable.

It seems logical that as students mature, they become more aware of their ability to self-regulate. However, although students may become aware of self-regulation strategies during their developmental years, they often do not recognize the correlation between the impact of their use on their progress. In addition, although they may be aware of these strategies, student’s belief in themselves, and the way in which their attitudes toward learning have been shaped over time may leave them increasingly less inclined to utilize them. Additional research has demonstrated that in seventh grade, students were less apt to use regulatory strategies in spite of their awareness of them, and that there were more frequent displays of behavioral challenges when compared to their younger peers. Decreased interest in content and the perception that it was not valuable to their future were also increasingly apparent. These results are highly consistent with reports by developmental researchers, which show that students often will exhibit declines in their self-directedness and intrinsic desire to engage in learning during the early middle school years. This decline may be due to the fact that students are not equipped with the skills necessary to reflect upon their progress and adjust their learning strategies, and thus, may not feel as though they are in control of their learning process.

As students progress through their upper elementary and middle school years and become more aware of the impact of their own actions, the importance of self-efficacy enters the equation. Students may know what is expected of them and they may, in fact, have the knowledge and skills necessary to meet those expectations. However, if they do not believe that they are able, or they have an obstacle in the way, they will not be motivated to try. This is a critical juncture at which we often start to see students described with comments such as “not working to potential” or even, “lazy”. Other displays include avoidant behavior that can appear as fooling around, or even straight defiance. What is unfortunate is that these frequently misconstrued actions change the focus from the students as learners to the students as underachievers or disruptions. In response, teachers and parents often unknowingly bypass the root of the behavior and transition into a “Power” role that directly impacts student’s perception of their potential as a self-directed learner. In turn, the student’s motivation to utilize self-regulatory behaviors in order attempt to make progress can decline or cease all together.

In situations where this turns into a pattern of events, the trajectory for the child’s positive self-perception and successful academic progress can be drastically impacted. For that reason, it is essential that educators take the time to investigate underachievement and challenging behavior as their looks may be deceiving. The appearance of underachievement and challenging behavior is a sign that there is a discrepancy between what the child is being asked to do and what they are able to do. When we see that sign, it is the responsibility of the adult to consider what needs are not being met. Sometimes issues are as simple as a child not understanding directions, or feeling bored, while other issues can be more complex such as lacking self-efficacy or inaccurate self-perception, a problem at home or with friends, an avoidance of writing due to dysgraphia, or what we often see with our students, a masked learning disability, or stealth dyslexia.

Creating a safe place and line of communication where these issues can be uncovered is highly important. Further, explicit expectations, clear feedback, meaningful and relevant work and scaffolding of skills are essential so that students can take small risks and establish their confidence without feeling the need to escape through incompletion or acting out. In order for students to establish motivation toward self-regulation, they must have a belief that they are able and that there is a causal relationship between their behavior and their performance. If control, efficacy, interest and purpose are not present, students will not be motivated to engage themselves. This is particularly true for populations of students who are not interested in external praise or reward.

Summertime Stress and the 2e Child – Reflections by our Director Lisa Reid, EdD

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The Worry Monster, created by Dr. Dan Peters of Summit Center

By this time of year, most students are easing into summer with plans that vary from family vacations to lazy days by the pool to special camps or other seasonal activities. Most kids enjoy the long, carefree days and break from the academic calendar. But the twice-exceptional child may see it very differently.

Part of my daily routine as a teacher is to check in with my students. This gives them a chance to reflect upon their lives and it provides me the opportunity to get a sense for their readiness to learn that day. Oftentimes I gain keen insight into what is going well for them or what is not. In the last few weeks of this past school year, I was surprised to hear very self-aware answers from my students after I asked if they were looking forward to summer. “I feel like I should be excited, but I am not really,” and “I’m feeling bittersweet” were just a couple of the likeminded responses. My introspective group of tweens reminded me that being twice-exceptional often comes with high levels of anxiety when routine is broken up from the norm—and summertime is seen that way for many of them.

We all know that adolescence is a tremendously difficult time for any child. This applies even more so to our twice-exceptional children who are searching to find their place in a world that already seems to be such an awkward fit. To them, it can appear at times like the world wrote a handbook for living but forgot to give them a copy.

While 2e children require room for freedom of thought and action, they also have a great need to know what to expect ahead of time. For that reason, the emerging transition to summer, with its exciting promise of unscheduled days and more unpredictability can be very anxiety producing. Not having routine can often create discomfort for children who are, by nature, often already intensely concerned that they aren’t doing things “right.” Paradoxically, the structure and known expectations that they often seek to escape are what actually provide them a sense of security.

Knowing this, co-create a plan for the summer with your 2e child. Just bringing them into the conversation can take a load off their mind. Talk about a routine that might work well during these months off and create a calendar together as loose or as firm as they need it to be. Set goals about what they would like to accomplish before the next school year and list the steps to accomplish them. Spend a few moments with them each morning or night to create a daily “to do” list. By providing them these small pieces of structure, you will be inevitably freeing them from undue stress and facilitating the enjoyment that summertime SHOULD bring.

P.S. My colleague Dr. Dan Peters published a book this past year called Make Your Worrier a Warrior about how parents can help their children battle the Worry Monster. Make sure to check out this article:

“Ten Tips for Parents and Kids to Tame the Worry Monster”
which was originally published in Huffington Post.