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. 

Lessons From the Past: Reflections by Our Director Dr. Lisa Reid

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Albert Einstein

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“Human beings cannot live below their level of capacity without disturbance. You may call it a matter of conscience; for conscience is the instinct of self-preservation applied to the mind.”

– Toward a Psychology of Art: Collected EssaysBy Rudolf Arnheim

During an interview with one of my prospective students last month, I asked him to tell me about his favorite subject in school. “History!” he exclaimed. I followed up, and asked him to tell me why history was his favorite. The response from this insightful 8-year-old was, “Because I think it is interesting to see when we have learned from the past, and all of the times that we have not.” This wisdom is certainly something to consider as we realize that much of what works for our gifted learners is something that can be uncovered, rather than discovered.

In his book, Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson referred to Albert Einstein as “The patron saint of distracted school kids everywhere.” A few years ago, in a Los Angeles Times article, he went on to explain how many traits of the young Einstein in academia, like his being a slow reader, have caused much speculation over the years about how one of our world’s most famous brainiacs may have struggled with a developmental disorder. Of course, those of us in the land of twice-exceptional children find this conclusion perfectly natural.

Einstein struggled in school like many gifted kids. From an early age, he was quite frustrated by the rigid discipline imposed upon him and throughout the course of his speckled educational career, his rejection of what he came to expect from “school” as an institution grew. Later in life he stated, “The worst thing seems for a school principally to work with methods of fear, force and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the healthy feelings, the integrity and self-confidence of the pupils. All that it produces is a servile helot.” Perhaps the only positive result from the majority of Einstein’s formal educational career was the development of a sense of skepticism and the willingness to challenge existing notions.

While most people are aware that Einstein had a troubled early educational career, many people do not know that he did, in fact, have a school experience toward which he felt fondly. This took place at Aurau where the school instructional philosophy was based on the teachings of educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi who felt it was important to appreciate the “inner dignity” of each child.

Pestalozzi began his quest to improve education out of a concern for the social conditions that existed during the late 1700’s and he strived to establish equal opportunity through education. He believed that the resources necessary when obtaining an education were within the reach of every individual, as they exist in the natural world, which surrounds all of us. His philosophy supported achievement of balance in life and a belief that individuals should focus on their minds, bodies and souls equally and with regards to instruction.

In the classroom, Pestalozzi promoted hands-on activities and experimentation, along with keen observation and reflection. He opposed methodical lessons and a focus on “correctness,” which had been traditional in curriculum. Overall, he firmly believed that children should be free to learn through experience, both socially and through their activities. He believed that the acceptance of children and their individual natures encourages self-confidence, allowing them to feel secure enough to explore and develop their own education and ideas about the world. Similar to Montessori in some ways, his goal was to develop a learning process in which students make observations, reason independently and arrive at their own conclusions based on personal experiences, both cognitive and physical. His understanding was that through these experiences students develop personal responsibility as opposed to responsibility toward the expectations of others. This was in place of the traditional process of education which existed at the time which he felt planted the thoughts and habits of others in the minds of children, thus stifling their individuality altogether.

It was at Aurau, while under the umbrella of Pestalozzi’s philosophies, that Einstein is thought to have developed his first genius visualization of the speed of light and it has been said that Einstein truly enjoyed his learning experience there. That is powerful, given that he was a young man who had grown to detest school and who many assumed would amount to nothing.

So, what can we learn from young Einstein, and the past?

  • Our most challenging children are often the most brilliant.
  • Skepticism and the willingness to challenge existing notions may be signs of genius.
  • The most important tool for effective instruction is making sure that students know that they are respected and cared for as individuals.
  • The potential of our young learners is an extension of their individuality, not their ability to conform to the thought framework of others. An authoritarian, fear based environment is damaging/does not support success.
  • As individual confidence increases through successful independent experiences, so does intrinsic motivation toward learning as well as the desire to develop personal responsibility.