Are the holidays stressing you and your kids out? Read Dr. Dan Peters’ new piece on HUFFINGTON POST for 8 tips to de-stressing and reducing anxiety: “8 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Anxiety During the Holidays.”
Posts by drdanadmin5:
The attacks in Paris and elsewhere are still fresh in our minds. At the urging of other parents, I’ve written and posted a new article on PSYCHOLOGY TODAY “How to help our children deal with the terror of terrorism” — I hope it helps you and your family.
As we professionals / educators / therapists / parents navigate the #gifted and #2e worlds for our children and students, we must not forget the twice-exceptional adults. Read Dr. Dan Peters’ interview with Summit Center colleague Dr. Paula Wilkes on “The Twice-Exceptional Adult” in this post for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY.
Our kids are not learning how to handle disappointment and that a primary parenting goal should be helping our kids learn to handle adversity and the inevitable disappointment of life. Welcome to over-parenting. Read more about “When Overparenting Goes Too Far” in Dr. Dan Peters’ post for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY.
This piece originally appeared on Psychology Today. My colleagues at Summit Center can help you learn more about your child’s learning strengths plus any potential issues, and can help you find an alternative learning environment if needed.
I am sitting with a small group of students who are describing their school experiences. They are talking about worry, fear and anxiety (aka “The Worry Monster”). They are saying…
“I got nervous when I had to take timed tests. I could never finish.”
“I was always in trouble for talking.”
“I was bullied. The class bully only picked on me. I don’t know why.”
“I felt different from everyone else.”
“Why did I need to show our work and do things over and over if I knew the answer?!”
This is the first day at a small new school – The Reid Day School (RDS) in Southern California. RDS was founded by Dr. Lisa Reid who was inspired by her experience working at Bridges Academy. RDS was named in honor of Lisa’s father, Martin Reid. On the wall in the lobby is a picture of Martin with his quoted belief, “Finding the best, empowering them, and then getting out of the way.” This is the guiding principal for RDS students and their highly skilled and compassionate educational team.
The students at RDS are considered twice exceptional or “2e” which represents their abilities on both ends of the bell curve. They are all gifted (very smart), highly gifted in fact, and also have learning and processing challenges that impact their ability to learn in a traditional, and even most, non-traditional and progressive environments. They may have dyslexia (trouble reading and spelling), dysgraphia (trouble with copying and writing), auditory processing and visual processing challenges, sensory processing difficulties, ADHD, and/or be on the highest end of the autistic spectrum (previously called Aspergers Syndrome). You all know these people – Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Temple Grandin, Richard Branson, and the list goes on. They, and the others like them, had predominately miserable school experiences. Yet, many, if lucky, also had one educator, mentor, coach, or family member who got them, inspired them, and found a way to teach them in a manner that they were able to learn – and eventually change the world.
Bridges Academy was the first school program developed to explicitly recognize the strengths and complex nature of twice exceptional students. The school continues to set the standard for true teaching, meeting 2e students where they are, realizing the tremendous potential within them and providing a nurturing and understanding, yet challenging environment so that they can reach it. The biggest disservice we do to our 2e children is underestimating their vast ability. Reid had what she describes as a “very fortunate opportunity” to work there. She references her time there as an “eye opening and overwhelmingly positive experience ” that changed her perspective as a gifted educator and inspired her to expand educational advocacy and support for the needs of twice-exceptional students in Orange County.
Changing the world is not the goal of educating these 2e students at RDS or the other similar schools that exist. The first goal is to provide a learning environment where these kids feel safe in order for them to be able to learn. Many come to school with their amygdala (fear center of the brain) on overdrive. They are on high alert for threat – whether it come from other students, teachers, and/or administrators and are ready to protect themselves at any moment by hiding, avoiding, or exhibiting big emotions or meltdowns. How can a child learn if their emotional brain is always on and they can’t access their thinking and learning brain?
The tragedy is that these are bright and creative kids who are out of the box thinkers who love to learn. So what has RDS and the few other schools like them done? They provide a safe environment for learning, with skilled and compassionate educators who differentiate the learning towards the student’s ability level in a way that they can learn. It’s not rocket science. Or is it?
Standards driven curriculum, an over focus on benchmarks, and even the latest Common Core makes it hard for these kids to show what they know in a way that emphasizes learning over production and output. Gifted kids are sensitive to their surroundings and have high personal standards (also known as perfectionism). When they can’t produce what they feel they should or are expected to, they often become overwhelmed and anxious, resulting in feeling dumb, bad, and worthless.
The solution: A learning environment that understands kids have strengths and weaknesses; a learning environment that differentiates for advanced abilities while simultaneously accommodating weaknesses; a learning environment that understands that there are many ways to teach and show mastery; a learning environment that values creative problem solving and individualism; a learning environment that provides opportunity for intellectual engagement, exploration, and confidence as a learner and person.
I watched kids who have charts filled with difficult experiences and descriptions of big emotions smiling, laughing, engaging, and dancing (just for fun). And they were learning.
“Finding the best, empowering them, and then getting out of the way.” Lisa Reid and the Reid Day School are doing it. I applaud them and the other schools out there who are doing the same—especially outside the box.
This article references two schools for twice-exceptional students in Southern California. In Northern California, schools for 2e students include DaVinci Center in Alameda, Big Minds in Pinole, and McNaught School in San Jose.
Dr. Dan Peters writes that “”The concept of dyslexia seems to be getting some traction, but we are far from seeing changes in schools and the work place. The dyslexic mind is not yet seen as a valuable resource, and the dyslexic child and adult are still marginalized.” Read the rest in “The Dyslexic Advantage: Our Hidden Revolution” on HUFFINGTON POST.
Dr. Dan Peters lists fun things kids can do to bring them back into the mind frame of reading, writing, learning, being curious, critically thinking, engaging in dialogue and just plain moving the body. In “5 Back-to-School Brain Boosters” on HUFFINGTON POST.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently wrote a book called Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be about our American epidemic of college anxiety. In it, he discusses the chronic worry that has ascended the shoulders of our kids while trying to get into a topnotch school and the way school elitism has usurped the actual meaning and experience of collegiate life for many young people today.
College anxiety did not exist when I was in school—or at least I don’t remember it. I knew it was a family value that education was important. My grandparents were immigrants and my parents the first in their families to go to college. I remember becoming aware of my GPA in middle school when there was “honor roll” for those with 3.3 and higher. I remember shooting for that goal so I could get my name on the gold paper. I also remember not being in any honors classes, though most of my friends were, and not worrying about or even considering the impact of that on my future college choices. I remember looking at some colleges, wanting to go to some more than others, then choosing one. The college process was just part of growing up and not more stressful or pronounced than other developmental phases.
Now? I have clients in 2nd grade telling me they are going to Stanford or UC Berkeley. I listen to high school students who have GPAs of 4.2-4.6 tell me how stressed, anxious, and depressed they are and weary of their future. I talk to parents daily about their worries that their child is not going to get into a “good” school.
Since when did getting into a good school equate to getting into only the UC, IVY League, or trendy brand names schools? Who started this fear? It seems to be the effect of a slow and insidiously building phenomenon that pushes the ability to do better than perfect (4.0 used to be the best), the false value of increased college tuition (my first UC quarter was $419), and the societal (largely upper middle class) belief that one can always do better and if you don’t you will get left behind. These three factors should not be forefront in the reasoning for our youth to attend the schools of their choice.
Instead, it is important for our kids to focus on the process of living instead of the suggestion that outcome is all. That means focusing on learning and doing well in school, engaging in extra-curricular activities like sports, the performing arts, Boy and Girl Scouts, robotics, and giving back to the community through volunteer experiences, to name a few. Our kids should not be worrying about which college they are going to go to. When the time comes, they can start looking into what areas of the country they may want to live, the type of college—liberal arts or science based—they may want to attend, and which field of study they may choose (if they even know).
Modern college gives our children a general education alongside the opportunity to grow up and experience independence and explore other perspectives. College gives youth the opportunity to form their own opinions, possibly different from their parents, and meet friends who may be friends for life. College—regardless of where they go—gives our kids experience, education, and opportunity. It sets the stage for what comes next. It may be the best experience of your child’s life, it may be “okay,” or it may not be a good fit. Your child’s college experience will not define them; it will be part of their on-going development.
Unfortunately, parents can be huge contributors to college anxiety. The main tip for moms and dads wanting to support their children in a healthy, productive way is to try not to worry and chill out (as kids say)! Model a non-alarmist thinking style. If you are worried about your child, they will worry about themselves. Don’t make this the biggest decision of their life that will determine their life’s path. Many people go to several colleges, change their mind, and change their path. Others like where they will go. College is just another step and milestone on life’s path.
My oldest daughter is currently a freshman. She and her friends check their grades daily on School Loop. They are constantly focused on their GPA. I am not sure they even know why except everyone talks about it. “What did you get on the test?” and “What is your GPA?” are commonly heard. Her mother and I spend a lot of time helping her to put her grades in perspective and not overly focus on them. We remind her there are lots of options and places for her and we will start looking into them in a few years. We keep her focused—or try to—on the present, not three years down the road.
There are over 5000 colleges and universities in the United States and that means there is a place, or several, for your child. Try to enjoy your child’s present instead of worrying about their future. They are growing up fast and will be gone soon. Embrace the mantra “It will all work out….,” because it did for us, and it will for them, regardless of the logo emblazoned across their school sweatshirt.
This article originally appeared on Psychology Today.