Voices of 2e Profile:

Debbie Reber, Podcaster and Author

July, 2018

When it comes to discussing children who are neurologically atypical, Debbie Reber has created her own vocabulary. She refers to these kids as being differently wired; and she talks about tilts. These are, in Reber’s words, “little shifts or ‘tweaks’ we can make in the way we think and the things we do in response to challenging aspects of parenting our differently-wired kids.”

Examples of tilts are “Let go of what others think,” and “Stop fighting who your child is and lean in.” Reber has come up with 18 of them that she describes in her recently published book, Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World (reviewed in the May, 2018, issue of 2e Newsletter). Tilts, as she states on her website TiLT Parenting, offer families guidance on working together more effectively to bring out the potential of their children. They’re aimed at ensuring that differently-wired kids are accepted and valued for who they are.

Reber has been a communicator for many years, working in television and video production; writing books aimed at empowering teens and young women; and speaking about issues like media literacy, self-esteem, and confidence. Her focus changed when she learned that her son Asher, now 13, is differently-wired (gifted with ADHD and Asperger’s).

According to Reber, she spent years figuring out how best to support Asher in school and in life. During this time, she found, as do many parents of twice-exceptional kids, that existing websites and organizations are not geared toward meeting the unique set of needs that families of these children have. So Reber decided to do something about it.

In 2016, she created her own online community called TiLT Parenting. On the website, visitors can find a blog, podcasts, and an invitation to take part in the 7-Day Challenge, a free weeklong introduction to using Reber’s tilts to make positive changes in their parenting practices. Participants in the challenge are also invited to join a private Facebook group.

In Reber’s blog, she covers topics such as:

  • How to support kids with dyslexia in tapping into its gifts
  • How to support atypical kids in developing executive functioning
  • When school isn’t a fit: What it looks like and how to handle it
  • Asher on strategies and challenges surrounding his social life.

The TiLT Parenting Podcast, according to Reber, has more than 400,000 downloads from over 50 countries; and it continues to grow. In these podcast programs she, along with experts from various fields, address such topics as:

  • Twice-exceptionality
  • Anxiety
  • Giftedness
  • School/education
  • Learning differences
  • Assessment/testing.

Among the experts interviewed are psychologists Dan Peters and Dan Siegel, Social Thinking ® founder Michelle Garcia Winner, and Neurotribes author Steve Silberman. In some of the podcasts, Reber’s son and husband join her to share their views on and insights gained from the family’s “differently-wired” experiences.

Recently, Reber left her home in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she homeschools Asher, to go on a tour of the United States to promote her new book. In interviews, she explains why she wrote Differently Wired and who her intended audiences are:

First and foremost, I wrote this book for parents like me in the trenches, raising atypical kids. Not only do I know firsthand that these parents are in need of connection, a roadmap, and strategies; but I also believe that if the way our kids are perceived and treated in schools and society is going to change, we are going to have to be the ones spearheading the movement.

But I do have a secondary audience in mind that includes pretty much everyone else — educators, parents of typical kids, employers, and family members. Because differently-wired kids (and adults) are everywhere; and to truly shift things, everyone has to play a part.

Through her tour, her writings, and her podcasts, Reber explains that she is “trying to help spread awareness that our community of 2e kids even exists. So many people have never even heard the term or don’t have an accurate understanding of what it means.” Beyond that, she states, “I think we need to share the important message that 2e kids are particularly stuck when it comes to education because of their unique needs, and that we have to do a better job of both supporting these children in traditional schools systems and creating more schools designed to meet the specific needs of these incredible learners.”

“This is my work in the world,” Reber continues, “So I plan to go on using my voice, platform, writing, and other content I create to communicate these messages and more.

A TiLT Podcast Sample

Following is an edited excerpt from one of Debbie Reber’s podcasts, Dr. Michael Postma of SENG on the Plight of Gifted 2e Kids, recorded December 5, 2017, and used here with permission.

Dr. Postma: We have three kids at home, all teenagers. Not a single one of them made it through school. They made it up through middle school, but high school was very difficult. I have one who is homebound with high school right now. The other two are pursuing GEDs. And that’s not always the school’s fault either. Sometimes it’s sensory processing stuff that just kind of overwhelms them and they can’t be in those types of environments.

Debbie: Yeah. I had a guest on the show, Dr. Devon MacEachron, who talked about the best school options for these kids, and it was pretty dismal. The number of schools that accommodate twice-exceptional kids are few and far between. And even within those schools, it’s hard because the needs of the kids are so diverse.

Dr. Postma: You have to individualize for every twice-exceptional child [because] there is not a system or pattern that actually works consistently with [all of] them. It becomes very expensive and time consuming, and staff consuming.

But, as I say in the book, it really isn’t that difficult to make some accommodations and make the day a little bit more enjoyable for a twice-exceptional child. There are certain things you can do: giving them extra time on tests; giving them limbic breaks to get out and reconnect with themselves; giving them leeway in the hallways where maybe they leave two minutes early so they don’t have to face the crowds, especially in high school where that can be overwhelming. Little things like that can really assist our twice-exceptional kids.

And, maybe there’s placement with teachers that maybe have more training and understanding [of twice-exceptional students]. One thing I always emphasize is empathy. I’ve always said when I hire teachers that I can teach you all the skills, but I can’t teach you empathy, and if you don’t have the empathy, it’s very difficult to teach these children.

Debbie: So true. That’s a great point. You’ve written a book called The Inconvenient Student. Could you tell us why you wrote the book, who it’s for, and what you hope it does in the world?

Dr. Postma: Well, I wrote it because we struggled so much with our own children, and I’ve also been working with these kids for many, many years.

It’s really an introductory book, not heavy on details, written so that the layman with not a lot of training can [find] some hints and strategies [to use] in the classroom. But it’s also written for parents. The first half is developmental and the second half [focuses on] education approach.

Debbie: When I saw the title [of the book] , it just instantly resonated with me and I’m sure [with] so many of our listeners, “Yep, that’s my kid, the inconvenient student.” So thank you for writing it and putting it out there.

For a review of Michael Postma’s book, The Inconvenient Student, see the November, 2017, issue of 2e Newsletter.

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