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The 2e Center is located on the campus of Bridges Academy in Studio City, California. In this column, we share what’s happening at our center and report research findings, teaching ideas, and parenting suggestions we have found to be successful in helping 2e kids thrive.
Exciting things have been happening in the past few months at the Center. We have been documenting the implementation of a pilot program called Badges, designed for our high school students. As described in an earlier column last fall, Badges is a personalized educational experience in which students engage deeply in a topic of their choice. They define goals and experiences that will help them develop expertise in one or more disciplines by earning badges as they engage in rich content exploration and complete self-initiated projects. Preliminary results are showing that under this kind of learning, students are self-motivated and can focus on their work for long periods of time. They have little difficulty staying in the struggle when obstacles arise. Most importantly, they are finding learning to be meaningful and relevant.
At Bridges we spend time helping our students find their strengths, interests, and talents, which helps us to guide them into programs like the Badge program. We have developed assessment tools and protocols that facilitate strength-based planning and learning. We will begin offering training in how to use this suite of tools, entitled Including the Person in Personalized Learning. The first training dates have been announced — August 18 and 20, 2016. More information about these day-long training sessions will be available soon, both in this column and on the 2e Center website, www.bridges.edu.
In this column we continue to highlight the findings of a research study facilitated by the 2e Center at Bridges Academy and featured in Tom Ropelewski’s documentary film entitled 2e: Twice Exceptional. The study provided helpful insights into the academic, social, and emotional development of young people with twice-exceptionalities. The research uncovered six factors influential in establishing a strong foundation for success:
1. Tolerance for asynchrony
2. Positive relationships
3. A psychologically safe environment
4. Respect for time
5. Talent development
6. Strength-based strategies.
We are now midway through a series of articles examining each of the six factors. (If you missed the columns on factors 1 through 3, find them at http://goo.gl/HnKLBu.) As we’ve noted throughout the series, these factors are important for all children; but they are particularly critical for students with exceptionalities. In this issue, we focus on the fourth factor, respect for time.
By Kim Vargas, M.S.
My child has never been able to gauge time. He can’t estimate how long it will take to complete his homework assignments or how much time he needs to be ready to leave the house. It doesn’t matter if the activity is something that interests him or not. His school work is suffering because he can’t manage his homework or finish his assignments on time. Is there any strategy that helps these kids?
According to 2e Center research, respect for time is critical in the development of twice-exceptional students. Experts in the special education field explain how executive function deficits (often part of the 2e profile) affect a student’s sense of time (Barkley & Brown, 2012; Eide & Eide, 2006; McClosky, Perkins, & Van Divner, 2009). As a result, they often have difficulty judging the passage of time accurately and are unable to estimate how much time it will take to complete a task. Consequently, students may fail to allow enough time to complete work. Schools sensitive to the needs of twice-exceptional learners may provide accommodations to help these students manage by allowing them more time to complete assignments and take tests
2e students fortunate enough to find themselves in learning environments that allow for growth to take place without rushing or demanding that they perform at grade level find themselves better able to come to terms with the extreme anxieties and asynchronous (uneven) development that many may experience. As one Bridges Academy student who participated in the research study remarked, “The main thing about [this school], is that “it gives you time to grow socially and learn how to control your whatevers,” (Baum, Schader, & Hebert, 2014, p. 320).
When considering the asynchronous rate of development of 2e students (discussed in the first column in this series, in the July, 2015, issue of this newsletter), both educators and parents need to regard time as a friend. The artificial developmental time constraints imposed by institutions can contribute to inappropriate expectations and, therefore, may be detrimental to the emotional health of 2e students. It is important to keep in mind that grade- and age-level norms do not always apply to this population of students.
Along with developmental issues, 2e students often have a poor sense of time and lack executive functioning skills to manage time both in the classroom and at home. The lack of timely performance on the part of these students often frustrates both parents and teachers, as well as the students themselves.
As a parent of a former Bridges Academy student, I witnessed the profound benefit that the gift of time had on my son. From early on, he had difficulty structuring time on his own. My son could not transition easily; and he had poor self-regulation in terms of putting himself to sleep, waking up independently, and completing work in a timely manner. His perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive tendencies interfered with his ability to function consistently within a daily routine and to meet deadlines. By the time he entered high school, his internal clock was opposite to that of the family and school; consequently, he often missed school and failed to meet assignment deadlines.
The situation escalated to a critical point during his senior year. He was unable to finish all required assignments for graduation by the end of the academic year. His advisors knew it was important for him emotionally to be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony with his class. They explained to him that he could take all the time he needed to finish (without pressure), and they also empowered him with their trust and confidence that he was capable of finishing.
What should have taken a neuro-typical high school senior a few weeks to complete, took my son an entire year; and during that year, it was very hard for me not to push him. On advice from the school, I resisted pressuring him and he slowly worked through the remaining assignments.
Directed by his own motivation rather than arbitrary deadlines, he actively pursued his passion in computer programming. He audited online courses offered by MIT and taught himself several computer languages. He found a computer club to participate in at a university close to home. He achieved his goal at his own pace. This “gap year” gave him room to breathe.
Now, I’m happy to report that, as a 22-year-old, my son is a completely self-sufficient young adult, living independently; and his skills are constantly in demand. Interestingly, the positions he has held allow him to set his own work schedule that aligns more closely to his internal clock and working style. Once he left school, time became a factor he could control.
Bridges Academy is committed to looking at time holistically in terms of the impact it has on every aspect of a child’s educational journey. With a strong belief that students should be served by time rather than be its prisoner, transitions are longer, deadlines provide sufficient time for students to complete work, and students are offered a gap year if they are not developmentally ready for college.
Time Tips for Teachers
Time Tips for Parents
Kim Vargas is a member of the Executive Board of the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, as well as the Center’s site administrator. An educator with a background in special education for the gifted and talented, she is also Admissions and Outreach Liaison at Bridges Academy.