Finding the right school for your twice exceptional childDr. Barbara Klein, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist, discusses the type of learning environment that meets the needs of students who are gifted, highly gifted and twice exceptional (students who are gifted and have special learning needs).

The type of curriculum that is the most productive choice for twice exceptional and gifted children is known as the “constructivist” approach. Constructivism is a theory that suggests that children learn best when they use their own knowledge and memories to connect to and interact with the subject matter they are learning.

Constructivist curriculum is highly individualized. The interactions between students are valued as an important part of the classroom learning. The student’s developmental level is taken into consideration in the selection of curriculum and instruction.

Because of the personalized, individual, developmental approach of constructivist curriculum, it will serve the asynchronous needs – the learning highs and lows – of the twice exceptional child most effectively. Finding a school with a constructivist curriculum can be difficult. Often, parents must seek private religious and nonreligious schools.

Preliminary Evaluation of a School Under Consideration
Make site observations, with interviews, and contact other parents and other students attending the school whenever possible.

In the chart below, the new, constructivist views of learning are compared to the old, traditional views of learning. This chart can help you decide which view of learning best characterizes the school you are considering.

Old view of learning:
Language is taught by modeling proper academic speech. Teacher affirms or corrects the child’s response.

New view of learning:
Language is taught through social conversation. A young child’s speech is elaborated upon (e.g., the child says – “big dog,” and the teacher elaborates – “Yes, the big dog is jumping”).

Old view of learning:
The focus is on what to learn – the facts, information.

New view of learning:
The focus is on how to learn – how to ask questions and how to act in variety of settings.

Personalized Learning
Old view of learning:
Children adhere to answering questions and completing assignments given in texts and workbooks without personal elaboration.

New view of learning:
Children add to lessons with their own stories related to the topics at hand.

Old view of learning:
Teacher believes individuals differ because of innate ability.

New view of learning:
Individual differences are attributed to children’s prior experiences.

Errors in Performance
Old view of learning:
Errors are marked wrong and feedback is given to the child on how to correct them.
The learning task is broken down by the teacher into simple steps for the parts that make up the task.

New view of learning:
Errors are seen as learning opportunities.
Errors reflect the child’s perception, which teachers try to understand.
The learning task is messy, requiring the child to “figure” out how to achieve good performance.

Old view of learning:
Children learn to attend to the teacher, follow instructions, and engage in guided concepts.

New view of learning:
There are multiple opportunities for children to participate in group discussions, practice and application of newly taught whole class lessons, paired activities, games and social activities.

Old view of learning:
Each child does own work. Children compare their levels of performance.

New view of learning:
Children help each other, each one contributing to a common goal.

Old view of learning:
The teacher judges and scores the child’s work.
Standard rubrics are used in assigning grades.

New view of learning:
Children judge their own work, prepare alternative solutions, and seek evidence for facts presented.

Old view of learning:
Both standardized tests and teacher-made tests show what child has learned.

New view of learning:
Children have many ways to show what they know – drawing, acting, writing, building, etc.

Parent/Teacher Conference
Old view of learning:
Teacher controls the conference, and is apprehensive about parents who know too much about education and schooling.
Child is exempted from parent-teacher conference.

New view of learning:
Teacher listens to parents’ concerns.
Teacher acts upon home-centered information as way to support both parent and child.
Child participates in the conference.

If the school you are visiting takes a nontraditional approach, your special needs child will have an increased chance of receiving an education that will meet his or her academic, social, and emotional needs.

Dr. Barbara Klein has worked with gifted children, their parents, and public and private schools in the Los Angeles area since 1986. Her private practice is dedicated to assisting the special educational needs of gifted and highly gifted children. She is recognized as a national authority on the development of twins. Dr. Klein has written seven books in the field of developmental psychology and education, including her latest, entitled “Raising Gifted Kids: Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Exceptional Child Thrive.

Dr. Klein facilitates weekly parenting groups because she believes that parents are the most important and influential people in a young child’s life. Dr. Klein earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley, her Masters and Doctorate in Early Childhood Education from the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, and her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California Graduate Institute in Los Angeles.

The fastest way to contact Dr. Barbara Klein is by telephone: (310) 443-4182.
Address: 10940 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024

This article is copyrighted © and should not be reprinted in its entirety without Dr. Klein & Dr. Miller’s permission.