Welcome to the Crucial Conversations Blog. In this space, we will present insights from parents and practitioners involved in twice-exceptional education. The following is authored by Anahid Koumriqian, a former public school teacher, holder of a master’s degree from Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education, and a parent to a 2e child.
The school year has started, and in my household there have been many changes. We moved my 18-year-old into his new college dorm, moved my mother into our home to live with us — and, speaking of moving, our family has relocated to a new city where my youngest will be starting high school. This can be a lot for any child to process, but in the twice-exceptional (2e) world where individuals present with the coexistence of high intelligence and at least one learning difference, this much change in daily routine can trigger discomfort and intense feelings. Parenting children with big feelings for so many years has taught me to plan ahead, take baby steps, and introduce changes early on to allow for a smoother transition and very few surprises along the way.
Entertaining such a big move took me a year to explore and plan. Although we loved our home, my husband worked in a beautiful coastal city during the week, and it had always been a dream for us to join him permanently. At times, it seemed impossible as our children were younger and pulling them away from their social groups and schools would have been drastic. Life changes, however, and learning to embrace new experiences are a part of everyone’s journey. We came to a point in time where change seemed more attainable. Although our youngest child was thriving at his current school, where social and emotional learning intertwined throughout the school curriculum, it was also a better time to make a change if we really had to.
Could I find a similar school where the curriculum was personalized in a way to address areas of strength along with areas of need? Would he be able to rely on the skill-building strategies he developed at his current school in a new, more traditional learning environment? Could he finally avoid emotional triggers without direct guidance and redirection of staff in a place where educators may not be making this a priority?
I had many questions, but I realized that finishing middle school is a right of passage to a more independent experience. In our case, as my child changed schools and entered a new community, I focused on sending him off with confidence while standing back, ready to guide him when he asked for it. My hope has been to provide support when needed as he finds his way and eases into this transition more independently.
However, I couldn’t just let him be without giving him a few avenues to meet new people. So, I managed to convince him to participate in school sports by joining the water polo team. We would both be taking a risk. In the past, team sports did not equate to feelings of success. I remembered the discomfort associated with watching my child melt down in front of other kids and parents when it wasn’t his turn to dribble the ball or take a shot. It took a long time to redirect my focus to my son’s experience rather than worry about what others could be thinking.
Although these experiences had burned into my mind, I knew that much time had passed. I’d witnessed immense growth in my kid since then, and this convinced me that it would be approachable and maybe more attainable this time around. Leveraging his love of swimming, I imagined he would be more likely to engage in a water sport. This was my way to maximize the potential for a positive experience, motivating him to continue learning and growing while working in a team setting. Thus far, he is really enjoying the experience. As an observer, it has become apparent that development and maturity have increased tremendously for him. Joining water polo gave him a group to belong to where he is engaging in positive experiences while learning something new. Since sports began a few weeks prior to the start of school, he was able to face a new community while being a part of a pre-existing group.
One thing I learned from raising three children is that friend groups form more easily when you surround yourself with kids that have similar interests. This time around, joining a team sport was met with success. I’m hoping academic transitions will also be positive, though I know we don’t live in a perfect world. During this new experience, I won’t be able to manage every surprise that comes along, but I am hoping I took reasonable measures to help my ninth grader move to a new school, a new house, and a new community with as much ease as possible. Where he goes from here is up to him. I will stand by with support when needed, but I guess the time has come for him to prompt me rather than me prompt him.