learning disbilities

Changing Schools - How to Navigate This Tough Decision

As a Learning Specialist, school placement frequently comes up as an important issue with the families in my practice.  When a child is falling behind and is showing clear signs of  resistance to going to school, it is time to consider whether the fit between the child and their current school is right. 

As stressful as considering changing schools can be, there are real guidelines that can help determine if a new school placement is necessary. In my work, I guide parents through a decision funnel that looks at 5 important factors.  If more than two factors are present, a school change is possibly needed.  If three or more factors are present, a school change should be made if at all possible.  The factors I use are:

  •   A child is a non-traditional learner 'as defined by their OptiKode' and is   struggling
  •    A child  has learning disabilities that can not be  supported with an IEP  at   school
  •    Despite attempted academic interventions, the child's well-being is      deteriorating
  •  There is an intractable power struggle between school staff and the  child/family
  •  The child and  family have a sense that another school would ignite a love  of learning

Once these factors are considered and a parent sees the need for a school change, the next important consideration is obvious - which school? The good news is that in the surrounding area there are a variety of schools to consider.  One is Eagle Peak Montessori in Walnut Creek. Eagle Peak is a free, charter school that does a marvelous job combining the best of the Montessori philosophy while still addressing the California State Standards. Nonetheless, Eagle Peak is not  the best fit for a child who has attention deficit or another processing disorder which makes being self-driven and independent difficult. Horizons Home School is another good free public school option which has helped many non-traditional students get the most out of high school.  However, Horizons Home School would not be the best fit for a highly social child who needs a great deal of peer interaction to thrive.

 Currently I have a family with 6 children, 2 of whom in my mind would do better in an alternative school placement.  We are beginning the process now and I suspect that these 2 children will be attending another school before year's end.   I know how hard it is to go through this process; thankfully  I have not as yet had a 'fail' - a placement that wasn't a good fit, or worse yet, was a disaster.  As a former psychotherapist I enjoy attuning to and supporting families as they navigate this tough decision.  I also use the individual OptiKodes of each student to find the right school that will ignite each child's love of learning. 

How OptiKodes Breathe New Life Into School Success



 I did a phone intake today with a a mother who is seeking new solutions for her 11th grade daughter's school difficulties.  It didn't take long during the intake to determine what underlies this high school girl's struggles - she has all three risk factors working against her academic success: 1) she has a late October birthday and therefore is young for grade level; 2) her OptiKode shows she is a non-traditional learner; and 3) she has recently been diagnosed with a learning disability as well. In looking at her OptiKode pictured above, both the gold Reading Modality and the dark blue Thinking Modality are 'dormant' in her OptiKode.  This means that both reading and math are not her natural strengths. As the word dormant implies, she has had to work quite hard in school to make the grades. The problem now is she is running out of energy to sustain this battle and she still has two more years to go.

Cases such as these are very heartbreaking, but as I explained to her mother today, the power of OptiKodes is how  quickly they create learning breakthroughs regardless of how long a student has struggled.  As I briefly explained to this mom, there are 120 different OptiKodes, with multiple variations of each one. Yet all that is needed with each student is to dial in  their particular OptiKode for it shows which tools and techniques will unlock each student's full learning potential.

The image of this new client's OptiKode above  tells me just how to work with her. The light blue outer ring shows that she is very image or picture oriented. A picture literally says a thousand words to her and this can be used to help her in all her subjects.  One of several tools I will use to help her with reading comprehension and vocabulary will be a visual  story boarding technique instead of using traditional, written notes.  The second ring in her OptiKode shows she is very Moving Dominant - no wonder she is such a talented athlete.  When the red, Moving Dominant Modality is first or second in an OptiKode you almost always see a student who plays year-round sports.  Unfortunately most of the time this same  Moving Dominant OptiKode will also be Reading Dominant and this is true of 25% of all OptiKodes. These are the non-traditional learners who confound teachers year after year.  If only the education system at large knew about Functional Styles and how to empower these equally gifted students with a fine-tuned understanding of their OptiKode.

 I will meet with this high school student and her mom and brother in two days time.  As is always the case, this family will go away with a very deep understanding of the similarities and differences in all their OptiKodes and how to keep this understanding at the forefront of their interactions with one another.  For the 11th grade student who is the real focus of treatment, my goal is for her to leave feeling real hope that the next two years of high school will be entirely different.