Introduction to Square Pegs, Round Holes

This Blog is actually the preface to my new book that will be coming out soon. The working title of the book is Square Pegs, Round Holes: Understanding the 2e Learner. Hope you enjoy.

I sat in the chair a little startled by the reality that I was even there at all. My son, Benny, a passive bundle of nervous energy, sat at an adjacent table with Ms. X, one of the assigned school proctors tasked with the difficult job of screening potential candidates for what the school had then labeled Kindergarten readiness. Hoodie planted firmly over his head, one could barely see his little nose as his intensely blue eyes remained firmly fixed on the table. The proctor, to her credit was speaking in calm, reassuring tones as she attempted to connect with Benny at a personal level prior to the onset of the assessment. He was having none of it. Eyes still glued to the table, he pacified the strange lady with enough blunted responses that she continued, all the while throwing puzzled looks my way. I sat in silence and watched as the questions began to pour into my brain. Who was this boy? Was this the same child that greeted each morning with enthusiasm based on the sole premise that he might find a new snake that day? Was this the same mischievous imp that designed and built elaborate habitats for his precious reptiles? Was this the same young man who loved to lead the neighborhood gang on a daily romp through the cul-de sac looking for any new adventure that befell them? Who was this boy?

My mind raced for solutions but found none. The questions continued. What was I even doing in the room I wondered to myself as I carefully watched the scenario play out in slow motion before me. What kind of assessment was this? Do you even know, or understand my son? Who gives you the right to judge his readiness ability when you clearly know nothing about him? The questions trailed off as I continued to watch with horror as Benny slowly turned into a pillar of stoicism, never before seen in our home. Something was wrong.

You must understand that I am an educator myself; specializing in the education of students with high intellectual potential, and I understood that the basic fundamental rule of any intellectual assessment, for curricular readiness, is to eliminate any and all probability of distraction. In retrospect, perhaps I ought to have stopped the procedure at that very moment, sensing that something was amiss. I didn’t.

The Saga continued. After barely getting through the first round of personal information, the assessment turned curricular in an attempt to ascertain his level of cognitive knowledge and acumen. After all, Benny was to start Kindergarten and it was important that he get ready for all the expectations, rigors, knowledge, and socialization placed upon him by the educational system. After stumbling through a few basic mathematical inquiries, an assessment of his language skills, and some general educational questions, I had all but lost hope of being able to show off our wonderful ‘Benny goes to Kindergarten’ pictures to relatives and friends. But then a bright spot. The one sided conversation, laced with intermittent pauses that enabled our brave proctor to frantically scribbled notes in her college rules notebook, turned toward Science. We’ve got this one, I chuckled to myself. Benny was a natural scientist. Even as an infant he was fascinated with the world around him; how things work, what things are, why they were that way. His constant questions and daily adventures into the wide and wild world around him gave me an assured confidence that he would ace this section. The fact is, Benny knew more about animals, dinosaurs, cars, space, and eco-systems than any kid his age. It was this knowledge, along with his unquenched thirst for all things reptilian, that made him the star of the neighborhood. Surely, it was time for him to wow the lady. And then….nothing.

“Can you tell me what a dinosaur is?” I sat there choking in the unfolding silence. “Can you name any reptiles that live in Minnesota?” The beat went on. “How about any animals that live here or even in the United States?” My head was screaming. ‘You know this stuff, Benny…why aren’t you talking…why is this happening?’ Something was desperately wrong. What had turned our free-spirited son into a deaf-mute? What happened to the boy whose intense intellectual curiosity had lead us to wonder whether or not he might be different than that other children his age? Why? Why? Why? Perhaps, sensing my angst, Lady X mercifully ended the assessment allowing Benny and I to head out of the school to the refuge of the truck. She did, however, follow us into the parking lot, eventually requesting a private conversation with dad. In a state of disbelief combined with shock and dread, I returned with her to the front of the school where she asked me to have a seat on one of the oak benches, donated by some successful graduate, at the side of the school entrance. Glancing back toward the truck I noticed Benny’s blue eyes peeking over the door toward me.

“I am not sure how to tell you this, Mr. Postma, but there is definitely something wrong with your boy….”

How many of you have experienced something similar with a child or family member in your life? Perhaps the scenario was different? Maybe it was the same. Perhaps, the person in question is not a child but a grown adult. Maybe, just maybe, this type of experience reminds you of your own personal, painful memory.

Whatever, it is, the purpose of this book is to demystify the misunderstood and often misdiagnosed child with dual (or more) exceptionalities. In our particular case, a diagnosis of Aspergers was given to Benny shortly after this incident had occurred, shocking us to the reality that our lives would be different than that of our typical neighbor or friend; very different. We had suspected that Benny was not typical. In fact, we have deep concerns in regards to his social adaptation to others his age, especially in situations outside of his typical comfort zones; our home and neighborhood. Other clues had also emerged over his childhood years: Benny’s lack of any need for a full night’s rest; his intense, singularly focused interests; his clumsy nature; and probably most importantly, his extreme visual-spatial skills. We knew that something was amiss but could not put our finger on the heart of the issue. Despite my educational background and training, I was blind to the needs of my own child. It was only after a specific diagnosis that things began to make sense: Benny was a twice-exceptional child.

This was just the beginning. Over the next few years it became apparent that Benny’s siblings were also non-typical learners. His younger brother, an extremely bright and talented individual, would be diagnosed with a debilitating anxiety disorder and shortly thereafter his younger sister would receive a diagnosis of Aspergers accompanied by ADD and social anxiety. With the onset of required school attendance, life had suddenly become very complicated.

It is no mystery that the vast majority of schools both in the United States and abroad are not prepared to effectively educate the twice-exceptional learner. Our story is just one of many thousands. Parents of children with dual or multiple exceptionalities across the globe have struggled, and continue to struggle, with the reality that very few professionals understand their children. The dearth of knowledge in regards to these children remains prevalent within the fields of education and, while social norms have become more accepting of non-traditional learners, those who have been identified twice-exceptional, along with the many that remain hidden, continue to struggle to reach their innate potential. It is for this reason that this exploration is exceedingly necessary: to explore, explain, and demystify the conundrum that is the 2e learner and thereby assisting those educational professionals that are tasked with teaching them in the hopes that more understanding will, in turn, lead to a safer environment for the twice-exceptional child.

This book was written with educators in mind but may also apply to parents looking for answers about their child.  I have taken a decidedly developmental approach, beginning with issues in early development and progressing to specific teaching strategies. It is my firm belief that one must first know the child before one can effectively teach that child. Therefore, a foundation of understanding must be laid before implementing any adaptations or remediation’s both at school and the homestead. In addition, I have sprinkled real case studies throughout to give the reader a sense of what it is like from the perspective of the child and their family. This important insight allows the reader to better understand both the triumphs and travails of the twice-exceptional family while attaining clues as to what might work for each individual learner. In addition, I have deliberately written this book to make it accessible for all to be able to read from the expert to the layman, who may know very little about twice-exceptional children.

Part one, entitled The Twice-Exceptional Child: Developmental Phases and Issues contains six chapters. Part Two entitled, The Twice-Exceptional Child: The School Response contains four chapters.

Chapter one contains and introduction to the book and includes a short case study. Chapter two contains the new definitions of what twice-exceptionality is as well as short explanations of the most common disabilities that we see in twice-exceptional children. Chapter three explains the important developmental stages of the twice-exceptional child including brain development, the impact of Over-Excitabilities, Positive Disintegration, and Existential Depression. Chapter four from development to some issues with the identification of twice-exceptional students, a vital part of accommodation. Chapter five discusses the possible reasons for why we are identifying so many more twice-exceptional students over the last decade. Chapter six investigates and debunks prevailing myths that still haunt the twice-exceptional child. Chapter seven through nine deal with the twice-exceptional child and school. Topics such as the role of the school, understanding the importance of developing social and emotional skills in the twice-exceptional child, and, general and specific strategies for teaching the student are disclosed. Chapter Ten examines how a few programs, specifically designated to work with twice-exceptional students design instruction and finally, chapter eleven affords the reader the opportunity to tackle provided case studies and formulate learning plans accordingly.

Look for the book coming soon!

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