7 Strategies and Tips from Camp Sequoia
Twice-exceptional youth, those with demonstrated above average abilities with a secondary diagnosis that can serve as a social speed bump to engaging with peers effectively, can benefit from intentional structural strategies for success.
Beyond functional print, countdown reminders to transitions, and anticipatory sets, there are many ways high-functioning individuals who are carry a secondary diagnosis can benefit from an intentionally structured environment. It is important to provide this structure in a way that is both developmentally and cognitively appropriate for the student. The below strategies and tips are useful in a camp setting to maximize potential for positive outcomes.
1)Plan intentional spaces. Campers succeed if they have spaces where they can blend social growth with time for reflection. Age specific lounge spaces for campers in climate-controlled environments are wonderful counterpoints to having roommate interactions. Spaces that work regardless of weather are a huge asset to this population. An indoor pool, for example, means that there will not be a unexpected schedule interruption due to inclement weather. Similar principals work in a home and school environment.
2)Offer limited, but meaningful choices. Developmentally, having too many choices can be an overwhelming situation, but having no choices can feel disempowering. An appropriate compromise involves giving children a limited, but desirable palette of options (with plenty of notice) for them to have input into their day. Obviously, there is a sliding scale both in terms of autonomy and flexibility of choices based upon camper age.
3)Recognize and celebrate strengths. Working with the twice-exceptional mind often means tapping into a variety of support structures in both education and the community. As a licensed educator, too often the default is to look at perceived deficits as potholes to be filled in rather than celebrating strengths and using those to build confidence and ability to steer around those potholes. Coming from a position of strength helps to build confidence and empower growth.
4)Craft teachable moments. Inquiry learning is both an art and a science. It should not be enough to have someone teach art to a twice-exceptional child. The teaching of art should be used as a tool to help build confidence, social understandings, and context specific successes.
5)Allow for minor failures. Minor adversity facilitates growth. Giving the twice-exceptional child the ability to become more confident by learning from minor failures can ultimately boost self-confidence. For example, attempting a new activity or art project that is difficult will help twice-exceptional youth learn to increase their frustration tolerance and coping skills while understanding that often the process can be as important as the product.
6)Plan intellectual growth. Getting buy in beyond 3-D printing, or conversations with the international space station, the twice-exceptional mind often has insights that can be fostered through scaffolded topical conversations. At Camp Sequoia it is not unusual to sit in on deep conversations between campers on big philosophical issues of the day with trained staff scaffolding the discourse as needed to ensure that all campers are benefitting from the experience.
7)Reflect with stakeholders. At the end of the intentional experience, it is key to reflect with stakeholders and discuss successes, failures, perceptions, and recommendations for further opportunities to be successful in the classroom and beyond during the academic year (both in school and community settings)
Brian is the director of Camp Sequoia whose work with this population has been presented at the World Gifted Conference multiple times. He is a licensed K-12 gifted educator and has spent the last several decades dedicated to the meaningful growth of exceptional populations. Details about his program can be found at www.camp-sequoia.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org