The KLU Way
Over our years of operation, Kids Like Us has developed a range of services to help twice-exceptional (2e) young people and those around them.
We’re constantly looking into new and interesting strategies, and are deeply committed to helping create the best possible world for 2e students to grow and thrive in.
All of the programs at Kids Like Us are based on research and best practice from around the world, combined with experience of working specifically with 2e young people.
Getting to know each other
A newly referred KLU student progresses through a series of ‘unpacking’ narrative based, counselling sessions. During this process,
• their hopes, dreams and passions are revealed and validated
• the perceived and real deficits to be found at their home school are talked about and normalised
• their particular twice-exceptionality is verbalised and emphasised as a positive
• any behaviour issues are discussed, and the suitability for attending KLU programs is clarified
• their commitment and motivation are discussed
• an encouragement of the understanding that future supports and interventions are a positive experience
• a commitment to working with their current school is confirmed – KLU supports do not replace the regular school
At KLU, we work to provide an academic, social or behavioural program that is suitable and dynamic for the students that attend. In doing this, we ensure that alongside any academic support we provide (following the prescribed AusVELS), we are flexible enough to provide the extra ‘something’ the students crave and require.
Counselling and Narrative Therapy
2e students often find themselves marginalised – unable to gain what they need from traditional teaching methods, they are seen as flawed, a view they come to share. We work with these students through Narrative Therapy to encourage the internal belief that this view is wrong, and that ‘the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem’.
Through working with these 2e young people, we externalise the problem, in a way that empowers the child, helping them to increase confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy.
We also work to provide counselling services to parents of KLU students, offering support as they face the challenges of parenting a 2e child or as they discover their own journey.
At KLU, all teachers are responsible for the preparation and implementation of teaching and learning programs, where students are able to participate, interact, earn and achieve success. We continuously develop resources for gifted education, and evaluate our programs and teaching methods to ensure that we are able to offer new, innovative and effective strategies.
The curriculum provided is dynamic, holistic and evolving to include:
• thematic, interdisciplinary units of learning (unless there is a specific documented reason)
• work occurring in flexible groups according to personality, learning styles, academic ability or weakness, as needed
• a developing ownership of their own learning, including opportunities for negotiating tasks, outcomes and method of study
• the use of games, technology, talk, research and experimentation where practical and effective
• a range of artistic experiences which co-ordinate succinctly with the theme
• students being engaged in individualised study
• explicit opportunities to learn, read, write and spell the Oxford Wordlist at an appropriate level
• tasks that are based on hands-on discovery
• students being read high quality texts by a competent adult, at a level appropriate to their interests
• progression through a focused synthetic phonics reading scheme as and when needed
• a ‘wow’ factor in every day the student attends KLU
Kids Like Us and advocacy go hand-in-hand. We practice advocacy on a number of levels to support 2e young people in every aspect of their life – from enhancing an individual’s self-worth to working to effect change in the community.
Advocacy is important because society is fond of grouping people together, with some of these groups being more disadvantaged than others, making them feel more vulnerable on emotional, physical and mental levels.
2e young people often find themselves in this category as a result of emotional and physical stress, lack of support or access to required services/assistance, complications from a disability or behaviour causing pressure (e.g. issues with reading or social skills) and more.
Because of this, we work hard to advocate for these young people, ensuring that they are able to develop into independent individuals who are supported when they need to be.
Advocacy is a big part of what makes Kids Like Us what we are, and leads back to a long tradition of working in partnership, and standing advocate and individual as equals.
We stand beside twice-exceptional (2e) young people, and ensure that we don’t create dependence on the advocate, but rather create independence through empowering.
We include advocacy in much of the work that we do:
• Individual advocacy – seeking a solution with 2e young people to address their particular problems or needs, enabling them to enhance their rights and sense of self-worth.
• Systemic advocacy – influencing the ‘system’ (e.g. teachers, schools, etc.) to change in response to 2e young people.
• Self-advocacy – encouraging 2e young people to speak up for themselves. Self-advocacy mentoring assists young people to develop and maintain the personal skills and self-confidence they need to help represent their interests in their school, family and community.
• Citizen advocacy – encouraging individuals who live with or who are familiar with the needs of 2e young people to represent their interests in day-to-day life and the community, aiming to reduce the stigma against 2e young people in our communities.
• Group advocacy – working with groups and community organisations to represent the interests of 2e young people.
While most students are able to gain what they need to learn from traditional methods of teaching provided by the education, this can’t be said of all students. These students are often seen by well-intentioned staff as people who must change, adapt or leave.
These students often come to see themselves as flawed, becoming the dominant narrative of the person’s life – “I’m depressed”, “I’m dyslexic”, “I’m naughty” – they are seen and see themselves as a problem.
At KLU we see things differently – in fact, we see difference as a possible advantage, and work with them to help them achieve their full potential. 78% of KLU students need our Child Counselling services, so you can see how useful they are.
We draw upon Narrative Therapy to transform the internal belief that difference indicates failure or wrongness, focussing on the telling of the person’s own story, and the insistence that ‘the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem’.
KLU staff use Narrative Therapy to externalise the problem in order to deal with the effects upon the child. We then work to study and manage the effect of the problem in a way that makes the child ‘the boss’. Advocacy skills are taught gently, boosting self-efficacy, accentuating ownership and raising self-esteem. Only then is the child ready to begin the process of managing the education system, and releasing the belief that being different equates to being a failure.
Being a parent to a twice-exceptional child presents its challenges, and this is something we readily acknowledge. Because of this, our counselling work isn’t limited to just working with our twice-exceptional young people, we also extend counselling services to their parents.
These counselling sessions offer support, ensuring that both parent and child are able to fully embrace twice-exceptionality. It’s also important for parents to discover their own journey in relation to their child, helping them to achieve a sense of comfort in their lives.
The vast majority of students comprehend the education system and efficiently learn what is taught, in the manner it is taught. The student, who is able to conform, gains much from the school system; society is geared to accept the exiting student as a worthwhile member. Their behaviour, characteristics and success have become that expected norm for educated people.
Unfortunately there are a percentage of students who fall outside the norm. Many well intentioned school staff still view such a student as the one who must change, adapt or leave. The result can become that difference is viewed as pathology and deemed to require treatment and modification by specialised experts. The powerful members within the system demand change. The student comes to view him/her self as flawed. This interpretation becomes the dominant narrative of the person’s life, “I’m depressed”, “I’m dyslexic”, “I’m naughty”. The person is seen and sees him/her self as a problem.
The staff and students at KLU do not view differences as ‘wrong’. Instead we see difference as a possible advantage, a valuable aptitude, a passion, or even as brilliance. At KLU transforming the internal belief that difference is faulty, indicative of failure or wrong, requires working with the flexible, focused strategies of Narrative Therapy.
Narrative Therapy is a relatively new form of counselling, yet one that reaches back into human history. It is dependent upon story telling. Oral stories being one of the ancient means of coming to terms with life and all its complexities. Using the same oral practises, in the 1990s Michael White and David Epston absorbed the modifications occurring in family therapy to increase the role of the personal life history in the process of counselling. The resulting focus upon the telling of the person’s own story and the insistence that ‘the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem,’ has created a therapy that sits well with the staff of KLU.
KLU counselling staff believe that:
· Children are usually far more verbal than adults give them space to be. Telling one’s own story of events, feelings, ideas and dreams is very empowering to those who have little voice.
· Gifted kids often use words accurately and appropriately making verbal explanation easy to follow if an adult is willing to listen and to not be intimidated by the use of language.
· Narrative therapy is able to include the use of any concrete material that assists the story to unfold: clay, drawing, music, drama writing etc.
· People are experts in their own life. The personal interpretation of their story has allowed them to survive and cope this far. The preferred story is the one the person dreams of, but it may not be the one Society wants to hear.
· Externalising a problem, which is seen as a reflection of identity (I’m dyslexic) in the space between the therapist and the person allows the problem (I’m a person who lives with dyslexia) to be studied and incorporated into the preferred story for life.
· Children deserve to have their story heard and believed.
KLU staff use Narrative Therapy to externalise the problem in order to deal with the effects upon the child. The effect of the problem is then studied and managed in a way that makes the child the boss. Gently and carefully advocacy skills are taught, self-efficacy is boosted, ownership is accentuated and self-esteem is raised. Only then, is the child ready to begin the process of managing the education system and releasing the belief that being different equates to being a failure.
Family is believed to be the most important thing to a child, so it’s vital that parents and guardians are able to offer the strongest level of support that matches the needs of their child.
Kids Like Us works with parents to empower them to become effective advocates for their child, ensuring that they know how to stand up for their child’s different needs and requirements, as well as supporting their child in their own self-advocacy.
We also help to establish communication between child and parent, something that is often difficult for twice-exceptional children, as they can feel misunderstood and become withdrawn or ‘difficult’. This is one of the most central things that we can do at Kids Like Us, as the relationship between a child and parent is the foundation of their life, and when this foundation wobbles, the child may become depressed and anxious – something that should be avoided at all costs.
We provide an understanding ear, and a shoulder to cry on when needed, always looking to make sure that you are in the best place you can possibly be.
Our library provides parents with access to resources to do their own research and learning, and is a great source of information on the steps that can be taken to increase self-confidence and strengthen the relationship with their gifted child.
Throughout the year, Kids Like Us runs courses for parents on topics such as parenting the dyslexic child, Melbourne University’s “Tuning into Teens” program, strong family health and advocacy skills. Feel free to check our Events to see what’s currently happening in parent support.
Kids Like Us runs a number of peer-to-peer programs that aim to bring likeminded students together, encouraging a collaborative spirit and offering an opportunity to increase social skills.
These programs come in many different styles, from school holiday programs to clubs taking place during term time. We have hosted programs including a creative art and mindfulness program, aimed at giving students new mediums to express themselves, and Raspberry Pi Code Club, a fascinating group where young people are able to discover new ways of using computers in an open and friendly environment.
Our peer-to-peer programs aren’t just limited to activities under our roof! We’ve held summer camps for both our Cartooning Club and Code Club, and are actively engaged in our community. In December 2015, KLU children joined with the Church of Christ choir to sing carols at an aged care home in Mentone – a fun excursion for all!
In organising our peer-to-peer programs, we aim to create an environment where students are able to come together to meet other ‘kids like us’, making friends and exchanging ideas. This presents them with a fun experience, and the ability to develop strong social skills in a safe and comfortable place.
We are always open to new ideas for our peer-to-peer programs, and will even give opportunities for students to launch their own initiatives. During the school holidays, we have seen programs launched by one of our senior students and our latest addition – Kids Like Bricks – from a student who’s just twelve years old!
We aim to present a range of options for twice-exceptional students, allowing them to develop the skills and connections they need through collaborative and group efforts.