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If you’re one of my blog subscribers, or you’ve followed me on Pinterest or Instagram for any length of time, you know that being intellectually “gifted” or, as I say, a kite kid, is more complicated than most people think. You also know my family is planning to move within the next couple months.

Because my kite kid has faced social-emotional challenges since kindergarten, the first thing I’m looking at, in our school-search process, is what each school offers in regard to social-emotional learning (SEL). Not just that they offer such programs, but how widespread they’re using them. (In many instances, schools only use SEL curriculum for students on the spectrum or who have difficulty with anger management.)

SEL programs, like The Zones of Regulation, benefit all students. Learning how to self-regulate helps kids deal with stress and anxiety in healthier ways. And with depression and anxiety disorders on the rise, everyone needs those skills.

Self-regulation can help children better recognize, understand and manage what they’re feeling. SEL programs also help kids to have more understanding and compassion when they see a classmate – or adult! – losing their cool.

These are life skills. Competencies that help people more effectively navigate everyday issues, both inside and outside of school. They’re part of the soft skills employers seek when they’re interviewing job candidates, and that our entire society needs more of – for all sorts of reasons.

At some point, anxiety affects 30% of children and adolescents, yet 80% never get helpThe Child Mind Institute

More school choices than I realized

Over the past year and nine months, I’ve learned a lot about: self-reg, kite kids’ brain wiring and common traits, and what it means to be a twice-exceptional (2e) learner/thinker.

We're relocating & need to find a new school. Why building social-emotional competencies are what I’m looking at first, even though my oldest is “gifted.”

In addition to all of that, Dr. Dan Siegel’s Parent Footprint podcast episode about school choice helped me recognize what I needed to do to find a better school fit for my son when we relocate. Part of that is realizing there are more options than: a traditional public school, a private school and homeschool. Another part is taking a step back to dissect my son’s strengths, his weaknesses, and what school traits and programs would be a better fit for him.  

As President of National School Choice Week Andrew Campanella explains in his book, The School Choice Roadmap, a great “school fit” for one child may not be a good one for the kid next door.

This is particularly true when any type of neurodiversity is involved. In fact, Campanella says it “can mean the difference between a child whose personality, quirks, talents or struggles define him or her as ‘not fitting in’ at school and a scenario in which those exact same traits fuel his or her momentum and development.”  

Putting this approach into action

You might think that because I have a kid, whose scores in the 99th percentile in math (and almost as high in reading) that, as we begin this relocation process, I’d start by looking at each school’s gifted program. I’m sure many parents would. However, I’m taking a different route because my kiddo’s biggest challenges are social-emotional ones.

First, I see what I can find on each school’s website about its SEL program. If I like what I read about that on the school’s website, I then look to see what kind of gifted program is in place. If that sounds pretty good, too, I contact the school counselor for more info. That’s who I reach out to first; not the gifted educator.

Because my 2e kiddo has social anxiety, I ask for more details on how widespread they’ve rolled out their self-reg programs. I’m looking to hear if they’re teaching those competencies to all students. (Not only would that help my son, whose anxiety is most likely to “show up” when I’m not around, but other kids are more understanding about dysregulation when they’ve learned about it, too.)

If a schoolwide SEL curriculum is in place, then – and only then – do I contact the school’s gifted educator.

What I’ve found is that school counselors who have rolled out these programs are proud and excited to tell me so. I love that! It makes me feel even more confident that their school culture will be a good fit for my bright and quirky kiddo.

How this approach is different

When we moved to the area we’re living in now, our kids were in preschool and the only thing we considered, in regard to their education, were Best Schools ratings and the overall perception of folks in that school district. What I’ve learned through my family’s experience since then (and Campanella’s advice) is that there’s often a lot more to consider than the scores that one organization gives a school, especially if you know your child is differently wired.

Although we’ve limped along, and my kite kid eventually began to make progress at our current school, this out-of-state move feels like a clean slate. An opportunity to take a step back and evaluate everything in more detail. I know a lot more about my son, and educators, school counselors and school psychologists are further along in delivering SEL and even understanding their 2e students.

Will it work?

Only time will tell if this approach is better, but so far, the process makes me hopeful. Based on the feedback I’m getting, I think I’m more likely to find a great “school fit” this way. A place where he’ll find his tribe, and feel valued and respected.

Having a kite kid is more challenging than most people realize; however, the more I educate myself, the better I’m getting at connecting all these dots.

Have you been through a more in-depth school search before? Or seen the value of implementing a schoolwide SEL curriculum? If so, I’d love to hear your experiences!

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