My son suffered profound neglect as an infant and toddler. He became our foster child when he was three years old; many in “the system” thought he was intellectually delayed. He was unable to speak, was not toilet trained, and often exhibited uncontrollable and dangerous behaviors. However, over the course of days, weeks, and months, we began noticing signs that his intellect might actually be far more advanced than expected. He was toilet trained in two days. He learned letters and numbers at lightning speed. And his thirst for knowledge showed up in nearly every interaction. We also noticed that his dangerous and uncontrollable behavior often coincided with him being frustrated over an inability to communicate effectively.
When we took him for a psychological evaluation, the psychologist greeted me afterward with wide eyes and shared that he showed evidence of extremely high intelligence. The recommendation was that we needed to do whatever we could to take advantage of his ability to learn so his giftedness could work to his advantage rather than to his detriment. Unfortunately, the public school to which we were zoned did not see his potential; they said he had too many problems to go to school there and suggested that we find a “special school” to handle his needs. We fought for his right to public education throughout Pre-K and into Kindergarten. Still, when we learned that he was being isolated in a separate area of a Special Education classroom for much of the school day, we knew we had to make a change. We had adopted him and begun looking at private school settings by this time.
Thank God we found The Journey School of Houston (TJSH). We loved the school’s vision of serving “twice exceptional” children like him. The faculty and staff recognized his behavioral and emotional needs and made plans to address them, but they also recognized his gifts and talents and found ways to harness those as well. For example, he delights in divergent thinking, especially coming up with unexpected answers and solutions to questions. TJSH found ways to strike a balance between encouraging his preference for brainstorming his creative solutions and developing his capacity to recognize the value of others’ ideas. This manifested in him feeling like part of a group—rather than like a worthless outsider—for the first time in his life.
Similarly, as many gifted and talented children do, he enjoys risk-taking. When TJSH noticed him taking unacceptable risks, they directed him toward taking appropriate academic/experimental risks in gardening and games. Whatever “problem” was encountered with his behavior at school, TJSH considered it through the most open-minded lens, spoke with us, and tried things that would keep his giftedness alive while also preparing him to live in a world with people who don’t think the way he thinks. He was reading chapter books at about a third-grade level by first grade, and his self-image is becoming far more positive.
Many schools out there claim to have G/T programs, but many times they are nothing more than collections of high-achieving, well-adjusted children. Such schools might choose to deal with a child like mine by exiting him from their program or putting him in a class with children whose special needs require a much different interventions. It is rare to come across a school like TJSH that meets every child where they are and helps them reach their own unique potential. We hope that TJSH will be accessible to more children like mine.
Former Journey School parent
Our daughter faces several obstacles daily: a complicated list of medical issues, behavioral and learning challenges, and severe anxiety. Throughout the years, it became clear that although her school team tried hard to serve her needs, they were unable to offer enough support for her to be successful in the public school setting. We knew we needed something different for her, but we were unable to find that perfect fit.
By the time she entered 8th grade, her spark was fading. What was once a funny, clever, chatty girl had been replaced by an anxious, depressed, quiet girl whose confidence was fading fast. We wound up speaking with an educational specialist at a private practice that recommended several small private schools, one of which was Journey.
After touring Journey and speaking with the team, we had little doubt that we had found the place for our daughter. It wasn't easy for anyone involved because our daughter was resistant, scared, and not easy to get to know. My husband and I were expecting the phone call to come any day telling us that this was more than the school could handle. However, that call never came. Jeanette and Jenni offered me daily reassurance that we'd get through this and come out on the other side. Within a few weeks, our daughter started to really engage in the therapy aspect of school, and within a few months, she began to bond with the kids and engage in class. The turnaround was shocking!
The most significant benefit aside from her success was the parent therapy sessions. We can communicate so much better with our daughter, and she can open up to us in a way we would never have expected.
She is now thriving in a school that the Journey team helped us find when it was time for her to move on. She can express her emotions in more appropriate ways and has the confidence to work on school assignments that she would have labeled too difficult and would have been afraid to try. Most of our challenges these days come from raising a teenager and are to be expected. More importantly, we're able to handle them as a family without it becoming a battle.
Our two years at Journey were truly invaluable and nothing short of miraculous. We cannot thank them enough for getting us through one of the most emotionally challenging times we have encountered.
Former Journey School parent