Extended Insights
Extended Insights

Aug 21, 2007, 21:05

Bridgeville, Delaware
John Singleton, Executive Director

Cedars Academy has changed its program and focus. The Cedars program is now focusing on children with ADD, NLD and Asperger's Syndrome. The new program, PEER Leadership Pyramid, was written and developed by John L. Singleton, Executive Director of Cedars Academy, and Marcia B. Rubinstien, Educational Consultant and Author.

It is the goal of Cedars Academy to educate the whole child (socially, emotionally, physically, behaviorally and academically) and his/her family, believing that every moment of every day presents a teaching possibility. By living with and teaching students not only in the classroom, they teach therapeutically at every opportunity. Building and sustaining the community inculcate skills in self-management and affective modulation which are crucial to successful social skills acquisition. Ultimately social skills are the vehicles by which optimal success is reached through a child's participation in the PEER Leadership Pyramid.

The PEER Leadership Program, by Marcia Rubinstien, is a system for teaching appropriate social judgment and behavior, while developing episodic memory that can generalize to continuing challenges. The acronym PEER stands for Preview, Experience, Evaluate, and Review/Revise.

Preview: PEER Leaders (faculty and/or students) preview an event or interaction, which requires social/emotional responsiveness. By describing positive characteristics of the anticipated experience, leaders help generate participation and excitement.

Experience: PEER Leaders initiate or facilitate previewed experience, taking care to generate and help imprint significant cognitive and emotional responses. PEER leaders can help students record the experience in varied modalities (artistry, photography, journals, etc.).

Evaluate: PEER Leaders help students formulate objective event analysis, including candid acknowledgement of success and/or failure.

Review/Revise: After reviewing the essential components of the experience and the resultant cognitive and emotional responses, PEER Leaders assist in the development of revised plans for optimal approaches to similar situations. Reviewing the experience in a peer setting and/or individually in relation to a social setting will help the child to assess their response in neurological terms as well as the overall experience. Making sure that each student has the language and the emotional capacity to develop a thorough review is essential for this process to work effectively.

The PEER Leadership Pyramid is a level system that reinforces positive social skills through a student attaining privileges at Cedars. Students must first understand their challenges, feel safe in their environment, and have their basic physiological and safety needs met. This first phase of leadership skill development will include joining in on activities and learning projects, having conversations with peers, being organized and communicating effectively in their environment. These basic, yet essential, skills build the foundation for the development of future leadership skills.

The second phase of leadership skill development is based on peer relations. Reading social signals, writing social stories, developing self-esteem and managing stress are emphasized. During this period, students are asked to contemplate four questions to initiate the development of self-leadership:

  1. Who am I?

  2. Where do I want to go?

  3. Whom do I need and want to go with?

  4. How do I get there?

Answering the questions and developing the skills results in confident students who are developing the need to be held in high regard by themselves and others, resulting in the understanding of respect.

The final phase of leadership development requires solving social problems, resolving conflicts and managing anger. This phase is more complex and abstract for students with learning differences which requires more patience from the educator and more time for student practice. With continual repetition, redirection and situational variance, students begin to develop leadership skills within their environment which can then be transferred to the community and world. The transferal of these leadership skills will lead to the development of independence, initiative and integrity. Just as there is no single definition of leadership, there is no person eliminated for being a leader. Leadership is based on opportunity and experience. When students with ADD, NLD and Asperger's Syndrome are given the opportunity, experience and tools, they too can become strong leaders in society.


October 15, 2007

I am delighted to see new information about Cedars Academy in Woodbury Reports, since it is a school which has successfully rededicated itself to a population of complex, needy and rewarding students. I am also flattered that John Singleton has mentioned my role in helping to revamp the mission and methods which have contributed to the growth and success that Cedars has experienced under his leadership. There are a few points about the PEER Program, however, which I would like to clarify. The PEER Program is a copyrighted intervention system designed to facilitate proactive functioning in learners who do not come programmed with an intuitive Plan B. By using the four steps - Preview, Experience, Evaluate, and Revise - people can generate academic and behavioral plans designed to combat immobilizing frustration and feelings of defeat. Users can begin at any point in the four step process . It can then progress sequentially until both the user and the facilitator are satisfied with the results. Ultimately, people using the PEER program should be able to internalize the role of the facilitator and initiate their decisions independently.

The PEER Leadership Pyramid is a component of the developmental program at The Cedars Academy. It was designed by John Singleton to set goals and acknowledge student progress in academics, social/emotional life, and behavior management. In the summer of 2006, after an initial consultation at The Cedars Academy as a principal member of Spectrum Consulting Services, LLC, I designed the PEER Program to give students, faculty and staff a tool for initiating the academic, social/emotional and behavioral skills recognized by the PEER Leadership Pyramid. Although both systems interface, The PEER Leadership Pyramid is exclusive to The Cedars Academy, while The PEER Program is an intervention developed by Marcia Rubinstien for use in training faculty and staff at therapeutic schools to motivate and activate students who seem stymied by the neurotypical perspective and are unable to accomplish their academic, social, emotional and behavioral goals.

I would be delighted to see professionals in our industry join me as I present a detailed explanation of the PEER Program and its application at the upcoming NATSAP Conference in March, 2008. My presentation is entitled: The PEER Program: Enhancing Cognitive and Social Practices in People with Pervasive Developmental Disorders. I am also preparing an article for publication which I will be happy to share with colleagues as soon as it is finalized.

Thanks, Lon, for helping me clarify these issues. I hope you will find a way to make this information available to your readers.

On another topic altogether, I simply want to thank you for what you do and for providing a forum where unadulterated, objective information is available not only to professionals, but also to parents. I'd love to write an article or report for you in the near future, either from one of my many visits as an independent consultant (EDUFAX with Marcia Rubinstien, LLC) or while wearing the "hat" from my new consulting service for schools and programs, Spectrum Consulting Services, LLC (

Best wishes,

Marcia Rubinstien

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