When it comes to teaching children who learn differently, Lisa Popper wants educators to approach educating them as a puzzle, not a box. A puzzle, she says, inspires a sense of mystery – a many-faceted journey waiting to be solved in a variety of ways.
Determined to offer children more diverse ways to learn, Popper founded Creative Learning Concepts (CLC), which has offices in Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills. CLC is a “comprehensive learning center” that helps children with rare brain anomalies, cognitive impairments, learning differences, emotional impairments, autism, dyslexia and “every other three- and four-letter disorder you can think of,” says Popper, who has a master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University and training in Applied Behavior Analysis and Discrete Trials Therapy, a teaching method for children with autism.
Why did you get into education and educating children with disabilities?
I was helping my son’s first-grade class with a reading assignment. I was working with a boy who had no confidence and continually said, “This is too hard. I can’t do it!” My reply was, “Well, the first thing you need to do is stop saying ‘I can’t do this.’ Say, ‘I can do this.’” I further explained that the more you say “Yes, I can,” the more you will believe it. He totally changed his mindset. I knew I [had] missed my calling. I had always been interested in the brain and memory. I changed my career path and went back to school and graduate school.
What made you decide to start your own company?
I started my own company when I was in graduate school. Since I am a nonconformist and know that effective teaching entails much more than teaching “the curriculum,” I knew I needed to start my own company and catch the students who learned differently, before they fell through the cracks.
CLC is founded on interventional education therapy. Can you explain?
Interventional education therapy is knowing when a student is heading down a path of educational destruction and sensing there is something more than a delay or an adjustment period to a new academic school year. The student needs to be tested to rule out or discover any learning differences or psychological/physiological issues and concerns. When this is done, the next step is to design an individualized education program for the student, with close observation to make certain progress is being made. This can be done with further testing to compare initial testing with ongoing testing every few months.
What sets your company apart?
CLC is an extreme “out-of-the box” company. We treat the whole child from the inside out. We take all aspects of the student’s life into consideration, be it physical, cognitive, physiological or psychological. This enables therapists to see the “gestalt” or whole picture. At CLC, we have fun. Motivation is key to learning.
What is the process for diagnosis?
Any potentially new family at CLC goes through the intake process where everything from A-Z is observed and discussed. From this discussion with parents, CLC decides if a full battery of formal testing is needed [or] informal testing to figure out what the abilities and struggles of the student are. CLC also interviews the potential students to see how [they feel] about the way [they] learn. CLC reviews any former tests, examples of school work, then makes a plan.
How do you determine what’s best for each child?
One-on-one settings are best for students who do not learn well in a traditional school setting. Small-group settings work best for students who need to strengthen their social language and social skills, as they often work with a partner and learn the art of compromise, social cues, etc.