Monday, September 26, 2016

Giftedness and Achievement, Holding Down the Special Ed Budget, and More

GIFTED, NOT NECESSARILY HIGH-ACHIEVING. A writer at the Midland (Texas) Reporter-Telegram notes that gifted might not equate to high achievement or high performance. The writer, a GT specialist and district GT coordinator, notes characteristics of gifted young people and then explains how those characteristics, combined with common educational settings, can preclude admission to a gifted program. One telling statement from the article: "Remember, these students are intrinsically motivated to learn -- not to perform." Not performing can earn the "L" label -- lazy. The writer continues: "They must be held accountable for their performance, no doubt, but we must also be careful to conserve their love of simply learning and engaging in discovery." Find the article.

MORE FROM TEXAS. How can you hold down your special education budget? Apparently one way is to simply cap the percentage of students who should receive special ed services. The Washington Post reports on an investigation by the Houston Chronicle into the Texas Education Agency, which saved billions of dollars "but denied vital supports to children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, traumatic brain injuries, even blindness and deafness..." So how's that make you feel? Read more.
CHILD MIND INSTITUTE. This organization has published on its website a couple articles dealing with anxiety: "Why Childhood Anxiety Often Goes Undetected" and "What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious." Check them out if anxiety is in issue in your household.
TiLT PARENTING. This site for parents of "differently-wired kids" has posted a new podcast, this one titled "How Developing Emotional Intelligence Can Strengthen Parent-Child Relationships." The podcast is about your emotional intelligence, Dear Parent. Says the podcast host, "What I love about this conversation is that finding more peace and joy in parenting is something we as parents can do, regardless of what’s happening in our children’s lives." Find the podcast.
LD ONLINE. This organization has issued its September e-newsletter, and it focuses on the parent-teacher conference, putting forth questions that can "help parents and teachers get on the same page and have a productive conversation." Find the newsletter.
SCHOLASTIC ART AND WRITING COMPETITION. The 2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is now open for submissions. If you raise or teach a writer or artist who might benefit from focusing on getting some of his or her work "out there," check out the details of the competition.
ADHD is the subject of several postings, studies, and articles over the past week:
  • ADHD into adulthood. Evidently the persistence of ADHD symptoms into adulthood depends on who you ask, the "patient" or the patient's family members. "By asking a family member about the adult's symptoms and using adult-based definitions of the disorder, you typically find that around half of children with moderate to severe ADHD still show significant signs of the disorder in adulthood." Read more
  • ADHD worldwide. About 7 percent of children worldwide have ADHD, according to a recent study. The incidence in the U.S is higher. Incidence in adults worldwide is reported to be 3.4 percent. Find out more
  • Comorbidities in girls. Girls with ADHD are also more likely to also show oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, according to new research. Depression and anxiety are also additional risks. Read more
AND FINALLY, THIS. Scientists studied the aerobic fitness levels of children and youth across 50 countries. America placed 47 out of 50. 'Nuf said, but read more if you want.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ADHD Nation, Dyslexia and Strattera, Growth Mindset, More

ADHD NATION is the title of a new book on the "American epidemic" of the disorder, which examines the high rate of overdiagnosis (and consequent medication) in the U.S. The author, Alan Schwarz, along with experts Dr. Lawrence Diller and Dr. Ned Hallowell, were guests on the Diane Rehm show recently. You can listen or read a transcript of the show at the show's website. More information about the book is at the site of The New York Times.

DRAMA AND DYSLEXIA. KQED News describes how an acting coach uses uses a variety of visualization techniques to help actors with dyslexia interpret and perform Shakespeare's plays. The coach estimates that 20 percent of the actors she has worked with on both sides of the Atlantic have dyslexia. She has a term that encompasses her techniques: "interpretive mnemonics." Find out more.

DYSLEXIC ADVANTAGE. You can find out whether or not we scooped Dr. Fernette Eide and the latest edition of her Dyslexic Advantage letter with that item above by reading the latest edition of that newsletter. The table of contents of the September issue promises material relating to Prairie Home Companion, Spielberg, fonts, proofreading, and Strattera for dyslexic students, among other topics. Find the newsletter. (If our recent blog item on Strattera (atomoxetine) for dyslexic students was relevant to your family situation, be sure to read Dyslexic Advantage's take on the situation.)

GROWTH MINDSET differs by gender, according to research by Panorama Education published in Education Week. From article: "Overall, boys report a higher growth mindset score than girls that is statistically significant in three of the six aspects we measured." Find out more.

FACEBOOK RESOURCE. On Facebook is a closed group titled "Twice Exceptional Children (2e)." A closed group makes for a more private discussion of issues of concern to members. One of the contributors to the September/October issue of 2e Newsletter made us aware of it. Find this group on Facebook.

THE AHA FALL CONFERENCE is Saturday, October 15, featuring a day with Dr. Tony Atwood. Sponsored by the Asperger's and High Functioning Autism Association, the event is to be held in Garden City, New York. Find out more.

TECA CONFERENCE: CORRECTION. In a recent posting we gave an incorrect date for the conference organized by the Twice Exceptional Children's Advocacy Group. The correct date is November 5; the location is Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York. Find out more.

EVALUATIONS FOR LDs. Sometimes parents need an independent evaluation of a child's learning and attention issues to get appropriate services at schools. Although those evaluations can be expensive, Understood offers a list of resources for obtaining a free or low-cost evaluation. Read more.

GIFTED/2e IN MELBOURNE. Two organizations in Australia are sponsoring a Gifted and 2e Fair during the afternoon of October 9 in Cheltenham, Victoria. The Gifted Support Network and Kids Like Us say this: "Here’s your chance to meet with various local organisations and individuals who provide services for gifted and 2e children. You will also have opportunities to attend a number of free short presentations from professionals in the field, and to meet other families while you join us for afternoon tea." Sounds quite civil. Find out more.

JEN THE BLOGGER focuses on anti-intellectualism and what that movement means to gifted kids (and their families) in her most recent post. Unlike some posts, this topic doesn't inspire a rant but just "sad resignation." Still, it had to be fun (or just sadly resigned?) to write the words, "For whatever screwed up reason, our American culture celebrates and encourages ignorance." Read more.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Super Visual Genius" Kiddo with ASD, Jane Clarenbach, $200K College Scholarship, and More

A PHYSICIAN AND AUTHOR, writing at the Huffington Post, describes her son Jack's WISC-V experience at the hands of a special education consultant. “Jack," says the evaluator, "you, my friend, are a visual super genius." Jack also has an autism diagnosis. The physician/author/mom writes, "I discovered a new term -- twice exceptional or 2e. Twice exceptional refers to children that are intellectually gifted with some form of disability." Welcome to the 2e community. Find the article.

JANE CLARENBACH RETIRES. You might not know her name, but for more than 20 years attorney Jane Clarenbach has served NAGC in a variety of ways, among them coordinating NAGC's efforts for legislation and funding to benefit U.S. gifted children. Clarenbach's last day with NAGC is today. Find out more.

ASD, 16, WITH A $200.000 COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP. Disability Scoop pointed us to an article in the Hartford Courant about a 16yo young man on the spectrum who entered Trinity College in Hartford this fall riding a four-year scholarship valued at $200,000. The article notes, "He had top test scores and grades, as well as recommendations from his high school noting his brilliance in math and music, and his contribution to the Quiz Bowl Team, the Cryptography Club and the concert and jazz bands. Even for him, however, some schools didn’t want to take a chance." Find the article.

CEC RESOURCES. The Council for Exceptional Children has prepared "issue briefs" on a variety of gifted and special ed topics, encouraging advocates to use the briefs in preparation for encounters with legislators and policy-makers. Thinking about getting more involved in advocacy? Find the briefs.

LANDMARK COLLEGE, dedicated to students with learning challenges, has issued a new edition of its "Insider" e-newsletter. In the newsletter are items about this fall's convocation for 176 new students; a new professional certificate program from the college's Institute for Research and Training; federal funding for a five-year program involving STEM for students with LDs; the upcoming symposium on September 30, mentioned in a recent blog posting here; and another symposium titled "Understanding our Neurodiverse World: A Symposium on Best Practices for Teaching Business and Economics to Students Who Learn Differently." Find the newsletter.

SMART KIDS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES has posted an article on RTI focusing on student rights when RTI is applied. The intro to the article: "Response to Intervention (RTI) was designed for early identification of children with learning difficulties, but critics suggest it may have the opposite effect. The Department of Education provides clear guidelines to ensure that RTI does not interfere with your child’s rights to be evaluated for LD." If RTI is an issue for your child, find the article.

TiLT PODCASTS now number 25, and the newest is devoted to an OT-developed app, SnapType, for kids with dyslexia and dysgraphia. TiLT says the creator "designed SnapType to give kids who have learning disabilities that impact their handwriting an easy way to fill in worksheets so they don’t fall behind in class. Created only two years ago, SnapType has been downloaded more than half-a-million times and is being used in more than fifty countries." Find the podcast.

THE PROCEDURAL DEFICIT HYPOTHESIS OF MATH DISABILITY is the name of a theory to explain why some people have so much difficulty learning math skills. Under the theory, abnormalities in "procedural memory" cause the difficulty. According to a write-up of the theory, "Procedural memory is a learning and memory system that is crucial for the automatization of non-conscious skills, such as driving or grammar. It depends on a network of brain structures, including the basal ganglia and regions in the frontal and parietal lobes." Interestingly, this same system has been implicated in dyslexia. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- about "selfies." Regularly snapping selfies with your smartphone and sharing photos with your friends can help make you a happier person, according to researchers. The types of photos in question involved a smiling selfie; a photo of something that made the photographer happy; and a photo the photographer believed would make someone else happy when they received it. So even though the act of snapping selfies can be obnoxious, maybe it has an upside. Read more.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Prozac for Dyslexia, Anxiety, Depression, and How to Help a Teacher

"READING" DRUG? A team of researchers that included Sally Shaywitz of Yale University conducted a study to see whether the drug atomoxetine affects components of dyslexia in children, including decoding and vocabulary. Children receiving the drug showed significant improvements compared to children receiving a placebo. The drug also significantly reduced symptoms of ADHD. Read about the study. Atomoxetine is the generic name for the Strattera, heretofore one of the drugs commonly prescribed for ADHD.

ANXIETY can be difficult to treat. An article in Time describes the role of the hypothalmus in anxiety and how research indicates that anti-anxiety medications probably need to be more specific in regard to their effect on certain areas of the brain. Go to Time, or find a press release about the research Time's article is based on. Separately, other research indicates that "a misunderstanding of how the brain is wired with regard to both fear and anxiety has stymied the development of effective treatments." These researchers advocate a "two-track" approach to understanding fear and anxiety -- a conscious track and an unconscious one. Find the study write-up.

THE ROEPER SCHOOL is celebrating 75 years, notes HometownLife.com. An article there gives the history of this Michigan school for the gifted. Find the article.

DEPRESSION. Several studies this week deal with depression.

  • The antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) causes bone loss by instructing the brain to send out signals that increase bone breakdown (something we didn't know), but a beta-blocker can intercept the signals, a new study in mice has found. Got a kiddo on Prozac? Check out the study write-up
  • Some other things you might not know about antidepressant side effects are noted in a write-up of research at Medical News Today. Of particular interest is a comment by the senior author of the paper: "It is very unlikely that most of the prescribers of antidepressant drugs are aware of these side effects, because of a tight censorship that has been in action all these years." Go to Medical News Today to see if you should be worried.
  • Finally, negative experiences on Facebook may increase the risk of depressive symptoms, suggesting that online social interactions have important consequences for mental health, according to a study from Brown University. Find the study write-up
PSYCHOLOGIST DAN PETERS, a member of the 2e Newsletter Editorial Advisory Board, is scheduled to present a session at this fall's national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Titled "The Gifted Child: Misunderstood, Mislabeled, Misdiagnosed," the session, according to the AAP, "will review characteristics and misconceptions of gifted children; describe the medical misdiagnoses made most commonly in gifted children (eg, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism); and provide approaches to offering anticipatory guidance and strategies to assist parents in caring for gifted children and in advocating with school systems." Find the AAP conference site.

EVIDENCE FOR ACCELERATION. Using data from a sample of state and national assessments, researchers have found that between 15 and 45 percent of students enter upper elementary school classrooms already perform at least one year above grade level. The researchers conclude that "traditional age-based grade levels may be hampering the progress of millions of K-12 students in the United States and should be a target for reform." Read more.

TECA CONFERENCE. The Twice Exceptional Children's Advocacy group has announced the dates for its 2016 conference, to be held November 5 at Molloy College, Rockville Center, New York. The keynoter is Jen "the Blogger" Merrill. Find out more.

TED TALKS comprise part of a three-part PBS series on education beginning this week. According to TED, the series "focuses on how education is changing to adapt to our new digital world." Sal Khan is one presenter. Find out more. Separately, TED also offers 17 ways to help a teacher out. Some of these might be obvious -- donations of time or goods for the classroom -- but some are unexpected, and perhaps rightly so since the teachers TED asked about needs are all over the world. Find the 17 ways, and see if any apply to the classroom your 2e kiddo is in.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Jay Leno and Dyslexia, NAGC/Fordham Venture, Events, and More

HAS JAY LENO EVER CALLED YOUR HOUSE? No? Maybe that's because your bright but dyslexic son never solicited Leno, along with other successful dyslexics, for advice to students with dyslexia. A writer in The New York Times recounts the events leading up to the call, and lists some of the individuals who took the time to respond to her son's letters. Find the article.

THE HIGH FLYER is a new joint venture between NAGC and the Fordham Institute with the stated purpose "to illuminate conversations on gifted and talented children and mobilize support for them to reach their potential." Find out more about the venture. As part of the collaboration, the Fordham Institute has released a report titled "High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA," noting that few states encourage schools to focus on high achievers. Find out more about the report.

GEEKMOM writes at the site of GeekDad about games that help her homeschooled, twice-exceptional son learn. The writer is a school psychologist. Find the posting.

2e-FRIENDLY SCHOOL. The Auburn School, in Baltimore, Maryland, says that it "grows the social and academic potential of bright students with social and communication challenges, simultaneously supporting the development of academic skills, social competency and pragmatic language in an engaging educational environment." The school is currently celebrating its five-year anniversary. Find out more.

GIFTED & DISTRACTIBLE. In this newsletter from With Understanding Comes Calm, Julie Skolnick writes about a variety of topics, including a workshop she presented at The Auburn School (see above), sports for kids with ADHD, and her reactions to a workshop she attended at the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development. Find the newsletter.

DYSLEXIC ADVANTAGE. Dr. Fernette Eide has written a piece at this website warning of dyslexia as "under attack" from some groups. She writes, "One particularly dangerous movement is the effort to lump dyslexic learners with poor or struggling readers of low IQ...." Dr. Eide then cites evidence contradicting this view. Find the article, titled "It's Important to Say Dyslexia But Also to Support Its Strengths."

ABOUT THAT FIRST "e." High intelligence is, of course, the first "e" in 2e. Reader Nancy M (thanks!) pointed us to an article in Nature about a longitudinal study of very smart children. Called the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, the project has, according to the article, "generated more than 400 papers and several books, and provided key insights into how to spot and develop talent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and beyond." Find the article.

REID DAY SCHOOL OPEN HOUSE. If you've got a 2e kiddo in Orange County, know that the Reid Day School has scheduled an open house for September 22 from 6-8 p.m. The school has been profiled in 2e Newsletter for its innovative approaches in developing the "whole child." Find out more.

TEMPLE GRANDIN IN LOMBARD. Lombard is the next suburb in from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and the Glenbard School District is sponsoring free presentations on September 21 by Temple Grandin on the topic of "Different Not Less." Find out more.

2e: TWICE EXCEPTIONAL, the movie, is being screened at several locations over the next month or so.
  • September 21 at the Arts and Autism Festival, Columbus, Ohio. More information
  • September 24 at the 6th Annual Golden Door Film Festival, Jersey City, California. More information
  • October 5 at the Newport Beach Civic Center, sponsored by the Reid Day School. Special guests: producer Tom Ropelewski and Dr. Michael Postma. More information
  • October 15 at the Awareness Film Festival, Los Angeles. More information

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

ADHD, Back to School or College, SENG Webinar, and More

BRAIN, BODY. Recent research indicates that the genes involved in conditions such as ASD, ADHD, major depression, and other neurodevelopmental disorders are also associated with physical disorders. From the study write-up: "Of the 208 individual [neurodevelopmental disorder] risk genes on the high confidence list, approximately half were associated with non-brain-based disturbances. The largest of these categories included craniofacial, musculoskeletal, cardiac, genitourinary and endocrine disturbances." Read more.

HEREDITY AND ADHD. Another study links the hereditary factors that cause ADHD to alcohol dependence and binge eating. According to the study write-up, "Since heredity plays such a large role, it is important that ADHD is treated at an early stage, and that measures are taken to prevent individuals developing these disorders later in life." Find the write-up.

MANGANESE AND ADHD. Too much manganese early in development causes lasting attention deficits and other impairments in rats. Studies of children and adolescents have associated excess manganese in the diet with attention deficits, but confounding factors in those studies have made it impossible to show a cause and effect relationship. A new study is the first to establish a causal link between exposure to elevated manganese in the diet and attentional dysfunction in an animal model. Read more.

UNDERSTOOD offers a back-to-school guide for kids with learning and attention issues; find it.

SMART KIDS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES offers an action plan 
to  help young people with learning disabilities manage college stress. The plan consists of a template that is hopefully usable by the student to come up with actions that will help manage stress. Template categories consist of topics such as the environment, sleep, food, exercise, and time management. Find the action plan.

SENG WEBINAR. On September 8, Dr. Michael Postma will present "The Search for Shangri-La: Finding the Appropriate Educational Environment for Gifted and Twice-Exceptional Children," a 90-minute webinar. Here's the starting point for the event: "Regrettably, even with the best of intentions, most schools cannot properly accommodate the educational needs of the gifted or 2e child, much less provide for them an avenue to build the solid emotional foundation needed for meaningful growth. So, what is a family to do?" A registration fee applies. Find out more


TiLT PARENTING. On this site for the parents of "differently-wired kids" is a new podcast. In it, the site's creator and her 12yo son discuss developing a growth mindset. Find the podcast.

DEPRESSION CONUNDRUM. From an interview on the topic of depression at the site of the Dana Foundation: "To this day we don’t really know how antidepressants work. We know a lot of things change in the brain when you take an antidepressant, but we don’t really know what is causing those changes because we don’t really know what’s wrong in the first place." The interviewee goes on to describe his investigation of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation along with EEG and fMRI to treat depression and understand the "circuitry" of it in the brain. Find the interview.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Do you have a child (or spouse) fascinated by heavy construction equipment? According to Costco Connection magazine, a place called Dig This Las Vegas offers the opportunity to operate such equipment to individuals who are at least 14 years old for the really big stuff or 8 for machines like mini-excavators. We can think of lots of former kids we know who would consider such a playground to be heaven. Find out more.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Nature of Giftedness, Neurodiversity, an ADHD Webinar, and More

GIFTEDNESS -- WHAT IS IT, and does it matter? This week, a cluster of opinion pieces and essays on the topic surfaced in the media. One of the pieces sparked outrage. (We've already mentioned Jen the Blogger's response.) All of them are worth thinking about. Here they are...

THE SPARK. On August 23, writer and mom Farrah Alexander wrote on the site of The Huffington Post that perhaps giftedness -- or, at least, the label -- doesn't matter. "Every child is gifted and talented. So let’s stop distinguishing which children are gifted and start celebrating our children’s unique gifts," writes Alexander. Beyond that, she wants what NAGC advocates for the gifted -- "learning opportunities appropriate for the child’s individual abilities and learning style" -- be made available for every child. Find the blog posting.

REACTION 1. In response to Alexander's post, Alessa Keener, apparently an educational consultant, took issue with some of Alexander's assertions, for example that all parents give their kids every opportunity to succeed in life. Keener sees Alexander's attitude as part of a "no-need-for-gifted-education-because-every-child-has-talents policy." She has other arguments as well. Find her piece, titled "Let Go of Your Bitterness." (Thanks for NAGC for pointing us to this reaction and the next one.)

REACTION 2. "MBA Mom," at ChicagoNow.com, also responded to Alexander's post, asking "Is this what people really think? That the term gifted solely exists as a bragging tool for educated, upper middle class parents?" She goes on: "Last and certainly not least I'm also so bloody tired of dealing with parents like Farrah Alexander. The fact her post was published on a mainstream site like HuffPost shows how prevalent her attitude is." Find this response.

REACTION 3. Scott Barry Kaufmann also got involved in a tangential kind of way. He picked up on yet another responder's assertion that giftedness "has to do with living and experiencing life more intensely. It has to do with being wired differently." Kaufman ruminated at the site of Scientific American about that view of giftedness. He wrote, "I think in order for this new conceptualization of giftedness to be tractable, it should have more clearly delineated properties, better measurement, and it should also be more clearly tied to particular educational interventions." Find his piece.

IF NOT GIFTED, THEN "UNGIFTED"? In an essay that actually predated the incendiary Huff Post piece, Sunidhi Ramesh wrote about her experiences in grade school, where she was denied entry into the gifted program. She worries that being "ungifted" has a negative effect on self-esteem. As it turns out, Ramesh is a high achiever. She wants this: "I am not asking for the elimination of gifted programs. I am asking for the elimination of the label, for a sort of upward mobility that allows for students who might be late bloomers to still have the time and motivation to continue thriving." Find the essay.

AND GEEK MOM SAYS: "INTERSECTIONALITY." Writing at GeekDad.com, Karen Walsh doesn't like the lack of protection for gifted kids; the conflation of IQ and giftedness (but see Kaufmann's piece above); the equation of giftedness to high performance; the language used to describe gifted kids (eg, "overexcitabilities"); and the belief that gifted kids can "do it themselves." She believes in "intersectionality between various types of special education issues," writing this: "Intersectionality can allow us to work together for the best outcome for all children regardless of needs and diagnoses. In the desperate grab for the limited resources available, parents are ultimately reinforcing the status quo which leads to infighting amongst all of us and the constant competition over whose kid is most deserving." Find Geek Mom.

OKAY -- ENOUGH WITH THAT. On to other stuff...

BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR RESEARCH FOUNDATION. This organization on September 13 offers one of its "Meet the Scientist" webinars, this one titled "Living Well with ADHD: Scientific Guideposts to Improved Outcomes." From the blurb: "ADHD outcomes run the gamut from splendid success stories to tragic ones. Brain imaging studies have confirmed that a fundamental aspect of ADHD is delayed maturation. When supported through the period of maximum vulnerability, adolescence, ADHD outcomes can be brilliant. To do so, we must differentiate the few truly irreversible mistakes, which must be avoided to the maximum extent possible, and all other difficulties, all of which represent learning opportunities." Find out more.

SILICON VALLEY NEURODIVERSITY. An article in the UK Daily Mail describes how one company's focus on hiring IT personnel with ASD has advantages. Besides the subject company, MindSpark, the article also mentions the hiring efforts of Microsoft and SAP. Find the article.

FLEXSCHOOL opens its New Haven location on September 7th and has publicized its final contact information for those interested in the 2e-friendly school: Heidi Molbak, Head of School, heidi@flexschool.net; (203) 628-4018; @The Grove, 760 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06510; and http://flexschool.net.