Friday, January 30, 2015

Teens, Perfectionists, Dyslexia, Pesticides, and More

GOT A TEEN? You might want to read the advice from the author of The Teenage Brain, written by the chair of the Department of Neurology at an East Coast med school. She offers her advice on topics such as predisposition to addiction, drinking, marijuana, and the search for constant stimulation. Find the advice.

GOT A PERFECTIONIST? A writer at Motherlode in The New York Times offers advice about the condition, including how to spot it and ways to help a young person deal with it. Find the advice.

GOT A KID WITH DYSLEXIA? Actress Jennifer Aniston has revealed that she has dyslexia, so if your child needs help understanding that it's possible to be successful and that others have faced similar trials, perhaps share Aniston's story. You can read more at the website Understood or at the site of the Child Mind Institute.

UNDERSTOOD also has pointed out a new resource for college students with learning and attention issues. The National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities (now there's a snappy name for you), or the TA Center for short, will have the following features, according to Understood:
  • It will provide information for students and their parents about college services.
  • It will offer training for college faculty and staff on how to meet the needs of student with disabilities and improve their college experience.
  • It will maintain an online database of research, policies, accessible instructional materials and helpful information for students with disabilities.
Find out more.

DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION. On January 9th, we blogged about an opinion piece written Jim Delisle in Education Week expressing doubt that differentiated instruction could work in a typical classroom. Evidently that piece touched off an "avalanche" of letters to Education Week, and prompted a response by differentiation proponent Carol Ann Tomlinson. Check out the response at Education Week (if you haven't already used up your free views for the month).
GIFTED OUTREACH. The Connecticut Association for the Gifted has launched an ad campaign in a Connecticut county to boost awareness of giftedness. One interesting statement in the press release describing the campaign was this, about parents in certain situations: "They realize that there is a disconnect between the highly curious, engaged child they see at home, and the student who is not engaged at school, but they don’t know what to do." Find out more.
SCHOLARSHIP RESOURCE. The Institute for Educational Advancement offers gifted kids a variety of resources, one being the summer camp Yunasa. Another is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship. According to the Institute, the scholarship is for U.S. seventh-graders who are "exceptionally gifted young people who seek a rigorous, diversified high school program but need assistance finding or attending the appropriate learning environment that will help them work towards and achieve their full potential." Find out more.
AND FINALLY, THIS, in the category of "something else to worry about." A new study provides strong evidence, using data from animal models and humans, that exposure to a common household pesticide may be a risk factor for ADHD -- or at least, for manifesting several traits of ADHD. The pesticide is deltamethrin, one of the pyrethroid pesticides. The study was done on mice, but researchers also examined medical records of several thousand children and found that children with a metabolite of the pesticide in their urine were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Read more -- and then go check the label on your insecticide spray.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Misdiagnosis, ADHD, Testing, Mindfulness, More

SOME PERSPECTIVE on creativity, giftedness, and mental health is provided by a blogger at PsychCentral, who points to writings by creative people with mental health issues. The blogger touches on "giftedness misunderstood," where aspects of giftedness might be pathologized. Psychologist/author/publisher James Webb is quoted in conjunction with "misdiagnosis," a persistent them of his writings and presentations. The blogger points to a variety of books, articles, and Facebook pages dealing with the intersection of creativity and mental health problems. Find the blog.

ADHD. Unaccommodated ADHDers (those without IEPs or 504s) can still be helped by caring educators, according to an article at the site of Edutopia.org. The writer suggests ways to make learning child-centered, make learning individualized, use movement breaks and mindfulness, create a good learning environment, and -- in a sop to bureaucracy, it looks like -- document. Find the article.

TESTING seems to always be in the news. For families of kids who might not test well, it can be a big deal. In a speech this week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, while distancing himself from much of NCLB, acknowledged that high-stakes testing is a difficult issue even while backing continued annual statewide assessments. Read more. Separately, a PBS NewsHour program offers an interview with the author of a new book called The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing But You Don't Have to Be. The author makes some interesting assertions, among them:
  • That the tests are being used in ways not intended by their designers
  • That identifying failing schools might not do much good if the income level of the community argues against being able to improve test outcomes
  • That much of what contributes to later success in life is "not determined by academic measures at all," but rather non-cognitive measures such as persistence. 
Evidently the book also offers ways for parents to opt out of high-stakes testing. Find the interview.

ADHD. At PsychCentral you can find out how to "improve your child's ADHD with exercise." We've blogged about several studies on this topic, and some of those are mentioned in this nice overview article about what parents and educators can do for ADHDers using exercise. Find the article.

MINDFULNESS is also a recurring topic in education and child development, and Science Daily describes a study from the University of British Columbia that supports the use of mindfulness in improving children's learning abilities. Read more.

AUTISM. A genetics-based study funded by Autism Speaks indicates that when two siblings in one family have autism, it's most likely that different genes are involved in each sibling. Read about the study at Science Daily or at The New York Times. Separately, another study confirms significant differences in play behavior, brain activation patterns, and stress levels in children with autism spectrum disorder versus typically developing children. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Wrightslaw has introduced an e-version of its book All About Tests and Assessments. Find out more.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finding a School, Gifted Ed Support, More Myths, and More

SCHOOL RATINGS AND 2e come together in an article at the Huffington Post by the mother of a twice-exceptional child. The mom thought the highest-rated school in her district would be the one she could count on, but that was not the case. She found another school in the district more suited to her family's situation -- but after a big cost in time expended and personal stress trying to deal with the first school. Read the article.

SUPPORT FOR THE GIFTED comes from unexpected places. A piece at the site InsidePhilanthropy.com describes the support John Malone (chairman of Liberty Media) and his wife have given through the Malone Family Foundation to schools that serve the gifted. According to the website, "Between 2000 and 2012, the Malone Family Foundation gradually took a total of 49 schools under its wing, providing perpetual endowments that each school uses for scholarships for talented and qualified students in grades 7 through 12." Among the schools that receive support are some you'll recognize. The foundation also supports education research on gifted students. Read more.

READING AND THE BRAIN. An article in District Administration magazine highlights how problems or under-activity in certain areas of the brain can make some students struggle with reading. The article also offers ways to help struggling readers and describes how some interventions can change the physiology of the brain, changes that show up in brain imaging. Find out more.

MISSED THIS AT THE TIME, but a blog entry at Gifted Parenting Support on blogspot offers five misconceptions about gifted students. Since we've been exposing lots of myths lately, we thought we'd better point to these as well. Our favorite: "Gifted students are already where they should be." Find the blog.

THE IMMUNE SYSTEM AND THE BRAIN. Perhaps you're familiar with PANDAS, an auto-immune disease caused by a strep infection that manifests, in part, through tics and OCD-like behavior. An article in The Globe and Mail explores the connection between the immune system and disorders such as PANDAS, autism spectrum disorder, depression, and others. If this connection interests you, find the article.

COMPETITIONS. Two competitions that might be of interest to gifted creative types are now open. Discovery Education and 3M have announced the opening of the 17th annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a national science competition for students in grades 5-8. Through the program, students have the opportunity to work closely with a 3M Scientist Mentor, compete for $25,000, and earn the title of "America's Top Young Scientist." Find out more. Separately, Cricket Media and the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation have announced the call for entries for the Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge. The Challenge, now in its fourth year, offers children across the world the opportunity to showcase their creative thinking on a global stage, with the opportunity to receive an official patent filing, among other awards. Individual students, entire classrooms, schools, and other organizations serving children between the ages of 5-21 are encouraged to participate. Find out more.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Myths (Again), Rebranding Bedtime, Being Dweckian, More

ON A ROLL WITH MYTHS. Over the past month we've posted items debunking dyslexia myths, gifted myths, and gifted ed myths. Now at the site of the Dana Foundation is a briefing paper titled "When the Myth Is the Message: Neuromyths and Education." Four myths are addressed, and we're betting you know them all. But do you believe them? Some of them are things that we as parents find hard not to take for granted. For example, there's the "sugar and hyperactvity" myth. Read more.

TROUBLE FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS -- is that a problem for any of the children in your house or classroom? A primer-level article on LDs at MedicalDaily.com notes that trouble following directions can be one of eight common warning signs of a learning disability. The article points to Understood.org as a resource, and offers some tips for treatment. One interesting observation is that special ed techniques have led to success over time in preventing school drop-outs, but that the drop-out rate still varies widely by state. Find the article.

UNDERSTOOD. As just mentioned, this site offers LD resources, which you know if you've been following this blog for any length of time. Now Understood has introduced an "Action Center." Under the current "Take Action Today" headline is an invitation to take a survey about health insurance and your children's needs; to tell Congress (sigh) to support a bill to fully fund IDEA; and to sign a petition urging that funding. Go to the Action Center.

"SELLING" BEDTIME. We've blogged about the importance of good sleep habits. A therapist/blogger at The New York Times puts a new twist on the way we try to move our kids toward bedtime. She offers ways to "rebrand" sleep to get more buy-in an cooperation. Read more.

PARENT GETS DWECKIAN ON PRAISE. Writing at the site of the Washtinton Post, a parent and psychologist offers her take on praise (and seemingly gratuitous trophies) for kids. She acknowledges the parental reflex to praise, but also offers an alternative. From the blog: "So, this year, I am vowing that I won’t let praise replace presence." Find the blog and find out what she means by "presence."

ADDITUDE. At this site, Russell Barkley offers a list of seven executive function deficits tied to ADHD. Can't think of seven? Neither could we. Find the list.

ONTARIO GIFTED CONFERENCE. The Association for Bright Children of Ontario is holding its 2015 conference on February 20-21 in Toronto. The keynote speaker is Jean Sunde Peterson, multi-careered practitioner in the field of giftedness. The theme of the conference: mental health and wellness. Find out more.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Money, Food, Mindfulness, More

GOT MONEY? The use of due process and mediation under IDEA is linked to family income, with families earning more than $100,000 per year more likely to pursue remedies, according to a Disability Scoop report on a University of Illinois study. The article also notes that the average due process hearing costs parents and schools about $60,000. Read more. Separately on the topic of money, the application period for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program is now open. The program offers scholarship support to "exceptionally promising students from across the nation who have financial need," according to the organization, adding "Scholars receive comprehensive advising and financial support from the 8th grade through high school." Find out more. And one more item on money might give you comfort or make you uneasy, depending on your balance sheet: children from affluent families may be more involved in substance abuse, engaged in theft from parents, or depressed or anxious than those from "poorer" families. Read more.

THE CHILD MIND INSTITUTE'S newest article is titled "How to Help Your Depressed Teenager." It offers signs to watch for, ways to be supportive, and tips for getting treatment. Find the article.

FOOD can affect your child's academic achievement. On the one hand, habitual fast-food eaters don't do as well on tests as kids who don't eat fast food; read more. On the other hand, eating dinner regularly with parents boosts vocabulary for younger kids, and for older kids such mealtime "is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art," according to a family therapist writing for the Washington Post. Read more.

MINDFULNESS. Been hearing a lot about it for the last few years? Us too. In fact, venerable Parade Magazine calls it "The Number 1 Health-Booster in 2015," and explains what it is and the benefits it conveys. Find the article. By coincidence (maybe?), Jen the Blogger, mom of 2e kids, has declared "mindful" her "Word of the Year"; find out why.

OCD ON NPR. An interviewee on Fresh Air described his OCD to Terry Gross. David Adam has also written a book, The Man Who Couldn't Stop, which, according to NPR, "takes a wider look at how medical understanding and treatment of the disorder have changed over the years." Find out more.

DAVIDSON INSTITUTE. This organization's January eNews-Update is out, with news about summer opportunities for highly gifted students; a state-by-state update on legislative and policy news; and a listing of gifted-related resources from the Web. Find the newsletter.

GATE WEBINAR SERIES. The University of California/Irvine has scheduled a series of four free webinars for educators and parents of the gifted. One is titled, "Motivating the Gifted but Reluctant Learner." The organizers say, "The series brings to light contemporary challenges of the GATE community and examines solutions that teachers, parents, and administration can reference with their students and programs." Find out more about the series here (scroll down to "7th Annual Gifted & Talented Education Webinar Series") or here.

WRIGHTSLAW. If you're a fan of this organization, as we are, you might be interested in their "2014 Progress Report," with statistics about usage of their resources, the top 10 articles of 2014 (number one: "Understanding Dysgraphia"), the top 10 cases of 2014, and more. Find the progress report.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dyslexia, Depression, Gifted Ed & Scrooge, More

2e IN CONNECTICUT just got a little easier, thanks to a bill signed by Governor Dannel Malloy (who has an LD). Dyslexia is now recognized as a "primary disability" in that state, and the bill requires teacher education programs to teach how to recognize and intervene in cases of dyslexia. An article in the Monroe Courier describes the legislation and also mentions the resource Smart Kids with Disabilities, based in Connecticut. Read more. Separately, research reported at Science Daily suggests that dyslexia "disables" teachers -- that teacher perceptions of their own efficacy in dealing with dyslexia in a child can be influenced by the use of the label dyslexia, seen as an "essential problems," versus the label "reading difficulty," which seemed more likely to invoke belief that the child could be helped. The lead researcher is quoted, "These findings challenge the value of labels like 'dyslexia.'" Find the article.

DID YOU EVER let your child "cry it out" to get to sleep, perhaps on the advice of a parenting expert? A writer at the Huffington Post casts a skeptical eye on the way such experts interpret neuroscience in providing advice, noting how some claim that letting the child cry can damage the child. The writer states, "So parents are left in the dark and at the mercy of an author who is interpreting someone else's interpretation of neuroscience research unrelated to actual sleep research." Read more.

GIFTED ED MYTHS are the topic of a blog at MathCloud.net, but you probably won't be fooled by most (if any) of them. Do you believe, for example, that GATE students can speak up for themselves? Don't need scaffolding? Neither do we, but apparently many people do. Find the myths and rebuttals.

THE SCROOGE AWARD might be going to the State of Kansas for cutting gifted ed funding. According to The Kansan, the Kansas Association for the Gifted, Talented, and Creative is watching legislation that might move gifted ed outside of the special ed umbrella and cost it funding. (We've noticed that Kansas, after a few years of tax cuts, now faces budget shortfalls.) But that's okay, because gifted kids (and 2e kids) can fend for themselves, right? Read more.

DEPRESSED is what we get when we find news items like the one above. An article in the Providence Journal notes that "depression is far more complex than patients were led to believe." The author, a psychiatrist, calls the "chemical imbalance" hypothesis for depression -- you know, altered levels of neurotransmitters -- "inaccurate, oversimplified, and reductionistic." Now, that surely sounds like an imperative to do more homework on the dynamics of depression. Find the article. Separately, an article in The New York Times compares drugs versus therapy as treatments for depression. The author, an MD, describes some of the factors which might make one or the other a more successful treatment, but concludes that with regard to certain important questions about treatment mechanisms, "we don't have a clue." Find the article.

FOLLOW-UP. The New York Times has posted several letters in response to the recent article on homeschooling. (See our blog entry from January 6th.) Each letter offers a point of view perhaps not present in the original article -- including one rather chilling perspective from a teacher. Find the letters.

LD APPS. Understood offers a list of 10 apps for kids with learning and attention issues. For example, one, created by the parents of a child with dysgraphia, helps kids deal with math without using a pencil, improving their expressive skills in that topic. Find the apps.

DON'T FORGET -- March 19-21 in Brisbane is an international conference on gifteness and talented development. Find out more. And if you can't make it to Australia, then check out the March 9th 2e conference in New York City, hosted by the Quad Preparatory School. Find out more.

Friday, January 9, 2015

2e: The Movie, Anxiety, Depression, More

"2e: TWICE EXCEPTIONAL" -- THE MOVIE! True. Filmmaker Tom Ropelewski has finished his documentary, which will have its world premier at the Richmond International Film Festival, Richmond, Virginia, on February 28. Ropelewski followed members of the Class of 2011 at Bridges Academy as they prepared for life after high school. A reviewer says of the film: “2e: Twice Exceptional is an honest, up-close look at what it’s like to be – or to be the parent or teacher of -- a young person who’s both gifted and coming to terms with a learning difference. Essential viewing for anyone interested in understanding where our next generation of game-changing outliers may be coming from.” To watch the official trailer, for information on upcoming events and screenings, or to inquire about scheduling a screening, says Ropelewski, visit the film’s official website at http://2emovie.com. Way to go, Tom!

THE CHILD MIND INSTITUTE, with a new article on its site, addresses the bugaboo of many 2e kids, anxiety. The author suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy, rather than medication, should perhaps be the tool of choice for remediating anxiety. Find out why.

DEPRESSION is another 2e bugaboo, and a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shows just how prevalent and serious depression can be in adolescence. Read about the study at Science Daily. Separately, another study noted at Science Daily looks into genetics and depression, along with gene/environmental interaction. So far, researchers have not found the kind of genetic "loci" for depression that they have for conditions such as bipolar disorder. Read more.

PREDICTIVE BRAIN SCANS. Brain scans may be useful in predicting the outcome of therapeutic interventions or even identifying students who might have difficulty learning particular subjects, for example math. One psychiatrist is already using the technique to predict, with 80 percent accuracy, which patients will successfully complete smoking cessation therapy. The researchers say that the technique might be usable by "the general public" in perhaps five years. Read more at NPR or at Science Daily (slightly different takes).

DIFFERENTIATION DOESN'T WORK, writes educational cynic Jim Delisle in Education Week. Lumping differentiation with other "cure-alls," Delisle reviews the history of differentiation over the past few years, and notes how difficult it can be to implement in practice. He writes about the typical classroom, "Toss together several students who struggle to learn, along with a smattering of gifted kids, while adding a few English-language learners and a bunch of academically average students and expect a single teacher to differentiate for each of them. That is a recipe for academic disaster..." Read the article and see if you agree.

SLEEP AND ACADEMICS. We blog about sleep often, it seems, partly because it seems to be important for the functioning of our kids and partly because it's something that's theoretically under our (or their) control. The most recent study on the topic points out that a good night's sleep is especially important for subjects depending on executive functions, subjects like math and languages. The researchers urge parents and pediatricians to be on the lookout for possible sleep problems. Read more.