Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cool Writing about 2e, 2e and Human Rights, and More

2e ESSAY. A writer who crafts poetry, fiction, and essays has a piece at the site of ADDitude, where she describes how she -- like most parents of kids with challenges -- was torn between wanting to help and letting her 2e son learn on his own to "keep his head above water." It's a familiar theme and story for those of us in the 2e community, but we'll bet you haven't heard the story told as engagingly. Find the essay.

SAY YOU'RE GIFTED, and that you have such a "case" of dyslexia that it's impossible for you to learn a foreign language, and that in your own words, "English as a language in itself was incredibly difficult." Then say you apply for a master's program in the area of political science which has a requirement for one course in French. (Say you're living in Canada.) And say your application is not accepted because you can't take that French course. What do you do? In the case of Canadian James Lewicki, you file a complaint with the provincial Human Rights Tribunal. Read more about the university's position and what human rights advocates say about the case.

IN SOUTH AFRICA, where it's Depression Awareness Week, the site of Times Live has a short piece titled "Depression the curse of gifted kids." Find it.

CHILD MIND INSTITUTE. This organization has posted a new article on its site advising parents on what a diagnosis of autism should consist of, the types of information a clinician should consider, and how to tell if the clinician is following best practices. Find the article.

NEUROSCIENCE SUMMER INSTITUTES. Neurologist/educator/presenter Judy Willis is giving two one-week sessions this summer on topics of interest to many in the 2e community. Held under the auspices of Learning and the Brain, one institute is titled "Neuroscience and Classroom Engagement"; the other is titled "Neuroscience and Executive Skills." Both are scheduled for Santa Barbara, California in July. Find out more about these and other Learning and the Brain summer institutes.

BELIN-BLANK CENTER. This organization's latest "Vision" e-newsletter is out, containing a message from Director Susan Assouline, a pointer to a resource for educators on creativity, information about Iowa-specific resources and programs for the gifted, and more. Find the newsletter. (The full name of the Belin-Blank Center is The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at The University of Iowa, and it has a variety of missions in terms of serving gifted and twice-exceptional young people.)

RESEARCH. A quick wrap-up of some of the research that was in the news this week:
  • Researchers from the University of Florida have found no evidence that children taking atomoxetine for ADHD are at increased risk of suicidal ideation; read more
  • A new study shows the death of newborn brain cells may be linked to a genetic risk factor for five major psychiatric diseases, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD, and depression. The study also shows a compound currently being developed for use in humans may have therapeutic value for these diseases by preventing the cells from dying. Read more
  • Children with vision problems not correctable with glasses or contact lenses may be twice as likely to have a diagnosis of ADHD, suggests a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Find the study write-up
  • And regarding the question of whether neurofeedback works for ADHD, The New England Journal of Medicine "JournalWatch" tells us only this from a digest of recent findings in pediatric and adolescent medicine: "A meta-analysis shows no significant effects in studies using blinded raters or in those with sham or active control treatments." (You could read more but you'd have to pay.) 




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Special Post of a "Best Thing I Ever Did for My 2e Child."

A while ago we asked on Facebook and in blog and briefing for readers' responses to the question "What's the best thing you've ever done for that 2e child you raise or teach." We published the responses in the March/April issue of 2e: Twice: Exceptional Newsletter and also have been posting them on Facebook. The response below was too long to run in its entirety, plus we want to use it as the basis for a future article on finding the underlying causes of the physiological issues some 2e kiddos experience -- issues that sap energy and attention and make it hard for them to deal with the LD challenges in their lives. If you have experience finding and resolving these "underlying causes," consider letting us know so that we might share your experiences in future newsletter articles.

Here's what "Connie" had to say was her "best thing"...


There have been a great many important landmarks along this path: finding the 2e Newsletter and tapping into that vast resource, professional assessments, the decision to homeschool....

But I want to tell you a little about a different kind of game changer for my two 2e kiddos that might help other 2e families who might not have thought of it (I didn’t!). After many years of different types of assessments and remediations, my kids were frustrated, depressed, and exhausted. They worked so very hard at every single one, but nothing stuck. It left them feeling broken and hopeless. My son told me time and again that he could deal with the learning disabilities… he just couldn’t stand the depression, anxiety, and fatigue that came with just getting through each day. I just felt there was something more to the picture -- though I couldn’t identify what. Something on a physiological level.

I dug into researching what “else” we could do and finally found an amazing naturopath. We started eating organic and drinking filtered water. Next tried elimination diets and found profound sensitivities (that didn’t show up on previous food allergy tests) to dairy, soy, grains. Eliminated those from our diet. That helped (and is still fairly standard fare out there in terms of easily accessible literature), but still didn’t get us “there.”

I’ll fast forward to the true game changer, once this foundation was laid: testing that focused on G-I health, adrenal fatigue, and blood tests for the MTHFR gene mutation, and that not only looked at serum but (and this is important) intracellular vitamin/mineral levels. The latter is so important because even if serum levels are great, if these vitamins and minerals aren’t getting into the cells in sufficient levels, they’re not able to do their jobs. Major outcomes for our family of these tests were:
  • MTHFR gene mutation (not uncommon in kids with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities)
  • Severe adrenal fatigue 
  • Candida overgrowth in one child (linked to a large number of things, including malabsorption, depression and anxiety)
  • IBS in the other child
  • Extremely low cholesterol (linked to depression and anxiety)
  • A number of deficiencies, including vitamins A, B12, B6, D, selenium (most of these came out in the intracellular micro-nutrient tests -– we wouldn’t have known about them if we’d done only the standardized blood tests).
We’ve been working hard for about eight months on these issues, as well as a detox program. I cannot over-emphasize the change in quality of life for these kids. They are happy and healthy for the first time they can remember. Their brains are functioning at an unprecedented level. They still get tired, but not flattened, by their challenges. They feel hopeful about their futures.

So I’d have to say getting to the root of the kids’ physiological issues was the best thing I ever did for my kids. Being physically healthy is the cornerstone for them being emotionally healthy. I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone out there!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Autism, Some Interesting Ideas, a Couple More Summer Camps, and More

AUTISM: WHAT WE KNOW. We know that children on the spectrum might not "read" emotions well, and researchers at the University of Vermont think one reason might be that those kids focus on a speaker's mouth rather than the eyes -- especially when emotion in involved in a conversation. The study author's speculation is that the mouth is easier to try to pay attention to with an overtaxed brain. Read more.

AUTISM: WHAT WE DON'T KNOW. A brief blurb at Medical News Today describes a "meta-analysis" on autism. From the blurb: "A recent review that examined all published studies on anatomical abnormalities in the brains of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder found substantial discrepancy throughout the literature regarding the reported presence and significance of neuroanatomical findings." The senior author is quoted as saying, "We still have a long way to go...." Find the brief blurb, or the study abstract, but us ordinary people don't get access to the article itself without paying lots. Separately, a researcher in Toronto thinks it might be time to re-examine ADHD, OCD, and autism -- the boundaries between them, the way they're diagnosed and treated, etc. The reasons? Variations in individual presentations; lack of effective across-the-board treatment for kids with the same diagnosis; and the extent of comorbidity between the three conditions. Can she convince the mental health community they've had it wrong for all these years? Find out more.

VIDEO GAMES: ESCAPE? Another study that comes to us via Medical News Today says that video game addiction can be a means of escape, especially for young men with issues such as ADHD. Know a problem gamer? Read more.

ENOUGH STUDIES, here's an interesting idea, especially for homeschooling parents. You know how MOOCs (massive open online courses) don't tend to foster high completion rates, even though they would seem to be a great resource for accelerated, enriched, or homeschooled kids? Maybe some in-person peer or tutor support would help, and that's the concept behind "Learning Circles." KQED News says, "Learning Circles add a social element to what is otherwise a solitary learning experience by bringing people together in person to take an online course together over six to eight weeks, with the help of a facilitator." Find out more.

ANXIETY AS A MOTIVATOR -- of bad behavior. KQED News has posted an article about how difficult behavior can be caused by anxiety, and also offers an explanation along with tips for preventing or dealing with that behavior in the classroom. Find the article.

IDEA POPULATION INCREASES. So says Education Week, citing numbers from the U.S. Department of Education. According to the article, 5.83 million students were covered by IDEA as of fall, 2014. Some of the increase may stem from aberrations, such as a large increase from one state or changes in identification policies. Read more.

BAD RAP FOR FRUCTOSE. The corn-syrup sweetener has been linked to ADHD and a host of physical problems, and research says it might damage "hundreds of genes," according to a study write-up at Science Daily. If fructose sweetener is of concern to you -- and if you want to find out what helps counteract its effects -- see Science Daily.

MENTAL HEALTH -- Is there an app for that? There might be sometime soon, if the results of the inaugural Innovation Lab competition from the American Psychiatric Association pan out. The competition seeks ideas for improving access to care, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It will be important for the ideas to be evaluated scientifically. An article on the competition at TheWeek.com notes that Luminosity was fined $2 million for making claims the company couldn't prove. Read more.

CAVEAT EMPTOR. One of the latest chic gizmos in the treatment (or mistreatment) of the brain is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). While it has legitimate uses, it's also sold directly to consumers for a little more than $100. In the spirit of "hang on a minute," it's worth noting that not all of the effects of tCDS are understood. Recently, for example, researchers concluded that tCDS can actually disrupt the performance of difficult tasks. Read more.

ANOTHER SUMMER CAMP: Since we published our annual summer camp article, we've heard from several camps we didn't know about. We blogged about one last time. Another is in the UK, PowerWood Summer Camp, from August 6-13. The organizer calls it a "charitable event for families living with intensity, super-sensitivity and hyper-reacticivity (OE)." A fan of the camp says, "PowerWood camp gives space for the grown-ups to relax, as the children do as well. Simone’s (PowerWood’s founder) workshops are inspiring, empowering and validating.... I discovered a new way to understand and interact with behaviours in myself and my children that are efficient and peaceful." Find out more.

AND ANOTHER. Ignite! summer intensives in Texas serve gifted, talented, and high ability scholars in half-day sessions that meet Monday through Friday. Included are a variety of programs for students K-12 in the arts, sciences, and humanities. The organizer says that Ignite!, while not officially a 2e venture, definitely attracts those students. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Jen the Blogger lists "Sixteen Things Parents of Gifted Kids Are Sick of Hearing." You know some of them, but unless your "internal voice" is as strong and vehement as Jen's you probably haven't thought of some of her responses. Find the blog.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Gifted Ed, Depression, ASD, Gap Year, and More

IDENTIFYING, SERVING GIFTED STUDENTS. "Once we have a clear idea of what giftedness is and acceptable criteria for identifying these kids, then we need to invest time and effort on what we are doing with these kids." That's what a professor from the University of Alberta said after investigating gifted ed in Edmonton, Alberta, and finding a variety of criteria for defining giftedness and a variety of ways to try to serve gifted students. He noted that gifted kids are a heterogeneous group, which means that any interventions must be tailored to particular needs. Read more

DEPRESSION, TEENS. Depressed teenagers who received cognitive behavioral therapy in their primary care clinic recovered faster, and were also more likely to recover, than teens who did not receive the primary care-based counseling, according to a study published in the current issue of
Pediatrics. One of the focuses was on effectively treating those teens who decline to take medication for depression. Find a Science Daily write-up of the study. Separately, a large study on behavioral genetics has identified two genetic variants associated with depression, this in a study that also sought to identify genetic variants that lead to feelings of well-being or of neuroticism. One of the researchers, however, indicated that "the genetic variants do not determine whether someone develops depressive symptoms, neuroticism, or have a poor sense of well-being." Read more.

GENETICS AND AUTISM. Autism is a diverse disorder, linked to dozens of different genes, and treatment based on genetics could go a long way toward personalized medicine. An article in The Washington Post describes a large initiative to gather DNA and other information from tens of thousands of families in which autism is present. Find the article; or, go to the site of the sponsoring organization, the Simons Foundation.

MIND THE GAP YEAR. That's the message of an article at the Well feature in The New York Times, explaining the advantages and perhaps helping parents, especially, reframe such an interlude. Find the article. Also in Well -- a look at why girls may tend to be more anxious than girls; find it.

SUMMIT CENTER NEWS. This organization's April newsletter is out, and in it is a preview of a article that is
 a review of literature on the anatomical and physiological differences in the gifted brain. A Summit Center consultant was part of the team preparing the article, which you can find here

DYSLEXIC ADVANTAGE. This organizations April newsletter is out, and in it is the announcement of winners of the Karina Eide Memorial College Scholarship and the Young Writers Award Winners; a profile of a "superhero film director" with dyslexia; free stuff to help teachers of students with dyslexia; technology to help those with dyslexia; and lots more. Find the newsletter.

THE CHILD MIND INSTITUTE has posted a new article on the topic of parent training programs -- i.e., which programs can help parents deal with difficult behavior in their kids. The programs described are:
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
  • Parent Management Training (PMT)
  • Defiant Teens
  • Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)
  • The Incredible Years.
Find the article.

NEW YORK EVENTS. On 7:30 p.m. on May 2, the Hewett-Woodmere SEPTA and Twice-Exceptional Children's Advocacy will screen the documentary 2e: Twice-Exceptional, at Hewett High School. A panel discussion will follow. RSVP to HPSEPTA@gmail.com. And on May 11 at 7 p.m. at the Garden City Waldorf Schooll, Dr. Edward Hallowell will present "Stress, Screens, and ADHD: How to Thrive, Not Just Survive." A $15 fee applies. Find out more. 


NAGC RESOURCE. Last December, after the U.S. Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, NAGC's Director of Public Education Jane Clarenbach and Executive Director Rele Islas put on a webinar about the gifted ed provisions in that legislation. NAGC has posted the one-hour webinar at its website; find it.
AND FINALLY, THIS. You are what you think, apparently. A team of researchers has recorded the brain activity of 50 people wearing an electroencephalogram headset while they looked at a series of 500 images designed specifically to elicit unique responses from person to person, for instance, a slice of pizza, a boat, Anne Hathaway, and the word "conundrum." They found that participants' brains reacted differently to each image, enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer's "brainprint" with 100 percent accuracy. Read more.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Must-read, Anxiety, and Lots of Brain Stuff

MUST-READ. The Washington Post's "Answer Sheet" column features a 47yo educator who provides a great first-person account of what it was like for him to grow up on the spectrum -- early diagnoses of intellectual disability, then of severe learning disability; bullying and "educational exile" at school; and his parents' refusal to limit their son's potential. He's now an author and speaker as well as a teacher of middle-school students with ASD. In this piece you'll find passage after passage that resonates -- both the good and the bad that twice-exceptional kids (and their parents) experience. Find the column.

LOWERING KIDS' ANXIETY. A child/family therapist offers at PsychCentral "Five Ways to Lower Your Child's Anxiety." Tip one: monitor the media your child is exposed to for violent or aggressive content, which can fire up our friend the amygdala and create anxiety. Read more.

ANOTHER SUMMER PROGRAM. The March/April issue of 2e Newsletter, just out, contains our annual "Summer Camp" article listing 2e-friendly summer camps and programs. Right after we published the issue we heard about another one, this one a half-day "Comedy Summer Camp" for 2e learners in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The camp's organizer says that it will focus on social/emotional development and basic writing skills using humor. The camp includes improvisational play for social intelligence, stand-up comedy for emotional intelligence, and sketch comedy writing for basic writing skills. Find out more.

EARLY INFLUENCES ON "INHIBITORY CONTROL." A new study suggests that genetics are important in the way two-year-olds exercise inhibitory control -- not doing something they want to do -- but by age three the biggest influence on such control is parenting and the family environment. The lead study author noted how low levels of inhibitory control can contribute to issues such as ADHD. Find a study write-up.

BRAIN SCANS: DETECTING AUTISM. Scientists have reported a new degree of success in using brain scans to distinguish between adults diagnosed with autism and people without the disorder, an advance that could lead to the development of a diagnostic tool. Researchers employed a software algorithm that found 16 key inter-regional functional connections that those those with and without autism. Find out more.

BRAIN IMAGING FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER. Researchers have neuroimaging to develop a potential way to identify individuals with biopolar disorder. The basic technique is similar to the autism-detecting study above: looking for brain structure patterns that distinguish neurotypical subjects from those with bipolar disorder. Read more.

BRAIN MAPPING: IMPROVING. Salk Institute scientists have developed a new way to map the brain's network of connections that is 20 times more efficient than a previous version. This tool uses a modified version of the rabies virus that jumps between neurons, lighting up connections along the way. The illuminated map allows researchers to precisely trace which neurons connect to each other. Visualizing this neural circuitry can help scientists learn more about conditions ranging from motor diseases to neurodevelopmental disorders. Read more.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ed Amend Interview, Depression, Anxiety, Foot Massage, and More

ED AMEND IN PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. Kentucky psychologist Ed Amend, who does lots of work with gifted and twice-exceptional children, did a Psychology Today interview that was posted on April 10. In it, Amend offers his perspectives on giftedness and ADHD, giftedness and Asperger's, giftedness and depression, and more. He also takes a swipe at the relatively low amounts of education funding allocated for gifted services. Find the interview. Way to go, Ed!

SCREEN ALL TEENS FOR DEPRESSION? That's the question posed by the Wall Street Journal, which then provides fodder for both a "yes" and a "no" answer. We know 2e kiddos are vulnerable -- check out this article.

ANXIETY AND KIDS. And if there's another common co-morbidity in 2e kids besides depression, it's anxiety. That's the topic of an article at SCTimes, where the writer states that one in eight children are affected by anxiety disorders. The article offers tips for what parents can do to help deal with anxiety in their children. Find the article.

CONCUSSION has been in the news lately, mostly in stories about older athletes, but a recent article at Medical News Today notes that the rate of concussion is particularly high in the years five and under. The article reports on a study of the effects of such concussions on parent/child relationships and on the child's development of new abilities. Find out more.

CHILD MIND INSTITUTE. On the site of this organization are two new articles on dyscalculia -- "How to Spot Dyscalculia" and "How to Help Kids with Dyscalculia." These articles are likely to be useful for both parents and educators.

HEIGHT CHART, WEIGHT CHART, BRAIN CHART? New research from the University of Michigan Medical School suggests that it might be possible to create a growth chart of brain networks that could identify early signs of attention difficulties and, potentially, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The team created the experimental growth chart by mapping the development of brain networks in more than 500 children and teens. They found networks are underdeveloped in those who have attention difficulties. Find the press release from the University of Michigan about this study.

JEN THE BLOGGER reflects on having a kiddo of the type we all know and love who is turning 15. Find her blog post.

AND FINALLY, THIS. How's your blood pressure, parent or teacher? How's your anxiety level? Well, we have just the thing for you. A Japanese study has indicated that aroma foot massage can significantly reduce blood pressure and anxiety. Interested? Find out more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Reading Research, Explaining LDs, Resources

HOW THE MIND WORKS DURING READING. According to a press release about new research from the University of California/Davis, neuroscientists have come up with a way to observe brain activity during natural reading. It’s the first time researchers have been able to study the brain while reading actual texts, instead of individual words. The research combines eye tracking with fMRIs. By providing a window into brain activity during natural reading, the technique allows researchers to look at unanswered questions such as whether language and grammar are handled by a specific part of the brain, and whether the brain anticipates upcoming words as we read. These discoveries would have implications not just for human psychology but also for artificial intelligence and for understanding dyslexia. Find the press release.

HAPPY 100TH, BEVERLY CLEARY. If you've ever read books starring Ramona Quimby to your bright kiddos, you're probably a fan of Beverly Cleary, who turns 100 today. According to The Washington Post, author Cleary says “I thought like Ramona, but I was a very well-behaved little girl.” Read more.

UNDERSTOOD.ORG CHATS. The organization Understood has a couple chats on topic potentially of interest to readers here. On Wednesday, April 13, is a Twitter chat titled "Advocacy in Action at IEP Meetings"; find out more. On the following day is a chat at the site of Understood titled "Changes to Your Child's IEP or 504 Plan"; find out more.

DEMYSTIFICATION. LD Online, in its latest newsletter, features an article titled "Helping Students Understand and Accept their Learning Disabilities: The Demystification Conference." The article describes how one school for high-potential students with LDs provides such a conference annually to "offer students facts about their learning disabilities, demystify the medical terms which they might have heard, and enable them to understand the challenges it can cause and the strengths it can bring." Find the article.

EDREV. This coming Saturday in San Francisco the Parents Education Network and Understood are presenting EdRev 2016, called "a unique day of information, resources, celebration and community for students who learn differently and the families and professionals who support them." EdRev stands for Education Revolution. Some of the speakers will be familiar to readers of 2e Newsletter, for example Paul Beljan and Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide. Find out more.

IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. If you're lucky enough to live in Orange County and lucky enough to have a 2e kiddo, know that Reid Day School in Costa Mesa is hosting an open house this Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. for interested families. Currently the school offers programs for 2e students in grades 1-6. Find out more.