Saturday, September 27, 2014

Gifted Ed, Plus Items on ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, and Tourettes

POTENTIAL AND ACHIEVEMENT. Researchers studying one large school district found that the kids who benefited most from gifted classrooms were not those with high IQs, but those with high scores on statewide standardized tests from the previous years. The operative term here is "benefited" -- higher scores on the next round of standardized tests. The study authors, according to a write-up of the study, "argue for a broader definition of 'gifted' that includes test scores, not just IQ — since it's the students with the high test scores who were benefiting the most." Read more.

INATTENTIVE ADHD treated  with a psychosocial technique that includes the participation of parents, teachers, and kids could be more effective than other types of treatment, in particular training involving only the parent or "treatment as usual." Children in the three-component treatment "showed fewer inat­ten­tive symp­toms, bet­ter orga­ni­za­tional skills, bet­ter social skills, and greater over­all improve­ment," according to a write-up at SharpBrains.com. Find the write-up.

HAPPY FACE, ANGRY FACE. Kids with ADHD evidently show a brain response to happy faces but not to angry faces -- a possible cause for impaired social functioning. Read more.

COPING WITH DEPRESSION. Kids who are exposed to the concept that things can get better rather than being immutable may be better able to cope with events that otherwise might lead to depression, according to researchers. Compared to ninth-graders who were not exposed to the brief intervention about things being able to change, about 18 percent of the intervention group reported feeling sad and unmotivated nine months later. The rate for the non-intervention group -- 25 percent. Read more.

TALK THERAPY BETTER? A large study indicates that talk therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy) is better for dealing with social anxiety disorder than medication. The re searchers suggest that medication should be a second line of defense. Find out more.

GABA AND TOURETTES. Evidently certain brain areas in people with Tourette Syndrome have higher levels of the neurochemical GABA. This leads to the possibility of controlling that level by means of electrical brain stimulation or even by "training" the brain to help control TICs. Read more.

OCTOBER 7TH SENGINAR. An upcoming webinar by SENG is titled "Human 2.0: Asperger's Is Awesome." From the blurb: "Why are we seeing such a dramatic increase in the rates of children diagnosed as being on the spectrum? It’s because it is a better kind of brain and society is increasingly valuing this kind of mind." Find out more.

LAST DAYS FOR BOOKLET SALE. The Fall Sale of Spotlight on 2e Series booklets from Glen Ellyn Media (that's us) ends Tuesday. Until then, any of the 10 booklets in the series is available for $11 plus shopping. Find out more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2e Story, ASD, ADHD, OCD, Parenting, More

2e CASE STUDY. Writing at the website Quartz (qz.com), Jenn Choi tells the story of gifted "Aidan" and his adventures in education in New York City. Some of the usual horror stories are included, but Choi also quotes James Webb and points out schools such as Quad Preparatory School and the Bell Academy, potentially a good fit for students such as Aidan. Sounds like Aidan is back in homeschool, but his mother is quoted as saying "the nightmares are gone." Find the article.

SPEAKING OF QUAD PREP, the new school just completed its first week. Find out more at the school's site.

BRAINWAVE DIAGNOSIS FOR ASD. A new study by researchers at Yeshiva University suggests that measuring how fast the brain responds to sights and sounds could help in objectively classifying people on the autism spectrum and may help diagnose the condition earlier. In the study, the speed with which the subjects processed auditory signals strongly correlated with the severity of their symptoms: the more time required for an ASD individual to process the auditory signals, the more severe that person’s autistic symptoms. Read more.

FEAR OF FAILURE. Got one of these kids? You know how it can affect motivation and learning. A recent analysis found that "those who had developed a fear of failure at an early age were more likely to adopt [a] goal to validate their ego rather than for their own personal interest and development, and were less likely to use effective learning strategies but more likely to cheat." Not good. Find out more.

TIGER PARENTING -- maybe not so good. So says a study from the University of California at Riverside. The net-out: "Less supportive and punitive parenting techniques used by some Chinese parents might lead to the development of low self-esteem and school adjustment difficulties in their children and leave them vulnerable to depression and problem behaviors." Find out more.

OCD AND DBS: OK. Bilateral deep brain stimulation is effective for OCD that doesn't respond to meds. If you know someone with treatment-resistant OCD, this study write-up might be of interest.

SEEING A COUNSELOR FOR THAT KID? At PsychCentral, a psychologist offers a series of tips for parents on the process -- knowing the importance of sleep and exercise, and of extracurricular activities for the child; accepting what your child says at face value; abandoning your need to fix/understand/control; knowing the risk factors for suicide; and more. Find the tips.

JACK KENT COOKE SCHOLARSHIPS. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation offers college scholarships for high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation's best four-year colleges and universities. Find more information at the foundation's website.

AND FINALLY, THIS. While most practitioners recommend a combination of meds and therapy for ADHD, less than 25 percent of kids on meds receive talk therapy, according to the research organization RAND. The RAND lead author says, "In areas of the country where rates of use are so low, it indicates that many kids with private insurance who could benefit from therapy are not receiving it." Read more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Depression, Due Process, Poetry, Gut Bacteria, and More

DEPRESSION. Of those who respond to our profile survey as newsletter subscribers, 41 percent rank depression as a "very important" factor in regard to their twice-exceptional children. By contrast, anxiety is ranked as very important by 71 percent; OCD by just 22 percent. Those high rankings are why we so often point to items on depression and anxiety, and in recent days we came across four items concerning depression.
  • A review of meta-analyses of research by the University of Bern showed that sports and physical activity can cause brain changes similar to those caused by medications, affecting serotonin levels, promoting cell growth in the brain, and reducing levels of stress hormones. Sports and physical activity had a greater impact on depression than on anxiety. Read more
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration urges parents to not to leave childhood depression untreated, and provides information on treatment and care. Read more
  • Next, PscyhCentral posted on its website an article titled "Helping Children Avoid Depression." The article emphasizes "thought training" to help a young person manage emotions and preempt depression. Read more
  • Finally, from Northwestern University comes news of a blood test to diagnose depression in adults. Developed by Northwestern University scientists, the test uses levels of nine RNA blood markers. Noteworthy in the article is that the same researcher who developed the adult test had previously developed a blood test to diagnose depression in adolescents; that test was announced in 2012. Most of the markers in the adult test are different than those used to identify adolescent depression. Find out more about the adult test; about the adolescent test
LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD in due process hearings is the goal of legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. Currently, while parents can recover attorneys' fees if they prevail in a due process hearing, they cannot recover expenses incurred for expert witnesses such as psychologists or other experts. Harkin is introducing legislation called the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act to make those costs recoverable when parents prevail in a due process case. Find out more.

THE DAVIDSON INSTITUTE has issued new editions of two newsletters. The eNews-Update announces the 2014 Davidson Fellows; notes the 2015 Fellows competition; points to Jim Delisle's new book on American education, Dumbing Down America; and provides a variety of other news. The Educators Guild Newsletter for fall contains a Q&A with Christine Fonseca on introversion in gifted kids, and also provides guidelines for educators on working with introverted students.

WRIGHTSLAW FANS might be interested in knowing that they can get 25 percent off all products in the Wrightslaw store until September 25; find out more.

GOT A POET in your home or classroom? The National Student Poets Program has honored five teen poets who will serve as youth ambassadors for poetry and the art of language. The National Student Poets will lead readings and workshops at libraries, museums, and schools throughout the country, as well as participate in events such as readings at the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. Find out more about the National Student Poets Program.

THE COUNCIL FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN is accepting nominations for its "Yes I Can" awards celebrating the accomplishments of kids with exceptionalities; the CEC Professional awards for gifted and special educators; and CEC Student Awards. Nominations close October 31. Find out more.

SIZE AT BIRTH, ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH. Research from Denmark indicates that birth weight and length can partially predict the likelihood of being diagnosed with mental health disorders such as autism and schizophrenia later in life. If the following excerpt turns you on, you'll find this article interesting, we think: "The study tests predictions of the evolutionary theory of genomic imprinting -- the idea that during fetal development some genes inherited from the mother are expressed differently to those inherited from the father. The potential consequence of this asymmetry is that maternal and paternal genes in a fetus will not cooperate fully during this period, even though they subsequently have shared interests due to their lifetime commitment to the same body." Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- in the category of "something else to worry about." Worry about artificial sweeteners because they may change the bacteria in the gut and cause metabolic changes you don't want in you or your kids -- like glucose intolerance, obesity, or adult-onset diabetes. In a NewsWise writeup of the research, one of the researchers said about artificial sweeteners, "this calls for reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.” He also said in a New York Times article about the research, "Given the surprising results that we got in our study, I made a personal preference to stop using [artificial sweeteners]."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Brain Imaging, OCD, Anxiety, Evaluation, and Crawling

BRAIN SCANS AND ADHD. Children with ADHD develop certain brain networks more slowly than typically developing children, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. The result is that those networks are less able to control activities like daydreaming and less able to focus on externally-directed tasks. Somewhere in the future: using brain imaging to diagnose ADHD by examining these networks. Read more.

BRAIN SCANS AND READING DIFFICULTIES. University of California researchers have used brain scans to predict how young children will learn to read, giving clinicians a possible tool to spot children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties before they experience reading challenges. The study followed kids from K to Grade 3, and showed that the way the kids' white matter developed predicted their reading abilities. The researchers hope that techniques such as the ones used in the study might someday flag children early and provide for appropriate intervention. Read more.

BRAIN SCANS AND ASD. Young adults with ASD were compared to peers without ASD in a test involving choosing test items and receiving feedback on the correctness of the choice, all the while being monitored by brain imaging. From a writeup of the study at the site of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: "As expected, young adults with ASD had difficulty integrating positive feedback in a given trial into their performance on subsequent trials. This was due to deficits in reward-related working memory -- the ability to keep just-gathered information at the ready -- for application in a related or new situation. Those with ASD also had a tendency to rely more heavily on trial-by-trial feedback processing as opposed to an affective reward-based working memory." Find out more.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA has received a $1.5 million donation to benefit its gifted education program. The gift will enable the university to hire a faculty member in gifted ed. The donors have an expansive view of gifted ed. They told a news outlet, "We'd like to see gifted education offered in every classroom, every day, to any student." Find out more.

THE CHILD MIND INSTITUTE has on its site two new articles about OCD, "What Does OCD Look Like in the Classroom?" and "A Teacher's Guide to Understanding OCD."

POWER STRUGGLES between parents and school -- and how to avoid them -- is the topic of the current issue of Special Ed Advocate from Wrightslaw. Spending time at school advocating for your child? Find the issue.

UPCOMING SENGINAR. On September 23, the organization Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted will present a webinar titled "The Anxious Family: What to Do When Everyone Frets." The presenter is Joanna Haase, Ph.D. Find out more.

MAKING A CASE FOR EVALUATION is the topic of Jen's most recent post at the blog Laughing at Chaos. From the post: "If he hadn't been ID’d twice-exceptional when he was four (and confirmed when he was tested again at age eight), I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that schools would have seen only disability and he would have fallen through the cracks." Read the blog.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Babies born in winter (who reach crawling age in the summer) evidently start crawling earlier than those born in summer (who reach crawling age in the winter). Researchers said the difference (four weeks) was reason to make sure that babies have proper development opportunities even in winter. Read more, but wonder whether maybe there's something to that astrology stuff after all. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exercise, Autism Intervention, GHF Anniversary, and More

GIFTED HOMESCHOOLERS FORUM is observing 10 years of service to the families of gifted and twice-exceptional children. You can read more about the anniversary here, or visit the group's website here. Congratulations to GHF! (And does this mean that Corin is now 10 years older than when we first met her? No way!)

EXERCISE before school might reduce the symptoms of ADHD in young students, according to researchers at Michigan State University; read more. Separately, a recent Finnish study shows that higher levels of physical activity are related to better academic achievement during the first three school years, particularly in boys; find out more.

AUTISM INTERVENTION. A small study at the UC MIND Institute administered an intervention to infants who showed early signs of autism -- decreased eye contact, etc -- which, with heavy parental involvement seemed to allow the little ones to catch up with typically developing peers by age 2 or 3. The researchers noted the importance of early identification, as early as six months. The intervention was based on the Early Start Denver Model. Read more. Separately, another study indicates that the same sex hormone that helps protect females from stroke may also reduce their risk of autism. In the first look at a potential role of the female sex hormone in autism, researchers have found expression of estrogen receptor beta -- which enables estrogen's potent brain protection -- is significantly decreased in autistic brains. The receptor also plays a role in locomotion as well as behavior, including anxiety, depression, memory, and learning. Find out more


NEAR VERMONT? Landmark College is holding its second day-long symposium on "new and emerging technologies for people who learn differently," according to the organization. Speakers include Ben Foss, founder of Headstrong Nation; Jon Landis from Apple; and Dr Mark Hakkinen from Educational Testing Service. The three (respectively) will speak on:
  • "A Blueprint for Learners: Using Technology to Support Students Who Learn Differently"
  • "Accessibility and Current and Emerging Technologies"
  • "Why Mobility Matters"
Find out more.
NEAR LOS ANGELES? The Summit Center still has seats left for the September 18th event "Be an A+ Parent of Gifted & Twice Exceptional Learners: Focus on What Matters!" Presenters are Dr. Dan Peters, executive director of the Summit Center, and Melanie Prager, J.D., C.P.E. Find out more

THE DYSLEXIC ADVANTAGE NEWSLETTER for September is out, previewing two upcoming dyslexia- or 2e-related webinars, presenting two recordings of conference sessions on dyslexia and innovation (one a "young professionals" panel), and giving a pointer to a recent Scientific American article on the advantages of dyslexia. Find the newsletter

DOES GIFTED EDUCATION WORK? FOR WHICH STUDENTS? That's the title of a paper issued by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research. It's based on a study of one large urban school district. The key contention: "Our findings suggest that a separate classroom environment is more effective for students selected on past achievement – particularly disadvantaged students who are often excluded from gifted and talented programs." That is, those selected on achievement rather than IQ seem to benefit most from gifted classrooms. See a summary of the paper (scroll down to the third item); or try to access the paper itself. (It's evidently freely available to some groups -- like government employees or residents of developing nations -- but not others.)

CARGO-CULT NEUROSCIENCE. A writer takes aim at "neuroscience" applications in business and education that might not be exactly rigorous. Actually, the term "cargo-cult science" has an interesting origin that makes  this Sydney Morning Herald article worth looking at all by itself; find it. 

AND FINALLY, THIS. Researchers compared the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women in over two dozen countries with how well children from those same countries performed on academic tests. Their findings show that the amount of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a mother's milk is the strongest predictor of test performance. It outweighs national income and the number of dollars spent per pupil in schools. Read more. Then go chow down on nuts and seeds. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Raising/Teaching Introverts, On the Spectrum, and Back to School

AUTISM SPEAKS highlights an under-development app for Google Glass that will provide the wearer with information on the emotional state of individuals viewed through Glass. Using facial recognition software, the app will be of use to those on the spectrum and others who have difficulty "reading" emotions in others. (Who knows, maybe you should get Glass and the app for your spouse.) Find out more

ALSO FROM AUTISM SPEAKS, a college graduate on the spectrum describes his experiences in elementary and high school, as well as being the first NCAA athlete and basketball player at Michigan State University. The man is now an advocate and motivational speaker. His core advice: use your resources. Read more

WHAT A HIGHLY CREATIVE CHILD WOULD LIKE US TO HEAR. At creativitypost.com, an educational consultant has written a piece from the point of view of a highly creative child, offering advice to parents and teachers on a variety of situations -- such as "he's smart, he's just acting lazy." Find the article

DO YOU RAISE OR TEACH AN INTROVERT? You'll be interested in a posting (text, not video) at TED.com called "How to Teach a Young Introvert." Susan Cain points out that perhaps one-third to one-half of students in the U.S. are introverts, yet "our most important institutions, like schools and workplaces, are designed for extroverts." She offers tips such as not setting social standards for what is normal -- eg, acknowledging that it's okay to have just a few friends; building quiet time into the day; and provide choice for how "you get your learning and how you get your restorative time." Read more

WRIGHTSLAW offers some back-to-school resources, including "The Back to School Checklist" (15 items, including "make an information folder about your child for the teacher" and "record every conversation" in your school contact log) along with pointers to reduce stress on school mornings. Find Wrightslaw's Special Ed Advocate

MORE BACK-TO-SCHOOL RESOURCES are offered by NAGC -- for parents, administrators, educators, students, and advocates. (Don't fit any of those categories? What are you doing reading this?) Not surprisingly, many of the resources come as the result of NAGC membership. Check it out

CHILD WELL-BEING -- what is it? Two academics propose a theory of child well-being: "First, a child is considered to be doing well if that child develops capacities appropriate to his or her developmental stage that equip the child for successful adulthood, given the child's social ecology. Second, that the child engages with the world in child-appropriate ways, such as curiosity and exploration, spontaneity and emotional security." Note the phrase "appropriate to his or her developmental stage," something often not taken into account with gifted or 2e kids, we think. Read more.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Depression, ADHD, Hard Work versus Talent, and More

CHILDHOOD DEPRESSION can be difficult to distinguish because it manifests differently than adult depression, according to an article in the Washington Post. The article says that even preschoolers can show signs of depression, however, and provides characteristics of depression in children and in adolescents, along with signs that should tell parents to seek help for their kids. Find the article.

AGGRESSION WITH ADHD sounds like a tough combination for any parent to handle. Recent research indicates that a combination of drug therapies (stimulants and antipsychotics) plus parent training can help. A study compared two groups differing only in whether the antipsychotic risperidone was part of the treatment and found that "augmenting stimulant medication and parent training in behavior management with risperidone may result in additional behavioral improvement in aggression, anger, and irritability over the short-term for children," according to one of the researchers. Read more.

HARD WORK. You probably know Carol Dweck's hypothesis that praising effort rather than native talent is more effective in terms of encouraging healthy achievement. A Michigan State University study indicates that simply telling people that hard work is more important than genetics causes positive changes in the brain and may make them willing to try harder. "Giving people messages that encourage learning and motivation may promote more efficient performance," said the lead investigator. "In contrast, telling people that intelligence is genetically fixed may inadvertently hamper learning." Find out more in an MSU press release about the research. Separately, other research shows that how a student reacts to setbacks -- eg, a failed exam -- depends at least in part on how much control the student feels he or she has over what happened. And there's evidently a physiological basis for the difference in the reaction, as evidenced by activity in areas of the brain that deal with goal-setting based on past experience and with flexible regulation of emotion. The findings have implications for how to present news of a setback to students; read more


IT'S STILL BACK-TO-SCHOOL TIME, and this week a couple organizations offered advice for "connecting" with school. At the site of the Child Mind Institute is a list of seven things to tell the teacher about your child, including health conditions (including ADHD), strengths and weaknesses, and learning style; find it. And this month's newsletter from LD Online offers tips and resources to strengthen home/school communication; read the tips


SPEAKING OF BACK TO SCHOOL -- we're offering our Spotlight on 2e Series booklets at reduced prices this month. Parents, perhaps consider buying a copy of Understanding Your Twice-exceptional Student for your 2e child's teacher, or stocking up on other titles for yourself. Find out more at our website

SENG has made a major change to membership. Supporters can now choose to become "official" members with dues that range from $20 (student) to $75 (professional) per year. The paid memberships come with a variety of discounts and other benefits, such as discounted conference fees and one free SENG webinar per year. Not sure yet which category we fit best, but you can be sure we'll be joining. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- one more thing to worry about, phenols. Some of them may interfere with fetal development in boys. Exposure can come from mom's exposure to parabens (in cosmetics and healthcare products) and triclosan (in some soaps and toothpastes). The compounds are classified as endocrine disrupters. In some ways, it's not a friendly world out there. Read more.