Monday, December 22, 2008

From the Weeks of December 21st and 28th

We anticipate that news, resources, event announcements concerning giftedness, learning disabilities, education, and child development will slow down over the year-end holidays, so -- one post for the next two weeks. We'll update it as we find things to bring to your attention.

BEST COLLEGES. US News and World Report has announced "America's Best Colleges 2009." High-performing high-schoolers and their families may be interested in categories such as "Top Public Schools" or "Best Engineering Schools." For twice-exceptional students, one interesting ranking might be "Freshman Retention Rate"; although that ranking doesn't explicitly address support for students, it seems likely that would be a contributing factor and worth checking into at the schools ranked. Besides the information freely available online, additional information is available in a "Premium Online Edition" for $14.95. Find the report.

COMEDY WRITER MEETS THE SAT. Ever think that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) could be livelier? Comedy writer Charles Horn has, according to the LA Times, written a book called The Laugh Out Loud Guide to the SAT, using humor to make preparing for the test more interesting. Horn is not exactly uncredentialed; he received a doctorate from Princeton, has experience as a software engineer, and -- as he struggled to get his comedy career going -- tutored high school students for the SAT. Find out more and see sample questions in the article.
(And see if you can derive the answer to Question 4.)

A 4.0 AVERAGE BUT STRUGGLING WITH MATH. An
educational columnist in the Flint, Michigan, Journal offers advice to an apparently twice-exceptional college junior who writes in asking for help. The student attended a private high school for the gifted, has a 4.0 average in college, but struggles with math and has been avoiding it in college. The columnist offers a couple tips for dealing with the immediate problem, suggests assessment, and points out the advantages that an LD label can bring in terms of accommodations. Read the column.

MEDICINE AND MONEY. Those who read this blog and our monthly briefing know that we have a concern with the way money can apparently influence medical opinion when it comes to diagnosing and treating young people with exceptionalities. (Blog posts from the weeks of 11/16 and 7/13 point to articles on the topic.) On December 24th, one of our favorite comic strips, Boondocks (discontinued but repeating in perpetuity, like Peanuts), covers the topic. Huey, the pre-adolescent black revolutionary and social critic, is ill but doesn't want to go to a doctor because "Western medicine is too corrupted by capitalism," preferring instead the fictitious website everythingcankillyou.com. Read the strip, and remember that money's effect on our kids' medicine is a serious issue. (Is everythingcankillyou.com really a fictitious site? Seems that on the day the strip reappeared, December 24th, some enterprising soul re-registered what had been an expired domain name.)

AS WE GET CLOSE TO THE NEW YEAR, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers "20 Healthy New Year's Resolutions for Kids." The resolutions are grouped into those for preschoolers, kids five to 12, and kids 13 and up. The resolutions are pretty idealistic -- "I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day, and I will limit the amount of soda I drink" -- but who knows, if you have a receptive child give it a try. Plus, the site lets you email the resolutions directly to the child of your choice, saving you the lecture. See the resolutions.

MORE ON DSM REVISIONS. A blog entry at SharpBrains.com questions the entire psychiatric diagnosis process, suggesting instead that psychometrics be used rather than clinical diagnosis based on symptoms. The blog notes, "
it is perfectly possible to treat someone based on continuous measures of distress, impairment and functioning using evidence-based cut-off points to judge whether a particular treatment should be applied." An example? The way we manage hypertension. Read the blog entry.


TROUBLED STUDENT MAKES GOOD. The founder of Jimmy John's Sandwich Shops, James Liautaud, was not a model student at his private prep school in Elgin, Illinois. According to the New York Times, he was a trouble-maker who was nearly expelled. But because the dean of discipline at the school believed in him and was able to guide him, he graduated. Then, without going to college, he founded what would become an 800-store empire. Recently Jimmy John gave Elgin Academy $1 million for a new building, with the condition that the dean's name be on the building. Read the story, and consider that perhaps giftedness doesn't need to go to college to succeed, and that behavioral issues may disappear along with adolescence.

MORE NEWS as the year draws to a close.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From the Week of December 14th

THE GIFTED LABEL is going away in the Montgomery County, Maryland, public school system, according to the Washington Post. Part of the problem: a high number of "gifted" students overall, and a disparity based on race in terms of who has received the gifted label. The article notes that while the school system has a well-regarded gifted program, dropping the label is an attempt to "get away from this idea of putting kids in boxes," according to a school official quoted by the Post. Read the article.

CAROLYN K'S WORLD TRAVELS. We mentioned previously that the
webmistress of Hoagies' Gifted website was speaking at a gifted conference in Malaysia. On December 14th, the Malaysia Star published an account of an address by Kottmeyer in which she spoke to "facts and myths" about gifted children. Among the myths: gifted children are always a joy to teach. Read the article.

NAGC'S PHP -- that's Parenting for High Potential, a member publication of the National Association for Gifted Children, just out in its December edition. In it are several articles on advocating for gifted students. One of them, "Advocating for Our Future," offers tips for parents in participating at various levels of advocacy (district, state, national), and is available at the NAGC website. Unfortunately, the other advocacy articles, plus an article by SENG Executive Director Amy Price on her experiences with her twice-exceptional son, are not available online as nearly as we can tell. Better bug an NAGC member to share his or her PHP.

THE NEWLY NOMINATED U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, and what the choice might mean for the nation's schools, is the topic of this week's (Wednesday's) EdWeek chat, held from 11 a.m. until noon Eastern time. More information. If you hurry, you can still submit your questions.

ATTENTION AND A NEW DRUG. A study by UC Davis researchers reports the discovery of a new mechanism of attention in the human brain. Researchers use a drug, modafinil, and fMRIs to investigate the role of part of the brain stem, the locus ceruleus (LC), in shifts from distraction to attention. Modafinil
modifies the state of the LC, shifting volunteers into a more attentive state in which they showed enhanced coordinated brain activity and performance on a test of attention control. "Now that we know how it works, we can develop better cognitive enhancers that can treat more people suffering from a wider variety of neurodevelopmental disorders, like AD/HD, autism and schizophrenia," said the lead researcher. Read the press release.


WRIGHTSLAW FOR DECEMBER 16TH. This week's edition of Special Ed Advocate offers advice on the topic of just what kind of child qualifies for special education services and a FAPE under IDEA. The net-out, according to the newsletter: "To be eligible for a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA, the child must have a disability and must need special education and related services." Read more.

DSM IN REVISION. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is under revision as contributing doctors debate issues relevant to gifted and twice-exceptional children (among other mental health issues affecting humankind). For example, according to the New York Times on December 18th, "sensory processing disorder" is being advocated by some for recognition as a disorder. Pediatric bipolar disorder is under consideration as a distinct diagnosis, says the article, and Asperger's Syndrome may be merged with high-functioning autism. There's still lots of work to be done, but you can read the article here.

THE STATE OF EDUCATION. Washington Post Columnist Jay Mathews, whose writings we respect, gave EdNews.org interviewer Michael Shaugnessey his (Mathew's not Shaugnessey's) views on the education issues of 2008 and the prospective impact of recent political events on education for 2009. Read the interview.

TEACHER RESOURCE. Education Week lists grants available to educators and students at its site. This week, there are 11 grants marked as "new." Examples: A $5000 MetLife grant to recognize a teacher for outstanding leadership in bridging the school and community; a Thacher Scholars Awards for secondary school students (grades 9-12) demonstrating the best use of geospatial technologies or data to study Earth; and a $5000 Amgen Foundation award for science teaching excellence in K-12. Go for the gold, gifted and 2e educators!

BRAIN RESOURCE. An organization called SharpBrains, with a site at SharpBrains.com, bills itself as a "market research & advisory company fully focused on providing high-quality information and guidance to navigate the brain fitness and cognitive health market." We're not sure how they really make their money, but the site offers interesting interviews, newsletters, news, and other resources in the area of brain health. One example, a PDF on debunking myths in the nascent brain fitness industry, offers 11 in-depth interviews, some of which may be of interest to parents, educators, and clinicians who work with attention-challenged young people. Interviews in this PDF include "Cognitive Training for AD/HD" (David Rabiner); and "Working Memory Training and Schools of the Future" (Dr. Arthur Lavin). Looks like you have to sign up for the monthly newsletter to get this particular document; you can find out about it here, but there's plenty of other material immediately available on the site.


2e ACHIEVERS. Courtesy of LD Online's Newsline, we have three stories to pass along about twice-exceptional people who have achieved greatly in various fields. One achiever is a high school junior with dyslexia and an auditory processing disorder who has built himself quite a resume of academic achievement and community service; read about it in the Allentown, New Jersey, Examiner. The second achiever is the AD/HD founder of JetBlue, who this week launched his fourth airline, this one in Brazil; CNNMoney/Fortune wrote up his story. Finally, Newsline pointed us to to a story in the UK Guardian about Peter Street, who overcame a rather unusual childhood, dyscalculia, and a disabling spinal injury to become a poet, grant recipient, and BBC writer-in-residence. (This is after being a gravedigger, exhumer, slaughterhouse worker, baker, gardener, hotel porter and tree surgeon, according to the Guardian). Read the article.

MORE NEWS AND RESOURCES as the week goes on.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

From the Week of December 7th

SUNDAY FRAZZ. Caulfield explores the limits of child giftedness in today's comic strip. Read it.

THE PATHOLOGIZATION OF TEASING. This week's Sunday Magazine section in the New York Times carried an article about teasing and how it's
frowned upon, since it's often confused with bullying. The writer notes the pervasiveness of teasing in the animal world (humans included) and hypothesizes that "in rejecting teasing, we may be losing something vital and necessary to our identity as the most playful of species." The author, a professor of psychology at UC/Berkeley, explains the "language" of teasing, its benefits in communication and in facilitating group cohesion, and even the "romance" of teasing. And while most of the article is about teasing in young people, the author notes that "married couples with a rich vocabulary of teasing nicknames and formulaic insults are happier and better satisfied." Read the article.

SOCIOECONOMICS AND BRAIN INEQUITY. A press release from the University of California/Berkeley says its researchers have used EEGs to determine
that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity. The release quotes one of the researchers: "Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult. We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response." Read it.

LD TALK: Family-School Partnerships and RTI. The talk is on December 9th from 1 to 2 pm, ET, and features Amy Reschly, who will, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, "answer your questions about creating positive, engaged relationships that center around supporting student learning, sharing of data and decision making, interventions, and collaborative problem-solving." Find out more.

SAFE AT SCHOOL? How about from toxic air and chemicals? USA Today has launched a project that ranks the nation's schools in terms of whether they're in "toxic hot spots." Go to the site to check your child's school, your old school, or to find the least and most toxic schools in the United States. The site even tells which chemicals are most responsible for toxicity outside the school and lists the local polluters responsible; the proximity of polluters and schools are shown on local maps. (If you want to see some scary results, enter "Cicero, Illinois" in the "find your school" search tool.) Now: If only there were a similar tool to tell us how the educational atmosphere in each of the nation's schools suited twice-exceptional students --
stimulating and healthy, or toxic and deadly.

IDEA CHANGES. The US Department of Education this month released changes to the regulations in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The changes involve the right of parents to withdraw consent for special education services; the right of states to determine whether non-lawyers can represent parents in due-process hearings; and the amount of time school districts have to fix compliance problems with IDEA. Read an Education Week article. Want to read the regs for yourself? Go to this website, address courtesy of special ed attorney Matt Cohen. As of Tuesday, you may also find information on these changes at the Wrightslaw website.

WEEK TO WEEK. In last week's post we mentioned Joel McIntosh's new podcast series at Prufrock Press. It's always hard to call number one the "first in a series," but Joel followed up this week with a second podcast, "A Parent's Brief Introduction to Various Learning Opportunities for Gifted Children," a discussion with Carol Fertig, author of Raising a Gifted Child. [Hmmm, could be a Prufrock book, do you think?] Regardless, the podcast from this publisher of materials for those who raise and teach gifted children is right here!

INTEGRATING THE ARTS into the curriculum. That, we say smugly, was the featured topic in the November/December issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter. If our articles started you thinking about the topic, you now have the opportunity to contribute to Edutopia magazine. Their "Wisdom of Crowds" question for the next issue is "How are you integrating the arts into the other subjects in your curriculum"? Edutopia says to send your 25- to 100-word response to sage@edutopia.org by December 17, including your name, title, affiliation, and location. You may also find out about the "Wisdom of Crowds" at the organization's website.

GIFTEDNESS -- FIXED OR EVOLVING? We've covered this debate before, but columnist/blogger Tarmara Fisher has posted her analysis of the recent EdWeek Chat on the nature of giftedness. The protagonists and chat panelists, authors of a new book on giftedness and whether it's innate or developed, serve as a foil for Fisher's commentary. Read it.

ALTERNATIVE COLLEGE TEXTS FOR THOSE WITH A READING LD. A soon-to-launch service called the AccessText Network will provide college students with alternate, presumably spoken, versions of textbooks. Here's how the organization describes itself on its website: "
The AccessText Network is a membership exchange network that will facilitate and support the nationwide delivery of alternative files for students with diagnosed print-related disabilities. AccessText will serve as the national nucleus for post-secondary distribution of approved alternative textbook file exchanges, training, and technical support." According to the site, you can register now for the AccessText Network beta membership. Membership registrations will be processed in January 2009 for the February 2009 beta launch. Support is provided by a group of publishers. Go to the site.

Monday, December 1, 2008

From the Week of November 30th

ABILITY GROUPING FOR GIFTED CHILDREN. That's the title of a podcast from Prufrock Press, as publisher Joel McIntosh experiments with a new media format. In the podcast, McIntosh discusses the topic with Todd Kettler. You may listen to the podcast or download an iTunes version at the Prufrock Press website. Announced today (Monday, December 1st), the podcast is the first in a series.

WRIGHTLAW'S Special Ed Advocate this week offers "10 Tips for Good Advocates." Working with a school on behalf of your gifted or twice-exceptional child? See if you qualify as a good advocate and find out what to to if you don't.

MEDIA. KIDS. BAD. Today the Washington Post reported on the results of a meta-study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and Yale University on the effects of television, music, movies, and other media on children and adolescents. Researchers looked at 173 studies conducted over nearly 30 years. The findings: connections between media exposure and such healthy traits as obesity, tobacco use, and early sexual behavior. You probably knew all this already, but if you want to see how the professionals support you, read the article. Also reported in the New York Times. ("Blow up the TV/ Throw away the paper/ Go to the country/ Build you a home." -- John Prine)

HOW COMMON ARE PERSONALITY DISORDERS in young adults? Various news outlets reported on research indicating that the incidence is about one in five. Furthermore, according to the research, fewer than 25 percent of those young adults receive treatment. The personality disorders included obsessive behaviors, anti-social behaviors, and paranoid behaviors -- all interfering with daily functioning. Adding substance abuse to the figure boosts the incidence of problems to almost 50 percent. Read the article in the Boston Globe.

DEEP BRAIN STIMULATION. Several articles appearing this week described how deep brain stimulation may help patients with a variety of brain-based disorders. One of those articles, in the December/January issue of Scientific American Mind and available online, described its use in treating, among other disorders, depression, dystonia, and OCD. Another article, this one in the New York Times, described one researcher's theory of how abnormal brain waves cause disorders and how the theory may explain why deep brain stimulation works. Disorders mentioned in the Times article as possible candidates for treatment included Tourette's, schizophrenia, and traumatic brain injury.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI) occurs not only in combat but also in collisions with objects or people (as in sports), falls, and motor vehicle accidents. According to an article in the current issue of Scientific American Mind, about 300,000 mild TBIs, or concussions, result from sports every year in the US. The article describes the effects and treatment of TBI in both military personnel and civilians. Read it.

KNOW SOMEONE WITH OCD? SciAmMind also reviews a book called "Obsession: A History." One thesis of the book: "We tend to draw too strong a line between the healthy and the pathological." Go here and scroll partway down the page to see the review.

AD/HD PRIMER -- AND MORE. Over the past month, in four separate columns at EdNews.org, Susan Crum has covered the topic of AD/HD. Two of the articles were "Parent Primers"; a third covered diagnosis and co-morbiditiy; and the most recent covered the difficulties in evaluating executive functions. Find the articles.

"BEST" HIGH SCHOOLS. U.S. News and World Report has released its 2009 list of America's best high schools. If you're in Massachusetts, 8.6 percent (29) of your high schools are ranked "gold" or "silver"; at least six states had no high-ranking high schools. The rankings use two screening criteria, overall student performance and disadvantaged student performance. Schools passing the screen are then ranked only on a "college readiness" criteria that uses AP/IB participation and achievement. The ranking might highlight schools where gifted students can thrive; whether 2e students thrive in those schools is probably a separate matter, we guess. The rankings.

Monday, November 24, 2008

From the Week of November 23rd

"VARSITY ACADEMICS." Maybe everyone knew about this but us, but lately the names "Will Fitzhugh" and "Concord Review" seemed to be showing up frequently on our computer monitor. We discovered that The Concord Review was founded 21 years ago to showcase "exemplary history essays by high school students in the English-speaking world." And it has done that -- over 4.5 million words to date. You may see sample essays ("Austria-Hungary and the Compromise of 1867"; "Abigail Adams: Feminist Myth"; and many more) or subscribe at the publication's site. If you know a young, gifted historian, check it out. You may also read this week's EdNews.org interview with Concord Review publisher Fitzhugh on the topic of academic excellence -- go here.

GENDER AND AD/HD. A recent NPR broadcast described AD/HD in girls, and how it manifests itself differently than in boys. Hear it.

TOOL FOR HELICOPTER PARENTING? A press release brought to our attention the VivoMetrics' LifeShirt, a
wearable, remote monitoring technology that continuously monitors multiple vital signs. According to the company, "the system provides researchers, physicians and healthcare providers with actionable insights into a patient's health via the monitoring and relational reporting of key life-sign functions including heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, body position, activity level and skin temperature." While the shirt has lots of legitimate clinical uses, it seems to us that the determined parent could use it to tell if a kid was drinking, doing drugs -- or simply having too much fun. Find out more.

GOT AN EXCEPTIONAL PEDIATRICIAN? Nominate him or her for the American Academy of Pediatrics "Pediatric Heroes -- Champions for Children" award. Deadline: January 16, 2009. Make nominations here.

TWICE-EXCEPTIONAL MAKES THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA. The article calls it "2x" and not "2e," but we won't quibble. A piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on November 23rd told of the growing awareness of twice-exceptional students and noted a federal grant of almost $500,000 to fund a five-year local project aimed at better identification and instruction of twice-exceptional students. Read more, along with some fairly divided reader comments on the subject of race, privilege, and diagnosis. :-(

WRIGHTSLAW. The November 25th edition of Special Ed Advocate provided reading recommendations for parents who want to be better advocates for their children. And because many gifted/LD students have IEPs or 504s, books about those topics -- and about negotiating, testing, and legal rights -- are especially relevant to parents of those students. Find the recommendations.

AD/HD -- STRENGTH OR DEFICIT? AD/HD poster-person Michael Phelps has emerged as an inspirational role model among kids with AD/HD and their parents, says an article in the The New York Times. A psychiatrist and author who has AD/HD says it's neither an unmitigated blessing nor unmitigated curse but a trait. The issue: how to be positive while still addressing the risks and limitations inherent in AD/HD. Read the article. (See a follow-up commentary on the article here.)

EDUCATIONAL CHOICES. The state of Florida has passed legislation to give parents more choice in the education of their children -- the choice of full-time, online schooling. The law requires school districts to have online schools for K through 8. Students will be tested, graded, and will take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, according to the article in the Orlando Sentinel. Find out more.

DYSLEXIA, NEUROPLASTICITY. The Dana Foundation's Brain Work recently featured an article that, in part, covered how the brain's ability to adapt can help dyslexics "rewire" to improve language/reading skills. One interesting quote from the article: "In our schools we've focused on improving the curriculum, the teachers and the medications we give our children, but we've never focused on improving the brain the child brings to the classroom." The article goes on to relate other examples of neuroplasticity and its effect on brain function, for example in people who suffer strokes. Read the article.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING. Twice-exceptional kids, along with different learners of all types, benefit from instruction that caters to their favored (or most "able") learning mode. Universal design for learning (UDL) is an instructional design technique that acknowledges different modes of learning and emphasizes building courses from the ground up to be able to accommodate those modes. An article in the Burlington, Vermont, Free Press described how UDL is (or could be) applied to instruction at the University of Vermont. For example, says the article, a course on Shakespeare might include books on tape, captioned videos, or student-performance opportunities, not just reading and lecture. The article also covers some of the way technology can help different learners -- ear receivers to help AD/HD students better "tune in" to lectures; text-to-speech software; and lecture captioning. Find out more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From the Week of November 16th

THIS WEEK FROM WRIGHTSLAW. If you have a twice-exceptional child and you need to advocate at school, you might be interested in this week's edition of Special Ed Advocate from Wrightslaw. The Wrightslaw site and their newsletters are heavy with advocacy advice, but if you're not familiar with them we recommend taking a look.

EVOLVING DEFINITION OF GIFTEDNESS -- that's the title of Education Week's Live Chat for November 19, 4 to 5 pm Eastern time. Can giftedness be nurtured, taught, or lost? The chat is text-based; a transcript is posted after the close of the chat. Tune in. You may also submit questions in advance.

DAVIDSON INSTITUTE eNEWS-UPDATE. The November issue is online, with articles about the 2008 Davidson Fellows, a potpourri of legislative and policy news from across the country, a profile of the 2008 NAGC Scholar of the Year, Dr. Donna Ford, and more.

WHAT ASPERGER'S IS LIKE. The Pocono Record covered a presentation by the Aspie author William Stillman, in which Stillman provided an exercise to try to let attendees feel what it would be like to have Asperger's. His device: asking the audience to play "Simon Says" while lights flickered on and off and static blasted at odd times. Read the article, his perceptions on having Asperger's, and his advice for dealing with those with autism.

TEACHING SOCIAL SKILLS TO NERDS is the topic of an article from the Orlando Sentinel. The author distinguishes between "S" (systematizing) brains and "E" (emphathizing) brains -- and guess which type has trouple with social skills. The article contends, however, that nerds (extreme S-brain individuals) can be socialized. Read it.

HEAVY WEEK FOR NEUROSCIENCE NEWS. This week is the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (attendance: over 31,000), and lots of news is sure to come out of it. If you're interested, you can read coverage of the meeting at a blog site from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Up so far: research that chewing gum can improve short-term memory; and findings on the neurological basis of love. We'll try to find and highlight news relevant to giftedness, LDs, parenting, child development, and education.

TS AND GIFTEDNESS. December 7th's Hallmark Hall of Fame program is titled "Front of the Class," and is based on the true story of a young man with Tourette Syndrome who became, according to CBS, "a gifted teacher." The program airs from 9 to 11 pm eastern time.

THE DISAPPEARING MALE is the title of a cheery article in the Windsor Star noting studies of the increasing rates of birth defects and disorders in boys, disorders such as TS, LDs, and autism. Chemicals in the environment are seen as the culprit. The topic is further explored in a CBC television show of the same name. Read the article.

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY. Maurice Fisher published his winter edition this week. It includes articles on educating the gifted and on using e-books with gifted readers. Find it online.

DUMP YOUR UNMANAGEABLE KID IN NEBRASKA? You're too late. The state legislature amended its "safe haven" law to apply only to infants 30 days old or less, not 18 years or less, according to the November 22nd New York Times. You'll have to figure out something else. Read it.

PROLIFIC INTERVIEWER MICHAEL SHAUGHNESSY of EdNews.org interviewed the co-editor of the new book Routledge International Companion to Gifted Education, which has chapters contributed by many prominent figures in the gifted arena. The purpose of the book: "To review, to synthesize, and to challenge current understandings and practices in gifted education around the world." Read the interview.

KIDS AND ANTI-PSYCHOTICS -- AGAIN. The column "Domestic Disturbances" in the November 20th New York Times revisited the practice of prescribing powerful antipsychotics such as Risperdal to not only kids with bipolar disorder but with AD/HD. The author, Judith Warner, points out that a spike in diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder "dovetails suspiciously well with the introduction of atypical antipsychotics in the early and mid-1990s." If you have a kid on meds because he or she is "chronically irritable, extremely aggressive, [or] prone to explosive outbursts and out-of-control rages," be sure to read this article. It deals with mis-categorization, misdiagnosis, and mis-prescription.

NEW TO SPECIAL ED SERVICES for your gifted/LD child? A six-page article by attorney Matt Cohen in the publication Nami Beginnings covers the rights of schools and parents in such areas as accommodations and remediation; evaluations; the provision of IEP services; proposed placements; FAPE; post-secondary supports; and suspensions. Read it here.

TOPIC: SCHOOL DISCIPLINE. RELEVANCE TO 2E: PROBABLY LOW. HUMOR CONTENT: HIGH. Sorry, we have to "pass" this along, odious as it might be. The website The Smoking Gun reported that a 12-year-old Florida boy was arrested this month
-- arrested! -- for deliberately "breaking wind" to disrupt class. You can read the account and see a copy of the police report at Smoking Gun's site.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From the Week of November 9th

MAYBE IT'S NOT THE KIDS -- IT'S US. Harvard professor and author Jerome Kagan, writing for the Dana Foundation's Cerebrum, suggests that the increase in the diagnosis of childhood disorders such as AD/HD stems as much from social conditions as from biology. Among those social conditions (which have changed over the past several hundred years): changing definitions of pathology and an over-reliance on parental input for a diagnosis; emphasis on schooling as a requirement for success, an emphasis which causes stress in parents should a child show difficulty with school; and just a change in the way we live. For example, in the 17th century, says Kagan, children were likely "not required to maintain attention on an intellectual task for five of six hours a day." Kagan discusses what he evidently feels are over-diagnoses of AD/HD, bipolar disorder, and autism. This is a "big picture" article that might provide perspective to parents, educators, and clinicians who are "down in the weeds" worrying about and dealing with children's behaviors; we highly recommend it to those who deal with twice-exceptional kids. Read it.

OR -- MAYBE PREGNANCY CAUSES MENTAL DISORDERS. Seriously. An article in November 11th's New York Times outlines a new theory that parents' genes -- and competition between them in the developing embryo -- influence the development of mental disorders. It's a big theory, one that posts autism and schizophrenia on opposite ends of a spectrum of disorders. Experts in the field say, according to the article, that the theory has "demonstrated the power of thinking outside the gene." Read the article.

NO EXCUSES for not meeting the needs of gifted students. On her blog "Unwrapping the Gifted," Tamara Fisher debunks 10 common excuses for not giving gifted students what they need -- excuses such as,
“If only that gifted student would bother doing his assigned work, I might consider giving him something different to do.” Read what Fisher has to say about excuses like this.

TEACHER'S RESOURCE. Edutopia has made some of its videos available through Apple's iTunesU. For example, a series of short videos on social-emotional learning is available for free download at iTunesU. So is a series titled "Integrated Studies," presenting ways teachers and students can work together in making curricular connections around a theme or topic. While you're at it, the Lucas Foundation is still soliciting founding memberships for Edutopia; find out more at Edutopia's site. (Note: you'll need iTunes installed on your computer for the video links in this item to work.)

ET (EXCELLENT TEACHER) PHONE HOME. LD Online's feature article for November is called "The Teacher's Role in Home/School Communications: Everybody Wins." It provides tips for teachers in communicating with parents. And parents? Some of the tips apply to you too. Read it.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR DEBATERS. Now Debate This, a national educational debate and $250,000 scholarship contest for high school students, launched its 2009 program this week in partnership with the National Forensic League Speech and Debate Honor Society. The 2009 topic and focus of the second year is: "How can America achieve energy independence through the lessons of history?" More information.

SORRY, WE NEED TO SAY THIS. ScienceDaily, one of our news feeds, passed on a study today about watching television. Here's the net-out: unhappy people watch more TV. The question: is it cause and effect or something else?

EDWEEK CHAT. This week: "What Does RTI Mean in the Classroom." Transcript is here. Free registration may be required.

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MIRROR NEURONS? If you raise or teach an Aspie, or anyone with poor social interactions, perhaps you should. Read a Society for Neuroscience article here.

GOOGLE 1. We love Google almost as much as we love Costco. Teachers and homeshooling parents can now use a Google Earth feature to tour a simulation of ancient Rome. What's more, innovative teachers can participate in a contest of lesson plans based on this virtual visit. Info here. You've got to have Google Earth installed to take advantage.

GOOGLE 2. A "vast" collection of public domain children's literature (from International Children's Digital Library) is to be scanned, digitized, and available on Google. We couldn't verify this on the Google site, but stay tuned.

HE SENT IT TO US, BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE IT YET. Each month, David Rabiner sends out "Attention Research Update," and each month we tell you what's in it. But unless you're a subscriber to his newsletter, you have to wait
to access it until weeks later when he posts the newsletter. That said, the November edition is about an electronic method for diagnosing AD/HD. The method: Quantitative EEGs, which may detect distinctive brain activity in those with AD/HD. The results: QEEGs can provide a biological marker for AD/HD and complement comprehensive diagnostic examinations for AD/HD. The study review will be here -- eventually.

NAGC CONTINUES FOR CAROLYN K -- IN MALAYSIA. Carolyn K, the webmistress of the Hoagies' Gifted site who is apparently intent on building a website with more pages than any other in the world, was at the U.S. NAGC conference in Tampa, Florida, a couple weeks ago. This week she followed that up with a visit to NAGC of Malaysia, where she presented a keynote address. She is blogging about her travels and visit, and you can read all about them here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

From the Week of November 2nd

COLLEGE AT 12. The New York Times covered the college experience so far of 12-year-old Colin Carlson, who attends the University of Connecticut full time. He had actually been attending classes at the university since age 8. Colin lives at home and commutes, but carries a full class load. The writer says of Colin that he "looks like a young Woody Allen, but with better social skills." Read the article.

ELITISM? Also in the New York Times this past Sunday was a review of the book Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality, by Charles Murray. Murray, according to the review, thinks that it's impossible to raise academic ability and that most children -- 80 percent -- should not go on to college. The title of the review is, "Just Leave Them Behind." Read the review.

VIDEO GAMES AND BEHAVIOR.
Regular child and adolescent violent video game use early in the school year predicted later aggressive behavior in both the U.S. and Japan, according to a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the AAP, researchers monitored the behavior of more than 1,200 students in Japan, ages 12 to 18, and 364 U.S. students, ages 9 to 12. The study results were similar: habitual violent video game play early in the school year predicted later aggression. The more the children played violent video games, the more physically aggressive they became. The AAP website is here.

THE FLIP SIDE OF VIDEO GAMES. The latest "Trend and 'Tudes" survey from Harris Interactive finds that four in five youth say they play sports at least once a week. (We'd bet that video game play is much more than that, both in frequency and duration.) The survey also includes data on organized sports participation. Read the survey.

MAY YOUR FAMILY'S DIAGNOSISTIC PROCESS BE QUICKER THAN THIS. ABC News published the story of 29-year-old Jason Ross, who over the decades was successively diagnosed with speech delay, AD/HD, psychosis not otherwise specified, and OCD. In a multi-year detour, he was thought to be schizophrenic; here's how is mother tells that story in the article:
"You'd say, 'Do you hear voices?' and he'd say, 'Yes' ... It took three or four years until he got that the question was, 'Is it in your mind, or is it other people on the street?'" Ross was finally diagnosed at age 25 with Asperger's. He has graduated from college and works as a cardiovascular technician. Read the article.


GOT A SMART 10TH-GRADER? Do you think he or she should be allowed to take exams to earn immediate entrance to community college or technical school? New Hampshire does -- the state, according to Time Magazine, will allow students to skip the last two years of high school should they wish, based on passing a set of state exams. Those interested in attending more challenging universities may finish the final two years and take a different, more rigorous set of tests. The exams have yet to be developed. Read the article.

NOW IT'S TV THAT CAUSES AUTISM -- at least, according to a study of rainfall records in three western states. Actually, the link is only with the number of rainy or snowy days, on which children are presumed to watch more TV. Scientists recommend further study and replication. Read the article.

BIKING TO CHILE. That's the mission of Tyson Minck, a dyslexic college student at Western Washington University, who qualified for a $15,000 Adventure Learning Grant to "
study and travel abroad for 10 months, learn from that community and bring that knowledge back to the [college] community," according to the school's website. An article in today's WWU student newspaper gives some perspective on the trip and its impact on Minck. Read it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

From the Week of October 26th

AD/HD AND COLLEGE. The Washington Post published an article on October 25th about the transition to college for students with AD/HD. The article profiles one high school senior and his family as the student prepares to choose and attend college. The issues -- evaluations, a transition to self-directedness and self-advocacy, and finding colleges that provide help to 2e and LD students. Read it.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY is a war thing, right? Wrong. It can happen to anyone, and its effects on young people (and older people as well) can be life-changing. The Dana Foundation just published an article about traumatic brain injury (
TBI) that included the story of a three-year-old who suffered a playground injury that led to cognitive and emotional difficulties. When the cause of the problems was finally diagnosed 16 years later, it was too late. Read the article.

PSYCHOLOGIST STEVE CURTIS was interviewed recently by CNN on the topic "Helping Kids Cope: When the Economy Hits Home." Curtis, author of the book Understanding Your Child's Puzzling Behavior, offered tips and advice for communicating with and reassuring children in times of family economic stress. See it.

NEUROSCIENCE AND THE CLASSROOM. The Washington Post ran an article this Tuesday exploring a variety of neuroscience topics and myths, all focused on what neuroscience is doing for education. For example, kids with a "primitive, intuitive sense of the size of numbers" perform well in math classes; and brain studies have changed the way educators treat students with autism or Asperger's. The article also runs through a brief list of educational theories that claim to be based on science but turn out to be myths. Read the article.

MORE NEUROSCIENCE. A Popular Science feature called "The Brilliant 10" about science achievers profiled the work of Rebecca Saxe of MIT in the area of social neuroscience. Saxe, according to the article, uses the tools of neuroscience to study infants, trying to determine how our brains create accurate impressions of the world. As it turns out, Saxe describes her work on Theory of Mind at an MIT page called "SaxeLab." Find it.

HABIT VERSUS LEARNING... AND OCD. A study reported this week in the New Haven Register hypothesizes that certain memory lapses may stem from conflicts in two parts of the brain. One, the striatum, stores habits. The other, the hippocampus, handles new challenges, according to the article. (The hippocampus is also responsible for turning information into memory, and is severely affected by Alzheimer's.) The lead researcher says that OCD and some aspects of autism could be "habit learning gone wrong," and that a better understanding of how the two systems interact might lead to better treatments. Read it.