Thursday, June 26, 2008

For the Week of June 22nd

A FOOT IN TWO CAMPS. "Twice-exceptional" is the intersection of ability and disability, GT and LD, so we tend to pay attention to resources in both areas. One such resource is the National Center for Learning Disabilities, NCLD. NCLD holds monthly "LD Talks," text-based online discussions. One advantage to this format is that transcripts are available for those who don't participate in the actual discussion. June 30th's discussion is titled "NCLB and Students with LD: Myths, Facts, and What the Future Holds." If you're interested in this topic or just the concept of LD Talks, you can check it out at their site.

RUDDERLESS YOUTHS. Education Week holds weekly chats in a format similar to LD Talk, although on topics of more general interest than LDs. The topic for this week was "Rudderless Youths," based on a new book by William Damon. Read about the book or find out more about Education Week's Live Chat.

GENDER DIFFERENCES DEBATE. In May, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) published a report they'd sponsored downplaying gender differences in American schools, highlighting instead differences in income and ethnicity as causes for achievement gaps. A commentary by author and psychologist Leonard Sax in recent issue of Education Week took exception to the report, saying that the report has "substantial holes" and that the report "missed the point." Sax's points: there is a real gap based on motivation and on learning differences between the genders. For example, he says, "It turns out that the best way to teach physics to girls is different than the best way to teach it to boys." Sax is an advocate and consultant for single-sex education.

ANOTHER DYSLEXIC ACHIEVER. He says he reads at about a fifth-grade level. Yet the Michigan native graduated from the University of Michigan at 19 with a perfect 4.0 average, according to the Detroit Free Press. On June 5th, the man, Benjamin Bolger, 32, was expected to receive his 11th advanced degree, a PhD in design from Harvard. He plans to teach at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For the Week of June 15th

STACKING UP. A story in the Los Angeles Times described a venture capitalist and his mission to find out "what schools in other countries were doing that American schools weren't, and why the United States performed so miserably on international student comparisons." The result: a documentary called "Two Million Minutes" comparing high-achieving students from India, China, and America. Read about it.

NEURO-EDUCATION. Carnegie Mellon Researchers have found that specialized workouts for the brain can improve cognitive skills, for example in poor readers. Through the exercises, activation increased in previously underactivating areas -- for example in the region responsible for decoding the sounds of written language and assembling them into words and phrases. If you know a bright kid with poor reading skills, check out the article.

AUTISTICS: WIRED DIFFERENTLY. A University of Washington research team has found that the brains of people on the autism spectrum respond differently to faces than other people. To be specific,
"autistic participants who had the largest social impairment showed the lowest level of connectivity between the right fusiform face area and the left amygdala and increased connectivity between the right fusiform face area and the right inferior frontal gyrus." [Got that?] Researchers added: "This study shows that the brains of people with autism are not working as cohesively as those of people without autism when they are looking at faces and processing information about them." Read it.

THE ROBIN HOOD EFFECT IN EDUCATION? That's the term the New York Times used in reporting on a study of recent gains by low-achieving students versus high-achieving students. The study apparently shows that federal test scores for the bottom 10 percent of achievers rose more than those in the top 10 percent from 2000 to 2007. The story is somewhat provocative in nature, implying questions about NCLB, equity for low-achievers, and excellence for high-achievers. But as one person interviewed for the article said, we don't have to choose between equity and excellence. Find the article here. Find the actual report here.

2e ACHIEVER. An 18-year-old young man with Asperger's, seemingly obsessed with becoming his high school's valedictorian, achieved his goal, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. In the article the young man talked frankly about his social and academic challenges and accomplishments. He plans to attend Carnegie Mellon on a Presidential Scholarship. Read the article.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS. Are you raising or teaching a gifted kid with AD/HD? Want to know about non-drug options? Check a New York Times article on the subject. Worried about the inappropriate use of methylphenidate (found in
Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate CD, Methylin ER, Ritalin LA, Ritalin-SR. Focalin, Daytrana)? See this study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And be careful out there.

That's enough for this week. Thanks for reading.



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

For the Week of June 8th

BRAIN TRAINING I. Science Daily reported on research suggesting that at least one aspect of a person’s IQ can be improved by training fluid intelligence, the ability to relate concepts and solve new problems. The reasoning: that fluid intelligence depends on short-term or “working” memory. The results: training does improve short-term memory, thus improving fluid intelligence, thus improving general intelligence as measured by IQ tests. Another implication: short-term memory training may help children with developmental problems.

BRAIN TRAINING II. In his monthly e-newsletter Attention Research Update, David Rabiner reported on two cognitive training studies for AD/HD that yielded promising findings. One study was on the impact of different types of working memory training for children with AD/HD. Reducing AD/HD symptoms with working memory training is not news to Rabiner; he has reported on previous studies. The current study compared training in auditory working memory versus visual/spatial with regard to their effectiveness, and indicated that visual/spatial working memory training “was associated with an increase in positive behavior above and beyond medication and behavior treatments already in place.” Read about this and a study involving “computerized progressive attentional training for children with AD/HD” at Rabiner’s website. (Note: the newsletters are often not posted until late in the issue month.)

WRIGHTSLAW ON AUTISM. The June 10th issue of Wrightslaw’s Special Ed Advocate focuses on autism – parents rights, early detection, and a chance to participate in an NIH research study. Read it.

AP DEBATE. Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews expressed opinions on the availability of AP and IB courses for high school students and was challenged by Chester E. Finn, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and expert on education matters. The result: a debate published in the Post on June 8th. Does more accessibility “cheapen the currency” of AP courses? Or is the AP “entry gate” too well guarded? Read the debate.

APPROPO OF… This item was interesting to us, even though it doesn’t directly relate to giftedness or LDs. But former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is involved in the development of a web site and interactive civics/judiciary curriculum for middle-schoolers, to be hosted at www.ourcourts.org. To be available this fall, seems like the site should be a good resource for inquisitive kids and for adventuresome civics teachers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

From the Week of June 1st

EDUTOPIA WANTS YOU. George Lucas, obviously a gifted person, claims he spent his school years daydreaming and writing stories. Now his George Lucas Educational Foundation publishes Edutopia to help prevent learners like Lucas from "falling through the cracks." Edutopia has launched a membership campaign to draw support from those with an interest in reforming education worldwide. If you're not familiar with Edutopia, check out their website.

BOYS
AND GIRLS, READING AND MATHS. The Economist Magazine reported briefly on research at the European University Institute of Florence showing how boys and girls differ in reading and math test scores in several countries. While girls lag in math ("maths" in the UK), the difference disappears in countries where inequalities are least. In terms of reading, girls' scores are always higher.

DRUGS
AND ADVERTISING. In an interview in EdNews.org, Ben Hansen describes how Thorazine used to be marketed for hyperactive children and Ritalin for schizophrenic adults. Times change, and Hansen has created a history of psychiatric drug advertising that provides perspective on drug marketing. The history is called "The Nearly Genuine and Truly Marvelous Mental Medicine Show Online Gallery of Modern and Vintage Psychiatric Drug Advertising." Find it here. If you have a say about the medication of gifted or twice-exceptional kids, check it out.

FROM SPECIAL ED ADVOCATE. Got a gifted or 2e kid with an IEP? The June 3rd edition of Peter and Pam Wright's electronic newsletter featured tips for ending the school year, reviewing last year's services, and planning for next year. Also included, for you parents and educators who might "confront" one another, "10 tips for avoiding confrontation." If you, as a parent, must advocate for your child, check out the Wrightslaw website and its many resources.

GIFTED
AND AD/HD? OR JUST GIFTED? Some practitioners in the field of twice-exceptionalities will tell you that highly gifted kids may show traits that can be confused with symptoms of AD/HD. A recent study reported in the Vancouver Sun contends that, in Canada at least, children who show signs of hyperactivity are "regularly misdiagnosed in every province except Quebec," which is the only province with standardized guidelines for diagnosis. A lack of diagnosis may lead to a child not being prescribed medication that could help the condition; but a diagnosis of AD/HD where there is none may lead to unnecessary medication with stimulants. The moral for parents of 2e kids: find a clinician familiar with both the manifestations of giftedness and with the symptoms of AD/HD.

ONCE AGAIN. Education Week brought to our attention in a subscriber-only article the fact that President Bush has, once again, requested elimination of the hallmark Javits Grant program for gifted and talented education, which in the government’s own words “Supports research, demonstration projects, and other activities designed to help elementary and secondary schools meet the needs of gifted and talented students.” In 2008 the program was funded at $7.5 million. (This compares to $6 billion for Reading First, a program about which the Washington Post says this: “Students enrolled in a $6 billion federal reading program…are not reading any better than those who don't participate, according to a U.S. government report.”) It also compares to 2008 special education expenditures of $15 billion. The White House rationale for dropping the munificent funding for the Javits program: “Most gifted and talented education programs in the U.S. are implemented without Federal support, and the program, by making a handful of grants each year, does little to increase the availability of gifted and talented programs in schools, increase the quality of those programs, or advance the field of gifted and talented education nationally.”

PUBLISHED EARLIER, READ IN EARLY JUNE. Scientific American Mind published an article recapping evidence that as many as one-fifth of the cases of schizophrenia may be caused by prenatal or even early childhood infections. Some scientists also conjecture that OCD may be linked to strep infection. Other possible connections: bipolar disorder with pre- or postnatal herpes or T. Gondii; autism with prenatal rubella, herpes, or lime disease and a variety of post-natal infections; and Tourette’s with post-natal mycoplasma bacteria.