Thursday, August 28, 2008

From the Week of August 24th

THE BIOLOGICAL BASIS OF BRILLIANCE. We subscribe to and enjoy Scientific American Mind, which sometimes makes articles from the print edition available online and sometimes not. So when we got around to reading the August/September issue and found a good article about the brain and intellect titled "High-Aptitude Minds," the first thing we wondered was whether it would be available online -- and it is, right here. The article covers the association of intelligence with brain size (total volume and the size of certain parts of the brain); the contributions of different areas of the brain; how hard certain areas of the brain work in gifted versus normal children; and the potential effects of practice on brain anatomy. An associated article in the same issue stresses the importance of proper attention to and coaching of gifted children in order for them to perform to their potential.

BACK TO SCHOOL OVERLOAD. The barrage of articles and press releases coming our way with the words "back to school" in them has been somewhat overwhelming, but among the product pitches and self-serving announcements we found one from physicians at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago) emphasizing five sensible and simple tips:
  1. Go to bed early and get up early. Make a transition to the school schedule.
  2. Eat properly, including a healthy breakfast.
  3. Get active with at least one hour of moderate-intensity exercise each day.
  4. (For parents) Recognize signs of stress such as irritability, impulsive behavior, frequent nightmares, recurring headaches or stomachaches, or a consistent lack of desire to go to school.
  5. Be up to date with health exams and vaccines (okay, maybe the release is a tiny bit self-serving).
Read the press release.

ARIZONA 2e RESOURCE. Two Arizona parents have established a website called "Arizona Twice Exceptional," a collection of resources for Arizona families. The parents, Kelly and Gary Rostan, state on their site that in 2009 they hope to open a local alternative school for twice-exceptional children. Their comprehensive list of resources should actually be very useful for 2e families worldwide. Resource topics with links include:
  • Twice exceptional
  • Books on neurologic learning differences
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • 2e homeschooling
  • Social/emotional
  • Talent development
  • Experts available for consultation
  • Publications
  • Organizations
  • Legal
We were honored that Kelley Rostan starts off her "Top 3 Picks" with 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter. (Okay, so she listed them in alphabetic order -- Hoagies Gifted is second and the Uniquely Gifted site is third.) Check out the Rostan's site.

RESOURCE. Edutopia distributed its electronic August/September issue this week. The magazine focuses not so much on giftedness or LDs so much on what it is we need to do to improve the overall educational process now and in the future. The current issue features articles on ten predictions for the future of public education; on how "smart and targeted use of technology can provide customized and affordable education that allows students to learn in their preferred style and at their own pace"; one titled "Greenbacks for Grades"; and more.

HOME-AND-SCHOOL COMMUNICATION. No families need good communication with school more than families with underachieving kids, underachievement that often stems from dual exceptionalities. Pearson, a vendor of IT applications and services for schools, released this week the results of a survey the company commissioned on school-to-home communication. Some of the responses may help parents and educators benchmark their own communication habits. From the survey report:
  • About 70 percent of the K-12 parents surveyed wanted to receive academic or progress information weekly or monthly rather than at report card time.
  • When asked how often they'd like updates on their children's performance, 12 percent of parents wanted it daily and 57 percent wanted it weekly.
  • Parents responded that their school's primary methods for communication are mail (16 percent), email (25 percent), newsletter (20 percent), parent-teacher conferences (26 percent) and phone (13 percent).
  • Of the parents surveyed, 42 percent of their children (not the parents) currently have online access to grades, attendance, and teacher comments.
  • Of the parents, 38 percent currently have online access to their child's performance information.
Perhaps it will be systems from companies such as Pearson that will enable parents of high-ability but learning-challenged children to receive timely, detailed information on grades, homework status, progress reporting, and upcoming assignments. As any parent of a 2e child would agree, using such a system would be much preferable to painfully pulling that same information out of the student or out of his/her backpack. Hopefully educators will find such systems worth the effort to help not only 2e students but all pupils. The report should be available soon at www.pearsonschoolsystems.com/survey.

PARENTING FOR HIGH POTENTIAL. The June issue (okay, so we're getting to it a little late) of this publication from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) contains an article titled "The Perils of Parenting -- Top 10 Things Not to Say to Your Gifted Child." Read what the author, a teacher and a parent of gifted children, says about these thoughts that have slipped out of all of our mouths at one time or another.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

From the Week of August 17th

VIDEO GAMES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNEXPECTED. Research presented during this past week at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association confirmed some of the good effects and bad effects of video game play. On the one hand, game play can improve cognitive and perceptual skills; on the other hand, players of violent games are more hostile, less forgiving, and more likely to believe violence is "normal." And yes, frequent players performed less well in school and were at greater risk for obesity. So what was unexpected? Gaming can evidently improve the skills involved in advanced surgical procedures -- spatial skills and hand dexterity. So should you let your gifted kid play video games? Read more research here.

BRAIN FACTS. If the proper points on your "mental map" of the brain don't light up when you read phrases like "Broca's area" or "angular gyrus," check out a primer on the brain available from the Society for Neuroscience. Chapters we found interesting and relevant to child psychology and child brain functioning included those on the topics of the neuron; brain development; learning, memory and language; challenges such as AD/HD, autism, and Tourette syndrome; and new diagnostic methods. A bonus: a glossary of brain-related terms. It also contains material of interest for adult neurological issues. Find it here.

MORE BRAIN STUFF. Go to the site of the Dana Foundation to find an online version of the publication The 2008 Progress Report on Brain Research. So far in our print version, we've turned down the corners of pages dealing with arts and cognition, including the effects of arts training; the possible use of deep brain stimulation for conditions such as OCD and Tourette's; recent research on the genetics of autism and on AD/HD; and recent research on bipolar disorder and OCD. While you're at the site, check it out to see if there are publications you'd like to subscribe to or news you'd like to read.

USEFUL FOR THE GT/LD COMMUNITY? The Washington Post ran an article about a site called NiceCritic.com, where users can anonymously send pre-written criticism or comments to others via email. We started thinking about whether this tool could have a constructive use in communication between parents and educators, between educators and children, or between parents and children. Sample messages include:
  • Your talking in class is distracting.
  • You have great ideas, please participate more.
  • Your test was too hard.
  • Please try sharing a bit more.
  • Try not to interrupt the teacher so much.
Some of those are evidently meant for peer-to-peer communication, but the possibility exists of using them otherwise. Are there times when anonymous communication can be more useful or effective than personal communication? Is it "cheating" to communicate anonymously? Would students abuse the process in communicating with teachers? If these education-related examples leave you cold, visit the site to find out what kind of insults you can send to co-workers. ("Please do not remove your shoes. Your feet tend to give off an aroma.")

GRANDIN ON SCREEN. Various sources reported this week that autistic scientist and speaker Temple Grandin is to be the subject of a "biopic" for HBO. She will be played by Claire Danes. Grandin is familiar as a speaker to those who attend conferences on giftedness and LDs; some of her presentations have been covered in 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter. Read about the biopic.

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS. The Fall issue of Gifted Education Press Quarterly is online at www.giftededpress.com. The issue contains articles on gifted girls, differentiation, and more. Read it.

APROPOS OF NOTHING GT/LD. An article in the Houston Chronicle carried a denial from the Houston school districts that teachers would be able to carry handguns in school this fall. The denial was prompted by the actions of a small (110-student) North Texas school system that, says the Chronicle, allows its teachers to become authorized to carry guns at school, supposedly to protect employees and students from armed intruders. Much of the article consisted of reactions from other educational professionals. The article did not consider possible benefits of teachers carrying weapons in situations like these:
  • AD/HD? I don't believe in it. Achieve to your potential, kid -- or else.
  • Okay, kids, put those water balloons down on the floor and back away slowly.
  • Mystery meat again? Tomorrow I want to see something edible in this cafeteria.
  • What do you mean, Madam Colleague, that Wordsworth was a better poet than Coleridge? Clear leather!
  • And I say that evolution is right [wrong/whatever].
  • No way my Odyssey of the Mind team's entry isn't best, Mr. Judge. And isn't that kind of a little pea-shooter you're carrying?
  • What do you mean, Mr. Superintendent, that I'm not getting tenure? [Although maybe the size of the weapon carried depends on one's rank in the district hierarchy.]
  • You're cutting school early? Well, you've got to ask yourself one question -- "Do I feel lucky." Well, do you ya, punk?
Maybe the entire thing stems from something Clint Eastwood supposedly said: "I have a very strict gun control policy: if there's a gun around, I want to be in control of it." Read the article.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

From the Week of August 10th

HELP FOR GIFTED KIDS AND THEIR PARENTS. That's the title of an interview Michael Shaughnessy of EdNews.org conducted with Michelle Eckstein, a Colorado parent who immersed herself in gifted education and then obtained a Masters Degree in Education. Ms Eckstein is involved with gifted education in her school district and runs a blog (www.talentedandgifted.net) on gifted education and a website (http://giftedkidsnetwork), a technology-focused "variety of educational consulting services designed to support the academic, intellectual, social and emotional needs of gifted students." Read the interview.

FROM WRIGHTSLAW. The August 12th edition of Special Ed Advocate concluded the Wrightslaw online "Summer School for Parents." The assignment: learning to write SMART goals and objectives for an IEP. If you've got a gifted kid with an IEP, check out Special Ed Advocate and Wrightslaw.

ATTENTION RESEARCH UPDATE. In his August newsletter, David Rabiner reports encouraging data from a study he and a colleague recently completed on the adjustment of college students with AD/HD. Also included in the newsletter: a reprint of an article from a prior issue on the transition to college for students with AD/HD. Worried about your gifted and AD/HD college kid? Check it out. (Note: Be patient; the newsletter is often not posted until a week or two after it's emailed.)

FROM THE DAVIDSON INSTITUTE. The Institute's eNews-Update for August featured the announcement of the 2008 Davidson Fellows; a note about the Bellin-Blank Center's work on the relationship between giftedness and autism; more on the Fordham Institute report contending that top pupils now "languish" academically; and a variety of capsule reports on legislative action of interest to the gifted community. If you read this blog and find it relevant to your life and/or work, we really believe you should also subscribe to the Davidson Institute eNews-Update. Trust us.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

From the Week of August 3rd

RESOURCE REVISITED. We've mentioned iTunes U before in 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter and our monthly email briefing. Apple now says that iTunes U offers over 50,000 educational and audio programs for free download, and that the programs are from sources such as universities, museums, and PBS stations. Topics covered include literature, art, history, science, and many more. Our opinion is that this resource could be a great educational resource for curious, high-ability kids. Check it out.

THE HEAT'S OFF of homeschooling parents in California who were worried that the state would require homeschooling parents to have teaching credentials -- so homeschooling is still a guilt-free option for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids, parents who want to make sure the curriculum is made to fit the kid and not vice versa. Find out more about the most recent court decision.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY. This review was so positive it made us skeptical, but the product seems as if it could truly help and engage kids who struggle to read because of learning issues. The product is called the Tag Reading System, and it consists of an electronic, pen-like reader that can speak or interpret the contents of a page. A reader may choose to have the pen read a single word, a sentence, or an entire book; books are printed on special paper. The review says that one way the device engages is by initiating games involving the character or story. Read the review. Go to the vendor's website.

START A FORUM FOR GIFTED ASPIES? Autism Speaks has launched an autism social networking site on Ning (www.ning.com). The site is intended for members of the autism community to share insights, opinions, and information. There are currently over 800 members; forums on topics such as autism in the news, autism science, and autism resources; and around 20 groups devoted to various aspects of raising, educating, and coping with autistic children. A search on "gifted" yielded no results -- but that means the site is ripe for someone to start a group or forum on gifted aspies. Find the site.

EARLIER TESTING is now available to measure college readiness or show eligibility for gifted or enrichment programs, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. The College Board has plans to introduce an eighth-grade version of the PSAT in 2010. Read the article along with the pluses and minuses opined by various educators in the article.

AD/HD BACK-TO-SCHOOL RESOURCE. ADDitude Magazine has released a free, downloadable, 14-page back-to-school handbook for those who raise and teach AD/HD kids. According to the magazine, the booklet covers securing accommodations; working with teachers and administrators; and talking to the child about goals, fears, and challenges impending in the new school year. Find the booklet.

REWIRING DYSLEXIC BRAINS. ScienceDaily brought to our attention a Carnegie Mellon brain imaging study of dyslexic students. The study indicates that the brain can permanently rewire itself and overcome reading deficits. The study used a course of 100 hours of intensive remedial instruction. Find out more by reading the original press release at CMU's site.

EQUITY VERSUS EXCELLENCE, ONE MORE TIME. A Texas teacher of special ed and of the gifted wrote an open letter to President Bush; the letter was published at EdNews.org this week. In it, the educator asks governments and educators to:
  1. Emphasize less the passing of every student and more the finding of the gifted.
  2. Find gifted kids as early as first grade.
  3. Encourage states to use certified G/T teachers to find and teach G/T students.
Read the letter and comments on it, including one comment calling such an approach "divisive and elitist." Your opinions?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

From the Week of July 27th

SUPERSTARS OF ADVOCACY. When people call us or email us with questions about IEPs, 504s, or advocating for their student, we send them right off to the Wrightslaw website, founded by Peter and Pam Wright. The Wrights also publish a weekly email newsletter, Special Ed Advocate, with content to help parents advocate for children, and the topics often seem relevant to educators as well. During this summer the newsletter has concentrated on "Summer School for Parents." For example, this week's edition is about measuring educational test scores and why parents must understand test scores; the newsletter comes complete with assignments and readings. Also included in this issue: tips on getting a private, comprehensive, independent evaluation to identify learning issues and a plan for addressing those issues. See the the July 29th edition of Special Ed Advocate or go here for the archives.

"I BELIEVE CHILDREN WHO DON'T LEARN TO READ ARE THE VICTIMS OF 'TEACHING DISABILITIES.'" That's what 76-year-old educator Don McCabe says
in an interview with EdNews.org's columnist Michael Shaughnessy about reading problems in students. McCabe, who says he's dyslexic, AD/HD, and CAPD (which makes him, along with his presumed exceptional high abilities, 4e, right?), has written an autobiography called To Teach a Dyslexic. Read the interview. (You can also read the interview that Shaughnessy did with us, the publishers of 2e Newsletter, awhile back; find that interview here.)

LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT. Once, while kayaking in a pleasant, shallow stream in Michigan, I came upon my younger son, whom my wife and partner had just kicked out of her two-person kayak; he was wading back down the stream to Lake Michigan. The reason he had been kicked out, apparently, was that when she'd say "paddle left," he'd paddle right -- and vice versa. We still kid him about his occasional lapses in differentiating right from left and worry a little about what it might mean for him as he drives a car. This week, the Washington Post published a piece by a woman who starts off the article with "I can't tell left from right," and then goes on to summarize her experiences and what she's learned about research
("precious little") in the area. She reports no link between left/right confusion and handedness (lefty or righty), but reports that women are more likely to admit the confusion than men. The author even discovered a blog site with a conversation on the topic. Left-click here :-) to read her article.

HOW ARE KIDS DOING? Two reports released recently focus on America's children and teens. One, America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008, is a federal government report of data on issues related to children and families. The Forum on Child and Family Statistics says this about the indicators they report on: "
Indicators are chosen because they are easy to understand; are based on substantial research connecting them to child well-being; vary across important areas of children's lives; are measured regularly so that they can be updated and show trends over time; and represent large segments of the population, rather than one particular group. The indicators are organized into seven sections, each focusing on a domain relevant to children's lives: family and social environment; economic circumstances; health care; physical environment and safety; behavior; education; and health. Find the report. The second report, The State of Our Nation's Youth, "compiles the results of a national survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. The poll was conducted via telephone to 1,006 teens between 13-19 years old residing in the U.S during April 2008," according to a press release. The report is to be released August 5th and will be available for download.

ON THE AD/HD FRONT. Two news items
this week about AD/HD caught our attention. One, by an MD at Harvard Medical School, described how low levels of iron in a child's blood may cause symptoms that suggest AD/HD. Read it. The other, an article at MedPage Today, described the prevalences of AD/HD and learning disabilities over recent years; according to a government study, the prevalence of AD/HD has increased slightly since 1997 but the number of LD children without AD/HD has remained unchanged. The report also discusses the co-occurrence of LDs and AD/HD. (For the report, learning disability was defined "to include specific items related to listening, speaking, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, written expression, mathematical calculation and reasoning.") Find the article.

MORE THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT. Here's the lead sentence from a Reuters Health article: "
Children whose mothers used cell phones frequently during pregnancy and who are themselves cell phone users are more likely to have behavior problems, new research shows." Read the article. And here's the lead sentence from a University of Michigan press release: "University of Michigan researchers are studying connections between air toxins and K-12 student performance in Michigan -- and possibly whether air quality should be a factor when deciding where to build public schools." Read it.