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.