Monday, February 23, 2009

From the Week of February 22nd

2e BLOGS. We've recently come across two blogs by moms of 2e children. One,, is about family experience with a 2e child along with pointers to favorite books, some pics, and favorite quotes. The other,, is also about life with an unique child; however the blogger's goal is to concentrate on twice-exceptionalities in posts each Tuesday. Check them out!

TEACHING AGITATED KIDS is the topic of a two-part article
by a Harvard neuropsychologist at the SharpBrains site. Part 1 offers tips on setting a good mental and emotional stage for successful learning; capitalizing on the relationship between learning and feelings; and using humor. Part 2 covers helping students overcome stress by: identifying impediments to success; using the "language of success"; and focusing on the process more than the product.

MEET'EM WHERE THEY LIVE. Those of you who teach bright kids know how important digital media are [is?] to them. To keep up, and to learn about incorporating tools such as Google, MySpace, CNet, and YouTube into the curriculum, teachers in San Francisco will get training from vendor companies on the use of digital media in the classroom. According to The New York Times, the Bay Area Interactive Group is hosting the training, and if it's successful the group will host other groups locally or around the country. Find out more.

PERSONAL MEMORIES. We received a press release today noting that a special book is 40 years old -- The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This item has nothing to do with giftedness or exceptionalities, just with the memories of reading a great story to receptive kids.

STANDING FOR, NOT AT, ATTENTION. The New York Times reported on a Minnesota school's experiment with desks that allow students to either sit or stand, at their choice. The purpose: to allow students to fidget when they need to or to find a position that helps them pay attention. Read the article to find out what teachers and students think about the desks.

ACTION-BASED LEARNING. Waldorf schools use it. Now NPR's "Morning Edition" features a school that promotes learning though physical movement -- learning times tables while jumping rope, for example. The story also relates how various educators use exercise in the classroom to keep young brains alert and to enhance attention. A side benefit: distracted brains seem to benefit most. Read the article.

PRESIDENT OBAMA, according to the LA Times, put the spotlight on education during his address to the US Congress on Tuesday, February 24th. One goal of the President: to make the United States the world leader in college graduates by 2020. Expect to hear a lot more about education and money over the next weeks and months. Education Week, if you can weasel into the site, just issued a special update on schools and the stimulus. Pay attention; we might quiz you in the next Briefing from 2e Newsletter. (Non-US subscribers will be exempted from the quiz. However, you have the option of inciting a healthy global competition by urging your governments in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to adopt Obama's goal and to see who's really best education-wise.)

CHAT. The title of Education Week's online chat for Wednesday the 25th is "Disruptive Innovation in Education," and it covers the idea that schools should customize learning to better meet the needs of individual students. If this sounds good to you as the parent or educator of gifted or twice-exceptional children, perhaps you want to check out the site and submit questions beforehand, or go after the chat is closed to see the transcript.

ASPERGER'S ACHIEVER. A UK psychiatrist and professor has offered the hypothesis that Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species, had Asperger Syndrome. The professor notes Darwin's extraordinary attention to detail and difficulties with social interaction. The professor is quoted in an article in the UK Telegraph: "It is suggested that the same genes that produce autism and Asperger's syndrome are also responsible for great creativity and originality." Read the article.

HIGH-END SUMMER ENRICHMENT. A press release alerted us to "The Greatest Minds of 2009," an August experience for pre-college students that is billed as "The Ivy League in 3 Days" and an "academic rock concert." Attendees meet and hear prominent university and government speakers. The event is expected to host 250 attendees. Application required (of course). One catch: A $1695 tuition, although organizers say that Greatest Minds has committed to ensuring that every qualified student can afford the event, and that aid and scholarships are available. More information.

REBRANDING NICB. The New York Times published an article about suggestions to rename the No Child Left Behind Act, printing both high-minded suggestions (
Quality Education for All Children Act) and less reverent possibilities (All American Children Are Above Average Act). Read the article. Or, go to an Eduwonk site and read some clever suggestions in a renaming contest being held there. (Based on our preference for education geared to individual strengths and challenges, we posted our suggestions: T'EACH, or To Each According to His/Her Needs; or T'EACH and FR'EACH, the second part being From Each According to His/Her Abilities. It's not Marx, it's Mark's.)

ASPIE SUMMER CAMP. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is offering its second annual "Dream Camp" for children and adolescents with Asperger's. There are three non-contiguous, one-week sessions costing $400 each or $1000 for all three. Find more information.

Monday, February 16, 2009

From the Week of February 15th

PRIZE-WINNING POET... AND DYSLEXIC. A 19-year-old student at De Anza college is featured in the school's weekly online newspaper this week. The article describes the young woman's work and thoughts about disability. Read it.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALTRUISM. PeaceJam and the Pearson Foundation are sponsoring a Global Call to Action Challenge to encourage young people to commit themselves to service projects that benefit their communities. The winning team is promised a visit from Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum. Deadline: June 30th. More details.

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY. The Spring edition is online. One article is on "creative reading," ways to motivate students. And Joan Franklin Smutny, a member of 2e Newsletter's Editorial Board, contributed an article outlining ways to help gifted girls and young women "reclaim ownership of their lives and future" and avoid settling for "a smaller life than the one their gifts call them to." Find the Quarterly.

AN IB STUDENT (AND FOOTBALL LINEBACKER) spotted a spelling error in a statewide test administered in Kansas, according to the Associated Press, the use of "omission" in place of "emission" in a writing prompt. The 30 teachers who developed the test missed it; so did participants during testing in 50 high schools last spring; in fact, no one apparently spotted the error but a single student, Geoffrey Standford (or maybe Stanford; the AP article spells his name both ways). Read the article (and look for spelling errors.)

AD/HD MAVEN David Rabiner, Ph.D., alerted his fans (including us) to an article in the journal Science about a study to determine whether working memory training alters brain chemistry. (It does.) If you know a bright kid with attention difficulties, this article might be of interest to you, but there are several caveats: (1) The training used in the study was the initial-caps Working Memory Training product developed by Cogmed. (2) Rabiner, as he discloses in his alert, is a paid consultant for Cogmed. (3) The lead researcher is also the developer of the Cogmed product, as nearly as we can tell. Find the Science article. Find an interview with the researcher; Rabiner suggests that because of the complexity of the article, laypeople like us might find the interview helpful.

WIKIPEDIA AND 2e. The free online encyclopedia now carries an an entry for "twice exceptional." About time. Read it.

THE BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK in U.S. education is the signing of the economic stimulus bill, which provides a major increase in education spending. You may read Wrightslaw's initial interpretation here; see the NCLD summary here; find CEC's reaction here; and hear an Education Week chat on the topic here.

2e IN BC. The British Columbia, Canada, Surrey Leader just published a story about a young man's dual diagnosis during third grade, when he (and his parents) discovered that he had auditory processing problems (which explained certain difficulties in school) but also that he was a profoundly gifted visual/spatial learner. As with any parents of 2e kids, his were relieved by the discovery -- but the hard work was just beginning. Read the story, including about the establishment of the G/LD Network BC.

THINK SUMMER... and summer camp. US News has published a list of summer programs for kids with AD/HD. Some specialize even further, for example in behavior issues or in Christian clientele. Find it.

COLLEGE RESOURCE. US News also reported on initiatives to identify,fund, and disseminate information about programs to help young people with LDs go to college. Thanks to recent federal funding, says the article, the number of programs is expected to expand dramatically. Read the article.

Chicago's ComEd utility company are sponsoring the third annual "Shoot the Moon" contest for high school students. Entrants will write an essay about a teacher who has inspired them to "shoot for the moon" and succeed in science. The winner gets an all-expenses-paid trip to Space Camp in Alabama, and the winner's inspirational teacher will also win a week-long trip to adult Space Camp. Deadline: March 27. Details here.

THIS WEEK'S HUMOR. If you're a teacher, what do you do with a high school student who won't stop texting during class? Have her arrested. Smoking Gun carries the story.

HUMOR II. The Frazz comic strip on February 19th progresses quickly from A.D.D.D.D in the first panel to visual/spatial learning in the third panel. Enjoy it.

HUMOR III. On February 20th, the jovial comic janitor (and gifted musician and philosopher) Frazz revealed to a Bryson Elementary student what he (Frazz) had as a kid. Was it AD/HD? Find out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From the Week of February 8th

LDs AND MENTAL HEALTH issues both affect a student's ability to learn. Throw in "learning differences" and you've got three ways to look at under-achievement. In an interview with Michael Shaughnessy, psychologist and author Myles Cooley explains the problems families and teachers face in dealing with a mental health diagnosis such as Social Anxiety Order as opposed to an LD diagnosis. The problems include a mis-match between LD categories and DSM categories; and a lack of training for teachers on mental health disorders. For example, if a child's mental health diagnosis doesn't easily fit into a LD category,it can be hard for a school to accommodate that student. And, according to the interview, "learning differences," while politically correct, may not qualify for help in the educational system either. Read the interview at

ECONOMIC STIMULUS' EFFECT ON GIFTED/2e? A chunk of the money in the recently-passed U.S. economic stimulus bill will go to education. CEC applauds the fact that special ed may benefit as a result of a doubling of funds for IDEA. The Washington Post quotes President Obama as saying that some of that money will go toward innovation, although specifics are sparse. Stay tuned.

DYSLEXIC AND WANT TO GO TO MED SCHOOL? Don't count on California med schools to give you accommodations on the entrance exam. A state supreme court just nixed a previous ruling requiring accommodations. The attorney handling the state-wide class action suit for these aspiring med students painted a scenario that's familiar to parents and educators of the twice-exceptional. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, he said that the college association usually denies requests for assistance by reasoning that anyone who has made it through college doesn't need help on the entrance exam.

DYSLEXIC ACHIEVER. Even though she was always good at telling stories, writing them down was tough. But as an adult with a 10th-grade education, Christie Craig got encouragement from her husband, started writing, and is now a successful author of romance/suspense novels. Read about Craig in the Houston Examiner.

MINNETONKA FOLLOW-UP. We noted in this blog during the week of January 4th that the Minnetonka, Minnesota, schools were considering a school for exceptionally gifted students. On February 11th, the Star-Tribune reported that the Minnetonka school board has agreed to develop that school for students 8 to 11 with IQs or 145 or above. The district has already identified about 50 students with those qualifications. To start, the school will be housed in two classrooms within existing schools. Read the article.

GOT A BRIGHT KID WITH READING PROBLEMS? So did the parents of Ida, featured in a recent NPR story. Turns out that after being diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade, Ida went through a couple years of interventions that have lifted her reading skills above grade level. And she does, according to NPR, love to read -- Harry Potter and the Benedict Society books being among her favorites. Find the story.

UNWRAPPING THE GIFTED, Tamara Fisher's blog (listed to the right), features in the current posting reactions of kids to Del Siegle's "Gifted Children's Bill of Rights." What do they react to in particular? Find out.

ADOLESCENCE, TV, DEPRESSION. A new study indicates a link between the number of hours spent watching television and the later risk of developing depressive symptoms. According to reportage in the New York Times, the effect seems greater for adolescent males; there was no link to computer games, videocassettes, or radio. Read the Times article. See the abstract at the Archives of General Psychiatry.

WRIGHTSLAW. The February 10 edition of Special Ed Advocate answers questions about what should happen when a parent wants a child evaluated by the school, but the school demurs. Read it.

GIFTED OR 2e IN AUSTRALIA? Don't forget Gifted Resources and its newsletter, both with information for parents and students of gifted students. Covered:
Australian events, conferences, guest speakers, extension programs, parent support group news, resources available and interesting websites. Find it.

TEENS, DECISIONS, CONSEQUENCES. Is it just impulsivity that makes young teenagers prone to poor judgment and risky decision making? A new
study has found that teens are shortsighted more due to immaturity in the brain systems that govern sensation seeking than to immaturity in the brain systems responsible for self-control. The net-out: they just like exciting things. Read about the study.

LINGUISTIC GENIUS FROM THE PAST. “You can wordify anything if you just verb it.” – Bucky Kat in the comic strip Get Fuzzy, 2003.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

From the Week of February 1st

INSPIRATION FROM GIFTED PEOPLE. This isn't about kids but rather about gifted adults who might serve as inspiration for gifted kids... or for other gifted adults... or for any of us. Each year, at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, prominent thinkers and doers are "challenged to give the talk of their lives" -- in 18 minutes. Many of the talks are viewable at the TED site as videos, and the 2009 talks include one by Bill Gates. But older talks are also available, and the "most favorited" (that's really a word?) talks from past years cover how schools kill creativity; why we are happy; the web's secret stories; how technology will transform us; what separates us from the apes (Jane Goodall); the climate crisis (Al Gore, twice); and much more. Check it out.

EQUITY. On February 5th, The New York Times published an article about a "powerhouse school district," Port Washington, NY, with the goal of "
giving students with solid but not stellar grades access to the best academic and extracurricular programs."
The district has made efforts to include more students in honors classes and AP classses. It has also extended the effort to music and sports, implementing "no cut" policies for those activities. The practices have stirred debate over their fairness to high performers. The article also notes other districts across the country attempting to do more for the kids in the middle. Read it.

ACHIEVER. A young man who discovered in third grade that he has an auditory processing disorder has racked up quite a list of achievements since then, according to the
North County Times in California. Sean O'Callaghan became an Eagle Scout at 14, a Sea Cadet at 16, and is graduating from college at the ripe old age of 19. What's he going to do now? Get a doctorate degree in England. He credits his disability with making him a more determined person. Read the article.

PRODIGY ACHIEVER. Eleven years old, author of two books and over 400 short stories, and presenter at writing workshops -- that's Adora Svitak, as described in an article in the Chicago Tribune. Read about her.

NEW OCD MODEL -- but we can't read it, not unless we subscribe to The Journal of Neuropsychiatry. But the abstract tells us that the researchers posit functions in four brain areas as being involved. "
The authors propose that the initiation of... SECs [structured event complexes, or behavioral sequences] can be accompanied by anxiety that is relieved with completion of the SEC, and that a deficit in this process could be responsible for many of the symptoms of OCD. Specifically, the anxiety can form the basis of an obsession, and a compulsion can be an attempt to receive relief from the anxiety by repeating parts of, or an entire, SEC." Read the abstract yourself.