Sunday, March 29, 2009

From the Week of March 29th

MUSICAL PHARMACOLOGY. An article in The New York Times introduced us to the self-described "first musical pharmacologist," Vera Brandes, the director of a research program in music and medicine at an Austrian university. Ms. Brandes applies her prescriptions of custom music to psychosomatic disorders, pain management, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. A pilot study by Ms. Brandes used a music program to address hypertension, with clinically significant results, according to the article. Other researchers envision the use of music to treat psychiatric conditions, endocrine, autonomic, and autoimmune disorders. Read the article, and decide for yourself whether music therapy might someday help that twice-exceptional child you know.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND, the April/May issue, just arrived in our mail, and there are several articles and items that might interest those who raise, teach, and counsel high-ability kids with learning difficulties. One article is a Q&A with Daniel Tammet, an "autistic savant" who can recite the first 22,514 digits of pi. He describes how his mind "sees" numbers and words -- they have form, color, and texture which suggest relationships among them. He describes his "limited, repetitive, and antisocial" childhood behavior, and how he taught himself social skills. And instead of focusing on IQ, he suggests that we focus on making sure "each child's talents are encouraged and nourished." Read the article. For adults who want to sharpen their skills with medical and health-related statistics (what's that medical professional really telling you, anyway?), the issue offers an article called "Knowing Your Chances," accessible online. Also accessible without charge (three out of three!) is a collection of reviews of brain training software, including two programs intended for improving working memory in children with AD/HD. One is called BrainTwister, and the other is Working Memory Training from Cogmed, the company with which Dr. David Rabiner is associated. (See other posts in the blog for more in Rabiner and Cogmed.) Read the reviews.

MORE ITEMS as the week progresses...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From the Week of March 22nd

WE POLLED ABOUT IT, NOW GET THE FACTS. We asked readers their opinions on how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- or whatever it's called this week -- might affect education for 2e children. Sadly, few of you responded optimistically -- just nine percent. The rest of you thought things would not change, change for the worse, or else you had no opinion. Now you can educate your opinion at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) site and find out what they think. Go there.

THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF EXPERTS. Those who raise and teach gifted children with learning difficulties generally find themselves constantly searching for an expert who can help explain and treat (or educate) the 2e children in question. In an op-ed piece in The New York Times this week, Pulitzer prize-winner Nicolas Kristof expounds on "experts" -- why they impress us, different types of experts ("hedgehogs" versus "foxes"), and why we should be cautious about believing experts. Read the column, and either laugh or weep when Kristof relates one experiment where clinical psychologists were no better at diagnosis than their secretaries.

AD/HD AND SLEEP PROBLEMS. Canadian researchers, according to Reuters, think that 25 to 50 percent of AD/HD children also have sleep problems, and that treating the sleep problems can improve behavior and reduce the need for stimulant medication. (The children studied were not on medication.) The researchers believe that AD/HD children may have a bodily time clock that is not working properly. Read the article.

WIKI SCHOLARSHIP. From Michael Shaughnessey's column at EdWeek.org, we find out that WikiAnswers.com offers a scholarship competition. Entrants answer at least 50 questions of their choice, and judges evaluate the responses for quality and accuracy. Scholarships will go to to 20 students who will be undergraduates in the 2009-2010 school year. Deadline: March 31! Find out more.

AD/HD, READING DISORDERS, RITALIN. Yale University researchers say that Ritalin (methylphenidate) activates the brain's basal ganglia in a way that benefits children with AD/HD and reading disorders. The study differs from others in that it tested attention rather than impulsivity. The study suggests that dysfunction in the brain's attentional circuitry is linked to both AD/HD and reading problems, and that the chemical normalizes activity in that circuitry. Read more, but note that this is a five-year-old study which just came to our attention.

AD/HD: INCONSISTENT WORKING MEMORY SPEEDS. A study reported in Science Daily indicates that children with AD/HD have inconsistencies in working memory speeds, showing more frequent longer response times on tasks than normal peers. In the particular study, however, the responses of the AD/HD children were just as accurate as "normally developing peers." Read the report.

LD AND BULLYING. An Ontario, Canada, news organization just published an article examining how LDs can make young people more susceptible to bullying. "Differently wired brains" in kids with AD/HD, Asperger's, NVLD, CAPD, and SPD may make it difficult for the children to fit in socially, sometimes because of their difficulties in managing their emotions. Social problems can make it harder to know how to avoid being a victim, according to the article. Read it.

COGNITIVE ABILITY, CORTICAL THICKNESS. Also coming to us via Science Daily is news of a study showing that the thickness of the brain's cortex is positively correlated with intelligence. The thesis: thicker cortices are more likely to have complex connections that affect cognitive ability. Read it.

AD/HD MEDS GOOD ONLY FOR SHORT TERM? That's the way you can interpret the results of a federal study, as reported in the Washington Post. The meds may do little good beyond 24 months, and they may stunt children's growth. Got a kid with AD/HD? Check out the article.

LD IN COLLEGE. A Canadian university, York, has more than 700 students with some kind of LD. Read an article explaining how the university accommodates them.

VISUAL/SPATIAL LEARNERS MEET THE MRI... and win. Visual/spatial learners do think differently than verbal learners, according to a study that used MRIs to find which regions are activated during learning. Visual/spatial learners tended to activate the visual cortex while reading; conversely, when presented with a picture, verbal learners activated a brain area associated with phonological cognition. Read about it.

ANESTHESIA AND LDs. NPR's Morning Edition reported
this week that children under four who had multiple operations with general anesthesia were more likely to develop a learning disability -- one and a half times more likely after two anesthesias, and two and a half times with three anesthesias. Of the children in the study who had four operations, half later developed an LD. Children with just one anesthesia experience were no more likely to develop an LD than those with no anesthesia experience. What to do if your child faces an operation? Read the article first.

REBRANDING NCLB. The Eduwonk blog has announced its winners in the contest to rename NCLB. (See our blog from the week of February 22nd.) The winners ranged from silly to serious. The grand prize winner: The Elementary and Secondary Educational Excellence Act (ESEEA). See more.

LEARN ABOUT SMART IEPs from Wrightslaw, starting with this week's edition of Special Ed Advocate. A mother writes in, "The school's only goal for him is 'Commitment to academic success.'" Find out how to solve problems like that and more.

SUCCESSFUL SCHOOLS ABROAD. Read in The Christian Science Monitor about how the successful education system in Finland differs from the system in the United States, including the training and independence of educators. Go there.

JAVITS TIME AGAIN. NAGC reminds us that it's time to mobilize for the annual struggle to maintain or increase Javits Program funding. According to NAGC, work has begun in Congress for FY 2010, and gifted education advocates can send letters to appropriate senators and representatives to demonstrate widespread support for the program, which receives a relatively minuscule amount of funding anyway. Go here to see what you can do. Browbeat a congressperson today in the name of gifted education.

OGTOC ON FACEBOOK. Not only is 2e Newsletter chic enough to be on Facebook, Sally Lyons' Our Gifted/Talented Online Conference is there too, to provide a broader presence and "entryway" into the Ning site for the group. Find OGTOC on Facebook, and note that Ms. Lyons is planning an April conference by Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide, practitioners in neurolearning and authors of The Mislabeled Child. That conference will run from April 21 through 23. Find out more.

50 NOBEL LAUREATES TELL US THIS. A Canadian gifted-education expert examined the backgrounds of more than 50 Nobel Laureates looking for what they had in common, according to the National Post. The expert said that the common thread was an exceptional, formative teacher who acted as a role model, and the academic role model was even more important than the pattern of positive parenting she also found. The expert, Professor Larisa Shavinia, also noted that many of the Laureates were not considered gifted as children; some were gifted underachievers, and some were gifted/learning disabled. The professor also believes, according to the article, that IQ scores are "nonsense" because of the frequent disparity between IQ and academic success. Read it.

CUTTING EDGE TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION, OCD. A recent news release from Medtronics, a medical device maker, noted that its therapeutic device administering deep brain stimulation (DBS) for chronic and severe OCD has been approved for commercialization. It also noted Medtronics' participation in a clinical trial for the use of the device in treatment-resistant depression. Read more.

IF YOU THINK YOU LIKE BEING A PARENT, don't continue reading this item. Science Daily reports that we only think we enjoy parenting because of "rare but meaningful experiences like a child's first smile." (Actually, we had a social psychology course in college that explained it pretty well with the theory of "cognitive dissonance." The theory posited that in general we try to reduce dissonance, or conflict, between thoughts, actions, and beliefs. So if we as parents put so much effort, so much investment, into the everyday drudgery of parenting, is there any doubt that we will focus on the moments that make it all worthwhile? That we would not do so seems dissonant to us.) Anyway, read the article if you wish.

MORE ITEMS later in the week...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From the Week of March 15th

2e NEWSLETTER ON FACEBOOK. We've established a FaceBook presence for 2e Newsletter. If subscribers or readers of this blog care to leave comments there or start discussions, feel free. We'll be adding content as we go along. We'll see if it turns out to be useful to anyone, but we couldn't resist the peer pressure. It's a business page, not a personal page, so the features are somewhat different -- we can't invite "friends," for example. But we can have "fans," so feel free to sign up just in case you might miss something by not being a fan. Suggestions for 2e Newsletter's FaceBook presence are welcome. Check us out at www.facebook.com; be a fan!

IT'S NOT NATIONAL DYSLEXIA WEEK, but you wouldn't know that from the news items that came our way from a variety of sources. A Science Daily report covered an fMRI study showing differences in brain activation in dyslexic versus non-dyslexic readers. And LD Newsline Weekly pointed us to several items: a two-part report from a Vermont television station on a school for dyslexic children and a profile of a skilled, dyslexic carpenter with an IQ in the 99th percentile who can "memorize just about anything"; and a link to an audio from World Radio on dealing with dyslexia -- recognizing symptoms and how to address them.

DYSPRAXIC ACHIEVERS. LD Newsline Weekly also pointed us to an article in a Dublin, Ireland, newspaper about dyspraxia, a difficulty in planning and executing certain movements. The article notes that the young male lead in Harry Potter movies suffers from the condition, and goes on to profile how a young Dublin theater professional deals with dyspraxia. Read it.

HOW MANY MIPS FOR GIFTEDNESS? Computer scientists measure processing speed in millions of instructions per second (MIPS), the number of commands a processing unit can handle. Neuroscientists have now found that neural processing speed is linked to the speed with which axons transmit signals, which is in turn determined by the thickness of the myelin "insulation" on the axons, which is in turn genetically influenced by genetics. Find out more.

DOES MUSIC MAKE YOU SMARTER? In some ways, apparently. Children exposed to a multi-year program involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers, according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music and reported in Science Daily. Find out more.

TRANSITION PLANS FOR COLLEGE. An article in Education Week covers IDEA and planning for the transition from high school to college for students with disabilities. Find out what's supposed to happen in high school -- and how things are different once the student gets to college. Read the article.

GIFTED ACHIEVER IN NEW ZEALAND. Let's see -- according to the New Zealand Herald, an 18-year-old young woman has achieved the highest scores in national scholarship tests for three different subjects; gained scholarships in three more subject areas; received a national award for a renewable-energy research project; and was the top-scoring Kiwi at a worldwide chemistry Olympiad. She is also a musician, debater, and writer. Read the article.

EQUITY FOR GIFTED STUDENTS has popped up in Pennsylvania recently, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The article notes a past trend to pay more attention to struggling students than to gifted students in Pennsylvania schools, and says that many blame NCLB for that. However, a recent state law will help emphasize special programs for the gifted. The article describes the way various schools attempt to meet the needs of the gifted, including with differentiated instruction. One gifted ed advocate is quoted as saying, "Many people believe that gifted kids can take care of themselves." Sound familiar? Read the article.

BIBLIOTHERAPY FOR GIFTED KIDS. That's the topic of Tamara Fisher's most recent post at "Unwrapping the Gifted." See the blog links to the right.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

From the Week of March 8th

RESOURCES FROM DAVIDSON INSTITUTE. Here's what the Davidson Institute for Talent Development says about a new resource: The brand new Davidson Gifted Database is up and running! Formerly known as GT-CyberSource, the entire website has been updated and can be found at www.DavidsonGifted.org/DB. The renovated site features improved, easier search capabilities for articles, resources and state policy pages that will help students, parents and educators pinpoint a wealth of gifted information. To access the database, click on the word “Database” in the top menu.

ONE IN A MILLION. That's how USA Today described an Ohio six-year-old boy whose IQ was recently assessed at 176. The young man's father has a Ph.D., his mother two master's degrees. Read more about the young man and his interests.

SMART KIDS LIVE LONGER? Science Daily reports on research showing a link between cognitive ability and the risk of death. Among one million men studied, higher IQs were associated with healthier behaviors and a lower risk of death. Read the article.

ECONOMIC STIMULUS AND 2e EDUCATION was the subject of a poll question in the March briefing from 2e Newsletter. The question: How do you think the US economic stimulus will affect the education for 2e children? So far, respondents don't seem wildly optimistic. Find the poll.

SMART KIDS, OBFUSCATION, AND DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME. Caulfield in the comic strip Frazz had a good time recently with the advent of daylight savings time in conjunction with doing his homework. Read it.

SOME AD/HD KIDS HAVE TO MOVE. A study whose results were released on March 9th
indicates that children with ADHD need to move more to maintain the required level of alertness while performing tasks that challenge their working memory. While the AD/HD students in the study were able to sit relatively still during some tasks, they became more active when asked to perform tasks that challenged working memory. Read about the study.

INTUITION CONFIRMED. Most people would agree that mental effort can lead to physical fatigue. That's why some bright kids who have learning difficulties are so exhausted by trying to read or write. In a British study reported in The New York Times, subjects performing mental exercise (as opposed to watching a movie) became tired more quickly when asked to do physical exercise after the mental exercise. Read it.

CONTENT ON THE 2e NEWSLETTER WEBSITE. The public area at www.2eNewsletter.com now carries the first of a series of articles on the mythology of learning authored by the professionals at Bridges Academy, a California school for the twice exceptional. Find the first one. In addition, we've posted a list of schools and programs for 2e students; find it.

ANOTHER SCHOOL CHOICE FOR 2e STUDENTS. The Lexis Preparatory School is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009 in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to the American Education Group. The school is to serve K-8 students of average to gifted cognitive abilities who have learning differences. The school will be a replication of the Tampa Day School in Tampa, Florida. On its site, Lexis Prep lists a number of learning challenges it says it's equipped to meet, ranging from LDs to AD/HD to anxiety. Check out the school's site. Find out more about American Education Group.

THE MARCH/APRIL ISSUE of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter went to subscribers on Saturday, March 6th. This issue's focus: research in the area of twice-exceptionalities, including reportage of an in-progress research project to ascertain whether some gifted/LD patterns may have a single cause. Not a subscriber to the newsletter? Find out more at www.2eNewsletter.com, and sign up for a complimentary monthly email briefing based on items in this blog.

MORE ITEMS as the week progresses.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

From the Week of March 1

2e STUDENTS IN NEW YORK CITY will have a new option next fall with the planned opening of The Lang School, a multi-age (3rd/4th/5th grade) "schoolhouse." According to founder and Executive Director Micaela Bracamonte, the school's provisional charter has been filed, board members are signing on (including our friend Amy Price, Executive Director of SENG), and families have started enrolling for September. You'll be able to read more on The Lang School in the next issue of 2e Newsletter. For information in the meantime and until the school's website is up (soon), email Ms. Bracamonte.

EDUCATIONAL ASSESSMENT is the topic of a three-part series of articles in the Toronto Star, where a reporter follows an underachieving 13-year-old student and his mother through the process. The three parts: "Identifying Problems," when issues become apparent; "Map of a Mind at Work," about what happens during assessment; and "Portrait of a Learner," where the family receives and reacts to the results of the assessment. Following the story are some thoughtful reader comments, including one from an obviously 2e young woman named CRussell. Find the articles.

AD/HD: SUBJECT OF THE ARTS. The play "Distracted" opened in New York City this week. The play, as you might guess from the title, is about AD/HD, and whether to medicate a child who has it, according to a review in The New York Times. The reviewer calls the play "
a work of value for those whose limited attention spans have kept them from focusing on the continuing cultural and medical debates about limited attention spans." Read the review.


GIFTED AND... STONED. We don't know if substance abuse is an official second exceptionality for a gifted child, but a midde school teacher recently blogged about a high-ability student, "Spicoli Boy [a reference to a Sean Penn movie character] sitting in a dazed stupor" in one of her classes. Humorous but serious at the same time, this educator's blog entry highlights the probability that recreational drugs may sabotage more gifted kids than we think, although the student's family circumstances certainly seemed to contribute. Read the post.

SUMMER CAMP (AND MORE) FROM BRAINWORKS. If you're in the Dallas, Texas, area and have a 2e child, you might be interested in learning more about Brainworks, a 28-year-old organization that works with 2e children (and adults). According to founder Carla Crutsinger, Brainworks also offers free monthly workshops on 2-relevant issues. And the summer camps? Eight one-week camps are scheduled throughout June, July, and August. Find out more about Brainworks.

NEW ON HOAGIES' -- a "Twice-Exceptional Students in College" page. Find it.

DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION. Parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids advocate for it. Edutopia, in an on-line article posted on March 2nd, provides a teacher's tips on some ways to make it work -- for example, by "meeting students where they are" and allowing for do-overs. Read the article. (While you're there, you can also add your input to Edutopia's own poll on renaming NCLB.)

PARENTS' GUIDE TO RTI -- that's what the Wrightslaw Special Ed Advocate is offering in this week's edition. The newsletter promises to cover the issues, benefits, and concerns for RTI, along with the RTI process. The parents of any child with a learning challenge will probably find the basics of RTI useful. Read Special Ed Advocate.

THE TEEN BRAIN. Yes, we shudder, too, when see those words. A recent article published by the Dana Foundation in Cerebrum notes that the teen brain is "primed to learn" and "primed to take risks." The author, a psychiatrist with the National Institute of Mental Health, looks at teen behaviors from a neurobiological point of view. Read the article. Also found in Dana Foundation publications, pointers to something we missed: An article in the Boston Globe about your brain's "default system" -- what happens when you're not thinking of anything in particular -- and how its activity can, perhaps, predict schizophrenia. (Okay, not specifically about 2e kids but interesting just the same.)

KINDLE AS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY. Amazon's new version of its Kindle electronic book reader has a feature that allows it to read out loud, potentially bringing easier access to hundreds of thousands of works for those with reading difficulties. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported that Amazon will allow authors and publishers to decide whether their works may be enabled to use the "out loud" feature. The reason? Publisher/author contracts treat text rights and audio book rights differently. Read more.

MORE ITEMS as the week passes...