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.

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.

AND ADVERTISING. In an interview in, 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.

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.

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