Monday, November 24, 2008

From the Week of November 23rd

"VARSITY ACADEMICS." Maybe everyone knew about this but us, but lately the names "Will Fitzhugh" and "Concord Review" seemed to be showing up frequently on our computer monitor. We discovered that The Concord Review was founded 21 years ago to showcase "exemplary history essays by high school students in the English-speaking world." And it has done that -- over 4.5 million words to date. You may see sample essays ("Austria-Hungary and the Compromise of 1867"; "Abigail Adams: Feminist Myth"; and many more) or subscribe at the publication's site. If you know a young, gifted historian, check it out. You may also read this week's interview with Concord Review publisher Fitzhugh on the topic of academic excellence -- go here.

GENDER AND AD/HD. A recent NPR broadcast described AD/HD in girls, and how it manifests itself differently than in boys. Hear it.

TOOL FOR HELICOPTER PARENTING? A press release brought to our attention the VivoMetrics' LifeShirt, a
wearable, remote monitoring technology that continuously monitors multiple vital signs. According to the company, "the system provides researchers, physicians and healthcare providers with actionable insights into a patient's health via the monitoring and relational reporting of key life-sign functions including heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, body position, activity level and skin temperature." While the shirt has lots of legitimate clinical uses, it seems to us that the determined parent could use it to tell if a kid was drinking, doing drugs -- or simply having too much fun. Find out more.

GOT AN EXCEPTIONAL PEDIATRICIAN? Nominate him or her for the American Academy of Pediatrics "Pediatric Heroes -- Champions for Children" award. Deadline: January 16, 2009. Make nominations here.

TWICE-EXCEPTIONAL MAKES THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA. The article calls it "2x" and not "2e," but we won't quibble. A piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on November 23rd told of the growing awareness of twice-exceptional students and noted a federal grant of almost $500,000 to fund a five-year local project aimed at better identification and instruction of twice-exceptional students. Read more, along with some fairly divided reader comments on the subject of race, privilege, and diagnosis. :-(

WRIGHTSLAW. The November 25th edition of Special Ed Advocate provided reading recommendations for parents who want to be better advocates for their children. And because many gifted/LD students have IEPs or 504s, books about those topics -- and about negotiating, testing, and legal rights -- are especially relevant to parents of those students. Find the recommendations.

AD/HD -- STRENGTH OR DEFICIT? AD/HD poster-person Michael Phelps has emerged as an inspirational role model among kids with AD/HD and their parents, says an article in the The New York Times. A psychiatrist and author who has AD/HD says it's neither an unmitigated blessing nor unmitigated curse but a trait. The issue: how to be positive while still addressing the risks and limitations inherent in AD/HD. Read the article. (See a follow-up commentary on the article here.)

EDUCATIONAL CHOICES. The state of Florida has passed legislation to give parents more choice in the education of their children -- the choice of full-time, online schooling. The law requires school districts to have online schools for K through 8. Students will be tested, graded, and will take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, according to the article in the Orlando Sentinel. Find out more.

DYSLEXIA, NEUROPLASTICITY. The Dana Foundation's Brain Work recently featured an article that, in part, covered how the brain's ability to adapt can help dyslexics "rewire" to improve language/reading skills. One interesting quote from the article: "In our schools we've focused on improving the curriculum, the teachers and the medications we give our children, but we've never focused on improving the brain the child brings to the classroom." The article goes on to relate other examples of neuroplasticity and its effect on brain function, for example in people who suffer strokes. Read the article.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING. Twice-exceptional kids, along with different learners of all types, benefit from instruction that caters to their favored (or most "able") learning mode. Universal design for learning (UDL) is an instructional design technique that acknowledges different modes of learning and emphasizes building courses from the ground up to be able to accommodate those modes. An article in the Burlington, Vermont, Free Press described how UDL is (or could be) applied to instruction at the University of Vermont. For example, says the article, a course on Shakespeare might include books on tape, captioned videos, or student-performance opportunities, not just reading and lecture. The article also covers some of the way technology can help different learners -- ear receivers to help AD/HD students better "tune in" to lectures; text-to-speech software; and lecture captioning. Find out more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From the Week of November 16th

THIS WEEK FROM WRIGHTSLAW. If you have a twice-exceptional child and you need to advocate at school, you might be interested in this week's edition of Special Ed Advocate from Wrightslaw. The Wrightslaw site and their newsletters are heavy with advocacy advice, but if you're not familiar with them we recommend taking a look.

EVOLVING DEFINITION OF GIFTEDNESS -- that's the title of Education Week's Live Chat for November 19, 4 to 5 pm Eastern time. Can giftedness be nurtured, taught, or lost? The chat is text-based; a transcript is posted after the close of the chat. Tune in. You may also submit questions in advance.

DAVIDSON INSTITUTE eNEWS-UPDATE. The November issue is online, with articles about the 2008 Davidson Fellows, a potpourri of legislative and policy news from across the country, a profile of the 2008 NAGC Scholar of the Year, Dr. Donna Ford, and more.

WHAT ASPERGER'S IS LIKE. The Pocono Record covered a presentation by the Aspie author William Stillman, in which Stillman provided an exercise to try to let attendees feel what it would be like to have Asperger's. His device: asking the audience to play "Simon Says" while lights flickered on and off and static blasted at odd times. Read the article, his perceptions on having Asperger's, and his advice for dealing with those with autism.

TEACHING SOCIAL SKILLS TO NERDS is the topic of an article from the Orlando Sentinel. The author distinguishes between "S" (systematizing) brains and "E" (emphathizing) brains -- and guess which type has trouple with social skills. The article contends, however, that nerds (extreme S-brain individuals) can be socialized. Read it.

HEAVY WEEK FOR NEUROSCIENCE NEWS. This week is the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (attendance: over 31,000), and lots of news is sure to come out of it. If you're interested, you can read coverage of the meeting at a blog site from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Up so far: research that chewing gum can improve short-term memory; and findings on the neurological basis of love. We'll try to find and highlight news relevant to giftedness, LDs, parenting, child development, and education.

TS AND GIFTEDNESS. December 7th's Hallmark Hall of Fame program is titled "Front of the Class," and is based on the true story of a young man with Tourette Syndrome who became, according to CBS, "a gifted teacher." The program airs from 9 to 11 pm eastern time.

THE DISAPPEARING MALE is the title of a cheery article in the Windsor Star noting studies of the increasing rates of birth defects and disorders in boys, disorders such as TS, LDs, and autism. Chemicals in the environment are seen as the culprit. The topic is further explored in a CBC television show of the same name. Read the article.

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY. Maurice Fisher published his winter edition this week. It includes articles on educating the gifted and on using e-books with gifted readers. Find it online.

DUMP YOUR UNMANAGEABLE KID IN NEBRASKA? You're too late. The state legislature amended its "safe haven" law to apply only to infants 30 days old or less, not 18 years or less, according to the November 22nd New York Times. You'll have to figure out something else. Read it.

PROLIFIC INTERVIEWER MICHAEL SHAUGHNESSY of interviewed the co-editor of the new book Routledge International Companion to Gifted Education, which has chapters contributed by many prominent figures in the gifted arena. The purpose of the book: "To review, to synthesize, and to challenge current understandings and practices in gifted education around the world." Read the interview.

KIDS AND ANTI-PSYCHOTICS -- AGAIN. The column "Domestic Disturbances" in the November 20th New York Times revisited the practice of prescribing powerful antipsychotics such as Risperdal to not only kids with bipolar disorder but with AD/HD. The author, Judith Warner, points out that a spike in diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder "dovetails suspiciously well with the introduction of atypical antipsychotics in the early and mid-1990s." If you have a kid on meds because he or she is "chronically irritable, extremely aggressive, [or] prone to explosive outbursts and out-of-control rages," be sure to read this article. It deals with mis-categorization, misdiagnosis, and mis-prescription.

NEW TO SPECIAL ED SERVICES for your gifted/LD child? A six-page article by attorney Matt Cohen in the publication Nami Beginnings covers the rights of schools and parents in such areas as accommodations and remediation; evaluations; the provision of IEP services; proposed placements; FAPE; post-secondary supports; and suspensions. Read it here.

TOPIC: SCHOOL DISCIPLINE. RELEVANCE TO 2E: PROBABLY LOW. HUMOR CONTENT: HIGH. Sorry, we have to "pass" this along, odious as it might be. The website The Smoking Gun reported that a 12-year-old Florida boy was arrested this month
-- arrested! -- for deliberately "breaking wind" to disrupt class. You can read the account and see a copy of the police report at Smoking Gun's site.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From the Week of November 9th

MAYBE IT'S NOT THE KIDS -- IT'S US. Harvard professor and author Jerome Kagan, writing for the Dana Foundation's Cerebrum, suggests that the increase in the diagnosis of childhood disorders such as AD/HD stems as much from social conditions as from biology. Among those social conditions (which have changed over the past several hundred years): changing definitions of pathology and an over-reliance on parental input for a diagnosis; emphasis on schooling as a requirement for success, an emphasis which causes stress in parents should a child show difficulty with school; and just a change in the way we live. For example, in the 17th century, says Kagan, children were likely "not required to maintain attention on an intellectual task for five of six hours a day." Kagan discusses what he evidently feels are over-diagnoses of AD/HD, bipolar disorder, and autism. This is a "big picture" article that might provide perspective to parents, educators, and clinicians who are "down in the weeds" worrying about and dealing with children's behaviors; we highly recommend it to those who deal with twice-exceptional kids. Read it.

OR -- MAYBE PREGNANCY CAUSES MENTAL DISORDERS. Seriously. An article in November 11th's New York Times outlines a new theory that parents' genes -- and competition between them in the developing embryo -- influence the development of mental disorders. It's a big theory, one that posts autism and schizophrenia on opposite ends of a spectrum of disorders. Experts in the field say, according to the article, that the theory has "demonstrated the power of thinking outside the gene." Read the article.

NO EXCUSES for not meeting the needs of gifted students. On her blog "Unwrapping the Gifted," Tamara Fisher debunks 10 common excuses for not giving gifted students what they need -- excuses such as,
“If only that gifted student would bother doing his assigned work, I might consider giving him something different to do.” Read what Fisher has to say about excuses like this.

TEACHER'S RESOURCE. Edutopia has made some of its videos available through Apple's iTunesU. For example, a series of short videos on social-emotional learning is available for free download at iTunesU. So is a series titled "Integrated Studies," presenting ways teachers and students can work together in making curricular connections around a theme or topic. While you're at it, the Lucas Foundation is still soliciting founding memberships for Edutopia; find out more at Edutopia's site. (Note: you'll need iTunes installed on your computer for the video links in this item to work.)

ET (EXCELLENT TEACHER) PHONE HOME. LD Online's feature article for November is called "The Teacher's Role in Home/School Communications: Everybody Wins." It provides tips for teachers in communicating with parents. And parents? Some of the tips apply to you too. Read it.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR DEBATERS. Now Debate This, a national educational debate and $250,000 scholarship contest for high school students, launched its 2009 program this week in partnership with the National Forensic League Speech and Debate Honor Society. The 2009 topic and focus of the second year is: "How can America achieve energy independence through the lessons of history?" More information.

SORRY, WE NEED TO SAY THIS. ScienceDaily, one of our news feeds, passed on a study today about watching television. Here's the net-out: unhappy people watch more TV. The question: is it cause and effect or something else?

EDWEEK CHAT. This week: "What Does RTI Mean in the Classroom." Transcript is here. Free registration may be required.

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MIRROR NEURONS? If you raise or teach an Aspie, or anyone with poor social interactions, perhaps you should. Read a Society for Neuroscience article here.

GOOGLE 1. We love Google almost as much as we love Costco. Teachers and homeshooling parents can now use a Google Earth feature to tour a simulation of ancient Rome. What's more, innovative teachers can participate in a contest of lesson plans based on this virtual visit. Info here. You've got to have Google Earth installed to take advantage.

GOOGLE 2. A "vast" collection of public domain children's literature (from International Children's Digital Library) is to be scanned, digitized, and available on Google. We couldn't verify this on the Google site, but stay tuned.

HE SENT IT TO US, BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE IT YET. Each month, David Rabiner sends out "Attention Research Update," and each month we tell you what's in it. But unless you're a subscriber to his newsletter, you have to wait
to access it until weeks later when he posts the newsletter. That said, the November edition is about an electronic method for diagnosing AD/HD. The method: Quantitative EEGs, which may detect distinctive brain activity in those with AD/HD. The results: QEEGs can provide a biological marker for AD/HD and complement comprehensive diagnostic examinations for AD/HD. The study review will be here -- eventually.

NAGC CONTINUES FOR CAROLYN K -- IN MALAYSIA. Carolyn K, the webmistress of the Hoagies' Gifted site who is apparently intent on building a website with more pages than any other in the world, was at the U.S. NAGC conference in Tampa, Florida, a couple weeks ago. This week she followed that up with a visit to NAGC of Malaysia, where she presented a keynote address. She is blogging about her travels and visit, and you can read all about them here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

From the Week of November 2nd

COLLEGE AT 12. The New York Times covered the college experience so far of 12-year-old Colin Carlson, who attends the University of Connecticut full time. He had actually been attending classes at the university since age 8. Colin lives at home and commutes, but carries a full class load. The writer says of Colin that he "looks like a young Woody Allen, but with better social skills." Read the article.

ELITISM? Also in the New York Times this past Sunday was a review of the book Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality, by Charles Murray. Murray, according to the review, thinks that it's impossible to raise academic ability and that most children -- 80 percent -- should not go on to college. The title of the review is, "Just Leave Them Behind." Read the review.

Regular child and adolescent violent video game use early in the school year predicted later aggressive behavior in both the U.S. and Japan, according to a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the AAP, researchers monitored the behavior of more than 1,200 students in Japan, ages 12 to 18, and 364 U.S. students, ages 9 to 12. The study results were similar: habitual violent video game play early in the school year predicted later aggression. The more the children played violent video games, the more physically aggressive they became. The AAP website is here.

THE FLIP SIDE OF VIDEO GAMES. The latest "Trend and 'Tudes" survey from Harris Interactive finds that four in five youth say they play sports at least once a week. (We'd bet that video game play is much more than that, both in frequency and duration.) The survey also includes data on organized sports participation. Read the survey.

MAY YOUR FAMILY'S DIAGNOSISTIC PROCESS BE QUICKER THAN THIS. ABC News published the story of 29-year-old Jason Ross, who over the decades was successively diagnosed with speech delay, AD/HD, psychosis not otherwise specified, and OCD. In a multi-year detour, he was thought to be schizophrenic; here's how is mother tells that story in the article:
"You'd say, 'Do you hear voices?' and he'd say, 'Yes' ... It took three or four years until he got that the question was, 'Is it in your mind, or is it other people on the street?'" Ross was finally diagnosed at age 25 with Asperger's. He has graduated from college and works as a cardiovascular technician. Read the article.

GOT A SMART 10TH-GRADER? Do you think he or she should be allowed to take exams to earn immediate entrance to community college or technical school? New Hampshire does -- the state, according to Time Magazine, will allow students to skip the last two years of high school should they wish, based on passing a set of state exams. Those interested in attending more challenging universities may finish the final two years and take a different, more rigorous set of tests. The exams have yet to be developed. Read the article.

NOW IT'S TV THAT CAUSES AUTISM -- at least, according to a study of rainfall records in three western states. Actually, the link is only with the number of rainy or snowy days, on which children are presumed to watch more TV. Scientists recommend further study and replication. Read the article.

BIKING TO CHILE. That's the mission of Tyson Minck, a dyslexic college student at Western Washington University, who qualified for a $15,000 Adventure Learning Grant to "
study and travel abroad for 10 months, learn from that community and bring that knowledge back to the [college] community," according to the school's website. An article in today's WWU student newspaper gives some perspective on the trip and its impact on Minck. Read it.