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.

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