Monday, January 26, 2009

For the Week of January 25th

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND arrived yesterday, always a welcome event here. Two articles in this issue might be of interest. One article describes how brain-imaging experiments show that self-consciousness in teenagers might be affected by changes in brain anatomy. A particular part of the brain is more active in teens than adults, hypothetically because the teens are in the process of developing "a more socially constructed sense of self." As the brain matures, activity in that part of the brain decreases, possibly because the young adults are then better at self-reflection. Another article is about play: how "free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional, and cognitive development," and the serious consequences of not playing when young.

HANG UP BEFORE CROSSING. A New York Times article notes research indicating that preteens, street-crossing, and cell-phone talking can be a bad mix. In a simulation, children on the phone had a 43 percent higher risk of a virtual accident. Read it.

THE GIFTED EXCHANGE, a blog by Laura Vanderkam about gifted children, schooling, parenting, and other topics, features Carolyn K, webmistress of Hoagies' Gifted Education Page, the massive online resource on the topic of giftedness and twice-exceptionality. Find out what Carolyn K has experienced in the 12 years she's been doing the website; read the blog.

KNOW A BRIGHT SCIENCE STUDENT? The 2009 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a competition for those in grades 5 through 8.
According to the sponsors, entrants are invited to create a short video about a specific scientific concept relating to innovative solutions for everyday life; four particular everyday problems are offered as starting points. Find more information. (For more contests and awards, see Hoagies'.)

UNBALANCED CHILDHOOD. Science Daily reports on a study from Tel Aviv University linking anxiety disorders with balance problems. The researchers say that the link can be assessed at an early age, giving hope that the issue can be alleviated. The researchers, according to the article, imply that the connection is two-way; physical treatment for balance problems can alleviate anxiety in children. Read the article.

TOO COOL NOT TO MENTION. Science Daily also reported this cool fact: babies just two or three days old can detect music's beat. It's called "beat induction," and it's a uniquely human trait, according to the article. Rock on!

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL EDUCATION. A clever article in Education Week uses an interesting canine analogy for education performance standards: "
If someone tried to set up a national program to teach every dog to do everything that various breeds are able to do, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would have them in court in a New York minute. But when authorities mandate one-size-fits-all performance standards for kids, and the standards aren't met, it's the kids and teachers, not the standards, that get blamed." The author, a retired teacher and professor, offers six suggestions for improving the educational system. Read the article.

WRIGHTSLAW is 10 years old this year, notes the current edition of Special Ed Advocate, and in this week's issue you can read the top 10 articles, topics, cases, and blog posts of 2008 -- along with some truly amazing usage statistics for their website. Read it.

POPULARITY AND GENETICS. It might be true, according to newly published findings. Our place in the social network is supposedly influenced at least in part by our genes. Maybe this finding will offer perspective to some kids and consolation to others. Read the Science Daily report.

THIS WEEK'S EDWEEK CHAT is "Working with Students with Autism," and scheduled for Wednesday at 4pm EST. Act fast to submit questions. Find out more.

TEACHERS' RESOURCE REVISITED. We mentioned Teacher Tube in our monthly briefing awhile ago, but saw an update today; it now has over 200,000 regular users and 54,000 videos. The site is for teachers to share videos and model lessons. According to an article in today's Dallas News, some teachers are now "rock stars." Read the article.

FLORIDA SMART KIDS ARE SHORTCHANGED. That's the contention of an article in the St. Petersburg Times. Many of Florida's brightest kids, says the article, are bored in school. The writer reached his conclusion while interviewing some of those gifted kids at a "Future Cities" competition to design "the coolest cities," and puts his assertions in the context of NCLB and Florida achievement test scores. Read the article.

AD/HD MEDS AND HALLUCINATIONS? That's right -- Reuters reported today that US government researchers have found that common meds for treating AD/HD may, in some patients, cause hallucinations, psychosis, and mania. While the number of children experiencing these side effects in clinical trials has been small, there were no such events in children taking placebos. Find the article.

VIDEO GAMES -- ONE MORE TIME. A new study, according to Science Daily, indicates that when college students play more video games, the quality of their social relationships goes down. Not answered is the question of whether kids who already have social problems tend to play more video games in the first place -- so don't bet on causality here. Read it.

SURE, YOU WANTED KIDS AND NOT A DOG. And you're paying for it. The UK Telegraph says that the cost of raising a child from birth to age 21 is now £194,000 (US$272,000 based on today's exchange rate), and as much as £323,000 (US$452,000) if parents opt for private schools. And raising gifted or twice-exceptional kids? Don't even try to calculate...

MORE ITEMS as the week goes on...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From the Week of January 18th

ALONG WITH THE BIENNIAL WORLD CONFERENCE for Gifted and Talented Children this August in Vancouver, the Lower Mainland Gifted Contacts is sponsoring a Youth Summit Vancouver 2009, according to one of our good subscribers (thanks, Louise). The international event is geared for gifted students ages 15–18 and is being held at the University of British Columbia. The chairperson of the Youth Summit says that they are already registering students from around the world, including Germany, New Zealand, China, Singapore, and Afghanistan. Information about the Summit is included in the World Conference brochure -- look hard or else visit

KNOWING OUR CHILDREN. A New York Times Magazine blog, "Motherlode," asks whether we really know our children, and then suggests that, for parents, "
there is often a mismatch between what we see when we look at our children, and what is really there." The writer relates stories of parents who don't notice patterns of behavior until an educator comments on them, or until a child asks for help with the behavior; or missing AD/HD for years, all-the-while just urging the child to try harder. The reasons? We're too close, and we sometimes we don't want to acknowledge certain things. Reading the article gave us flashbacks to some of our omissions of observation and reasoning. You can feel guilty too, if you read the article.

REMEMBER THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE, and the faces on the fronts of all of the engines? British researchers have developed a video DVD called The Transporters that uses a similar technique to get autistic children to look at faces and learn about emotions. Vehicle such as trams, cable cars, and tractors are fronted with faces of highly expressive actors. An NPR report this week relates successful results from the use of the DVD; you may also see an excerpt from the DVD at NPR's site.

STRESS AND ASTHMA. An international study by researchers in New Zealand has found that stress in childhood -- psychosocial, physical, or mental -- are associated with an increased risk of developing asthma later in life. Whether the link is causal is unclear, although, according to the lead researcher,
"Chronic stress and mental disorders are known to be associated with deleterious changes in stress hormone pathways and in immune responses, leading to inflammation."
Read the Reuters article.

MENSA RECOGNIZES GIFTEDNESS PROFESSIONALS. The organization Mensa has awarded Miraca Gross with its Lifetime Achievement Award for 2008. Gross is a professor of gifted education at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and long-time contributor to the field of giftedness.
This award is presented every other year by the Mensa in recognition of a lifetime of contributions to the field of intelligence and related subjects.
Read the announcement. In addition, Deborah Ruf is the current winner of the organization's Intellectual Benefits Award, which recognizes the application of intellectual abilities that result in tangible benefit to society. Ruf is the founder of Educational Options, an author, and a frequent presenter. Read Mensa's announcement. Subscribers to 2e Newsletter may find our coverage of some of Ruf's NAGC sessions in the subscriber-only area of the 2e Newsletter website. Thanks to OGTOC for bringing these awards to our attention.

AUTISTIC VERSUS "NORMAL." The BBC reports on UK researchers who contend that children diagnosed with autism have severe versions of character traits shared by many other, presumably "normal," children. So the traits, according to the article, do not begin and end on the autism spectrum, but continue into the population of children as a whole. A quote from one of the researchers:
"Clinicians and those involved in education need to aware that there are children who do not have autism but who nevertheless have somewhat elevated levels of autistic traits - our research suggests that these children are at slightly greater risk of developing behavioural and emotional problems." Read the article.

MORE ON THE "GIFTED" LABEL. We've reported previously on the ruckus over the Washington Post's reportage that the MCPS schools were dropping the gifted label, and on the schools' response to the article. (See our posts from the weeks of January 4th and December 14th.) The debate over the label, however, continues on the pages of the Post. You can read more about how advocates for the gifted and school officials feel about the gifted label at the Post's website. You can even take a poll about whether you feel the gifted label should be dropped. (Over 10,000 people have voted as of the date of this posting.)

RESOURCES FOR HARD-CORE BRAIN FREAKS. This month's issue of Brain in the News from the Dana Foundation brings pointers to a couple of sites that might be of interest to parents, educators, and clinicians who are seriously interested in brain research. One is a blog called "Brain Windows," focusing on new tools for examining the brain; be advised that the discussion is often technical (eg, "Update: Structure of G-CaMP2"). The other is a series of online videos from the Society of Neuroscience -- dozens of interviews with "eminent and senior scientists" in the area of neuroscience.

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY. Want to hear why Maurice Fisher has been publishing a journal/newsletter on gifted education for over 20 years? Who else but Michael Shaughnessy interviews Mr. Fisher on his goals for the quarterly and the contents of the most recent issue. Read the interview.

GIFTED ED: CLUSTER VS. PULL-OUT. An article in the Arizona Republic explains how some Arizona schools cluster young gifted students within the classroom rather than providing pull-out services, where students leave the classroom. The director of gifted education for the Paradise Valley Unified School District, Dina Brulles, says in the article that "the practice of cluster grouping provides full-time academic services to gifted students with minimal budget implications."
Read more about the practice.

NEGLECTING THE GIFTED?'s Michael Shaughnessy interviewed psychologist, professor, and SENG board member Steve Pfeiffer this week, soliciting Pfeiffer's opinions on the book about child giftedness he recently edited, the unmet social/emotional needs of gifted children, identifying gifted children, and his work with SENG. Read the interview.

LEARNING OUTSIDE THE BOX. We were in the car driving through Wisconsin last weekend and heard a "To the Best of Our Knowledge" program from NPR on the topic of learning outside the box. The program turned out to be a re-broadcast, but it's interesting listening regardless. Moderator Jim Fleming talks to experts such as author/speaker Jonathan Mooney, alternative education advocate Matt Hearn, and author and professor Michael Piechowski, who talked about the intensity with which gifted children experience their lives. Hear it.

MIND CANDY. In a recent Frazz cartoon, the good janitor and Caulfield discussed the definition of insanity... and expectations. Read it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From the Week of January 11th

BRAIN RESEARCH PROGRESS REPORT. The Dana Alliance has published the 2009 Progress Report on Brain Research, highlighting recent work in a variety of fields, some of which might be of interest to those who raise, counsel, or educate twice-exceptional children. Among others, the report includes sections on brain research entitled:
  • Perspectives on Substance Abuse
  • The Quest for Better Schizophrenia Treatment
  • The Obesity Problem
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury [from a perspective of war-induced TBI rather than childhood TBI]
Also included is a roundup with a page or two each on topics such as OCD and treatment with SSRIs; autism genetics; and deep brain stimulation, along with a mention of its use in treating Tourette's. All sections, including the roundup, are available in html or PDF form on the website of the Dana Foundation. And while you're there, check out the other resources offered online, starting at the home page.

MONEY FOR IDEA. Here's the headline from a CEC (Council for Exceptional Children) Policy Brief:
"Economic Recovery Package Proposes Historic Infusion of Money to IDEA." Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes "unprecedented increases for IDEA Grants to States" and other programs. Through CEC's website you can, as CEC urges, "Take Action Now to Show Your Support!"

THE FINE ART OF CONVERSATION. An NPR story describes a young man who can tell you pi to 100 digits but, like many kids with Asperger's, doesn't do well with chitchat. The story describes a course developed at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute that helps kids with mild autism improve their social skills. Find the article.

DON'T LIKE DRUGS for AD/HD? An article this week in US News and World Report describes how behavioral therapy and parental retraining can be alternatives to meds. Now, we have always thought that the American Way involved getting results instantly, preferably from an aerosol can or a pill. But if you don't believe that, read the article. (As of this posting, there were 10 reader comments posted for the article, including some relating parental experiences with twice-exceptional children with AD/HD and one that labels pediatricians who prescribe meds for AD/HD as "drug-dealers.")

GIFTED STUDENTS AS "SPECIAL NEEDS." Steven Pfeiffer, a professor at Florida State, says that gifted children require just as much attention and educational resources to thrive in school as do other students whose physical, behavioral, emotional or learning needs require special accommodations.
Pfeiffer also acknowledges what those in the 2e community know -- that gifted students can often be perplexing and challenging. According to Florida State, a key area of Pfeiffer's research has been finding ways to best identify children who are gifted. He has developed a "Gifted Rating Scale" measuring aptitude in intellectual ability, academic ability, creativity, artistic talent, leadership, and motivation. Read the news release.

READING RESOURCE FOR THE "PRINT DISABLED." The non-profit organization Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic offers the nation's largest collection of audio textbooks, almost 47,000 works, according to a the San Louis Obispo, California, New Times. The fee-based service provides digital versions of tomes such as "Applied Calculus" which can be downloaded onto computers, MP3 players, or cell phones. Know a high-ability student who could benefit because he/she has dyslexia, visual impairments, or LDs? Read the article, or go to the organization's website.

TAMARA FISHER, in her most recent blog entry at, writes about the job that the nation's education colleges are doing to prepare teachers of the gifted. She notes that only 81 US colleges or universities offer coursework in gifted education. [And the number offering coursework in educating the twice-exceptional is far fewer.] In the blog, Fisher describes the experience of a teacher-in-training in terms of trying to become knowledgeable about gifted education -- and offers a few tips of her own on how to educate future teachers about giftedness.
Read the blog entry.

CHALLENGE THOSE GIFTED STUDENTS. The Oracle Foundation has announced the ThinkQuest Narrative Competition 2009, a new educational competition. The competition is now open to teams of students, ages 9-19. Teams are invited to use OEF's ThinkQuest Projects platform to publish their ideas on topics of global importance, ranging from world hunger to environmental issues. Details on enrollment, deadlines, and prizes are here.

ATTENTION RESEARCH UPDATE. David Rabiner's latest report on AD/HD research concerns how girls with AD/HD adjust during adolescence. According to Rabiner, the study authors extend previous work by "examining outcomes in multiple domains of functioning and focusing on the frequency of positive adjustments." The study should be here; allow a few days for it to be posted.

MANNERS? OR "SOCIAL SKILLS"? An MD (and presumably a pediatrician) describes in a New York Times column how he treated a very rude child for years, and uses that experience to explore manners in children, the parents' role in instilling manners, and what various experts (professors of pediatrics, Miss Manners) have to say on the topic. The MD concludes: "a child who learns to manage a little courtesy, even under the pressure of a visit to the doctor, is a child who is operating well in the world, a child with a positive prognosis." Read the column.

STORIES OF SUCCESSFUL ADVOCACY. In the January 13th edition of Wrightslaw's Special Ed Advocate, the Wrights provide stories of parents, teachers, and advocates who have achieved success. Need some inspiration as you advocate for that gifted or twice-exceptional child? Read the issue.

2e AND IDAHO'S TEACHER OF THE YEAR. The words "twice exceptional" were used recently in mainstream media reportage of Idaho's Teacher of the Year award. Robin Sly, according to news reports, focuses on 2e kids. Read a news account; read the Idaho State Department of Education announcement.

MORE ITEMS as the week progresses...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

From the Week of January 4th, 2009

"BEST VALUE" COLLEGES. Sending that gifted/talented or twice-exceptional kid to college soon? USA Today and the Princeton Review have released their list of 2009 "Best Value Colleges." The best value in private schools: Swarthmore. The best value in public schools: University of Virginia. Read the USA Today coverage.

IDEA 2004 AND ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY. T.H.E. Journal points out that a single-word change to IDEA 2004 has made many more K-12 students eligible for assistive technology. The change: whether the student "requires" A.T. or "needs" it. Read the article, and thanks to LD Online for the pointer.

SMART KIDS WITH LD is soliciting nominations for its "Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities Youth Achievement Award," a $1000 recognition for a student 19 or younger "who has demonstrated initiative, talent and determination resulting in a notable accomplishment in any field - including art, music, science, math, athletics or community service." The deadline is January 31st. Find out more.

DAVIDSON INSTITUTE MAKES THE NEWS. The Boston Globe carried a story on January 8th about a gifted 12-year-old Massachusetts inventor who has: won $10,000 for his design of a dome-shaped shelter for a "trash-to-treasure" contest; won prizes for his poetry; and founded a nonprofit organization. The young man and his family have evidently been involved with the Institute for a number of years. The Institute provides encouragement and support for highly gifted young people. Read the article. Find out more about the Davidson Institute for Talent Development (DITD).

THE EDGIES ARE BACK! Each year, the Edge Foundation asks dozens of prominent thinkers to respond to a provocative question. This year's question is, "What will change everything?" The Edgies have, as a group, very varied backgrounds and professions, and as a result some (but not very many) of the responses are relevant to giftedness, child development, or neuroscience. One perennial Edgie is Alison Gopnik, a UC/Berkeley psycholgist who a year or two ago wrote a response about infants that included some charmng quotes. (About infantile awareness and experiencing the world, she wrote: "
I think that, for babies, every day is first love in Paris. Every wobbly step is skydiving, every game of hide and seek is Einstein in 1905.") This year, she writes about "Never-ending Childhood." (And remember, this is in response to "What will change everything?") Also included is Howard Gardner of Harvard ("multiple intelligences" and surely familiar to the 2e Newsletter audience). Gardner's response is titled "Cracking Open the Lockbox of Talent," and he posits that the combination of genetics, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and the psychology of motivation may change everything by allowing us to understand genius. Other responses you might enjoy:
The respondents also include a 17-year-old MIT student and Alan Alda, whose response is among the most pessimistic that we read. Is that what being a funny guy does to you?

TEACHING SOCIAL SKILLS to those with high-functioning autism is the topic of an article in the Baltimore Sun. In a 16-week program, "
two psychologists provide intensive behavior therapy that teaches children how to read visual cues, understand emotions and take an interest in others," according to the article. The program combines classroom therapy with field trips, teaching children to describe their emotions; recognize consequences of their behavior; and how to make eye contact, among other skills. Read the article.

GOT A SMART KID WHO FRITTERS AWAY TIME and daydreams during testing? Try offering pre-chewed pencils, which supposedly are less likely to wind up in your student's mouth, precipitating daydreaming. According to the UK Daily Telegraph, the firm offering the pencils, Concentrate, also offers other products to help children at school, especially in reducing distractions in class. Read the article. Find the product website.

MCPS AND THE GIFTED LABEL. We noted in this blog (see the post from the week of December 14th) and our monthly email briefing the article a few weeks ago in the Washington Post entitled "Montgomery Erasing Gifted Label." The Montgomery County, Maryland, Public School Board has issued a clarifying statement to allay the fears that the County would no longer identify students as GT. In fact, according to the statement, MCPS has a pilot program in place at two elementary schools that provides GT services without labeling students. Whether this practice extends county-wide will apparently depend on stakeholder input and future board policy decisions. Read the statement.

INVENTING WITH BUBBLE WRAP. We mentioned this contest a while ago --
for young inventors in grades 5 through 8 to demonstrate their creativity and ingenuity by designing an invention that incorporates the use of Bubble Wrap(R) brand cushioning. Now the company has announced three finalists
. Their inventions: a chart that helps stroke survivors gauge their recovering strength and helps guide their rehabilitation progress; a swing for children with movement disorders that provides adjustable back and neck support using different amounts of Bubble Wrap(R) brand cushioning; and an interchangeable flash card system to help make learning fun for children. Read more.

RULES FROM WRIGHTSLAW. Pete Wright discloses in this week's Special Ed Advocate four rules he used in bringing up his kids. Too strict? You be the judge. Find the rules and find out how his kids turned out.

MORE HOMESCHOOLERS. USA Today reported today that there are now 1.5 million homeschooled kids in this country, up 74 percent in 10 years. Read more about the survey.

A PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR "EXCEPTIONALLY GIFTED"? That's what the Minnetonka, Minnesota school district proposes. Find out more about the plan and the district's "High Potential Services Department."

SERVICE ANIMALS we've covered in 2e Newsletter include dogs for kids with Asperger's, but the New York Times, in Sunday's Magazine, describes how a blind woman uses a miniature horse as a guide; how a man struggling with psychosis and rage uses a parrot to calm him down when he starts to get out of control; and how a woman with anxiety problems (agoraphobia, panic attacks) is able to go out in public because of her macaque monkey who also helps her shop and will "give five" to passers-by. The article also covers reactions to and limits on "unusual" service animals.
Read the article.

PRESSURE ON ASIAN STUDENTS TO ACHIEVE? An article in the San Jose Mercury News relays the supposed "Asian grade scale":
A = Average; B = Bad; C = Catastrophe; D = Disowned; F = Forever Forgotten.
The article probes the issue of high expectations on Asian-American students at Mission High in the San Jose, California, area, the consequences of those expectations in terms of stress, burnout, depression -- and cheating. Also covered: how the school is reacting. Read the article.

MORE ITEMS as the week goes on.