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, we find out that 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...

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