Monday, November 30, 2009

Neurosurgery, a Weighty Tome on Giftedness, Neuroeducation, and Outdoor Kindergarten

SURGERY FOR OCD, TOURETTE'S. An article in The New York Times covered the use of brain surgery to treat conditions such as OCD, Tourette's, and depression. The surgery may involve destroying tissue using implanted wires, modulating brain circuits using deep brain stimulation, or destroying tissue using radiation from a "gamma knife." The surgeries are relatively infrequent -- about 500 over the last decade, and only on patients with severely disabling disorders which no other treatment had resolved. The article describes the plights and treatments of two patients, one who was helped and one who wasn't. Find the article.

interviewed the editor of a volume by that title, Larisa INTERNATIONAL HANDBOOK ON GIFTEDNESS.'s Michael ShaughnessyShavinia, who describes the work and why she decided to create it. The Handbook consists of 78 chapters by 118 authors in over 1500 pages. Also impressive: the price tag, at $479. Out of the 78 chapters, only three apparently deal with 2e; those are in a section called "Twice-Exceptional Gifted Individuals and Suicide-Related Issues." Read the interview. See the table of contents.

NEUROEDUCATION: LEARNING, ARTS, AND THE BRAIN. Earlier this year, Johns Hopkins University held a summit of that title for researchers and educators exploring the convergence of neuroscientific research, teaching, and learning, with emphasis on the arts. The Dana Foundation has made available a document that contains the keynote address by Jerome Kagan, an executive summary of the summit, and transcripts of panel discussions. You may order a print copy from the Foundation, or you may download a 120-page PDF of the document.

A WALDORF FOREST KINDERGARTEN. Ever think your young, bright, inquisitive child wasn't getting enough time outdoors? Check out a New York Waldorf School that offers a "forest kindergarten," where children 3 1/2 to 6 years old spend three hours outside every school day. Read The New York Times article for a nice look at what teachers and students think of the venture.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rhodes Scholars, Autism Treatments, IEPs, and Pasta

GIFTED AND ACHIEVING. An article published by MSNBC highlights winners of 2010 Rhodes Scholarships, announced Sunday. From 805 applicants, 32 scholarships were awarded for up to three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. The article says the scholarships "are awarded for attributes that include high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor." Find out more about some of the winners. And read another article, this one in the Washington Post, about the scholars and what they tend to do after Oxford.

THERAPIES FOR AUTISM. The Chicago Tribune ran an article on the front page of its November 22nd Sunday paper about autism treatments. The headline and subhead give the paper's take on the topic and foreshadow the content of the article -- "Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science" and "Alternative therapies amount to uncontrolled experimentation on children, investigation finds." Among the treatments covered by the article are chelation therapy, vitamin therapy, and hyperbaric chambers. The Tribune also contends that certain lab tests -- for example, on levels of toxic metals -- can be misleading. Read the article.

WRIGHTSLAW. Special Ed Advocate for the week of November 22nd offered this invitation: "
learn how parents, as participants in developing their child’s IEP, benefit by having input into the instructional methods used to teach their children." Find the newsletter.

LIKE PASTA? LOVE A TEACHER? Enter the restaurant chain Olive Garden's "Pasta Tales" contest where students write essays about a teacher who has inspired them in school and how the teacher has affected their lives. Prizes include savings bonds and -- naturally -- dinners at Olive Garden restaurants. If there's a teacher who your gifted or GT/LD learner admires, find out more.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reading, Hearing, Educational Videos, and a School for 2e Children

READING AND THE MIND. On the Scientific American website, you can read an interesting interview with neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene on how the mind makes sense of written language. In his research, Dehaene wondered how the brain and culture interact, and he's come to the conclusion that "the brain did not evolve for culture, but culture evolved to be learnable by the brain." He hypothesizes that the elements of written language stem from shapes that the brain was already "wired" to see in primates. He contends, for example, that monkey brains already contain neurons that preferentially respond to shapes in nature such as T, L, and Y, and that we with our human culture have recycled these shapes for use in language. He describes his findings about the left-hemisphere region of the brain that activates when we read, which he calls the "letterbox." He also suggests that dyslexia is a failure to properly interconnect letter with speech sounds. (He does acknowledge, however, that dyslexia is a very heterogeneous condition.) Read the interview.

EDUCATION VIDEOS, ORGANIZED. According to Education Week, one of the founders of Wikipedia has launched a website to provide free access to over 10,000 educational videos for students up to 18 years old. In the article, the organizer describes his site as "YouTube meets Wikipedia." Find the article. Find the site.

CAN'T HEAR, CAN'T LEARN. Education Week also pointed us to a podcast on the topic of hearing screenings for students. According to the article, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that 2.5 million U.S. students have mild hearing loss, which can cause them to miss much of what transpires in the classroom. The Association's podcast is about 22 minutes long and explains how parents can ensure their children are screened. Find it. Other podcasts on the site deal with care tips for young athletes with concussions; protecting the hearing of the young; language delay; and aphasia (discussed by the creator of the comic strip For Better or For Worse).

2e SCHOOL IN SCOTTSDALE. In a recent issue of 2e Newsletter, we wrote about a soon-to-be opened school for young, twice-exceptional students in Scottsdale, Arizona. We hear from co-founder Kelly Rostan that the opening of the Open Doors Learning Center has been moved to January, 2010. Rostan says that the school is still accepting applications from families looking for alternative education for their 2e children. For more information, visit

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On Praise, Thanks, At-Risk Labels, and the Amygdala

DON'T PRAISE INTELLIGENCE in your gifted, high-ability kids. It makes kids want to protect the idea that they're smart, and that can lead to lost confidence, lost interest in challenging tasks, and plummeting performance. So says psychologist Carol Dweck in an interview published in a University of Illinois publication. In the article, Dweck also discusses the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset and how they apply to children and students, among other areas. Find the article.

THANK THAT EDUCATOR OF 2e STUDENTS. The website is offering a way to fund school projects and supplies by posting a video thanking your favorite teacher. By thanking your favorite teacher in a video at the site, you can earn a $25 "Giving Card" from You can then donate the Giving Card to a project, school, or teacher you want to help -- and multiple videos from friends and colleagues can increase the funding for the project you choose. Find details.

FUNDRAISING IDEA FOR YOUR GIFTED SCHOOL. A private school in Vail, Colorado, is raising money by raffling off a $1.3 million ski home plus cash to pay the income tax on it. And you thought the fruit basket you gave to your school's last silent auction was something -- next time, donate your home. Read more, or enter.

BRAIN SCIENCE, STRESS, AND DISCIPLINE. An article in the Providence Journal tells how a consultant teaches educators how to apply brain science to reduce stress in schools and to help discipline. The article recounts the disruptive effects of stress on education, describes the importance a nurturing relationship with a non-parent adult (eg, a teacher) can have for a child, and describes how ritualized actions and nonverbal gestures can speak directly to the amygdala, calming kids when used properly. Read the article.

DUMPING THE ASPIE LABEL. An opinion piece in The New York Times about eliminating Asperger's as a separate condition in the next DSM and lumping it with ASDs generated lots of letters to the editor. If this issue interests you, check out the letters.

AT-RISK VERSUS AT-PROMISE. Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews writes about how some schools are changing the "at-risk" label to "at-promise." The rationale? Intimations of deficit model versus strength model. Silly? Read the column.

TEEN BRAINS. Are they wired differently? A recent study indicates they might be. From the study: “Our work on the amygdala revealed that the neuronal pathways that carry sensory information to the amygdala directly, bypassing cortex, are more plastic in the juvenile than in adult mice...” This could mean that teens are driven more by subcortical, less rational parts of the brain. Find out more.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

WE MISSED PART OF NAGC'S recent report on gifted education in the United States. In our most recent posting, we pointed to a summary of the report -- "State of the Nation" -- but did not point to the "State of the States" document, the full report; we assumed it was a for-fee publication, our bad. You may find links to the various components of the biannual report at the NAGC site. Be advised that the full "State of the States" report is 293 pages long and covers topics such as state education agencies, GT funding and mandates, identification of GT students, programs, personnel preparation, related policies and practices, and lots of tables. One table consists of state report cards. Another is a three-part, state-by-state assessment of areas needing attention. For example, in our home state of Illinois, funding for gifted education is assessed as "most in need," while the representation of minority students in GT education is assessed as "in need." You may also find the way your state defines giftedness in Table 11.

TECHNOLOGY AND READING. In past posts, we've pointed to articles about Kindle and how it might affect all students, not just GT/LD learners. An article in Education Week explores "the risks and rewards of electronic reading devices" in general. And at CNN Money, you may read about a camera that reads text aloud, the Intel Reader, a device the article calls "profoundly different" from other readers. Instead of using electronically packaged and transmitted text, as the Kindle does, the Intel Reader captures text on a printed page and pronounces it aloud. The article calls the device "a potential godsend for those who struggle to read standard text because of learning disabilities or vision problems." One drawback: the just-released reader costs $1500. Find out more from the article or from Intel.

ASD AND FINE MOTOR SKILLS. Researchers have found that fine motor control, as manifested in handwriting, is different in children with ASD than in typically developing children. According to an article in Psychology Today, the researchers feel that the difference may provide clues about problems with socialization and communication in children on the autism spectrum. Find the article.

DYSLEXIC DIFFICULTY FOCUSING ON RELEVANT AUDITORY INPUT. A Northwestern University study reported in Yahoo News and Science Daily finds that dyslexic children have difficulty focusing on "relevant, predictable, and repeating auditory information," instead becoming distracted by sounds such as banging lockers or scraping chairs. According to the Science Daily piece, "The study suggests that in addition to conventional reading and spelling based interventions, poor readers who have difficulties processing information in noisy backgrounds could benefit from the employment of relatively simple strategies, such as placing the child in front of the teacher or using wireless technologies to enhance the sound of a teacher's voice for an individual student."

IF YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT WIRELESS PHONE USAGE by your child, check out an article in Science Daily about a Swedish study that found links between wireless phone usage and biological changes in the brain as well as to overall health. Find it.

FINALLY, RESEARCH RESULTS YOU WANT TO HEAR -- from the American Chemical Society and the Journal of Proteome Research, no less. A clinical trial has shown that eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduces the levels of stress hormones in highly stressed people. While the study did not specifically mention those who raise and teach twice-exceptional children as being highly stressed, this may be the first study to explain how chocolate has those, mmmm, comforting effects. Read about the study. Or, if you're brave and scientifically inclined, read the study.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


JONATHAN MOONEY FANS will be interested to know that he has been selected to receive the "Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever Award" from The Lab School of Washington, DC. Mooney is accepting the award today, November 11th, at an event keynoted by Vice President Joseph Biden. In an email, Mooney says that prior recipients have included Cher, Billy Bob Thornton, Richard Avedon, Magic Johnson and James Carville. Find more information about Mooney. Find more on The Lab School.

CEREBRUM has posted an article titled "The Science of Education: Informing Teaching and Learning through the Brain Sciences." The authors suggest ways that neuroeducation, the combination of education and neuroscience, will provide tools and guidelines for tomorrow's teachers. They note how a teacher's view of brain plasticity, for example, affects how the teacher views the learner, as does the teacher's understanding of effect of emotions on learning. The article notes obstacles to uniting science and education, but contends that collaboration between scientists and educators will be key for extending the effects of brain science into education. Find the article.

ASPERGER'S AND THE DSM. News reports indicate that the committee in charge of revising the DSM may remove Asperger Syndrome as a separate condition, instead considering it to be part of the autism spectrum disorder. In a New York Times opinion piece, an autism expert suggests caution in the revision, noting consequences to those diagnosed with Asperger's and on their families. Read the article.

BEYOND PULL-OUT. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune describes how a local elementary school has created a "school within a school" for its gifted students. The high-ability students have classes together that provide enrichment and faster-paced lessons. Read about it.

ACCELERATION GUIDELINES. On its website, NAGC offers a 46-page document called "Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy," developed in conjunction with the Belin-Blank Institute and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted. The document covers types of acceleration, research support for acceleration, recommended elements of an acceleration policy, and a checklist for developing such a policy. Also included is sample language from state acceleration policies. Find the guidelines.

THE STATE OF GIFTED EDUCATION in the United States can be characterized as "sorry," if we correctly interpret a report from NAGC called "State of the Nation in Gifted Education." The report calls our commitment to gifted an talented children "inadequate;" it goes on to call investment "scarce," teachers "unprepared," and services a "patchwork." If you have a gifted child, read the report and be depressed -- or be spurred to advocate on behalf of gifted education for students in the United States.

Monday, November 9, 2009


WE WERE IN ST. LOUIS for a few days attending the convention of the National Association for Gifted Children. The association is becoming more and more involved in GT/LD, and this year's meeting included at least a dozen sessions on twice-exceptionality and/or gifted underachievement. Find coverage of some of the most compelling sessions in the November/December issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter, out soon.

ABC's PERSON OF THE WEEK in mid February, 2008, was an artist named Stephen Wiltshire, who can observe a cityscape for a short period of time and then draw it in great detail from memory. Wiltshire has expressive issues (orally, not artistically), and some of our friends in the 2e community call him "the ultimate visual-spatial learner." See more, including video.

GIFTED AND SENSITIVE. Is that the stereotype? A new study indicates that gifted children "often display sensitivities to their environment that vary from those of the general population." You can read an abstract of the study here.

GIFTED CHILD QUARTERLY dispels 19 myths about giftedness in its current issue, available for a short time to all of us who do not subscribe to the magazine from NAGC. Some of the myths are "straw men" (example: There is a single curriculum for the gifted), but others are more genuinely "mythical" -- for example, the assertion that the gifted comprise 3-5% of the population, and that giftedness equals high IQ. Find the articles.

KNOW SOMEONE WHO NEEDS FRIENDS? Brainworks offers tips for your gifted child in an article called "Learn How to Make and Keep Friends." The article covers why friendships are important, offers six steps to establish new friendships, and provides "10 basic courtesies of relationships." Brainworks is a Texas organization that helps clients with learning problems. It was founded by
Carla Crutsigner,
a parent frustrated in her search for a facility to help her gifted, AD/HD son.

GIFTED EDUCATION IN VIRGINIA must be pretty good, inferring from an article in the Daily Press, presumably published somewhere in that state. The article notes Virginia's "Governor's Schools," tailored to specific areas of studies, and initiatives such as measuring progress for all students, including the gifted. Read the article
, but know that today's big news on the site is about a beached whale in the area.

LD ACHIEVER. Well, this gifted young woman had a tough time -- issues with reading, math, and spelling. AD/HD. Anxiety. Frustration with school that triggered depression. A teacher who said that college was not for her. But some teachers encouraged her, and The Flint (Michigan) News says that Kristi Starnes, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is now earning a master's degree in fine arts at the University of Iowa. Read more.