Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

GOLD VIDEO. We've mentioned the Vancouver, BC, GOLD program for gifted/LD students at the high school level. On YouTube you can see three short videos providing perspectives of parents, student participants, teachers, and counselors about the program. What also comes out is the 2e dilemma -- wanting to succeed, finding barriers to success, and then (with luck or a program like GOLD) being able to succeed. If you watch the videos, be sure to check out the body language of the young man in the second video as he's put on the spot by his parents and a teacher -- and give him credit for being willing to open up as he did. Find the videos.

THE "RAIN MAN" DIES. Kim Peek, the model for the savant main character of the 1988 film "Rain Man" has died, and a New York Times obituary provides insights into his life, his talents, and his limitations. Peek could read books two pages at a time, one page with each eye, and was "the Mount Everest of memory," according to the obituary; by the time he was six, he had read and memorized the first eight volumes of the family encyclopedia. Peek was not autistic, but had abnormalities in the structure of his brain. His social skills and physical coordination were poor, and he required help to dress or brush his teach. Read more about Peek's life, including his amazing talents.

LEARNING STYLES: AT IT AGAIN. Daniel Willingham continues defending his position that "there is no evidence supporting any of the many learning style theories that have been proposed." He responds to the most common complaints about his position, and takes a swipe at teacher training. Find it.

2e CRIMINAL HACKER. A 28-year-old college dropout (and, we assume, highly gifted individual), has, according to The New York Times, pleaded guilty to breaking into corporate computer systems to steal credit card data. The hacker's psychiatrist says that the behavior was "consistent with the description of Asperger's disorder." The hacker's lawyer says the hacker suffers from Internet addiction and drug abuse. Read more.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Gifted/2e Education, and More

GIFTED/2e SCHOOL IN COLORADO SPRINGS. According to a member of its steering committee, the Academy for Advanced and Creative Learning has received approval to open for the 2010-2011 school year. The charter school is to be K-8, tuition-free, and specializing in gifted and twice-exceptional children. Every child will have a personalized learning plan, and instruction will be delivered using thematic units and hands-on learning. Find out more.

DITD UPDATES "STATE MAP." The Davidson Institute for Talent Development maintains a clickable map of the United States; site visitors can use the map to view a state's gifted education policies. The map has been updated based on data from NAGC's The State of the States report. Find the map. The DITD site also has a listing of summer programs for talent development for gifted young people, residential and day programs. Find the listing.

IMAGINATION AND FANTASY. The Wall Street Journal published an article on research into make-believe in child development. According to the article, "...child-development experts are recognizing the importance of imagination and the role it plays in understanding reality. Imagination is necessary for learning about people and events we don't directly experience, such as history or events on the other side of the world." The experts suggest that parents encourage fantasy play in their children, noting in particular imaginary friends. Preschoolers who have such friends are supposedly more creative and better at seeing others' perspectives. Read the article.

READING MINDS WITH fMRI. Scientific American recently published an article titled "The Mechanics of Mind Reading." The author describes how researchers use brain imaging to try to determine mental states. For example, it's possible for a researcher to ask a subject to think either about playing tennis or roaming through the house -- and then correctly determine which mental activity the subject chose, based on brain regions activated. For those interested in this kind of mind-machine telepathy, the article covers advances in the ways researchers are interpreting the data captured by functional magnetic resonance imaging scanners.

GIFTED ED BACKLASH? Community Consolidated School District 181 serves about 4,000 students in one of the wealthiest suburban areas of Chicago. The district's vision: "To be a school district where all children experience success and exhibit excellence." Yet a local news organization reports that some district residents are calling for a reduction in the gifted education program, which costs about $1 million a year ($887,015, according to the district's website, compared to almost $6 million for special education, out of a total budget of about $50 million). The article quotes one parent as saying, “Why does such a small part of our student population get this program’s benefits? I have had children in the program, but I don’t agree with the labeling that comes with participating in the program.” Another parent thought the money could be used to reduce class sizes overall. While the number of children in the gifted program is unclear, it could be higher than 20 percent. Read the news article, and be aware that the average home price in Hinsdale, one of the suburbs in the district, is $949,610, according to Money Magazine, and the average family in Hinsdale spends over $9,000 a year on vacations. Is this protest a move for equity? Or inequity?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Contest for Gifted Kids; Neuroeducation; and More

GOT A PASSION and the urge to communicate it to educators or parents in the gifted or twice-exceptional field? The National Association for Gifted Children has opened up proposal submissions for its 2010 conference, to be held in Atlanta next November. Find out more and register to submit a proposal.

FILM CONTEST FOR GIFTED YOUTH. The organization Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) is inviting kids to "creatively share what it feels like to be gifted -- in two minutes or less." Gifted kids under 18 may submit a video by posting it on YouTube and submitting an entry form to SENG. Deadline: Midnight, March 1st. Find out more.

MORE ON NEUROEDUCATION. Lately we've posted a few times on the topic of neuroeducation, using the findings of neuroscience to guide teaching methods in the ordinary, everyday classroom. An article in The New York Times from December 20th gave examples of how neuroeducation works with math in the classroom. For example, pre-schoolers can learn cardinality, and are able to do simple division when the concept is delivered appropriately. For example, one expert quoted in the article said, “If children have games and activities that demonstrate the relationship between numbers, then quantity becomes a physical experience.” Neuroeducation builds on innate abilities such as subitizing, using parts of the brain that instinctively judge quantity. If you're looking for an article that makes neuroeducation concrete, try this one.

BRIGHT, INTELLIGENT, AND STRUGGLING TO READ. A study to be published in January shows that IQ and reading ability in dyslexics are not linked over time and do not influence each other, as opposed to typical readers, whose IQ and reading ability track together and influence each other. The study's lead author, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, says in a Science Daily article that "I've seen so many children who are struggling to read but have a high IQ. Our findings of an uncoupling between IQ and reading, and the influence of this uncoupling on the developmental trajectory of reading, provide evidence to support the concept that dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty with reading in children who otherwise have the intelligence to learn to read." Read more.

OMEGA-3 AND SENSORY OVERLOAD. Also from Science Daily, research indicating that omega-3 fatty acids help animals avoid sensory overload. From the article: "The finding connects low omega-3s to the information-processing problems found in people with schizophrenia; bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders; Huntington's disease; and other afflictions of the nervous system." The study examined the role of DHA fatty acid in sensorimotor gating, which helps animals respond to stimuli, and suggests that the proper fatty acids might have therapeutic potential. Read the article.

VIDEO GAMES IN THE CLASSROOM. The Sunday supplement Parade Magazine describes a classroom in New York City in which educators use a curriculum entirely focused on video games. According to the article, students "study and explore subjects through role-playing activities and computer-driven interactive quests... They work together on game-like 'missions,' solving puzzles and completing challenges as teams. Their courses have been combined into multidisciplinary “domains...” And at semester's end? They reach the "next level." Find the article.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND. The January issue has been mailed and contents are online. Although the "meaty" articles are reserved for subscribers or those willing to buy the digital issue online, interested readers may find some "public" features of interest: "How Birth Order Affects Your Personality"; "Should Parents Spank Their Kids?"; book reviews; and other items. Go to the table of contents to see what interests you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Are Learning Styles Passe'?

ANOTHER BAD RAP FOR LEARNING STYLES. A "team of eminent researchers in the psychology of learning" has reviewed the literature on learning styles and concludes that the studies used to differentiate learners as auditory or visual, et cetera, were not properly designed and conducted to be scientifically valid. "Given the lack of scientific evidence, the authors argue that the currently widespread use of learning-style tests and teaching tools is a wasteful use of limited educational resources." Read more.

1 IN 300, 1 IN 150, 1 IN 100. That's the progression of the incidence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in eight-year olds, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. According to The New York Times, ASD includes Asperger's as well as "pervasive developmental disorder," covering children with social difficulties or some learning and sensory issues. The article notes that the incidence rate is similar to that in a study published in October; in that study, almost 40 percent of those with an ASD diagnosis later grew out of it or no longer had it. Read the article.

GIFTED TIMES FOUR. A New York Times article on December 19th noted that all four quadruplets from a Connecticut family received acceptances to Yale University, based on their stellar academic and non-academic accomplishments. Will they attend? Read the article.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY. If you have a gifted or twice-exceptional child who might benefit from assistive technology for listening, math, organization, reading, or writing, check out a primer on the topic at LD OnLine.

IT'S THE LEFT FUSIFORM GYRUS -- that's the part of the brain recently determined to be essential for normal, rapid understanding of the meaning of written text and word spelling, and we thought you'd want to know that. The findings, unfortunately, came about when a patient with above-normal reading and spelling abilities had to have part of the brain removed because of a tumor. For those of you who do not read the Journal Cortex (us included), you may read about the findings at Science Daily. Separately, another report in Science Daily links psychological trauma to poor functioning of the hippocampus, a brain structure that stores and retrieves memories. The research helps explain why traumatized children behave as they do and could improve treatments, according to the report. Find it.

TREATMENT FOR MENTAL DISORDERS IN KIDS. Got a gifted kid with AD/HD? Depression? Conduct disorder? Anxiety? A combination? Overall, only 55 percent of children with those disorders receive professional treatment, according to the Los Angeles Times. Contributing factors: socio-economic status and race. Find the article.

DOES NEUROFEEDBACK WORK? An article in the Washington Post covers pro and con positions regarding the effectiveness of biofeedback for conditions as varied as AD/HD, depression, anxiety, autism, and brain injuries. The article notes that the National Institute of Mental Health is sponsoring the first government-funded study on neurofeedback. The article provides several case studies -- one where an out-of-control child having difficulty with his classes turned into an AP, 3.5-average student -- and reveals that the author has also had positive experiences with neurofeedback. Read more.

RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION. Among the subscribers to 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter are parents whose gifted children, because of behavior stemming from exceptionalities such as Asperger's, may be potential candidates for restraint or seclusion in school. If this is of concern to you, check out Wrightslaw's Special Ed Advocate for this week; it deals with new federal (U.S.) legislation that will regulate restraint and seclusion in schools. Find it.

KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH THAT YOUNG GENERATION. Here's the start of the current issue of "Trends & Tudes," an e-newsletter from Harris Interactive and containing results of recent surveys of youth: "It's 2009; do you know what kids today are saying, thinking, and doing? Well for starters... they are shopping, maintaining relationships, absorbing technology, worrying about the future, aspiring to greatness, and going online and going online and going online." The newsletter covers how teens and pre-teens shop and spend, their attitudes toward new technology, and their relationships with friends and family. For example, when asked who they most like to spend time with, kids 8-12 list Mom as #1; by 18-24, the top two choices are friends and boy/girl friend. Or, find out which age group most wants to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. Anyway, if you feel out of touch based on your at-home sample of 1, 2, or 3, check out the survey results.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER ISSUE OF 2e NEWSLETTER PUBLISHED. A few weeks ago we published the most recent issue of 2e Newsletter, for those who raise, educate, and counsel gifted children with learning challenges. Subscribers can also find the content of the issue in the subscriber-only area of, along with content from all past issues. Non-subscribers can access "Dear Dr. Sylvia," an advice column, and "Bob Seney on Books," recommendations for literature likely to appeal to young people who are gifted and 2e. Find those columns. Find other "public" content on the site.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Brain and Reading, ASD, and Promises

NEUROSCIENCE AND READING. The Dana Foundation has posted an excerpt from the book Reading in the Brain, by Stanislas Dehaene. The chapter is titled, "Brain-based Suggestions for Teaching Reading." After the caveat that "neuroscience is still far from being prescriptive," the author describes what neuroscientists know about the process of reading and offers tips on effectively guiding children to achieve their reading skills. An example of classroom advice: "At each step, the words and sentences introduced in class must only include graphemes and phonemes that have already been explicitly taught. Reading lessons provide little room for improvisation." (The author also notes the difficulty of the English alphabetic writing system in terms of learning to read.) Read more.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered that the brains of individuals with autism are less active when engaged in self-reflective thought. Using brain imaging techniques, the researchers examined activity in an area of the brain known to be active when people think about themselves. Says the lead researcher: "This new study shows that within the autistic brain, regions that typically prefer self-relevant information make no distinction between thinking about the self or another person. This is strong evidence that in the autistic brain, processing information about the self is atypical." Find out more.

EQUITY IN GIFTED EDUCATION. Education columnist Jay Matthews uses billionaire Warren Buffett's early disenchantment with school to opine on equity in gifted education -- who should get it -- and also on dumping gifted education in favor of simply letting students find their talents. From the column: "I have interviewed many successful scientists, educators and entrepreneurs, and few of them were slotted into gifted programs based on a second-grade test. Our schools try to help kids like these, but many of their parents tell me they do better if they are home-schooled or, like the restless teenage Buffett, given as much time as possible to pursue their own interests..." Read it.

FOR YOUR CLEVER BUT DEVIOUS 2e CHILD? Science Daily reports that scientists have discovered the physiological mechanisms in the brain that underlie broken promises. Patterns of brain activity even enable predicting whether someone will break a promise. This begs the question: Will parents someday have available portable brain imaging devices to help them tell when a child's promise is real -- or bound to be broken? Find out more, and dream on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Brain and...

THE BRAIN AND AUTISM. An article and video on a Philadelphia TV station's website explains recent findings about how the brains of Aspie and autistic children work. One study has found that autistic brains respond in a delayed fashion to sounds or speech, which can lead to difficulties in recognizing the sound. Another study shows underactivation in areas of the brain that understand faces and expressions. Go to the site.

BRAIN-MACHINE INTERFACE. Researchers using electrocorticography (monitoring signals from the surface of the brain) have allowed patients to "communicate" a letter to a computer via brainwaves. The computer first recorded the patients' responses to
viewing particular letters. Then, when patients concentrated in their mind on a particular letter, the computer could read their pattern of brain waves and bring up the letter on the computer screen. Read more.

THE BRAIN AND READING. Carnegie Mellon University scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just have uncovered the first evidence that intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself, creating new white matter that improves communication within the brain. As the researchers reported in the journal
Neuron, brain imaging of children between the ages of 8 and 10 showed that the quality of white matter -- the brain tissue that carries signals between areas of grey matter, where information is processed -- improved substantially after the children received 100 hours of remedial training. After the training, imaging indicated that the capability of the white matter to transmit signals efficiently had increased, and testing showed the children could read better. Read more from the Carnegie Mellon article/press release. Or, listen to an NPR program about the research findings.

US News has released its third annual report on "America's Best High Schools." You can find that report, along with other lists such as "Top IB Programs," here.

Science Daily reports that young adults with higher blood lead levels appear more likely to have major depression and panic disorders, even if they have exposure to lead levels generally considered safe. Cigarette smoking affects blood lead levels, and smoking elevated the risks even further, 2.5 times for depressive disorder and 8.2 times for panic disorder. The article explains that lead may disrupt brain processes involving the neurotransmitters catecholamine and serotonin. Read the article. (Note that the most recent issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter contains three articles on the biomedical/biochemical view of certain 2e conditions and treatment.)

HEALTHY BRAINS. Well, actually, this is about a new resource for healthy children in general, although we notice that the site
does include dozens of articles about brain-related topics. The American Academy of Pediatrics has just launched -- just, as in today, December 10th -- a site providing pediatrician-approved health information for parents. According to the Academy, parents may browse sections such as:
  • Ages & Stages: Information on the health issues of infants through adolescents, including interactive content on developmental milestones
  • Healthy Living: Up-to-date guidance on fitness, sports, oral health, emotional wellness and nutrition
  • Safety & Prevention: Preparing for health scenarios that occur at home, school and on the go, as well as in-depth information on the immunizations children need to stay healthy
  • Health Issues: An exhaustive, A-to-Z list of more than 300 health care topics.
Parents may customize information based on their children’s ages and health topics, or, by using the “Ask the Pediatrician” tool, browse a list of frequently asked questions or pose their own questions. Find the site.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Clues about a Gifted Detective... and More

SHERLOCK HOLMES, 2e ASPIE? An MD columnist for The New York Times lays out the evidence that Conan Doyle's creation might have been modeled on someone with Asperger's. The columnist notes Doyle's attention to medical detail (he trained as a physician). In the matter of Holmes' character, the columnist wonders first if he was bipolar, but then moves on to another "diagnosis," explaining the clues along the way. Review the diagnosis.

MENSA BOOKS FOR PARENTS. The website of the American Mensa Association provides a book list for parents of gifted children. Readers of 2e Newsletter will find familiar authors in the list. Find it.

LIVE CHAT ON RTI. If you'd like to know more about Response to Intervention to help that gifted or twice-exceptional child you know, check out a free online Education Week chat on Thursday afternoon, December 8th.

MIND OF AN ASPIE. A 12-year-old Michigan boy has published a book, "Super Senses: A child's descriptions of the challenges and rewards of living with Autism/Asperger." His efforts won a school district award. Read more.

FROZEN IN HIGH SCHOOL VERSUS GROWING UP. A prospective college student applying to some fairly prestigious colleges writes how, as she visits campuses, comparisons to Hogwarts abound. Her conclusion: while her peers have grown up on Harry Potter, the colleges are "selling the wrong thing. And my friends and I won’t be fooled. After all, Harry Potter is frozen in high school, and we’re growing up." Read the article.

OFF THE WALL: HOLIDAY WARNING. From Science Daily: "According to a poll of Pennsylvania adults, about 17 percent of Pennsylvanians experienced an injury or knows someone who was injured while opening gifts during past seasons." Further, according to the article, the American Dialect Society defines "wrap rage" as "anger brought on by the frustration of trying to open a factory-sealed purchase." Read safety tips here. And be careful out there this holiday season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Offerings for Saturday, December 5th, 2009

IF YOU LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY, you might be interested in The Lang School, a "progressive K-8 independent school for high potential and gifted children with AD/HD, language-based learning differences, anxiety, [and] organizational challenges," according to the founder. The school will open in September of 2010 with a combination-age class of 5th-graders. You may find out more about the school at an information session for parents to be held on December 17th at 6:30pm at The New York Open Center, 22 East 30th St., Room 3B, NYC (between Madison and 5th Avenue). Find out more.

INTERESTED IN SCHOOL REFORM? Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews wrote excitedly about a recent report defining 21st-century education, by education analyst Craig Jerald. Find out about the report -- and Matthews' own opinions on future education -- in the column.

BRAIN-BASED EDUCATION. A recent article in the journal of a professional education association provided a thorough tutorial on brain-based education,
"the active engagement of practical strategies based on principles derived from brain-related sciences." The article provides a history and background of the movement and contends that the movement is now a legitimate force in education. Find the article.

RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION. If you haven't yet read a cogent description of what RTI is and why it's important, check out an article in the Harvard Education Letter. The article also describes why it's so important to find struggling readers early, before they've had a chance to fail. Find it.

CHILD RAISING. Reacting negatively and automatically to a child's misbehavior is certainly less desirable than taking time to think about the best way to react, but most of us -- at least some of the time -- fall into that trap. Reacting well is especially important with children who misbehave in creative and persistent ways, two traits often found in 2e children. A recent study reported in Science Daily indicates that poor working memory in the parent leads to more negative reactions to misbehavior, and suggests that parenting skills may be improved by working memory training in the adult, not the child. Read the report.

TESTING AND ASSESSMENT OF GIFTED CHILDREN. Carolyn K has posted the PowerPoints from her recent NAGC presentation. The presentation covers types of testing, terminology, grade-level tests versus out-of-level tests, achievement and ability tests, and IQ testing, among other topics. Also included -- several slides on how to use testing and assessment to identify gifted/LD children. Find the presentation.

2e IN VANCOUVER. Parents in Vancouver, Canada, have formed an organization called GOLD, for "Gifted Learning Disabled Program." It's an academic program for grades 8 and 9. According to the group's page on the Vancouver School Board's website, "The goal of the program is to improve the students' self-concept by helping them understand their own strengths and difficulties, while they learn effective strategies and skills to be successful at school." Also at the site is a PDF titled Gifted and Learning Disabled: A Handbook, 4th edition, which defines gifted/LD, provides curricular needs and strategies, lists local British Columbia services for G/LD students, and provides resources and readings for those interested in G/LD-2e children.

NEW GIFTED BLOG. A parent of gifted children has created a blog/site for gifted children and their parents can find information, resources, and support. The parent, Christine Fonseca, is in the process of writing a book called Emotionally Intense! that will be published by Prufrock Press. In conjunction with the book project, she is looking for input from children and parents on topics such as what it means to be gifted, what's hard about it, and favorite and most difficult school experiences. (The request is in a post from November 16th.) Find the blog.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Resources and News from 3 Newsletters and Other Media

REMEMBER HOAGIES' as a resource when you're looking for information about your gifted or twice-exceptional child. For those of you interested in the brain's impact on the gifted and the LD, check out Carolyn K's "Brain Research and Learning Theories" page. And if you raise or teach a twice-exceptional child who will be going to college, read the "Twice Exceptional Students in College" page. Or, you may nominate a favorite teacher or administrator for Hoagies' "Gifted Teacher and Administrator of the Year Contest." Or, you can just start at the Hoagies' home page and spend a year or two following your interests...

ATTENTION RESEARCH UPDATE. David Rabiner wondered what happens when a child's core AD/HD symptoms are normalized -- will areas such as peer relations and academic performance improve as well? In the current issue of his newsletter, Rabiner reviews a study examining that question. Find the review and Rabiner's conclusions.

WRIGHTSLAW SPECIAL ED ADVOCATE. This newsletter for the first week of December covered reading programs that are effective and research based, as required by NCLB. If your bright but reading-challenged student could use help, check out Special Ed Advocate for this week.

SOCIAL SKILLS FOR ASPIES and kids with mild autism is the topic of an article in the Washington Post. The article examines what various schools in the Washington, DC, area are doing to help these young people navigate independently and fit in. Read it.

TEENAGERS -- DIFFERENT. We know that, and a developmental psychologist explains, in an interview in The New York Times, why teenagers often don't plan, anticipate consequences, or make the right decisions. The perspective is from a criminal justice perspective -- should a teenager be held as accountable for his or her crime as an adult would be? -- but the insights apply to everyday life. Find it.

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY'S winter issue has been published. In it, you can find articles on: science education for gifted minority students; ways to encourage and nurture reading in gifted children; and using Turner Classic movies to stimulate gifted students' sensibilities in both cognitive and affective areas. There is also a brief critique of the current state of gifted education by Alexis I. du Pont de Bie, who is "appalled by the horrific, stomach churning of our current local and national education for the gifted"; du Pont de Bie also expresses a concern with the way NAGC addresses gifted education. Find the newsletter.