Friday, December 27, 2013

From the Publishers of 2e Newsletter

THE VALUE OF GIFTED PROGRAMS comes into question in an article in The Atlantic. The article reported on a study comparing students of roughly the same ability -- those who just made it into a gifted program and those who just missed. The hypothesis: if gifted programs are effective, then the marginal students enrolled in those programs would do better on standardized tests. The result: no difference in scores. Read more.

NON-CONFORMING KIDS. Chances are you know one -- maybe even raise one -- a child who might be alleged to have issues with self-regulation, or self-discipline, or emotional regulation. Does that child need help? A writer in The New Republic takes on that question, in the process describing trends in education, especially social emotional learning, or SEL, which is supposed to help a child academically. The problem: there might not be a link between social-emotional skills and academic achievement. Further, labeling a child as deficient in social-emotional skills can have negative consequences. The article ends with this quote: “The saddest, most soul-crushing thing is the negative self-image. We think kids don’t understand what’s happening, but they do. There’s this quiet reinforcement that something is wrong with them. That’s the thing that’ll kill.” Find the article.

THAT'S IT! The end of the year is a slow time for news. More next week -- hopefully.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

News, Resources from the Publishers of 2e Newsletter

MORE ADHD. In the most recent briefing, on December 15, we included an item from The New York Times about how pharma companies might be contributing to "marketing the ADHD diagnosis to the public" -- and, consequently, to a rise in prescriptions to "treat" ADHD. That article has engendered quite a bit of discussion, both at the site of the Times in other places. From some of the letters to the Times:
  • "A strange competitive culture has arisen among my generation, wherein those who can boast the most severe symptoms — “Oh, I’m so A.D.H.D.!” — get an exemption from responsibility and accountability."
  • "For a 9-year-old boy to sit still in a classroom for five or six hours a day and pay attention to things he is not necessarily interested in is a fairly unnatural act, and he may have trouble focusing. If that same child is a leader on the playground, a not unusual observation, or excels at certain sports because he is able to shift attention in a rapidly changing environment, can we fairly consider it a pathology? Or that it should be medicated?"
Find the letters. Separately, an opinion piece at the site of the Child Mind Institute takes a more moderate view than the writer of the New York Times article, saying, " What [the writer] doesn't do is offer any evidence that these marketing efforts are the major, or even a major, factor in the increase." Go to the Child Mind Institute article

RESOURCES FOR THE GIFTED. In the most recent briefing we also noted a New York Times editorial on support for gifted and talented children in the United States. That article, too, engendered lots of reaction. You can read some of it at the Times site.

TEEN GENE. Researchers have discovered a gene labeled DCC that could help explain why some mental health issues emerge during the teenage years. Discovery of the gene could help address illnesses triggered by the gene. "We know that the DCC gene can be altered by experiences during adolescence," said the lead researcher. "This already gives us hope, because therapy, including social support, is itself a type of experience which might modify the function of the DCC gene during this critical time and perhaps reduce vulnerability to an illness." Read more.

GIFTED CHILD QUARTERLY published an issue devoted to twice exceptionality, which we blogged about last month. What we just discovered (thanks, Del) is that GCQ has a blog where you can see videos of some of the authors -- including Megan Foley Nicpon, guest editor of the issue --  discuss their contributions to the issue. Find the blog.

SENG NEWSLETTER. December's SENGVine is out, featuring a great "good-bye" article from outgoing SENG Board President Lori Comallie-Caplan; an introduction to the new SENG online Parent Support Groups; an article on the psychosocial development of gifted chidlren; and an article on helping gifted children "discover their passion." Find the newsletter.

THE SCIENTIST IN THE CRIB. Long-time readers of this blog and our newsletter know we're fans of the work of Alison Gopnik, a psychologist who studies the cognitive development of young children. In an edition of the NPR program "To the Best of Our Knowledge," Gopnik describes some of her work about logical thinking in these kids; the edition is titled "The Scientist in the Crib." Find it.

IT'S THE SEASON for "best of" lists. NCLD offers "Our Top 10 Inspirational Quotes of 2013," featuring on motivational ideas from a variety of people; find the quotes. Separately, The New York Times offers "The Top New York Times Best-Selling Education Books of 2013." Some of the titles look as though they would be of interest to those who raise or educate gifted and twice-exceptional children; find the list.

IT'S THE SEASON, TOO, for all kinds of organizations to take a break from normal activity during the last two weeks of the year. Depending on how much news we find, our postings might be fewer until 2014. But regardless, we wish you a happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

From the Publishers of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter

WE MENTIONED LAST WEEK how Dan Aykroyd had recently discussed his Asperger's diagnosis in an interview with a UK newspaper. The Huffington Post today has an article that includes Aykroyd and seven others with Asperger's; the article is titled "These 8 Inspiring People Will Change the Way You Think about Autism and Asperger's." Find the article.

DAVID RABINER, in his e-newsletter, pointed us to a series of articles at ADDitude providing behavior and discipline tips for parents of kids with ADHD. If behavior is sometimes an issue for your bright child with ADHD, perhaps check out the tips.

ON THE OTHER HAND, Science Daily brings us the story of a technique in development that could obviate the need for reading and practicing tips about modifying ADHD behavior. The technique involves identifying the area of an individual's brain responsible for inhibitory responses -- self control -- then using brain stimulation to increase the activity in that area, enhancing self control. We will probably not find the equipment for this technique at Wal-Mart anytime soon; however, researchers say it "may one day be useful for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette's syndrome and other severe disorders of self-control." Read more.

THE DYSLEXIC ADVANTAGE NEWSLETTER for December is out, and it includes mention of a webinar on December 16. About the webinar, the Eides say this:
We're thrilled to have gifted designer Madalyne Hymas joining us to tell us her personal story about how she grew up thinking of dyslexia as only something negative -- then she began researching into the strengths and advantages associated with dyslexia and how it changed her whole perspective. She chose to create her capstone project on the Dyslexic Advantage and she went on to win the prestigious VSA Award, have her projected exhibited at the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian, and speak to the Dyslexia Congressional Caucus. This should be a great webinar also to invite teens, young adults, and those interested in arts and design.Also mentioned in the newsletter: The best iPad apps for dyslexia; and an opportunity for dyslexic adults to participate in a research study. Find the newsletter.

EDUCATION WEEK is offering a title from its new "Focus On" series as a free download for a limited time. The title is Focus On: Identifying and Motivating Underachievers. Of the series, Education Week says, "These easy-to-read guides are designed to be used by pre-K-12 educators for professional development. The series presents key findings from education research and provides practical tips for your toughest instructional challenges." Find the download.

AACAP RESOURCE. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has on its site "Facts for Families," 110 pieces of written guidance for dealing with situations ranging from ADHD to violence on television, with lots of 2e-related topics in between. While the treatment of many topics looks to be at an introductory level, necessarily, the range of topics is impressive. There's even one titled "Normality" -- whatever that might be. Find the list. The facts are also downloadable as a folder full of zipped PDFs.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

News Items, Resources from 2e Newsletter

FAMOUS ASPIE. Dan Aykroyd, of Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters fame, briefly discusses his Asperger's condition in an interview in the UK Daily Mail. He also reveals that he was diagnosed with Tourette's at age 12, but with therapy overcame it. In response to the question, "Any vices?" he replies, "Macaroni and cheese, made properly with spice and truffle oil." Read more.

TWO BOOKLETS NOW IN PDF. As a trial, we're now offering two of our booklets from our "Spotlight on 2e Series" in PDF form. The booklets are:
  • Parenting Your Twice-Exceptional Child (for parents)
  • Understanding Your Twice-Exceptional Student (for educators).
Each booklet is available for $7, and shipping charges no longer matter! Find out more at our website.

HOLIDAYS AND STRESS. As we scan articles for items to report here, we've noticed lots of pieces lately on dealing with holiday stress. If you feel the need for advice, check places like NCLD or just do a search on the topic. The best advice we've seen so far this season: "Be present, not perfect."

KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS VERSUS FLUID INTELLIGENCE. High-stakes tests measure knowledge and skills that schools impart. Schools can raise those scores -- but evidently cannot raise scores on tests of "fluid intelligence," such as working memory capacity, processing speed, and abstract reasoning. Researchers studying this duality hope that the findings will encourage educational practices that improve the cognitive skills involved in fluid intelligence. Find out more.

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST FACTOR IN EXAM SCORES? Genetics. Not teachers, not family -- genetics. In a twins study, genetics explained over 50 percent of test score differences; shared environmental factors such as family comprised about 29 percent of those differences. The authors explain that the findings do not imply that educational achievement is genetically pre-determined, or that environmental interventions are not important, but rather that recognizing the importance of children's natural predispositions may help improve learning. Read more.

NO GIFTED OR 2e ON PINTEREST? Pinterest has a "Teachers" section with about 30 groups based on grade level, topic, and even "The Works of Roald Dahl." But groups focusing on gifteness or twice exceptionality? We don't see any. Maybe in the future. In the meantime, check out what teachers post in "Teachers on Pinterest." (If you know of gifted/2e resources on Pinterest, please let us know.)

GOT A RELATIVE WHO DOESN'T BELIEVE in learning and attention issues? Chance are you've encountered disbelief from a relative or neighbor when the topic of learning challenges came up, especially when the student in question is bright. The National Center for Learning Disabilities offers advice for dealing with non-believers; find it.

NATIONAL JOINT COMMITTEE ON LEARNING DISABILITIES. NJCLD is an organization with the mission of providing "multi-organizational leadership and resources to optimize outcomes for individuals with learning disabilities." Its "home" is on the website of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. There you can find out more about how it accomplishes its mission, member organizations, and a variety of web resources. Find the page at the NCLD site.

Monday, December 9, 2013

News Items, Resources from 2e Newsletter

2e ABOUT TO GO MAINSTREAM -- in Los Angeles, at least. Bridges Academy, in the Studio City area, is readying an ad campaign to attract students to its campus and to perhaps give a new twist to the concept of "learning disabilities." The ads, developed pro bono by a New York agency, carry the theme "Educating the exceptional 2," where the "2" is in superscript (a new twist on the term "twice-exceptional"). The campaign is to use historical figures, including their names in this phrase: "After all, we could be teaching this generation's ________." According to The New York Times, the campaign also includes collateral material such as brochures and posters. Way to go, Bridges! Read more.

LONDON'S MAYOR, TWICE EXCEPTIONALITY. A writer in the UK Guardian, starting with comments about IQ made by London's mayor, Boris Johnson, segues to how pop psychology might see IQ but then launches into a discourse that includes cortical pruning, asynchrony, the Columbus Group, and over-excitabilities. The article rests briefly, explaining that twice exceptionality is more recognized in the U.S. than in the U.K., then pivots to include thoughts from James Webb on misdiagnosis and observations on gender differences in the brain. It's quite a trip for one column; find it. (And we still don't know exactly what the mayor said to prompt all this.)

DYSLEXIA. An article in the Los Angeles times concerning recent research says, "A faulty connection between where the brain stores the auditory building blocks of language and where it processes them may be to blame for dyslexia." Research imaging showed a weak connection between the speech area of the brain and the area that processes phonemes. Read more.

DYSLEXIA FACT SHEET. The International Dyslexia Association has published a fact sheet titled "Gifted and Dyslexic: Identifying and Instructing the Twice-Exceptional Student." Professor Jeff Gilger, who has contributed to 2e Newsletter, assisted in the preparation of the fact sheet. Find it

DUKE TO STUDY SMOKE, ADHD. Duke University has received funding to study the effect of secondhand cigarette smoke on ADHD, according to the university. While 76 percent of the risk of ADHD comes from genetic factors, the remainder comes from the environment. Environmental factors such as secondhand smoke can alter gene expression. Find out more.

Friday, December 6, 2013

News, Resources from 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter

EDUCATION "STARS." The Economist reports that Finland, long the education star on Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, has slipped, and that Asian countries now dominate the top of the list, at least in math (or, as they say in the UK, "maths"). The Economist notes questions about the shift in rankings -- perhaps the psychological cost to intensely prepared Asian students, and about the methodology itself. However, the magazine says that the lesson is simple: "Successful countries focus fiercely on the quality of teaching and eschew zigzag changes of direction or philosophy. Teachers and families share a determination to help the young succeed." Read more. Separately, an American teacher now teaching in Finland comments on the differences in the educational systems and in the kids themselves, and how what he has seen and encountered there has challenged some of his guiding principles. Find the article at Education Week Teacher.

READING FOR PLEASURE. Scholastic has published a book about the pleasures and benefits for adolescents of "marginalized" literature such as vampire stories, horror, fantasy, romance, and dystopian fiction. According to Scholastic, the authors "argue that pleasure should play a more central role in school-based reading instruction and in work done outside of schools to promote literacy and reading. They explore ways to make the various kinds of pleasure they identify more central to the work of school, and also how to build on and extend reading pleasure to meet existing curricular goals and expectations." A portion of the book, Reading Unbound, is available at Scholastic.

JOEL MCINTOSH of Prufrock Press, in a blog posting, addresses his company's position on Common Core Standards and how they apply to gifted education. Prufrock is in the midst of "aligning" its publications to those standards to help educators know where and how its materials will support CCSS. He addresses what he sees as the conflation of high-stakes testing and CCSS, and tackles four what he calls myths about CCSS. CCSS will affect the education of the gifted and twice exceptional, so you might be interested in what McIntosh has to say; find the blog.

BRAIN RESOURCE. Each month, the Dana Foundation publishes the newsletter Brain in the News. You can subscribe to a paper edition that arrives in the mail, or you can -- as we just discovered -- find it at the Dana site. The November issue points to articles that include one called "Solving the Brain," about brain research; one on depression and circadian rhythm; and one that we'd actually referred to in this blog titled "Not All Reading Disabilities Are Dyslexia." Find Brain in the News.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- on the value of dads to their offspring. According to an article at Science Daily, the absence of a father during critical growth periods leads to impaired social and behavioral abilities in adults (in mice, at least). It is the first study to link father absenteeism with social attributes and to correlate these with physical changes in the brain. Find it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

From the Publishers of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter

INDICTMENT 1: GIFTED ED. Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews doesn't seem to think that gifted ed does much for students. He feels that the truly gifted will use their own resources and interests to develop themselves into successful achievers, and notes a short list of geniuses who went to "ordinary" schools. He concludes, "Geniuses are made mostly by themselves. All schools can do is give them what they ask for and get out of the way." Read the column.

INDICTMENT 2: STANDARDS. Also in the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss published a letter from a teacher who seems to really care for her students and to be able to motivate them, even students classified as special ed (and who, based on later achievements, must have been 2e). This teacher is frustrated that, despite years of passion and dedication and results, she is now appraised as "satisfactory" because she is measured against the Common Core State Standards. She is not happy about it. She says, "I was taught in teacher’s college that each student had an individual learning style, and that my job as a teacher was to discover each child’s pathway to learning and help them to embark on that path. My calling was to meet the needs of the child." She apparently doesn't believe that calling is necessarily quantifiable and standards-based. Read the letter and see what you think.

ASPERGER'S: STILL A TERM? "Yes" is the short answer, according to an article at The writer contends that at least for the medium term the label will be used and useful to differentiate "people who are brilliant, quirky, anxious, creative, and socially awkward" from others who have more severe forms of autism. The term "Asperger's" is no longer used by the DSM; rather, those individuals are now described as ASD Level 3, according to the writer. Find the article.

MENTAL HEALTH. An item in USA Today indicates that the immune system may affect both body and mind -- the mind in conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. The artile lists a number of links such as how people with higher rates of inflammation are more likely to be depressed. The application of this connection might be, for some people, in treating the immune system rather than the symptom. Find the article. Separately, US News notes that young people are more likely than adults to be diagnosed with mental health issues. Along with the increasing rate of diagnosis comes increased prescriptions for psychatric drugs. Find out more.

ADHD. Low levels of iron in the brain may play a part in ADHD. Iron is required to process dopamine, an ADHD-related neurotransmitter. Further, MRIs can detect low levels of brain iron. The researchers noted that after treatment with stimulant meds, levels of iron in the brain appeared to normalize. Read more. Separately, an Australian study has identified a number of maternal risk factors leading to a higher probability of ADHD in children. According to a write-up of the study, "mothers of children with ADHD were significantly more likely to be younger; single; have smoked in pregnancy; have had labor induced; and have experienced threatened preterm labor, preeclampsia, urinary tract infection in pregnancy, or early-term delivery." Read more.

OXCYTOCIN, AUTISM. The hormone oxytocin, delivered by nasal spray, appears to help the brain process social information, facilitating "social attunement." Read more.

PRUFROCK PRESS has released the second edition of Assistive Technology in Special Education, by Joan Green. We reviewed the first edition of the book in 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter; subscribers can find that review in the subscriber-only area. According to the publisher, "The book features new tools to improve and compensate for challenges relating to speaking, understanding, reading, writing, and thinking and remembering, as well as strategies to help students become more organized and efficient." Go to the Prufrock site.

DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH. The Weinfeld Education Group is presenting its 2014 edition of this conference on March 8 in Fairfax, Virginia. The focus: the mind-body connection. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS. In the comic "Baby Blues," Zoe has entered the accelerated program at school. Find out what joys and woes this may bring to the family by going to the site, choosing the December 2nd strip, and following the strip for the week. Go there.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2e AND SPORTS. Well, it's Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., and lots of football. In the middle of this is a blog by a guy named Alex Pappademas, on Grantland, a site that -- as nearly as we can tell -- is devoted to sports and maybe a little "social commentary." The title of the post is "I Suck at Football 2.13: Twice-Exceptional." Evidently this guy has an enlightened sister. " I sat there drinking coffee with my sister and listened to her tell me about the term "twice exceptional," or "2e." Basically it's when a gifted kid's stellar potential masks a learning disability of some kind. Undiagnosed, it can lead to depression and social anxiety ("Hmm," I said) and also lonerish behavior ("Go on," I said) and difficulty finishing big projects ("You don't say," I said) and even being bad at returning phone calls. That's me in the corner! I'm twice-exceptional!" It's a weird post because it starts and ends with sports but reveals a life in the middle -- not that sports isn't life. Find the blog.

GHF RESOURCES. A recent email from the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum reminded us of the resources the group makes available for parents and for parents to provide to others. Among those is a "Professionals' Guide to Gifted and 2e Chldren," available on the GHF website. Another is a brochure titled "Twice Exceptional: Smart Kids with Learning Differences," intended to "help educators, healthcare professionals and others understand that some gifted children’s challenges and behaviors are associated with being 'many ages at once,' or asynchronous, but that the very same challenges may also be indicative of a learning difference," according to GHF; find the brochure.

DAVIDSON eNEWS-UPDATE. The November issue of this newsletter came out recently. It carries (naturally) news of the Davidson Institute's activities, but also points to other news items of interest and to a variety of web-based resources. Find the newsletter.

NOT MUCH NEWS in the last few days -- mostly because everyone in the U.S. was either preparing, ingesting, or digesting turkey. We did manage to get out the November/December issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter before the holiday; watch for postings at our website soon. Next blog posting -- later this week.