Monday, May 16, 2016

A Reader's Response to a Recent Posting

ON MAY 5th we pointed to an item in the Huffington Post written by a parent who has dyslexia wondering about the place of GATE programs in today's educational system. We included the item in yesterday's briefing and received the following thoughtful reply from Trish Seres, advocate on gifted and 2e-related matters. Trish contributed a piece to 2e Newsletter several years ago titled "Race to the Middle." 

The article by the mom on HuffPost describes the situation poorly. It is her personal opinion of her personal experience (anecdotal), but does not even remotely compare to that of the majority of gifted dyslexics, often described as Stealth Dyslexia. Further, it is written by an educator/teacher, who apparently has been trained in the latest edu-political thinking by her school. Schools do not follow diagnostic definitions of either giftedness or dyslexia, or even dyscalculia. They instead follow RTI definitions, which differ from diagnostic research. 
First, children with high IQs and superior fluid reasoning and nonverbal problem solving skills think at the same advanced level regardless of class or situation — we used to describe this as gifted 24/7, not just gifted in math as a generic term that means talent. It is only common core and the latest fad to ignore student learning needs, and treat all to more or less of the same, that misunderstands high IQ or gifted, for talent in a particular subject. Gifted and Talented programs such as GATE are not for high IQ children, but for students who demonstrate academic achievement in the standard curriculum, rather than for high IQ students who require differentiated programs and instruction (more depth, faster pace, several years ahead of peers, or more opportunity for creativity), or may not be able to reach their potential due to such a mismatch between learning needs and instruction.  
Second, the way she describes  dyslexia and dysgraphia makes little sense. Most dyslexics cannot read music well, and learn music by ear instead. Rare exceptions when a child may have musical parents, early exposure and patient instruction would be the exception, and also someone with very mild dyslexia. 
Third, dyslexia again impacts every class in schools today. Her description in high school makes no sense. Every class in the Common Core EOC environment requires extensive reading and writing/ literacy proficiency. Since dyslexics do not demonstrate subject knowledge well on multiple choice bubble tests (need extended time, often don’t read out-of-context material with speed or word-level accuracy making multiple choice question a la Pearson a nightmare and unfair assessment of their knowledge and ability). A dyslexic will have the same superior reasoning ability and problem solving ability (thinking skills) with the same language processing challenges in PE as the child will in English, Science, Math. History is often a little better, since it is a story with a context, with the exception of Civics. 
Fourth, dyscalculia is described oddly in the article. Dyslexics generally excel in math, as math is it’s own language and all students are introduced to it at the same time, so dyslexics do not begin behind. A dyslexic with dyscalculia generally excels in the high level maths and math reasoning, but their only struggles are with simple calculations, misreading math word problems, sometimes with reversals such as fractions and symbols (times and plus look the same if rotated) and order of algebraic equations that use letters as well as order of operations. However, geometry and other math concepts tend to be an area these kids can excel. The writer doesn’t understand this, as her son is only in second grade, and in second grade the children are focused on math facts. Dyslexics generally cannot learn multiplication facts the way they are taught in schools — rote repetitious timed math fact sheets. They are holistic learners, need to know the why behind the what (crave meaning), and learn multiplication by being taught the old way with the entire multiplication table, showing the relationships, highlighting the factor Ts, using count bys, etc. 
Fifth, this generation of education is likely the worst for gifted dyslexics — the perfect storm. Every new edu-political fad seems targeted to discriminate against the gifted dyslexic child. Now we hear “just because a child has a high IQ doesn’t mean his gifted” with the term gifted redefined from student learning needs due to able to reason years beyond age peers to simply the old “high achiever” who used to be defined separately from gifted. RTI selected gifted dyslexics to very directly discriminate against, since gifted dyslexics generally never fall below the bottom 25% on the bellcurve that is required with RTI (RTI only addresses low IQ apparently), though the 2e dyslexics generally has two to three standard deviations between innate intelligence and certain academic skills apart from evidence-based instructional interventions that make all of the difference.
Excelling in one subject vs. another is talent, not giftedness and not dyslexia or even dyscalculia. I have a gifted dyslexic, and converse with experts and other parents of gifted dyslexics internationally on a regular basis. GATE programs in this environment in many states discriminate outright against gifted dyslexics, denying them access to advanced content and intellectual peers because the 2e dyslexic generally cannot keep up with the reading and writing demands or show their subject knowledge well on the Pearson-style worded to confuse multiple choice questions. By placing these highly intelligent dyslexic students into standard classes, the children feel isolated and without friends they can relate to (my son had very close friends when in gifted, now tells me he has nothing at all in common with classmates), and the school can pretend the child is standard and ignore both differences just letting the child struggle nonstop while the school performs educational malpractice. The child’s potential is squashed, and they learn to dislike school, feel isolated, and frustrated. 
This teacher/ mother’s ideas are dangerous. Ignoring disability is never a positive. These children need to have evidence-based instruction. However, special education has never done a good job with dyslexia, as special education has traditionally been focused on physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities, and dyslexia does not fall into any of those. It’s ironic that the most common learning disability, impacting 80% of those classified as SLD according to most recognized research studies, is rarely addressed in this nation’s schools. The really hysterical part about it is that all of the accountability testing is pointless when schools refuse to address dyslexia with evidence-based instructional methods for dyslexia when so much quality research exists, and dyslexia represents 50% of literacy challenges. So, schools are holding these vulnerable children “accountable” for what they absolutely refuse to teach them the way they can learn — reading and writing and math fact proficiency.
Gifted dyslexics need gifted peers and gifted content, but they also need multi sensory instruction, whole to part learning, expertise in both gifted instruction and dyslexia interventions. They get neither in today’s schools.

-- Trish Seres

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