Showing posts with label Gifted Children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gifted Children. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A Raw Mothering Thought

I have been struggling and pondering. When things are tough I think about them and try to make sense of things. It is hardest to put these thoughts into written words when even just trying to wrap my mind around them is a challenge.

This is the best I could come up with. It's not much but it's something.

I believe that parents should do the best they can to raise their children well but even providing what our culture thinks is an ideal childhood, the teen years will bring a striving for independence that may produce stupid ideas or bad attitudes or may result in mistakes being made.

Teens go through a stage of testing limits and pushing boundaries. Everyone is imperfect so what happens during these things may wind up in mistakes being made, bad choices, stupid intentional actions or spontaneous or impulsive things may occur.

I used to have higher hopes and expectations of my kids and had wanted to help them have high ideals for themselves.  I wanted my kids to have good opportunities in their life and to take advantage of all that was offered to them. I cannot control if they make the most of their opportunities or if they squander them. If they screw up or don't make the most of what they have access to it's not my fault, it's theirs.

I am honestly kind of worn out, my kids have worn me out and worn me down. I'm backing off and lowering my expectations. Why am I lowering my expectations? Isn't that always a bad thing to do? It's because I can't continue to live with such high ideals that are continually unachieved which means that I am a failure and they are a failure. My kids are NOT failures! I am not a failure as a mother or a homeschooling parent either!

Sometimes the bar must be lowered in order to define the good reality that exists as a success rather than thinking the current state of affairs is a failure because the high achievement was not met. This is about resetting the standard to include good enough instead of just defining and judging everything against the best or the highest ideal, especially if said ideal is impossible to achieve due to unrealistic expectations.

My best effort is all I can give, as a mature adult parent I am held to a higher standard than society holds a teenager to. I wish my teenagers would give their best effort all the time, or most of the time, but they don't. Most (maybe 99.9%) of American teens do not give their best effort all the time. So why should I expect my kids to?

We homeschooling parents are often perfectionists. Some of us are intellectually gifted adults who have personality traits such as being intense, being passionate, and are idealistic. I am struggling to find some sort of  balance between my high expectations and ideals and what may be a more reasonable set of expectations.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Living with Overexcitibilies


It is often quite difficult and demanding to work and live with overexcitable individuals. Those who are not so, find the behaviors unexplainable, frequently incomprehensible, and often bizarre. Overexcitable people living with other overexcitable people often have more compassion and understanding for each other, but may feel conflicts when their OEs are not to the same degree. Finding strategies for helping children and adults deal with and take advantage of these innate and enduring characteristics may seem difficult. However, resources may be gathered from varied places: Literature regarding counseling, learning styles, special education, and classroom management; parenting books; even popular business texts. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the following general strategies, applicable regardless of which OEs are present."

From Overexcitability and the Gifted at

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Setting Boundaries on Online Homeschooling Social Networking

This year I joined a (free) Yahoo Group called Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. I was hoping to connect with parents of 2e homeschooled teens.

The group, or those who actually post, turns out to have the most chatty traffic from parents of kids age 9 and under.

Their main concerns are that their child is really smart and they want them to be academically challenged so they can reach their intellectual potential. This is not where I am at right now.

The other major issue is dealing with emotional challenges that are common in gifted kids, these are issues that are partially childhood development related, unique challenges for that age range for which advice should vary based on the developmental stage. I chose not to say age per se because some gifted kids are ahead or behind the "typical" age that the developmental stage is "supposed" to occur. I was going to say that X behavior is always a challenge at age 5 but in fact some kids who are 7 may be in the age 5 developmental stage that they struggle with, while some other issue could be that an 8 year old is struggling with philosophical thinking commonly not reached until an older chronological age.

It is also painful for me to hear about kids who are struggling who clearly have issues which are not being tested and confirmed so that appropriate and right treatment or changes can be made to help them. I am not talking about me putting my ideas onto them, I am talking about parents who ask for help and ideas and information when they are worried and upset that they see X happening with their child. Yet when we give our input they do not want to hear that and reject it. Some I guess think the problem is "they are gifted".

As to diagnoses: no one in America (except Christian Scientists) blinks an eye about the importance of mammograms and detecting Cancer early then getting Cancer medical treatment but some just will not test for learning disabilities or check to see if those behaviors or worries are actually indicative of real anxiety or even mental illness. Remember this is after they see a problem and ask for help and information!

It is a form of neglect if you ask me, this denial of reality whether due to not wanting to spend money on testing or whether worried of the stigma of possibly having a child who suffers from clinical depression or bipolar disorder or OCD or (fill in the blank). If homeschooling and the child is not learning or the family is not fulfilling the state laws for content or skill learning in their state it is neglectful to not have them tested and find an answer for their struggles, so that learning therapies or learning accommodations or different learning methods or curriculum can occur so that learning can actually take place.

GHF also offers a for-fee membership, and online classes for a fee. They sell books on their website. They have a Facebook page in which good articles are shared and sometimes the company posts a question from a parent and people from all over the FB universe chirp in with replies. GHF also tweets articles and thoughts on giftedness. Read more about GHF here if you want to. I love the whole idea of GHF.

I joined the Yahoo Group with hopes to get some information and support and my needs are not being met.

Additionally, I was getting upset with some of what was being said on the list and it was causing me mild distress or more serious stress. My energy and time is limited and I cannot afford to spend either in wasteful ways. I am going no mail from the group. I probably should just quit. At times when I thought I was helping I felt I was not being heard on the list, yet I got private replies from those afraid to post publically saying thank you. I just don't feel it is the right place for me right now and need to step back.

The Internet and social networking can be a great help to us or it can be innocuous and other times it can hurt us. We all need to set boundaries that are right for us, these boundaries can and should change over time.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Where the Ground Meets the Sky Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Where the Ground Meets the Sky

Author: Jacqueline Davies

Publication: Skyscape, 2013 (formerly published in 2002)

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

My Summary Statement: Excellent Story of a Preteen Girl About The Manhattan Project

This is a speculative fiction story, a made up 12 year old girl who is the daughter of a scientist employed by the US Government. They are suddenly moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico and the girl is not told what the project is: it is what we now refer to as The Manhattan Project and her father was a key scientist in the development of the atomic bomb which was used to help stop World War II. Throughout the story Hazel tries to figure out what “the gadget” is, which gives this story suspense.

An important element to Hazel’s story which potential readers should know is that her mother develops clinical depression which is untreated and is not formerly diagnosed. The story takes place in 1944, a time when ignoring such symptoms was common. The treatment shared at the end was also common back in that era.

Hazel is a gifted child who feels different than her same aged peers due to her superior intelligence. Her father being a brilliant scientist shows the apple does not fall far from the tree. Hazel’s mother is also gifted: a thinker and a sensitive person who has strong ethical and philosophical beliefs which leads her to feeling powerless and in despair, since she knows what the project her husband is working on is.

I felt the character development was strong in all characters except for the always-working and emotionally disconnected husband/father, who was oblivious to the fact that his daughter was living in neglect and was forced to teach herself to cook, clean, and launder her own clothes since her mother was suffering and was unable to perform basic daily living tasks. However, these brilliant inventor scientist types who achieve great things are also sometimes the same people who are weak in emotional matters, or are workaholics who wind up detached due to their dedication to their work causing them to be more absent than other fathers with different careers or passions.

I liked that the book presented ethical and philosophical things to ponder about war and the use of (what we now refer to as) weapons of mass destruction. Hazel’s family is not religious with common religions. Her mother is a pacifist and she influences Hazel to question war and to ponder how to end a war; is mass killing and a massive show of destruction power necessary to create a state of peace?

I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It. I feel this is one of the more superior pieces of speculative historical fiction for kids on the market. I see the book is rated for grades 5-8 or 6-8. This book is both entertaining and suspenseful and would give kids some things to think about. Books like this should be read in school, or used in a homeschool, which is what I plan to do with my homeschooled kids.

Disclosure: I received an unbound galley advance copy of this book from Amazon Vine for the purpose of reviewing it on I was not under obligation to review it favorably. I was not paid for that nor to blog the review.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Few Notes on the WISC IV vs. WISC III

"In the normative sample for the WISC-IV, the gifted group (which had scored at least 130 previously) earned a Full Scale IQ score of 123.5 on the WISC-IV. Their Verbal Comprehension score was 124.7 and Perceptual Reasoning score was 120.4. However, in line with our experience, their Working Memory averaged only 112.5 and their Processing Speed was 110.6 (WISC-IV Technical Manual, p. 77).

It makes much more sense to identify them as gifted based on assessments emphasizing reasoning, provide them gifted learning experiences, and then add any accommodations based on relative weaknesses to the gifted accommodations.

A Full Scale IQ score that averages gifted reasoning and average processing skills fails to identify either the giftedness or the relative weaknesses. Test authors have wrongly assumed that gifted children are fast processors. Some are very quick; others are reflective or perfectionistic, slowing their speed. Gifted children also show a preference for meaningful test materials, and may not perform well on short-term memory tests or other tasks that utilize non-meaningful material. They usually perform so much better with meaningful material that their scores with non-meaningful material are difficult to interpret."


Average students perform more in line with reasoning and processing speed and working memory, see study here.


From the WISC IV technical manual page 77:

Outlines, in their opinion, which subtests should be used for determination of giftedness see the conclusion.

Get GAI from those 6 subtests:

"Per guidelines from publisher and the new Essentials of WISC-IV Assessment by Flanagan and Kaufman (2004). "

"They advise using the GAI, instead of the Full Scale IQ, if the 4 composite scores vary by 23 or more points, and if the Verbal Comprehension Index and the Perceptual Reasoning Index vary by less than 23 points. Dumont and Willis also advise that their DWI-1 and DWI-2 should only be calculated if the scores that go into them are relatively close. This short form of the WISC-IV will be less expensive to administer, less time consuming, more efficient and will yield more accurate estimates of the abilities of gifted students, without the confounding variables of Working Memory and Processing Speed."
Mean GAI is what qualifies for gifted services.

"Do not require the WISC-IV Full Scale IQ (FSIQ) score for gifted program admission because the majority of gifted children show large discrepancies between Composite/ Index scores and the FSIQ lacks meaning. Flanagan and Kaufman (2004), in Essentials of WISC-IV "Assessment, deem the FSIQ “not interpretable” if Composite scores vary by 23 points (1.5 standard deviations) or more. In such cases, calculating the FSIQ can be misleading."

"Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning tasks are heavily loaded on abstract reasoning ability and are better indicators of giftedness than Working Memory (auditory memory that is manipulated) and Processing Speed (speed on paper-and-pencil tasks). Harcourt Assessments, publishers of the WISC-IV, provides GAI tables on its website in support of similar use of the GAI when the variance between Composite scores is both significant and unusual (see Technical Report #4).

"In light of these circumstances, where comprehensive testing is available, NAGC recommends that WISC-IV Full Scale IQ scores not be required for admission to gifted programs. Instead, the following guidelines are suggested..."

Visual spatial learners and 2e:

"The Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) and the Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI) are also independently appropriate for selection to programs for the gifted, especially for culturally diverse, bilingual, twice exceptional students or visual-spatial learners. It is important that a good match be made between the strengths of the child and the attributes of the program. Students who have special learning needs should be admitted to gifted programs, provided that there are other indications of giftedness and instructional modifications are made to fit the needs of the students."

This is the source of these notes.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

SA Article Link: Is Your Child Ungifted?

Article: Is Your Child Ungifted?

by: Scott Barry Kaufman

In: Scientific American

On: 6/20/13

"Where should we start? How about with the most traditional conceptualization of them all: high IQ. Does your child score above 130 on an IQ test? If so, congratulations! We can probably stop right here. Historically, giftedness has been defined as top 2-3% on an IQ test. While most gifted and talented programs these days no longer rely solely on this criteria, most programs in the United States do privilege the child’s IQ score above all other potential indicators of giftedness.** So if your child scores above the arbitrary IQ threshold set by the school district, you should have no trouble convincing your school that your child isn’t ungifted."


 "Look, if it’s really true that your child is perfectly average in every single human characteristic represented in all of the definitions of giftedness I presented to you, then I’m afraid there’s only one diagnosis left: your child is truly extraordinary! Just ungifted."

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Official Diagnosis: 2e

A week ago I received the report on my older son's testing. My mind has been reeling. I have experienced a range of emotions since hearing that report.

I have regrets. I regret not doing this sooner, although there was no solid reason to have the knowledge, I thought, so there was no logic to spend thousands of dollars.

Last year my son struggled with a full high school course load and so I lightened the load while he got treatment for the Stage 2 Lyme Disease that is said to have caused these problems. Even this year he has struggled with a full load, with different symptoms and new challenges. He struggled with advanced classes so he quit those. He struggled to read a lot so we used some audiobooks. People call that "making accommodations".

The crunch time came down to the SAT. I was worried he'd need more time or that his eye tracking challenges with filling in the bubbles would present a problem. (Problems filling in bubbles is hard for me to believe, I do not have LDs and I have a hard time understanding how anyone could struggle with that, but some people do.)

I now wish I'd spent the money and had the testing done so that it would, at minimum, changed some of our parenting techniques and our relationship as parent/child would have been easier. I have written in the past of teenage slacking and bad attitude and symptoms of oppositional defiance disorder. I now know that the cause of much frustration was my son's learning disabilities and asynchronous development paired with high intelligence.

It's confirmed, he's intellectually gifted, meaning he has high cognitive abilities. I always thought my son was smart and I knew he had symptoms of giftedness, the emotional intensities and the neurological sensitivities, food allergies even, but honestly did not know what his IQ was and sometimes wondered if I was just one of the many proud mothers who thinks their kids are smart, or gifted, when honestly, some are not really that smart. The bell curve in and of itself shows us an average. Well, my kid is in the 97th percentile, that's not the mean.

The testing showed high performance on visual spatial tasks, and in the past I've said it was my opinion that he was a strong visual spatial learner. In fact we have concentrated special study skills for spelling using V-S techniques and he scored quite high on spelling! He has been doing well with spelling for almost a year since he had neuro-feedback last year on areas of the brain that help with those skills.

I had fallen into the common mistake of thinking that if a person is highly intelligent than performance would be high across all areas including being highly organized and able to handle every challenge thrown at them. It's not true people. I was told these things and thought I understood it but seeing my son in real life, I thought he was being lazy or stubborn and defiant just for (fill in the blank) reason. Why is it that logically I knew that to be true but when my own kid did it, I felt it was a character issue or a power struggle or laziness? I feel ashamed for my error. (My husband is guilty too.)

If you have not heard the term before, 2e, it means twice exceptional, I hate the term, it means twice exceptional, (since when is being challenged and struggling exceptional?). It means high intelligence paired with at least one learning disability (often people have multiple) that makes a smart person have a hard time performing well at some common things such as doing seemingly easy school work. Oddly people who are of average intelligence tend to also perform average, I was told. Logic would tell us that if you are smarter you should perform higher, right? Not always. Perhaps the problem in one area of the brain causes the giftedness in the other part? That is one theory. Scientists and doctors have yet to figure out how the brain works, it's complicated.

I have struggled in the past teaching my son and he has struggled to learn. I knew the dysgraphia symptoms for years but never knew if he had enough issues to qualify for the real diagnosis. I also didn't think that the dysgraphia was negatively affecting anything, I just thought he had ugly penmanship. Now I know. He has dysgraphia.

My son has struggled with reading since he had a bad case of Lyme Disease at age eight. Illnesses such as Lyme or Mono, or any fever inducing illnesses can cause neurological damage: brain injury that can bring on new problems that are learning disabilities. I hold firm that my son did not have problems reading until that specific case of Lyme.

New symptoms, the same as ADD, appeared in 2011 after yet another new case of Lyme after yet another deer tick bite. So he can have that label if we want him to. Right now I refuse to use that label, and he is not on stimulant medication. He does not want medication. We may revisit this later.

He is having issues reading and comprehending began in summer of 2011. He is not dyslexic, he scored too highly on decoding to qualify. He has challenges with reading comprehension.

He has slow processing speed.

He has "working memory deficit".

Now I know this is not all in my head.

Now my son knows he is not stupid, which is what he thought.

I am busy now setting up special tutoring, looking into occupational therapy for dysgraphia, and buying products and services for accommodations. I am submitting paperwork to the College Board for accommodations on SAT subject tests and the SAT. Also I need to apply to Learning Ally for audiobooks and audio textbooks.

I was torn about whether to share this on the blog. I feel that I want to because it is hard to blog about LDs without you knowing what we are dealing with and what we are not dealing with. I will continue to be interested in dyslexia due to my mother's struggles, but me posting about that doesn't mean my kids have it. I also post about Autism, which my nephew has, and luckily neither of my kids have it.

I decided to share this since some of my readers are interested in homeschooling with learning disabilities. I hope this helps someone.

My advice is to get your child tested if you feel there is a problem. Earlier is better, even if you homeschool. If you feel the testing is too expensive call around for more prices. Consider going out of state if the airfare and hotel still make it cheaper than the testing in your neighborhood. In Connecticut I was quoted $3500 but in Houston I paid $900. I wish I had done this sooner. Don't make the same mistake I made. We have spent our money on other things that may not have been needed, like therapy for anger issues and oppositional behavior, and medical expenses for punching a wall out of frustration with chemistry homework.

Then again, when underemployed or unemployed we could not afford the testing and even if we somehow did pay for the testing, we could not afford the private tutoring and out of pocket occupational therapy. But still, I wish we'd known, maybe I could have scratched together home therapies or something.

I also now know that to put my son in school for grade 11 and 12 would be a disaster because we would be fighting the system for accommodations and he'd be a square peg being shoved in a round hole. He needs to focus on remediating and accommodating and getting special services which would be much harder if he attended regular school with a full courseload and early starting hours and lots of homework to do.

We are going to homeschool to the end of high school. This is what he wants anyway.

He needs to learn to do new ways of learning to overcome his struggles. He needs to learn time management and to get better organized. He needs to learn everything he has to for college prep. That's enough to do in the next couple of years. The goal is to get him to own this and to be self motivated and internally driven before he goes off to college. He still wants to go away to college to live on campus and to perhaps do a college sport, and to do engineering.

In case you are wondering what tests my son had they are:

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Fourth Edition (WISC-IV)
Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJIII)

I am grateful to have found a homeschool friendly tester.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Homeschoolers Working Above Grade Level?

The main reason we began homeschooling was so that our children could learn -- actually learn, which meant that the studies could be sped up or slowed down or adapted in any way including working on certain subjects above or below grade level. Of course ideally our children would be working at least at grade level, but even if they were not, due to some deficit such as a learning disability, they'd have that freedom. What we were looking for was a customized education.

What is an ideal homeschool education?

This is up to each family to decide.

In figuring out what an ideal education would look like there were these options, my husband and I thought about these issues.

1. Decide that what the public school did at X grade was not good enough or stupid and to reject doing that. This would include forcing down formal lessons to two year olds in preschool in some attempt to "get ahead" or to try for "early literacy". This would include forcing a child to learn to read when they were not ready. This would include not using ridiculous reading methods when the intensive phonics method of old was superior.

2. Decide what better thing a child of that age could be doing with their time and do that instead. This would include not using a dumbed down lesson plan to teach "my neighbors" for social studies in kindergarten and instead to learn about Ancient Egyptian pyramids, mummies and other much more intellectually stimulating topics.

3. Choose to use interesting materials to learn from and avoid all the boring stuff. Avoid repetition. Avoid drudge work. Avoid busy work. Use documentaries not just books.

4. Focus on learning not on testing.

5. Do real things as much as possible. Avoid worksheets and book learning for every single subject. Add in more hands on activities to make learning interesting. This goes beyond history themed crafts. In our case it also included wilderness school courses similar to Outward Bound and Nature's Classroom.

6. Go places and do things that school kids are unable to do because of time they are forced to be inside the classroom. Have freedom to travel more and do great things while in different places. Do things that are worthwhile but are out of reach of the public school's budget. Focus on family learning field trips rather than group activities because our kids would focus better on the subject matter when with just family.

7. Have more efficient learning activities that didn't monopolize all their day so they could have psychologically and developmentally appropriate free play time for optimal childhood development. Have time for developing friendships.

8. Use materials or different teaching methods to achieve learning if the traditional way of teaching was not working. This applies to all kids, but really helps kids struggling with a learning disablity or medical problem that impedes learning for a season or for multiple years.

9. Avoid long homework such as school requires in order to make time for extra-curricular group activities on afternoons and weekends.

10. Have time for physical fitness exercise for good health.

Working Toward Mastery

My husband and I believe that working toward mastery is a superior way to learn, instead of allotting a certain time frame to learn subject X then moving on when the date arrives.

This means, for example, that with our spelling words, the word does not disappear on Friday if the word was not yet mastered. The tricky word stays on the spelling list until our students master the spelling of that word.

Math, reading, spelling, grammar, and other skills are easy to recognize mastery in. Other topics, and in the higher grade levels, can be harder to assess if the work that is being done is not easy to rate, grade, rank and measure. However if working toward mastery, you have to figure out how to assess mastery, and if testing is the choice, you soon realize that it is a flawed way to test mastery. Testing requires that a test be given on a certain date. What if the learning is achieved after that date?

To illustrate: Algebra I systems of linear equations. The student does the lesson and the work and scores 11/12 on the practice work. The student goes back and figures out what went wrong with that one problem. The student takes a test and messes something up and scores an 83. (If in school at this point the class would move on to the next topic and the student's time would be taken up with the new material.) But, our homeschooled student does not advance to the next lesson right this second, they now go back and revisit that content again and do even more practice to help them learn what they had not mastered, later scoring 100% on practice examples. Should the student bother to be re-tested? That's your decision. If the student is tested on that same topic and tests at 100%,  how do you grade this student? Do you ignore that 83 and use the new 100 score since mastery was now attained? Do you average the two scores, and if so, why would you choose to do that? If a score is to measure true learning and the student has it all mastered the 100% should stand, not 91.5, the average of the two scores, in my opinion. Ask yourself why it is important to rate a student based on what they knew on last week's date versus what they learned and mastered for content a week later. Is it not important that the content was mastered and learning did occur with 100% success?

Another question to ponder is if real learning is a goal, does mid-term and final course testing serve a purpose? I am still trying to wrap my mind around that. One might say that if true learning is to be achieved it should be able to be measured by an end of the year test. Others may aruge that cramming memorization of material such even reminding oneself of the exact definitions of hundreds of science vocabulary terms is a dumb exercise. Does that measure true learning? This is debatable because even when scoring well on a mid-term test most students forget most of the content before the time to take the final test and have to review it and cram to get it into their short-term memory. The more we learn about the brain and how the brain's memory works the more we realize that most of what we experience and learn in life does not remain in long term memory for immediate recall should we desire to remember it.

This mastery issue comes into play when thinking about what "on grade level" means.

Above Grade Level

I was asked what I think about working above grade level in our homeschool. This very question begs pondering. In order to figure out what is "grade level" you have to trust the opinions of some strangers. There is not firm concensus on what "on grade level is". Different people have different definitions of "grade level". Do you want to trust those people? Why? In the early years when childhood development is so swift this is the most mushy. One child can read at three and another at five and another gets it at six, thanks to brain development.

When homeschooling does it really matter what the grade level is? In our family the main reason to declare a grade level was for admittance to sports, Scouts, and even homeschool paid group classes. I go by the date of birth year. But I digress.

Do any these artificial measurements of grades really mean anything anyway?

When using packaged homeschool curriculum or curriculum intended for schools you will see these lines drawn about grade level. Also content gets chopped up and split up by grades not always because it is on grade level but because you have to divide up the content in some manner and spread it over time. For example to split up science topics, it is not that weather is a topic that only a fourth grader can understand or that a child must be sixteen before they are introduced to the term atom. But other topics are taught year after year, such as English grammar. Some feel they are over-taught. Someting like spelling words and vocabulary should fit easily into a grade level list but you will always have students working below, at, or above grade level who will either struggle, find it mildly challenging or too easy.

My son is in tenth grade and we are reading The Great Gatsby. He asked to read this now before the movie is released "because the book is always better than the movie". When looking at high school English courses for college prep I see a common theme. Grade nine introduces or reintroduces plot, character, etc and they study two or three whole fiction books, read a lot of excerpts in the textbook, short stories, read poetry and one play. In grade ten the same thing happens all over again with general content with a span of old and modern literature (fiction books, excerpts, short stories, poetry and one play). (When I see some of what is read I ask myself why was THAT selected when it seems silly or stupid or unremarkable.) Grade eleven is often American Literature and grade twelve is often British Literature or World Literature. So does this mean that by reading The Great Gatsby in grade ten that my son is "working above grade level". I don't think so. Should I count this book in his grade 10 literature course but have it as a gaping hole as it is usually a staple in American Lit? Should I plug that title onto his grade eleven course instead? Dates can be mushy in homeschooling. Since outside parties such as college admissions officers like to see content areas pigeon-holed into traditional school courses it would benefit my son to have Fitzgerald's book in grade 11's American Lit course.

Math can easily be deemed into grade levels although the content will vary from curriculum to curriculum. At which grade are fractions introduced? They value different things, some stress mental math while others us the new Chicago math and others use the old fashioned methods from my childhood including memorization of multiplication tables.

I feel each homeschooled student should be challenging themselves and not doing work that is "their grade level" and being bored and scoring 100s and then act smug about being smart. Instead, do work at their level, if that is a year or two ahead in math, so be it. Just please don't get braggy about it to others, no one wants to hear it! The parent you brag to may have a child even more advanced than you but they keep quiet out of a desire to be humble.

For the sake of this discusion I will share personal details. In the arithmetic years my younger son was working two grades ahead. Due to busy-ness and choosing to do other things his math time slowed so in grade six he finished a grade seven arithmetic program and stared on pre-algebra, which some kids don't do until grade seven or eight. In grade seven he is solidly working at pre-algebra, some of which he already did last year but already forgot. His gap of being ahead is slowing down now. That's fine by me. We're not in a race although for certain college majors he should be on track to do at least Pre-Calculus if not Calculus by the end of grade 12. Ideally he'd finish and master pre-algebra in grade 7 and start with Algebra I in grade 8.

Abstract math such as algebra needs certain brain developmental changes to have taken place before the student can handle it. I knew of a boy in grade six who started algebra through a rigorous online course and with an advanced curriculum who spent three hours a day seven days a week trying to get through the material. The kid and his mother were stressed out so after one semester they moved away from that course. (Thank goodness!) Formerly she took pride in saying her son was years ahead in math. What is the point of pushing an advanced math onto a student who is not yet ready? I felt this was most likely a case of "the struggle" being brain development issue. There is sometimes a time in preteen's development where the arithmetic is easy and was mastered but they can't yet handle algebra - that is normal.

Then again if a kid is a math whiz and can do higher maths without unhealthily stressing them out, go ahead and do it. There is a difference between working ahead and having too much of a struggle and working ahead and feeling appropriately challenged. Working ahead should be at the student's pace not the choice of the mother who might just want bragging rights to say her child is ahead. Education is about the child not the mother's ego.

Another example is at a co-op my seventh grader was to use a volume two of the writing curriculum which the writer said was grade 9-12. He really struggled. The program was supposed to be used after completion of volume one, which my son didn't do, so he wasn't prepared. I brought him back to volume one which was labeled for use up through the end of grade 8. He finds this easy. Learning is more fun and casual now. And it could be said that he is still working ahead of grade level if he finishes this in grade seven.

Early readers who find the leveled reading books too easy may be able to read above grade level. True reading comprehension is questionable, especially if the child is left to read on their own. It may feel good to brag that our ten year old has read Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird but did they get all the nuances? Do they even know what rape is? Do they know about racism and attitudes in the South in those time periods? Their limited knowledge base of history and culture may make them miss quite a lot that the parents assume they understood.

Graduating Early

I know of some homeschoolers who used a school in a box curriculum based on what schools do and crammed the easy work to be done fast, such as working six days a week and working through the summer. I know of two girls in a family who graduated at 12 and 11 years old in this manner. I read an autobiography of a family who was spanked and worked six days a week, through the summer, and rarely was allowed to take a sick day. In this way the oldest graduated at sixteen.

I would ask that you ponder what that means to use an easy curriculum and to graduate early. That same student could have done things like participated in some extra-curricular activities or done projects or did deeper learning and graduated at eighteen instead. Is a fourteen year old homeschool graduate smarter and more knowledgable than a deep learner who didn't use a school in a box program at eighteen? I doubt it.

I'll leave the discussion there without getting into AP classes and dual credit courses taken in the high school years at community college or four year colleges.

Please leave your thoughts if you wish to discuss this interesting topic.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giftedness and Misdiagnosis

I am again recommending Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by James Webb et al (Great Potential Press, 2004).

Presently I am re-reading portions of this book as it pertains directly to a situation in my family.

Here is a long article with a fair amount of information to give you a sense for what this book is about.

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children

The article opens with this introduction:

"Many gifted and talented children (and adults) are being mis-diagnosed by psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and other health care professionals. The most common mis-diagnoses are: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Mood Disorders such as Cyclothymic Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Depression, and Bi-Polar Disorder. These common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted children which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.

In some situations where gifted children have received a correct diagnosis, giftedness is still a factor that must be considered in treatment, and should really generate a dual diagnosis. For example, existential depression or learning disability, when present in gifted children or adults, requires a different approach because new dimensions are added by the giftedness component. Yet the giftedness component typically is overlooked due to the lack of training and understanding by health care professionals (Webb & Kleine, 1993).

Despite prevalent myths to the contrary, gifted children and adults are at particular psychological risk due to both internal characteristics and situational factors. These internal and situational factors can lead to interpersonal and psychological difficulties for gifted children, and subsequently to mis-diagnoses and inadequate treatment."

One a few more things:

Gifted kids are often perfectionists. Perfectionists often procrastinate out of fear of failure. That often leads to missing deadlines, lack of studying and failure.

Gifted kids often have asynchronous development. Being expert in one area and struggling in another does not always yield high scores across all subjects in standardized testing. Some gifted kids are not good test takers in general. Schools often require high scores on testing to admit students to gifted programs. Some schools use the gifted testing scores as tickets to higher academic tracks and/or AP class admittance and/or extracurricular programs i.e. Science Olympiad and FIRST Robotics. Thus asynchronous gifted kids may be kept out of the very programs that they would thrive in. Also the very fact that they struggle in. Some areas makes them feel stupid and gives low self-esteem which can lead to sadness and depression or fear that builds to anxiety

Gifted people can suffer from learning disabilities. Perhaps some learning disabilities actually cause the giftedness in other areas of ability? (I will verify my source for that and will blog it in a separate post.)

PS if you are interested in this boom but have not read the first one you also should read and buy so you have it for handy reference, the other book Webb et al. The focus is on the emotional life of a gifted person and living with the intensities of the gifted.

Monday, August 13, 2012

From the Archives: Curriculum for Gifted Preschoolers

It's that time of year again and people are asking this question, looking for an all in one curriculum or as some of us call it "school in a box". Here is my reply, it's a six year old blog post but all the info is still relevant.

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum for Gifted Kids

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Disorders Americans Medicate People For That Prevent Achievement

Yesterday I had a talk with a mother who is a friend and she brought up a topic that I think is not thought about enough in America today.

This woman was formerly was a professional road bike (bicycling) racer and later coached a team of teens. She had told me previously that she felt her (unmedicated) ADD helped her hyper focus on the racing and that it helped her achieve success. She said her former teen team would all be diagnosed today with OCD. The teens were so focused and driven by what we now call OCD symptoms that they were a strong team. They would not have won races if they were not OCD.

We talked about how OCD and ADD and ADHD are seen as negatives in America today but the fact of the matter is that past inventions and breakthroughs were done by people who today would be classified as having those "disorders". The very nature of their "disorder" is what allowed them to work so hard and long on the topic of their obsession. They achieved great things. So are their disorders really disorders?

What will society get when everyone with certain "disorders" is medicated with drugs and those symptoms stop?

I know another person who has been medicated to "have a better quality of life". They have lost all their artistic and creative abilities and sit around kind of like a zombie most of the time doing not much of anything let alone doing any of the number of wonderful artistic projects they used to do.

Due to privacy concerns I choose to not tell more detailed stories about this person. I wish I could so you could see a clear illustration of the situation. Here are some issues stated in general terms.

This person today would be classified as gifted, they have a high sensitivity to their environment and the people in their lives. That led the person to be artistic and creative. Sadly the schools said she had dyslexia and they could not fix it so she has thought all her life that she is stupid and flawed.  Her deep interest in various arts and crafts and even a scientific interest in hybridization of plants led them to what some would consider being obsessed or having OCD tendencies. She worked so hard on what she did that they achieved many things and impressed the people who knew of her accomplishments. The real benefit of these activities was the internal satisfaction and enjoyment of the process of doing what she loved.

However, being highly sensitive led to emotional sensitivity and sometimes errors in interpretation of reality. Being very right brained this person sometimes also got confused between what she perceived and assumed was real versus what was truly real. If you imagine someone is angry with you, but they are not, you can get really messed up thinking you are living with people mad at you when in fact they are happy with you (especially if you are a highly sensitive person and really do care what others think of you). Symptoms of depression were present, even a layperson may be able to see a link between the misinterpretation of other people (and poor communication skills) - that it could help fuel sadness that progresses to depression.

Later, by using prescription drugs from the psychiatrist, she was suddenly not considered clinically depressed and not suicidal but she lost all of her creative spark and artistic talent was not being used at all All the OCD tendencies were gone and the person instead sits around watching TV for most of their life. The person is barely functioning with daily skills such as not even having normal sleeping patterns (she is up most of the night and sleeps most of the day). She can't even clean the house and can barely make meals.

As if that was not bad enough, she also has negative neurological side effects from the medication and shakes so she can barely write by hand, and has done other things like not realized she had her mouth widely agape and drooling down her face. How can the psychiatrists live with themselves knowing they do these things to some of their patients? If you read the doctor's medical records I bet you'd find a description of a case they deemed a success.

Of great concern to me is the trend to label young children with neurological disorders or psychiatric disorders and to medicate them. Are we going to end up with a nation of mediocre kids or zombie kids on medicine and little achievement? Is it worse that these people are not always satisfied with their daily living experiences as they are hardly functioning and feel badly of themselves for being flawed due to having a disorder label and thinking they need medicine just to get through life?

Add to the list of reasons why I homeschool: I have not wanted to put my kids into situations where people who believe in things like that nearly every little boy today has ADHD are in a position to judge my kids. I think a lot of misguided things are happening today with regard to these disorders and that kids are getting over-medicated and I won't have my kids be victims of that craziness. We are opting out.

If you are concerned with labels and are wondering about the link to giftedness I recommend you first read A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children by Webb et al then read Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by Web et al. Both are published by Great Potential Press.

Disclosure: See the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Mom, Am I Special?

I don't think I've ever told my kids that they are special. The word gives me the heeby-jeebies. I was raised with tough non-emotion showing family members, whether that was due to cultural traits, personality, neurological "quirks", or more serious mental illness I will not get into. Why does not matter anyway. My upbringing is what is was, and there is no use over-analyzing it now or dwelling on what I wish was different.

My ilk are English, Irish, German, Scottish, and more recently, Pennsylvania Dutch. I come from a long line of Yankees. I come from hard-working desperately poor immigrant stock, people who came to America looking for a better life who worked their tails off for a very basic no-frills living. In my family, no one went around telling me or my brother that we were special. No way. Basic survival was the main thing that my family was preoccupied with.

Today my eleven year old asked if he was special. I asked what he meant. He asked if he was smart, and if I thought he had a reason for being here, on this Earth.

I guess this was yet another existential question day. These questions come at me out of the blue.

He said if there was a reason he was here, a reason he was born, he didn't know what it was, and that concerned him.

I was not raised in a religious family but today I shared my reply based on my views today. I said that every person is here for a reason, even if we don't know what it is yet. I said God knows the reason, and to trust God. I said what he's asking for is for "his calling" and that it usually takes many years to realize what one's calling is. I said that it will be revealed someday, you never know when, but a key is in the mean time, to do your best to live life using your God given talents and gifts.

I don't know how many young kids worry and wonder about why they exist. All I know is that when such questions are asked I am usually taken by surprise.

Being sensitive and concerned with existential matters from a young age are two factors on the list for qualities of gifted children. I hate the label, but sometimes to get help with things, we have to know of a label and seek resources intended for people who think they have that label.

I highly recommend SENG for learning about the emotional side of giftedness in children and adults. My favorite books are A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children and Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults. Both are in print and available through the publisher, Great Potential Press, if you have a hard time finding them.

Disclosure: See the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Learning Disabilities and Parenting - A Tough Row to Hoe

Some think that learning disabilities are over-diagnosed. I don't know if they are or if they are not.

If you live with a person with one and you have seen it in action you cannot deny the reality of it. No one would wish those struggles on anyone, let alone someone they love very much.

Sometimes biological issues can hinder learning. A food reaction can cause foggy thinking. Lyme Disease or a concussion can alter one's ability to recall things from memory or to even remember people's names let alone math facts. Past ear infections at early ages can have impeded the child's ability to hear things correctly and they have lasting effects for years.

There is the laziness issue. Some would accuse that the LD person is just lazy and this is a work ethic issue. That is a complicated situation as in some cases yes maybe the person does have a poor work ethic. However other times the person's energy stores are shorter due to their condition and they don't have staying power to be in active learning mode for X number of hours that someone thinks they should. Sometimes the failure and learning struggles came first and they are telling themselves that they'll never learn it, so they give up and it looks like laziness. Other times they are trying their hardest but compared to other kids or the way you are, it looks to us like laziness when really it is them doing their best.

There are issues with the developmental stages of kids. Toddlers with a food allergy can present a parenting challenge. An LD kid learning to read at age five may struggle but maybe someone just says "they are not ready" and maybe they don't get the help they really need. Teenage anger and rebellion may be intermingled with challenges of the LD.

Parenting is hard under typical circumstances. Parenting a child with one or more LDs is really difficult. Parenting a child with traits of giftedness who also had an LD (aka 2E or twice exceptional) can be really trying. Homeschooling a kid with an LD or 2E is an extremely hard thing.

It can seem easy to grasp at any straw to look for solutions. I have found that solutions often do not come easy or fast even if one has the money to pay for a recommended therapy. In my house just trying to get my kid to take a multivitamin is a struggle let alone a three times daily dose of fish oil via capsule and probiotics. Once paying for an expensive therapy is done there is the follow-up at home which can fall by the wayside. So much for thinking, "If we only had the money and could do that then X would be solved".

It can get exhausting to monitor the diet, the supplements, the special therapies, the driving here and there for visits, the wearing of the eyeglasses, and the special techniques needed to teach a topic for homeschooling.

Living like this is hard. I know it is hard as I'm living it. If you are going through this with your child(ren) I know what you are going through.

The only advice I can give is to stay the course and remain diligent and committed. Do not give up. Take it a day at a time and just do your best. The child needs their parents to remain on course and supportive, even if you slacking off or loosening up will seem to make them like you in the short run, don't do it. Tow the line. Set the limits. Make the rules. Give the rewards. Give the consequences. Let them see the error of their ways when they don't cooperate and it makes THEIR life harder.

If you are exhausted and want to give up, don't do it. If the parents give up who then is fighting and helping them? Even if they resist and fight or say they don't want the help, don't listen to them, they do not know what they are really saying. Our kids need us to be there for them even when they are in a low spot and they feel like giving up on themselves.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Year Money Grew on Trees Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Year Money Grew on Trees

Author: Aaron R. Hawkins

Genre: Juvenile Fiction (age 10 and up, grade 5 and up)

Publication: Houghton Mifflin, August 2010

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: A Coming of Age Story Filled with Personal Values; A Wholesome, Engaging Tale with a Good Moral Message

The Year Money Grew on Trees is a fiction book being marketed for children aged ten and up but I feel it’s a great book for younger, advanced readers too.

Set in New Mexico in the early 1980s, it is about a lower-middle class, fourteen year old boy who knows nothing about farming who rises to a challenge to raise apples on a neglected neighbor’s hobby farm. Acting on his own without consulting his parent’s wisdom he jumps into this endeavor not knowing at all what he has gotten himself into. Lured by get-rich-quick fantasies, he grabs the chance, with the extra bonus of knowing that if a certain profit is made he will take ownership of the land the orchard sits upon.

Jackson, a still-young teen at the start of the book, sets about the task by secretly researching apple farming using a technical book from the school library. He enlists his younger cousins to help with the labor. The story is about their learning process, trials and tribulations.

As the season goes on Jackson is haunted by guilt stemming from the fact that he has not disclosed the full monetary arrangements he’d worked out with the land owner, which will dupe his hard-working cousins out of some of the money he misled them to thinking they are entitled to. The fact that he was under contractual obligation as drafted up by an attorney meant this was no joke. You’ll have to read this book yourself to find out what happens with the apples and if they turned a profit.

Jackson grows up as he uses leadership skills for the first time in his life. As the growing season progresses, he matures and learns to accept responsibility for his actions. He moves into young adulthood as the story unfolds. In a sense this is a coming-of-age tale but one without the same old, same old themes so common in today’s problem novels. This is NOT a problem novel.

I found the story engaging and read it in one sitting while I was on a long car ride. I wanted to find out what happened. I was able to connect with the characters and cared about what happened to them. The story was interesting (and never boring) and I even laughed out loud a few times. It’s a calm story; it’s not a roller coaster ride adventure tale (which some kids today are accustomed to). It’s a good, wholesome story that I hope young readers will read, even if it’s not the topics that most of today’s fiction books or movies focus on.

I enjoyed the story of the children’s freedom and ability to do this project without what we now call helicopter parenting. In this story the kids make their own decisions without parental oversight, the parents just leave the kids alone to spend time outside and play or do whatever they do (in this case, apple farming). I am the same age as Jackson and this could have happened in my childhood (but sadly stuff like this probably would not happen today). The protective mother in me cringed at the parts where they used toxic chemicals as pesticides and the accidental swallowing of gasoline during siphoning to get fuel for the tractor.

My point is that stories like this about kids moving with freedom and doing something like farming with the idea of making $10K or more in one growing season (that they think they are splitting only between themselves) is of interest to today’s kids, even if they themselves would never be allowed by their parents to undertake such an endeavor.

I also liked that the book includes some simple economics as Jackson makes his financial blunders (since he’s acting all on his own). Simple bookkeeping is included so this is a way to get kids thinking about money. I enjoyed the fact that entrepreneurship and the idea of children working at their own businesses in order to earn money was the main topic (not a common topic in children’s fiction books).

Another thing covered in the book is the mechanics of the farming equipment. As they encounter strange objects and set about to figure out what they are and how they work, the reader learns alongside, with black line hand drawn illustrations to aid the reader’s comprehension.

This is a good book, a clean, non-controversial book for children that has some values and character traits that are good to think about and that can be discussed. The love between the cousins grows and Jackson moves from feeling more self-centered and profit-driven to developing empathy and concern for how his cousins will feel hurt when they find out they may not earn the money they think they’ve been working for almost a whole year. Jackson also learns the value of hard work and he and his cousins all develop a good work ethic.

While I agree that the reading level is for ages 10 and up I also feel that younger readers with advanced reading skills are good candidates to read this book independently (the main challenge with those kids is sometimes the books on an appropriate reading level contain too-mature content or are problem novels with heavy content). This book is also suitable as a read-aloud by a parent for multiple aged children.

There’s a lot to talk about here with kids, if a parent or teacher was so inclined. If nothing else, as an independent read it’s entertaining and enlightening. It may not contain common content of today’s fiction for children, but this is an entertaining, good and solid story worth reading.

I couldn’t help but think this, if done right, would make a great, clean family movie for the younger kids as well as adults to enjoy watching together.

I note the author has a degree in physics and is a college professor of electrical and computer engineering. The setting of New Mexico and apple farming is from his upbringing on an apple farm there. This is a work of fiction.

Note: Labeling this "gifted children" since it is a good book for advanced readers.

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program. I was under no obligation to blog this nor was I paid to blog this. For my blog’s full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog’s sidebar.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Quotes Differentiating Giftedness vs. Asperger's

I'm referencing "Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression and Other Disorders" by James T Webb Phd et al.

This is a fantastic book. I respect the tone and appreciate the outlook of James T. Webb PhD. His other book "A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children" is the best book on giftedness I've ever read. This second book "Misdiagnosis" is helpful to sort out whether a gifted child or adult's traits are just giftedness or are a disorder. The book lays out what giftedness looks like compared to the clinical diagnosis and how giftedness is sometimes misdiagnosed as the disorder.

When comparing the symptoms and behaviors of giftedness vs. the disorder it is very clear (even me as a layperson) can see when the situation is "just giftedness". It the author's opinion that health care professionals who are uneduated on giftedness may go straight to a diagnosis (a misdiagnosis) of a psychiatric condition or Asperger's, and the child may have treatments and therapies and sometimes prescription medications trying to fix something that is not a disorder at all, it's "just" giftedness.

A few years ago, two mothers have told me they thought my older son had Asperger's. I can state equivocally that my son does NOT have Asperger's Syndrome, backed up with information in this book "Misdiagnosis". My son has many traits of giftedness as laid out by James T. Webb PhD in this book and in the "Parent's Guide". I'm not interested in having a debate over whether other people think that son of mine is gifted or not. I am just explaining why and how I came to read this "Misdiagnosis" book. I read the "Misdiagnosis" book first but realized after reading both the ideal order would be to first read the "Parent's Guide" then "Misdiagnosis" second (if you feel you have a need to read that).

Both of these books are published by Great Potential Press whose focus is on giftedness in children and adults. If you have trouble locating copies of these excellent books check the publisher's website. They sell directly to consumers, parents, teachers and schools from their website and through a print catalog.

In relation to my last post asking about kid's behaviors and possible Asperger's Syndome, I am sharing these quotes.

You may read portions of this books for free on GoogleBooks to get a sense for the tone and content. I only realized this was on the Internet after taking the time to find and type out the quotes in this blog post. I will leave my quotes here as they speak to the parts that I felt were applicable to my general concerns and what was discussed in my last blog post. I have added italics for emphasis to show the parts that were most important to speak to my point.

"As with autism, persons with Asperger's Disorder have extreme difficulties with interpersonal relations; they lack empathy and the ability to read and interpret social cues and nuances. (footnote 2) They strongly prefer routine and structure, and they are usually fascinated with rituals, sometimes to the point of apparent obsessions or compulsions, (footnote 3) which can also affect interpersonal relationships. Their interests are often esoteric and even unappealing to most of us. For example, one child with Asperger's Disorder was obsessed with deep fat fryers. He insisted on visiting the kitchens of fast food restaurants to see which model they used. He knew the history of each manufactureer and the geographic locations of their plants. Another child was equally obsessed with washing machines. Such passions are qualitatively different from those in a bright child who is a Dungeons and Dragons "addict" or who lives for sci-fi novels or magic cards. (sic) These people are likely to find a community of like-minded friends. The child obsessed with fryers seldom finds anyone who shares his enthusiasm." (page 94)

Generalization is discussed on page 93-94. Learning can be fact memorization based but they cannot apply it in a meaningful or creative way without direct assistance. Statements are accepted in a literal sense and metaphors confuse them. The example is given "in my other life..." cannot be understood.
"Their concreteness of thought makes them appear different, and it is perhaps this component that also makes them appear to lack empathy." (page 94)

"A child's ability and capacity for empathy and consideration of others are key areas for evaluation to establish the Asperger's diagnosis, as opposed to a child who simply has poor social relationship skills. In school, the poor social awareness of children with Asperger's Disorder handicaps the development of relationships with peers, and they are often seen as odd or different." (page 96)

NOTE: The author's always address that dual diagnosis can occur so a person can be both gifted and have Asperger's Disorder. However in this section the authors are trying to differentiate between "just" a gifted child and a child with Asperger's.

Differentiating Characteristics section (starts on page 100)

"True Asperger's Disorder children lack empathy and will continue to demonstrate social ineptness with a wide range of peers. Children who incorrectly carry this diagnosis are quite socially facile with certain sets of peers and enjoy satisfying social interactions.

The second key is to examine the child's insight regarding how others see her and her behaviors. Gifted children typically have good intellectual insight into social situations and will know how others see them; children with Asperger's Disorder do not (Neihart, 2000). In general, gifted children without Asperger's Disorder are at least aware ofa nd often distressed by, their inability to fit in socially. Even an introverted gifted child who has found one friend, though content socially, will be intellectually aware that she is different from most age peers, even if it does not distress her.

Children who suffer from Asperger's Disorder tend to talk about their interests in a pedantic, monotonous voice. Such children cannot explain why they have their abiding love for deep fat fryers or washing machines, nor can they draw people into their fascination by their descriptions. In contrast, a gifted child's interests may be boring to many (or even most) adults, but they will be of interest to some subculture, such as collectors of Star Wars memorabilia. In those situations, the Asperger's diagnosis is less probably. In addition, if the child can convey to others some of the joy that he finds in his hobby and spontaneously seeks to share it with others, then there is a decreased likelihood that an Asperger's Disorder diagnosis is appropriate." (pages 100-101)
On page 101 an example is given about how a child in fourth grade with a passion for airplanes might not find other fourth graders with such a passion. A gifted child can read nonverbal cues from his same aged peers indicating boredom with the fact-telling and will move on to another topic that has a give and take conversation. A child with Asperger's cannot read the nonverbal cues and will not move on to another topic that is not just a one-sided conversation.

"When a child's lack of empathy is seen in some situations but not in others, the liklihood of Asperger's Disorder is substantially reduced. If the problem is primarily a lack of tolerance rather than a lack of empathy, the likelihood of Asperger's Disorder is also markedly lessened. A gifted child often shows remarkable empathy and understanding of others, particularly towrad those who are less fortunate or who are hurting." (page 102)

"In working with children who suffer from Asperger's Disorder, despite their often high intellectual functioning, one must break down every social behavior into smaller components. For eample, it may be necessary to physically show the child exactly how close one typically stands when having a conversaton, or to specify that it is important to look directly at the face of the person  with whom you are conversing. Instruction in social skills must be detailed and concrete, and it often must be repeated for several different types of situations due to the difficulty that chidlren with Asperger's Disorder have with generalizing. Often these children will rely on rote memory for the "rules" of social interactions. Sometimes insructions do not help because the child lacks the motivation to improve social skills (lack of insight) and finds the behaviors (such as looking someone in the eyes) very uncomfortable." (page 103)

I would guide you to read also the full page list of "incompatible or contradictory features" from page 104 which can be viewed free on GoogleBooks here. It is too long for me to type into my blog to quote from.

This chapter also discusses comparing introversion to Asperger's Disorder which may be of interest to some other parents who may be reading this post.

Perhaps one of the best things about the books authored by James T. Webb PhD is the focus on the EMOTIONAL needs of the gifted person. There are plenty of books on the market for parents of schooled kids helping them try to be a good advocate for their child to get access to academics that are challenging. These books by Webb focus on the child as a whole person and their emotional state of being and family relations and on growing a happy healthy person (not just talking about academics).

Again, if you read just one book on giftedness, consider the "Parent's Guide", it is fantastic.

If people are suggesting your child has a disorder before going right from topics of parenting a "normal" child to reading about the disorder, read about giftedness in the "Parent's Guide", then read "Misdiagnosis" next.

It kills me to think of gifted children and adults being misdiagnosed with psychiatric conditions instead of correctly being labeled as gifted.

If you harbor negative opinions of giftedness or think that also is an overused label please open your mind and read the "Parent's Guide". It makes clear the difference between non-gifted kids and gifted kids (and adults). It tells the negative or challenging aspects of giftedness, they are brought to light with ideas for how parents can help them. Being gifted is not all rosy and light, despite what some people might think. It is not "just" being smart or a fast learner. It is much more difficult to parent a gifted child than a non-gifted child due to the various sensitivities and intense emotions, it's no cakewalk, believe me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Questions About Aspies

I have been pondering some questions about Asperger's Syndrome this week. I do not have answers to these questions. I don't know what the right or best or politically correct answer is (they may not be the same thing).

This was spawned partially due to the fact that a homeschooling mother was telling me she put her (neurotypical) children in a homeschooling activity but every other kid in there seems to be an Aspie, which makes for a different experience socially and in doing the activity they are there to do as a group.

I am a neurotypical person. I don't understand what it is like to be an Aspie child or an Aspie adult. My children are neurotypical.

There are some children I know who have many if not every symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. I know for a fact some do not have a diagnosis. I sometimes wonder if the others have a diagnosis or not. I am not a doctor and I cannot diagnose but some kids I know are just that glaring that there is no way they are not on the Spectrum.

You may say whether these kids we interact with have Asperger's or not is not my business but I disagree. My kids have to deal with them and their issues and odd behaviors or strange verbal statements or their "off" attitudes. I've been trying to teach my kids good etiquette and how a good friend acts but sometimes these social things are not reciprocated. What can I tell my child other than to keep doing the right thing even when they are ignored, not reciprocated or are treated rudely in return? I tell them to just be good people and do the right thing. I also advise that they can walk away or ignore that person or try to stay as far away from them as possible.

There is certain back and forth, a dance almost, that goes on when two or more people have communication exchanges with each other. It's a strange position to be in when one party does the socially accepted thing and the other doesn't reciprocate or just seems oblivious to the social etiquette norms. I am not talking about neurotypicals who choose to be rude or cold but more overt negative behaviors done by kids who have multiple Asperger's symptoms. If the same thing was done between two neurotypicals one would be labeled a jerk or just plain rude (if not labeled with an explicative profane word).

Should we neurotypicals have a different set of standards for these kids?

What if we don't know if they have Asperger's or not?

Should my kids be giving special exceptions to accept rudeness or other negative behaviors to those with Asperger's?

Do Aspie kids get a pass on rude or negative behaviors if they have a diagnosis?

Should a parent with an Aspie child who has it confirmed by a professional tell other people? Should the parent expect others to treat their child differently (accept negative behaviors)? Examples of who might be told: other parents, volunteer Scout leaders, volunteer coaches, or teachers?

It seems to me if the parent knew the child had Asperger's that certain things could be done to help the child navigate socially. Examples are directly teaching the child about nonverbal communication cues that others use, to teach about volume of the voice, and to try to curb certain behaviors or things shared through oral communication to be easier for others to handle being around. There are some courtesy and etiquette things that seem to me need to be more bluntly taught and more effort applied to execute. I say this about parents helping teach Aspie kids as "doing nothing" or doing whatever they presently are doing is not working for all the kids who seem to possibly have Asperger's. It can get to a point when a person is not just an oddball or a social misfit (no offense intended but I'm not sure how else to describe it) but they are actively making others angry or offending people on a regular basis and seem clueless. Some of these kids and teens are on a road to being isolated if they keep up what they are doing.

Is there any benefit for a child to have an official diagnosis of Asperger's?

Does the fact that a child is homeschooled mean there is no benefit to knowing if they have Asperger's or not? (Meaning, do some people think only schooled kids need a diagnosis?)

In what way might an official diagnosis help the child or teenager?

Would a college student with Asperger's be better off knowing they have it?

Might an official diagnosis in adulthood also help the person?

In what way might a parent benefit from seeking a diagnosis with a qualified professional?

Is there any reason that a parent would not want to know their child has Asperger's Syndrome? I do not accept the answer of "living in denial and not wanting to deal with it" as acceptable.

What does a parent of an Aspie child want a neurotypical parent of a neurotypical parent to know? Do they expect a different set of rules be applied to their child, more forgiveness or more tolerance or (fill in the blank).

Tomorrow I will post some quotes from a book comparing and contrasting what real Asperger's looks like compared to the traits of a gifted child. Some traits of giftedness are the same and some are different.

I suspect some parents think their kids are just smart if not brilliant and don't suspect Asperger's, crediting the different behaviors as being due to their intellectual brilliance. They are impressed with their child's intelligence. Some seem to think everyone else should give their child a pass as the child is different due to just being intelligent.

One example is when a very smart child who only talks to adults does so as the child thinks they are superior to children their same age who they find little in common with. The parents sometimes say this to other parents in a condescending way to explain why their child is not interested in socializing with my child. The truth is, in some cases, that their child has challenges with social skills and is unable to engage kids socially or they may do things that have angered the kids so the kids all want to and try to avoid them. Instead of viewing their child as flawed and in need of assistance to learn to engage socially with peers they feel their child is superior in seeking out more mature or older people to talk to.

Adults who have no choice but to talk to the child (teachers, others who work with kids in organized activities, and relatives) are more kind and will sit and listen to the Aspie child and often will accept them with their negative traits as they are both more forgiving and because they have no choice. (An example is an uncle at a family party who sits and listens to an Aspie child go on and on talking about some obscure topic in a one-sided manner or a teacher who has that student in their classroom.)

If you have opinions and experience please share them in the comments. I feel I need to understand more and want to be educated on this.

P.S. I really want some honest answers and insight. This post is not meant to offend. I'm interested in opening up a dialogue.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Is This Age Discrimination?

A gifted thirteen year old's family feels he is the victim of age discrimination. This concerns a trip abroad to study in the field connected to his studies at UCONN.

Prodigy, 13, claims age discrimination by UConn

I don't have much to say about this except "blame the lawyers". Life in America has been so restricted thanks to lawsuits and fear of lawsuits. It's a shame.

Hat Tip: homeschooling mother posted to a homeschool discussion group

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Talent and Skill

Mental Multivitamin blogged some good quotes from a book called "Talent is Overrated: What Really Supports World-Class Performers From Everybody Else".

The ideas of this author may surprise you if you believe people are born with a natural talent whose mastery with the art or craft comes easily and quickly.

Now I want to read this book!

So many good ideas to learn about, so little time to read all the books I want to read!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kenny and the Dragon Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Kenny & the Dragon
Author: Tony DiTerlizzi
Genre: Children’s Book, publisher states independent reading ages 9-12
Publication: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (August 5, 2008)
Format: hardcover book
ISBN: 978-1416939771
Full Retail Price: $15.99

How this book came to me: I requested an advance reading copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program. I selected it because it is written by a co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles series which my children both loved and also because my older son is into fantasy books featuring dragons.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Summary: A Modern Telling of the Old St. George and the Dragon Tale; Promotes Peace

Are you familiar with the legend, St. George and the Dragon? If you don’t know the older legend, perhaps you have read “The Reluctant Dragon” was written by Kenneth Grahame (the author who penned “The Wind in the Willows” about a hundred years ago. The general story is about a peaceful dragon who comes to live in a village. Since dragons are usually dangerous beasts the villagers and King want the dragon slayed. However the person who is to kill the dragon, George, realizes the dragon is peaceful and fakes the killing then reveals that the dragon is peaceful.

Tony DiTerlizzi retells the story in more modern times yet still in a fantasy world. In DiTerlizzi’s version the main character Kenny is a schoolboy, or actually, a rabbit who dresses in human clothes and acts like a human. All the characters in this book are animals living as humans. Kenny is a gifted child, a bookworm consumed with teaching himself anything and everything that interests him. Kenny is different than his peers, due to his intelligence. His best friend is an elderly bookstore owner named George, who retired from some kind of work with the King.

The dragon, named Grahame, comes to live on Kenny’s family’s farm. Kenny befriends the dragon, who in addition to being friendly and peaceful also loves books and is an autodidact, who loves Shakespeare and can even play the piano. The dragon is having a splendid life until the villagers find out of his existence and the King calls for his execution. The rest goes along as with the tale as penned by Kenneth Grahame.

The story moves at a fast pace and never slows down. I was hooked into the story and wanted to find out the outcome.

The publisher states this book is for independent reading by children of ages 9-12. This book, due to its gentle nature, would also make a good read-aloud for children under age nine. This book would fit perfectly for a book for a child younger than nine, who is an advanced reader to read to themselves. It is sometimes it is hard to find books on a higher reading level with content that is not too mature for the reader or that doesn’t have highly emotional content for the sensitive reader. (For more book reading suggestions for gifted young readers, see the book “Some of My Best Friends Are Books” by Judith Wynn Halsted.)

My eight year old read the book first and loved it, tearing through it in two sittings. My dragon loving 11 year old was a bit put off by the talking animals part, and was disinterested, much to my surprise; he thought is was a bit childish (he is reading the Eragon books now).

Many issues are raised in the book such as the obvious peace-making and avoidance of murder and violence, not judging a person by their appearance, being open or closed minded, friendships, stereotypes, the power of persuasion and “group think”. Even marketing and commercialism are touched upon, in the part when souvenir t-shirts are being sold for the slaying event!

Teachers and parents looking for books that promote peace and non-violence take note this is a perfect book to fit that bill.

Parents of precocious children, gifted and talented children, and bookworm children will enjoy seeing elements of a gifted child in the main character Kenny.

Some adults like the older stories that have good values and illustrate good character traits and have the good bones of telling a good story. However some children do not like the older language such as is used in one hundred year old books. Other times the parent or teacher assumes the child would not like or understand the older language. What this book accomplishes is taking all the elements and plot from the old, good story, and retelling it in more modern verse for today’s children that is easily read by the children, or read aloud to younger children. The story itself is well-told by DiTerlizzi, he did a great job keeping the story intact and not ruining it by changing it too much, not dumbing it down, and by not making a joke of it as some other authors have done when rewriting the old legends or fairy tales for today’s children.

Bravo to Tony DiTerlizzi for writing a story worth reading!

P.S. Kenneth Grahame's hundred year old tale "The Reluctant Dragon" can be read online for free here, at Project Gutenberg. The story is one chapter in a story book called "Dream Days".

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