Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Leave No Gifted Child Behind

Check out Susan Goodkin's piece Leave No Gifted Child Behind in yesterday's Washington Post. The main idea is that by forcing schools to focus their time and funding almost entirely on bringing low-achieving students up to proficiency, the No Child Left Behind Act sacrifices the education of our most gifted students. While this is not a new discussion in gifted circles, it's nice to see it in a prominent newspaper.

President Bush talks about holding schools accountable for student progress, but NCLB provides neither the process nor the tools (nor incentives) to properly assess the children who perform above-grade level. If my son took our state's 3rd grade math assessment as a third grader and scored in the upper percentile what exactly would this reveal? Given that he probably could have scored in the upper percentiles when he was a first grader, I don't think his scores would indicate much about the quality of his teachers or his academic progress.

I've heard talk of some parents of gifted students who have banded together to boycott the state testing. I'm not sure if this was a threat to get the school district to give their gifted children adequate instruction and academic challenge, or was there a perverse hope of the district missing AYP goals so the parents would (theoretically) have some school choice? I don't know and I'm not recommending these drastic measures. However, maybe the folks at www.fairtest.org/ would. If nothing else, they provide some food for thought.

Really though if our public school had a system for appropriately assessing academically advanced students and the district was held accountable for the progress of those children, I think I'd not only be pretty excited about it, I'd be saving myself the expense of private school.

Misdiagnosis of Gifted Children

The other day I received a desperate e-mail from a local dad who’d read my piece in Chicago Parent. He was looking for some help with his son who sounded like the children in my article. I’m not sure if I helped him, but I did pass along one good piece of advice: if your gifted child is having social or emotional problems that warrant professional advice or intervention be sure consult with someone who has solid experience working with gifted children.

While “gifted” covers a broad population there are some general quirks and tendencies (it seems the higher the IQ the greater the quirks) that a professional who works with this population might dismiss as typical. However, those who are less familiar with gifted children may tend to pathologize these tendencies.

Here’s how I came to that belief.
(Or skip my story and scroll down to the helpful links that follow.)

At the first grade fall conference for Mr. Smartypants his teacher shared several observations: he was disorganized; nosey; spacey and generally unable to stick with tasks or finish assignments in a timely manner. She also found him somewhat irresponsible and noted that he was struggling socially.

I had no doubt that my son displayed such behaviors but I felt it was largely a response to his environment. Based on my reading and research (something I've learned most parents of highly/profoundly gifted parents take on in an effort to understand their children) my son sounded like a gifted fish out of water.

I know the teacher made efforts to accommodate Mr. Smartypants and I appreciate that, but I think she lacked a basic understanding of gifted (esp. highly gifted+) children. Who can blame her? Many teachers go through years of education and training and learn little, if anything, about gifted children as a special population.

At one point Mr. Smartypants became very anxious about going to school. I am thankful that she took time to talk with him during this period. Afterward, she e-mailed the following advice to me:

Have you ever considered taking him to a therapist or psychologist for some of these specific issues? It is nice to let children have a neutral person to talk to sometimes. I am not sure it is a gifted issue, however.

Knowing that there are school board members among my readership, let me suggest that if teachers are going to advise parents to seek psychological help for their children e-mail is probably not the best (indeed it is perhaps the worst) way to communicate such news.

Ultimately we did take him to a psychologist AND a developmental optometrist AND an occupational therapist because maybe his teacher was right--maybe his problems were due to some underlying issues.

Nearly $1,000 later we had some pretty strong evidence that the problems were due to giftedness. Indeed, after administering a variety of tests the psychologist we consulted, one who has worked with hundreds of gifted children as well as parented two of them, described Mr. Smartypants as “well-focused and motivated to succeed.”

Mr. Smartypants is by no means a perfect, but a few weeks ago at teacher conferences at the new gifted school I heard positive reports in all realms (social, emotional, academic). He still shows many asynchronous behaviors, but each year he seems to be getting a bit more aligned.

Resources:
James Webb's 2005 book Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses Of Gifted Children And Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression, And Other Disorders
http://www.uniquelygifted.org/ a website for gifted children who also have other special needs
http://www.ditd.org/ check out the GT-Cybersource section.
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/

Monday, December 26, 2005

Gifted Refugees

The December issue of Chicago Parent magazine features my essay about my boys' new school, a private school for gifted children. I first visited the school a year ago because I felt compelled to explore options for my eldest son who was having trouble at public school. But really, even as I toured the place, I could not imagine ever sending my children there. We are just not private school people...or so I thought.

Ultimately we withdrew him from public school and it didn't take long to realize that at the private school we were among what one fellow parent called "the refugee population." Read the article here.

I've received several thoughtful and touching responses to the piece. I know I struck a nerve within the gifted community. Apparently I touched a few nerves outside of the gifted community as noted in the letter's section of Chicago Parent's January issue.

I'm flattered that my story has evoked a public response, even if the response itself is not so flattering. My gosh, she even mentioned my name!

I'm encouraging my friend, fellow blogger and school board member Jim McNelis to submit an essay standing up for all that is good and right about public education. You can read his Open Board Blog here.

My Chicago Parent piece also generated some discussion at the Gifted Exchange Blog of Genius Denied co-author Laura Vanderkam. Laura's book, written along with Jan and Bob Davidson, literally changed my life. It raised my awareness of the poor state of gifted education in this country. It enlightened me about the different levels of giftedness- something many teachers and school administrators (I speak from experience when I say this) are not clued into. The book also challenged my belief that Mr. Smartypants would be able get the education he not only deserved, but truly needed, without intervention on my part. Read my review of the book here.

Look for one more gifted post later this week.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Time-Traveling Children

With this being Christmas morning as well as the first night of Chanukah, I'm not the only one with gifts on my mind. However, at the moment my thoughts tend to academic gifts, not physical ones.

I was recently talking with a friend who also has deep-thinking/highly intelligent/out-of-the-box child. We were joking about the fact that our boys sometimes resemble the protagonist of Audrey Nieffenegger's book, The Time Traveler's Wife. Henry De Tamble has a "Chrono Displacement" disorder- at random times, he disappears and finds himself in the past or future. He visits his wife throughout her childhood, but he visits the past from different points in their future, so sometimes he appears to her as a young adult and sometimes as an older man.

Neither my friend nor I suspect our boys sneak away to travel through time, but we agree that they often appear to us at different ages. They may play like the 7 year-olds they are, tantrum intensely like 3 year-olds, settle in for an hour or two or reading like much older children, or ask deep, affected questions about the existence of humankind in the manner of an adult experiencing a mid-life crisis.

So I was especially pleased when I came across Life in the Asynchronous Family, by K. Kearney
. When your child is not mainstream, it's always affirming to know that you are not alone. It's comforting to learn that while the behavior you're experiencing may not be normal for the general population, it is to be expected for the little slice of the bell curve your child occupies. It's also helpful to get advice from folks who appreciate where you are coming from. More about this topic soon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Chess

And now, a cool link in honor of new reader/comment-poster Chessdad. The site is worth a peek even if you're not a chess fan. The friend who turned me on to this site described it as artificial intelligence, visualized.

You start out with a chess board set to play. You’ll notice the board has strange markings. They represent the influence of each chess piece. After you make your move, orange and green lines start moving across the board – hundreds of them! They reflect the software’s thought process. As it considers each move, it studies the possible outcomes. Then it selects the best scenario.

http://turbulence.org/spotlight/thinking/chess.html

Happy Hanukwanzamas!

And if all this PC-holiday greeting stuff is getting to you, you might enjoy listening to this commentary piece from NPR: "Have a PC Holiday, Ancient Rome-Style" http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5060356

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My Hormone-Colored Daze

Sort under: Chick Stuff

Credit or apologies to the late Dr. Seuss for his book My Many Colored Days.
My Hormone-Colored Daze of PMS
by Kim Moldofsky

How sunny I am when days are yellow.
Just so content and feeling mellow.
I can move mountains if I choose!
Or maybe just sip a latte and buy some shoes.


Purple days are carefree and bright
Full of energy through day and night.
My day is productive; I get things done,
At night I relax and have some fun.


On orange days I’m giving off good vibrations
My body’s primed for ovulation!
I’m feeling sexy; I’m in the groove;
I shake my booty when I move.


On gray days clouds begin to form,
My perceptions change from the norm.
I’m in a hormone-created haze,
That enshrouds my brain for the next few days.

And then some days are blue and sad.
I fret. I pout. I get really mad.
It’s not enough to merely frown,
I fuss until tears trickle down.


Brown days are chocolaty- smooth and rich.
If I don’t get some I become a real bitch.
Candy and cookies I must devour
To keep my mood from turning sour.


Some days are blotchy like my skin.
I feel bloated, though I used to feel thin.
I get grumpier by the second;
It’s the price I pay for being fecund.*

The red days come with cramps and pain.
Reminds me I’m a woman again.
I’ve got my period; I’m on the rag,
I tend to whine, complain and nag.


It’s over. Finally, I’m me!
And then…
The whole darn cycle starts again….

*fecund= capable of producing offspring

Monday, December 19, 2005

The New Blog

Honey, I've started a blog!

DH rolled his eyes at my enthusiastic announcement. I could see the wheels turning in his mind: How does she have time for a blog, when she doesn't have time to clean the kitchen?

Ah yes, the clutter in the kitchen, the mounds of papers on the mail table, the notes, papers and clippings (mostly all mine) that seem to cover every horizontal surface in the house. Who am I to fight entropy, the tendency of all things in the universe toward a state of disorder?

Anyway, my boys were intrigued. What's a blog?

DH tells them it's a web-log, like an online journal.

Why would someone have a diary online?

An excellent question really. Why indeed?

I think of John Mellencamp's song, "Check it Out" from his Cherry Bomb album. "A million young poets, screaming out their words, to a world of people, just livin' to be heard...." This song, BTW, will be on my CD compilation Music for a Mid-life Crisis, should I ever get around to making one.

I see this blog more as a place for making and building connections than baring my soul to the world or filling up cyberspace with the mundane aspects of my life. (BTW, honey if you are reading this 6:30 concert at school tonight!)

The main topics I'll be addressing in my blog are: parenting, education/gifted children, stay-at-home moms returning to the world of paid work, chronic illness and some vague category I'll call "chick stuff." I hope to inform/enlighten or amuse others with the help of some great guest bloggers. So visit often!

Leave a comment so I know you've been here. My Husband left one comment and I left myself the other "just to try it out" or maybe to make myself feel legit. Leaving visitor comment on my own blog reminded me of a story of a girl from my high school who supposedly rigged up her vacuum cleaner with an attachment and held it to her neck to give herself a fake hickey so that she could convince people that her made-up boyfriend was actually real. Do you think this is true? Can a person give herself a hickey with a vacuum cleaner--is this even possible? Or did a story like this circulate at every high school?


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Testing

Testing 1, 2,3