N.E.S.T.! Learner-Teacher Conceptual Guiding Framework

Variations 2e Magazine Winter 2022 Volume 7, 44-52

This guiding framework was the synthesis and intergration of interdisplicinary ideas, concepts, and approaches that resonant with me in this moment in time. Here are 2 preview pages to share with readers. The full article is available through 2enews.com.

Here are some upcoming 2022 conferences where you can attend a presentation about this guiding framework:

The brain basis for integrated social, emotional, and academic development: How emotions and social relationships drive learning. Immordino-Yang & Chrone (2018)

photo of head bust print artwork
Photo by meo on Pexels.com

Key points of interest

What does brain development involve?

Brain network formation is reflective of a person’s experiences over time, through the reorganization, pruning, and generation of neural connections. Brain development is dependent on interactions between evolutionary paths determined by biology, genes, age, environment, and past experiences.

Can brain science be translated directly into educational policy or practice?

Authors argue that in the majority of the cases, knowledge of brain science does not translate directly. However, they propose that educational policies and practices that take into consideration knowledge on how the brain develops are more likely to promote learning and development. The authors conclude by supporting an integrated whole-child approach to education as the only option that will foster brain development and learning for children.

Although I agree that the authors’ proposal makes logical sense in theory, the challenges will in the careful considerations and selections of WHICH brain science knowledge should be considered in educational policies and practice, WHO should be making the decisions and recommendations, can decisions service ALL students, and HOW do we adjust individual variability? Studies often report averages between groups, however, within-group variability exists. I propose that the goals of educational policy and practice should be to address individual variabilities versus incorporating findings from brain studies that address the average. The goals of educational policy have to be clear as that guides implementation and practice.

Genes and Epigenetics (Environment) interact together contributing to brain development.

While genes provide the limits and constraints (potential) of our development, epigenetic (environmental) conditions affect the process. Both interact dynamically over time. The authors wrote that all children, except in cases of rare severe life-threatening genetic orders, ALL children have the genes essential for brain development and the ability to learn. Under optimal conditions, our development is constrained by genes, while sub-optimal conditions hinder potential to be expressed.

Relationships and social interactions shape the health of the body and the brain.

Our physiology are co-regulated within relationships, which impact our brain functioning.

Most active brain changes occur in the prenatal period through childhood, adolescence, and transition to parenthood, and old age.

The authors highlight opportunities for learning and supports during each of the periods below:

  1. Early childhood – sensory and motor regions become more efficient and interconnected
  2. Middle to late childhood – brain developing networks across regions
  3. Early to middle adolescence – emotional reward, sensitivity to social reputation and higher-order thinking circuits become more developed
  4. Late adolescence to early adulthood – brain circuits in 2. and 3. continue to mature.

Current brain scientists focus on connectivity networks between regions that facilitate different activity modes important for thinking and learning.

The basic structure of such networks seems to be present at birth, over time the networks change according to how the brain is used, in response to environments, opportunities, and relationships.

Three major networks that support mental capacities: executive control network (ECN) (attention- external signals), default mode network (DMN) (internal directed, interpretive and reflective signals), and the salience network (SN) (emotion and facilitate switching between ECN and DMN).

Educational Implications

Authors propose that optimal learning environments should attend to age-appropriate ways to develop each of the three major networks.

Physiological preconditions that must be met for optional brain development and learning.

Authors include sleep, physical activities, nutrition, emotional well-being, social relationships, cultural well-being, and safety/belonging.

Conclusion:

This article makes the case that physiological, academic, social, and emotional development are interlaced, therefore the call for collaborative educator-community partnerships is essential to support families and children’s health and well-being. Supportive parenting, relationships, community, and school programs can help foster resilience against stress.

Data Visualization: An Excercise in Perspective

Figure 1

Dual differentiation is a key educational pedagogical approach for all committed to the success of twice-exceptional (2e) learners (Baum et al., 2001). Has this approach become more widespread since 2001? One way to investigate this question is to utilize big data visualization techniques such as the Google Books Ngram Viewer (Google Ngram). is a search engine tool that can be utilized to visualize trends over time. Google Ngram allows for frequency tabulations of word searches in books published between 1800 to 2019 in various languages such as English (American English, British English), French, Italian, Russian and more.

Figure 1 above shows the Google Ngram for the terms “gifted education”, “special education” and “dual differentiation” between 1800-2019. 1964 has been highlighted as the year the term “special education” began to increase rapidly in books. As we take a closer look at the “special education” book publication peak in 1996 (Figure 2)

Figure 2

books that contain the term “special education” was appearing 51 times more frequently compared to books containing “gifted education” and 6,625 time more frequently than books containing “dual differentitation”. Books containing “Gifted education” appeared 130 times more frequently compared to books containing “dual differentiation.

Figure 3

From figure 3, we can see that by 2018, “special education” terms are found approximately 13.7 times more frequently in books compared to “gifted education”, and 2,270 times more frequently compared to “dual differentiation”. Books containing “gifted education” was 166 time more frequent compared to “dual differentiation” books. “Dual differentiation” books have increased 332 times in frequency between 1996-2018.

When we add in books on “education” to compare with “gifted education”, “special education”, and “dual differentiation” using the 1964 year from the above exercise,

Figure 4

the change in the scale of our perspective paints quite a different picture as shown in figure 4. When we scale our perspective out to look from a macro or higher level of analysis, data visualization here shows us that we need more books written not only on “dual differentiation” but also for “gifted education” and “special education” since 1800! From this view, “gifted education”, “special education” and “dual differentiation” data looks flat, when in fact figures 2 and 3 show that special education books have been decreasing while gifted education and dual differentiation books have been increasing since 1996-2018.

The higher level wider scale perspective points out that within the context of education, we should be advocating for more books in areas of gifted, special education, and dual differentiation. Dual differentiation pedagogy arose from those involved with learners who demonstrate high potential with at least one area of disability that requires simultaneous dual differentiation considerations at all times to nurture holistic human development and success throughout their lifespan.

These various Ngram search terms demonstrate the importance of considering different levels of analyses simultaneously, in order to form a more holistic and complete understanding of any phenomena of interest. We need to apply this approach towards human development and growth as our children are influenced not only through our individuality but also through our immediate environments such as school and home, but also our larger environment including socio-economic-cultural influences.

Figure 5

Back to our initial question on how widespread has dual differentiation pedagogy become since 2001? The general answer is that although English language books that contain the term “dual differentiation” has increased 332 times in frequency between 1996-2018, it only represents 0.00000719% of all English language books which contain the term “education” in 2018, according to the results of Google Ngram.

References

Baum, S. M., Cooper, C. R., & Neu, T. W. (2001). Dual differentiation: An approach for meeting the curricular needs of gifted students with learning disabilities. Psychology in the Schools, 38(5), 477–490. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.1036

SENG SMPG Facilitator: Rashmii Mahendra, MBA

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”   (The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost, 1915)

Rashmii Mahendra, MBA, has had an amazing journey that spans across three continents. She completed her degree in Social Sciences from a Russell Group university – University of Manchester, now known as UMIST, in the U.K. She then completed her MBA  from the U.K. and began her corporate career of 12 years  in India within Fortune 500 Multinational companies within the Human Resources, Learning & Development and Project Management departments. She is a Master Diversity facilitator and has trained in various Fortune 500 companies as a Freelancer for 5 years before embarking on her interest in the field of cognitive diversity. Diversity and Inclusion are of paramount importance to Rashmii.

Her inspiration for research into the field of neurodiversity was her son, who is Autistic and profoundly gifted. He never quite fit into the “norm” and his gifts sparked a question of are we truly servicing children who are gifted outliers, those that have acute challenges as well as huge potential. How can we redefine, reimagine and reservice those that are hidden for who they truly are? The educational system has to be transformed to make learning fun for all the students and not just some students. 

Rashmii is an advocate for twice-exceptional students and is a SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) facilitator where she co-facilitates for the community providing support groups for parents. She has completed a Graduate Academic Certificate in Twice Exceptional Education from Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education. Rashmii is currently developing educational tools for her doctoral project, to engage students through game playing and positive identity formation. She is also a student in UCLA pursuing a certificate in Business Studies with Leadership.

Rashmii is committed to providing resources and tools to help families and educators understand and serve their neurodiverse students better. Her interests are in the field of arts and sciences and she enjoys writing.

Quark Collaboration

After a year of collaboration with uncountable hours of joy, tears, and personal fulfillment working with a group of dedicated volunteers of multicultural women dedicated to bettering the lives of complex outliers, happy to announce that the Quark Collaboration Website is finally up in time to celebrate 2022.

Looking forward to furthering interdiscplinary translational dialog with all complex outlier stakeholders across the lifespan promoting equity through Neuro-socio-economic-cultural dignity.

William & Mary 2e Conference

Join me during the following conference sessions in February 2022:

NEST! guiding framework: Visualizing 2e learner-teacher success.”

Differentiation Squared: Moving towards holistic embodied education of 2e learners.”

Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving is a time for family, reflection, and gratitude. This year takes on important significance as we look back at the past, full of unplanned adjustments and experiences. It is easy to focus on what we have lost – we already know that was before. It is much harder to look through the eyes of opportunities, wonder and growth.

For 2021, during thanksgiving let us scale our perspectives wider and further than we have ever done. This image of orange crystals was taken during my recent visit to the Perot Museum, Gems & Minerals exhibit. When I took this photo, I wondered about the subjective experiences of this same piece of crystal as I imagined looking from different scale perspectives.

A little child may be too short to see past the base rock and can only see the bottom brown rocks, without seeing any crystals. This child may think, what can be so interesting about this piece of rock, looks like many rocks I see?

Another who happens to be walking right by the display at eye level may stop to marvel at this piece, perhaps thinking – looks like venom’s teeth ….

Yet another walking from the other side of the gallery past this display may be drawn to other crystals within this orange crystal display and not even notice the crystal in this post.

Same crystal, many different subjective authentic experiences by different individuals. Who is to say that one perception is more “right” or more “true”? It is only through communication with the intent to understand the other’s perspectives that the wonders of human diversity truly jumps out. Let this thanksgiving be the start of our wonderous journey through the perspective of opportunties, wonder, and growth.

Jan 2022 SENG SMPG International 2e Parent Group

Wonderful quarterly SMPG facilitator support group hosted together with Joan Larson (SMPG trainer) and Caroline Lubbe (SENG board member). We had facilitators across the US and Europe join us to share experiences, resources and to find better ways to support parents we serve.

When technology increases opportunities

Thankful to the new opportunities for sharing ideas with colleagues around the world. The Nov 7th, 3am Pacific Standard Time keynote was certainly a challenging yet exhilarating. I am grateful to the questions, excitement and interest generated from this presentation. Technology advancements allowed for this particular opportunity to occur.

Looking back to my primary and secondary education where everything was done with paper and pen/pencil, and computers were for a select few till the present day where I have 2 laptops, an ipad, a smart phone and various other smart internet connected devices inside my home, the pace of change has been fast and furious. Although I started on this technology journey reluctantly, it has opened up new pathways to connect with others that would have been out of reach before.

12th Annual Awareness Film Fest

Embed from Getty Images

Attended the 12th Annual Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles held Oct 21-31st this past weekend to support The O’Kelley Lab documentary: ” O’ Kelley Legends: 2e behind the Scenes”.

On behalf of the SENG board of directors, Caroline Lubbe and I attended the event to support the O’Kelley Family and their documentary inspired by our founder James Webb.

I attended 4 films, “O’ Kelley Legends: 2e behind the Scenes”, “So OCD”, “The Weight of Perfection”, “Neurodivergent”. All films around mental health, societal-individual expectations and identity. Purchase virtual tickets by clicking on the Awareness Film Fest image below. Your purchase will allow access to all films throughout the festival period.

GT Advocacy with SENG

Parent advocacy is a critical component in building positive and strong collaborative relationships in our public schools for gifted students.

Join board members from the Gifted Education Family Network at the upcoming SENGinar, Oct 19, 2021, 7:30-9pm EST. Can’t make it? register to access the recording.

GHF Expert Series Parent Chat: Sept 10, 2021

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to “To empower every gifted family to make strategic, proactive, and intentional educational choices.”

Please join me for a conversation!
You are invited to a Zoom webinar. (Link leads to the event in the GHF Forum)
When: September 10, 2021 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Cultivating Awareness and Acceptance for the Neurodivergent.

Conversations from the heart with Dr. Nicole Tetreault.

It was such a pleasure to speak with my colleague and friend, Dr. Nicole Tetreault on parenting, education and being neuro diverse.

Please read this post completed for Gifted Education Family Network.

Learning, Development, Multi-systems

Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education (BGS) will always hold a special place in my heart, being their FIRST alumni in 2020. Being a part of an organization/system from the start is a different experience and journey than being part of an organization/system that is already established. People vary in their preferences and feelings on this. I always enjoyed being part of something new that is developing.

I truly enjoy this morning’s session with my BGS community sharing my journey, ideas, current thinking and work in progress applying interdisciplinary ideas, tools and methods to further understand twice-exceptional individuals.

I look forward to working closely with my fellow associate deans Dr. Susan Daniels, Dr. Nicole Tetreault, and Dr. Matt Zakreski.

Considering Curriculum: Finding What Works

Honored to participate in the recently concluded inaugural Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF) conference which was held June 4 -6, 2021. It was such a pleasure to listen and interact with the different panelists involved in this moderated session led by Dr. Sarah Mendonca.

GHF’s stated mission is to “empower every gifted family to make strategic, proactive, and intentional educational choices.”

Having tried many educational options from public, private to homeschooling between my two children, the lack of access to information and a framework to guide making suitable intentional educational choices are some of the largest hurdles I faced, and the impetus for my current journey.

#SENGFamChat

International SENG Facilitator Virtual Support Focus Group, May 26th 2021.

Our first #SENGFamChat was a success! Facilitators across the US and globe (UK, S. Africa, Germany, Spain, France, Serbia, Italy, Netherlands, Croatia) participated, or stopped by to say hello during our 90min long focus group.

Many areas of common need and support were voiced direct from facilitators on the ground supporting parents. Magic happens with all stakeholders (SENG board members, SENG trainers and SENG facilitators) engage in collaborative conversations together. Here’s to many more #SENGFamChat regular meetings!

Collaborative Nurturance of Gifted Outliers Through Strong Educator-Parent-Practitioner Relationships

Conversations with Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented May 18th, 2021

As research, clinical and practical knowledge of neurodiverse gifted children increases, what do we know about gifted outliers such as twice-exceptional and highly or profoundly gifted? How do we tie all these into a cohesive guiding framework to foster nuanced understanding and collaborative solutions between educators, parents,  practitioners and gifted outliers themselves. We invite you to journey with Caroline Lubbe and Dr. Lin Lim through their challenges of educating, parenting and understanding gifted outliers and what drives them to seek and propose increased collaborative relationships between educators, parents, practitioners and gifted outliers.

2021 International Women’s Day Roundtable

Refreshing to be part of the roundtable discussion in celebration of 2021 International Women’s Day that also include male colleague perspectives. Our conversations were richer as a result of the wide range of participants during our round table session.

Dallas Round Table participants included:

Conversations with CAGT 5.18.21

Looking forward to the upcoming live Facebook session hosted by Mark Hess, President Elect of Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented, May 18, 2021. 5pm MDT/ 4pm PDT.

Title: Collaborative Nurturance of Gifted Outliers Through Strong Educator-Parent-Practitioner Relationships.

As research, clinical and practical knowledge of neurodiverse gifted children increases, what do we know about gifted outliers such as twice-exceptional and highly or profoundly gifted? How do we tie all these into a cohesive guiding framework to foster nuanced understanding and collaborative solutions between educators, parents,  practitioners and gifted outliers themselves. We invite you to journey with Caroline Lubbe and Dr. Lin Lim through their challenges of educating, parenting and understanding gifted outliers and what drives them to seek and propose increased collaborative relationships between educators, parents, practitioners and gifted outliers.

16th International Conference: Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. Oxford, UK.

The Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Research Network  began in 2006 through a common interest in interdisciplinary approaches with the aim of forging linkages across disciplines, cultures and countries.

This year, the conference will be held in Oxford, UK. Another year of adaptation and hybridization in an effort to continue intellectual discourse with international colleagues.

I am looking forward to presenting and attending this conference, as I continue my message of global thinking paired with small local actions to effect change.

May 2021- Virtually Paris

COVID adaptations to Conference Presentations and Attendances

Presenting a paper on: Understanding Twice-exceptionality (2e): A Multi-systems Perspective.

Wishing to be able to present and attend in person this year in historically and culturally rich Paris, France. Looking forward to attending in person in the future. Looking forward to rich conversations with international attendees, colleagues and presentators.

Au revoir

Mission (Im)Possible: Transform 2e and Neuroscience knowledge into Action

My recent Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted Webinar (SENGinar) is now available on through the SENG speaker series Vimeo.

Many twice exceptional children’s needs in the sensorimotor, social, and emotional areas are not met in schools or within the family, causing few brain resources to attend to cognitive processing demands placed on them.

In this interactive workshop, participants will gain a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of 2e children, test their knowledge of brain science, and gain hands-on experience in applying one multi-use and multi-function communication and understanding strategy. Participants will leave empowered to apply free tools and strategies for both parenting and advocacy. 

Baylor Annual GT Parent Conference April 2021

Keynote Zoom session 4/17/2021

Excited to attend the second Annual GT parent conference organized by Baylor University April 17th 2021.

Over a year has passed since the inaugural Annual GT Parent Conference in February 2020, which I was honored to present with several fellow board and members of the Gifted Education Family Network in a panel discussion session.

The Key Note Speaker for this years conference is Dr Michael Matthews. This topic is close to my heart as a parent of two PG children investigating human development frameworks that are relevant to gifted families and in particular PG neuro-diverse families.

Do you have a narrative you would like to share with me? Please connect with me.

Gifted Education Family Network April 2021 Newsletter

April Newsletter is out!

Contents this month:

  • This weekend – join us at the Baylor GT Parent Conference!
  • Virtual Cardboard Challenge – registration still open!
  • Focus on Parents and Community: Erasing the Color Line in Texas Gifted Education
  • Alert: Texas Legislature appears hesitant to release federal relief funds to schools
  • NEW: Twice-Exceptional (2e) opportunity to connect
  • Celebrations

More Than an Acronym: A Journey through 2e

Ben Koch, M. Ed., Co-founder of Numinds Enrichment, and I had an opportunity to get together to converse about my journey that led to the intersection between education, parenting and research domains.

SENG SMPG Facilitator: Danna Drewett, M.A.

Ex Malo Bonum” – Latin saying – From the bad comes the good.

Danna is a former consumer products entrepreneur and quantitative analyst who has found a passion for gifted and twice exceptional education. 

She is the founder of www.twicegifted.org, a website that lists resources for those seeking information for gifted and twice-exceptional learners.

Danna is a graduate of Swarthmore College and holds a masters degree from King’s College London. She is currently pursuing a masters degree from Johns Hopkins in Gifted Education and is the mother of a 2E profoundly gifted dyslexic girl and young boy.

Danna is a trained SMPG in-person and online facilitator.

Normality, Justifiability and Abusiveness in Physical and Psychological Behaviors

Lim, L., & Malley-Morrison, K. (1999). Normality, Justifiability and
Abusiveness in Physical and Psychological Behaviours. Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development, 9:2, 52-67, DOI: 10.1080/21650993.1999.9756115

Blast from the Past

An email in my inbox prompted this search for my 1999 publication in the Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development. It has been over 20 years and this topic seems even more relevant today. I have included my abstract of the article above.

Re-reading this article, I can not help but reflect on George Lakoff’s writings regarding metaphors and frames. I highly encourage reading his books and watch his youtube recordings.

2e Research Translation into Action: educator perceptual biases, socio-economic factors and parental attitudes.

Image assessed Feb 16, 2021: <https://bit.ly/2ZnOQdF&gt;

It is often difficult to directly apply research into application or policy in real life. It is the issue of scaling from one level of analysis into another. The more levels of analysis to scale through, the applications becomes more challenging due to the dynamic and multi-directional interactions between the self and our environment. Hence the need for translational researchers and skill building to bridge research to application or policy.

This article I wrote for the 2enewsletter is an illustration on how we can began to integrate, and evaluate research into possible action.

The Acute Case for Chronic Health: Vital Lessons to Weather Duress. Dr. David Katz

Center for BrainHealth presentation, February 9, 2021.

Takeaways in no particular order.

Social Determinants of health is important.

Most devastating health impact is the feeling of powerless.

Total Minimization Framework: Minimize total harm through vertical interdiction, predicated on hierarchical responsibility (what can you do for your country and what can your country do for you), allows for shared risk mitigation and invites teachable moment for health enhancement. COVID teaches us about our poor cardiovascular (poor diet) health, and is a case study for learned helplessness at a massive scale.

Empower people via risk stratify population, risk match policy guidelines, risk reduction with lifestyle as medicine, and test, mask, distance, sanitize, shelter, vaccinate as warranted.

Cited 500,000 premature death a year in U.S due to poor diet (2019). Obesity increases COVID risks.

Best defense against chronic disease and unforeseen health threat such as COVID is good health. Total health – feet, forks, fingers, engine and love. what is good for you will be good for your brain also.

Will power PLUS skill power. Just gaining knowledge is not enough.

Lifestyle is the best medicine, culture is the spoon. Diet is a vital sign.

No brain is an island, it is essentially connected to both the body and body politic (social). Brain health is holistic.

Healthy brains bedrock: understand to overcome, lifestyle of medicine, mental excerise and social interactions.

Find out more about:

Dr. David Katz

The Brain Health Project

How Brain Circuits Function in Health and Disease: Understanding Brain-wide Current Flow.

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Presentation: Dr Kanaka Rajan, Feb 9th, 2021.

Takeaways

Dr Rajan described computational models to “reverse engineer” how our brain works, which include building single region to multi-regions Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs), multi-region RNNs that capture within and inter-area interactions, last but not least, her team is constraining the multi-region RNNs model based on collected data.

CURrent-Based Decomposition (CURBD): New framework for tracing neural paths across multiple brain regions in development by Dr Rajan and her team.

Helplessness shown to involve persistent stress in response to adversity in experimental settings (active to passive coping (learned helpless state)) – toy models, larval zebrafish, rats etc. This presentation used studies on learned helplessness, and larval zebrafish in particular as an illustration on how to computationally scale up single region RNN model into a multi-region RNN model of the neural dynamics in the larval zebrafish, in order to infer within and inter-area effects between different RNN regions. CURBD method can dis-entangle time effects, alternative to traditional functional connectivity methods.

Reflections

Watching the presentation on rat and zebra fish experiments, I wondered about predictable versus unpredictable adversity and variations in response to different types of adversity, which was not the focus of the presentation.

Dr Rajan said that in their computational modeling, general behavior seem to be captured pretty well by their CURBD and that was good enough. Does it matter for computational models to be able to capture general behavior and ignore nuances? My current thoughts are that general behavior modeling is a good initial start, however computational modeling will need to move into capturing nuances to be useful to understand humans. Urie Bronfenbrenner‘s ecology of human development tells us that interactions between systems changes the system itself in the process. how can computational modeling capture this?

Visit Brain & Behavior Research Foundation to view this presentation and watch other presentations.

Bridging Neuroscience and Education.

Baker, D. P., Salinas, D., & Eslinger, P. J. (2012). An envisioned bridge: Schooling as a neurocognitive developmental institution. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2(S1), S6-S17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2011.12.001

Summary

Baker et. al. (2012) synthesized literature from two groups in the social science discipline and proposed that the integration of such research provides more valid contexts for bridging education and neuroscience discourse.

The two groups of research or discourse include the social construction of cognition through science and education, and evaluative neuroscience findings on causal neurological hypotheses between neurocognitive development and schooling.

The authors make the argument that formal education should be considered a neurocognitive-developmental institution (environment) through their discussions that demonstrate:

  1. Schooling impacts neurological and cognitive development
  2. Increase in mass education across societies increase the social significance of education attainment and exposes humans to periods of more uniform environments (schools) and thus humans have more similar social values of the role of education (isomorphism).
  3. Mass schooling should result in cognitive improvements on the population level ( i.e., the Flynn effect (Trahan et. al., 2014) and also impact outcomes in other social environments such as the mass education-population health hypothesis by Baker et al., (2011) and changes in job content over time.

In the next section of their paper, the authors highlighted three strains of neuroscience findings to illustrate how formal schooling additionally impacts naturally occurring human cognitive development over time:

  1. Neural plasticity
  2. schooling impacts on literate and illiterate population
  3. Educational impact on learning in typically developing children and adolescents

Baker et.. al (2012) made the case that their discussions above demonstrated “a profound symbiotic relation across the individual, institutional, and societal levels that influences and shapes neurocognitive development.” (p.15). They conclude that this relationship provides the basis and opens the possibility to bridge brain-mind-education through the lens of education as a social, historical, and cultural environment that interacts with the cognitive (brain and minds) environment.

I would like to go a step further to propose that school and education serve the function of human development from a broader level of analysis, and therefore requires collaboration with all stakeholders such as researchers, parents, policymakers, businesses, employers, and students themselves. It is only when common grounds and goals between all stakeholders are found through the considerations of the whole system that the brain-mind-education partnership can truly take off to produce meaningful outcomes.

References

Baker, D. P., Leon, J., Smith Greenaway, E. G., Collins, J., & Movit, M. (2011). The education effect on population health: a reassessment. Population and development review37(2), 307–332. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2011.00412.x

Trahan, L. H., Stuebing, K. K., Fletcher, J. M., & Hiscock, M. (2014). The Flynn effect: a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin140(5), 1332–1360. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037173

Equity and Excellence in Gifted Education

Reflections

February is Black History Month, and I was reminded of the Gifted Education Family Network Blog that recently featured an interview with Dr. Joy Lawson Davis on “challenges advocates must address in order to achieve equity and excellence in gifted education.

Reading the interview again, the importance of being able to identify contextual factors from dispositional factors and targeted training for educators stood out to me. When we ignore considerations for contextual influences on behavior or performance, dispositional factors can be wrongly attributed. How can educators know what they do not know, until they are exposed to what they did not know before?

National Association for Gifted Children released a statement that “All gifted students won’t matter until all Black gifted students matter, too.”

Power statement, as a whole is made up of ALL its’ constituent parts. Any parts that are excluded makes the whole incomplete. Is this an oversight or deliberate actions? Intent is a separate issue from the current state of matter. Instead of getting focusing on intent, let us also be moving towards restoring the whole.

Namkung, J. M., Peng, P., & Lin, X. (2019). The relation between mathematics anxiety and mathematics performance among school-aged students: A meta-analysis.

Review of Educational Research, 89(3), 459-496. doi:10.3102/0034654319843494

This article is a meta-analysis on data selected from 131 previous studies. The meta-analysis investigated 478 effect sizes. The researchers aim to investigate which prevalent theories of math anxiety and performance have empirical support. The theories included in this meta-analysis include:  Bidirectional Theory (temporal relations),  Cognitive Interference Theory (working memory and difficulty of mathematical tasks) and Deficit Theory: (grade level)

Article Summary

The purpose of the meta-analysis was to identify the relationship between math anxiety and performance for school aged children. Additionally, the authors aim to investigate if grade level (elementary versus secondary), temporal relations, difficulty of math tasks, dimensions of math anxiety measures, perceived importance (effects on grade) mitigated the relationship between math anxiety and performance.

Results of the meta-analysis was a moderate negative relation between math anxiety and performance for both elementary and secondary students, the higher the math anxiety, the lower the math performance. This relationship was found to be affected by dimensions of math anxiety, difficulty of math performance, and perceived importance of math performance.

Stronger  negative correlation was found with math performance when math anxiety measures used included both affective (negative physical and emotionality) and cognitive (negative thoughts) dimensions.

Math anxiety was found to be more greatly negatively associated with multi-step math performance then basic math performance.  Additionally, math anxiety was more negatively associated with math performances that affected grades.

Results of the meta-analysis indicate that math anxiety exists even in elementary grades and that teachers and parents should be on the lookout to identify and provide intervention in younger children.

The researchers conclude their findings provided most support for the bidirectional theory.

Reflections

The finding that math performance is more strongly affected by advanced mathematics skills compared to basic math skills, points to the possible increasing importance of math anxiety and effects on math performance as the complexity of math skills increases over time. Increased complexity in math skills required over time may create a feedback loop reinforcing math anxiety. 

This finding indicate that interventions need to not just focus on math anxiety but also on remedying math skills together in order to be successful. Additionally, the finding that math anxiety is more strongly negatively related to math performance that affects grades points to the consideration for math anxiety intervention to not only be  behavioral (e.g.relaxation, modeling) but also cognitive (e.g. worry, preoccupation with performance)  aspects of math anxiety.

How might this research impact grading and assessment practices within the field of math education? 

Lauer, J. E., Esposito, A. G., & Bauer, P. J. (2018). Domain-specific anxiety relates to children’s math and spatial performance.

Developmental Psychology, 54(11), 2126-2138. doi:10.1037/dev0000605

This article is an empirical research conducted by the authors on 394 elementary school children , in order to investigate the relationship between domain-specific anxiety,  math and spatial performance.

Article Summary

Lauer, Esposito and Bauer (2018) seek to investigate five main areas through their study:

  • Relationships between verbal, math and spatial anxiety. Verbal, math and spatial anxiety were found in their study to be positively correlated with each other and were not mitigated by gender or grade (age). 
  • Relation between math anxiety and achievement. The authors found that math scores can be only predicted by math anxiety, when reading skills and other domain-specific anxiety (e.g.verbal anxiety) were controlled. Additionally, increased negative relation was found as age increased between math anxiety and performance, while working memory and gender did not affect math anxiety and performance relationship.
  • Relationship between spatial anxiety and performance. Results show that although math, spatial, and verbal anxiety were all correlated negatively with spatial performance, none of the individual domain- specific anxieties (math, spatial and verbal anxieties) were uniquely predictive of spatial performance in elementary school children. Additionally, spatial anxiety and performance were unmitigated by gender and working memory. The spatial anxiety and performance effect was no longer significant after controlling for math and verbal anxiety.
  • Relationship between verbal anxiety and reading ability. Verbal anxiety only (not math or spatial anxiety) was found to account for differences in reading performance in their study.
  • Age, gender or working memory was not found to influence the relationship between verbal anxiety and reading ability. Gender differences in domain specific anxieties and performance was the last question the study addressed.  Girls were found to experience significantly greater math and spatial anxieties compared to boys in all grades, while there were no differences in verbal anxieties. There were also no gender differences in math, spatial and reading performance. Additionally, working memory and age did not affect gender and performance in this study.

Findings of this study imply math and spatial anxieties reported by elementary school girls are unrelated to actual performance differences. The educational implication of such findings is that teachers and parents should pay attention to girls experiencing math or spatial anxieties and to help them ease their anxieties as early as possible to minimize impact on future math and spatial performance.

Beilock and Willingham (2014) suggested emotional writing and parental involvement in domain specific activities (reading, math) at home as possible strategies to reduce anxieties. Additionally, the authors suggest that teachers and parents should address and challenge cultural stereotypes gender domains with young children to overcome perceived attitudes towards math and spatial performance.

Reference

Beilock, S. L., & Willingham, D. T. (2014). Math anxiety: Can teachers help students reduce it? ask the cognitive scientist. American Educator, 38(2), 28.

Math anxiety: Can teachers help students reduce it?

Math anxiety: Can teachers help students reduce it? Ask the cognitive scientist. Beilock, S. & Willingham, D. (2014). American Educator, 38(2), 28.

This article is an explanatory piece focused on providing teachers with current interdisciplinary research findings on math anxiety and math performance that can be translated into classroom strategies.

Article Summary

Beilock and Willingham (2014)  focused on the when and where regarding math anxiety in order to answer what can be done about it. They reported that math anxiety can start as early as early elementary school and is predictive of math performance. Math anxiety negatively impacts working memory, leaving fewer resources for solving math problems in general.

An interesting finding from some research studies reported by the authors was that higher working memory has stronger negative effects on math anxiety and performance relationship. In addition, the lack of basic math skills and teachers’ math anxiety affect students’ math performance negatively. Timed math tests were found to be more strongly associated with math anxiety and poor math performance. Freewriting prior to a math test regarding emotions students associate with math anxiety can help reduce performance differences between low and high math anxiety students.

Beilock and Willingham (2014) suggested several strategies that teachers can utilize to help reduce math anxiety in students.

  1. Teacher training focused on how to teach math to ensure confidence will reduce teacher anxiety, which in turn will increase math performance in students. 
  2. Teachers can encourage parental engagement with their young children around math at home to boost basic math skills, better equipping young children to learning math in school environment.
  3. Alleviating time pressures on math tests.
  4. A teacher should also pay attention to his/her response towards students when they encounter difficulty in math. Attention should be paid on potential  messaging implied by a teacher’s response to his/her student. Emphasizing hard work and effort to overcome difficulties conveys belief in a student’s math ability. A teacher can provide concrete strategies for problem solving and study habits to further aid the student. 
  5. Leaving some time prior to a math test to prompt emotional free writing on feelings about the upcoming test can help tighten performance gaps between students with high and low math anxiety.

How can you apply this piece within your own system be it as a parent or through educational use?

Full Grade Acceleration Resources for Parents

This free full grade acceleration resource is published by Gifted Education Family Network (Texas non-profit) and Gifted Unlimited summer 2020.

This resource first addresses several myths and concerns, followed by a section on parental considerations to evaluate acceleration options and fit. It concludes with a section on current Texas legislation governing academic acceleration, which parents from other states can use as a guide to locate their local state legislation regarding gifted education related laws.

The Power of Neurodiversity: Chapter 10 – Thomas Armstrong

Chapter 10 -The Future of Neurodiversity

As I read through this book, in addition to watching a few of Thomas Armstrong’s youtube videos such as “ 17 Reasons Why I Believe ADHD is Not a Legitimate Medical Disorder” (Armstrong, sept 2019), and ‘Channeling the Creative Energies of ADHD-Diagnosed Kids” (Armstrong, April 2018), the constant theme that struck me is the duality of neurodiversity. This implies that neurodiversity itself isn’t good or bad but are dependent on many other contexts from cultural, biological, socio-economical and historical, which then determines which how parts or whole of neurodiversity is perceived.

We have to be very careful to be clear to discuss judgements, values and perceptions of neurodiversity contextually.  In terms of learning and education, what are the goal/s to prepare students adequately for 21st century jobs? With goals, we can then use them as a talking point to demonstrate the necessary of neurodiversity in our current day and age with our goals. At the same time, we have to point out how different the neurodiverse were valued throughout history, which demonstrated that there isn’t a neurotype that is best, but how all neurotypes can be productive members of society today with thoughtful support and modifications as we will not know which neurotypes will be needed in the future. Perhaps, the best way is to find another word instead of neurotypical and neurodiverse to really illustrate the most important point I think Thomas Armstrong is trying to make, that every individual has our own unique profiles of how we learn, our interests, our strengths and challenges.

References:

Armstrong,T. (Sept 2019). 17 Reasons Why I Believe ADHD is Not a Legitimate Medical Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRbbpZKrPd8

Armstrong, T. (April 2018). Channeling the Creative Energies of ADHD-Diagnosed Kids. Retrieved from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLA2I-Y08hM

The Power of Neurodiversity: Chapter 9 – Thomas Armstrong

Chapter 9 – Neurodiversity in the Classroom

In this chapter, Armstrong (2011) suggests eight ways a classroom can be considered neurodiverse friendly. I chose two that resonated with me most to share with readers: his seventh and eighth suggestions.

Armstrong’s (2011) seventh suggestion for a neurodiverse classroom includes fostering human relationships which will in turn foster individual growth and learning.

This includes more than the main teacher. It also involves specialized personnel (co-teaching), tutors and aides, and even parent volunteers. This type of learning environment also allows for peer teaching among students. This type of neurodiverse classroom can be a more ideal type of classroom as it allows students to come into contact with different types of adults with different personalities, there is more oversight, understanding of what is going on with students, and allows more “in the moment” teaching. Even the adults in such environments can also be learning and growing due to the multiple-way interactions between adults, adult-student, and student-student. Students also learn through observations and interactions. Armstrong (2011) gave the example of the positive effect Isabel (Autist) brought to other students in this chapter. With more adults that can help ensure emotional connections with students, and between students, this allows learning to occur. Richardson Davidson (2019) spoke in an interview by Krista Tippett that all sensory input passes through our emotional brain first, illustrating the importance of first ,creating an emotionally safe environment, before learning can even occur. 

Questions that come to mind regarding Armstrong’s (2011) seventh suggestion includes:

a) Cost and the need to fundamentally change not just the current education system but also an overhaul of physical classroom spaces.

b)Logistics of parent volunteers such as whether there is the need to undergo training? Impacts of inconsistencies in volunteer presence. 

Armstrong’s (2011) eighth suggestion for a neurodiverse classroom is concerned with “ipastive progress” (p.200). This means that each child’s progress is measured against the child’s previous performance. This way of measuring progress truly reflects the acknowledgement and embodiment of neurodiversity, everyone has their own path of growth and development. It is not possible to have one way of assessment if you acknowledge the existence of neurodiversity, unless there is a connotation that there is only one right or best way. Moving to an Ipastive progress method takes away any hierarchical implication imposed on neurodiversity and instead view people as unique collections of varying abilities, all capable of meaningful contribution to society (which I hope is the goal of education).

If we can only realize two out of the eight suggestions from Armstrong’s (2011) book, I believe these two suggestions lay the foundation and will help guide curriculum, instruction, classroom design and student management.

How is progress to be measured in Ipastive progress? Is it being measured in a way that considers the individual child’s strengths or are we measuring progress based on subjects all students need to master? Why not allow children who may also know or show strong interests/strengths earlier to pursue that specialization path when specialization occurs eventually in higher education? At the same time, children who may not yet know what they would like to do/learn, continue to expose them to a breadth of topics/subjects with the intent of discovery of interests and strengths. 

I had first hand experience of what can happen when schools are held responsible for all student performances on normative assessments without regard to variations in human development and neurobiology. While substitute teaching in the positive behavior support (PBS) room, I was asked to monitor a cognitively challenged eighth grader so he could complete his homework. This student freaked out whenI did not give him the answers to the questions but tried to guide him along by giving him hints and pointed out the answer is in a particular paragraph. I was then shown by the regular staff member the correct way to “help” the student, ie  by telling him what the answers were and he just wrote them down. I wondered, how he was going to pass and ever pass any of the state exams? The main aide in the PBS room told me later, “that’s all we can do for these kids”. The system has to change if we want to capture all citizen’s ability to contribution meaningfully in our society.

References

Tippett, K (Host). (2019, February 14). Richard Davidson A Neuroscientist on Love and Learning. [Audio podcast episode]. https://onbeing.org/programs/richard-davidson-a-neuroscientist-on-love-and-learning-feb2019/

The Power of Neurodiversity: Chapter 8 – Thomas Armstrong

Chapter 8 – Thinking in a Different Key

The most striking insight I had was that the individual’s experiences of schizophrenia has not been taken into context in the current medicalization of schizophrenia. Some hallucinations are experienced positively, mood enhancing, create enhancing, but these are not taken into consideration, the medical goal is to eliminate the “disease”.  In addition, Armstrong wrote that the individualization on how schizophrenia can be managed needs to be taken into consideration. He gave the example of Josh Nash and  Elyn Saks to illustrate how they differed in finding ways to manage unwanted symptoms.  Simply being accepting of schizophrenia seems to allow them to have more positive outcomes (Armstrong, p.172), this approach together with getting individual feedback will allow more appropriate management of unwanted (by individual, not dictated by society) symptoms.

Question to the author: Reading about your chapter on Schizophrenia, with studies showing progressive loss in brain in areas affecting sensory experience, language and auditory experiences, reminds me of Oliver Sack’s audible book “Hallucinations” which I am currently listening to during my long daily driving commute. Can you address such hallucinations which are linked to sensory deprivation, illness or injury in the brain with Schizophrenia? What would FMRI look like between people described by Oliver Sacks and Schizophrenia during an episode? If we can cure schizophrenia, should we?

This is a ted talk of Oliver sacks talking about hallucination.

Note: Oliver sacks interview at minute 51, where a similar question is brought up by Neil DeGrasse Tyson … “If we could cure hallucinations should we?”

Awakening the Genius in Every Child: discovering and reviving the natural motivation that exists in all children at birth. – Thomas Armstrong (2013)

Awakening the Genius in Every Child: discovering and reviving the natural motivation that exists in all children at birth. Thomas Armstrong (2013).

Reflections

Thomas Armstrong (2013) talked about his definition that all children are “Genius” in the youtube embedded in this post. What does he mean? He meant “genius” in the sense that we are all genesis (born) to geniality (joy) of learning.

When Dr. Armstrong gave an expanded talk to students at the Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education, there were differing opinions amongst our graduate students. The civility of our differing opinions and willingness to engage in the dialog was a great tie-in with Nel Nodding’s (2018) education for caring. Everyone benefits from being open to listening to differing opinions.

Regarding labels, I found it helpful when we did not have language or schema to describe our 2e child. The labels helped me narrow down which areas to focus on, in terms of a more targeted framework, to begin researching information to then use that information to reflect and evaluate applicability for my child and our family experience in particular. As I learned more, these labels freed our family, at the same time these labels became “LABELS” where they started to become limiting to how others saw our family and son, instead of seeing HIM. Labels are double-edged swords. We have to be careful as we develop over time, and our identities do not become defined by labels.

Additionally, due to our own personal experiences along our path of discovery and exploration, I see the need for constant balancing between the duality of labels whereby it can be freeing yet limiting or even harmful, depending on the person and environmental interactions including physical, and social-cultural and interpersonal.

If I had not had some basic knowledge on giftedness and ADHD, my son would have likely been diagnosed with ADHD and with a strong push for medicating our son from the school. It was through our own observations and basic psycho-educational report that led us to investigate developmental vision, sensory processing, and other possibilities before even considering ADHD. During Dr. Armstrong’s talk, I shared that my son used to be always constantly moving and touching everything, the true underlying causes of his behaviors were because he had vision issues, couldn’t cross mid-lines and had poor visual-motor coordination. These caused him to present as someone that likely would be labeled medically/clinically or educationally as ADHD. After his vision therapy, he has now swung to the other end of ADD (now called ADHD with attention deficit) into the deficient end according to the clinician and some of his teachers, instead of the hyperactivity end. They had not considered once his gifted dimensions as a cause for ADD-like behaviors. How can anyone pay attention all the time when the tasks are boring day in and out, while his brain is contemplating ideas such as the meaning of life, death, and the universe?

The other thing I found interesting from Dr. Armstrong’s talk is the “identity first” and “person-first” use of language. I have struggled with this thus far. Dunn and Andrews (2015), wrote that the American Psychological Association advocates for the person-first language, just like Thomas Armstrong in our talk today, while most individuals with disabilities prefer the use of identify-first language, which was also echoed by some of our colleagues. The authors suggested five ways that using BOTH languages would increase psychologists’ disability cultural competence. Choices made by different groups on their preference on using identity-first or person-first language can help psychologists to honor the particular group’s preference when writing about them. the authors state that knowing when to use identity-first or person-first language with a particular group is a signal of the psychologist’s professional awareness and a way to offer respect and social support to the group’s choice.

Reference

Dunn, D. S., & Andrews, E. E. (2015). Person-first and identity-first language: Developing psychologists’ cultural competence using disability language. The American Psychologist, 70(3), 255-264. doi:10.1037/a0038636

Thepublicvoicesalon. (2018, February 17). Nel Noddings on Education for Caring [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/jU_2-4SR-gk

Lovett, B. J., & Sparks, R. L. (2013). The identification and performance of gifted students with learning disability diagnoses: A quantitative synthesis.

Journal of Learning Disabilities, 46(4), 304. doi:10.1177/0022219411421810

Table 1

Reading this journal article, I was struck by the lack of empirical studies on gifted with learning disability (G/LD) population in the research literature and the wide variabilities in inclusion criteria for different studies. There was only about 5% of written G/LD articles that report empirical data.

I have presented Table 1 above to visually display the IQ and achievement levels under various conditions based on the empirical research investigated by Lovett and Sparks (2013).  The pink colored tab represents the conditions with the highest number of identified G/LD and the red tab represents the smallest number of identified G/LD.  I suspect that the IQ-achievement level discrepancies shown in most studies using relative discrepancies would not flag such students in school as having learning disability (LD), their achievement is still average or less than 1 standard deviation (SD) below average. Making the case that such students require special education (SPED) services may be challenging. 

An empirical study published by Barnard-Brak et. al. (2015) used a sample of 13,176 special education elementary children to investigate how many of those pre-identified LD students fit gifted criteria and how many were actually participating in gifted programming. Their finding indicated that only 11.1% of the 9.1% of sample who qualified as gifted (scoring in top 10% of WJ-III) were actually participating in gifted programming. Their findings indicate an under identification of G/LD population, even within the population that had be subject to stringent SPED admissions criteria. I believe that aiming to increase and capture gifted students that already qualify for SPED services is viable, feasible and morally the right thing to do as research continues on proper identification, characteristics and programming. This approach allows for educators and researchers to continue making positive impacts to service such students as more research can be conducted using pre-identified SPED populations.

The second area that caught my eye in this article is the authors’ presentation of the weighted mean test scores used in multiple studies.  I have replicated it in for easy reference below in Table 2. The authors combined different versions of the Wechsler tests ( WAIS and WISC) to create the weighted mean scores. My understanding is that between different versions of the Wechsler tests, sub test changes may affect scores for different populations. For example, Kuehnel, Castro, and  Furey (2019) compared the VCI in WISC IV and WISC V in 48 childrens with ASD. The WISC IV included three subtests (Similarities, Vocabulary, and Comprehension)  to create  the composite VCI, while comprehension subtest was dropped in calculation of VCI in WISC V. Comprehension test is the most difficult for ASD population as “success on the Comprehension subtest requires linguistic sophistication that many individuals with ASD do not possess, given commonly occurring core expressive and receptive language deficits (Kwok, Brown, Smyth, & Cardy, 2015), as well as pragmatic language deficits (Whyte & Nelson, 2015)” (Kuehnel, Castro, &  Furey, 2019). The researchers found statistically significant score increase in the composite VCI in WISC V. Findings as such signals that careful consideration is required when making the decision to include/exclude studies in aggregate studies investigations.

Score# studiesTotal NWeighted M
Wechsler FSIQ17983122.8
Wechsler VIQ15934118.6
Wechsler PIQ15934125.9
WJ reading Cluster544295.8
WJ Mathematics Cluster5442111.1
WJ written language Cluster544093
Table 2

Creating weighted mean scores for the various WJ clusters without grouping students into various groups that demonstrate LD in reading, math, written language or any combination of the three abilities, creates potential  “masking effect” on the resulting scores. “Masking refers to the principle that many gifted students with learning disabilities have patterns of strengths and weaknesses that make them appear to have average abilities and achievement” (McCoach, Kehle, Bray, & Siegle, 2001). I would use this information to advocate for future studies to investigate specific G/LD types, or types of processing/skills (e.g advanced reasoning, basic processing skills,  higher order thinking)  in order to minimize masking effects. Ottone-Cross Et al (2017) found that GLD had similar  higher order processing demands as the GT group but presented with significant weakness in decoding and math computation (lower-level processing demands) similar to SLD samples in their study.

Last but not least, LD label within the G/LD context having a very different meaning then the label LD as academic impairment in a “normative absolute sense” (Lovett & Sparks, 2011, p.313). This way of viewing LD within the G/LD context emphasizes the deficit model view of education, whereby you receive support only AFTER you have failed. I would like to propose a modified view of looking at the G/LD inclusion criterias. If the student is working at the right academic challenge level, can the child be successful without support? The complexity of G/LD is that LD doesn’t show when the academic level is way below the abilities of the child. On other hand, when the academic challenge is raised to the right level, such children often can not perform up to their potential as they no longer can use their strengths to compensate for the weaknesses. Currently, based on my still growing knowledge in 2e area, I feel that comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation can highlight potential issues for the child as school work progressing towards the ability level of the student.

References

Barnard-Brak, L., Johnsen, S. K., Pond Hannig, A., & Wei, T. (2015). The incidence of potentially gifted students within a special education population. Roeper Review, 37(2), 74. doi:10.1080/02783193.2015.1008661

Kuehnel, C. A., Castro, R., & Furey, W. M. (2019). A comparison of WISC-IV and WISC-V verbal comprehension index scores for children with autism spectrum disorder. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 33(6), 1127. doi:10.1080/13854046.2018.1503721

McCoach, D. B., Kehle, T. J., Bray, M. A., & Siegle, D. (2001). Best practices in the identification of gifted students with learning disabilities. Psychology in the Schools, 38(5), 403. doi:10.1002/pits.1029
Ottone-Cross, K., Dulong-Langley, S., Root, M. M., Gelbar, N., Bray, M. A., Luria, S. R., . . . Pan, X. (2017). Beyond the mask: Analysis of error patterns on the KTEA-3 for students with giftedness and learning disabilities. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 35(1-2), 74. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1130079&site=ehost-live&scope=site

The Power of Neurodiversity: Chapter 7 – Thomas Armstrong

Chapter 7: The Rainbow of Intelligences.

One thing that struck me the most as I read this chapter, was that over time, an instrument can be used so differently from the original intention of the creator. In this case, the IQ test.

Henry Goddard, had a totally different working idea of intelligence (IQ representing a single innate entity that can not be changed through training) from Alfred Binet (students can improve their performance through further development and learning).  The origins of the IQ test, began as a quest to find a way to identify and help students in need. This was then taken after William Stern gave the test scores, by Goddard and Terman, to be used not to provide help to those that need it, but as a tool to justify labeling people into various groupings, with its implied stereotypes that came with each grouping. In other words, reading this part of Armstrong’s chapter, reminds me again how important it is to also consider the context, beliefs and historical situations under which concepts and psychological tools are created, definitions and assumptions used when such tools are created. Over time, has any of those components changed and if so how it changed and how the change/s now affects the results of such a tool.

Question to the author: Can you discuss how Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences, affects our current education system in terms of curriculum differentiation between different groups of students? How do we incorporate Gardner’s multiple intelligences into our education system? 

Prevalence of Clinically and Empirically Defined Talents and Strengths in Autism. By Meilleur, A., Jelenie, P., & Mottron, L. (2015)

J Autism Dev Disord 45, 1354–1367 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2296-2


Article Summary

The authors conducted two studies in order to investigate the following three research questions. First, what is the prevalence of outstanding abilities, as measured by special isolated skills (SIS) and perceptual peaks (PP), in Autistics. Second, any predisposing factors for each type of outstanding abilities. Third, any co-occurrence of outstanding abilities between SIS and PP modalities. The authors aimed to better understand the contributions of educational and expertise opportunities on talent and strength building versus innate talent and strength predispositions. 

For prevalence, in the first study, which consisted of 254 Autistics with various age (2-39 years) and FSIQ (40-130) range, it was found that 62.6% of their participants displayed SIS talent in one of the following areas: Memory, Visuospatial, Reading, drawing, music and computation. The top two SIS  talent areas were Memory at 52.5%, followed by visuospatial talent at 32%. In the second study, 43 Autistics were randomly selected from study 1. It was found that 57.5% of the subjects displayed strength in at least one perceptual performance task as measured by pitch discrimination and modified block design. 88.4% were found also to show any talent between SIS and/or PP compared to 13.2% in the 38 typically developing (TD) controls subjects.

For predisposing factors, the authors found higher intelligence (Raven progressive matrices(RPM)and  Weschsler’s GIQ) and older ages in study 1 between Autistics with SIS compared to Autistics without SIS. There was no sex differences between the two groups. Study 2 found that only Wechsler’s GIQ was associated with PP only in Autistics, while age, sex and RPM had not effect on either group. For Autistics in study 2, lower GIQ favored the presence of PP.

For co-occurrence of strengths between SIS  and PP, authors found that 83% of Autistics in study 2 that presented PP also presented at least one SIS in general. Their analysis on SIS and PP in similar talents, found that Autistics with SIS in music were not more likely to have a PP in pitch discrimination compared to Autistics with similar intelligence without SIS in music. Similarly,  for Autistics with SIS in visuospatial activities or drawings, they are not more likely to have PP in block design compared to Autistics with similar intelligence without SIS in visuospatial activities. The same was found between SIS in memory and PP in block design. The only exception found was that SIS in memory was associated with PP in pitch discrimination when intelligence was controlled for by Weschler’s GIQ.  The findings suggest that having strengths in one modality does not increase chances of having another talent in the same modality. 

The authors conclude by suggesting that SIS is correlated to age and intelligence and that experience is involved in the development of such strengths/talents, while PP (unrelated to SIS) strengths/talents seem to be more genetically defined. This research study also shows that Autistics present with more occurrences of SIS and/or PP over TD population. 

I would love to hear your thoughts after reading the summary of this research article.

A Neuroscientist on Love and Learning – Richard Davidson

Takeaways and Reflections: On Being with Krista Tippett podcast interview with Richard Davidson.

Love and kindness is not something we hear together in the context of education. Empathy, which Davison believes is the prerequisite for kindness and compassion, starts with embodying the emotions the other person is experiencing, and is part of self awareness. Davidson stated that 12 or 13 states have mandated social and emotional curriculum in public schools from k-12. There is increasing evidence to suggest socio-emotional education has cognitive effects such as training attention which in term affects learning. Quality of bringing back wandering attention intentionally is the key in learning.  Inattention comprises the ability to learn. Researchers are now starting to pay attention to attention and it can be trained, Everyone is suffering from attentional dysfunction. 

Brain circuits that interact with social and emotional learning interact with brain circuits that interact and learning. Thoughts and feelings are intermingled inside brain with cognition. Emotions play key roles in behavior and cognitive ability and can be interrupter or facilitator. We need to reconnect our bodies with our mind, mind is more than just the brain, it includes our body.

Neuroplasticity is neutral and can be used one way or another. Davison suggests that compassion is hardwired in humans just like language but nurturing needs to occur for the propensity to be expressed. In terms of neuroplasticity as it relates to trauma, Davidson does not know the extent of neuroplasticity at this time, change can occur but current neuroscience does not know the limits. His research found brains to be structurally different for orphans in the Middle East that are adopted by middle class families compared with controls. It is not clear what structural difference/s means.

In the classroom, teachers are important facilitators in changing students brains through interaction, just like it occurs in any sustained interpersonal interactions. Students are watching and not just listening to what is being said, implicit social learning. The same can be applied to parenting.

Kindness curriculum for learning. How kindness curriculum and mental exercises help children overcome anxiety via cultivating and regulating attention and emotion. The students can taste and feel what it means for their body to be quiet, making the connections between mental states to physical experiences.

The concept of mental hygiene just like physical hygiene for a healthy mind and body. Davidson talks about how we have the widest gap between onset of puberty and development of regulatory systems in the brain in the last 100 years in the western world. This means that teenagers are more in need of tools to help them bridge the gap before their regulatory systems become mature.

Resilience is the ability one recovers from adversity. The more quickly one can return to baseline from adversity, the better off one is physically and psychologically and that is the most important predictor of mortality. How can we aid our child? Begin by helping your child to pay attention to his/her body, use techniques to calm the body which then also impacts the brain and our mind. I recall that my son would hyper ventilate when he gets agitated. When he was in such a state, I could tell that he was unable to calm down even if he wanted to. After teaching him HOW to calm down by focusing on slowing his breathe, the physical act of changing his body helped his mind to be able to get back into a baseline state. Having the WILL to do something also requires knowing HOW to do it.

What are some educational practices Davidson provided in the podcast to encourage attention and self control? Davidson mentioned research studies that involve paying attention to body and breathe as the object of focus. Training to pay attention to something not interesting can also help to strengthen our attention. Such strategies can be used to pay attention to what is going on in their body in order to strengthen emotion and attention. Such activities need to be done repeatedly over time.  Best form of practice is whatever works for individuals. Keep in mind that individuals vary in what they find interesting.

Love as a public value.  Davidson believes love is the next frontier for science, that love can break boundaries, minimize or eliminate in-group and out-group boundaries. There is biased and unbiased love and the need to cultivate unbiased love. Love is embodied as physical connection with cognitive thinking in order for it to be genuine.  There are research on implicit bias showing body-brain disconnection. Tolerance is just cognitive, and does not sync with our bodily signals. He advocated for the need to study of love scientifically.

What is the mind? Davidson state that that science really does not know at this time. He has learnt to have an open mind at this point. The mind can’t just be the brain. Davidson discussed his research on studying dying people in India whereby they have “died” according to western criteria for death, yet something still seem to be going on after “death”.  There is a state that occurs among some people called “clear light state”, whereby after brain is dead, and body is not decomposing and there a residual awareness of maintenance in the body. Studies have shown that there are gene expression changing up to 48 hrs after death. This points to the call for humility that we don’t know what the mind is. Science needs to be honest about what we don’t know.

Wow, there was a-lot of topics and themes in this podcast interview. What I learnt from this interview is that our mind and body are interconnected. We need to connect our mind and body as an important tool for self awareness and to affect internal change. In addition, Interaction between environments, including people also changes our brain chemistry and affects our body. The way to connect our mind and body is through “kindness curriculum” which embodies social and emotional training exercises. Most importantly, to effect change, we need to keep repeating the practices and to keep practicing what works individually.

Insights I would like to share with readers:

a)learn to be more self aware via paying attention to mental hygiene

b) importance our environment plays in affecting us via changes in brain chemistry

c) the mind is much more complex and currently we do not know much about it so we should keep on open mind

d) keep practicing whatever works for us as individuals (nod to the value of neurodiversity) to strengthen our mind-body connection which will give us tools to regulate attention and emotions.

Cognitive and psychosocial characteristics of gifted students with written language disability.

Assouline, S. Foley Nicpon, M., & Whiteman, C. (2010). Cognitive and psychosocial characteristics of gifted students with written language disability. Gifted Child Quarterly, 54(2), 102-115.

Reflections

I found the large percentage of students served under IDEA (individuals with disabilities education act) in 2001 to be interesting. From Table 1 below, students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) took up almost 50 percent of all students served under IDEA and represented six percent of the United States student population. This is followed by students served under speech or language impairments at almost nineteen percent. Students served through an Autism diagnosis made up less than two percent of the IDEA population. Looking up more recent IDEA statistics, I came across the 2017-2018 statistics for the IDEA population through the National Center for Educational Statistics website.

Figure 1 below is included in this post for easy viewing. From figure 1, in 2017-2018, SLD students now represent 34 percent of the IDEA population, followed by a stable number of speech or language impairments at 19 percent. The third highest category is now “other health impairment” at 14 percent. Autism is now at 10 percent, an almost fivefold increase between 2001 and 2018. Developmental delay is another category that seems to have increased dramatically in that time period. Total students serviced have increased from almost six million to seven million, while the total percentage of IDEA students remains fairly stable from about 12 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2018.  Such trends over time can be helpful as we consider identification and prevalence. For example, is it possible for SLD students to have decreased over time, or are they now becoming less identified and/or serviced under IDEA with the option of moving towards alternative ways of identifying SLD such as response to intervention (RTI)? Has the prevalence of autism increased more than fivefold or are more students being identified due to changes in assessment tools or changes in diagnostic criteria? 

The second item I found particularly useful from reading the Assouline et. al (2010) article was the applicability of using case study examples in conjunction with empirical findings, especially with the twice-exceptional (2e) population.  The specific profiles of ability-achievement discrepancies of individuals often will end up presenting the same average ability and achievement scores. However, the specific profiles of discrepancies often require different programming in order for the student to flourish. Andy’s story used in their paper served to paint a fuller snapshot picture of what 2E students might be going through in cross-sectional time and overtime. I would use this method in particular to highlight a few case studies of students with similar average scores but with different ability and achievement profiles to illustrate the need for individualized considerations and then applicable programming can be utilized. 

Another thing that stood out is the clustering of various SLD under one grouping. I suspect that programming varies between verbal, non-verbal, computational versus fluency discrepancies. With SLD students served under IDEA ranging between one third to almost half of all eligible students, it is important to use current research findings to write a grant that will allow recruitment of large numbers of subjects in order to have enough subjects to see if there are any meaningful patterns for specific SLD.  

Last but not least, the confusing varying standards between federal, state definitions of IDEA versus clinical/medical definitions of LD, may unfairly impact 2e students whereby they have to wait till they demonstrate academic or behavior failures at school before they may qualify for any accommodation and programming. The confusing “paradox” between the large discrepancies uncovered through clinical diagnostic assessments and the lag time for learning difficulties to surface in a school setting where grades are below average enough to warrant concern or intervention is very troubling to me.

In my son’s case, he had more than 75 points discrepancy in his WISC IV verbal and processing speed,  uneven performance within WJ III and WIAT-III, and especially a large discrepancy between ability and achievement uncovered in a psychoeducational assessment in 2nd grade. My son has yet to “manifest” difficulties that warranted inclusion for services in school academics by 5th grade when we pulled him out to attend private school. His school grades were still in the top 25th percentile at 5th grade. Although he was academically okay, his social-emotional and sense of self was already in great pain, something often overlooked by schools and parents.

However, I can anticipate increasing academic challenges at the end of middle school or in high school, if he was not given the tools to transition from using his intellect to compensate for his deficits to learning more long term sustainable “soft” skills such as using technology, organizational skills, help to ask skills, self-awareness and socio-emotional training.

References

National Center for Educational Statistics (2019, May).  The condition of education: children and youth With disabilities. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp

Taare Zameem Par (Like Stars on Earth) – Movie

2007 Indian Hindi-language movie explores the life and imagination of an 8-year-old dyslexic boy named Ishaan. It is available on Amazon Prime Video with English subtitles.

Reflections

Ishaan is the younger of two boys in an Indian household. Ishaan’s sense of wonder, joy, aesthetic enjoyment and attention to the world around him was in sharp contrast to his school related activities throughout the movie. It was also clear throughout the movie that Ishaan was not like most other children, we saw him interacting meaningfully with the two dogs in his neighborhood over other boys in his neighborhood, and later at boarding school, we did not really see him interact with other boys in any meaningful way, aside from Ranjan (another student).

I loved the scene where Ishaan picked up a metal rectangular piece,  examined it and decided to add to his collection of “random” things that interested him – viewers got to see him use his collection to build a water plane later at the boarding school. 

From the depictions in the movie, we can see how things possibly got to the point where Ishaan “had” to be sent to boarding school to “correct” his behavior. His mother was depicted coincidentally or not, as never having the opportunities to ever follow up on her questions regarding Ishaan, such as what  he does in school, where his exam papers were.

She allowed Ishaan to experience a different environment (he seemed to be able to follow his own schedule in general)  compared to his school (have to follow a schedule). Perhaps she is distracted or caught up with busy daily life (as illustrated by the three times she makes breakfast daily to presumably accommodate the rest of the family’s schedule. Yohan, Ishaan’s older brother and his dad were depicted almost like robots, whereas Ishaan seemed most human in the movie) and/or permissive due to cultural expectations? When Ishaan got into a fight with another neighborhood boy, his mother and father were not interested to find out what really happened so they could use the incident as a teachable moment. Ishaan’s father especially uses physical punishment as if that would stop any unwanted behavior. Although we saw his mother doing homework with Ishaan, she seemed to interpret his behavior as not trying hard enough, she noted his bad handwriting, poor spelling and that he can not recall work they had just gone over the day before. 

 I did not see any depiction of scenes with deeper interactions between Ishaan and either parents, so it was difficult to get a sense that his parents tried to understand him in order to nurture him. Ishaan’s relationship with his older brother Yohan seems positive, they were not competitive with each other, and each seems appreciative of each other’s interests and strengths. You can see Ishaan’s face full of delight for his brother when his brother was telling his mother about his academic achievements, at the same time, Yohan noticed what his brother was doing (puzzle, ice pop drawing) and commented positively, reinforcing Ishaan’s pride in his creative self.

Ishaan might have sequential processing issues, visual perception associated or separate from dyslexia, in addition to possible motor deficits. He seems even less able to process when he is under emotionally charged situations, as if his body (mouth) is not cooperating with what he (brain/mind) wants to do. He seem baffled at why he is always getting into trouble, sometimes he seemed to know, but mostly he genuinely did not seem to know. For example, he was just following what his teacher requested for him to speak loudly and read what he saw literally, which was not that was written.

The Ishaan he left school to avoid turning in his math homework and signed test papers, we got a taste of how he experienced his environment. We then saw how he translated his experiences into his art after he arrived home, which he could no longer do at the boarding school. He used his creative mind to come up with ways to “solve” his problems such as leaving school to avoid math class, then asked his brother to write an excuse letter. With the discovery of the excuse note, his father was finally insistent enough so Ishaan could not use his usual way of avoidance  or distraction to get out of his situation.

The saddest part to me, was how his school teachers interpreted his lack of progress, handwriting and repeating mistakes as something he ddi willfully, with Ishaan present! His avoidant behaviors were interpreted in the context of disruption to the classroom versus wondering why he often asked to get a drink or go to the bathroom. There was a lack of communication between the school and family till things got out of hand. How could Ishaan possibly catch up when if his missing all instruction time, being punished by standing outside the classroom? The school’s behavior towards students like Ishaan seems typical in places such as Singapore during the time when I was growing up. If a student could not keep up with the expectations and the way teachers taught, something was wrong with the child and he/she was pretty much written off. The child’s value in school seems to be conformity, while as adults, society rewarded creativity and innovation, concepts in conflict with each other. Using Sir Ken Robinson’s (2006) words, “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it; or rather, we get educated out of it.”

At the boarding school, without ANY opportunity for any expression or time for Ishaan’s interests and opportunities to be successful, we saw him withdraw even further into himself and stopped communicating. Ishaan’s interpretation of the “perspective” poem during his class at the boarding school was a great demonstration that he had great ideas which he was better at verbalizing but had a hard time producing on paper. It was amazing that even the art class at the boarding school was conducted with such rigidity and ridiculous expectations – perfect drawing or the students get physically punished.

I could not even understand the English teacher at the speed he was depicted in the movie, illustrating how Ishaan might be experiencing the class.  The movie reminds me of the video I watched, in which Lavoie (2013), facilitated classroom experiences of students with learning disabilities and what teachers typically do. In particular, he presented this picture below as an illustration that it is one thing to be able to perceive and another to be able to make sense of what we are seeing. There was nothing that can help the child to process the picture without the teacher giving the student the right scaffold/tool.  Do you know what the picture is?

Picture accessed June 19, 2020, retrieved from https://depts.washington.edu/dbpeds/fat-city-workshop-transcript.pdf

The scene where Ishaan was running around the basketball court and avoiding his family signified that he could not see any way to get out of his situation and his family was no longer his safe space. He likely felt that he was totally alone. Even his feelings of frustrations were misinterpreted by his mother as being angry with them versus his feelings towards himself. It was interesting that Ishaan was hiding when it was time for art (his favorite subject) and it was unclear if Ishaan might have been contemplating suicide or dreaming inside his head and/or trying to take in the outside view.

Ram, the new art teacher at the boarding school became a turning point in Ishaan’s life. Ram was twice exceptional himself but most importantly, he was the first teacher shown in the movie that took time to try to find out and figure out what was going on with Ishaan, when he saw him outside the classroom being excluded from class and looking afraid when he tried to speak to him, in additional to Ishaan’s non participation in his art class. He spoke to Ishaan’s friend Rajan to get some information on Ishaan, then looked through Ishaan’s other school work and then even went to visit his family. It seemed as though Ram’s conversation with Ishaan’s father was the first conversation that went beyond Ishaan’s behaviors into what might be causing his behaviors. Ishaan’s dad had the view that the behaviors were the result of his bad attitude, while Ram had a different viewpoint which he shared with Ishaan’s family. The concrete example Ram used when he asked Ishaan’s father to read a foreign language, helped his family to view Ishaan’s behavior from a different perspective for the first time.

Considerations that there might be different explanations/causes for the same outside behaviors is the key in figuring out causes before solutions/interventions/modifications can be successful. Trying harder is not going to be helpful when one has problems with perception and/or understanding. Lavioe (2013) used the photo above to demonstrate how one can perceive (see clearly) but can not make meaning of what he/she is perceiving. I recalled that I could not understand how forces work in physics and when teachers repeated the same explanation over and over again, it did not help me at all to understand it! I could hear their explanation but I did not comprehend it.

Ishaan’s turning point came when he had an advocate (Ram) on his side, not only willing to work with him, but was about to find a bridge to pull Ishaan back into engagement to have an area of focus and interest he can be successful at, ie art. 

Ram talked with his class on how different people have different skills and see things differently helped all the children in his class to gain a different perspective.  Helping children who can not understand why they can not do things that come easily to others explain that different people have different strengths and challenges, ties in nicely with Armstrong’s (2011) writings on neurodiversity and ideas that strengths and weaknesses need to be understood as contextual and reflective of cultural values, time and place. Ram saw correctly that Ishaan’s path will not be academic but something in the creative arts and he just needs to be able to pass his classes to move onward, applying Armstrong’s (2011) niche construction concept, which in turn changes Ishaan’s environment and self. 

Gallaghner (2017) wrote that cognition is embodied, enactive, and involves dynamic interactions with not just our brain and body, but also with our larger environment and other bodies.  Each interaction (self and others, self and environment) dynamically influences all parties involved careful thoughts and considerations should be taken by parents and teachers on the effect of their interactions with their child. Ram’s organization of the art contest and engaging everyone to participate changed everyone, from the principal, teachers, and students. The art contest demonstrated that different people have different talents and strengths. The purpose of teachers and parents is to increase the affordances (opportunities) landscape so that there are increased opportunities for all students to be involved in interactions where they can be successful (Budding & Shaw, n.d).  We see at the end during the teacher parent conference at the boarding school what vastly different attitudes the principal and teachers had towards Ishaan.

Reference

Armstrong, T. (2011). The power of neurodiversity: Unleashing the advantages of your differently wired brain. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo.

Budding, D, & Shaw, L (under review), Assessing executive function within the dynamic affordance landscape. In Booth, R, Murphy, T., & Zebracki, L (Eds.), Paediatric neuropsychology within the multidisciplinary context; a guide for clinicians, academics and students. London, UK: Mac Keith Press.

Gallagher, S. (2017). Enactivist interventions : rethinking the mind. First edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lavoie, R. (Director). (2013). How Difficult Can This Be? F.A.T. City [Video file]. PBS. Retrieved June 21, 2020, from Kanopy.

TED (2006). Sir Ken Robinson. Do schools kill creativity. [Video file]. YouTube. https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity?

The Power of Neurodiversity: Chapter 5 – Thomas Armstrong

Chapter 5: The Gift of Mood.

The thing that struck out most while reading Armstrong’s chapter 5 was the section on the downside of happiness. “As a culture we’re fixated on happiness: the happy face, the happy meal, the how-to-be happy self help books.” (pp.106).

Armstrong points out that different cultures have different ways of viewing symptoms of depressions (pp.100), it is possible that the same is true for viewing happiness. I believe that it the dichotomy between happiness and depression is subject to cultural variation and it is the contrast between perceptions and reality of how far apart a person is from culturally defined exceptions and implications of what is happiness and depression that is at least a factor underlying  individual variations in mood disorders. It is very dangerous to classify people solely based on behavior manifestations without taking into consideration the person’s experiences, history, cultural and ecological context .

One question to the author:

Productive versus unproductive depression. Does it make more sense to look at mood disorders with the aim and in the context of being productive individuals in a larger society? 

Social Creativity in Autism

Lerner, M. D., & Girard, R. M. (2018). Appreciating and Promoting Social Creativity in Youth with Asperger’s Syndrome. In Scott Barry Kaufman Editor (Ed.), Twice Exceptional: Supporting and educating bright and creative students with learning difficulties.

Reading this chapter was an eye-opener, and seemed to explain several of my own observations in regards to social interactions with my Autistic son. One of the findings reported by Lerner and Girard (2018) related to their finding of no relation between knowing effective prosocial behavior rules and their use in the Autistic population.

From our experience in Special Education (SPED) in the public school system, the main social communication skills seem to be teaching Autistic students social rules and the practice of turn-taking. In our personal situation, my son knows all the rules and what he SHOULD do, but he does not seem to do that in the real world and I felt that it is the in-the-moment communication skills he would need more guidance and practice. In addition, he is very quick to recall whether he has already done the exercises the instructor is going through during the sessions.

Lerner and Girard (2018) also found no relationship between social creativity and knowledge of “correct” social responses.  Their idea was that the ability for flexible social responses may be a key ingredient in developing real-world social communication skills. Their writings here provide some research support on the need to focus on flexible creative social responses during  “in the moment” situations.

The second item of interest from this chapter is the possible interpretation for the bimodal view of social interaction in the Autistic population. Social interactions are either minimal or more profoundly connected. Their writings here provided a great elaboration of one of the ways I describe my son. I often describe him as a light switch – either “on” or “off”,  hardly any in-between state or actions. I often note the wide differences in the quality and “ability” to interact extensively with others. I noticed significantly highly social interactions (according to dominant prevailing cultural standards) only occurring under specific conditions such as when he initiates the interaction, or when he asks the question when in a larger group (versus when we ask him a question).  Lerner and Girard (2018) reported a previous study that found a marginally significant (r= -.25, p=0.06) negative correlation between social creativity and lifetime Autistic symptoms. In addition, they reported a modest positive relationship between social creativity and prosocial behavior (r=.32, p<0.05). With a small sample size of 41 participants, it will be interesting to see if the correlations are replicated with larger sample sizes and whether the relationship varies as a function of different IQ levels and sub-scales. I can use such information to help parents, educators and Autistic students find better terms to help others understand what is going on inside Autistic minds.

The third item gained from reading this chapter, is the Socio-dramatic Affective Relational Intervention (SDARI), with the goal of social creativity promotion. Developing improvisational skills in a safe environment using SDARI allows social scenario responses to be practiced in a more dynamic way that is closer to real social interactions. This sounds like an interesting technique that would be something parents and educators can consider as an option for an appropriate scaffold for individual students. I can imagine this type of intervention to be novel, attention-grabbing, emotionally safe, interesting, and potentially positive for ALL students in a school setting. One issue we faced in public school was the lack of similar intellectual peers within the SPED setting for group social skills intervention to be of any practical use. Our school lowered the goal setting for my son because they said they did not have any students that would be able to form a group that can help him achieve his goal at the level he required. With SDARI, I imagine this can be modified or implemented with drama students or any students in the context of a creativity unit in general education.

One big picture issue I continue to struggle with in the current public education system is the unintentional harm brought to students in the guise of providing appropriate services. Students that get pulled to go in and out of SPED and even Gifted services often get labeled and viewed by peers, teachers, and even the student themselves in terms of those “services” with unfair stereotypical expectations imposed by or projected onto the labeled students. We have to be aware of the importance of always being cognizant of potential socio-emotional impacts of the uses of terms/labels in program design, and implementation.

Art as a medium to regulate emotions during Communication

Art is a form of a universal language, connecting all humans in our core, across time and cultures. In addition, music, coding, and mathematical symbolic language also allow universal understandings that are more uniform and innate than spoken and written languages, which can create divisions within humanity. The quest to understand the language of the cosmos is another form of meaning-making and seeking.

Dehaene (2009) proposed the neuronal recycling hypothesis, which involves rewiring our brains for reading and writing. Reading and writing need to be taught — we are not born to read. I want to propose that humans are born to ACTION versus born to think as an end. That all thoughts are towards activation on our bodies.

The art I like relates to those artworks that can be viewed literally in different ways, as powerful illustrations on how we can be talking about the same thing (artwork) and yet not be understood by all involved in the interaction. Why is that so? It all depends on WHERE the individual focuses without clarification of the intent of the initiating party.

Images such as the above always fascinate me. It helps facilitate having a dialog about perspectives with some personal emotional distance. Emotions often get in the way of resolving issues. Discussions around such images with your child or amongst family members help to highlight the need to acknowledge the validity of individual experiences. 

Even more interesting, are images that are even harder to figure out WHAT the image is about. However, once you are “taught” how to “see” the image, you can not unsee it. Parents should try to seek what might be preventing their child from succeeding, instead of asking/telling them to try harder. It is often the lack of skill, not will when children misbehave or are unable to perform. This change in perspective is one of the most valuable lessons I learned parenting my twice-exceptional child. It is the same with the communication of ideas, the act of communication already changes both parties. This is the idea of embodied cognition (Lakoff, 2012).

References

Dehaene, S. (2009). Reading in the brain: The science and evolution of a human invention. Viking.

Lakoff, G. (2012). Explaining Embodied Cognition Results. Topics in Cognitive Science 4 (2012) 773–785. DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01222.x

The Power of Neurodiversity: Chapter 1 – Thomas Armstrong

Chapter 1: A concept whose time has come.

Armstrong’s 8 Principles of Neurodiversity

Principle #1: The Human Brain Works More Like an Ecosystem than a Machine

Principle #2: Human Beings and HumanBrains Exist Along Continuums of Competence. 

Principle #3: Human Competence Is Defined by the Values of the Culture to Which You Belong

Principle #4: Whether You Are Regarded As Disabled or Gifted Depends Largely on When and Where You Were Born.

Principle #5: Success in Life Is Based on Adapting One’s Brain to the Needs of the Surrounding Environment.

Principle #6: Success in Life Also Depends on Modifying Your Surrounding Environment to Fit the Needs of Your Unique Brain (Niche Construction)

Principle #7: Niche Construction Includes Career and Lifestyle Choices, Assistive Technologies, Human Resources, and Other Life-Enhancing Strategies Tailored to the Specific Needs of a Neurodiverse Individual

 Principle #8: Positive Niche Construction Directly Modifies the Brain, Which in Turn Enhances Its Ability to Adapt to the Environment

Reflections

Thomas Armstrong’s 8 principles of Neurodiversity resulted from his synthesis of work done by professionals in diverse fields such as Biology (eg, Richard Lewontin, Gerald Edelman), Psychiatry (e.g, Norman Doidge),  Medical (e.g Oliver Sacks), Biological Psychology (e.g Mark Rosenzweig), Austim (e.g Judy Singer), Psychology (e.g Martin Seligman), Brain Science, Evolutionary psychology, Anthropology and such.  

The main reason he proposed these principles is to promote a more positive way to view and handle people traditionally stigmatized as less than normal. He proposes that using neurodiversity to emphasize strengths of various disorders “creates a positive feedback loop that helps counteract the vicious circle that many people with mental disorders find themselves in as a result of their disabilities.” In terms of applying the 8 principles to twice exception education, I agree with principles 1,3,4,6,7,8 and have some clarifying concerns on 2, 5. I agree that this is a much more appropriate lens to address the 2E education and moving the field in the right direction. However, these principles will only work with accurate diagnoses.

I feel that the current understanding and research on accurate diagnoses for 2e students, especially those above 3 standard deviations above the norm is still lacking. I have witnessed in our own situation varying levels of skills in assessment – we have gone through 6 assessments in 2 years between my two children. The quality of the assessments varied, I see the largest issue with the FIE conducted by our public school and wonder if the quality of FIE we went through personally is a representative  experience (I hope not) and love to hear from others!

Why do we need to a) be referred by a  teacher or b) request by family to have assessment done? Wouldn’t it be great if all students are assessed for strengths and differences noted as part of general education so that education would be relevant for all, including 2E and sped education students? Torrie’s Santa example really speaks to this, there should be an education that is relevant for ALL, with the right mindset, this can be accomplished.

I believe that the Special Education Legislation – IDEA  as it is currently worded is in grave conflict with my understanding of the neurodiversity movement. 

The eligibility criteria where “a child’s educational performance must be adversely affected due to the disability” (categories of special education article)  to be eligible for special education and related service equates to a “wait to fail then try to fix” model. This is a band-aid reactive approach versus Armstrong’s proactive strength based approach. 

A medical model lens will focus on the deficit/s (history of the field lecture) when looking at neuro/cognitive differences. Neuro/cognitive differences that do not conform to the norm are viewed as diseases which must then be fixed/corrected.  The behavioral  psychology approach frames neuro/cognitive differences in terms of impacts on behavior. There are dynamic multi directional interactions and feedback loops between behaviour, neuro/cognitive differences, and our environment – concept of embodied cognition to be discussed in another post.

To be Gifted and Learning Disabled (Baum, Schader & Owen, 2017) – short reflections

Baum, S. M., Schader, R. M., & Owen, S. V. (2017). To be gifted & learning disabled: strength-based strategies for helping twice-exceptional students with Ld, Adhd, Asd, and more. Texas: Prufrock

2 takeaways from Chapter 10

  1. One interesting concept in Baum, Schader and Owen (2017) relates to “reflection and metacognition” (p.165). This aspect of programming is often neglected especially when goals are achieved. This chapter reading has prompted me to revisit and re-value this concept: reflection on not just what went wrong, but even more critically, what went right. In addition, the assessment on whether successful programming can be better improved by the participants and professionals involved in program implementation serves as a way to figure out contexts and conditions for success that might be applied to other areas for the student. Reflection for the professional is also important for assimilating new knowledge or insight into professional growth. 
  2. The second concept I re-discovered, is the utility in illustrating case studies in particular with the 2e population. The authors section “lessons learnt from Bryan’s story” (p.167) demonstrated powerfully in concrete ways the importance of not just looking at problematic behaviors but the need to figure out if the problematic behaviors are symptoms/expressions of something else. I am dismayed that how often ADHD seems to be the first thing that comes out of not just parents but also teachers in my public school. It is likely that Bryan’s parents could see the path Bryan is going but no services are available till he fails! Parents can and should use the story of their child as an advocacy tool to connect administrators/educators emotionally with their child. Do not discount the power of your child’s story.

What is talent – and can science spot what we will be best at?

Practice and our genes are not the only factors when it comes to developing special abilities.

By Scott Barry Kaufman

Reflections

One interesting takeaway from this article is that the “10-year rule” is a norm with wide variations around the average. Reading this, made me think about how “normal” came about and the relativity of this, ie it is norm/average/normal within set/s. Wellman (1958) wrote in his medical literature survey that “normal” may have been used to convey “statistical norm”, the mathematical norm and ideal between two limits. Meanwhile, Edwards (1978) wrote that psychiatrists use their subjective experiences to make judgments on abnormality from clinical, statistical, and prognostic aspects, and dependent on the concept of mental illness, micro and macro culture, views of their country, personal experiences, and training. The importance of contextual considerations for what is considered “normal” is also echoed by Baxer (2006) where he argued for the importance of using local norms. 

The normal-abnormal distinction depends on whether the local norms fall under the normal distribution or a skewed distribution, and how the criteria for cut-off between normal-abnormal are determined. Such variabilities over time, between countries, between states, and even school districts, can have large implications for diagnostic criteria, that affect prevalence rates, which in turn affects programming/interventions and such.  Scully  (2004) wrote about the difficulty of defining disease and that definitions of disease as the opposite of health do not tell us what disease means. Similarly, viewing abnormal or disorders and opposite or not normal does not tell us anything about what it means to be “normal” and what it really means to be “abnormal”. 

Back to this article, the “10-year rule” seems to serve more for one to use this as a benchmark to gauge how long to sustain effort/practice in order to attain a goal of becoming an expert and to compare one’s progress against this average/mean/norm, in order to re-adjust goals and actions.

The second item of interest relates to the environment-gene interaction. Kaufman wrote that “the environment triggers gene expression. Every step we take alters the configuration of all the cells in our body. As Matt Ridley notes: “Genes are the mechanisms of experience.” Talent develops through the interaction of genes and the environment. Talent and practice are complementary, not at odds.” In addition, this other part of the article is related to the above sentences, “it takes time for genes to sync with one another and with the environment.”

I would like to this one step further to point out the bi-directional relationships between environment and gene expression other researchers have written about such as Ellis and Boyce (2008), and Belsky (1997).

Here I share some personal experiences with my twice-exceptional autistic son. My son additionally has dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and CAPD. In a school setting, one of his difficulties is in expressing his thoughts in writing/typing/speech to text, etc. He often asks if he can act/sing/draw out what he means when the output demand is external, which was never allowed at public school. It is rare but he has been self-motivated enough to write something down on paper and is often eager to share with us.

I often wonder how I can bring out that side of him as he is so creative and truly thinks differently without trying to do so. Imagine, my shocked and delighted surprise when he wrote in pen (no corrections) and kept his written words within the yellow legal pad lines, single spacing, almost a full page of creative essay writing during a Davidson young scholar 1-hour workshop session when we attended our first Davidson summit in Reno, NV in 2017.

The second time I was really shocked was the summer of 2018, when we went to a three-day gathering near the “Gardens of the gods” in Colorado Springs, CO. The same day we arrived, at this peaceful retreat full of nature and greenery, after check-in, we were each given some pens and notepads and asked to just relax before activities started. My son started writing on his own in his notepad a story titled “ Observations of the wild C”, where he described his older sister as if one would be describing a different species he is observing, in order to understand them. Since our visit to Colorado Springs, my son often asked if we will go back there during summer and he NEVER asks about going back to any other places we have visited which he enjoyed.

These two incidences in particular really stuck out in my mind, something/situation/condition allowed this other side of his genes to pass an internal threshold and manifest outwardly and spontaneously. When I asked him why he decided to write the story, he just said simply, I felt like it! Evidence shows that the brain, the nervous system, and the immune system are found to be functionally connected (Ballieau, 1992) and therefore it is logical to infer that environmental factors can affect our bodies and talent expression.

Last but not least, Kaufman’s view to ‘keeping the door open and instituting a dynamic talent development process where the only admission criterion is readiness for engagement’ and  “the key is finding the mode of expression that best allows your unique package of personal characteristics to shine.”, is a great message and viewpoint that should be promoted by parents to schools, as this will help open doors to ALL children, including 2e children. The current issue in public education is that many groups are fighting for funding for a particular disability or for the gifted, at the expanse of each other. If we all join together to fight for a viewpoint that will lead to services that benefit all, the results will be much better and beneficial to all. It is time for a  perspective shift from producing workers to supply the industrial revolution to nurturing human skills and talent that is respective of neuro-socio-economic-cultural dignity and skills required as we move through our lifespan.

References:

Ballieux, R. E. (1992) Bidirectional communication between the brain and the immune system. Eur J Clin Invest, 10(22) Suppl 1:6-9.

Baxter, P. (2006). Normality and abnormality.  Developmental Medicine And Child Neurology, 48, 867-867.

Belsky, J. (1997). Variation in susceptibility to rearing influences: An evolutionary argument. Psychological Inquiry, 8, 182-186.

Ellis, B. J., & Boyce, W. T. (2008). Biological Sensitivity to context. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 183-187.

Scully J. L. (2004). What is a disease?. EMBO Reports, 5(7), 650–653. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.embor.7400195

Wellman, M. (1958). The concept of normal in medicine. Canad, M.A.L, July (79),43-44. Eur J Clin Invest. 1992 Oct;22 Suppl 1:6-9.

SENG SMPG Facilitator: Caroline Lubbe, J.D.

“We are each other’s magnitude and bond.” – Gwendolyn Brooks

Caroline is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and Golden Gate University School of Law.  She has a background in litigation, corporate law, and information privacy and left her legal career to assist her son in his educational experience as a twice-exceptional learner.

Having found a place for him to thrive in a school for 2e students, Caroline is enrolling in a graduate program in cognitive diversity in education. Caroline and her husband actively participate in their children’s education from parent-participation cooperatives to public and independent schools, and in enrichment programs for gifted children.

Caroline’s involvement with SENG began in a SENG Model Parent Group. She is a strong advocate for SENG and encourages involvement in SENG conferences, mini-conferences, and SENGinars. She currently serves on the National Board of Directors for SENG (2020-2023), as the Co-President-Elect, together with her fellow board member Alonzo Kelly. Caroline is also a trained SMPG in-person and online facilitator.

SENG SMPG Facilitator: Susan Chun, M.A., P.P.S

“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.” – Lady Bird Johnson

Susan is a professional school counselor and an active member of numerous state and national organizations. She earned a Masters of Arts degree in school counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential. Susan brings her passion for the whole child approach and is a strong advocate for the development and well-being of children.

Susan has experience working in public K-12 education, guiding “at-risk” students with educational programs using academic and vocational assessment tools. She also has experience in Gifted and Talented Education and guides students to reach their maximum potential. Along with counseling, she has served as a community outreach coordinator, committee chair, representative of a nationally recognized Parent Teacher Association, liaison for community non-profit organizations, educational consultant, and is an active volunteer in her local community.

Susan is a trained facilitator for SENG SMPG in-person and online groups. She strongly believes in respect for community, life-long learning, and supporting the social and emotional needs of children.

SENG SMPG Facilitator: Cherin Escher, MA

Without inspiration, nothing moves…. We need to set out with a childlike conviction that anything we can imagine, we can manifest.”

Bruce Mau, MC24: Bruce Mau’s 24 principles for designing Massive Change in your life and work.

Born in Germany and growing up in a multicultural environment Cherin holds an MA in Philosophie, Literature, and Psychology from the University in Braunschweig.

Cherin is living by principles of innovative learning and education that honor creativity & cognitive diversity with a focus on a strength-based & holistic development of the critical mind.

Her five daughters all attend(ed) public schools in CFBISD in Texas, where she had the opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge about advanced programs and gifted education. In collaboration with GT teachers, school administrators, and parents, Cherin has made a positive impact in her community in the past twenty years and helped recently maintain, support, and improve GT programs & education in CFBISD.

Cherin became interested in the mission of SENG and a trained facilitator of parent support groups over a decade ago, and obtained her online SENG facilitator certification in 2021 to dive deeper into the SENG parenting model groups on a more international level, with a focus on 2E families.

Cherin is an advocate for students who learn differently & who demonstrate exceptional performance on one or multiple levels. She aims to help promote a more holistic, cross-cultural understanding of development & learning. Her passion is a deeper comprehension of the human condition and working collectively – with professionals, researchers, educators, and parents – towards a whole perception, appreciating & supporting diverse learners. Her life goal is to help promote methods that embrace not only cultural & socio-economic circumstances but acknowledge & develop individual opportunities that allow every learner to thrive.

Cherin served as President of the Carrollton Farmers Branch Association for the Gifted and talented  CFBISD’s AGT  for five years and was Chair for the TAGT (Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented) http://www.txgifted.org, Parent Division in 2018/19. She is a Texas PTA Life Member, and a passionate SENG facilitator since 2010.

Cherin strongly supports equity and diversity in public & gifted education. Her five gifted girls all attend(ed) public schools in CFBISD, where she had the opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge about gifted education. In collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and parents, Cherin has helped maintain, support, and improve GT programming in her district.

Cherin became interested in the mission of SENG and a trained facilitator over a decade ago in 2010. She is an advocate for students who demonstrate exceptional performance. Her passion in keeping the focus on support of adequate programming, social & emotional, and educational needs of the gifted, has made a positive impact in her community.

Cherin currently serves as President of the Carrollton Farmers Branch Association for the Gifted and talented  CFBISD’s AGT and was Chair for the TAGT (Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented) www.txgifted.org, Parent Division in 2018/19. She is also a Texas Parent Teacher Association Life Member.

SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)

Meet current and new board members of SENG.

This weekend “zoomed” by literally and figuratively! I got to meet the rest of our non profit SENG board of directors, brain storm strategic planning, and delve deeply into the inner workings of SENG during our annual board of directors retreat.

SENG’s mission is to empower families and communities to guide gifted and talented individuals to reach their goals: intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

SENG envisions a world where gifted and talented individuals are supported to build gratifying, meaningful lives and contribute to the well‐being of others by connecting diverse communities dedicated to meeting the social emotional needs of gifted individuals. 

Emotional needs are often overlooked/undervalued, yet it is foundational to mental and physical health and a negotiable environment necessary for twice-exceptional student success.

SENG SMPGs – facilitated parent groups

Lin is a SENG Model Parent Groups (SMPG) trained facilitator for in-person and online sessions to facilitate connection and to foster the bonding process. She has special interests to provide facilitations around 2e, minority, and/or HG/PG topics.

SENG Model Parent Groups (SMPG) involves 2-3 co-facilitators, together with 10-20 parents of gifted and talented children, and focus on weekly topics such as communication, motivation, discipline, stress management, and  relationships. Although co-facilitators are knowledgeable about parenting and educating gifted children, they do not attempt to give expert advice but provide a non‐judgmental, safe, and nurturing environment for participants to share and exchange information.

Lin and her facilitators offer 6-week online and 6-8 week in-person SMPG sessions, and provide additional resources geared toward specific issues faced by 2e, minority and/or HG/PG families, whenever targeted focus groups are held.

Differential susceptibility to the environment.

Ellis, B. J., Boyce, W. T., Belsky, J., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (2011). Differential susceptibility to the environment: An evolutionary- neurodevelopmental theory. Development and Psychopathology, 23(1), 7–28. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579410000611

Summary

Ellis et al. (2011) proposed an evolutionary-neurodevelopmental theory of variations in adaptive development (based upon evolutionary models), which differed from the dominant “Diathesis-Stress/Dual Risk” paradigm of adaptation.

The authors proposed 7 defining characteristics of individual differences in susceptibility to the environment:

  1. Increased sensitivity to both negative and positive environments.
  2. Increased likelihood for persistent change in development in reaction to the environment.
  3. Neurobiological basis for differential susceptibility.
  4. Prior developmental experiences interact with heritable polygenic variations to determine neurobiological susceptibility.
  5. Neurobiological susceptibility may vary across the life span.
  6. Neurobiological susceptibility are evolutionarily adaptive interactions with historical, social and physical contexts across time.
  7. Different patterns of human development across time are regulated and facilitated through variations in Neurobiological susceptibility to the environment.

Diathesis-Stress/Dual Risk paradigm of adaptation: variations in personal characteristics contribute most towards environmental conditions. This led to the focus on studying the absence and presence of negative environments instead of investigating all ranges of environments to form a more complete understanding of adaptation.

Evolutionary Models of Adaptive Development: natural selection over time shaped development to respond adaptively to all types of contexts – stressful and supportive, termed conditional adaptation. Such models assert that environments (positive and negative) interact with individual neurobiological systems to “direct or regulate it (people) towards strategies that are adaptive under stressful conditions, even if those strategies are currently harmful in terms of long-term welfare of the individual or society as a whole.” (p. 8)

Implications of adopting an evolutionary model:

  1. Behaviors are understood within contexts.
  2. Focus on how individuals respond as context changes.

Background :

Ellis et al. (2011) presented two recent theories: Biological Sensitivity to Context Theory (BSCT) and the Differential Susceptibility Theory (DST).

Both theories are based on evolutionary perspective, focus on individual and environmental interactions, individual characteristics that are neurobiologically based, moderate both stressful and supportive environmental conditions. Both models define change experienced by susceptible individuals to be more enduring. It is not clear how neurobiological susceptibility interacts over time.

The models differ in predictions on “development and distributions of susceptible phenotypes across ecological and social contexts” (p.17). BSCT predicts increase survival under dangerous environments through conditional adaptation, while DST predicts genetic survival through unpredictable future environments through offspring diversity (bet-hedging) which ensures different phenotypes have different optimal adaptation conditions.

BSCT (Boyce & Ellis, 2005): evolution has maintained developmental variations in biological sensitivity to context through natural selection.

1) “Stress response” systems are dual function(central neural and peripheral neuroendocrine responses to survival) and should be conceptualized as “biological sensitivity to context” (p.11).

2) Biological stress response variations within individuals regulate responses to environmental influences ranging from harmful to protective.

3) Relationship between levels of early support and biological response dispositions is hypothesized to be a U-shaped linear curve. Early extreme environments increase biological sensitivity and reactivity to context.

DST (Belsky, 1997): focused on within-family variations in susceptibility of siblings to the parenting environment. Differential susceptibility to environments is evolutionarily advantageous due to future uncertainty.

DST supports or explains the following data:

1) Modest impacts on the environment within families.

2) Across studies data show variable effects of rearing environments that are modest (masking effect between high and low susceptible individuals within and across studies.

The Gifted Education Family Network of Texas

The Gifted Education Family Network of Texas (GEFN) – strongly support diversity in gifted education programs.

All children deserve the right to an appropriate learning environment in public schools. GEFN encourages gifted parents to start their own groups in other states. It is our duty to ensure lawmakers hear our voices.

GRABBIES!

Custom Made to Order.

WHAT?

Hand protectors you can easily slip in and out of in an instant – be kind to the environment, be gentle on your hands, and ditch the germs.  

WHY?

The 3 C’s

Comfort, Clean, and Control.

WHEN?

Anytime, anywhere!

Life-changing occurrences such as COVID-19 and Global Warming have forced many of us to re-evaluate our lives.  We have to think outside the box and create solutions to help people and our planet.  Every little bit helps and we can have fun while doing it in style.

GENESIS and videos

%d bloggers like this: