Monday, April 7, 2014

It's That Time of Year!

It's that time of year when people message me and email about school choices, curriculum and challenging their gifted children.

If you've contacted me and I've yet to respond please let me know. I'm playing catch up this week!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Making Connections

When I first began working with the gifted, one of the things my boss told me to be on guard for was connections.  Gifted children are experts at making connections.  Their brains have a hierarchy that makes short cuts and draws connections in both fascinating and amazing ways.  Why be on guard if that’s the case?
I’ll share a story from my own life to illustrate.  My daughter is a precocious one year old.  She is constantly making connections.  Recently, she wanted to “drive” her little plastic car.  My husband and I both laughed in amusement when she went and got her little plastic set of keys, thinking this was the solution to her car driving woes.

The first brush we introduced her to was a hairbrush.  While she doesn’t have much of it, she loves for us to brush her hair.  The funny thing is when we see her using a paint brush, a make-up brush- even attempting a toilet brush- to brush her hair.  All brushes though not necessarily hair brushes.

I share these stories not to say how smart and wonderful my child is- although I, like all parents, think so!  I share them to remind each of us that we are the still parents. No matter how intelligent our children may be, they need us to help them when they are making these important learning connections. We provide meaning and structure, a framework for reinforcing and correcting the connections that they are making.  Our children will make as many erroneous conclusions as they will make brilliant ones.  Correcting their fallacies will help them develop humility while guiding their correct ones will shape and enhance their innate abilities.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Dyspraxia is a learning disability that can sometimes affect gifted children.  A child struggling with dyspraxia will have a difficult time planning and executing their motor functions.  This can manifest in many areas of their development, including their speech. Their brain is processing just fine, but the messages are not being sent or received correctly.

The Dyspraxia Foundation lists the main characteristics of the disorder as difficulty planning a series of movements and difficulty following through on an action even when the brain understands the motion. Fine motor skills are often affected, and since those skills include such things as holding a pencil correctly, writing for long amounts of time, and being able to correctly form letters and numbers, there are frequent misdiagnoses of dyslexia. Gross motor skills problems, including difficulty balancing and maintaining proper social distances, are often affected as well, and the child may seem to be generally “clumsy”.

What would this look like in a gifted child?  Often, these twice exceptional children develop a creative way for holding their writing tools in place of the traditional pencil grip.  This can cause trouble in forming their letters correctly.  Teachers often expect practice to improve a student’s skill, but simple rote penmanship drills will do little to improve the handwriting of a child with dyspraxia. 

Additionally because dyspraxia affects gross motor skills as well, students with this learning disability may find recess a particular form of torture.  They struggle with running, jumping rope, swinging- many of these tasks requiring complex series of actions along with mental planning and executing functions that are severely difficult for them.

NOTE:  I’ve written previously about asynchronous development, which is a normal symptom of giftedness itself, and does not require treatment (but perhaps a little extra patience). The difference between asynchronous development and dyspraxia is that of time.  With time, the asynchronous development of a gifted child will begin to improve.  For the dyspraxic child, intervention is most often necessary for improvement.  The distinction to watch for between the two is that dyspraxia will affect all areas of a child’s gross and/or fine motor skills. If you suspect this to be the case, you may want to consider testing for dyspraxia.  If diagnosed, treatments such as occupational therapy are available and can help.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fun Brain Teasers

Gifted kids love opportunities for challenging, creative thinking.  I recently found BrainBashers, and it has lots of interesting puzzles and brain teasers that I thought were worth sharing.  Here's an example:

During a recent police investigation, Chief Inspector Stone was interviewing five local villains to try and identify who stole Mrs Archer's cake from the mid-summers fayre. Below is a summary of their statements:
Arnold:  it wasn't Edward
         it was Brian

Brian:   it wasn't Charlie
         it wasn't Edward

Charlie: it was Edward
         it wasn't Arnold

Derek:   it was Charlie
         it was Brian

Edward:  it was Derek
         it wasn't Arnold
It was well known that each suspect told exactly one lie. Can you determine who stole the cake?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Existential Depression

I remember vividly a classroom conversation I had on the sixth anniversary of September 11th.  The class was concerned and wanted to talk through why this was a significant and important date.  Why does this instance stand out so much to me?  

That year, I was teaching kindergarten.  This conversation was with a group of five year olds.  Not only were they young to be bearing the weight of such heavy concerns- they were not even born when this terrible event took place!

I share this story to highlight the reality of existential depression in gifted children.  Existential depression is a very valid concern for parents of gifted children which can strike as young as preschool.  Gifted children sense and feel things more deeply than their age-level counterparts.  While many young children are concerned about toys, sports, and friendships the gifted child is weighed down by third world poverty, homelessness, and abandoned animals.  They are burdened by the magnitude of the world's challenges, and realize at a young age that there are matters far beyond their control.

When gifted children bring up their concerns, many adults (as well as their peers) dismiss their concerns or minimize them.  This only exacerbates their feelings of isolation and helplessness.   The gifted child facing existential depression now feels as if they are alone in a world that they feel powerless to change.  That is a heavy pressure for an eight-year-old to cope with on their own.

How to Help Your Child Deal with Existential Depression

Acknowledge their concern

We all want to feel that our voices are being heard.  When your child brings up their concerns, do not diminish them.  Be forthright and open in explaining the details as you know them, or work together to discover more on the issue.  While you may be tempted to make light or sugarcoat the issue, your child will see through you.  Try to be as candid as possible while maintaining age-appropriateness as well.  You may not feel ready to have such deep and adult conversations with your child.  In addition, your child wants to talk about what they are seeing and experiencing.  If you don't talk to your children, someone else will.   This is a chance to forge a bond and build trust in your relationship with your child.  Don't miss this critical opportunity.

Work together for change
One person can make a difference, no matter how young.  The best cure for your child's feelings of helplessness is to find a way to help.  If your child is concerned about the homeless, volunteer as a family at a local soup kitchen.  One beautiful characteristic of youth is a boundless optimism.  While adults have become cynical over time, children are not paralyzed by it.  They believe in their ability to bring about change- and you can help them!

Teach your child how to communicate effectively
Simply engaging in conversation can be cathartic for your child.  Many times, having a simple conversation where they are able to discuss how they are feeling and why, can help your child to process their emotions. 

Help your child learn to journal
Parents need to make sure that their emotional child is not bottling up their emotions.  Even if you don't feel comfortable having these conversations, your child needs a way to express and release their feelings.  A journal can be a powerful tool.  Children can learn to write or draw as a way to free his or herself from the weight of their concerns.  


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Article on Supporting Gifted Students from EdWeek

I read a great article this morning on the EdWeek website.  The article is written primarily for teachers, but it has some great information.  Parents may enjoy it, or find it a useful resource to share with their child's educators.

Check it out here.

This was just one of the great points the author shared:

"Teachers today have an abundance of data about our students—and if we don't have it, we can acquire it. Analyze performance data to determine what your gifted students already know and what they still need to learn. If students know the material, they should be learning something else.
At the beginning of this year, I administered baseline reading and math assessments to my students. Not surprisingly, some of my students scored 90 percent and higher…one student even scored a 100 percent! The data showed me areas in which individual students needed grade-level instruction and areas in which students were ready to tackle more advanced concepts and skills. I can do a better job of teaching my students when I know their stats."
I am so thankful teachers are realizing that they don't have to be bound to simply teaching all students a prescribed curriculum.  This teacher, and hopefully many others, are realizing that students often know more than we think they do.  Nothing is worse than having to sit for hours, days, months on end listening to information we already know.
EdWeek is doing a spotlight on Gifted Education this week, so be sure to check out more of their great articles.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Communicate with Your Child's Teacher

Now that we are all in back to school swing, I know that many parents are considering meeting with their child's teacher.  Parents can have a variety of reasons for wanting to meet with the teacher.  Those may include general introductions, to provide more information about their child, concerns over the way the school year has begun, as well as many other valid topics.

I thought I would share a few tips for parents to help you communicate effectively with your child's teacher should you wish to do so.

*Schedule an appointment.  Nothing is worse as a teacher than a parent "dropping by" before or after school, or during a break time for an impromptu conference.  Try to be respectful of the teacher's limited time and not catch her by surprise when she may or may have time to adequately address your concerns.

*Stay positive.  While it can seem difficult in the moment, your child's teacher can't be doing everything wrong.  Try to be positive when you can be, and recognize the efforts that your child's teacher is making.  It is helpful to start every conference by telling the teacher the things that you see him doing that are working that you appreciate.  Your teacher will be more likely to listen to what suggestions or concerns you have if they do not feel as though they are being attacked.

*Be willing to do your part.  If you are going to ask for changes or accommodations, make sure you are willing to support them at home.  Teachers can feel very burdened by the amount of work they are already doing, and some quite honestly find it challenging to add one more thing to an already full plate.  Make sure that they know you are willing to work together with them, and will support them from the home front.

*Bring Examples.  If you are going to present specific concerns over your child's work or performances, try to bring examples.  For example, if your child has already covered material being presented in class, try to bring sample tests or work from the previous year that demonstrate their mastery.  Your child's teacher may not be aware of your child's true potential so early in the school year.  It is helpful to be able to show examples of the work they have done or the quality of work you would like to see them producing.

*Become an ally.  You and your child's teacher should be partners and not adversaries.  Try to build a relationship together by exchanging casual pleasantries.  Drop off a Starbucks from time to time.  Volunteer in the classroom or offer to do projects at home to help.  If every time you see your child's teacher, you are complaining or on the offensive, he is going to start to hide from you or come at you defensively.  Don't lose sight of the fact that you both have the same goal: helping your child succeed.

These are just a few tips from being a teacher, and talking with other teachers.  Teachers, have you found other ways that parents can help foster a positive communication relationship?   Parents, what has worked for you in the past?