Thursday, August 27, 2015

An Accelerated Journey

Michelle Vaisman on Graduation Day


Meet Michelle Vaisman; an extraordinary young woman who benefited from radical acceleration and parents who supported her along the way. Acceleration works and it’s time to celebrate the successes rather than rely on a few anecdotal tales of students who were ill-prepared for the journey by adults in the process. 

Michelle Vaisman

 
I have written about several young people with similar experiences here. One of the common threads that runs through all their shared experiences is the importance of parents and the environment they provided for their curious, passionate, smart kids.

The report, A Nation Empowered, released earlier this year by the Acceleration Institute at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center is a 10 year follow-up to the seminal report, A Nation Deceived. In a recent Twitter chat, Dr. Ann Shoplik, director of the Acceleration Institute, explained why the new report was written, “Acceleration is the most-researched, yet under-utilized program option for gifted kids. Policy and practice haven’t kept up with the research on acceleration. Short and long-term research evidence is clear: Acceleration works! Colleges of Education don’t teach acceleration. We must inform administrators and teachers.”




The benefits of acceleration are well-documented. Students who are accelerated demonstrate exceptional achievements years later. Dr. Shoplik tell us, “Failing to accelerate an able student is likely to have negative effects on motivation, productivity; may even lead to dropping out. Achieving success in a class that is challenging bolsters confidence, raises expectations, and alters mindsets.”


“Acceleration is the most-researched, yet under-utilized program option for gifted kids. Policy and practice haven’t kept up with the research on acceleration." ~ Dr. Ann Shoplik


Michelle Vaisman first came to my attention when her mother, Karen, posted her story on Gifted Parenting Support’s Facebook Page. Her story is remarkable:


Michelle receiving her Masters from Yale May 2015


A recent headline on a British news website admonished parents not to brag about their gifted kids. How do you not brag about this young lady? Her accomplishments are incredible for someone so young.

Michelle’s mother was kind enough to share her story with me. Her personal perspective adds a dose of reality to the narrative. Here is some of the advice she shared:

  • Identified as a profoundly gifted child, she was highly motivated. Even as early as age 9, Michelle recognized her school’s rejection of pleas for acceleration as a challenge. Clearing these hurdles taught her important life lessons and eventually brought her a great deal of satisfaction.
  • Due to privacy laws, once Michelle was a fully matriculated college student, we learned colleges would not talk to parents regardless of the student’s age. Her mother credits this for Michelle gaining self-confidence, persistence and self-advocacy skills. However, personality plays a huge role in a child’s ability to stand up to adults within the system; confrontations can easily end poorly unless monitored closely.
  • The ability to defend exam grades, papers and lab grades without parental intervention plays an important role in college success. Failure to do so could result in a tremendous disadvantage to a younger student with long-term consequences.
  • Michelle learned that merit scholarships are rarely offered to a transfer student. After attending Mary Baldwin College, she was no longer eligible at subsequent universities for merit scholarships. Need-based scholarships were different. We found this out by surprise once our journey was underway. Budget wisely.
  • When transferring colleges, know the colleges’ policies regarding maximum number of transfer credits and acceptable coursework. Failure to know the rules can result in huge financial expenses, loss of time or even the inability to graduate. (The UC system in California has this ruling.) Even gifted students need parental guidance to navigate this part of college planning which can be difficult, time consuming and costly. College counselors are often only familiar with their own school and not the student’s full 4 year plan integrating multiple schools, community college and other coursework into their final transcript.
  • To increase her chance of acceptance (age discrimination being a factor), when submitting her summer REU and college transfer applications; she applied to 15 or more schools. On average, she was successfully admitted to over half the schools and programs to which she applied. She also succeeded in honing her writing skills in the process.
  • Test scores, grades, writing skills and recommendation letters from professors were intricate components to this process. Knowing standardized testing calendars meant getting applications in on time without missing critical deadlines.
  • Learning how to network and build relationships with adults along the way was an important lesson. Age discrimination was a real concern up until the age of 18.
  • Although 5 years younger, Michelle was quite social; making friends and developing relationships with college classmates. Social interaction impacted her continued success and happiness in college. So at the age of 20, she is waiting patiently to be able to enter a bar (age 21) where much of the socialization takes place in graduate school.
  • Meanwhile, she is the team leader of her coed intramural grad school softball team and attends outside activities like dancing, swimming and parties.
  • Maturity for an early entrance student is fast-tracked. As parents, we often had to hang on for the ride and we saw real measurable leaps in her development on a monthly basis as opposed to a yearly one. While rewarding, it was simultaneously unnerving.

Since starting graduate school, Michelle has been financially self-supporting as a math tutor. She earned two fellowships this year; one from the National Science Foundation and one from NASA. She chose NASA in order to research solar cells with a space technology application. She also volunteers and works with young STEM students at Yale’s ManyMentors program; particularly young women in science. After completing her PhD, Michelle wants to focus on making the world a better place by contributing to scientific research toward furthering developments in the alternative energy field.


A proud and devoted mother, Karen Vaisman tells her daughter’s story to inspire bright young minds at the beginning of their educational journey who are faced with a system that says "no you can't do it” to become independent, successful students who realize they indeed can! She points to the need for strong parental support, continued open communication, a keen understanding of your own child’s maturity and ability to handle adult interactions and challenges without parental intervention. Karen emphasizes the importance of both parents working together to ensure the success of their children.


Michelle and Her Parents


If you would like more information on Michelle’s journey, Karen can be contacted here. What has been your experience with acceleration? It’s time to share the good news that acceleration can and does work!

Photos courtesy of Karen Vaisman Photography
Parts of this post were excerpted from a post at the Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT Blog here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

5 Strategies for Building Effective Parent-Teacher Partnerships … From a Parent’s Perspective




Effective parent-teacher partnerships are essential to fostering a child’s social-emotional success in school. Forming a partnership with your child’s teacher is an opportunity to model behavior that exemplifies the benefits of a relationship based on mutual cooperation with an interest in achieving goals. Ultimately, your child learns to be their own advocate by observing your behavior.

Most information that you find on this subject is directed toward teachers. In this post, I will outline five strategies for building effective partnerships based on your child’s needs from the parents’ perspective. They include:

  • Communicate Directly
  • Don’t Play the Blame Game
  • Be Proactive
  • Meet Social Emotional Needs
  • Keep the Focus on Your Child


Communicate Directly

One of the most important factors in building an effective parent-teacher partnership is to communicate directly. Relaying information should not be delegated to your child unless it is absolutely necessary. Parents and teachers need to find which method works best for both parties and then use it consistently. Digital forms of communication provide a permanent and accurate record of information for later use.

It is never too early to begin the conversation. In the elementary years, it is a good idea to open the lines of communication at the end of a school year with the next year’s teacher. Start each new year with a fresh determination to make it the best one possible. Then, remember to keep the communication ongoing throughout the school year.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Do not play the blame game or make discussions about your child’s education personal. It’s not about you and it’s not about the teacher. Parents of gifted children often have intense personalities which can impede parent-teacher relations. Finding common ground is a positive approach that will benefit everyone involved.

Be respectful toward your child’s teacher and other school personnel. Effective communication cannot be fostered when negative feelings are allowed to prevail. At times, this may require the parent to step back and keep emotions in check. Try to understand the teacher’s point of view and realize that they rarely have the final word on many aspects of what is expected from students. Remember, you can always address concerns with an administrator if issues arise that can’t be resolved with the teacher.

"Do not play the blame game or make discussions about your child’s education personal. It’s not about you and it’s not about the teacher."

Be Proactive

Talk to your child every single day and be aware of any situations which might be hindering their progress; either academically or emotionally. If your child suddenly becomes reticent in sharing with you about his or her school day, explore the reasons ‘why’ through further conversation. Keep in mind that gifted children are very adept at manipulation. They understand the importance their point of view brings to the table even at a very young age. Parents should not assume everything their child tells them is an accurate portrayal of an event. Once you have heard their side of the story, contact their teacher to discuss the matter.

Know your options – learn about regulations concerning gifted education in your local area. (See links below.) Educate yourself about gifted education by reading books on the topic, reading blogs, and attending gifted education conferences at the state and regional level. Take time to talk to other parents about your school’s culture relating to gifted education.

Know who makes the decision for your child’s placement and who is responsible for implementing their education plan; teacher, gifted coordinator, principal. In most states, no decision will ever be made without an LEA (local education administrator) present. Know who your school’s LEA is before agreeing to any plan of action.

Whenever possible, seek out teachers who are certified in gifted education or have a reputation for working well with gifted students. This practice may be discouraged by your child’s school administrators, but this should not deter you from doing what is best for your child.

Meet Social-Emotional Needs

Do not minimize the importance of taking into account the meeting of social-emotional needs of your child. Gifted children often must deal with situations that classmates will never encounter such as bullying based on their intellectual capacity, asynchronous development that places them at odds with their teachers and other school personnel, anxiety born out of frustration in dealing with perfectionism, and boredom which can result in underachievement due to lack of challenge.

Many gifted children may also be twice-exceptional; dealing with one or more learning challenges such as ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, or a myriad of other possibilities. These children require additional support by parents, teachers and support personnel.

"Parents often view their child’s education through the prism of the parent’s own childhood experiences in school. For better or worse, the educational experience of a child in today’s classroom is vastly different from what you experienced."

Keep the Focus on Your Child

Parents often view their child’s education through the prism of the parent’s own childhood experiences in school. For better or worse, the educational experience of a child in today’s classroom is vastly different from what you experienced. Full inclusion of all ability levels in one classroom, the quest for data based on standardized test results, the introduction of technology at break-neck speed and reliance on teachers to ‘figure it out’ on their own have all led to a malaise in expectations in today’s classroom.

Including your child in the decision-making process is essential and should coincide with their maturity level. All the advocacy and partnering in the world will achieve little if your child is not on board. Do not loose site of your goal to provide an appropriate education for your child. Professionals such as guidance counselors, principals, gifted coordinators, OT specialists and social workers should be consulted when necessary.

Finally …

Parent-teacher relationships do not need to be adversarial. Keep all conversations on a professional level. Get in the habit of sharing good news rather than waiting till problems arise. By adopting a team mindset, everyone becomes invested in your child’s success!

Remember that your child has unique educational needs that may not be able to be met in a regular classroom despite the best efforts of their teacher or school. A flexible approach may include creative scheduling, blended learning (using multiple approaches such as acceleration, online instruction/distance learning, outside mentoring, homeschooling), or project-based learning; the possibilities are endless. Look for evidence-based research to support any request you may make.

"Remember that your child has unique educational needs that may not be able to be met in a regular classroom despite the best efforts of their teacher or school."

Below I have included resources that will start you on the journey to build an effective partnership with your child’s teacher. Take time to look over them and share them with teachers with whom you’ll be partnering. Consider sharing this post with your child’s teacher as well.

What strategies have worked for you? Please share in the comments below.


Links:
Department of Educations by State 

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC By- NC 2.0 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Finding Age Appropriate Books for Gifted Readers



One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents of gifted children is where to find age-appropriate reading materials for their children. More often than not, one of the early signs of giftedness is being an advanced reader; like years and years advanced for their age. This poses a significant problem for parents because very young children ‘can’ read books which are simply too mature for them.

I speak from the voice of experience. If my parents had paid attention to what I was reading in elementary school, they would have been appalled. Fortunately or not for me, they rarely took the time to check out the books on my nightstand. I developed a view of the world which was … shall we say – not shared by my age-mates; or even my teachers, for that matter.

When my own kids started reading, I did pay attention (to their chagrin). However, many people would say I was pretty liberal in what they were allowed to read. It was a constant struggle to find appropriate books at their reading level.

Many factors play a role in the search for reading materials for advanced readers. Asynchronous development can mean that a very young child will comprehend reading material well beyond what is considered appropriate for their age. A gifted child’s interests and sensitivities may influence books they choose to read. Books deemed age-appropriate for most children will lack the depth these children crave.

Reading patterns found in gifted readers can differ from those of typical readers. Often self-taught, these kids start reading earlier than their age peers and demonstrate deeper comprehension of what they read. It is important, however, to respect the developmental process and allow a child to enjoy reading at various levels. Parents should resist the urge to ‘push’ a child to read advanced literature simply because they excel in other academic areas; but, at the same time, be aware of the need to provide appropriate materials when ready.

Reading to children is an important role to be played by parents even after children are reading well on their own. Reading aloud is essential for pronunciation of words and sharing more precise or alternate definitions than those gleaned from context. The importance of emotional bonding that occurs when adults read to children cannot be over-stated. I will always cherish the time spent reading to my children.



Several months ago, I was made aware of a publisher, Tumblehome Learning, who offered books for advanced readers. I was intrigued by a particular title … TheWalking Fish. As a huge fan of Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish (Free full version pdf) which traces the discovery Tiktaalik – the first known fish to walk on land –I knew I wanted to read this book. When notified of its impending release, I immediately accepted the opportunity to review a copy from the publisher.



I was not disappointed! Where had this publisher been when my children were young? Even as an adult, I found The Walking Fish engaging, informative and a source of valuable life lessons. It also serves as an excellent introduction for younger readers into the realm of STEM related subjects.

After reviewing the book on Amazon, the publisher asked if I would be interested in any of the books in their Galactic Academy of Science series. This series, very similar to The Magic Treehouse Books, is about characters that experience time travel to solve mysteries. The depth of knowledge conveyed in the books I’ve read and the quality of titles available from Tumblehome Press allows me to highly recommend* them as a choice publisher for parents of advanced readers. 

Parenting gifted kids can be a daunting task, but the right tools can make any job much easier. Helping you find these tools plays a major role in why Gifted Parenting Support exists. If you have found other sources of great materials for advanced readers, please comment below. 

Portions of this post were previously published here

Links:














*It’s important to note that there are no affiliate ads in this post and I have received no compensation for this endorsement from the publisher. I simply believe they offer high quality products to be considered by parents and teachers of gifted children.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain 

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to Help the Impulsive Disorganized Child



Perhaps you've never thought of gifted children as impulsive or disorganized, but many gifted kids and those who are twice-exceptional, gifted with learning differences, often struggle with impulsivity and being disorganized. Dealing with executive functioning (EF) deficits can take its toll on family harmony. It is something you yourself may have dealt with early in life, but learned to compensate for by developing strategies without even realizing it.

When a child has difficulty with organizational issues, it can be devastating in school as well. In my experience, most school personnel were not prepared to deal with these deficits beyond suggesting the use of colored folders and showed little empathy for the situation with which we were dealing. Instead, words like ‘lazy’ and ‘lacks effort’ or ‘doesn’t care’ were bantered about as if to place blame squarely on our child. 



As parents, it is essential to have coping strategies in your ‘toolbox’. Recently, I reviewed* the book, The Impulsive, Disorganized Child: Solutions for Parenting Kids with Executive Functioning Difficulties, for Prufrock Press on Amazon and was quite impressed with the strategies presented in it. 

It’s important for parents to understand what executive functioning (EF) is and how they can help their child to overcome deficits and become successful, independent adults. Here now is an interview I did with the authors, Dr. James Forgan and Mary Anne Richey.

Dr. James Forgan
                                                                                                  
Mary Anne Richey
                                                 
GPS: What compelled you to write The Impulsive, Disorganized Child?

JF/MAR: We’ve both raised boys with EF difficulty and have applied many strategies in our daily lives we were very familiar with the challenges families face when raising a child with EF difficulty. In our private practices we work daily helping our clients with EF difficulty by providing coaching and assessment of executive functioning.

GPS: What is Executive Functioning (EF), what causes Executive Dysfunction, and how are EF difficulties evaluated?

JF/MAR: Generally speaking, executive functioning is an umbrella term for many different activities of the brain that orchestrate goal-directed action. It is considered the management system of the brain that helps children plan, organize, and implement on a regular and consistent schedule. Executive function includes a person’s ability to focus, decide what is important, set goals, use prior knowledge, initiate action, manage time, self-monitor performance, use self-restraint and remain flexible.

Executive dysfunction is considered to be present in a number of disorders—ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dementia—to name a few. Difficulty with executive functioning is caused by faulty neural circuitry and can come from a variety of causes, including genetic or environmental factors. It is present in a number of disorders shown to have a high degree of heritability, meaning their characteristics can be passed down from parent to child in some form or another. If your child has executive functioning problems, you did not intentionally cause it.

"Parenting styles don’t directly cause executive dysfunction. However, experiences involving opportunities to learn new things, thereby creating new and strengthening existing neural connections, and structured, secure environments providing opportunities for problem-solving can enhance EF."

There are a variety of tests that evaluate specific executive skills, including the Stroop Task, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Auditory Attention, Inhibition, and the Trail-Making Test, which can provide some valuable information. One caveat is that the outcome may show deficits in the test scores but the scores don’t provide a clear picture of how a child would manage independently in the complexity of a busy school or home environment. An astute psychologist will provide the link of how the low scores may appear as behaviors in the classroom.

There are also rating scales designed to measure executive functioning. Some of the concerns that exist around the various rating scales, like the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function and the Barkley Functional Impairment Scale—Children and Adolescents, have to do with the subjectivity of the rater. A comprehensive evaluation would include the specific EF tests, rating scales, a psycho-educational evaluation, as well as observations and interviews of the student, parent(s), and teacher(s).

GPS: How can parents tell if their child has a problem with focusing and self-monitoring?

JF/MAR: Parents should trust their instinct. If the behaviors below describe your child, then your child may have a focusing and self-monitoring weakness.



The big question for most parents is not, “How can I teach my child to focus, behave, and/or remember?” This is one area in which you cannot do the work for him. You cannot get in his head and force focus; you can simply show him what it looks like and help him develop the skills bit by bit. This takes lots of repetition so try to keep a teaching perspective and not become too frustrated with your child.

GPS: What are some of the proven strategies outlined in your book for improving EF skills in kids?

JF/MAR: It is important to figure out what executive functioning deficits your child has and pick out the ones that seem to be causing your child the most difficulty. Try to identify the level of skill your child does have in those areas and then provide temporary supports or scaffolds. For example, if your child can never seem to get himself ready for school in the morning, provide a checklist with his responsibilities mounted in the bathroom.

It is very important to provide motivation for completing the items on the checklist with minimal or no reminders. Some children thrive on verbal praise, some like the opportunity to select what will be served for dinner, whereas others like to earn time for a preferred activity.

Some children require longer-term strategies, i.e., a system of support, a sustainable system that functions as a tool he or she can complete independently. Many older students use technology tools, such as calendars and reminders, to help then keep up with their responsibilities. Others prefer handwritten to-do lists to keep themselves organized. If a person has a weak auditory working memory, he would write down everything he needed to remember rather than relying on his memory. If a child is highly verbal but has poor organizational skills, he can develop a habit of talking his way through items needed for particular events.

"A caveat about organizational systems—it must work for the child and the way he mentally organizes material. As a parent, you could create a terrific system with expensive color-coded folders for each subject, but if your child can only keep up with one folder divided into sections, then your system will not help him."

GPS: Is it possible for a child with EF issues to lead a happy and successful life? 

JF/MAR: Absolutely! The world is filled with highly successful individuals with executive functioning difficulties who have figured out how to harness their strengths and use strategies to work around their deficits. It is important to help children develop realistic expectations for themselves and find satisfaction in using their talents and working around their deficits.



I hope this has helped you to better understand the role of executive functioning in your child’s life and that you can use some of the techniques found here. For a more extensive review, The Impulsive, Disorganized Child: Solutions for Parenting Kids with Executive Functioning Difficulties can be found at Amazon or your favorite bookseller. My thanks to Dr. James Forgan and Mary Anne Richey for taking the time for this interview.


This post is a part of the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week 2015 Blog Tour. For more blog posts on the tour, click on the link below!


New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week 2015 Blog Tour 

Other books by the authors:

Raising Boys with ADHD: Secrets for Parenting Healthy, Happy Sons (Amazon)




Graphics courtesy of Lisa Conrad.


Title graphic courtesy of Pixabay  CC0 Public Domain http://goo.gl/mih0DV

*Disclaimer: I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy of the book for review by the publisher. 

 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

An Interview with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman



In June of 2013, Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman released his book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined and a review appeared here on GPS. At the time, I wrote, 

"Why should the gifted community take notice of this book? We always talk about how we think our children should be challenged; so, why not all of us? This book challenges many long held beliefs. It should ignite a discussion on the potential of all children. Proponents (myself included) of the message that “giftedness is as much about who you are as about what you achieve” need to make a reasonable and intellectual assessment of Ungifted."

Since that time, I have had the pleasure to meet and talk to Dr. Kaufman. One cannot come away from a discussion with him without being impressed with his intellect and passion for the well-being of all children. In March, Ungifted was released in paperback. If you haven't read it, you should. 




Recently, Scott agreed to take time from his busy schedule to do an interview for Gifted Parenting Support. 

GPS: A lot has happened in your life since you wrote, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined. Can you bring us up to date?

SBK: Indeed. Since the release of the hardcover copy, I moved to a new job at the University of Pennsylvania. The founder of the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, hired me to be the scientific director of the newly minted Imagination Institute. Our mission is to advance the science of imagination by investigating the measurement and development of imagination across all sectors of society. Toward those aims, we held a grants competition to fund research, and we will also be having discussions with some of the most imaginative people across domains to get a better sense of the domain-specificity of imagination.




GPS: In your announcement of the release of the paperback edition of Ungifted, you stated, “I’m not as bothered as I used to be about how we define ‘intelligence’." Could you elaborate?

SBK: That’s correct. I used to be obsessed with literally redefining intelligence. But I’ve come to realize that what I really want to do is broaden our conceptions of human potential. I want to show that many of our crude measures of potential don’t fully capture what people are capable of achieving, and leave out many important ways that people can mix and match their unique temperament to realize their personal goals. I’m OK defining intelligence as the capacity for learning and adaptation, but I would argue that there are multiple paths to intelligence— even by that definition.

GPS:  Last year, I witnessed two standing ovations when you spoke at two major gifted conferences. What has surprised you the most about the reception you’ve received from the gifted community?

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, Keynote at the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented Annual Conference


SBK: Yes you did, and it was lovely seeing you in the audience! It really gave me greater confidence! When I first set out to write Ungifted, I expected to be embraced by the learning disability community, but I had no idea my ideas would receive such a warm reception from the gifted community. What I’ve come to realize is that most gifted educators have the same goals I have— to cast a wider net and reduce the number of highly capable children who fall by the wayside in this standardized testing culture. So many more kids would benefit from more enriched resources than those we currently single out, and that’s very problematic. Many members of the gifted community are just as interested as I am in finding the less obvious kids who could really benefit from our support.

GPS:  What’s next for Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman? What’s your vision of your future self?

SBK: Oh gosh, I’m just happy when I get through a long day of work. I guess most immediately, look out for my new book on creativity, co-authored with Carolyn Gregoire: Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind.



My thanks to Scott for this interview. My respect for his work continues to grow. I look forward to reading his next book and you can look for a review here when it is released! 

Links:








SBK Graphic and picture via Lisa Conrad.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Advocating for the Twice-Exceptional Child



Life with a twice-exceptional child - gifted with a learning disability/difference - can be enormously rewarding and at the same time extremely frustrating when attempting to advocate for an education that meets all their needs.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is circumventing the prevalent mind-set of many school administrators and educators these days who simply do not believe twice-exceptional children exist. It has become increasingly disturbing to read articles in major media outlets that our children are simply spoiled brats who need a little discipline like in the ‘old days’.

Here’s an idea: invite them over for dinner. Then, ask them to tell you again why your child does not have special needs. A simple conversation with one of these kids can be quite revealing. The breadth and depth of their knowledge can suddenly be overshadowed by their inability to complete a thought after being distracted by … well, by just about anything.

A recent study reported in Gifted Child Quarterly (Vol 59 No 2 April 2015), "The Advocacy Experiences of Parents of Elementary Age, Twice-Exceptional Children", found that parents of twice-exceptional children fight an uphill battle throughout their child’s school years. Only after educating themselves about school policies and learning how to use appropriate educational terminology when talking to school officials did they have any success; often sacrificing any sense of working ‘with’ the school. They found that rarely did school personnel act in the best interest of the child. Parents eventually lost faith in the system and simply did their best to monitor their child’s school for compliance of any meager accommodations gained in the advocacy process.


"Parents felt that school officials were not living up to their professional responsibilities, and feared that one advocacy error on the parents’ part could potentially impede their child’s future." (GCQ 59 (2) p. 114)

This scenario accurately reflects not only my own personal experiences but those of most of the parents I have worked with over the last 15 years. Lack of information, cooperation and education combine to make advocacy a daunting task. Parents feel alone; abandoned by a system they once placed so much value in and are suddenly faced with the reality that it simply doesn't work for everyone – certainly not for their children.

Advocating for the twice-exceptional child is like a never-ending story filled with disingenuous gestures from school officials and lack of respect for parents. Ask any parent who has walked this path and the tales reflect an eerie similarity. Few have happy endings.  Perseverance, tenacity, and a thick skin become indispensable life-skills for these parents.   

Parents in the above-mentioned GCQ study were driven by a longing that ultimately their child would achieve happiness, and become a self-sufficient and productive member of society. There was, however, a disconcerting sense that ultimately their child’s disability would over-shadow their potential.

When giftedness is identified, the disability is often ignored. In other cases, the disability may render a request for identification of giftedness unattainable. And to add insult to injury, parents who obtain an official diagnosis from private non-school professionals often find that the results are unacceptable in most school districts.

Parents are not the only ones who can benefit from further education. School administrators and teachers who take the time to learn about twice-exceptionality are found to be more empathetic and willing to develop a collaborative relationship with parents. The GCQ article references research (many listed below) conducted over more than two decades which firmly establishes that a child can be both gifted and have a learning disability.

How can this situation be improved? What has to change? Well, for starters, the well-being of each individual child needs to be front and center. They are not simply reflections of data mined from standardized test results. One-size-fits all education plans do not work with these kids. Identification of giftedness cannot supplant the necessity of accommodating any co-existing learning disabilities.




And finally, progress will only be made when all stakeholders are mutually respected and strive for true collaboration, to provide the child with a beneficial educational experience that prepares them for a fulfilling life.

What has been your experience in advocating for your child? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

This post is a part of this month's Hoagies' Blog Hop: 2ekids. Please check out the other blogs by clicking on the link below!

 Hoagies Blog Hop




References from GCQ Article:


Additional Resources:

The Twice-Exceptional Dilemma (pdf) from the NEA 
Advocating for Exceptionally Gifted Young People: AGuidebook (pdf) (Davidson Institute for Talent Development) 
Gifted Children’s Challenges with Learning and Attention Issues 




If This is a Gift,Can I Send it Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice Exceptional (Amazon) by Jen Merrill and GHF Press 

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay CC01.0

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay  CC0 Public Domain