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! 


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