Category Archives: Service Providers

Educators’ Guide to Gifted Children

GHF is a wonderful all-volunteer organization working hard to serve some of the same population the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund seeks to serve, by offering community and information resources both to gifted homeschoolers and to the broader population of families with gifted kids in general.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 3.33.26 PMAs an individual, I volunteer for GHF as part of their professional outreach team. They recently asked me to write another brochure for them following on the success of the Healthcare Professionals’ Guide to Gifted Children last year, and I was honored to help.

The Educators’ Guide to Gifted Children is now available on the GHF website free of charge. So many myths about gifted children and education exist. Unfortunately, even many educators buy into these myths (see link to Giftedness 101). Educators, like parents, want what’s best for kids.

This brochure aims to help provide accurate information about what gifted kids need in educational settings, whether in schools, at home, or out in communities. Please share it with the educators you know, and let GHF know how it helps. Better yet, support GHF in their work, and you’ll be helping thousands of kids and families worldwide.

– Marlow

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Helping Healthcare Providers Help Gifted Kids

Screen-Shot-2012-06-13-at-11.00.35-PMI don’t usually write posts from my own point of view, but I recently helped GHF create a set of resources for parents and healthcare providers to help them better support asynchronous (gifted) children. Although I authored the brochure as an individual, I wanted to write a specific blog post here about it, because the result represents one type of support high-potential kids in need usually don’t have.

Children who are further along the spectrum of giftedness than the “garden variety” who may be served well by GATE programs (if such programs exist in their schools) are different enough from the norm that their healthcare is impacted. Families in need may lack the resources (internet access, time away from work and home responsibilities) to research effective ways to advocate for their children in education settings. And even families who aren’t in need may not understand just how much advocacy is required to help healthcare providers understand their children, too.

Perhaps “advocacy” is a misleading word, because here I don’t mean that parents need to advocate for systemic change. Instead, in many cases, healthcare providers don’t have experience with this population, strictly because of the size of the population itself. (See the chart near the bottom of the brochure.) As a result, even healthcare providers may believe the leading myths about giftedness, or simply may not understand how extraordinarily intense and different these children’s needs are.

As we build our program to serve these kids, the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund intends to connect families with free resources like those provided by GHF. Such resources are critical to families’ abilities to understand their kids’ needs, and to help them start meeting those needs more effectively.

I’m a parent, and my own children have extraordinarily unusual needs as well. I wish I’d had resources like the GHF brochure years ago, but I’m also happy my own experience helped me contribute to the expanding landscape of resources available to help others. I hope it’s useful for you or someone you know.

– Marlow

The Misdiagnosis of Gifted Children

Let’s visit an imaginary world where you, an adult with substantial ability in your area of expertise (whatever that may be), were forced to sit in a second-grade class all day. Imagine that for some reason you don’t understand, your teacher and fellow students and everyone else in the school sees you as a second-grade kid. You are bored. You are outraged, in fact. Why is this being done to you? Why can’t you have more challenging things to learn? Why does everyone think you’re just like these other kids? You can’t stop your hand from using your pencil to tap against the desk, or your foot from tapping in frustration. You get up to pace. You start snapping at other students. Your attention drifts, and you feel like you can’t focus on anything.

Restraining yourself all day, every day, to tolerate this intense boredom and injustice saps your energy so severely that even when you escape the confines of school to a family who also bizarrely views you as a second-grader, even though they know you’re smarter than that, it’s all you can do to lie around zoning out, reading distractedly, or taking your aggression out on them. And then the next day comes, and you have to do it all over again.

This is what it feels like to be a profoundly asynchronous child. You may have adult-level cognitive abilities, but you are second-grade age, so you are forced to go through the exact scenario just described. You may develop nervous habits from the stress and boredom, things like fidgeting, impulsiveness, inability to focus (because, come on, who can focus on excruciatingly boring material day in and day out, without respite?), and more.

Your teacher looks at these behaviors and tells your parents you have ADHD, or oppositional defiant disorder, or any of a number of other disorders, and that they should take you to the doctor to be medicated. Your parents do, and your doctor writes a prescription after a 15-minute visit, and you are deposited back in school, drugged out of your mind.

Another article today described it more succinctly: “Imagine if someone took away your Big Wheel and expected you to operate a sports car without training at 6 years old. Now imagine being punished and humiliated for wrecking.”

These scenarios sound extreme, and they are; but versions of them are being repeated again and again in endless variation with everything from garden-variety gifted kids to profoundly gifted kids across the country. An organization called Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted Children (SENG) made an excellent video about it, aimed at educators and healthcare professionals. But it’s instructive for everyone, and our wish is that everyone see it (and share it).

We have one caveat, the same one the video makes: There are twice-exceptional kids, kids who have advanced cognitive abilities but also learning disabilities. Some kids DO have ADHD, whether gifted or not. But the characteristics of giftedness, the school setting, and a range of other things absolutely must be assessed as part of the diagnosis, and the intellectual needs of the child must be met on an ongoing basis.

By sharing the video, and talking to educators and healthcare professionals about it, you may help change a child’s future. Thank you!

How We Will Change the World in 2012

Inspired (belatedly!) by Craig Newmark’s “How Will You Change the World in 2012″ post on craigconnects, we want to share our plans for changing the world in 2012.

But first, the setting:

With all the progress made in many places over past decades as regards helping children with disabilities, children in need, improving education, and the like, most people would think that there isn’t a group of kids who aren’t being helped. It seems like we’re helping kids more than ever before.

But there is one group of children who don’t. Worse yet, these children are very nearly universally scorned, ignored, and even actively hindered because of their very nature. These kids are intense. They have intense needs. They’re extremely misunderstood.

Because of the way these kids are treated, they don’t learn like they should — not just content, but also good work habits, persistence, and trust. These kids constitute as much as twenty percent of all high-school dropouts. Few, if any, reach their potential.

Emotionally, many end up angry, bewildered, stressed, scared, disillusioned, despondent, even clinically depressed at ages as young as 3 or 4. (Yes, you read that right.) This kind of emotional trauma leads directly to severe physical health problems: blinding headaches, nausea, stomach aches, even ulcers. (Again, yes, you read that right. Stress-generated ulcers in small children.)

Socially, many such children founder, because they’re not placed with peers, and have little to nothing in common with those they are placed with. By adulthood, years or decades of this kind of treatment, lack of support, and even vilification by their very own teachers take severe tolls on health, social adjustment, work performance, and families.

Who are these kids, and why is society persisting in doing this to them?

Before I tell you, i’d like you to take a moment and scan your emotions. Do you feel sympathy for these kids? Now I’ll tell you who they are, and check again… still feel sympathy?

They’re gifted. Highly, exceptionally, and profoundly gifted.

I’m willing to bet you are now kind of annoyed. If they’re gifted, they don’t need help, right?

Wrong.

Here’s how we are going to change the world in 2012:

1. We are going to work to spread awareness of the extremely intense educational, social and emotional needs these children have. To help people understand that what they believe about gifted kids is 99% wrong. (The one thing that’s right? They’re smart! But that’s the source of many problems for these kids, instead of being a source of solutions.)

And we’re going to not call these kids “gifted,” because too many people have the wrong understanding of what that means. We’ll call them a more accurate word: Asynchronous.

2. We will continue to raise funds to launch a program to help asynchronous children in need by providing their families with aid for assessments for identification, advocacy, and educational support; supplies, books, and materials; and tutors, counseling, and the like. Our program is based on the real-life, proven effective approach thousands of families have used across this country for decades. Research on meeting the needs of such asynchronous children unanimously supports our approach, despite public misconceptions (and ironically, the misconceptions of teachers and administrators).

By doing these two things, we expect to help a generation of unusual and exceptional children and families, starting in California but as a model for the rest of the nation. We expect to help them grow up knowing what it is to be educationally challenged; to have good work habits and persistence; to reach their educational (and life) potential; and to have a chance to be as well adjusted socially and emotionally as possible.

These are things we wish for any child. Asynchronous children deserve the same.

Bring it on, 2012!

Alisa: A true (anonymous) story

We are proud to share with you the exclusive trailer of the claymation PSA we’re working on: This is Alicia (Trailer).

The full film is coming in January 2012, but here’s a synopsis:

Did you know that there is an entire class of children in this country who are so grossly misunderstood that no one helps them, not even when their need is extreme?

This is Alisa. She is many ages at once — 6 years old chronologically, but 20 when she reads astronomy, 8 years old socially, and 4 when she tries to write neatly. She is asynchronous. Some people call this being a high-potential child. But her potential will never be realized if her extremely intense needs aren’t met. Worse yet, the fact that society is failing to meet Alisa’s needs is damaging, frightening, and alienating to her. She should have the same right to have her needs met as any other child.

There are thousands of kids like Alisa in the United States, kids who are many ages at once. They are as diverse as the population of our country.

You can make a difference. Donate to the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund today. Thank you for your support!

Shifting the Paradigm: Asynchrony and the High-Potential Child

The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) created a kerfuffle in the gifted education community very recently by recommending that efforts to support gifted children be focused not on identification, but on talent development. We want to go on the record to say that the NAGC has done wonderful things in service to this population, but that they are missing the mark with their new recommendation. Allow me to elaborate:

1. The NAGC notes correctly that “programs… are driven by identification methods rather than service models and rightly criticized for focusing on too narrow a group of learners.” They’re partly right; the goal is to serve the population of children whose intellectual ability and promise is on the outlying end of the spectrum, children who are many ages at once (asynchronous). Focusing solely on identifying kids using the methods used particularly in the public school system has indeed partly failed. The system must include a focus on service models that work for each child.

But the NAGC has the emphasis wrong: The system is failing not because focusing on identification is wrong; but because the methods of identification are flawed:

    • Academic-based performance as a measure of identification of gifted and asynchronous children only identifies those who have managed to perform well in school. This tends to be those who fit in a particular segment, often between 130 and 145 IQ, and those without learning disabilities (those who are not twice exceptional).
    • IQ tests measure general intelligence (“g”), which is incredibly one-dimensional and thus may rarely, if ever, measure the true intelligence, capacity and promise of the most significantly asynchronous (“gifted”) children. (See Karl Bunday’s History of IQ Tests and the “Challenges to g” section of the Wikipedia entry on “g factor”, although I’d love a better link if anyone can offer one in the comments.)
    • Yet worse, every single IQ test in existence today has a ceiling effect that fails to take into account the most profoundly asynchronous children; testers run out of questions, even if extended norms are used; and the only non-ceilinged test (the Stanford Binet L-M) is so woefully out of date that it has substantial flaws in application as well.
    • Add to that the fact that anyone’s performance on a test like this is subject to the vicissitudes of their health and mood that day, their rapport with the tester, the tester’s skill and objectivity, the effectiveness of the individual test taken, etc., and you have a very imperfect measure.

What to do with these flawed methods? We shouldn’t discard them, but rather keep them (and their shortcomings) in perspective. We should educate ourselves using the many resources that exist about giftedness; the Gifted Homeschoolers’ Forum has one good list, but there are others. We should also supplement these methods with something that much of the education world ignores or discounts now: the observations of the child’s parents regarding the development and characteristics of their children.

More research can be done on this point. But the observations of parents regarding the giftedness of their children tends to be very accurate, according to the Gifted Development Center and as confirmed informally by a vast segment of participants in online communities for families of gifted children. Questionnaires for parents and families that assess measures like those described by the GDC should be developed and used by educators, healthcare professionals, and others. The results should be given substantial weight.

We agree with the NAGC that talent development in education is important. But a sole focus on talent development ignores development of the whole child, which for exceptionally and profoundly asynchronous children is at least as critical, if not more so. The social and emotional development of these children is the hardest area to address effectively, some say. Many specialists in the field of education and assessment of profoundly asynchronous children believe that when these kids are nurtured socially and emotionally, their educational development naturally follows on its own, unless it is actively hindered by the educational situation in which the children are located.

Kids like this need to feel emotionally safe; have social and emotional support in coping with their extreme asynchrony (having adult-level thoughts about death, life purpose, philosophy, morality, etc., with only 5 or 6 years of life experience and emotional resilience, e.g.).

Equally important, kids need to know there are other kids like them. They need to find them and spend time with them.

And lastly, we argue that it is absolutely critical that the damage that comes from the very word “gifted” needs to stop. The education world in particular needs to leave this word behind. These children are as different from typical kids as typical kids are from those who are profoundly developmentally challenged. Their needs are equally extremely different. We need a marketing miracle-worker to help us find a term that will work, apparently, but the fact remains that the change needs to happen.

We welcome your comments and suggestions!

 

The Critical Role of Identification

As we design our selection process and program to support asynchronous scholars, we have been thinking a great deal about how critical it is for these asynchronous kids to be identified as early as possible – not by the Fund, but by their families and schools.

Two recent articles reminded us that the most underserved of asynchronous kids are English language learners and those who come from underprivileged backgrounds. The current focus to narrow the achievement gap takes the approach of bringing the lower end of achievement up. This helps some kids reach their potential to be nearer to the middle of the heap, which is laudable. But kids already at the middle don’t benefit much, and those whose potential is higher – especially much higher – are left out in the cold.

And woe be unto those whose potential is very high, but who are misunderstood to have little potential, because they are English language learners; have learning disabilities despite high IQs; or suffer from low motivation, poor work skills, and corresponding poor performance in school, also despite high IQs. Some of these children may be assumed to be the beneficiaries of No Child Left Behind, because the approach may help bring their test scores closer to the norm. But what is still left behind is their critical need for intellectually challenging material, accelerated pace-of-learning, and assistance learning diligence and persistence.

Identifying children as being asynchronous – many ages at once, with the potential to work above their chronological age – is critical for several reasons. The first is that it brings the child one step closer to having his or her needs met. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has an excellent database of articles on identifying such children. Not only might identification gain access for a child to a GATE program or other learning opportunities better suited to his or her needs, but permits both educators and parents a much better understanding of the child. This makes a critical difference in a child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. For some, it’s life-saving.

The challenge is in identifying these children as belonging with other asynchronous scholars. Schools that use IQ scores alone as indicators of potential have larger disparities among minority and non-minority groups, according to a 1993 study on developing America’s talent. But other indicators can be taken into account to assess the whole child, and these factors become more important to include in assessments when the student in question comes from a minority group, an underprivileged background, or is an English language learner. These include how fast the student is learning a second (non-native) language; whether the child is street-smart; how well they get along with older children and adults; creativity and resourcefulness; and more. Both educators and parents should be familiar with the traits of asynchronous, advanced learners. We’ll be keeping them in mind as we begin to reach out to school districts, homeschool groups, communities, and elsewhere to identify children and families who need our assistance.