Category Archives: Twice Exceptionality

Homeschooling: An Option for Twice-Exceptional Kids

Homeschool, you say? Yes, we say.

Families of twice-exceptional kids (gifted kids with learning disabilities, a.k.a. 2e kids) are often at a loss as to what to do if school doesn’t meet their kids’ needs, particularly after they have spent no small effort advocating on behalf of their kids with limited to no success. Twice-exceptional kids struggle mightily with school. The further along the gifted spectrum the child is, and the more serious the learning challenges the child has, the higher the likelihood that schools can’t or won’t meet their needs. Most strategies for accommodating learning differences are aimed at kids who are at or below average intelligence. But that’s not what this post is about.

Many families who don’t know other gifted or 2e homeschoolers don’t realize that homeschooling doesn’t have to be about religion, that it won’t necessarily drive parents crazy to have their kids at home during the day — that it might actually vastly improve their relationship — and that it’s even possible to work part-time (for some, even full-time!) and homeschool.

In fact, being able to custom-tailor a child’s education to let her work at her intellectual age-level, while being supported in her areas of weakness, can do powerfully positive things both for your relationship with her, and for her self-confidence, work skills, determination, and happiness. Think about this. Have a 2e kid who needs help with rote math calculation, needs to move while he learns, and who has gotten the message from school that he’s both bad and stupid, even though his IQ is actually in the highly gifted range or above, and even though he excels at advanced math concepts and elaborate literary analysis? Imagine the wonders that would transpire if he were allowed work on those math concepts and analyze books to his heart’s content, while learning at his pace and when his brain development is ready to do rote calculations instead of using a calculator. Now imagine that all those battles over rote homework won’t be part of your relationship.

You’re welcome.

For homeschooling to work, it needs to be approached flexibly. Have a child obsessed with horses? Allow him to do horse math (angles of legs during different paces! How much does a horse eat a day? What are the odds a particular horse might win a race? How do vets calculate medicine for a horse of one weight vs. another?); read about horses through history; read literature about horses; write stories or film videos or research presentations about horses. Is your ten-year-old obsessed instead with chemistry? Let her do chemistry in the kitchen, using online lesson plans and free experiment resources. Let her read The Story of Science by Joy Hakim, and write essays about it, or create science artwork, or start her own experiments to catalogue for a science fair.

For most families of 2e kids, child-led learning works best. Allow your child to set the pace. Allow him to choose what to study; you serve as facilitator, identifying online resources, finding classes, getting books from the public library. Does your child need to de-school for a while after a mismatched school situation? Let her deschool for as long as she needs — the general rule is one month off per year she was in school. Check your state’s homeschool laws, to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row with paperwork or (in some states) curricula or testing required. But even within those frameworks, deschooling and child-led learning often work.

Working at home while homeschooling has to be approached creatively as well; while your child is doing a project that doesn’t require supervision, get 30 minutes of work done. Switch off with her other parent, so that one of you is working while the other is with the child. Get up before your child does, and work for a couple hours; or stay up after the kids are in bed. Take a laptop, tablet, smart phone or even pencil and paper to the classes your child takes, or to playdates, and sit on the sidelines working. Scheduling and multitasking are often critical to making work at home, well, work. But work it can.

version-3-October-2013-Blog-Hop-logoPerhaps most of all, it is critical to find intellectual peers for your child. It doesn’t matter what age the peers are, although if you can find age peers who are also intellectual peers, that’s even better. Knowing others like them can be critical to 2e kids’ ability to cope with how different they are; finding true peers will help them deal with their challenges and celebrate their joys.

We’re proud to be participating in the GHF Blog Hop! Click on over to read more posts.

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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

Transforming Resistance into Support

Most families with kids who are unusually asynchronous or twice-exceptional (asynchronous/gifted with learning disabilities) don’t have a built-in network of support from the public educational system and related service providers. This is true in California, as well as much of the rest of the country, with isolated exceptions in four states that mandate (limited) services for gifted kids or the handful that specifically state in their laws that acceleration is allowed. Regardless of state mandates, however, society universally views support for asynchronous kids as unnecessary, or worse, elitist. Instead of supporting these children and their families, or at least being sympathetic, society — including extended family and friends of these families — seeks to deny their difference, to deny their need, and to cut them down as though the child’s own abilities or potential somehow threaten them.

But asynchrony isspecial need, all by itself. Add any other disabilities like ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or dyslexia, and you have extraordinary special needs. Imagine parenting a kid like this. Then imagine doing it when society doesn’t recognize that the kid needs support, resents the child’s potential, and simultaneously denies their differences.

Families with kids who have needs this extraordinary find themselves willing to do anything to meet their children’s needs. Because society doesn’t provide support, and the Internet does, parents these days usually find support in online forums like The TAG Project, GHF, and similar venues. If they are extraordinarily fortunate, they live in an area with a large concentration of similar families and can find in-person support groups. If they are a family in need, however, accessing the internet, getting computer time at libraries, or even learning about these resources can be impossible. The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund aims to remedy that, but that’s the subject of another post.

So let’s assume you are the parent of an asynchronous child and have taken steps to find community and follow the model so many others like you are using to meet your children’s needs? How do you transform the reactions of your own parents, or your child’s teacher, or anyone else? Here are some suggestions we hope will help.

  • Help them understand your child’s unique needs, but also that there is a community of other children like yours out there, and that you are consulting with that community in your efforts to meet your child’s needs.
  • Share resources like this post, the Davidson Institute’s online database, Hoagies Gifted website, GHF, NAGC resourcesSENG, and others.
  • Join one of the online forums mentioned above, and ask other parents for what worked for them.
  • Remember that your parents/family/friends/child’s educators are likely trying to do what they think will help. If you help them understand your child’s needs, they’ll be able to be in a better position to support you.
  • If you can, have your child assessed by a professional who specializes in gifted and 2e children. The websites listed above have resources to help you find such a professional in your area.
  • Even if you can’t afford or find support to have an assessment done, you can use Deborah Ruf’s estimates of levels of giftedness to get a general idea of where your child is.
  • Consider sharing A Nation Deceived, or talking to your child’s educators about using the Iowa Acceleration Scale.
  • Debunking myths is helpful. Hoagies has a good summary.
  • Harm and the Gifted Student offers a valuable perspective on why asynchronous children need to have their educational needs met. And we love the perspective of What a Child Doesn’t Learn (pdf).
  • Remember that you, too, probably didn’t understand your child’s needs at first, and had to come to grips with it. Be patient with your own family and friends as you help them understand your child, so that they can become part of your support team. Its’ challenging, but worth it!

Most of all, remember that you are not alone. Take advantage of communities of others like you. They’re out there, and they are willing to help.

A Proven Program Model

We are a startup; we’re seeking seed funding to launch our program, yet we’ve already received requests from families with children whose needs are so acute that they aren’t being met by the school system.

These are families who don’t have the resources to do what wealthier families with extremely asynchronous children do, and either “afterschool” or homeschool their children. Their children are suffering immensely because their educational, social, and emotional needs are not being met. Their families are similarly suffering from the fallout. We wish we were already up and running, so that we could ask these families to apply formally for support, and so we could then provide that support.

So as we prepare to start knocking on doors — big doors! — for seed funding, we’d like to share a series of posts about our approach, starting with our program.

The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund’s program model is based on a support approach proven successful by thousands of families across the United States (and internationally, even more families) over the course of the past twenty-plus years, and indeed for decades before that.

What does it look like? The details may vary somewhat depending on whether a child is in school, or homeschooled. The basic approach is this: Let the child follow his or her interests. The parent(s) serve as facilitators, providing materials, books, videos, classes and workshops, outings, and projects to allow the child to study the topic in question with as much depth as he or she desires, for as long as desired. Typically the child will move on to the next topic when the first one has been exhausted. Some children, particularly the more exceptionally and profoundly asynchronous, may have multiple interests they explore in depth simultaneously.

How can any child cover a full curriculum this way, particularly if learning exclusively in a home setting? The answer is anchored in who these children are. Most will branch out to end up exploring the full range of what typical children would cover in school, out of sheer interest. Most do so on their own schedule; while some maintain their learning multiple, ever-increasing grade-levels ahead across the board, others will reach a point when they realize that to achieve something they want and need – perhaps community college early admission, for example – they have to meet state requirements for high school graduation or equivalency, and will cram the needed learning into a very short time period.

Other kids, especially those with twice exceptionalities like dyslexia or Asperger’s spectrum disorder, may require more parental guidance to support and strengthen their weak areas, while they soar ahead in their strengths. Some may require remediation using approaches that can be adopted by the facilitating parent, but others require additional outside support from occupational therapists and other professionals.

Additionally, children with narrow interests may need parents to weave that interest into everything they do. If the love is horses, for example, that provides the opportunity to do horse math: If you have three horses in the stable, but six stalls, what percentage of stalls are filled? Horse grammar: What part of speech is the word “horse”? What is the etymology of the various horse part names? Horse biology! The physics of horse motion! The possibilities are nearly endless.

For asynchronous kids who are in a school, the degree of after-school and weekend accommodation will depend deeply on the accommodation that is happening during school hours. Is the child accelerated to the level of his or her intellectual age? Is the curriculum compacted to meet his or her need for learning at a faster pace? Does the child have intellectual (not chronological age) peers? If these needs are met, the needs out of school will be less intense.

But an asynchronous child whose needs are not being met in school will have extremely intense needs after school and on weekends. Most families in this situation find they need to devote constant effort to feeding the “lion” that is the child’s ravenous intellect. Because the social and emotional well-being of these children is closely tied up in having their intellectual needs met, families trying to use afterschooling to meet all these needs have a much harder time. It can be done successfully, but most success results from a combination of advocacy to have the child’s needs met in school through acceleration to place the child with intellectual peers, curriculum compaction, and in-school enrichment, in addition to the intensive afterschooling efforts.

The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund will provide direct aid to families in need to help their asynchronous and twice exceptional children. This will include provision of services like assessments and advocacy through service partners familiar both with the needs of gifted children, and the methods of school districts, schools and educators. It will include the provision of intensive educational resources specifically tailored to each child’s needs. Kids and families may require individual or family counseling from specialists experienced in working with this population. The Fund will help families access free and low-cost online resources, including, when needed, through the provision of computer technology, training, and Internet access. And because community can be the greatest support network for anyone, the Fund will help families connect with existing communities of families with kids like theirs, both online and in person.

Stay tuned for our next blog post on the the reasons why parents meet resistance from their own families, communities and schools in seeking to meet their children’s needs by following this model, and how they can help resolve that challenge.

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

This is Alisa.

We are extremely excited to share our completed claymation Public Service Announcement: This is Alisa.

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.

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. They all require support for their intense needs. The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund aims to use a proven model to support them.

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

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!