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Posts Tagged ‘Gifted Education’

Nope. We are not. It has just been too damn busy around here – for a myriad of reasons – most good, but some – not so much. I am sneaking in a quick post so that all our friends in the blogosphere do not think that our children finally did in fact – send us to the loony bin.

For starters. the hubbies are off in Gettysburg for a LONG weekend. Doing what you ask? Ghost hunting. That leaves 2 moms and 3 very gifted children with major OEs. We have officially been outnumbered. Not only that, but my cherub is  devouring protein at an astounding rate. He has eaten more chicken breast this month than I think I have eaten all year. At first I thought it was a growth spurt, but then in talking with Ecemom about something completely unrelated, I realized that the boy has been running non-stop since the warm weather finally arrived here in Northern IL. He is needing the extra energy stores and when he has too much sugar – oh my – the sass that comes from his mouth is ‘teenage’ in characteristic. (He is also experimenting with humor and sarcasm, but he hasn’t quite gotten when it is appropriate to use this with his ‘cranky’ mother.)

There are family issues (UGH), work issues, school issues, home projects, getting to know the new neighbors, more family issues (You can pick your nose, but….), and last but certainly not least – summer fun to be had. You see when the frozen tundra finally thaws, we only have 3 very short months to enjoy the weather (and Ecemom’s free time) – so of course we are ceasing this opportunity.

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Camp Invention ended yesterday. EE was sad. He loves Camp Invention. I love his enthusiasm. {SS also attended his first ‘camp’. I think Ecemom is going to blog on his experience. (It was a huge developmental step for him.)} Seeing EE’s face light up with his discoveries makes it all so worth it. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with in July during his Leapfrog Robotics class.

Ecemom and I are contemplating starting a parent affiliate to IAGC for our area. The state of Illinois is a financial cluster *&^% and we fear that if we do not organize ourselves quickly, we may lose what little gifted programming that we currently have in our district. We have been informally networking with other parents, but it may be time to get ‘serious’.

We re-scheduled our meeting with the principal and gifted coordinator until August. This was not by choice but more because of scheduling conflicts. However, it does give me more time to prepare.

I am trying to get some ‘home schooling’ in.  We are working on our Times Tales and it seems to be ‘sinking in’.  It is a mnemonic system for memorizing multiplication facts.  YAY!!! He is reading 60 minutes most days. We are trying very hard to get those Harry Potter books finished. Writing still remains the Achilles heel. He has done some but I need to really find some good exercises for him. Oh, how I wish there were more hours in the day.

So we are hopeful to get some more writing done here. Lord knows these children give us enough material.

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Anyone else get these?

Not the whole – ‘holy smoke my kid will be home 24/7 for the next 3 months’ blues. What I am talking about is the feeling you get as the parent of a gifted child when you look back on the past academic year – not unlike most parents do – but rather instead of feeling like there was growth for your child –  having the sinking feeling that yet another year went past and you are still no closer to seeing him challenged appropriately – despite your best efforts and intentions.

{{{SIGH}}}

This was by far – a much better year than last. Hands down. However, I started the year with such optimism and hope. Now – I feel like a stretched out balloon. Deflated. And devoid of that puffed up feeling that I had 9 months ago.

We are trying to look at the positives…

He was much more secure socially. He has actually connected with his classmates. He is building friendships – not acquaintances. He LIKES his school. He likes his teachers. For this we are extremely grateful.

For the most part, he did not complain about going to school and sometimes was even eager to go. (HUGE improvement.)

Despite the fact that he did not ‘qualify’ for the ‘gifted’ program. (Damn CogAT.) The gifted coordinator still made time for him the last trimester and a half. She worked with him on a Greek Mythology Family Tree which he presented to his class at the end of the year. (He was also told by several of his cluster-mates that they were jealous and wished they could go and work on Greek Myths.)

Math was somewhat accelerated. This was good, but we still have a ways to go there. Hoping for 5th grade math next year.

We spoke with the folks in Denver. We have made a ‘plan’ and are trying to execute it. The next step is speaking with the Principal. We will do this in a few weeks.

I just feel like I climbed a mountain – only to get to the summit through the clouds and realize that I am facing yet another climb and this one has no end in sight either.

I just want to have ‘fun’ and blow it all off. However, we have work to do. Whatever ‘label’ you want to give EE’s difficulties, we have to ‘deal’. We have to help him find ways to ‘cope and compensate’. I am not an educator. I am not an OT. I am not anything but a mom on a mission and I am afraid that may not be ‘enough’. What to do?

So while we are prepping for camps and play dates, we are also devising a ‘summer home school curriculum’ to make up for the areas that he did not see any growth in this year. We are looking at ways to make rote memorization easier – perhaps through visualization? He is aware. He is not pleased, but he has finally realized that I am not ‘giving in’. I will do my best to make it fun. I will do my best not to ‘overwhelm”. I will do my very best to reward effort and accomplishment.

I will also probably consume copious amounts of alcohol and ice cream 🙂

Can you relate? Do you want to ram your head against the wall? Or perhaps roll over and pretend that the alarm is not going off – just be lazy?

Because remember – “What does she have to worry about? Her kid is gifted.” LMFAO!!!!!

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We were watching “America: The Story Of Us” and had just begun the part on the Texas oil rush. The narrator was going on and on about how this particular well was the largest natural reserve of oil on the planet. As he is listening, EE gets this concerned look on his face. (Uh-OH!) He turns to DH and says,”Hey – What happens when we run out of oil?”

Dumbfounded, DH replies to EE that this was an excellent question and one that many people are trying to answer. We then get a 20 minute lecture from our son about the need for alternative energy sources and how we are robbing the planet of her natural resources. He had this ah-ha moment. He was genuinely concerned. At this point I am wondering whether or not he is going to sleep tonight or if he is going to attempt to solve the oil crisis in his mind while the rest of the country sleeps. DH (whether on pure instinct or not) sees the potential powder keg brewing in our child’s emotional psyche. He quickly diverts him to solutions. “What do you think we should do?”

EE then starts rattling off things like battery cars, sun power, wind power, etc. We address each as he speaks. Tell him that many great minds are working on this but that several of the solutions are not cost effective. (Which was a whole other spin off conversation.) When we resume talking about ‘solutions’, frustrated we finally hear “Well I think the President needs to fix this!” We tell him that he is trying and DH suggests that he write a letter. “I think I will.”

I then ask him what he can do? He looks at me incredulously. You know the look. The ‘mom-I-am-just-a-kid’ look. I say to him. We need people who are smart to work on this problem. IF you are truly passionate about this issue, then what you CAN do is – study. Become an excellent mathematician and scientist. Those are the kinds of people who will are going to find the solutions…scientists, engineers, etc. Finally I think to myself – a good argument to the debate over why do I have to go to school. Something tangible and concrete to point out the next time Monty Hall tries to ‘make a deal’.

Now if I could just get the school not to leave my child and all the other brilliant little scholars behind. To steal a phrase, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”. It is about time that this nation gets their heads out of the sand and stops wasting the time and talent of our future scientist, lawyers, doctors, teachers and yes – politicians. I think it is time for me to write some letters too.

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So after I sat and thought more about the situation, I became more frustrated. I became even more confused. I really began to doubt myself – again. (Let me tell you – that meeting was way more intimidating than I could have ever anticipated). I became really depressed and really worried. I did some reading. I did some thinking. I did some more reading. Then, I did some more thinking. Then, I told DH that we were going to need some help to sort through this, because I just can’t figure it out alone and I certainly am not ready to ‘let it go’. There is just too much at stake. I needed a plan…..

So I contacted the Gifted Development Center in CO. We were fortunate enough to hear Dr. Linda Silverman, the Center’s Director speak about 18 months ago. It was after her lecture that DH & I started to think that EE was in fact gifted and that perhaps we should have him tested as Dr. Silverman suggested. The Gifted Development Center (GDC) does nothing but ‘gifted’. They are the SME’s (subject matter experts) on the gifted and their issues. These people know what they are talking about. They are also infinitely more qualified to give us an evaluation of EE and his ‘issues’ than anyone on that Child Study Team – Master’s thesis on Twice Exceptionalities or not.

In preparation for our phone consultation, we were required to fill out 16 – YES sixteen – different background forms. There were forms on family history, medical history, introversion/extroversion scales, sensory, OE, HIPAA, etc. It was quite the undertaking. DH & I spent several evenings trying to interpret what they were asking and whether we felt that particular trait, question or characteristic fit EE. In short, it was a lot of work. However, I will say it was worth it in so many ways.

Conference day finally came. We were nervous (no clue why) and excited to be talking to someone who might be able to give us some good advice about the situation. Or even just to tell us if there simply was n0thing to be worried about and that I was indeed a crazy, neurotic mother (well – yes – but I meant in reference to this particular issue).

We spoke with Bobbie Gilman for over an hour. She was great. Very down to Earth and friendly. Not at all intimidating. A wealth of information. She immediately put us at ease by letting us know that we were on the right track. In her opinion, the difference in the Verbal and the Processing speed scores are significant. Significant enough to render his FSIQ score unusable. (BTW – She is co-chairing the NAGC testing board.) She told us that we should use his GAI (General Ability Index) instead as it is closer to his truer ability. (She calculated this for us and I just about fell over when she said what it was.) However, she also felt that this was probably not very accurate either as his WIAT scores were much higher than anticipated. (I think that she really wanted us to come to CO for a re-test and evaluation, but it is SO NOT IN THE BUDGET.)

Another point she made was that if his scores on the Verbal portion were normal and the Processing was below as much as 2 standard deviations, then the school would be taking notice. So they were wrong to tell us that it isn’t significant.

We discussed a LOT in that conversation, but the overall gist was this – He is not lazy.  And yes, he likely has some form of learning disability that his high cognitive ability is able to over-compensate for this with self devised coping mechanisms or strategies. It is probably something very subtle, but to him it would be extremely frustrating. It may not be anything that can be ‘fixed’ per se, but we should investigate and evaluate further and seek accommodations for him – particularly with testing.

Suggestions:

  • Read ‘The Mislabeled Child‘ by the Eides. They talk about many issues in the book, but one that may be of particular relevance is the idea of ‘Stealth Dyslexia’. This could be what EE is dealing with.
  • Focus on his strengths. Continue with SEP (Sat. Enrichment) Classes. He will benefit from the stimulation and the camaraderie of being around ‘his’ peers . (Anyone got a winning lottery ticket laying around that they don’t need?)
  • Continue to advocate at school. Try again to get him placed in the gifted program. She realizes that this may be doubtful, but try anyway.
  • Have we considered Homeschooling? (Yeah and I do not look good in orange – nor do I want to reside at Statesville.) We said we have, but that with EE being an only child and being as social as he is, we did not feel that Socially/Emotionally this would be the best choice for him. How about part time? Hmmm…maybe. If we had a part time arrangement, then we could enrich and accelerate in the areas we need to at home, but he still gets the benefit of the social aspect of public schooling. (Yes – Ecemom – I know – you suggested this months ago. Again, you are a Superwoman. LOL)
  • We talked about re-visiting the eye therapy. (Yeah – again with the lottery ticket…anyone?) Even if we continue at home, we would likely see a benefit. She had suggestions for books on this – Surprise! I already own them. And yes Virginia, they are excruciating to read.
  • She suggested an OT evaluation because the Processing Speed score could also signal a fine motor coordination issue.
  • She suggested getting him to work on his keyboarding skills.
  • She also suggested that we take him to see a specialist who deals with Central Auditory Processing Deficits. Huh? What’s that? We told her that we just had his hearing checked and it was fine. Oh, but this is different. Much like the visual tests unless a trained specialist is looking for it, then it likely will not be found as it is less about the ‘hearing’ and more about how the brain interprets the signals. She was concerned that this may be an issue as EE (like so many gifted kids) had lots o’ ear infections as a baby/toddler. Oh goody – more testing. I could see the tension rising in DH’s face as he is trying to figure out how much this is going to cost?
  • Practice. Practice. Practice taking standardized tests. It is not so much about cramming for the material, but more about the actual practice of taking a test. Time constraints. Guessing. Moving on. Teach him to be a good test taker.
  • Keep trying to get those accommodations for more time.
  • Should we work with him on Executive skills? Yes. Help him to develop his own strategies for dealing with his areas of weakness.
  • What about the rote memorization issues? She said that this is not at all unusual for a high ability child. They simply do not see the point in it. Or rather there are more important things to remember than times tables, etc. Try to help him, but don’t be overzealous about it.  Like the testing – practice it over and over at home. It will come in time. Make a game of it when possible.

So here we go…

I have called, but not yet scheduled the Auditory evaluation. I have ordered books. I am trying to develop my plan. I am trying to be prepared for the ‘talk’ with the principal about placement for next year.

DH & I have talked about all of this ad nauseum. He is in a place where he is angry about how things are being dealt with at school. Which is actually good because when he is like this, he is engaged in the process with me. He wants to know what the game plan is? He will be meeting with the principal too. He will be armed with his questions and trust me…He is a master at ‘playing the game’.

HA! Public school system. Watch out. We are ready ‘to take up arms’ and ‘oppose’ because 2e or not 2e – it doesn’t matter. What matters is helping EE succeed and feeling like as parents we did not give up – so maybe he won’t either!

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“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them.”

Ha! At first I thought that I was just being punny. Then I thought about it. Is it easier to just ‘deal’ with whatever EE’s issues are at home and screw forget the public school system? Or ‘take up arms’ and oppose? Oppose the fact that this child scores off the charts verbally, but despite this has been denied the little gifted language arts based programming that our district has to offer because he doesn’t test well (on the CogAT)?  Do we simply come to grips with the fact that as he gets older and these timed tests hold higher stakes for him –  that he just will be placed incorrectly? Or continue to be an advocate?

We choose advocate. After that Child Study (CST)/ 504 meeting, I was pissed discouraged. I felt (and wrote) that we were summarily dismissed. I was made to feel like this because  in many ways my child is extraordinary, however  we were basically told his struggles are irrelevant. His issues don’t matter – because in their words – there was no relevant educational deficiency at this time. Relevant to whom??? I assure you, it is relevant to my son (and his parents). He doesn’t understand why everything takes him longer. He is frustrated that he knows the answers – they are there, but for whatever reason he blanks out, panics, or whatever. Why, oh why does he ‘zone out’? He is struggling to master the act of simple rote memorization like multiplication tables, but he got the concept of exponential value in about 60 seconds.

His processing speed is more than 2 standard deviations lower than his verbal ability. If his verbal ability were normal, then would they be jumping through hoops to help him? I’d be willing to bet (heavily) that they would be very concerned. However, since my child’s processing speed is just average as compared to his verbal ability being … well…we’ll say significantly above average, they couldn’t care less. Because for them, it is ‘irrelevant’. He still gets straight A’s. He still does very well on the NWEA MAP (an untimed assessment that his teacher admits he is always the last to finish). So what is the problem? The problem is my kid is struggling in his own right.** Something is going on with my muffin. He is not lazy. He is not fine with the status quo. We as his parents are definitely not fine with the current situation. Why? Because we know that it will only get worse as he gets older. We know that he is losing precious time. He is losing confidence. He is losing interest. He is in a nutshell – getting lost in the shuffle. We are not okay with this.

Right after our CST/504 meeting, we had an appointment with another developmental optometrist for a second opinion. He came highly recommended by a few parents in our district. He was also on the list that the psychologist that tested EE gave us during our consult. So off we went to see what he had to say. The sessions with our previous Dev. Optometrist ended on a cordial note. EE made some significant progress in the beginning, but since we had not been seeing any further progress, we were starting to wonder if we were being taken advantage. The new eye doc evaluated EE and basically told us that his eye problems were not bad enough to warrant therapy (nor did he feel they ever were). FANTASTIC!

Great! Now WTF what do we do/believe , etc??????


**Disclaimer – I know that there are children out there with horrible conditions. Children who are far behind and will likely never be able to do half of what my son can do. I know this. I feel for these children and their parents. I truly do. However, this is about my child. This is a blog about gifted kids and their struggles. And yes, they do have struggles too. Please keep context in mind here. Thanks.

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