Sunday, December 16, 2012

Adult Self-Advocacy

Another take on the importance of speaking up . . . 
of self-advocacy throughout our lives.

From the New York Times:

How to Attack the Gender Wage Gap? Speak Up


Friday, December 14, 2012

OE: How Parents Can Help

Parents in Oconomowoc asked what they could do to help their children understand, accept and celebrate their overexcitabilities.

Here's one perspective from SENG.  I've summarized it but you can read the entire article by Sharon Lind on the SENG website here.

(It's good to remember that OE people living with other OE people often have more compassion and understanding for each other, but may feel conflicts when their OEs are not to the same degree.)

Discuss the concept of overexcitability
Share the descriptions of OEs.  Ask individuals if they see themselves with some of the characteristics. Point out that being OE is OK and it is understood and accepted.

Focus on the positives
Discuss the positives of each OE. Benefits include being energetic, enthusiastic, sensual, aesthetic, curious, loyal, tenacious, moral, metacognitive, integrative, creative, metaphorical, dramatic, poetic, compassion-ate, empathetic, and self-aware.

Cherish and celebrate diversity
  • OE is just one more description of who they are, as is being tall, or Asian, or left-handed. Since OEs are inborn traits, they cannot be unlearned!
  • Provide opportunities for people to pursue their passions. This shows respect for their abilities and intensities and allows time for them to “wallow” in what they love, to be validated for who they are.
  • Removing passions as consequences for inappropriate behavior has a negative effect by giving the message that your passions, the essence of who you are, are not valuable or worthy of respect.

Use and teach clear verbal and nonverbal communication skills
Verbal-listening, responding, questioning, telephoning, problem solving, and nonverbal-rhythm and use of time, interpersonal distance and touch, gestures and postures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and style of dress.

Verbal and nonverbal strategies improve interpersonal communication and provide the skills individuals need to fit in when they wish to, to change the system if necessary, and to treat others with caring and respect.

Teach stress management from from toddlerhood on
OE individuals have increased stress reactions because of their increased reception of and reaction to external input.
key components:
  • learn to identify your stress symptoms: headache, backache, pencil tapping, pacing, etc.
  • develop strategies for coping with stress: talk about your feelings, do relaxation exercises, change your diet, exercise, meditate, ask for help, develop organizational and time management skills and
  • develop strategies to prevent stress: make time for fun; develop a cadre of people to help, advise, humor you; practice tolerance of your own and others’ imperfections.

Create a comforting environment whenever possible
Intense people need to know how to make their environment more comfortable in order to create places for retreat or safety.
For example:
                              * find places to work or think which are not distracting,
* work in a quiet or calm environment,
* listen to music,
* look at a lovely picture
* carry a comforting item
* move while working
* wear clothing that does not scratch or cling.

Learning to finesse one’s environment to meet one’s needs takes experimentation and cooperation from others, but the outcome will be a greater sense of well-being and improved productivity.

Help to raise awareness of behaviors and their impact on others
Paradoxically, OE people are often insensitive and unaware of how their behaviors affect others. They may assume that everyone will just understand why they interrupt to share an important idea, or tune out when creating a short story in their head during dinner.
Teach children
·      to be responsible for their behaviors,
·      to become more aware of how their behaviors affect others
·      to understand that their needs are not more important than those of others.

Remember the joy
Often when OE is discussed examples and concerns are mostly negative. Remember that being overexcitable also brings with it great joy, astonishment, beauty, compassion, and creativity. Perhaps the most important thing is to acknowledge and relish the uniqueness of an OE child or adult.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

OE in Oconomowoc

Tonight I have the privilege of speaking with parents in Oconomowoc Wisconsin.  Intensities of gifted children is one of the things they're interested in discussing.  So for ease of reference, here are . . .

some of my favorite quotes:

Annemarie Roeper: "Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into imtellectual and emotional experiences."

Michael Piechowski:  "The purpose of this book (Mellow Out, They Say, If I Only Could)  is to give voice to the emotional life of bright young people, to show how their intensities and sensitivities make them more alive, more creative, and more in love with the world and its wonders."

Pearl Buck:  “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.   Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

and some of the links I've found helpful in understanding overexcitabilities:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Talent Act Petition

Please consider signing the petition on the White House "We the People" site:

Talent Act Petition


"We petition the Obama administration to support the unique learning needs of academically gifted students by passing the TALENT Act."


To be considered by the administration, the petition needs 25,000 signatures by  December 16, 2012.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


What a great day I had with parents at the annual conference of the Minnesota Council for Gifted and Talented in Minneapolis last weekend.

For those who attended my session, The Right Triangle, here are the documents I promised.

The Right Triangle powerpoint hand-out
The Right Triangle Suggestions

Thanks to all for your energy and enthusiasm.  Isn't it great to be in a place where we can say the "G" word without having to explain ourselves?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gifted Intensity

Be sure to check out this wonderful parent blog on some unique characteristics of gifted kids.  Life with Intensity

I'm reminded of this from Jim Delisle's Once Upon a Mind . . . 
  • Intensity of thought: Her mind is always whirring."
  • Intensity of purpose: "Once he makes up his mind to do something, he's not satisfied until it's accomplished."
  • Intensity of emotion: "She internalizes everyone anyone says about her."
  • Intensity of spirit: "He's always looking out for someone less fortunate who needs help."
  • Intensity of soul:  "She asks questions that philosophers have asked for centuries and gets upset when we can't give her definitive answers to them."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Words of Affirmation

The 2012 WATG Teen Conference focused on self-advocacy.  We're gratified that so many students (and their adult advocates) felt it was a day well-spent.  My favorite kid quote?  

 "I will go to school on Monday as a new person . . . I think."



Someone asked me how in the world he could possibly start from scratch and create an entire self-advocacy program when his district has nothing like it in place. 

We don't have to re-invent the wheel.  A good self-advocacy program simply pulls together the best of the many diverse resources we have on hand and always wanted to use with our students.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gifted kids . . .

It was a beautiful fall day last week when I visited Green Bay's School for Academically Gifted Learners.  It's housed at Langlade Elementary as a new school-within-a-school.  Their principal, Tammy Van Dyke, is one of WATG's honorees this fall for her work in making this happen.

During the afternoon the students (grades 2-6) became "myth-busters" as they helped me prove that gifted kids are not all alike and that everything is not always easy for them.  At the end of the day they made statements about what they know to be true about themselves and others like them . . . things they think adults should know.  I read their thoughts to parents that evening and have selected a few to share here. 

  • Gifted kids can do more than you think. Jess gr. 2
  • Gifted kids want to have a chance to show their teachers their abilities. Breanna gr. 4
  • Bullies are big problems for us.  Stronger rules/disciple will help us not to be afraid or worried.  Samantha gr. 4
  • Gifted kids need to be recognized and not like an old rag that has been used for over 5 years.  They cannot be pushed around like they don't matter.  Kelley gr. 4
  • Gifted kids are not geniuses from the start.  In order to grow, they need their individual needs to be met not based on how educated the rest of the class is. Michaela gr. 6
  • Gifted kids need: more time to do reading, more gym time, more holidays! Varsitha gr. 4
  • Gifted kids want fun with the challenge, not boring. 
  • Gifted kids have a imaganashon!
  • Gifted kids want to be treated the same as other kids.  Gavin Gr. 3
  • Gifted kids aren't perfect, the same, or have the same gift.  We're all different colors on a rainbow.  No one is the same shade. Camryn Gr. 5

And finally, in true Green Bay style . . . 
  • In my head, life is a big football game.  I think of the gifted kids as a full time QB. The QBs have to have the right strategy and they will succeed in the game of life. Simon gr. 5

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Action Plan for High Schoolers

Grades 9-12 can be frustrating for gifted teens.  Too often schools believe that offering AP, IB or honors courses of one sort or another will adequately meet the needs of all gifted high school students.  Truth is, secondary schools need options now common in elementary schools like differentiated instruction and curriculum compacting.

This frustration comes through loud and clear when bright students are allowed to air their gripes.  Usually they're pretty generic like these from students in a recent workshop:
  • I hate it when it takes forever to teach something
  • Classes simply move too slowly
  • I'm bombarded with homework when I already know the answers
  • Teaching me stuff I already know is a waste of time
  • It's hard to act like I’m paying attention in class

But helping them to focus on the specifics and choosing just one thing at a time to change is a good place to begin.

I like to use a format like this which puts the student in the pilot's seat:

This example is just the beginning of the year-long  plan and it may feel like baby steps to only address one need. But often success breeds success . .. for oneself and those following along behind!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A High School Hint

Often as budgets decrease, class sizes increase.  This is a critical problem for high school teachers who may be instructing 150-200 students a day.  And they are right to be concerned about the amount of time it takes to learn the individual academic needs of each teen.  All the more reason to make the kids part of the solution.

Here's a tip that worked well when I was  a GT coordinator:
  1. Secure time during a back-to-school staff meeting to talk about the needs of gifted kids.
  2. Acknowledge the difficulty of teaching so many students with diverse needs.
  3. Recommend that part of the responsibility lies with the teens themselves.
  4. Explain that "outlier" students often need encouragement to talk with teachers about their needs.
  5. Hand out copies of Galbraith and Delisle's "10 Tips for Talking to Teachers" (printed on neon paper and laminated, if possible.)
  6. Suggest that teachers hang the posters prominently in their rooms and, as part of their opening day class orientation, go over the steps and encourage all students to speak up for themselves . . . appropriately.
We never know what gates might be opened when students find their voices!


Ten Tips for Talking to Teachers

  1. Make an appointment to meet and talk.  This shows the teacher that you're serious and you have some understanding of his or her busy schedule. Tell the teacher about how much time you'll need, be flexible, and don't be late. 
  2. If you know other students who feel the way you do, consider approaching the teacher together.  There's strength in numbers.  If a teacher hears the same thing from four or five people, he or she is more likely to do something about it. 
  3. Think through what you want to say before you go into your meeting with the teacher.  Write down your questions or concerns.  Make a list of the items you want to cover.  You may even want to copy your list for the teacher so both of you can consult it during your meeting.  (Or consider giving it to the teacher ahead of time.) 
  4. Choose your words carefully.  Example:  Instead of saying, "I hate doing reports; they're boring and a waste of time," try, "Is there some other way I could satisfy this requirement?  Could I do a video instead?" Strike the word "boring" from your vocabulary. It's a word that's not helpful for teachers (and it might even make them mad.) 
  5. Don't expect the teacher to do all of the work or propose all of the answers.  Be prepared to make suggestions, offer solutions, even recommend resources. The teacher will appreciate that you took the initiative.
  6. Be diplomatic, tactful, and respectful.  Teachers have feelings, too.  And they're more likely to be responsive if you remember that the purpose of your meeting is conversation, not confrontation.
  7. Focus on what you need, not on what you think the teacher is doing wrong.  The more the teacher learns about you, the more he or she will be able to help. The more defensive the teacher feels, the less he or she will want to help. 
  8. Don't forget to listen.  Strange but true, many students need practice in this essential skill.  The purpose of your meeting isn't just to hear yourself talk. 
  9. Bring your sense of humor.  Not necessarily the joke-telling sense of humor, but the one that lets you laugh at yourself and your own misunderstandings and mistakes. 
  10. If your meeting isn't successful, get help from another adult.  "Successful" doesn't necessarily mean that you emerged victorious.  Even if the teacher denies your request, your meeting can still be judged successful.  If you had a real conversation - if you communicated openly, listened carefully, and respected each other's point of view - then congratulate yourself on a great meeting.  If the air crackled with tension, the meeting fell apart, and you felt disrespected (or acted disrespectful), then it's time to bring in another adult.  Suggestions:  a guidance counselor, the gifted program coordinator, or another teacher you know and trust who seems likely to support you and advocate for you.  Once you've found help, approach your teacher and try again.

Excerpted from The Gifted Kids Survival Guide: A Teen Handbook by Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Jim Delisle, Ph.D. © 1996.   Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Test Fear

My very first day as a GT coordinator I was approached by an elementary teacher.  "I've known Josh for 4 years now," she said. "He's the brightest student I know, but every year I nominate him for the gifted program and every year he gets rejected.  Will it be any different now that you're in charge?" 

I assured her I'd look into it, but jumped to the (false) conclusion that Josh was a nice kid, a teacher pleaser, but probably not gifted.  When I met him my misconception was immediately apparent.  Beyond a doubt he was creatively brilliant.  The problem was that he froze when presented with a high stakes test like the one that determined if he was "in" or "out" of the gifted program.  

It was a no-brainer for me.  I trusted his teacher who knew that he needed challenges beyond the regular classroom. He was "in" without taking The Test.

I took some heat from people who had created the "sift down" method of identification matrix our district used at that time.   Students needed to perform at or above the 95 percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  Those that didn't were never considered.  The winnowed group of  kids were given the Otis-Lennon group IQ test on which they also needed to score at a certain level.  Those that didn't were rejected.   And then the remaining few students had to rate a specific score (or better) on the Renzulli Scales completed by a teacher.  In essence, we were looking for the fewest possible students and only those who were good at taking tests and pleasing teachers. 

I'm happy to say we quickly changed the old ID process to a talent pool model where even one indicator was enough to start an assessment of what a student needed to be academically challenged.

Funny thing.  Six months after he was identified, Josh agreed to try The Tests . . . "just for fun."  The pressure was off.  IQ?  152.  ITBS reading and math?  99th percentiles. 

How many kids slog on through the tedium of a school day simply because they don't fit the numerical profile.  We've got to know the kid in order to match the program to the child.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Reminder

I just wrote this as part of a grant to support self-advocacy.  Some is gleaned from my past writings, but it's a good summary of why we need direct instruction in self-advocacy for gifted kids:

Many creative/talented/gifted (c/t/g) middle school students are generally unaware that their route to graduation can and should be significantly different from that of their less able peers.  Many slog on through grades 6 to 12, sometimes challenged and interested, frequently not.

Even if a wide array of high quality differentiated educational options is available, many c/t/g adolescents choose not to take advantage of those opportunities.  Advice of parents and teachers is often shunned as teens transition into the greater independence of middle or high school.  Parents and educators can encourage students’ appropriate choices and foster self-advocacy by helping them to understand their rights and responsibilities as gifted individuals, to assess their personal learner profiles, to investigate alternative experiences, and to connect with the people who can bring about change.

If c/t/g students are uniquely capable of self-advocacy, why don’t they do it?  Do they need permission to ask for what they need? Are they afraid of being ridiculed? Do they not know how? Are they uncomfortable with the etiquette of speaking with powerful adults? Even if they are inclined to advocate for themselves, they may think they lack the skills required to advocate effectively for themselves.

Kit Finn theorized that although c/t/g children may be forthright about stating their needs, their egotism keeps them from being either subtle or tactful.  “Turning this into effective self-advocacy is a complex effort,” she writes.  Without training, a “child’s naive efforts tend to antagonize others.  The child may become inappropriately manipulative, or may learn to stop attempting to self-advocate at all.
For, c/t/g students who are underachievers, self-advocacy may be the key to becoming an achiever but they may be reluctant to take the risk of asking for something different when they have not performed. Susan Winebrenner wrote, “The most common complaint about underachievers is, ‘They won’t do their work.’  In my experience, the reality is that they won’t do the teacher’s work, but would be very happy to work on what is meaningful for them.”

There are myriad means to an appropriately challenging educational experience but these opportunities are ineffective if students do not willingly engage in them. In order for their education to be personally meaningful, c/t/g students must be allowed to make choices. Providing them with choices has been identified as a primary motivational tool that encourages learning.  Educational researchers have found that self-regulated learning that included choice led to higher self-efficacy and improved academic performance for middle school students.  It was also revealed that the issue of choice was crucial for addressing motivation and student achievement.  However, providing choices in the classroom requires that teachers share power with students, thus encouraging decision making and ownership of learning.

While it is important for teachers to believe in student choice and to create varied learning opportunities, it is just as important for students to understand their specific personal educational needs and to develop the skill to advocate for themselves. Frances Karnes contends that children with high intellectual, academic, and creative ability are especially ready to take charge of their own education, citing several studies that found a more internal locus of control (the feeling that control of one's life rests in one's own hands) is associated with giftedness.

For c/t/g students to receive an appropriate education, educators must not only provide challenging opportunities, they must also help those students become partners in their own education by understanding their needs, discovering available options, and becoming proficient at advocating for themselves. A workshop on self-advocacy for creative/gifted/talented teens can provide them with engaging, interactive, direct instruction in these skills.

Let's do it! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

From New Zealand

I've recently discovered Sonia White's blog, Gifted Chatter.  She's a parent, teacher, author, teacher educator and gifted education consultant in New Zealand.  Though we've never met, I'm guessing we have a lot in common!  

Check it out!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Twice Exceptional

When Allan was in 3rd grade his favorite book was Jeanne Cavelos' The Science of Star Wars: An Astrophysicist's Independent Examination of Space Travel, Aliens, Planets, and Robots as Portrayed in the Star Wars Films and Books. He was fascinated by the content but struggled to read it himself because in addition to being intellectually gifted, he had dyslexia.

Traditional identification methods often fail to reveal the talents of twice-exceptional or 2E students. Occasionally their extraordinary abilities mask their academic struggles and their disabilities go undiagnosed. One of the best sources of info on this issue is The 2E Newsletter and Blog.

The self-advocacy movement began in the world of developmental disabilities but gifted kids also need to find their voices. 2E people have twice the need to speak up for themselves.  And we, their advocates, can help.

As Linda Silverman wrote, "Gifted children with learning disabilities who are seen as defective, in constant need of remediation, come to view themselves with shame and doubt….But when those closest to them honor their strengths and believe in their ability to fulfill their dreams, they are able to mobilize their will to succeed against all odds."


Monday, July 30, 2012

Should I tell my child she's gifted?

At the recent SENG conference in Milwaukee a father asked a heartfelt question, “Should I tell my child she's gifted?”

It’s something a lot of parents and teachers struggle with, but my answer is a resounding, “Yes!”  And when we talk to our kids about their exceptional abilities we must make it a long, complete, on-going conversation about what that means.   Remember the number one gripe of the gifted kids surveyed by Galbraith and Delisle?  "No one explains what being gifted is all about - it's kept a big secret."

So, yes, we must talk to our children about their giftedness. To paraphrase Carol Anne Tomlinson, if we pretend that all children are gifted, that all have the same abilities, then our children will think we're stupid.  They are well aware that they are different, but they often lack the self-reflection or even the vocabulary to describe the ways they feel different.

Here, in no particular order, are things we should include in that conversation:

  • You are better at some things than others your age, but of course that doesn’t mean you’re better than they are.
  • Being gifted is not what you do, but who you are
  • Being gifted is not how well you do in school or what you become some day or what you can contribute to society, but a unique set of characteristics you will have for all your life.
  •  There are many ways to be gifted and gifted people are not all alike.
  • You have a combination of exceptional abilities; some are intellectual, academic, creative, artistic, or leadership gifts - a mixture that is different for every gifted person.
  • You have definite strengths but you also have underdeveloped areas that need some work.
  • Being gifted means you may often have different educational needs than some of your classmates.  Every brain needs to be challenged in order to grow and you can help your teachers and parents know when the challenge feels right, when it’s too tough and when it’s too easy.
  • Because you’re gifted you may experience life very Intensely. You may have overexcitabilities (more here.) 
  • Being gifted is a good thing. It doesn’t mean your life will always be easy, but it is part of what makes you uniquely wonderful.  


Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Gifted-Friendly Classroom

Beyond a doubt, teachers want all kids to learn.  But since many pre-service programs include only a passing glance at the needs of gifted learners, many educators may not realize how to create and maintain a gifted-friendly classroom.

When I first began exploring giftedness, Dorothy Kennedy was director of the Network for Gifted Education at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.  I learned much from her years of experience and have kept this gem since it was first published in The Roeper Review in 1995. Her list below is as pertinent today as it was 18 years ago so I'm adding it to the teacher support side of the right triangle.

Plain talk about creating a gifted-friendly classroom

  1. Resist policies requiring more work of those who finish assignments quickly and easily. Instead, explore ways to assign different work, which may be more complex, more abstract, and both deeper and wider. Find curriculum compacting strategies that work and use them regularly.
  2. Seek out supplemental materials and ideas which extend, not merely reinforce, the curriculum. Develop inter-disciplinary units and learning centers that call for higher level thinking. Don't dwell on comprehension-level questions and tasks for those who have no problems with comprehension. Encourage activities that call for analysis, synthesis, and critical thinking, and push beyond superficial responses.
  3. De-emphasize grades and other extrinsic rewards. Encourage learning for its own sake, and help perfectionists establish realistic goals and priorities. Try to assure that the self-esteem of talented learners does not rest solely on their products and achievements.
  4. Encourage intellectual and academic risk-taking. The flawless completion of a simple worksheet by an academically talented student calls for little or no reward, but struggling with a complex, open-ended issue should earn praise. Provide frequent opportunities to stretch mental muscles.
  5. Help all children develop social skills to relate well to one another. For gifted children this may require special efforts to see things from other viewpoints. Training in how to "read" others and how to send accurate verbal and nonverbal messages may also be helpful. Tolerate neither elitist attitudes nor anti-gifted discrimination.
  6. Take time to listen to responses that may at first appear to be off-target. Gifted children often are divergent thinkers who get more out of a story or remark and have creative approaches to problems. Hear them out, and help them elaborate on their ideas. 
  7. Provide opportunities for independent investigations in areas of interest. Gifted children are often intensely, even passionately, curious about certain topics. Facilitate their in-depth explorations by teaching research skills as needed,directing them to good resources, and providing support as they plan and complete appropriate products. 
  8. Be aware of the special needs of gifted girls. Encourage them to establish realistically high-level educational and career goals, and give them additional encouragement to succeed in math and science.

Dorothy M. Kennedy
Roeper Review, May/Jun95, Vol. 17 Issue 4, p232

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"The Watch"

Many, many years ago in a community not so far away we started a project called The Young Authors Anthology and invited all middle school students from several districts to submit their creative writing.  The GT coordinator from each district had 8 pages in the spiral-bound book to fill with their best student work.  The selected authors also attended a day-long retreat at the school forest where they expanded their writing skills in one of several workshops and shared their work at the end of the day.  

We began the small group sessions by asking students to turn to their page of the anthology and read their poem or story aloud.  And each year it was pretty much the same . . .  The first student would shyly say, "I didn't want to submit this, but my teacher made me"  or "This isn't very good, but I'll read it anyway" or something equally dismissive.  When they finished we'd all applaud and then I'd ask the others for comments or questions.  The most confident person would speak up: "I like the way you described that" or "Where'd you get that idea?" or "That reminds me of Emily Dickinson." By the time the third student began reading it was obvious they knew they were in the company of like-minded peers and were safe sharing their personal creative efforts.

Naturally most of the poetry submitted had a typical middle school theme -  love.  And usually, "I love you; why don't you love me anymore?"  But sometimes I was startled by the asynchrony of the young gifted writer's maturity, sensitivity, and passion for the language.  Wendy Lewellen Qualls is one of those authors and she's given me permission to share something she wrote in middle school.  

The Watch

Pounding, pounding, pounding
Like a chisel in my head,
The never-ending heartbeat 
Of a deity long-dead.

Each little tick and click
Sends a shiver down my spine
From the cruel incessant tocking
Of this pocket watch of mine.

Forever it is captor
And forever we are slaves,
From those toddling from their cradles
To those crawling to their graves.

As long as we're in motion
Then time will be the master
'Cause as fast as you can do it
Someone else can do it faster.


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Right Triangle

Welcome to Day 6 of the NPGC Blog Tour.

Today's topic: 

Advocacy for gifted children –
teaming with educators and legislators

If you're new to my blog, you might want to start with an overview of my vision - teaching gifted children to self-advocate.  You can also find more details in an article for parents and my 2004 action research summary from the Roeper Review.

By definition, self- advocacy is the process of recognizing and meeting the needs specific to your learning ability without compromising the dignity of yourself or others.

Yes, I believe wholeheartedly that students (and especially those who are outliers) must play a major role in making sure they have appropriately challenging and satisfying educational experiences.  No one knows better than they what is going on in their heads and hearts as they sit in class, walk the halls, complete assignments, interact with their peers and teachers.

Most gifted kids are not naturally adept at self-advocacy, however.  In fact, their naive attempts often can get them into trouble and it's best if we teach them specifically why and how they should speak up.  When students, parents and teachers work as advocacy partners they form a wonderfully right triangle.  The children are the foundation, leading the way, while the adults support them from all directions.  

I hope you'll browse through past entries, all geared toward self-advocacy in one way or another, and let me know if you find something that strikes a cord with you and your family.  And check out all the other NPGC Blog Tour sites.  

As I wrote when I started this adventure.  Too often, one voice sounds like whining; many voices sound like a cause.  There is great power in collaborative advocacy.  Together we do make a difference for the gifted people we know and love.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Gets Along Well with Peers"

That's a pretty common phrase on assessments of student behavior.  But who exactly are the peers of gifted kids?   They quite naturally have multiple peer groups.  Among others they have age peers and intellectual peers and social peers. It's just part of their asynchronous development.

When my younger son was about 10 years old he developed a passion for the game, Magic: The Gathering, and wanted to hang out at the local card shop, My Parents Basement.  It really was a basement storefront, a few steps down from street level on the main thoroughfare.  And ever-conscientious mom that I was, I told him I'd need to check it out before he could spend his after-school time there. 

I had my doubts . . . classic visions of pool halls and other teen hang-outs in my mind. But the next day when we entered the store together I was greeted with a chorus of "Hey, Mrs. D!"  Almost every face in the room I recognized from my years and years as GT educator and Destination Imagination coach.  Clearly my son's hobby peer group ranged in age from 8 to 38. And on reflection I realized that his community theatre peer group ranged from 8 to 80; running club, 8 to 58. And of course he still loved hanging with his age peers, the kids he'd gone to school with forever.

Around that same time an elementary teacher suggested to me that one of his students not be pulled out for academic enrichment activities until she interacted better with the other pupils in her class.  Her principal agreed that she seemed "anti-social."  Yet I advocated for her inclusion.  I'd seen first hand that she "got along well with her peers."  She had no trouble fitting in perfectly with the other Magic players . . . the huge group of multi-age peers at My Parents Basement.

Can you imagine how we adults would feel if told our peer group could only be those who shared our birth year?

Monday, July 16, 2012

National Parenting Gifted Children Week

Let's celebrate!

Be sure to check out the blog tour here for a variety of perspectives on the joys and challenges of living with intense kids!

Stay tuned. Friday I get to add my 2 cents.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

An Emily Update

If you recall, my March 9 post on chance told the story of almost-daughter, actress Emily Trask.  This week her mom Susanne and I traveled to beautiful Rhode Island for opening night of "The Scottish Play" with Emily in the role of Lady Macbeth. Her route to Westerly RI was another circuitous tale of being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people who knew the right people, and a willingness to take risks . . . to follow her heart.

Congrats, Emily.  You're making the world a more beautiful place in so many ways.

The Colonial Theatre: Shakespeare in the Park.

Strength in Numbers

The 2012 SENG Conference was held in Milwaukee this week.  I had the pleasure of presenting my thoughts on self-advocacy to a full room yesterday and was energized by the passion and compassion of those in attendance.  Parents and educators and counselors and so many others, all intent on working together to support the emotional needs of the gifted.  How refreshing.  No need to explain our mission or justify our work.  Just as gifted kids thrive when networking with their like-ability peers, events like this are vital to their advocates.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

NZ Gifted Blog Tour: What Angie Taught Me

Today I'm honored to be part of the 

Please check out all the blogs and help us celebrate and advocate for gifted children around the world.

Angie loves words.   
Always has; always will. 

The works of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Bradbury and L’Engle enchanted her in grade school.   For birthday gifts, she and her older sister exchanged volumes of poetry and Shakespeare’s plays.  By the time she was 10, there was little that could be differentiated for her in a regular reading class.  And when asked what she’d like to do instead, her immediate response was, “Learn Latin.” 

Those younger than 30 will find this hard to believe, but it wasn’t so long ago that there were no online classes!  And classical languages aren’t typically offered in small town Wisconsin.  Fortunately, we found a Latin correspondence course through Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development.  But after hungrily devouring the four-term program in record time, Angie wanted more.  She wanted and needed to commune with someone who shared her passion.  Finding a mentor seemed impossible and I would have given up but for her persistence. 

The answer came from a surprising source.  A small Catholic convent outside of town was home to several elderly nuns. And as luck would have it, one was a Latin scholar. 

So twice a week this little girl knocked on the convent door.  Then she and Sister Mary Agnes (75 years her senior), bent their heads close together to joyfully read and discuss Tacitus and Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder and both of the Senecas, too.

I’m reminded again of the Maureen Neihart quote I posted last February:
"The single most powerful predictor of positive outcomes for 
vulnerable children is a relationship with a caring adult."

Happy New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week!