"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Twice Exceptional Students"

In Montgomery County in Maryland, one may find a student who has met criteria for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and yet is receiving accelerated and enriched instruction. The public schools in Montgomery County are among the few schools in the country that recognize that some students clearly have a set of specific strengths and weaknesses. Being gifted or talented oftentimes comes with drawbacks and a "one size fits all" approach simply does not work.

There is both a disharmony and a harmony hypothesis regarding gifted children, which is nicely summarized in the abstract of a paper by Maureen Neihart:

-Maureen Neihart, The impact of giftedness on psychological well‐being: What does the empirical literature say?
What is missing, unfortunately, in the above paragraph, is how we, as adults, often view gifted children. In the classroom, for example, how a teacher relates to a gifted child can have an impact on how that child develops socially and emotionally. With a plethora of disorders now diagnosed quite frequently and the fact that most school districts in the country do not operate like those in Montgomery County, the chances are high that gifted and talented students are not being provided the support and curriculum these "twice exceptional" children need.

"Twice exceptional" children are obviously different. And there is no question that there are some problems on how society sometimes view these children. Otherwise, Charlotte Francis would not have a presentation on Prezi with the following as its first slide:

Francis also uses the following quote from a book by Ellen Winner, Gifted Children: Myths and Realities:
“They often play alone and enjoy solitude, not only because they like to but also because they have few people to play with who share their interests … When they do find friends, they usually find older children who are closer to themselves in mental age”
One could easily see a similarity between this and one of the criterion outlined in the diagnosis of autism.
Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
A recent paper (published in the American Educational Research Journal) from Germany finds that teachers are in fact predisposed to equate giftedness with social awkwardness for male students. The authors write:
"...the implicit association ‘‘gifted = intellectually outstanding but maladjusted’’ seems to exist, but only for male students... ...teachers who hold ambivalent or negative attitudes against gifted students likely enhance the inner conflicts that gifted students may experience, thereby reducing their chances of optimal socioemotional and academic development."
The words used in the study to represent "adjustment difficulties", which teachers equated with gifted or talented boys, are as follows:
difficult, solitary, precocious, unhappy, intolerant, arrogant, badly behaved, unpopular, aggressive 
Such views, unfortunately, do not end inside elementary classrooms. Society with its growing anti-intellectualism is now also fast equating the above words with reason and intelligence as well.

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