Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Stickiness of the G-Word and the (2e) School Dance

The Stickiness of the G-Word and the (2e) School Dance

I don't know if you've ever dealt with the stickiness of the g-word and the (2e) school dance, but I have recently and it reminded me why it can be so awkward, difficult, and uncomfortable with a 2e child.  It's that moment when you tend to avert your eyes and want to disappear.

What am I exactly talking about here?  When I meet other parents at a playground or elsewhere, the discussion usually involves identifying our children and their current educational status: what school (public or private) they attend (or un/homeschool in our case).  Within minutes, there's often a discussion on the school, teachers, curriculum, and so on and how the child's current educational status is panning out.  I usually am on the receiving end of such discussions since I un/homeschool now and, as a result, have considerable flexibility and leeway with my son's education.

Usually, most parents (at least where I live) avoid using the G-word.  In fact, Massachusetts is one of two states that does not recognize giftedness.  There is no state mandate.  There is zero state funding for giftedness.  So the G-word is automatically a sticky word since the state doesn't acknowledge it and therefore doesn't set any definition, standards, or guidelines on it.

Only a handful of public schools in Massachusetts acknowledge the G-word.  Brookline Public Schools, for instance, concedes that there are gifted children, but they do not formally identify students as "gifted and talented" for placement in a separate program as it's considered part of the regular Brookline curriculum.  In Framingham, there is a classroom integration and pull-out enrichment program, but it very likely doesn't address all levels of giftedness or twice exceptional (2e) students well.  More significantly, however, in order for a child to enter such program, they usually have to qualify for one.

Though other states acknowledge the G-Word, they usually make their own definition, standards, and guidelines for students to meet.  On this point, Scott Barry Kaufman wrote an excellent article on who is currently identified as gifted in United States (

Standardized tests and IQ, unfortunately, remain supreme in identifying giftedness.  When we were living in New York City, the gifted and talented test included the OLSAT and Bracken Readiness tests.
Truth be told, before we moved (back) to MA and we were living in New York City, my son took the gifted and talented test at age 4 and did not qualify for the program.  He was a special needs student then in an integrated pre-kindergarten student at a publicly funded school.  The gifted and talented test was free and, at that point, I was heading to arbitration with the NYC Board of Education concerning my son's future educational placement for kindergarten.  I had a hunch (ok, really more than a hunch) that he was a special needs child who was gifted or twice exceptional (2e) and it was going to be a serious challenge to find an appropriate school for him.  We'd looked at special needs schools, such as Churchill, Gillen Brewer, and others but it looked bleak and this was partly why we moved back to Massachusetts: for our son's education, though we didn't bargain on it involving the G-word at the time.

When we moved back to Massachusetts from New York City shortly after the gifted and talented test, my son was a special needs student in a pre-kindergarten program in a public school and was not identified as a gifted or as being twice exceptional.  As a special needs student, our son was tested at grade level on cognitive tests by the public school.  The public school wanted to keep our son in the special needs for another year of pre-kindergarten because as I mentioned most children with late birthdays are redshirted and because he was exhibiting ADHD-like and PDD-like symptoms.  But we had signs at home that our son needed a gifted education.

 In Massachusetts, private schools have largely shoulder the gifted population; Hoagies' Gifted page is a great resource to find such schools (  With my son, we were very fortunate that my parents paid for him to attend two of the schools listed here.  But we were less fortunate that neither school could accommodate my son and herein lies more stickiness with the G-word.

We actually did not know how gifted our son was until we had placed him in the first private gifted school listed on Hoagies' Gifted page for the remainder of pre-kindergarten.  Many parents don't know how gifted their child is until they are put in such an environmental setting (private gifted school or equivalent) and presented with a 'gifted education.'  You just don't always know how a child, especially a young child, is going to respond or react.  Five-year-olds can be unpredictable!  Needless to say, we were quite surprised when the first private gifted school informed us that they could not longer accommodate our son because he accelerated too quickly.  Great.

What's not widely acknowledge within the gifted world, or general population at large, is that there is no effective one-size-fits-all mode of education.  First, only a miniscule scattering of schools across the country can address the needs of extreme giftedness or twice exceptional kids like my son (  And second, (private or public) schools, by their nature, are designed to met a hypothetical average based on a neurotypical developing child for each grade and subject.  My son was at a loss on both counts.

Schools are not based on outliers.  On a large scale, such as with the public school system, it's inefficient and perhaps impossible to create curricula tailored to meet the individual needs of each student.  On a small scale, it's perhaps possible to create curricula but then there are other variables that are often forgotten in the mix which a gifted or twice exceptional parent has to contend with: what the curricula actually entails, the way the curricula is presented (ie. linear and sequential?), the special needs, the other students, and on and on.  So many of these variables are not in a parent or child's control.  Public or private schools may work great if your child matches the school's curriculum or is willing to tolerate it, but it's less than satisfactory if your child comes home from school with stomachaches, headaches, depression, or other complaints of psychosomatic symptoms each day.

Worse, our current educational system and focus on standardized tests does little to nothing to foster passion, creativity, or what interests children as Scott Barry Kaufman and others have said (  And yet, what children learn best is what interests them, what they want and need to know at a particular point and time.  Gifted, twice exceptional or not.  But that's not how most schools operate.  Though public and private curricula varies, there's still usually a developmental sequence of skills that's adhered -- addition and subtraction precede multiplication and division, for instance.  There's still usually a teacher who leads or directs the instruction of educational material on what they students should learn.  And while many private gifted schools are willing to accelerate a child ahead a couple of grades or more, they're less willing to accelerate a child five grades or more across every subject or even delve far and wide in a particular 'esoteric' subject as a child may like.

What's a gifted or 2e parent to do?  Well, if you live in MA, you might try the public or private schools before un/homeschooling or you might just cut the chase.

Here it is!  The long-awaited logo for the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop for May 2014!

cid:CB0A429C-BF57-4632-92E5-EA77310A681AThis blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Steps for dealing with anxiety, feelings/emotions, and your 2e child

This is part of part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum third blog hop of the year - Promoting Health and Wellness in the Gifted/2E Child


Disclaimer: I am a parent of a 2e son; I don't have a medical or psychology degree or anything remotely connected to it unless a history or library degree counts.  However, I have dealt with anxiety on my own and lately with my 8-yr-old 2e son.  I was also raised by parents were emotionally challenged and never entirely understood.  My 2e father and sister are on the Autism Spectrum and, as a result, still have a very difficult time expressing their feelings and emotions to me or anyone.  So I say: ignore addressing emotions to your peril.

A lot of this blog covers dialogues, interactions, ways to talk to and listen to your children.  If you're familiar with the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk then you'll get it. If you're not familiar with the book and need some guidance, then you might pick up a copy at your local library or elsewhere.

1.  Anxiety.  The first step is the hardest and wouldn't classify as the simple part, I think.  You, dear parent, have to come to grips with your own anxiety and perfectionism.  You have to deal with your own dirty laundry and garbage, which most people consciously want to avoid!  There's cognitive behavioral therapy.  There are books, such as David Burns's The Feeling Good Handbook ( or Edmund Bourne's The Anxiety & Phobia Handbook (

We live in anxious times.  There are tiger parents, helicopter parents, and so forth who seem to circle like anxiety vultures and usually only too eager to impart unwelcomed comments, suggestions, and advice.  Then, there's the lackluster (or toilet) economy.  It's feast or famine with jobs, it seems.  Some pay but require ungodly hours and devotion.  Others, well, don't pay.  Medical benefits are great if they're included with employment, but it's a frigging nightmare if you've got none or close to none with any you may have.  Generally speaking, the 'traditional' route to improving one's socioeconomic standards (ie. hard work and high achievement in a high performing, test happy school) is no longer a guarantee of future employment or material success.  What's an anxious parent to do, but worry?

a)  Anxiety/wellness - symptoms, sleep, diet, and exercise - I'm not forgetting!!!  I'll just leave that for another blog/s or for someone else at the moment.  There's enough here.

2.  Identify feelings.  If you accept the reality that we live in anxious times, how does that make you feel?  Glad, mad, or sad?  IF your child has a meltdown, does it make you feel glad, mad, or sad?  Or how does a meltdown make your child feel - glad, mad, sad, or bad?  Today, there are plenty of prompts, books and ways to help your 2e child identify their feelings.  Help your child.  A smiley face is a visual example of happiness or being glad :).  A red piece of paper may indicate a child is mad!

3.  Validate feelings.  Yes, I can blow my top when my son has a meltdown.  Put a check in the mad column.  When my son has a meltdown, he doesn't make him feel too good about himself either.  Put a check in the sad and bad columns for him.  Let's think about this for a minute.  A meltdown doesn't make you feel good.  I don't like getting mad.  I don't like seeing my son get sad or feel bad about himself.  Still, it happens.  And a child needs to know that these feelings are normal to have.  They're going to come and go.   Today there are cards, games, songs, and numerous ways for kids to validate their feelings if they're having trouble articulating or expressing them.

4.  Share/express feelings.  Try putting your feelings into words, drawings, or music.  For a younger child or one is struggles verbally, even a simple gesture such as thumbs up or down can go a long way to help a child share how they're feeling.  Or perhaps a particular song captures the words and feelings for a child that they're unable to articulate.  IF a particular song seems to work, try to found why.  The point here is to identify your feelings, validate them, and then consciously express them to yourself and/or others as possible.  Easier said than done.  Most of us don't really want to connect to our inner feelings and thoughts.  And you get forget about feeling like you're getting naked and revealing your innermost being.  Yet we expect kids to do this without some help and not wobble.  

a) If you've got a persistent case or feel the potential for one, you might find a chart for dysfunctional thoughts or decide to make a daily record of them.


5.  Too negative feelings + too negative thoughts = (doo doo).  Too much (doo doo) and well, we know the results.  You do NOT feel good about yourself.  You feel like doo doo.  Too much of that and you'll topple and spin out of control.  I don't think anyone likes feeling out of control.  The trick here is recognizing how to avert that toppling and point where you're about to go over the edge.  A two-year-old isn't capable of doing that and it's debatable how many eight-year-olds like my 2e son are either.  Let's get real here.  Many adults struggle with this too.

a) Scale.  A good way to tackle the onslaught of negative feelings and/or overreactions is to have a 5-point or 10-point rating system.  If you spill milk on the kitchen table, that may be a one or a .5.  Yes, I don't like spilling my dairy-free milk or cleaning up the mess either, but it's really minor in the grand scale of things and doesn't warrant a 5 response (though a child may feel like it does).  

Here, it's worth bearing in mind that many actions and decisions in life are reversible.  Most things are not etched in stone.  Even when things are etched in stone or irreversible, such as death, we can learn to cope with it as best we can.

b) IF a child's emotional needs are not being met and you're concerned about depression, don't hesitate to consult or see a professional.  Everyone has the blues and down days but too much negative feelings and thoughts can veer into depression and be a real cause for concern with 2e kids.  Children who are unable to express their feelings may externalize them with emotional eating, for example, when they're depressed or self-mutilation.  Marianne Kuzujanakis has a great SENG article about this topic and I'm very grateful to her for it because I was able to identify psychosomatic symptoms with my son when he was in a private gifted school and his needs were not being met.  I'm now un/homeschooling and the psychosomatic symptoms have disappeared.

SENG article - (

6. Reframe the distorted negative thoughts.  Instead of the negative what ifs and catastrophizing, it's a case of I'll learn how; I can do it; I'll do my best.  Counter the negative self thoughts with positive ones.

7.  Good feelings + good thoughts = calmness.  Of course, we, as adults, know that lemons can be made into lemonade.  We can turn a negative feeling or thought into a positive or see a bright side.  Many 2e children, however, struggle with this because their imaginations can run wild and they can dreamt up every unlikely possibility it seems.  

8.  Calmness.  If you're calm, you're less anxious.  As adults, we usually know how to calm ourselves down.  We take a walk, go for a run, ride a bike, rake, or do some physical exercise. We might bake, draw, squeeze a ball, or do something with our hands.  We might listen to music so we keep the peace in our heads.  We might watch a video or go into our bedroom/bathroom and close the door so we don't have to (physically) look at our child for a few minutes.  We might self-talk to ourselves.  We might do some heavy breathing for a few minutes.  We might lie down somewhere and close our eyes.  

A child doesn't necessarily know these calming tricks or is aware of them.  Or they just haven't reached the self-help and social/emotional milestones and developments.  Other times, it's harder due to exceptionalities.  So, with some 2e kids (and my son has been one of them), they can quickly wind themselves up but have no idea how to unwind themselves or how to stay on a more even emotional keel.  

A 2e child can be INTENSE.  Some 2e kids are super sensitive, emotional, overexcitable, and lack those internal switches or wiring to keep themselves calm.  I know.  I do know from experience.  Weighted blankets, Epsom bath salts, fidgety toys, trampolines, and many other do-dads I'll call them can help to calm 2e kids.  Keep experimenting until your child finds their inner peace and calm.  Sensory integration disorder books can provide guidance on helping to calm a child.  Occupational therapists who have training and experience with 2e kids or sensory integration can help too.  My son was born with severe sensory processing disorder and spent five years in occupational therapy, including three years in a sensory gym.  

As difficult as it is at times, try to view these emotional sensitivities and overexcitabilites as assets rather than as (negative) deficits.  I know, I can see the eye rolling now.  But let's put this in perspective.

Can we name any adults who are emotional sensitive and overexcitable and yet have done wonderful things in life?  I'll start (in no particular order here): Roald Dahl, Dav Pilkey (author of Captain Underpants), chef Gordon Ramsay, Steven Spielberg, Elton John, John Lennon - for the boys; Jane Goodall, Mary Leakey (paleoanthropologist), chef Rachel Ray, Grace Lin (writer), Tina Fey (humorist), Geena Davis (actress) - for the girls.  I'm sure you can come up with a list too.

Half the battle here with a 2e child is getting them to recognize their feelings and when they're getting anxious.
This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum third blog hop of the year - Promoting Health and Wellness in the Gifted/2E Child  (blog hop).