Saturday, September 17, 2016

Finding peers with a move or starting to homeschool a gifted/2e child

Finding peers with a move or starting to homeschool a gifted/2e child

It is vital for all children to find peers and make friends but it's often a thorny prospect for a gifted or 2e (gifted with special needs) child.  This prospect, however, can be further intensified with a move or with starting to homeschool.  I know too well.  Within the last year, we moved outside the US and then moved again within the UK, nearly two months ago.

How do you go about finding peers and making friends with a gifted/2e child when you move to a new area or start to homeschool?  First, go online and try to find out what homeschool groups are in your area.  Many are on Facebook today; though there are still some yahoo groups and homeschool groups with their own websites.  Word of mouth is another way to find out about homeschool groups but that can be rather difficult when you either move to a new area or initially start out homeschooling.  Ideally, try to meet a fellow homeschooling parent in your area who may be able to point you in the right direction as soon as possible.  Try to get the low down on what's around and going on with homeschoolers.

Find out what types of homeschool groups, activities, and/or events are in your area.  Think in terms of your specific gifted/2e child/ren and their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional needs as well as their chronological age.  Think in terms of academics and non-academics.  It's possible to find a friend at an informal swimming group rather than in a competitive math club.  Alternatively, it's possible to find a friend or peer at a competitive math club and not at swimming.  It depends on the gifted/2e child, the group or activity, and the other children in attendance.  And, yes, some homeschool groups, activities, and/or events are based on chronological age and not based on ability. This is something to bear in mind.  Sometimes age restrictions are avoidable or able to be bridged by talking to the organizer/s of the homeschool group, activity, and/or event.  Other times, age restrictions are inescapable regardless of a child's ability and/or performance elsewhere; some people and places are age sticklers and are not going to change their rules or policies.  So you'll have to decide whether it's worth it to wait on these age restrictive groups, activities, and/or events or seek alternative ones for your child's immediate needs based on their chronological age or ones with more flexibility.

Second, discern which homeschool groups, activities, and/or events are structured or lesson-based from the unstructured.  If you've got a round peg 2e child, then it's probably not worth beating your head to try to get them to fit into the square hole.  Some gifted/2e children thrive with structure and lessons for homeschooled groups and activities.  For others, it gives them the hives and they will rebel against them.  For these gifted/2e kids, you'll be banging your head with the more structured stuff and will need to find drop-in, informal homeschool groups and activities without too much structure.  Bear in mind, as children get older, their needs will change and making friends or finding peers will take greater priority in their lives.  A gifted/2e six-year-old's needs are different from a twelve-year-old's, of course.

Third or perhaps earlier (it's not etched in stone here!), take geography into account.  Geographical location within a certain area or based on interest/activity can make a difference with transportation, traffic, and getting your gifted/2e child to and from a place.  Most major metropolitan areas support homeschooling groups today.  Depending on where you live, your transportation, budget, and traffic, you may have a wide range of options for homeschool groups within a 10-mile or 60-mile radius.  On the other hand, geography and/or transportation may impose limitations.

Fourth, budget.  Yes, if I had a magic wand and oodles of money, then I could forget about this reality and this word!  Don't despair.  Homeschooling can be done on a shoestring budget.  It is possible. Check out what's free, low-cost, pricey, or cost prohibitive.  Also, some pricey or cost prohibitive activities or events may have concessions or fees reduced for those on restricted incomes.  Public libraries, adult education centers, and other public or non-profit institutions often have activities that are free or for low-cost which may work for an informal homeschool group meetup or a regular structured group.

Fifth, don't see anything that appeals to you or your gifted/2e, consider creating a group or organizing one.  Some people are good at organizing.  If you are one, don't be shy about putting your ideas forward and trying to start something.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the positive responses and reactions from more introverted people who recognize the need but may be reluctant to organize such a homeschool group.

Sixth, let's be honest here.  Moving or starting to homeschool can be tough and stressful.  Some kids have an easier time with change and socially with making friends, period.  Some kids are more flexible and/or resilient than others.  Some 2e kids have special needs issues that hinder language and/or social skills.  Some gifted kids, or a 2e child, may be highly, exceptionally, or profoundly gifted and really struggle to find true intellectual peers.  In that case, you may want to keep the focus on making friends.

Don't throw the towel here!  Your child doesn't not necessarily need a gaggle of friends when one or two close friends may suffice.  Remember oftentimes it's quality over quantity here.  Bear in mind, too, finding peers and making friends are unlikely to happen overnight.  It's more likely to take a lot of time, patience, and effort.  Your gifted/2e child may also have an easier time making friends than finding a true intellectual peer, which may take considerable sleuthing (or maybe not truly happen until they're an adult).

Depending on your child, their level of giftedness, and where you live, your gifted/2e child may have an easier time if you're able to widen your options.  Some have an easier time by drawing on a huge geographical area or a critical mass of homeschoolers.  Some families are fortunate to live in areas with lots of gifted/2e kids.  Other families may be fortunate to move to those areas where there are lots of gifted/2e kids.  On the other hand, finding peers and making friends in towns or cities without any gifted services in public or private schools may be easier -- since many might turn to homeschool as an alternative educational option.  Then again, as I've mentioned, there are some gifted/2e kids where it might take until adulthood before they find a true intellectual peer.

Seventh, I've based this blog post on finding peers and making friends with a move or with starting to homeschool in a new area in the physical world, as in face-to-face encounters.  Today, Skype, Facetime, social media, and other methods enable gifted/2e kids to find peers and make friends virtually without physically meeting them face-to-face. Gifted Homeschooling Forum (GHF) is a virtual place where a gifted/2e child may find a peer or make a friend.  I've been extremely fortunate that my son has found a peer via GHF; others may have as well.  So it is possible for gifted/2e kids to find peers and make friends in the virtual world in certain settings without the usual geographical constraints of the physical world and not something to discount.

Eighth, keep plugging away until your gifted/2e child finds some peers and makes friends, in the physical and/or virtual worlds.  They may have friends at different groups and/or activities but lack true intellectual peers until adulthood as I've mentioned.  If this is the case, don't give up.   Keep looking and trying different groups, activities, and/or events until you do....

This is part of the Gifted Homeschooling Forum's blog hop - Gifted Children: The Importance of Finding Intellectual Peers and Community.  For more on GHF's blog hops from around the world, see:  For more of GHF's blog hop topics, see:

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Gifted 2E Kids: The Most Underrepresented

Gifted 2E Kids: The Most Underrepresented

Of the three million students identified as gifted in the United States, a recent NPR article claims, that non-native English speakers or ELL (English language learners) students are by far the most underrepresented.  While it is true that non-native English speakers or ELL students are often underrepresented in gifted programs, the article does not address the issues and difficulties posed for gifted 2e kids.  In fact, there is no mention of them.  For many Gifted 2e parents, the article reinforces the dilemmas with  their local district for their 2e kids and why so many seek out homeschooling as an alternative educational option.

Let's start with what the federal law says.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) requires all U.S. public schools to provide for the special needs for all children, ages three through 21 with disabilities.  Additionally, the American Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) provides safeguards to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination of any kind.  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides services to children who may not qualify as disabled under IDEA 2004 but who need additional supports of services.  These federal laws apply to all children regardless of nationality, language spoken, or length of residency; and such children are eligible for these services through the public school system.

In theory this may sound good, but what happens in reality for many gifted 2e parents is much more thorny.  First, a child needs to be identified as having special needs.  This in itself is far from being simple.  My son, who is now 10 years old, was born in New York City with special needs, mainly physical ones.  He qualified for therapy through Early Intervention (a federally mandated program) as a baby.  Once he turned three, however, the medical model of qualifying for services with Early Intervention no longer applied.  An educational model applied instead: my son's potential academic achievement were considered.  Except at age three, it's very hard to assess and predict the future educational trajectory of a child, especially one with special needs and developmental delays.  Even the best psychologists in the country will not administer an IQ (intelligence quotient) test at age three; it's too young for any accuracy.

Cognitive and/or academic aptitude tests, regardless of age, may be given to determine whether a child qualifies for special education or services through a public school system.  Oftentimes, though, such tests are based on a particular age and with low ceilings.  Furthermore, public school officials who administer such tests may not be skilled in assessing a 2e child.  They may have little experience with a child who may be ahead in one aspect but have a deficit in another or one who is not receptive to testing.  In the end, parents may seek out private testing.  But this is often costly.  It's cost prohibitive to those without the financial means or not an option for those without access to private testing in their area.  This only serves to further undermine the hurdles for a 2e parent and child.

What complicates matters further is that special needs can vary widely and be slippery to define and to identify.  A gifted 2e child usually refers to a child who has above average intelligence and one or more disabilities.  But there are exceptions with this definition: some savants such as Kim Peek, for one, who have islands of genius or exceptional abilities despite some severe disabilities.  Disabilities (or weaknesses) for 2e children can run the gamut from autism and deafness to dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Under IDEA 2004, a special needs student is defined as having: "a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations."  Again, it sounds great in theory, but in practice the diagnosing of a disability or a recognition of special needs can be complicated and messy.  Many children with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphic, and/or dyspraxia are never diagnosed or identified. Or where the line is drawn on who is defined as dyslexic and qualifies for services is often fraught with murkiness.

Moreover inconsistencies and unevenness in performance and abilities are hallmarks of 2e children. They may have delays.  They may be early bloomers with some developments and/or late bloomers with other developments.  Or they may be a mixture of both.  They may be highly verbal or have deficits with language skills.  They may perform or test well one day, but not the next.  They may swing from avoiding situations or experiences to seeking them out.  They may seem out-of-sync with others and have trouble coping with their mixed abilities.

Those who go to school may find their special needs or giftedness fly under the radar or go unnoticed.  A teacher may be aware a child has special needs but a parent might be unaware.  Or the situation may be reversed with a parent suspecting special needs and a teacher not seeing them or being unaware.  A gifted 2e child may fluctuate between highs and lows in a particular day and/or subject.  Some days a 2e child may seem exceptional while other days the special needs may seem particularly glaring.  At times, nothing may seem to fit or work out.  Nothing about them may seem linear or sequential like it may appear in comparison with more neurotypical children.

Worse, behavioral issues can often coexist with exceptional abilities.  A gifted 2e child may find things easy in one area, but struggle or find things impossible in another area.  They may get frustrated, anxious, and depressed from a lack of challenge.  In a school setting, a gifted 2e child may spend a large part of their day just trying to hold themselves together and exert an enormous amount of effort doing so.  They may suddenly explode with little to no warning.  Unwarranted attention for such disruptive behavior and relentless meetings (or phone calls) with school personnel may ensue. Unwittingly, the student's negative behavior may cause a teacher to put blinders on and, counter productively, such negative behavior may outstrip any exceptional abilities the child may have.

To muddy the waters further, gifted education is NOT federally mandated and, as a result, not every state mandates gifted education.  Of the states with gifted programs, approximately six to ten percent of the total student population is considered academically gifted.  But this figure does not include the number of students who are not tested as gifted or failed to be identified as gifted.  It also does not include such states as Massachusetts where a gifted state mandate does not exist or the number of 2e homeschoolers either since the figures are based on data obtained from public school systems.  Of the states with gifted programs, some estimate the 2e population to be around 350,000 or .5%, but this seems woefully low.

In reality, many 2e children are never identified and muddle through school, never reach their potential, or fall through the cracks -- though despite these obstacles, some persevere through dint of hard work.  Take Henry Winkler (an American actor, director, comedian, producer and author). Winkler was born in Manhattan and attended public schools in New York City, but never identified as dyslexic or as a 2e child by either his parents or his teachers.  Though he was bright, he thought he was 'stupid.'  He didn't read a book until he was 31 years old.  Today, however, he's now written 26 books with his Hank Zipzer series and become a spokesman for dyslexia.

Only a handful of schools in the United States offer a curriculum specifically tailored to 2e children. In New York City, which is the biggest city in the US and has the largest public school system in the country, there are very limited options for parents.  Many, such as Winkler, are never identified as having special needs or exceptional abilities.  Other times, children are identified as having special needs or be gifted but not both.  Some gifted schools in New York City may be able to accommodate children on the autism spectrum but not all.  In other cities and states, some public schools offer part-time programs for twice exceptional students, but usually there is more demand than there are slots available.

Increasingly, for these reasons and others, many gifted 2e parents opt to homeschooling rather than grappling with a public school system.  With homeschooling, they can play to a gifted 2e child's strengths.  They can address the social and emotional needs of a gifted 2e child.  They can find support and/or provide scaffolding and guidance. And they can provide one-to-one type tutoring opportunities and technology more effectively and efficiently than any other educational setting.

So what makes a 2e child exceptional?  I think it's those kids like Kim Peek, Henry Winkler, and everyone in between.  And they're by far the most underrepresented.

This is part of the Gifted Homeschooling Forum's blog hop  Gifted 2e Kids: What Makes Them Exceptional.  For more on GHF's blog hop see: