March 13, 2015

DCAGT Parent Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who responded to the 2014-15 DCAGT Parent Survey! We received a total of 165 responses from the 500+ people (a 33% response rate) who are on the DCAGT mailing list and we received responses from all over Douglas County.

View the survey results.

Filipina Pate from DCAGT and Natasha Straayer from Douglas County School District's Office of Gifted Education met this week to review how the two organizations will respond to the results from the survey. Here's a summary of our recommendations:

Recommendations for the School District

  • Share better information about who is the gifted and talented contact at each school and the kinds of gifted programming options are available at each school.
  • Add information about how to identify and obtain support twice exceptional students to the DCSD website, specifically on the Gifted Education and Special Education pages.
  • Host parenting support and student support groups to address the social and emotional needs of students. Consider offering a SENG Parent Support Group at your school or feeder area.

Recommendations for DCAGT

  • Develop and maintain a community website with information and updates about gifted services and programming available within the school district, state and region. 

  • Coordinate efforts to inform the community about legislation and policy changes at the district, state and national level that impact gifted students.

  • Collaborate with the school district to offer parent information events and online resources about how to address the needs of the gifted, specifically how to:
    • build a body of evidence to request gifted services
    • identify the gifted teaching strategies supported at school
    • design and write advanced learning plans with teachers
    • coordinate the support for twice exceptional students
    • enhance social and emotional development 
    • plan coursework and activities for high school and college  
Have questions or suggestions about these recommendations? Come to the upcoming DCAGT Board Meeting on Thursday, March 19th, 2015 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Sweet Tomatoes  Panera Bread in Lone Tree. The meeting is open to all. Updated 3/19/2015.

March 10, 2015

Beyond Giftedness 2015: A Report

I attended the Beyond Giftedness 2015 Conference at the Arvada Center of the Arts on a snowy Friday in February for the first time and attended several presentations in the Parent Mini-Conference. In addition to the mini-conference, parents were invited to register for the regular conference and attend the other conference presentations, including the keynote speeches by Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis. Here are some conference highlights:

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model

Dr. Renzulli is a Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, where he also serves as director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. His presentation focused on the Schoolwide Enrichment Model that has been used by 2,500 schools in the country and based on 20 years of research.

Dr. Renzulli talked about the research supporting the framework. Essentially, the model works when:

  • there is a sense of ownership by all the participants: students, teachers, administrators
  • teachers and administrators have established trusting relationships
  • energy and a school-wide culture of positive change 
  • and knowledge of the model: Triad System, Type I, II, III activities
He ended the presentation by saying that schools need to change the way we teach from traditional drill & kill activities, which are highly teacher dependent and move toward more experiential learning activities, which engage and promote self-directed learning in students.

Who am I? Why Does It Matter? 

Download the presentation.

Jenny Hecht, a licensed clinical social worker with 15 years of experience working with gifted children in St. Vrain School District, talked about how gifted students are often challenged by their hyper-awareness of the wrongs of the world around them and the desire to make positive change. Sometimes, this sensitivity converges into an existential crisis, where students wonder "What is the point of this? What is my life purpose?"

Rather than trying to come up with an answer or deflect their question, say "I don't know. What do you think?" Show your child that he or she is not alone. Help them find others who share their passions, because when they realize others share their ideas, they learn to empathize with others and form a sense of community. 

A Parent's Guide For Advocacy

Cheryl is a past president of the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented, a statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for gifted learners and is the parent organization for Douglas County Association for Gifted and Talented. She also served as a gifted and talented coordinator for Boulder Valley School District and is currently District GT Coordinator for Adams County School District 14.

In her presentation, Cheryl gave a brief overview of the traits of the gifted and strategies for helping support your gifted in child. In terms of advocacy, local control of education is important within Colorado so parents need to join their local parent advisory board or parent advocacy groups to help voice their concerns and interests in gifted students.

Cheryl urged parents to visit the Colorado of Department of Education's website for Gifted Education and learn about the state requirements for gifted programs, then compare those standards to how they are being addressed within your school district.

She also recommended parents to learn about the types of programming options available for gifted students: acceleration, cluster grouping, as well as pull-out and push-in programs. Share these ideas with teachers because most teachers don't get enough training on how to differentiate instruction for gifted kids.

The Understanding Our Gifted Journal published an issue on differentiating instruction for gifted children in Winter 2012, which includes an article by Cheryl on differentiating instruction for twice exceptional children. Download a copy here.

Executive Function: A Complex Task

Seth Perler is the founder and owner of ShineOn Educational Solutions, an educational consulting firm that helps struggling students learn how to improve their academic performance in a holistic approach that includes a focus on developing the executive function of their brains.

Executive Function is a part of your brain that helps your perform tasks. Student who struggle with school, especially gifted and twice exceptional students, need help developing tools and techniques for organizing, prioritizing and completing tasks.

Seth created a two-page guide that he shared at his presentation. You can download it here and check out his fabulous blog,

Talented Girls and Women

Sally's work focuses on identifying the internal barriers and environmental factors that generate stereotypes, especially media depictions of women and their role in society. She believes that society needs to change the images of girl and women in the media, especially at school. 

Some books she recommends for girls include:

The Fourth Little Pig, by Teresa Celsi
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Lives of Extraordinatry Women by Kathleen Krull, et. al

Kate Bachtel Event Followup

About 50 people attended our event on Thursday, March 5th, 2015 at STEM Charter School and Academy with Kate Bachtel, founder and owner of SoulSpark and a board member of the nonprofit organization, SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted). Kate is also a Certified Six Seconds EQ Practitioner.

Kate shared her experiences in working with gifted learners and provided us with several tips and tools for us parents to help support our children as they develop emotionally and socially. We also had a short question and answer period to address specific parenting questions.

If you attended the event, please take a minute to respond to our feedback survey. We are continually looking for ways to make our events better and responsive your needs. Thanks!

Complete Event Feedback Survey.

Some key takeaways I took away from the evening include:
  • Six Seconds - It takes six seconds for the chemicals in our lizard brain, our amygdala, to clear out of our system before our wizard brains, our frontal lobes, can kick in and help us analyze our thoughts. So when we recognize that we are afraid, take six seconds to breathe in and out (i.e. Dragon Breaths) to calm yourself down and then think. Visit the Six Seconds website.
  • EQ Coach App - Kate recommended using this free app to help you and child reflect on their feelings and develop your emotional intelligence. The free version includes 24 cards with questions on one side and more in-depth questions and explanations on the other side. The paid version includes 64 cards and the ability to add notes on the cards for $1.99. Learn more about the EQ Coach App.
  • How to Address Perfectionism - Kate also recommended Moving Past Perfect by Thomas S. Greenspon as resource for parents to help move their children (and themselves!) move through their perfectionist tendencies and toward happier, more fulfilling lives. 

As you can see there was a lot of covered. Thanks again to Kate for her time and her generous advice.

March 6, 2015

Parent U.: SENG Event Followup

Sande Tanner and Beth Collins provided two presentations at Acres Green Elementary School on Monday, March 2nd, 2015. Both Sande and Beth work at Acres Green: Sande is a 4th/5th grade Discovery teacher and Beth is the school psychologist. Highlights from their presentations and links to their presentations are included below.

Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted

Sande's presentation focused on Dabrowski's Theory of Five Overexcitabilities and specific parenting strategies parents can use to support children who exhibit each of them.

Download a copy of her full presentation here.

Here are some key parenting strategies:

Psychomotor  - Children who display overexcitabilities in the psychomotor arena need to constantly be on the move. In addition to giving them opportunities to take frequent breaks, parents can also observe and mention when to the child when he or she seems to be exhausted. This helps children start to recognize when they are overtired and develop the ability to self-regulate their behavior. Parents can also teach and model relaxation techniques, such as breathing and yoga.

Sensual - Children who have heightened sense will benefit most from removing the offensive stimuli, such as bright lights or loud noises. Providing these children with greater control over how their bedroom looks and feels helps them learn how to manage their responses to sensation.

Imagination - Children with strong imaginations prefer to stay in their own internal world. Provide them with outlet to express themselves and encourage them to share their work others. Children might also benefit from recording their creative ideas in a journal.

Intellectual - Children with this overexcitability are quickly identified by gifted programs and excel academically in school. Support them by providing cultivating their interests in other nonacademic areas.

Emotional - Children who are emotional are often described as being highly sensitive and having extremes of emotions. Help these children by finding ways for them to express their emotions in a productive and safe way, such as art or music.

Healthy Striving vs. Perfectionism

Beth's presentation focused on the issue of perfectionism, which is common with intellectually gifted kids. She discussed the neuroscience of how the brain works, especially in a fight or flight response. And more importantly, she discusses strategies to help children minimize the effect of being overly focused on being perfect, all the time.

Parents can also help by:

  • Sharing experiences of failure with their child
  • Recognizing that making mistakes is normal and universal
  • Praising children for good effort vs. their intelligence
  • Encourage children to try new things and engage in fun, noncompetitive activities.