Parenting a 2E child has many challenges. The following are some suggestions for navigating them. And remember to enjoy your child’s gifts, not just focus on the challenges.
Communicating Our Kids' Needs It can be helpful to use a letter to communicate with other adults about our kids (teachers, sitters, friends we are vacationing with, etc.) This template makes for a long letter, but one that’s very helpful. https://web.archive.org/web/20141017172655/http://www.aspergersyndrome.org/Articles/The-OASIS-Asperger-Syndrome-Guide-for-Teachers---L.aspx
Don't be put off by the areas covered in the letter, which is clearly aimed at kids on the autism spectrum. If an issue doesn't apply for your kid, delete it from the letter. If you think of an area of need that isn't covered, add it.
Things Not to Say to Schools: The “B-Words”The first B-word never to use with schools is BORED.There are two problems with saying your child is bored: (1) it gets school personnel defensive, and (2) it's not very informative because when your child complains of boredom it can mean one of several things.
First, which is what we commonly hear about with gifted kids, it can mean "I already know this material". But there are several other possibilities with 2E kids.
It may mean that something is in your child's area of disability and therefore too hard. For example, "reading is boring" from a dyslexic child.
It can mean "I'm so lost that I can't even follow what's going on", often because of the disability (such as a child with auditory processing difficulties in a foreign language immersion setting).
It can also mean "I'm just not interested". It could be because the subject isn't being taught at their thinking level, or it might just be a subject they just couldn't care less about.
A 2E child can spend the entire school day alternating between the various forms of boredom. Learning which type applies to each part of the day can help you learn more about your child's strengths and challenges.
The second B-word not to use is BEST.
If you live in the U.S., your child is entitled by law to FAPE - a free appropriate public education. For a good description of what FAPE encompasses from the US Department of Education, see Free Appropriate Public Education for Students With Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html
This means that your child is not legally required to the best education, just an appropriate education.
However, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights wrote a "Dear Colleague" letter prohibiting disability-based discrimination in programs for academically advanced students: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-20071226.pdf
So when you talk to the school about your child's needs, you want to say that the combination of what you are requesting for educational content (whether it's entry to the gifted program, AP or International Baccalaureate classes, subject acceleration, etc.) and for accommodations is necessary for your child to have FAPE - not for your child to get the best education, but to get an appropriate education. Be sure to read both documents linked to above to better understand your child's rights.
What’s In a Name? The Power of “Labels”Many parents are worried about getting their kids diagnoses because they don't want them to be labeled. It's important to remember that your child is already being labeled by teachers and others. Some labels frequently given to kids with undiagnosed special needs are "bad", "lazy", "unmotivated", "stupid", "careless", "oppositional"... And kids also think these things about themselves.
Getting the correct diagnoses for children gives them labels that are more explanatory, less blaming/shaming, and more useful for getting them help. Whether the label is ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), dyslexia, depression, or whatever, having a diagnosis gives us important information for understanding our children and handling their issues constructively.
There are behaviors, for example, that show up in both AS and ADHD - but the way of handling them is very different depending on the underlying cause. What works for the kid with ADHD may backfire if you try to use it with a kid with AS.
And letting kids know about the diagnoses and what they mean helps them better understand themselves. One wonderful book title is "You Mean I'm not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?" - a book about ADHD. Many parents of 2E kids figure out their own diagnoses when they are learning about their kids, and these epiphanies can be life-changing. Because whether you're 5, 25 or 55, it's wonderful to find out you're not lazy, stupid, or crazy.
HomeschoolingWhile homeschooling isn't for everyone, it can be a lot easier than fighting to make school work. It can mean the end of homework wars after long days of school, when your child just doesn't have the mental or emotional energy to do any more work. It gives your child the opportunity to follow his or her interests, and for you to educate in a way that caters to your child’s strengths while minimizing his or her weaknesses. And if your child has to do therapies, you can now do them during school hours rather than at the end of an exhausting day.
Some general principles for starting homeschooling
Deschooling - most children being pulled out of school to homeschool due to bad situations need time to "deschool", sort of a detox period. The general rule-of-thumb is at least 1 month for every year the child was in school. The big thing is not to force academic activities. Do fun things and enjoy being with each other. If the situation was very bad and/or went on for a long time, children may not even want to do that.
You won't get everything right the first time: You are learning your children, their own unique needs and learning styles. There will be mistakes and blind alleys - and that's ok. You don't have to be perfect.
Homeschooling isn't "school at home": There's no reason for homeschooling to mimic school. You aren't trying to manage a classroom of 25-30 kids with very diverse needs. You aren't spending a lot of time on classroom management and transitioning a large group between activities. Most people find they can manage by averaging a couple of hours/day on academics.
There's no one right curriculum: Schools in the same state, or even the same school, will cover different topics from each other. What you do for social studies or literature doesn't have to match what your local school is doing.
Support is really important: You can get critical support from other homeschoolers, both online and in-person. There are gifted homeschooling email lists and some areas have large homeschooling communities. New homeschoolers will benefit from joining a general homeschooling listserv. TAGMAX (http://tagfam.org) is a good one for families with gifted kids. It's large and busy, sometimes overwhelming, but it's got people with a nice wide variety of ages and homeschooling styles from very structured to complete unschooling. It's also good to find local homeschoolers. In many areas, you'll be able to join email lists so you can see what activities and classes are going on locally.
Finding a ClinicianBelow are guidelines that can be helpful to use for finding a clinician:
(1) Get recommendations from friends, through practitioners (and anyone in the medical field is worth asking: pediatrician, GP, ENT, allergist.... you never know who might have a friend who has a friend), and through colleagues you feel comfortable asking. Spread a wide net.
(2) Call the top 5 people on your list and do a brief phone interview to see if you like their philosophy and approach to treatment. If they don't want to answer a brief set of questions over the phone, it's probably not a good sign.
(3) If you still like them, make an appointment (paid) to meet with them by yourself.
(4) If you still like them, make an appointment for them to meet with your child and see what he thinks.
Remember, as with any practitioner, it's all about goodness of fit. Just because someone else really liked a clinician, that doesn't mean they'll be a good fit for your child.
Is it important to find a clinician who is familiar with gifted kids? It depends on the issues that your child is dealing with. In many situations, what matters most is expertise in the areas for which you are hiring them.
When working with a counselor, some kids will deliberately manipulate the counselor. In that case, having a counselor who can see through the manipulation is critically important (but that isn’t always someone who has experience with gifted kids per se). For professions like physical therapy, speech language therapy, or psychiatry, what matters more is up-to-date expertise in the field and a willingness to work with the child and the parent, viewing them as equal partners in the process of implementing the right treatment.
However, if you are looking for someone to assess your child's functioning, it is critical that the person doing the assessment be familiar with how to work with gifted and 2e kids.
Sometimes parents of 2e kids get overwhelmed with Disability World, all the social comparisons, all the work, and all the emotion surrounding the challenges our kids have.
One of the most powerful strategies is "Time In" (from Russell Barkley's book, "Defiant Children"). When you have gotten to a point that you’re mad at your kids all the time and feeling like they everything is too hard, Time In can help you learn to love being with your kid again.
Here are the guidelines:
(1) Get one-on-one. No distractions or interruptions from other children, other adults, phones, chores, or TV.
(2) Be relaxed, and give your child your undivided attention, living in the moment. Don't be a "parent" during this time it's supposed to be pure fun for both you and your child.
(3) Get into whatever your child wants to do. The time should be child-led. Let your child pick the activity. Observe what they are doing, and then follow their lead. If you don't like the activity, tough! Just follow their lead. It's best if it isn't a passive activity like watching TV or watching your child play video games, but if that's all they can give you, then just do it!
(4) Give custom-designed positive attention. Describe out loud what the child is doing. Think of yourself as a narrator or broadcaster. Be specific, and focus on the activity, not the child. "I like how you are jumping down the stairs." This kind of overt praise is great for some kids, but for others it's too much, or they just don't notice. For those who don't like or notice it, use non-verbal praise - gestures (thumbs up, 'OK' signs, appreciative facial expressions, etc.) and touching - hugs, strokes, high fives. For some children it is enough simply to be there.
(5) No questions, no commands, no teaching. (For me this is the hardest. Well, this plus the "no distractions" part.) If your child is being violent, you can just say, "Boy! That toy sure seems angry!" If there is cheating, just play along as if the child has creatively changed the rules of the game. If they insist on winning, let them! If the activity defies custom (e.g., flying chess set pieces playing with the checkers), so be it.
(6) Make sure to give all children special time if there is more than one child. And adults should each have special time with each child.
(7) Aim to do this 15-30 minutes per day if you can. (I usually just squeeze it in where I can in my schedule. Often it's after dinner, and before bed - a nice time of the evening to be with my family.)
(8) If your child is a teenager, you may need to do something more subtle, e.g., sitting on the floor in their bedroom to talk to them, or joining them for breakfast. Remember that you should not question, command or teach. Just listen and empathize. Seize the moment when it presents itself.
(9) Time-in is not just for parents. Anyone involved in the child's life can do time-in with the child.
(10) Time-in can also be used with the adults in your life.
Taking Care of Yourself
When flight attendants give safety instructions at the start of a flight, you are told that if you are traveling with a child and the cabin loses pressure you should put on your own oxygen mask first. You can't take care of the child if you pass out from lack of oxygen. This principle applies to parenting, too. Being the mother or father of a 2E kid can be exhausting; you can't take care of your family if you are falling to pieces yourself.
Some of taking care of yourself means taking care of your health, both physical and emotional. Sometimes parents feel like they are being selfish if they take time to go for a walk or have lunch with a friend, but that's part of self-care.
(1) Grabbing a tiny quiet moment for yourself and really appreciating it.
(2) Regularly scheduled exercise.
(3) Having time when you are known for who you are, and not just as "the mother of ____".
For married couples, getting a sitter and having a regular date night (even if it's only once a month for dinner) is important - you can't have a healthy marriage if you never have time together without the kids. Whether married or single, if you can find friends where you like the parents and the kids like each other, having an afternoon or evening together where you can talk to other adults while the kids play can be helpful.
When you feel like you're about to lose it, sometimes you just need a time out. Parents can take a time out: go to your room and close the door. That gives you a break and models an important behavior for your child. If you are married or live with a partner, there may be times you just ask them to take over while you leave the house or retreat to your room.
Looking at Colleges
For all students, but especially 2E, the important question is not "what is the best school my child can get into?" but "what school is the best fit for my child?" You can get an excellent education at many schools you've probably never heard of. What you want to look for is a school that has good disabilities services, has courses in the areas your student may want to study, is a size that is comfortable for them, and is a place they will enjoy being for 4 years.
First and foremost, check out the disabilities policies - a school that is hostile to or clueless about providing necessary accommodations is not one that will serve your 2E child well. Start by looking at the policies on the school website, but also meet with the disabilities office when you are visiting schools. Ask about the specific accommodations your student needs. If your child has energy limitations, will it be possible for them to take a lightened course load? For example, if your child is unable to learn foreign languages and the school has a language requirement, ask how one can get an exemption or alternative. Some schools will allow the substitution of a similar number of courses in one foreign culture area, but some are inflexible - and this is a sign to walk away and look elsewhere. And if your student has medical issues or is in therapy, make sure that either the school or immediate area has the resources they need for health (both physical and mental).
Most high school kids don't know what they want to study in college, and many more will change their minds once they get there and discover new areas of study they'd never heard of or been exposed to before. However, if your student has some idea of what they might want, be sure to limit your search to schools with courses in that area. For instance, if your child is thinking of majoring in engineering, that will eliminate many liberal arts schools.
Does your student need a small nurturing school or crave a huge campus? There are 2E kids at both extremes, and everywhere in between. Does she want to be in a city or crave being out in the woods? While these are not academic qualities, they will strongly affect their happiness during their four years living there and should be taken into consideration.
Is your child ready to live away from home or should they apply to a school they can commute to? Or are they ready to live on campus if the school's within easy driving distance but not if it's across the country? Would they benefit by starting at community college and then transferring? Should they try the local campus of your state university system (state colleges are often over-looked and under-rated, but can be very good options.)
If finances are an option, don't just focus on merit aid. Merit scholarships can have requirements that put too much pressure on 2E kids, who may not get good grades during the adjustment period. Need-based financial aid, if you qualify, can be much more dependable - be sure to check whether the school guarantees enough aid for all 4 years, how much loan the average graduate has, etc.
It’s important to avoid accumulating too much debt by graduation - the College Board's website has a calculator you can use to determine how much your student is likely to be able to afford, how much monthly payments will be, etc. It's important to discuss all the above questions with your child before starting the college search process. Don't assume you know what the answers will be. Making a list of these criteria will help you narrow down the overwhelming number of possible colleges. And don't assume that the guidance counselor at your school will provide useful guidance on college selection. Some are good at it, but many are not.
And don't worry if you find yourself doing a lot more hand-holding than you expected. Some kids will take charge of the process but others will find it overwhelming and want you to do a lot of the work - possibly even giving them a small list of possible schools that you've chosen.
How to Cope With the Stress of Parenting Challenging KidsThe stress of parenting challenging kids can be exacerbated by how we think about it. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can be extremely helpful. The approach is multi-faceted. Some of the skills you will learn include how to analyze your negative thought patterns and consider different ways of thinking about things, and the importance of self-care. CBT was originally developed to address depression and anxiety disorders; there is now research on adapting it to help people with a variety of issues. The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns, MD can help you figure out strategies that work for you.
Reaching out to other parents of 2E children, can be very helpful. Knowing other people dealing with the same issues, who can appreciate the difficulties of parenting a 2E child and share the triumphs that other people just won’t understand provides emotional support and validation.
The GT-Special listserv (http://gtworld.org) is an email community for families of 2E kids. It's a very supportive group, with people ranging from completely new to 2E to very experienced, kids ranging from pre-school to college grads.
If you homeschool, try connecting with local homeschoolers. Spending a day each week at a local homeschooling group where you can connect with other parents can be very helpful.
Sometimes self-help is not enough. When navigating very difficult emotional terrain, having someone to brainstorm with can be incredibly helpful. A good clinician can help you navigate relationships with your kids and can help you to repair relationships with other family members.
How to Support Your Kids When They Are Stressed It’s important to have a community of friends who share a passion. What are your kids interested in? Figure out how you can get them to indulge in that interest with other like-minded kids. This can be an absolute emotional life-saver. Sometimes the solution is outside enrichment that allows your child to explore his or her interests with like-minded people. That doesn't have to feel like academics: A college student who shares your child’s interests can be a great source of enrichment. It also doesn't have to be in-person to be helpful. Many 2E kids may find helpful communities through online gaming, for example. Special interest summer programs can also be a good source of community. Some kids find this at a music/arts oriented camp, others at computer programs or Math Camp - either day programs or residential.
A lot of people with AS find theater a welcoming home that provides comfort with the scripted interactions, and also learn about social interactions from that scripting. For kids who are readers, a lot of fantasy and science fiction books feature kids who are clearly 2E, even if not labeled as such, who don't fit in. This kind of reading provides a haven and a sense that there are others out there like them.
A good therapist can be very helpful too. It can be important to have someone in your life (other than a family member) to talk about things you worry about. It sometimes takes several tries before you find a therapist who's a good fit. If your child with autism/Asperger’s needs therapy, you want to make sure to find a therapist who specializes in kids on the spectrum. Therapists without such experience are often a bad match for people with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Staying in the Present One of the hardest things about parenting a child with special needs of any kind (or maybe just parenting any child) is trying to focus on what our child needs today, rather than panicking over where they need to be in the future.
Meredith wrote: I was eventually cured of doing this when I realized that every time I tried to plan more than a year (make that 6 months) in advance, my son's needs would change and I'd have to do all that planning all over again. After a few years, I stopped worrying about what he'd need two or three years from then and focused on what I thought he'd need for the next few months. Besides wanting to avoid wasted effort and angst, the most important change in my thinking was realizing that if I didn't give him what he needed now, he wasn't going to make it to next year, or high school, or college.
There’s a saying "you can't push a rope". And that's what we're doing when we try to push our kids to do things they just aren't developmentally ready to do. With 2E kids we have to recognize that (a) just because other kids their age are able to do something doesn't mean that they can, and (b) just because they are years ahead in some areas academically doesn't mean they won't be a few years behind in others. Asynchronous development in 2E kids is even more extreme than in NT gifted kids, and it's crucial to recognize that and work with it, meeting our kids where they are today rather than where we fear they need to be next year.
Helping “Unmotivated” Kids in High SchoolParenting teens can be particularly challenging, as you must allow them to separate from you and establish their own identity. You need to find a balance between providing support and letting them explore the possibilities. Hiring a college/career counselor can get you out of the equation, and can help your child to start thinking about his future. Once you have an idea of what direction your child is interested in, and the path he or she needs to follow to get there, using Ross Greene’s Collaborative Problem Solving approach can help you identify short term rewards (daily, and perhaps even hourly or half-hourly if the child is doing a seriously non-preferred task) that are motivating (see Ross Greene’s website, http://www.livesinthebalance.org and his book "The Explosive Child". You can read about a slightly different, but also very effective approach in this handout: http://raisingyourchallengingchild.com/Documents/Foundations/Session_9_problem_solving.pdf). For kids with ADHD, rewards need to be immediate. Deferred goals are just too far away to consider. Planning for a longer term goal, for which the reward (e.g., fulfilling job and career) may not be terribly motivating for these kids.
The book, "What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love & Marriage" by Amy Sutherland (http://www.amazon.com/What-Shamu-Taught-About-Marriage/dp/0812978080) was written by a journalist who was embedded with wild animal trainers for a couple of years. One of the things the author says is that if an animal misbehaves, it is never the animal's fault. The job of the trainer is to figure out (a) what will motivate the animal (and each animal is motivated by their own unique interests/preferences), and (b) how to scaffold the learning so that it provides a "just right challenge" - not too much, not too little. The trouble is that while we can do this at home, we have very little control over the other environments in which our kids must operate. And poorly constructed reward systems can be extremely demotivating.
Something that happens to many smart kids is that they have been reinforced for doing good work by being told how smart they are. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University, has published a book summarizing her research on this - it's called Mindset (http://mindsetonline.com/). Her work shows that it's very important to reinforce effort rather than innate talent. So if a child shows you something they did, you should say "Wow! You must have worked really hard on that!" rather than, "Wow! Your paper is brilliant!"
It’s also important to remember that there are times our kids aren't willing to work on things we think they need help with, either because they don't think they need to improve or because they don't care. When this happens, it can be best to just leave it along for a while and see if they're more receptive in a year or two. It can be really hard to do this and can feel like you're being neglectful, but there's no way to force someone to benefit from therapy if they don't want to be there.
Keep in mind that this period of development is amazing - you will see incredible growth and cognitive maturing. Don’t assume that because a sophomore is struggling with executive functioning, or some other skill, that the skills won’t develop by the time he or she graduates.
And keep in mind that sometimes 2E kids need to take the "scenic route" - they may not do well in high school and need to work for a few years before they have matured enough to be ready to go on to further education. The good news is that once they are ready, they will often do very well and benefit from college much more than they would have at a younger age.
Remember that your child's life is his own journey. And your child may well have a rich and fulfilling life. As a teenager, children need to take ownership of their lives. You can provide supports and even figure out how to motivate him (with short-term goals!), but in the end, your child is going to have to be the one to do the work.
Advocating for Your Kids With School PersonnelIf your child does not have an IEP or a 504, you should get one. The first step is to get a complete neuropsychological evaluation paid for privately by you or your health insurance. Read here for why: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/test.indep.evals.htm (Summary: private testers have no stake in the outcome. If they find nothing up with your child, great. If they find something, great. They get paid the same either way. Schools have to pay to support your child if they find something, so they may not be as motivated to identify learning disabilities for your child.)
Next, prepare a one-page summary that describes your child, and lists (in bulleted format) the accommodations to which your child is entitled. You should then arrange a meeting with the teachers, to go over the handout. Explain that the accommodations are part of a 504 or an IEP. Ask if they think they can implement the accommodations. If not, ask why, and see if you can brainstorm to figure out how to get your kids what they need. This will help the teachers who just don't know what to do (which is more common than you would think!).
The second is to enlist other staff at the school to explain the issues to the teachers who aren't complying. For some reason, teachers seem to respond best to input from other staff than they do to input from a parent. This approach will be necessary if you have someone who is not complying with the law, and who refuses to do so. You may need to navigate the "chain of command" to get resolution. For example, the chain of command might be: Classroom Teacher > Department Chair > Case Manager > Special Education Chair > Principal....
When advocating, it's always best to assume that people are behaving as they are out of ignorance. It's for this reason that it is best to take the first approach outlined above. That's not always the case, but it's always best to start with that assumption.
If your child is in crisis, the situation requires a more intensive approach. This article: http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/Crisis.html describes what to do when you have a school that refuses to support your child.
As you work to determine your approach, consider the answer to this question: What do you want for your child? Your actions should be in service of your goals, both with the school, and at home.
For the school to justify providing services, they have to have documentation that the disability is having an impact. The most convincing way for them to do that (to administrators higher up the chain) is to show that your daughter is failing. This is often the quickest way - if you stop supporting your child and she starts failing, school personnel do take notice. This is really hard to do - it is a rotten, awful system – but it is usually the quickest way to get them to acknowledge that there is a problem.
Start documenting everything with the school in writing. When your child is up until 2am working on homework, send an e-mail to her homeroom teacher, and say something like, "My child spent 8 hours on her homework this evening. She is struggling with subjects X, Y & Z in particular, and seems unable to do work A, B & C without significant support from me. This is to be expected from a child with her diagnoses, as explained in report W, dated x/x/xxxx, which I provided to the school on date z/z/xxxx. I am worried about her mental health." If your daughter breaks down crying because of her challenges, document it with the school in writing. Do this every night she has a less than ideal evening dealing with her homework. This is the kind of evidence the school will need to justify the cost of providing services.
You might consider hiring an educational advocate to guide you through this process. This will be helpful because advocates know the schools in your area. Some schools are wonderful about providing supports. Others, not so much. A good advocate will know about your school, and can work with you to get the legal documentation in place.
And by the way, schools take notice when you start documenting these things. When you use language like that above (if they are smart) they will realize that you are building a case against them, and that they had better start doing the right thing, or risk being taken to due process.
And keep this in mind: "The Blame Game! Are School Problems the Kids' Fault?” – research shows that school personnel usually assume that school problems are the fault of kids or their parents. http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/ALESSI1.html
Finding the “Perfect” SchoolThere's no perfect place, so you always have to play academic challenge off against disability support. A supportive environment is the key to being able to function effectively. There's been a lot of research on the impact of anxiety on learning. Too little anxiety, and you aren't motivated to do much. Too much anxiety, and your limbic system overrides the brain circuits required to lay memories down in the cortex. It can be hard get the balance just right, and what works now may need to be adjusted in the future.
Disclosing Disability to Schools When ApplyingDo not withhold the information about your children’s difficulties. You do not want them at schools that don't feel prepared to deal with their needs, nor at ones that are upset with you for hiding things from them. At a very minimum, discuss your child’s needs with the admissions office before they make any admissions or scholarship decisions. Do not send a child to a school without disclosing.
Supporting Kids With Executive DysfunctionChallenges with executive functioning (EF) are misunderstood and often very poorly supported in the schools. Teachers think the kids are being lazy when it's actually a disability, and parents can feel the same way. EF asynchrony is really common in gifted kids, and when you combine that with a disorder like ADHD or Asperger's, you've got some serious EF challenges on your hands.
It can be hard to navigate this as our kids enter their teenage years. They crave independence, but their frontal lobes aren't fully developed/connected, so they make a lot of mistakes. This is difficult for typically developing teens, but for a kid with EF challenges, it can be positively devastating. Some book recommendations include:
Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper-Kahn, Ph.D. and Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D. (http://latelostandunprepared.com/)
Thinking Organized Book & Workbook by Rhona M. Gordon (http://thinkingorganized.com/thinking-organized-book-workbook/)
Smart But Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson & Richard Guare (http://www.amazon.com/Smart-but-Scattered-Revolutionary-Executive/dp/1593854455)
Each of these gives practical strategies for teaching the skills, as well as accommodations to put in place while your child is still learning those skills.
It can also be helpful to hire an "organizational coach" to work with your child.
Keep in mind that these skills are hard to teach. This will not be an overnight fix - it will require dedication and patience from everyone working with your child.
Language Disorders: Who Can Help?Many speech language pathologists are not able to effectively address language challenges. They prefer to focus on speech (articulation) issues. If you have a child who struggles with issues like figuring out the main point of an essay, or figuring out character motivation, you want speech language therapy with a provider who has expertise in remediating those issues. You might also consider getting an SLP through your private insurance to help with these issues. We strongly recommend doing that while working on getting the supports in place at school. If you do this, make sure you document what you are doing with the school (in writing).
Teaching Social SkillsStudents are often expected to work in groups without being taught how to do so. This can be particular challenging for kids who have social communication disorders. The answer may be a combination of accommodation (having your child work alone) and remediation (a separate session with a speech language pathologist trained to teach social communication skills). As remediation progresses, it would be ideal if the child could gradually be paired with other children to practice the new skills in a natural environment.
Two social skills curricula are:
RDI: http://guidingexceptionalparents.com/RDI.html - RDI stands for Relationship Development Intervention. It is a comprehensive family-focused program that helps children learn the skills fundamental to making and maintaining meaningful relationships with their parents, other adults, and their peers. It is based on research in social and cognitive development, and teaches caregivers how to scaffold learning situations so that they will provide a "just right challenge" for the child. RDI focuses on three areas: parent training, relationship building, and dynamic thinking. With careful work, families can help their child re-establish the typical developmental process.
Social Thinking by Michelle Garcia Winner - https://www.socialthinking.com/ - This is a more traditional approach to teaching social skills explicitly. It is a treatment framework and curriculum that targets improving individual social thinking abilities, regardless of diagnostic label. Professionals and parents alike use these methods to build social thinking and related skills in students and adults. Social Thinking offers a range of strategies that address individual strengths and weaknesses in processing social information.
Some speech language pathologists (SLPs) are knowledgeable about language and social pragmatics. Not all have experience with this, so you may have to ask around for recommendations and interview them to see if you like their approach.
Also, it is very common for kids with ASD to think they are fine and don't have a problem when they are young. Then in their teens/20s they start to realize that they need to learn these skills. Trying to get a kid to learn something when they don't think there's a problem can be nearly impossible.
It’s also important to remember that situations that are full of lots of people and activity can be very difficult for a lot of people with special needs (AS, auditory processing issues, sensory processing issues, ADHD) to cope with. In fact, they can be physically painful. It's also really hard to deal with such large crowded social situations before one has mastered one-on-one social interactions.
The curriculum, "Unstuck and On Target" (http://products.brookespublishing.com/Unstuck-and-On-Target-P467.aspx) can be helpful for teaching self-regulation. The techniques in this book are great for anyone who has trouble self-regulating, whether they have a mood disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, or ADHD.
Remediating Reading DisordersGifted kids often use their gifts to accommodate for their disabilities. If you suspect a reading disorder, you should have your child assessed by a speech language pathologist who knows how to work with kids with language and reading disorders. Keep in mind that SLPs have areas of expertise, and many of them prefer to work with kids with articulation disorders. You want someone with the appropriate expertise.
You can find SLPs in your area here: http://www.asha.org/findpro/
Once you have a list, you might want to ask others in your area if there are any people on your list that they recommend.
Get a full evaluation by a professional, as there are many linguistic subsystems (phonological, lexical, syntactic, semantic, etc.) that can be impaired. You'll need to know exactly what is impaired in your child so you can appropriately target interventions.
When it is not possible to get services from the school, it may be best to work with a private-pay (through your insurance) speech language pathologist who specializes in reading disorders, or a tutor certified in Orton-Gillingham or Wilson reading instruction. Schools often don’t have the resources to provide the intensive one-on-one reading instruction needed by kids with dyslexia. The Scottish Rite Masons have free dyslexia centers (though they can have long waiting lists). It's worth looking to see if there's one accessible to you: http://childrensdyslexiacenters.org/
The Orton Gillingham approach has been around since the 1930s, with plenty of research that supports it as an appropriate approach for kids with dyslexia.
Also, if you suspect dyslexia, you may want to consider getting an evaluation by a developmental optometrist. They can identify and treat issues like tracking and convergence that regular optometrists often do not evaluate. Children who have trouble with these skills complain of things like the words "jumping around on the page" or have trouble staying on the same line while reading. You can find a developmental optometrist on this site:
http://www.covd.org. (You should know that being listed on this site means that you've paid your membership dues to the COVD. There are licensed DOs that are not listed on this site. It's just a place to start.)
Too Much Time With ElectronicsSometimes parents are unhappy with their children who spend a lot of time with electronics. It may be helpful here to focus on what you want your child to do, instead of on what you do not want him to do. If he is doing the things that are important and filling the rest of his time with video games, that limits his time already. And for a lot of kids, screen time is their downtime. A lot of kids socialize over video games these days. It can be a really good way for them to get social time while bonding over a shared activity they enjoy, and the chatting online isn't that different from all the time we spent on the phone with friends as kids.
Some parents are upset with what feels like excessive time spent with electronic devices because they miss being with their children. You might want to think about trying to spend some quality time with your child each day so you can reconnect. This handout describes a powerful technique for connecting with your child called Time In: http://raisingyourchallengingchild.com/Documents/Foundations/Session_2_time-in.pdf
Medication Management Straight Talk About Psychiatric Medication for Children by Timothy Wilens, MD (http://www.guilford.com/books/Straight-Talk-about-Psychiatric-Medications-for-Kids/Wilens-Hammerness/9781462519859) can help you understand how the medications work and what the best practices are for using them.
College Options for 2e KidsGetting into a "top" high-pressure college won't necessarily be the right thing for your child - there are plenty of HG/PG kids for whom that's true, including many who aren't 2E. For many 2E kids, including HG+ ones, the community college route works very well. A lot of very bright kids end up there these days for financial reasons, many homeschoolers take CC courses for high school, plus the CCs attract a lot of quirky kids who didn't do well in school for reasons unrelated to intelligence (square pegs, 2E kids, etc.) CC's are often much better than high schools about providing disability services with less hassle. They are used to serving quirky kids. You might check if the disabilities office there provides help for kids struggling with the particular issues your child has.
Similarly, most colleges (including state universities) attract gifted kids. Many state universities have honors programs and many offer merit scholarships to attract top students. There are many PG kids who have done very well going the CC to state university route (and not necessarily the flagship campus), flourishing academically and socially.
One path to consider is to take a couple of years of courses at the community college and then transfer to a 4 year school. This gives your child more time to mature and develop skills, and also makes university more affordable because you'll only be paying for 2-3 years instead of 4. It also gives you more flexibility financially if it turns out your child needs to take a reduced course load to be successful. Some students will finish their Associates degrees before transferring while others do best taking courses that suit their interests and needs without worrying about fulfilling official degree requirements.
Remember that if you want to have accommodations for SAT and ACT testing, you’ll need to apply well in advance (it’s wise to plan a couple of years in advance if you can) for accommodations. This article can help you navigate the process of documenting and request accommodations, even if your child is homeschooled. http://www.learndifferently.com/SAT%20SSD.htm
Does Your Child Have Asperger’s or ADHD? Or Is She Gifted? Dierdre Lovecky's wonderful book, Different Minds: Gifted Children with AD/HD, Asperger Syndrome, and Other Learning Deficits (http://www.grcne.com/books.html#lovecky) can help you sort this out. Just as a warning - this book is a very dense read - you may want to just focus on the first three chapters where she talks first about the characteristics of gifted kids, then about those of gifted kids with ADHD, and then about gifted kids with Asperger's Syndrome. See if any of it rings a bell. Neuropsychologists who are not familiar with the complex interaction of giftedness and disability can often misinterpret what they are seeing. This book provides a very thorough explanation.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.