Voices of 2e Profile:

Devon MacEachron, Psychologist and Blogger

July, 2018

If you land on the blog that’s part of psychologist Devon MacEachron’s website, this is the description you’ll see:

A blog about twice-exceptional and gifted learners, dyslexia, math disability, ADHD, executive function, Asperger’s, motivation, achievement, and the importance of emphasizing strengths and interests to help students realize their potential

In the blog, MacEachron explains, she focuses on issues to which she can bring “a specialist psychologist’s perspective.” As a specialist pyschologist, her focus is on neuropsychological assessment and educational advising for gifted and 2e learners.

Recently, she’s brought that focus to bear on some common perceptions and alternative therapies to see if they hold up to scientific scrutiny. She calls this her Myth Busters series. Among the topics she’s addressed are:

  • Overexcitabilities
  • Mindfulness
  • ADHD and diet
  • Vision therapy for dyslexia.

Throughout this series MacEachron examines the research on the subject and offers her perspective, gained from her years of practice and her Ph.D. in psychology.

In describing the response to the Myth Busters series, MacEachron notes that reactions from other psychologists, doctors, and academics have generally been positive, and that reactions from parents have been somewhat mixed:

“Some parents say, ‘But xyz oil or therapy worked for my child.’ If it did or their child is better for some other reason, I’m very happy for them. But that observation isn’t scientific evidence — it’s anecdotal. I realize that in taking on some of these controversial topics, I might upset or offend some people; but I think it’s worth it to put the information out there and have people consider the evidence. If I can help prevent even one family from spending thousands of dollars on a worthless therapy, the time was well spent.”

The urge to address the scientific evidence behind alternative therapies is a result of MacEachron’s concern about what she sees as a critical issue in our society today:

“A huge problem is the plethora of fake news and the tendency of many people to get their ‘news’ from unreliable sources, curated to confirm their preexisting beliefs. It’s especially upsetting to me when the persons or organizations promoting the fake news have something financial (or political) to gain from it. More educated, rational thought and analytical reasoning are sorely needed in our country!

I was trying to think what small thing I could do to help. I thought maybe I could bring out some of the science in areas I’m knowledgeable about and that can affect the families I work with.”  

What led her to become a psychologist, MacEachron explains, was “my own children, who are now grown. I wasn’t a psychologist before they came along and rocked my preconceptions of what being a parent might entail.” She continues, “As I became more and more frustrated with the dearth of experts who could give us good advice, I went back to school to get a Ph.D. so that I could help other families.”

Of her chosen profession, Devon proclaims, “I love my work! One thing that keeps me so interested in working with 2e learners is that each and every one is truly unique and original. I feel like I’m starting a new novel as I begin to figure out what makes each child tick.”

The audience for her blog, according to MacEachron, is “parents for sure. But I’ve been surprised at how much interest there’s been from other psychologists and learning support professionals.” What she says she wants to convey to the different members of her audience are the messages in the table below. 

Audience

Message

Parents

Your child isn’t damaged but different.
He or she has enormous potential.
You can learn ways to help your child realize that potential.

Educators

It’s important to focus on 2e learners’ strengths rather than define them by their disability.
There are teaching strategies available that effectively meet the needs of gifted and 2e students.

Learning Support Professionals

There are strategies available for motivating 2e learners and for teaching to their strengths while remediating weaker skill areas.

Psychologists

This thing called 2e really does exist.
Such children have special needs that must be met.

Creating a blog has been a learning experience for someone who describes herself as knowing “virtually nothing about social media” when she began. “It’s still a steep learning curve, but I’m beginning to get some momentum and feel that people are finding it helpful.”

MacEachron sees herself not only as a psychologist and blogger, but also as an advocate for the needs of 2e children, one who can address issues from a dual perspective — that of a scientist-practitioner and that of a parent. When asked about the rewards of her work, she responds, “This has got to be one of the most rewarding professions. When I hear from clients or parents how their life has turned around, or how happy and successful they and their child are today, I am profoundly happy to have touched their lives.”

The Neurodiversity Movement

 In a slickly-produced video at NowThisNews.com, Devon MacEachron explains neurodiversity, tells how the genetics of neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD and ASD might have benefits for society, and calls for “a neurodiversity-tolerant and accepting society, where differences are celebrated for the depth and dimension they bring to the human condition.” Evidently lots of people agree with her message; the video has been viewed roughly six million times. Watch it at https://goo.gl/ZzA8Sf.

To read Devon MacEachron’s blog, visit http://drdevon.com/blog. Following is an excerpt from the blog. 

An Excerpt from the Myth Buster Blog Series: Mindfulness Meditation

[Ed. Note: Following is a sample of Devon MacEachron’s blog. The entire text of this blog posting is not included here. To read the complete article, including additional information on studies reviewed, see http://drdevon.com/2018/05.]

Mindfulness meditation has enjoyed a tremendous surge in popularity in the past decade. The practice has moved from a largely obscure Buddhist concept founded about 2,600 years ago to a mainstream psychotherapy and educational construct.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

It’s a technique of meditation that focuses awareness on breathing and encourages positive attitudes to distracting thoughts and feelings that are not ignored, but are rather acknowledged and observed nonjudgmentally as they arise to create a detachment from them and to gain insight and awareness. It involves training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control. It promotes metacognitive awareness. Mindfulness meditation is a western adaptation of Vipasna, or mindful breathing meditation, with influences from other methods.

. . .

How could it help 2e learners?

Mindfulness meditation could help 2e learners who have ADHD, autism, anxiety, and/or depression. The following benefits are mentioned:

  • Improved attentional control and focus. Boosts to working memory.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Less emotional reactivity and emotional dysregulation.
  • Reduced rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities.

Is it effective? Dr. Erica Sibinga, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins, conducts well-controlled trials using mindfulness in Baltimore’s poorest public schools. She and her colleagues recently conducted a randomized clinical trial with 300 fifth- to eighth-graders. Half the students got mindfulness instruction for 12 weeks. The other half got 12 weeks of health education and were the study’s controls. The results were quite strong: depression, anxiety, self-hostility, coping, and post-traumatic symptoms moved from “concerning levels” to “normal levels.”

. . .

Overall, the evidence suggests that mindfulness does appear to have a positive effect for children, especially on anxiety and cognitive measures. The studies suggest that it is most beneficial for children who are disadvantaged or at-risk, and may not be as effective for children who are closer to a “normal” baseline. I feel our 2e children are “at-risk” and stand to benefit.

. . .

Recommendation:

I often recommend mindfulness meditation to the families of 2e learners I work with, as I do think it can help. I am concerned, though, that instruction and methodology can be a bit vague and many families may not know how best to go about it. Also, it’s not a “quick fix” but more of a “lifestyle change,” requiring a significant commitment to see results. I feel that the most benefit is gained when some rigor is put into implementation (e.g. scheduled daily family practice, instruction and ongoing guidance by a trained professional). Practice makes perfect!

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