Resources for your LD Library

May, 2017

Those who raise and teach twice-exceptional kids are on a common quest — a quest for knowledge. They know that this formula is true: 2e = 3R. The meaning? Understanding twice-exceptional kids takes three times the research — learning about giftedness, learning about learning disabilities/differences, and learning about the combination of the two. Here are some reviews of useful books and some suggestions for ad-ditional reading and resources to help you get up to speed on the LD side of 2e.


The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education

By Amanda Morin

The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education (Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts, 2014) is not directed specifically at the 2e community. In fact, the word gifted is not even in the index; but there’s a twist. Author Amanda Morin is not only an educator and advocate for children with special needs, she’s the mother of two twice-exceptional children, according to publicity materials for the book. The battle to get the proper services for her son became the impetus for writing the book — for “parents who don’t know their child’s rights or how the special education system works.” So that seems to lend “street cred” to what she’s written.

The book opens with three chapters on the basics of special education, including special education law and “translation” of special education terms such as Child Find (a federal program) or related services (services needed for a child to learn successfully, such as OT assistive technology). Also included is a nice comparison of special education legislation provisions for the ADA, IDEA 2004, and Section 504. 

The author devotes one chapter to the 13 categories of disability under the law and another chapter to learning disabilities — the signs of LD, what to do when you suspect an LD in your child, and different types of LDs. Other chapters explain the role of a 504 plan, and Response to Intervention (RtI). (The author does not address concerns held by some regarding the efficacy of RtI for gifted or 2e children, just suggesting that parents be an advocate for their child’s RtI experience.) 

Morin provides tips on being involved in your child’s education, including how to collect and organize a child’s records and communicate with school. She explains the evaluation and assessment process, and devotes a chapter to testing.

Six chapters address how to be an advocate for a child who is eligible for special education services. They cover the creation and execution of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and how to prepare for and participate in an IEP meeting. Following is a somewhat pessimistic but necessary concluding chapter titled “When Problems Arise at School” — advice on what to do when an IEP isn’t being followed, dealing with disputes, and due process.

One appendix includes a set of sample letters useful at various times in the special education process (e.g., a request for educational records, and a request for an independent evaluation at public expense). Another consists of sample forms that might be of use, for example an IEP preparation checklist. 
The book is well laid out and easy to follow in terms of titles, sub-tittles, etc. It includes graphic markers denoting tips, alerts, and facts.

While parts of this book might not be relevant to parents of twice-exceptional children, many parents of a 2e child will have to deal with various aspects of special education covered in the book. It provides a comprehensive, easy-to-read overview of the topic, and parents can combine this resource with others to customize their own journeys through special and gifted education. 


Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults, Second Edition

By James T. Webb, Ph.D., ABPP-Cl, Edward R. Amend, Psy.D., Paul Beljan, Psy.D., ABPdN, Nadia E. Webb, Psy.D., Marianne Kuzujanakis M.D., M.P.H., F. Richard Olenchak, Ph.D., and Jean Goerss, M.D.

Late in 2016, Great Potential Press brought out a second edition of its 11-year-old classic, Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults. The update incorporates research available since the first edition was published and reflects changes in diagnosis based on the issuance of new releases of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) from the World Health Organization.

The basic contention of the book, according to Great Potential Press, is that “Gifted children and adults are frequently misdiagnosed, particularly those who are twice-exceptional (2e).” Misdiagnosis can happen in four ways, according to the book’s preface:

  1. Clinicians might attribute certain behaviors to pathology that might be better attributed to giftedness.
  2. Giftedness can mask problems, resulting in missed diagnoses.
  3. Real disorders in gifted persons are treated without regard to their giftedness.
  4. Giftedness can be overlooked and unrecognized because of a disorder.

A review of the first edition appeared in the April, 2005, issue of 2e Newsletter. Here, we focus on changes and additions to the first edition.

Asperger Syndrome

Some would have us believe that Asperger Syndrome went away with the advent of the fifth edition of the DSM. The new version of Misdiagnosis acknowledges that the term Asperger’s is still in use, as evidenced in the ICD-10. Nonetheless, Misdiagnosis tells how the condition formerly known as Asperger’s now fits into the DSM-5. Another change noted in the updated Misdiagnosis is the addition of Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, which the authors say has many characteristics similar to Asperger’s and is likely to incur similar misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses issues as Asperger Syndrome did.

The Gut and the Brain

The chapter on allergies, asthma, and reactive hypoglycemia now has additional material on the connection between the gut and the brain, which is likely to be of interest to those whose 2e children manifest symptoms that might be attributable to auto-immune or allergic mechanisms. The chapter also has a brief new section on “other autoimmune disorders,” which points out that the immune system and metabolism of gifted persons might be different from others’. 

Addictive Disorders

In this new chapter, the authors note, “We have observed that many bright young adults and gifted adults in general often fell into patterns of abuse and addiction of alcohol and other substances.” They go on to speculate on why gifted individuals might be more at risk for these disorders, and discuss a variety of factors involved in alcoholism and drug abuse.

Additional Changes

Other changes in the second edition of Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses include:

  • The addition of material on inattentive ADHD
  • Discussion of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, which appeared in the DSM-5
  • Coverage of changes to the definition of learning disabilities in the DSM-5 and ICD-10
  • The addition of a section on eating disorders
  • A reorganized and slightly expanded chapter on the diagnostic process.

The new edition is available from Great Potential Press or Amazon. 


The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius

By Gail Saltz, M.D.

“The goal of this book,” writes Gail Saltz about The Power of Different (Flatiron Books, 2017), “is to cast a light on the correlation between genius and brain difference, and to help both individuals with brain differences and their families and communities to foster and support the exceptional abilities that accompany difference.” Saltz, a psychiatrist, believes that high intelligence coupled with different ways of mental processing can foster creativity and achievement.

Understanding this book requires some reframing. While many of us in the 2e community are used focusing on labels (ADHD, dyslexia, etc.), the writer focuses on the traits associated with what she refers to as common brain differences. These are:

  • Learning differences
  • Distractibility
  • Anxiety
  • Eccentric thinking
  • Melancholy
  • Cycling mood
  • Lack of relatedness.

The author says, “I have chosen these seven constellations of traits because they encompass the vast majority of people with brain differences while also being the most strongly associated with creativity.”

In addition, instead of focusing on the individual symptoms and labels found in the DSM-5, Saltz presents a more bottom-up view of brain behavior, where the same underlying mechanisms and symptoms may be present in several “disorders.” This focus on understanding brain biology and cognitive performance is being adopted by organizations such as the National Institutes of Mental Health and the Child Mind Institutes as those organizations do research and attempt to explain behavior. She states in the book:

There is no such thing as a single, neat diagnosis….[W]e are becoming increasingly aware that brain differences and the symptoms associated with them are not discrete. Many, if not all, of us fall into multiple categories of brain differences….The narrow labels that we try to apply can be simplistic at best and erroneous at worst.

Furthermore, Staltz states: “[I]t’s arguable that what we call mental disorder — as if it were an aberration — is in fact a natural part of our diversity as a species.”

Structure

From The Power of Different

“…a high-functioning brain is not the same as a tidy brain.”

“Our current educational system is focused on having children spend the majority of their time on what doesn’t work for them, rather than what does.”

“…I have asked them [the interviewees for the book] if, given the choice, they would eliminate their brain difference. To a person… they said that they would not.”

This book is not a cookbook or a recipe for achieving success in spite of having cognitive differences mixed in with a dose of genius. (The author’s definition of genius comes from the Oxford Dictionary: exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.) Rather, the book is heavily based on the circumstances and personal stories of children and adults, circumstances immediately familiar and understandable to those in the 2e community. Saltz uses these stories to illustrate the barriers faced by highly intelligent people who think differently or have a “disorder,” and to illustrate how the proper supports from family and educators, along with building on the individual’s strengths, are crucial to achieving individual potential, a theme familiar to readers of 2e Newsletter.

The book is organized in this fashion:

  • A 15-page introduction with the author’s goals, rationale, stage-setting, and definitions
  • Chapter 1 on learning differences, focusing mainly on dyslexia but mentioning dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia
  • Chapter 2 on distractibility -- ADHD and other attentional disorders
  • Chapter 3 on anxiety, including OCD
  • Chapter 4 on melancholy — depression, dysthymia, and dysphoria
  • Chapter 5 on cycling mood — bipolar disorder
  • Chapter 6 on divergent thinking, covering schizoid personality, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder
  • Chapter 7 on relatedness, covering ASD
  • Chapter 8 on the future of thinking differently, including concrete tips for what all of us can do to help our children, ourselves, and society come to grips with the fact that illness and differences can build a wall around individuals instead of allowing them to be nurtured, encouraged, and celebrated.

Each chapter is 20 to 30 pages long. Chapters 1-7 are organized similarly, each beginning with a personal story about someone with a “difference” and then exploring:

  • What it means to have the difference — the science of the condition
  • The experience of having it, in terms of the challenges, work-arounds, and gifts it bestows
  • How people with the condition can flourish.

Notes and Thoughts

Parents will likely read the intro; the chapter most pertinent to their child’s condition; and the final chapter. Educators and clinicians will probably enjoy a more inclusive reading.

The author does not ignore treatment of differences that may impose impediments to an individual. Rather, she says, “…those with brain differences who can function well with treatment — whether talk therapy, CBT, or pharmaceutical intervention — can exhibit extraordinary creativity.”

Be advised that some differences or conditions common in the 2e community aren’t addressed in the book. Slow processing speed, for example, does not appear in the index. Neither do auditory, visual, or sensory processing disorders. Furthermore, IDEA’s definition of specific learning disabilities do not map neatly into the categories defined in this book.

That said, many readers will likely find great value in this book, especially in its espousal of playing to strengths and accepting differences as normal. In fact, the author writes, “…it is entirely possible that the more we come to understand about the brain, the more we will come to realize that there is no such thing as a normal brain.”

For parents, accepting Saltz’ thesis about the potential stemming from the combination of high intelligence and thinking differently can be freeing: “Once parents release some of their anxiety about their children’s diagnosis dooming them to failure, they can invest more of their energy into identifying what will grab their child’s imagination and create opportunities to shine in their own areas of strength.” 


Additional Readings on LDs

Books

For additional reading recommendations for both adults and children, see the book section of the 2e Newsletter website. 

Some Online LD-related Resources

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