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Sep 13 2011

Book review: 101 School Success Tools for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities

You know how sometimes you just really, really, want a time machine? Go back to fix that oopsie, to pass on that delightful foot-in-mouth entree, that “wish I’d said THAT” incident? Yeah, I keep looking for A From The Future to come visit…just so I could borrow his time machine and go back about a week. That way I could have had a plan and 101 School Success Tools for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities in hand as I walked into The Conference last week. As it is I’m handing it over to A’s main teacher and hope she doesn’t read too much into the underlined passages and heavily exclamation-pointed scribbles in the margins. 101SSTFSKWLD (hey, it’s a mouthful!) is simply what I wish I had had in my backpack of tricks walking into the room last week. The irony? Prufrock Press sent me the book to review in May. Let us file this under Moving Is A Big Bad Ugly Thing and never speak of it again.

Written by a quartet of gifted education specialists (Betty Roffman Shevits, Marisa Stemple, Linda Barnes-Robinson, Sue Jeweler), 101SSTFSKWLD is essentially a workbook for teachers who have 2e (or as described here, gifted/learning disabled) students. This does not mean that parents won’t gain valuable information from it. At the very least parents will be thrilled there is a handbook that can help teachers teach their GT/LD kids. The description of GT/LD kids was so spot-on that I thought they were describing A; this is kinda where I was scribbling!a!lot!in!the!margins! Ahem.

101SSTFSKWLD is broken into five sections, each with its own distinct focus. The first chapter, from a parent’s point of view, is essentially preaching to the choir. “Who are these kids” describes GT/LD in “educatorese.” We know who these kids are, they’re the ones living under our roofs that make our jaws drop on a regular basis; how we don’t all have TMJ is a miracle. But teachers often don’t know what a GT/LD kid looks like. From my own experience getting a teaching degree, I truly don’t remember covering anything about gifted kids, and certainly not 2e. So this gets teachers up to speed. And then another parent doesn’t have to sit in a conference and have a teacher ask, “Now what exactly is twice-exceptional?” Because it’s really hard for aforementioned parent to not ::facepalm:: in a situation like that.

The book moves on to “How do I find these kids?,” “How do I reach them?,” “How do I teach them?,” and “How do I keep the bright turned on?” The first three are pretty self-explanatory. With the use of guided worksheets (the tools of the title), teachers can hone their mental preparation and instructional planning for these students. I loved these tools. Most are for teachers, but some are for parents and even the students themselves. These 101 tools are the meat of the book. What I have found with so many other books is that you read and read and read, but then you’re left with what do I dooooo???? This book has almost none of that frustrated whine, and a whole lot of focused assistance as teachers navigate what is likely a new path. (I did a review of Christine Fonseca’s Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students last year that also got into the nitty gritty actions of what do I dooooo???? Very helpful book for parents. You really want that book, trust me.) The tools are designed to capture data for review; schools these days are all about measuring and recording data. They are obviously designed by teachers for teachers…parents don’t have the time and energy to record every last thing for later review when they just want the kid to sit down and do the homework for the love of all things holy before I lose my mind and go running down the street singing show tunes! Um…heh…sorry ’bout that. Moving on… As I was saying, great tools for teachers. Gathering and reviewing data simply makes it possible to tweak instruction for these kids without completely altering the classroom setup.

The last section, “How do I keep the bright turned on?,” was the most encouraging to me. You can do all this work to find them, reach them, and teach them…but if you don’t help GT/LD students continue to get the support they need as they continue through school, you just did a whole lotta work for nothing. It’s a lot easier to keep a ball rolling than to start it up again after it crashes into a wall and bounces around wildly. This section dives into advocating for your students, teaching students to advocate for themselves, and helping them learn the life skills they may be lacking. It also touches on paying it forward, by being a resource to other teachers who may have GT/LD kids in their classrooms.

I would love nothing more than for 101SSTFSKWLD be a yearlong professional development project in schools. I can’t see how the tools in this book could not improve all students. A rising tide raises all ships, as they say.

But, I’m not Queen of the World, so that’s not likely to happen. What is going to happen is that I’m giving away two copies of 101SSTFSKWLD, courtesy of Prufrock Press. No, you can’t have mine, it’s all scribbly and about to be loaned out to a certain 5th grade team. Just leave a comment here describing what you wish your school would do for your 2e kid. Dream big, go nuts. Thursday September 15th at noon central daylight time I will either finally figure out how to use a random number generator or Rosie the basset/beagle/corgi will be prodded awake and begged to pick two winners. Then you too can scribble away and nonchalantly hand it to a teacher saying, “I won this in a giveaway and after reading it thought it might help <child’s name>.” Or hand it to an administrator with a cup of coffee and a pleading look and a promise for home baked goodies if it’s used for professional development. Can’t hurt, might help.

Many thanks to Prufrock Press for the three copies of 101SSTFSKWLD they provided, and for the incredible patience they displayed with my moving/general chaos that interfered with me reviewing this book in a more timely manner.

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  1. Erica

    I am plowing through my latest “You are not a bad parent, you just have a difficult child” book, AKA The Explosive Child. It is already incredibly helpful with DD8, but I’m not sure how to apply it to DD5 who was the inspiration for buying the book. I will have to add Christine Fonseca’s book to my list.

    I wonder if our parenting skills inversely proportional to the number of parenting books we read?

    No need to add me to the free book drawing. With my 1E children, I come here to remind myself that there are people worse off! (Just kidding – sort of – I also appreciate your sense of humor and advice, your affinity for box wines, and just knowing that I’m not alone.)

  2. Jane

    I wish that my child could have more flexibility in her workload and her schedule, so that she could trade some time at school for time to pursue other enrichment or acceleration opportunities (like Math Counts or working with a professor at a university). As it stands currently, the school workload takes up too much time to allow her to pursue many outside activities. I feel that if she is able to demonstrate mastery of the material, some of the homework could be eliminated. Then she could spend less time on the busy work and more time on truly meaningful learning experiences.

  3. My Kids Mom

    I think we’re solidly in 1e too, so I will read Christine Fonseca’s (and have read The Explosive Child- a good one) but don’t need to be entered.

    Don’t beat yourself up about the late review. I’m impressed at how quickly you’re adjusting to the move.

  4. Carmen Downes

    Hi, I wear the double-hat of mom and teacher, and both of my heads want this book! 🙂 From your description, my 2e child would benefit from me reading it, and when I finished with it I’d be happy to pass it along to others in the same 2e boat.

    Thanks for writing your blog. It makes me laugh and not feel so alone.

  5. Stephanie

    I just found your blog and I’m alternately laughing and crying at the parts that seem to describe my life. We are brand new to this whole 2E thing since our 6 yr old was just assessed as ADHD the week before beginning the advanced 1st grade class at a new school. I’m not clear how much her teacher and school know about 2E learners yet since we’re just getting started there. I wish that they would help to restore some of the confidence she’s lost due to being constantly corrected and disciplined for behavior issues over the last couple of years in school, daycare and at home. She needs more recognition of her amazing abilities and strengths which will hopefully overshadow her “disability”.

  6. Soovereverthing

    Wow! Even if I am not lucky enough to win said giveaway, I will be reading this book. I wish I would have had it handy last night as I composed my carefully crafted email to T’s teachers asking (when I really want to beg) them to ‘help my child help himself’. As I sat detailing the ‘symptoms’ of stealth dyslexia and telling of his ‘visual processing deficiencies’, I was so angry that about everything. Why don’t the schools know about 2e kids? Why don’t they recognize how flipping brilliant my child is – DESPITE – the fact that he is working twice as hard as all the other children in his class? Why do they only see the ‘carelessness’ in his work and not realize that just because he got an answer wrong because he didn’t carry a number, doesn’t mean he doesn’t totally get the concept and is bored to tears as they re-iterate it time and time again so the rest of the class can catch up.

    In a perfect world, the school district would have approached my husband and me – way back in the day. Rather than us having to spend our own money to have him tested and to attempt vision therapy. (Only to have to stop because we just couldn’t afford it anymore and insurance doesn’t cover educational related issues. The school district is supposed to provide those services. HA! Yeah, right.) In a perfect world, when I brought our concerns to our district, my child would have been more than his test scores. The district would have ‘listened’ to our instincts as parents and been open to the possibility that there were some LD type things going on in spite of the fact his scores are higher than average. In a perfect world, they would be educating us on 2e rather than us educating them. In a perfect world, I would not have been given the title of ‘High Maintenance Parent’ because I am trying to advocate for our child. (It’s not our fault that the district was too ignorant to listen – so I guess I had to become a HMP for our child’s sake.)

    In a perfect world, the email that I spent over 2 hours crafting will actually be read and digested. In a perfect world, the teachers will actually care enough to respond after our first attempt to help our son – not the 3rd or 4th. In a perfect world, someone other than my husband and I will give a crap that despite the fact my 5th grader is reading at a HS level, he can’t write a paragraph without expending a tremendous amount of effort – just to have to totally redo the assignment because he jumbled up all the words – again.

    But we don’t live in a perfect world. So we will do what we can to advocate for our child and fight the good fight. We will educate ourselves – so that we can educate others. We will band together on blogs like this one and share our happiness and sorrows and drown our miseries and successes in wine and/or hard liquor depending on the day 🙂

    Thanks Jen. I can’t tell you often enough how much I appreciate you and your candor. How much support I find in your words. You ROCK!!!

    1. Jane

      I couldn’t have said it better. I’m with you on all of your wishes. Signed, another High Maintenance Parent. 🙂

    2. GinevraCat

      Oh yes – I’m apparently “the most intimidating parent” my daughter’s teacher has ever met “in 40 years”. Again – if they paid attention, or even pretended they were, the first time – I wouldn’t have to be intimidating.

  7. Terri

    Oh, wow. What I wish my school would do for my 2e child? Which child? I’ve blogged all about what I wish they’d do for my son: Create a 2e program in our district. Shy of that — and the budget being what it is, it will be very shy of that — implement the recommendations that my friend and I submitted to the superintendent in January to help 2e students within our STEM program to have BOTH sets of their needs met. (The result of that was that they added new forms to the STEM application that focus exactly on the deficits of the population we were working to help. Sure, they “encourage students with IEPs to apply,” but with criteria having the potential to be used to screen them out, it’s no more than lip service.)

    But what about my daughter, currently in the hospital having all kinds of issues sorted out? Gifted? Absolutely. Stressed? Absolutely. Unable to cope with emotional dysregulation and depression? Absolutely. She doesn’t have an IEP. She presents at school pretty close to “normal.” But she needs supports in group work and all things EF. (Hers are only “relative weaknesses” — nothing to the level of her brother — but they have quite an impact at home.) For her, I wish my school system would have listened to us when we advocated for her brother.

  8. Danielle

    I just wish that some professionals understood that gifted children are “average children with gifts” not “gifted children with flaws.” That could help many people understand the nature of being gifted, twice-exceptional students aside.

  9. Kristin

    I was so excited to read your review – I am the mother of 3 gifted kiddos – whom you might imagine are all over the map! I have been struggling recently working with schools who are so underfunded they are barely staying afloat! My oldest is 2e, and it is so frustrating that because he has an IEP, we can get him help for discipline but not challenged! I would love a copy of this book!

  10. Suzan

    I have been pondering this question for the last two days…in my “spare” time. Thinking about it makes me both sad and mad. As a mom who volunteered countless hours at the public schools, gave tons of items and money, and was always there when the school and the teachers asked me to do more, I get mad when I realize that all the work I have done to ensure that my children get a good education can be wiped away in a single year by a single teacher or administrator who looks at my children as a number and me as an uneducated pandering parent.

    What would I love for my school to do? Maybe live a week in my shoes and realize that truly we ARE on the same team. I would like you to honest about what you can and can not do. If I ask you to address bullying issues, they should be addressed immediately without causing harm to the victim. If I ask for my child’s IEP to be followed in the coming year, don’t have a meeting with me and 10 of your professional staff for 2 hours to say you can’t afford to provide the 20 hours of attention that is written into his IEP. I am capable of doing math too. I realize there is only so much you can do within the classroom which is why I provide enrichment at home. It does not feel good to have to spend expensive $ for interventions, be accused of pandering for providing those interventions and then have you take credit for the strides made as a result of those interventions.. And, finally, while I am totally open to helpful suggestions, judgement is not part of equation. leave judgement at the door, we are here to grow my child into a happy contributing member of this society.

    My child is with you for one year but the environment you provide and what you do with them during that year lasts a lifetime.

    I love your blog! Wow! I didn’t realise how angry I was at “the schools” till I did this exercise! At a time when there are so many strains on the public schools, I am frustrated when I realize how many teachers are really special and good for not only my child but the majority of kids in their classes but they get so little support from the system they are part of. That combined with the sheltering of teachers and administrators who really need to either be trained to correct short comings or removed from the academic environment and it is no wonder school issues are so combustible right now. My kids are now both in high school so hopefully many of our academic struggles are beyond us, but, the emotional scars do rear their ugly heads from time to time. Your blog has truly helped me learn to Laugh at the chaos, thank you so much. I’m waiting to get the book at the library, thanks for threads up!

  11. Suzan

    Darn iPad auto correct… It’s heads up! LOL!

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