The Meeting

The meeting with Sprite’s school went reasonably well, as far as I could tell at the time. However, as I think back over it, I am having some concerns.

They explained that there had been several staff changes because of teachers moving interstate, suddenly leaving because of serious health issues or going on maternity or long service leave; and that there had consequently been changes to the programs that the school offered. The new teachers were still getting to know the students and would find suitable solutions soon.

The handover had not been very smooth but then… given that some of the teachers had left suddenly …that was understandable.

I reminded them about the course of action we had embarked on to find the ideal education for Sprite for her journey along Gagne’s DMGT road
 https://spritessite.wordpress.com/tag/gagne-dmgt-model/
from innate giftedness to fully developed talent using the De Bono’s 6 Action Shoes as the planning method and they agreed we would continue to use it.

However they said Sprite should receive more testing in just the same way you would need to be remeasured when being fitted for new shoes.
Sprite has been subjected to testing in numerous ways by psychologists, therapists and education consultants and found to be both exceptionally gifted and to have specific learning difficulties.
I did wonder whether they were stalling for time and why they could not use the results of all the testing she had received so far.

I made a mental note to myself to reread Derrin Cramer’s blog post Do you need to test again?
 http://derrin-thebrightside.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/do-you-need-to-test-again.html

I was also reminded of my own words of a few weeks previous https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/advocacy/

They were made into a photo quote by Mary St George at http://www.flickr.com/photos/51965108@N05/7621345972/in/pool-1680413@N20

And it appears in an album of Gifted Education Photo Quotes at
http://www.flickr.com/groups/1680413@N20/pool/with/7621345972/#photo_7621345972

Various programs and assistive technology measures have been tried with varying degrees of success. You can see these represented by the different types of footwear Sprite wears and you can see by her body language how her comfort and optimism levels vary!

It is one thing to find out which are the best shoes for the DMGT Road but quite another to find ones that will be a good fit.

They said they would review Sprite’s needs but were rather vague about what provisions they could offer.

One thing which did concern me was that they seemed to be emphasizing the deficits and discussing those. They talked about a number of remedial measures, study skills sessions and social/emotion support but did not speak about challenging Sprite at appropriate depth and level in her areas of strength.
Most of the measures suggested sounded like Pink Slipper – (Do what is caring, compassionate and comforting) plans. Although Sprite loves her pink slippers she needs more of the Brown Brogue (Do the most sensible thing) and Grey Sneaker (Investigate) plans at this stage.
Maybe in the future she will be able to manage the Blue Formal Shoes and Leadership Purple Riding Boots type of plans.

I stressed that they should recognise Sprite’s giftedness even while they were trying to remediate the problems and they repeated that they would review the matter.

I left them with a link to a collection of articles and websites at https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/new-zealand-gifted-awareness-week-2012-tba-post-4-part-3/

We set a date for a future meeting in a month’s time.

********************************************

The day after the meeting Sprite came home wearing one orange gumboot.

I recognised this as representing the Orange Gumboot (Emergency measures) plan.
It appeared to be a stop gap measure to attempt to address Sprite’s giftedness which had not taken into account her difficulties. When that became apparent she had been told to just put on one orange gumboot and hop until they thought of something suitable.

Overprikkelbaar!

I went back to Sprite’s Site confident that Intellectual Dabrowski would approve of the fact that I had finished reading Derrin Cramer’s excellent book Beginner’s Guide to Life on the Bright Side and posted a review on Gifted Resources Blog http://giftedresources.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/beginners-guide-to-life-on-the-bright-side/

However Intellectual was not particularly impressed.
His only comment was “About time too!
You need to get up to the school straight away to talk about Sprite’s needs. There have been staffing changes. Some of her favourite teachers have gone. Some of the support programs are not being funded now. The provisions for the gifted students have been cut right back too. I am helping her all I can; but all this compensating is really tiring work!”

And it is not just me saying that. Dr Linda Silverman has written an article titled The Two-Edged Sword of Compensation: How the Gifted Cope with Learning Difficulties” http://www.gifteddevelopment.com/PDF_files/Two-edged%20sword%20of%20compensation.pdf

Intellectual was overseeing Sprite’s homework and sighing with exasperation.
“Look at what you have written.

“It should be Rob Head, the artist, has painted 9 steps in the background of the picture. If I were the artist I would paint animals on the steps.

You need the commas after Head and artist because they are nouns in apposition.
It should be ‘If I were’ because it is in the subjunctive.
The artist’s name is Rob Head and why did you write six when I told you it was nine?

Do I have to go right back to ‘a bat and a ball and a dog with a tail’ and ‘keep the cushions on the bed’?”

Sprite sighed too. “I do appreciate Intellectual’s help” she said “But I do wish he would not be so harsh and dogmatic and patronising when he talks to me!”

“When he gets too picky and pushy you could call him by his Dutch name” I said and whispered it into Sprite’s ear.

Sprite giggled with delight. “Overprikkelbaar! Overprikkelbaar!” she said to Intellectual.

“Yes, yes, very funny!” muttered Intellectual. ” Too easily irritated! I know the Dutch people use that name.

Why do you think Emotional went to the P Party https://spritessite.wordpress.com/tag/p-party/ dressed as a Prickly Porcupine?

And, for that matter, why do you think Imaginational thinks he is a Baa-Lamb?”

Advocacy 2

Intellectual Dabrowski greeted me at the entrance to Sprite’s Site with the phone in his mouth and a determined expression in his eyes.
“You need to phone the school now and make an appointment to meet them and discuss Sprite’s education plan!” he said.
I realised with surprise that a month had passed since our previous discussion about the topic!

“But I have not finished reading Derrin Cramer’s new book Beginner’s Guide to Life on the Bright Side yet” I said.

And now I also want to read Jen Merrill’s book If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional  http://www.laughingatchaos.com/i-wrote-a-book/ which can be bought from Amazon at

 http://www.amazon.com/This-Gift-Can-Send-Back/dp/0615648789/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1343960784&sr=8-6&keywords=jen+merrill

“Then make the appointment for three days time and get reading!” ordered Intellectual.

(‘It’s that bossy attitude which has delayed your start as a Read to Me Dog in a classroom or library’ I thought)

“I want to co-operate with the school to get the best possible solutions for Sprite.  And I do not want the school to think I am one of THOSE parents!” I told Intellectual.
“So tomorrow I am going to participate in the Global #gtchat powered by TAGT first annual back-to-school chat, “Collaboration, Not Confrontation: Parents and Teachers Working Together.” Special guest panel includes TAGT members Dr. Lynette Breedlove, Angie French and David Sebek and later I will join the follow-up session to discuss the lessons learned. And then I can read through the transcript later at http://www.txgifted.org/gtchat-transcripts

“OK” grumbled Intellectual “but just don’t put it off for too long – the provisions that are in place at the moment are beginning to look a bit frayed and worn thin!”

Advocacy

Intellectual Dabrowski greeted me at the entrance to Sprite’s Site with his lead in his mouth and a determined expression in his eyes.
“It is time for us to go back to the school and talk about Sprite’s Education Plan again!” he said.
“You can’t just make a plan once and leave it at that, you know!”

I do know. Situations change and the measures you put into place are not appropriate any longer. It is just like growing out of shoes.
We have needed to review the provisions for Sprite’s education often in order to challenge her in her areas of giftedness and support her in the areas where she has problems 
Derrin Cramer’s book Gifted and Thriving at School: How proactive parents can get the education that fits their child  has proven very valuable.
And one of Derrin’s key messages is “Advocating for your gifted child is an ongoing process. It is not a one-shot fix”

The Appendix to the book contains an example of an Individual Education Plan form and I also found one at http://www.sacsa.sa.edu.au/ATT/%7B26691B3A-FAA3-4626-B5FC-72ADC3DD7E6F%7D/iep.pdf

I had been reading Derrin’s blog at
http://derrin-thebrightside.blogspot.com.au/
And
I had taken particular note of the post
Do you need to test again?
http://derrin-thebrightside.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/do-you-need-to-test-again.html

And I enjoyed the analogy Derrin gave in another of her posts
Lessons about identifying gifted students learned from making grape jam
http://derrin-thebrightside.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/lessons-about-identifying-gifted.html

“I will go up to the school again” I told Intellectual “But I am not ready to go just yet.

I want to finish reading Derrin’s new book The Beginner’s Guide to Life on the Bright Side first”
“OK, I’ll ask Sprite to come for a walk with me!” said Intellectual.

Themes

It seems that both Sprite and I are having problems with choosing themes this week.

I found a hive of activity at Sprite’s Site today.
The Twitter Birds were collecting invitations for Sprite’s blog birthday for distribution and Sprite was discussing possible themes for her party with the Dabrowski dogs.
“I don’t know what theme to choose” Sprite was saying “that’s why I chose flowery paper for the invitations. But flowers would be a bit boring for a theme”
Psycho Motor “I don’t care what the theme is – as long as you get a bouncing castle!”
Emotional: “Flowers would be a good theme. Flowers always make me feel happy! Everyone loves getting flowers!”
Sensual: “Some flowers make me sneeze and feel itchy.
Sprite: “Well now that you mention it…”
Intellectual: “If you did choose flowers as a theme, you could tell everyone to come wearing a tag with the full botanical name of a flower on it and everyone would have to guess who they were.”
Psycho Motor: “Bor-ing!!!”
Sprite: “I don’t know whether my guests would think that was boring.”
Imaginational “There are a lot of really great themes you could have using flowers! What about Sunflowers and Snowdrops or Tall Poppies and White Irises or Dandelion Wishes or Fractals in Ferns?”
Intellectual: “Would you like me to calculate the comparative probabilities of those topics being of interest to your guests?”
Sprite: “I suppose so.”

Then Sprite turned to me and started to rattle off a list of guests she wanted me to invite for her and supplies of food and decorations she wanted me to purchase.

“Wait a moment!” I said “Before I start party preparations I need to write a post about Language Garden, visit Derrin Cramer’s Thinking Ahead blog for some advice about advocacy and write a post for New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour.”

“What topic are you going to address for the blog tour?” asked Intellectual.

“I don’t really know yet – I put myself down for TBA.” I said.

“Ah yes, the ever popular TBA!” said Intellectual “Tell me when you have something definite in mind and I will help you with research.”

“You know” piped up Imaginational “If you turn a kiwi over onto his stomach he looks like an echidna (if you don’t count how many feet they have)!”

“Now you are just being ridiculous!” said Intellectual in a very pompous voice “Everyone knows that a kiwi is a bird and an echidna is a monotreme.”

“Just saying…” said Imaginational giggling to himself.

Gifted and Thriving at School

Last week I received a copy of a new book by Derrin Cramer of Thinking Ahead
http://www.thinkingahead.com.au/main/about.htm

 Gifted and Thriving at School:
How proactive parents can get the education that fits their child

As the website says

This book is packed with tips and strategies which will build your knowledge and confidence so you can effectively advocate for your child. It will lead you through the process of gathering and organising the information you need, building positive relationships with your child’s school, preparing for and attending meetings plus ways to communicate effectively, leaving you feeling confident that you can guide the process of seeking the education that fits your child’s needs.

I loved this book from the opening line “I have walked in your shoes”.
It is obvious that Derrin has indeed experienced the joys and challenges of parenting her gifted children and advocating for their needs of to be met.
You can read Derrin’s own story and the story of Thinking Ahead at http://www.thinkingahead.com.au/Downloads/Outside_the_box_TA_Journey0511.pdf

I appreciated her comments
“Before you go on any further, I have to tell you something. Advocating for your gifted child is an ongoing process. It is not a one-shot fix”
And
“The best advice I can give is to make the best decision you can at the time with the knowledge you have.”

I also enjoyed the wise comments and advice from parents which appear throughout the book.

Sprite, reading over my shoulder (reminding me of a time when my 5 year old son was reading over my shoulder as I read an academic journal article about whether  or not you should tell a child they are gifted!), loved the fact that all the chapter titles begin with her favourite letter – P.

  • Proactive parents
  • Power of information
  • Paperwork
  • Positive partnerships
  • Prepare
  • Plan
  • Prioritise
  • Persuade
  • Present
  • Persist
  • Parent wisdom
  • Pursue further opportunities

 The Appendix contains a helpful example of an Individual Education Plan form and there is also a section about Questions to Ask Schools.
The book gives a practical and encouraging step by step approach to advocating for the child’s education needs.

It can be purchased from
http://www.thinkingahead.com.au/Resources/purchase_resources.htm