Katrina's Blog

What is Twice Exceptional?​

Something that doesn't get as much attention as either gifted ability or learning disabilities in students is the fact that some students exhibit both traits. According to the book Twice Exceptional by Scott Barry Kaufman, "twice exceptional individuals demonstrate exceptional levels of capacity, competence, commitment, or creativity in one or more domains coupled with one or more learning difficulties." This can have many permutations, and will look differently for each twice exceptional, or 2e, student. For instance, one 2e student might have dyslexia but be an accomplished dancer, while another 2e student is gifted in math and also has dysgraphia. Part of what can be difficult in discovering if a student is 2e is that their high abilities may mask their disability, and conversely, their disability can hide their exceptional potential. Another road block is that not all educators are trained to watch for 2e students. In fact, Kaufman notes that those that work successfully with this population require special training and ongoing professional development. The National Association for Gifted Children has information about what teachers and parents might see in relation to gifted students and tips about what parents can do to help. Understood.org has a great list of myths about 2e students. One I would like to address here is the idea that students can't be gifted and also lack basic skills. There are highly gifted students who are also dyslexic and struggle with phonemic and phonological awareness. But that doesn't mean that they can't succeed in school; rather, they need instruction that will help them close those gaps so they can read and write well. Another good resource is this article in . This is an area in which I hope to continue my learning, as I believe I've already worked with a number of students who would be considered 2e. If you think your child may be 2e, I would be happy to point you toward additional resources.  Photo by IIONA VIRGIN on Unsplash.​

Fan Fiction Encourages Writing​

I have had success with reluctant writers time and again when I ask them to write fan fiction. Fan fiction is generally defined as fiction written in worlds already created by other authors. An entire culture has been built online around fan fiction (the Harry Potter and Marvel universes are two examples), and if they choose, students can join these online communities to share their work and build community. But many students write fan fiction just for themselves. Something about being able to immerse themselves in the world of their favorite characters helps them step back from their usual dislike of writing. They don't have to build everything from scratch, and they can use worlds and characters they already know and love to craft their own story. Students of mine have written fan fiction based on Minecraft, Monster High, their favorite anime characters, and the Hatchet series. Another popular favorite is for students to write their own Choose Your Own Adventure style story. Writing their own fan fiction can also inspire a love of reading others' fan fiction, which can be helpful for reluctant readers who would shun other types of reading materials. If you have a reluctant writer (or reader) in your house, try introducing them to fan fiction.  Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash​

What Are Processing Disorders?​

Some students struggle with processing disorders, and these are lesser-known learning disabilities that can show up in conjunction with dyslexia and ADHD, or even be missed because they are improperly diagnosed as other learning disabilities. The most common types of processing disorders are visual and auditory processing disorders. Visual processing disorders affect a student's ability to process information through their eyes, and can cause issues with seeing an object's position in space. This can impact reading and math because both subjects rely heavily on being able to understand symbols (numbers and letters, for example). One way this might manifest is when a student has trouble distinguishing between the letters p and q when reading or writing. Auditory processing disorders affect a student's ability to understand and analyze what they hear. It is not a hearing disorder, but rather a problem with the way the information is processed in the brain. This can affect phonological awareness: isolating the sounds of letters and then understanding how they work together in words. Students may also have trouble understanding the differences between the sounds of letters. This article from LDOnline explains visual and auditory processing disorder in much more depth, and provides information about common interventions. Another type of processing disorder is language processing disorder. Students may exhibit difficulty putting their thoughts into words, or may have a hard time understanding what people are saying. Issues here include social issues (for instance, when students do not understand their peers or have trouble expressing themselves), written expression problems, or struggles understanding lectures. This article in ADDitude Magazine outlines language processing disorder in greater detail. If you suspect your child might have an auditory or visual processing disorder, ask your school for an assessment, or reach out to a private evaluator. Speech therapists are a good place to begin for suspected language processing disorder. You can also begin intervention right away with a tutor. The Orton-Gillingham approach I use can help students with visual and auditory processing disorders, and writing and study skills help can assist students with language processing disorders. Please reach out to me if you think your child might have a processing disorder so they can begin to Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash.​

What is dyscalculia?​

Last week I covered dysgraphia and this week I'd like to talk about another learning disorder that isn't as well known: dyscalculia. Dyscalculia affects a student's ability in math. This can include simple math like adding or subtracting as well as larger math concepts and abstract math. Like dysgraphia, this disorder is not as well studied or understood as dyslexia, but it is believed around 5 to 10% of the population may have dyscalculia. Both ADDitude Magazine and Understood.org have great lists of signs to look for, as well as in-depth articles about the disorder. Here are a few of the signs:●     student has trouble connecting the number 5 with the word 5 and/or 5 objects as a quantity.●     recalling math facts and times tables●     counting money and making change●     understanding concepts like the meaning of biggest and smallest●     trouble telling time with an analog clock●     struggling to recognize patterns or number sequences If you suspect your child might have a learning disorder in math, ask your school psychologist or a neuropsychologist for an assessment. They will conduct various tests and evaluate your child's academic performance in math. Accommodations for dyscalculia can include more time on tests, the use of a calculator, breaking up complicated multistep problems into smaller pieces, and targeted tutoring to fill in math concepts the student struggles with. If you feel your child may need math support, please reach out to me. I have two excellent math tutors on staff who could help. Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash​

What is Dysgraphia?​

Dysgraphia doesn't get as much attention as dyslexia and ADHD, and it also is not well-studied, so the prevalence is not as well known. But estimates say 5–20% of the population have some type of writing deficit. Dysgraphia affects writing, and it can show up in different ways throughout a student's lifetime. In earlier grades, it may manifest as lower fine motor skills that make gripping and using a writing utensil difficult. Therefore, it is often noticed when a student has slow and illegible handwriting. A student with dysgraphia may write at a slant, have irregularly sized letters, or write so large they run out of space on their paper. They often have trouble staying within the lines. As a student ages, and as writing tasks increase in difficulty, their disability can affect their ability to put their thoughts into written words. Older students with dysgraphia may struggle with grammar, spelling, and difficulty organizing their thoughts when they have to write them. They may show increased avoidance of writing tasks as well. This can affect their work both when they have to produce writing, such as a creative story or essay, and also when they are asked to take notes in class or when reading. As this article in ADDitude Magazine states, "attempts at remediation and 'more practice' alone are not enough – accommodations and other modifications are necessary." Helping a student with dysgraphia involves a dual approach:1. providing them with strategies that will help their handwriting improve or that will help them organize their thoughts so they can write essays 2. advocating for appropriate accommodations Students with dysgraphia benefit from extra time on writing assignments, being able to provide evidence of their knowledge orally, being provided lecture notes and the ability to type notes in class, and also the use of voice-to-text technology. My approach with students with dysgraphia is to help them become comfortable with the various ways one can organize one's thoughts before writing (word webs, outlines, pictures, post-it notes) and then helping them become comfortable with dictating. We will also review grammar and discuss how to advocate for themselves when they need extra time or lecture notes from their teacher. Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash​