Meeting the needs of gifted and talented children with dyslexia Essay

Meeting the needs of gifted and talented children with dyslexia

 

Introduction

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Children who are gifted and also have learning disabilities are those who possess a distinguished gift or talent and are capable of high performance, but who also have a learning disability that makes some aspect of academic achievement hard. Some of these children are identified and their needs are met. This occurs only rarely, however, unless a school especially decides to identify and then serve these children.

When teachers first began describing children who showed evidence of having dyslexia yet also appeared to be gifted, many thought of this as discrepancy. Many people have difficulty understanding that a child can be gifted and also have learning disabilities. The stereotype that had prevailed since Terman’s (Silverman 2003) time was that gifted children score uniformly high on intelligence tests and do well in school. How could a child be considered gifted who has serious enough learning problems to be characterized as having evidence of dyslexia? As a result, children with dyslexia with both their high abilities and their learning problems are rarely identified and are often poorly served.

In recent years, the idea of giftedness and learning disabilities occurring unitedly in the same person has become commonly accepted. Some books have been written on the subject, many articles have been published in journals, and most educational conferences concentrating on either learning disabilities or giftedness comprise at least one presentation on the dual exceptionality. During the last decade, growing attention has been being also given to the confusing question of high ability students with dyslexia. The learning of these disabled gifted and talented children needs remediation activities. At the same time, they also require opportunities to promote their own individual strengths and gifts in one or more fields in which they have previously showed their superior abilities.

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Identification of gifted and talented children with dyslexia

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Due to various definitions of giftedness, problems in identifying children with dyslexia arise. Generally, gifted children with dyslexia are those who meet the eligibility criteria for both giftedness and learning disabilities. Dyslexic children are easily identified as gifted because of high achievement or high IQ scores (Hannah ; Shore, 1995). They may build fantastic structures with plastic bricks or start a local campaign to save the whales. The creative abilities, intellectual soundness and passion they bring to their hobbies are clear pointers of their potential for giftedness (Winebrenner 2002). These children may impress teachers with their verbal abilities, while their spelling or handwriting contradicts the image. At times, they may be forgetful, careless and disorganized.

Giftedness usually belongs to high intellectual abilities or potential rather than students’ specific progresses. Gifted children are usually characterised as having exceptional abilities or potential for learning and problem solving. Dyslexic disabilities are defined as problems in learning due to a cognitive-processing difficulty in which the dysfunction influences one or more cognitive processes instead of obstructing overall intellectual ability. These disabilities are constantly identified by an inconsistency between their measured potential and their actual fulfilment on academic tasks (Hannah & Shore, 1995). Gifted and talented children with dyslexia are those who experiences special educational programming to adopt one or more handicapping conditions while also promoting their potential for exceptional fulfilment in one or more fields in which they may be talented (Whitmore, 1991).

These children are not only identified by depressed academic skills, but also by personality and behavioural difficulties. Typically, these children suffer from an ear processing problem, visual filling problem or attention deficit dysfunction, or demonstrate difficulty in verbal directions ( Winebrenner 2002). Even thinking over the research on talented children with dyslexia over the last decade, we are still disposed to identify students for gifted programs and special education services as reciprocally exclusive activities. Too many children fail to meet the qualification requirements for either program because the identification protocols fail to consider the special attributes of this population. Documentation of underachievement is usually basic to screen for learning disabilities among the population of gifted dyslexic children.

Many researchers in the field of gifted children with dyslexia focus on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) score patterns to interpret identification. Generally, the data from this research have shown no steadfast pattern of results. Schiff, Kaufman, and Kaufman (1991) reported a distinguished Verbal-Performance (V-P) discrepancy with Verbal scores higher, while Waldron and Saphire (1990) found that significant discrepancies between Verbal and Performance scores may not be the best pointer of a learning disability in children. Schiff, Kaufman, and Kaufman decided in their examination that the group of superior-IQ gifted dyslexic children revealed above-average spoken comprehension and expression skills and numerous original talents, but they also indicated weaknesses in the cognitive area of sequencing, motor coordination activities, and emotional development. Waldron and Saphire claimed that these students are disposed to depend on visual skills for word identification and analysis, and they also performed poorly in ear areas, such as sound distinction and short-date memory.

Vaidya (1993) recommends using portfolio-type assessments and creativity tests, in combination with information received from IQ and achievement tests, to identify talented children with dyslexia. The IQ assessments should be used to find out the learner’s abilities and weaknesses, while achievement tests may be used to determine giftedness in a special subject area. The portfolio should provide an insight into the child’s thought processes and uniqueness of ideas by comprising records of ideas, drafts, criticisms, journal entries, final drafts, teachers’ or parents’ suggestions. She also advices the use of creativity tests that value divergent thinking.

One such test, Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, evaluates fluency, flexibility, originality, and complexity (Winebrenner 2002). A children’s performance on a test such as this one determines the nature of the student’s thinking rather than the specific skills used while finishing academic tasks.

Like Vaidya, Eisenberg and Epstein (1991) suggest the use of IQ and achievement scores, but they also suggested using the Scales for Rating the Behavioural Characteristics of Superior Students (SRBCSS) (Strop, Goldman 2002), for instance the creativity, learning, motivation, leadership, art, music, drama, and communications scales.

However there is also debate as to whether IQ tests are the best or most appropriate evaluation of potential (Winebrenner 2002). At a more problematic level is the question of whether it is necessary or even helpful to recognize a child’s potential. As part of that discussion, it has been pointed out that two children with very dissimilar IQ scores, both showing problems in learning to read, may not be thoroughly different in terms of decoding skills. As Lyon (Winebrenner 2002) noticed, however, they are “qualitatively dissimilar from each other on tasks assessing a range of “intelligent” behaviours” that may be critical to how they learn and accommodate. Moreover, a child’s level of intelligence may affect his or her emotional and behavioural responses to continual failure, parent and teacher expectations, and, most significantly, remediation (Winebrenner 2002). For instance, Olson (1985) found that orally intelligent readers with dyslexia were able to depend less on heavy phonetic coding and more on context and orthographic codes when reading continuous text. Similarly, French (1992) learnt that a gifted non-reader was able to use contextual cues to learn to read. These arguments for recognizing a child’s potential are very important for dyslexic children who are academically talented.

Though the concept of a performance discrepancy is common in many operational definitions of learning disabilities, many objections to the use of an IQ achievement discrepancy to identify children with dyslexia have been raised (Winebrenner 2002). Even though reasoning against defining learning disabilities on the basis of a performance discrepancy have much validity, looking for evidence of a discrepancy between ability and achievement is especially significant for identifying children who are academically talented and learning disabled. Although a discrepancy between ability and achievement should not be the only feature for describing gifted children with dyslexia, it should be a part of information that is with care thought-out.

Identifying gifted dyslexic children, one should search for evidence of a special gift, talent, or the ability to perform at a high level. It is significant to remember that the gifts of dyslexics often remain invisible to teachers and sometimes even parents. Often the disability itself masks the children’s expression of unique gifts and talents. Giftedness in children is often found out in spoken language and memory. Their problem-solving abilities, curiosity, and impulse to know are also connected with giftedness. Creativity is an indicator, but it is less sure and is much more difficult to evaluate. The emphasis on cognitive capabilities used in the creative process is critical to the exactness of this indicator. One should look for persons who produce unique ideas, creative solutions, or are very motivated to engage in complex and long creative activity, such as that required to write a novel or create a play (Reis, McCoach 2002). Gifted children with dyslexia need an environment that will nurture their gifts while dealing with their learning disability. It is also significant to provide them with the essential emotional support so that they can improve deal with their inconsistent abilities.

 

Assessment and diagnosis of gifted and talented children with dyslexia
It is significant to know that different cognitive tests are based upon different definitions of what constitutes cognitive ability. As a result, different tests may measure different skills and abilities. Therefore, it is critical, that administrators of such tests “be completely cognizant of an author’s definition of cognitive ability when selecting and interpreting a cognitive test” and “to view the scores as highly tentative value of learning ability that must be verified by other evidence” (Wallace, Larsen, & Elksnin, 1992. 31).
The theory underlying cognitive tests (e.g., how does one distinguish cognitive ability or develop tests of cognitive ability?) is not the only discussion surrounding their use. How impartially they assess gifted children with dyslexia, and whether or not such tests are sure and valid (Weinfeld, Robinson, Jeweler, and Shevitz, B. 2002) are also areas of hot dispute. In the past, cognitive measures have been misused, especially with African American children, Native Americans, and non-English speaking children, who, based upon their scores, were placed in classes for those with mental delay or with learning disabilities. However, given the many court cases involving standardized cognitive testing as a means of assessing minority children, and given the soundness and volume of advocates’ protests, valuators are now becoming more sensitive to issues of test bias, the significance of testing in a child’s native language, the need for specialized training when administering and interpreting standardized tests, and the significance of uniting any test scores with information gathered in other ways.

Issues related to the definition of “cognitive ability” and the “fairness” of using measures of cognitive ability also become less concerning if one knows the aim for which the test is being used (Hannah, C. L., & Shore, B. M., 1995). Cognitive tests are most helpful (and probably most appropriate) when they are used to determine particular skills, abilities, and knowledge that the gifted child with dyslexia either has or does not have and when such information is combined with other evaluation data and then directly applied to school programming.

There are a number of abilities that a cognitive test appears to measure – social judgment, level of thinking, language skill, perceptual organization, processing speed, and spatial skills. Questions that attempt to measure social judgment and common sense, numerical reasoning, concrete and abstract thinking, the ability to recognize resemblances and dissimilarities between objects or concepts, and vocabulary and language skill appear very dependent on experience, training, and entire oral abilities. Perceptual organization, processing speed, and spatial skills seem less dependent on experience and verbal skill.

Cognitive tests can also give valuable information about a child’s ability to process information. In order to learn, every person must take in, make sense of, store, and retrieve information from memory in an expedient and accurate way. Each of us can process some kinds of information more easily than other kinds. The artist sees and reproduces exact descriptions of the world, while others struggle to create stick figures. The musician creates beautiful sounds from a mixture of certain tones. The writer combines words to create a mood. Others of us do none of these things well. In school, gifted children with dyslexia need certain skills to function effectively. They must be able to listen attentively so that other movements, sounds, or sights do not disturb them. This often requires children to hold multiple pieces of information in memory and to act upon them. They must be able to find the words they need to express themselves and, eventually, commit these words to paper.

A complete interpretation of a cognitive test can yield information about how effectively a child processes and retrieves information. Most individually administered cognitive tests can determine, at least to some degree, a child’s ability to attend, process information rapidly, distinguish relevant from less relevant details, put events in succession, and recover words from memory.

Kamphaus (1993) summarizes a number of research findings connected to the use of cognitive tests for assessment gifted children with dyslexia:

1.     Cognitive test scores are more stable for school-aged children than for preschoolers and more stable among gifted individuals with dyslexia than those without disabilities;
2.     Cognitive test scores can change from childhood to adulthood;
3.     It is likely that environmental factors, social and economic status, values, family structure, and genetic factors all play a role in determining cognitive test scores;
4.     Such factors as low birth weight, malnutrition, anoxia (lack of oxygen), and fatal alcohol exposure have a negative impact on influence test scores; and
5.     Cognitive and academic achievement appear to be highly connected.

This last finding supports the idea that cognitive and achievement tests may not be so different from each other and that “cognitive tests may be interpreted as specialized types of achievement measures” (Kamphaus, 1993. 65). This is steadfast with the suggestion that cognitive tests may be best used to determine specific skills, abilities, and knowledge.

It is a well-known fact that the demography of American schools are changing. Many children come from ethnic, racial, or linguistic backgrounds that vary from the dominant culture, and this number is steadily growing (National Center for Education Statistics, 1992). Much concern has been shown in recent years about the overrepresentation of minority children in special education programs, especially in programs for gifted children with dyslexia, and a great deal of research has been conducted to identify the reasons why. Many factors appear to contribute, combining considerable bias against children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, especially those who are poor (Harry, 1992). The style and emphasis of the school may also very differ from those found in the cultures of children who are racially or linguistically diverse. Because culture and language influence learning and behaviour (Franklin, 1992), the school system may misinterpret what children know, how they behave, or how they learn. Children may appear less capable than they are, leading educators to inappropriately refer them for assessment. Once referred, inappropriate methods may then be used to assess the children, leading to misplaced conclusions and placement into special education.

There is also a great deal of research and some court decisions to support the fact that standardized tests (particularly cognitive and achievement tests) are often culturally and linguistically biased against children from backgrounds dissimilar from the majority culture. On many tests, being able to answer questions accurately too often depends upon having particular culturally-based information or knowledge. If children have not been exposed to that information through their culture, or have not had the experiences that lead to gaining specific knowledge, then they will not be able to answer some questions at all or will answer them in a way that is considered wrong within the majority culture. This can lead to inappropriate conclusions about children’s ability to function within the school setting.

That is why when children come from a nondominant culture or speak a language other than English, care must be taken in how they are evaluated. Because most cognitive, language, and academic measures are developed using standards of the majority English-speaking culture, their use with children who are not from that culture may be unsuitable.
Ortiz (West 1997) recommends that such children first undergo the prereferral process. Many schools are moving toward requiring a prereferral process before any individualized evaluation is done. The goal of the prereferral process is “to determine if appropriate and adequate approaches have been attempted.” (Wallace, Larsen, & Elksnin, 1992. 48). This permits the school to arrange instruction or make other classroom modifications and see if these changes address the problem being noted. The prereferral process combines:

1.     Direct observation of the children in the regular classroom;
2.     Examining how the children behave and interact verbally in different settings;
3.     Inspecting the methods of instruction that are used in the regular classroom.

It is also significant to interview people who are familiar with the child, for these individuals can provide a plenty of information about his or her intents, adaptive behaviour, how he or she processes information and approaches learning, language skill. Interviewers should be aware, however, that the differing culture and/or language of those being interviewed can soundly affect the nature and interpretation of information gathered. Some understanding of how persons within that culture view disability, the educational system, and authority figures will be helpful in planning, conducting, and interpreting a culturally sensory interview. It may be especially useful to gather information from the home environment, which will help the assessment team develop an understanding of the child within his or her own culture. To assist this, parents need to communicate openly with the school and share their acumen into their child’s behaviours, attitudes, successes and needs.
Before conducting any formal testing of a child who is a non-native speaker of English, it is important to determine the child’s preferred language and to conduct a comprehensive language assessment in both English and the native language. Examiners need to be aware that it is highly misplaced to evaluate students in English when that is not their dominant language. Translating tests from English is not an acceptable practice either. The evaluator in any testing or interview should be familiar to the child and speak the child’s language.

When tests or evaluation materials are not available in the student’s native language, examiners may find it needful to use English-language instruments. Because this is a practice laden with the possibility of misinterpretation, examiners need to be careful in how they control the test and interpret results. Alteration may need to be made to the standardized procedures used to administer tests; these can combine paraphrasing instructions, presenting a demonstration of how test tasks are to be performed, reading test items to the child rather than having him or her read them, permitting the child to respond orally rather than in writing, or allowing the child to use a dictionary (Wallace, Larsen, & Elksnin, 1992). However, if any such alterations are made, it is significant to recognize that standardization has been broken, limiting the usefulness and applicability of test norms. Results should be carefully interpreted, and all recasts made to the testing procedures should be entirely detailed in the report describing the child’s test performance.

The early diagnosis of gifted children with dyslexia is very important and yet current definitions of dyslexia present difficulties for this process. Such test as WISC III to measures the difference of verbal IQ and performance IQ, and sometimes the short term memory through digital span. Somewhat it is similar to Bangor test in UK. EAL children (children for whom English is an Additional Language), especially, tend to be under-identified. The appropriateness of IQ/achievement discrepancy definitions are questioned for assessment of dyslexia in dyslexic children, while for EAL children with dyslexia there may be further complications including cultural background and difficulties with English that may mask problems of a dyslexic nature. Listening comprehension is suggested as an alternative measure to IQ when looking for discrepancies. However, this may also be unsuitable for EAL children with dyslexia. Alternative definitions concentrate on phonological processing skills or on measures of reading exactness and fluency. A greater knowledge of the process of literacy development in EAL children will help to present more useful definitions and correct diagnoses.

Studies on dyslexia in Semitic languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, have also found phonological awareness deficits in children with dyslexia. In their review of data from Hebrew, Share and Levin (1999) concluded that “phonology may well be a universal and inescapable feature of early reading and writing”. Literacy ability and phonological processing skills amongst dyslexic and non-dyslexic speakers of Arabic have to be identified.

 

How self-esteem affects gifted and talented children with dyslexia

 

Recently, the concept of self-esteem has become the subject of much discussion in educational and psychological circles. The essential question in this discussion is: “Does competence build self-esteem or self-esteem build competence?” (Hannah, C. L., & Shore, B. M., 1995, p.48) The discussion is irrelevant because both sides of discussion are accurate. An active relationship exists between self-esteem and skill development. It is a relationship where one side of the equation increases at a parallel rate to the other side. As a gifted child with dyslexia improves in self-esteem, his or her academic competence increases. And as that competence increases, his self-esteem improves. The careful and concerned caregiver must come to understand that positive self-esteem is both a prerequisite and a consequence of academic success.

Self-esteem is usually defined as the belief that a person is accepted, connected, unique, mighty, and gifted (The Dyslexia Centre, 2005). Self-esteem is a part of self concept which includes: self-image, ideal self and self esteem. Self-esteem is formed when the two pictures of self image and ideal self are brought together. If the self image is good and the ideal self is realistic, then the self esteem is high. If the self image, on the other hand, is lower or less than the ideal self, then self esteem is low. If self esteem is high, then we have self confidence and can take risks and cope with the odd experience of failure.

Self-esteem issues take on a particular importance for gifted children with dyslexia because self-assessment of this concept requires the ability to evaluate and compare. These are two skills that are extraordinary challenging for children with dyslexia. That is why these children are often unable to correctly measure their own self-esteem.

Gifted dyslexic children with high self-esteem will (The Dyslexia Centre, 2005):

1.      feel capable of influencing another’s views or behaviours in positive way;

2.      be able to communicate feelings an emotion in different situations;

3.      approach new situations in a positive and assured manner;

4.      show a high level of frustration tolerance;

5.      accept obligation;

6.      keep situation (positive and negative) in correct perspective;

7.      communicate good feelings about themselves;

8.      have an internal locus of control.

One of the most common characteristics of gifted children with dyslexia is self-esteem that extremely hampers their progress. Having dealt with the inability to read or spell as their peers do, many dyslexic children struggle with self-esteem issues. This includes feeling stupid, ugly, ignorant or brainless.  They frequently conceal this low self-esteem by using any or all of the following behaviours: anger, self-criticism, crying, clowning behaviours, denial of problems, daydreaming and fantasy, and impassive behaviours. Experiencing chronically low self-esteem, they bear the callous remarks of uniformed others, such as, “If you are so smart, why can’t you spell?” After hearing that statement several hundred times (actually it’s more like several thousand times) even the most gifted people begin to wonder if they are even marginally intelligent.

Gifted dyslexic children with low self-esteem will (The Dyslexia Centre, 2005):

1.      consistently communicate self-degrading statements;

2.      show learned helplessness;

3.      not volunteer;

4.      practice perfectionism;

5.      be very dependent;

6.      become easily defensive;

7.      show an excessive need for acceptance;

8.      have problems making decisions;

9.      show low frustration tolerance;

10.  have little confidence in their own judgment and be highly defenceless to peer pressure.

Traditionally the focus has been on weaknesses and on remediation of basic skills (Franklin, 1992). Bright pupils with dyslexia have often not had the opportunity to show what they are capable of. An inciting educational environment which enables children to fully develop their talents needs to accompany work on basic skills. Enrichment activities should be designed to encourage creativity, and to prevent weaknesses (like poor handwriting or disorganisation) getting in the way of achievement, and the self-esteem it brings. Gifted children who have learning difficulties often do not realise, and they do not understand why they do not understand, but they know that they are not stupid. Development of a healthy self-esteem is significant for gifted children with learning difficulties. Without professional help, the situation can spiral out of control. The more dyslexic children fail, the more they may act out their frustration and damage their self-esteem. The more they act out, the more trouble and punishment it brings, further diminishing their self-esteem. Every child needs to grow up feeling competent and loved. When children have learning disabilities, parents may need to work harder at developing their children’s self-esteem and relationship-building abilities (Franklin, 1992). Self-esteem and sound relationships are as worth developing as any academic skill.

 

 

Encouragement and support strength ability for gifted and talented children with dyslexia at home and school and how we use their strength ability to support their weakness ability.

Although many gifted children with dyslexia would be best served by separate programs presented especially for them, it is likely that the needs of many could be met through appropriate identification of strengths and weaknesses and a flexible, individualized approach to using the existing services and methods available in and out of school. Gifted children with dyslexia need highlevel or special programming in their areas of strength, developmental teaching in subjects of average growth, remedial instruction in areas of disability, and adaptive teaching in areas of learning disability. Programs and services for average-reaching children who primarily need age-appropriate teaching, for gifted children who need accelerated and enriched teaching, and for average-ability children with disabilities could be used to develop an optimal Individualized Education Program to meet the needs of gifted children with dyslexia.

In developing the children’s unique educational program, his or her particular strengths and weaknesses, as well as the resources available in the school, should be considered (Strop, Goldman 2002). The specifications should depend, of course, on the nature and severity of the child’s disability as well as his or her degree of giftedness. However, there is much unanimity that it is significant to focus primarily on the child’s strengths rather than his or her weaknesses. Generally, remediation is not the primary need of these children; instead, attention should be placed on developing the gift or talent. Learning strategies and alterations can assist to ensure these children’s success in whatever placement seems appropriate, whether that is in a particular class for gifted children with dyslexia or another environment.

Numerous educators who have studied gifted children with dyslexia have found that, ideally, these children should receive teaching as a special group for at least part of the day from a teacher sensitive to their specific academic, social, and psychological needs and with peers who share their dual exceptionalities. However, few teachers have received specific training in the features of gifted children with dyslexia, and few separate programs for these children exist. Some schools have presented special classes for these children (Hannah & Shore, 1995). In some cases the students stay together all day; in others, a resource room model is used whereby gifted students with learning disabilities are brought to the resource room with other students who share their dual exceptionalities.

One school system identified gifted children with varying degrees of dyslexia and developed a special self-contained class for gifted children with severe dyslexia. Regardless of the severity of the children’s problems, selfcontained classes offer numerous advantages for differentiated learning; eliminate the movement from classroom to classroom required when services are presented in a combination of gifted, special education, and general classrooms; and may be better suited to meet child’s emotional needs. Such programs typically try to address issues related to raising self-esteem and influencing motivation, as well as individualizing teaching to heighten academic achievement.

An example of a full-time program for gifted children with dyslexia can be found at ASSETS, a school in Hawaii for children who are “gifted dyslexics”(Dyslexia Teacher, 2005). The school uses an interdisciplinary approach to instruction in selfcontained classes, includes speeding-up and enrichment to challenge children while also building basic skills, and attends to the children’s social and emotional needs as well.

A “part-time” resource room model for academically talented children with learning disabilities is another option for exposing such students to peers who share their dual exceptionalities. The literature describing these efforts reports several attempts to modify traditional enrichment programs for these children. For instance, the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (Strop, Goldman 2002), a program that fosters academically talented children to take on in-depth projects on topics of their choice, was utilised in a class in which the children had all been identified as gifted with dyslexia. The teacher was a specialist in both gifted and special education and specific strategies were used with this group to augment their disabilities and compensate for weaknesses. Another gifted program model, Betts’s (1985) Autonomous Learner Model, which presents enrichment in an atmosphere that supports self-advocacy, has also been adapted for gifted children with dyslexia.

Whether full time or part time, special classes for gifted children with dyslexia allow the teacher to develop a program unique to these children, one that is challenging but also presents structure and strategies to accommodate weaknesses. Children gain support from being with other children who also exhibit seemingly contradictory strengths and weaknesses.

For gifted dyslexic children, the daily negative experiences at school can cause weariness and irritability when they return home. If they are then expected to focus on homework or receive extra tuition, severe resentment can build. Emotional and behavioural problems may happen, creating tensions within the entire family.

The home can provide a safe and happy environment in which to learn where failure, embarrassment and bullying can be avoided. With parent’s support the young person can learn without fear of looking silly in front of the class and teacher. Where teasing or bullying has happened in school this advantage is significant. The general organisational difficulties of dyslexic children can also be tackled sympathetically at home.

If parents select to get help outside the public schools, they should choose a learning specialist carefully. The specialist should be able to explain things in terms that the parents can realise. Whenever possible, the expert should have professional certification and experience with the learner’s specific age group and type of disability.

By being at home with their child, a parent is well placed to provide the individualised teaching that is actually recommended by educational experts but is virtually impossible to provide at school.  Knowledge of the individual child does tell parents and others something about how he or she will experience the activities that adults make available. That is one reason why parents who can really get to know their young children as individuals are in some respects better supplied for helping them to learn than even the most specialist teachers.

Effective home education that is assisted by ready access to information and a home computer with a CD-ROM and Internet facilities will enable that access to be quick, easy and useful. Use of word processing software and access to email may encourage the most reluctant dyslexic to communicate in written form and help gifted dyslexics to show their worth.

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Conclusion

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Attempts to describe children with dyslexia who are gifted have drawn heavily on definitions of giftedness and learning disability; yet, a lack of consensus is evident in definitions of giftedness or learning disabilities, and the implications of the two conditions overlapping have not been sufficiently considered. For example, the broad based federal definitions of giftedness, as well as other definitions, recognize children’s abilities in a variety of areas. Thus, a child might show talent in leadership or the arts but not in academic fields, and be labelled gifted and qualify for services. If such a child also is dyslectic, he or she might be considered gifted and learning disabled. The concept that a child might have different abilities in art and mathematics is not hard for most people to accept or realise.

However, accepting the concept that a child’s giftedness and learning disability both lie in connected academic areas, such as a child whose reading level is well above grade level but who has great problem with spelling and writing, is more difficult for most people. And the programming implications for these two types of children (i.e., those whose giftedness and disability lie in connected or unconnected areas) are very different. Although children whose strengths and weaknesses are in unconnected areas might be gifted and have a learning disability, it is children whose talents and disabilities overlap and are both in academic areas who are most likely to be not properly understood, underserved, and in need of special services.

Descriptions of children who are academically talented and children who are dyslexics should be examined and expanded to include children who show the characteristics of both exceptionalities simultaneously in connected and unconnected areas. At present, the operational definitions currently used by most schools to place children in gifted or special education programs exclude many academically talented children with dyslexia who rarely meet the rigid cut-offs of most identification procedures. For the few children who are identified by means of existing definitions and guidelines, it usually means acquiring services in one or the other area, but not both.

Special services for children with dyslexia typically concentrate on helping to remediate weaknesses. This may happen in the general classroom or in a resource room for children with dyslexia. Gifted children with dyslexia may benefit from some time spent with an expert who can offer remedial strategies. A special education resource room setting, however, is unlikely to be the best environment for presenting intellectual stimulation for children with dyslexia who are also gifted. The nature, severity, and cause of the gifted children’s disabilities, as well as the children’s age, must be considered when evaluating placement in a learning disability resource room, even for part of the day; this placement is more likely to be appropriate for children with more serious dyslexia.

Teacher training can further to making teachers, whose initial responsibility is to remediate child’s deficiencies, more aware of the needs of their children who are also gifted.

Many more children may be learning disabled and gifted than anyone realizes. In spite of their high intellectual ability, such children remain unchallenged, suffer silently, and do not reach their potential because their educational needs are not acknowledged and addressed. Unlike the situation in which a learning disability is accompanied by another “handicap”, children with dyslexia who are gifted present a paradoxical picture of exceptional strengths coexisting with specific deficits (Hannah, C. L., ; Shore, B. M., 1995). On the one hand, gifted children with dyslexia can draw on their gifts and talents to compensate for their disability. With support, understanding, and some educational intervention, many are able to overcome their academic difficulties and go on to efficient, satisfying achievements and lives. On the other hand, because they are able to draw on their strengths, for many children the disability is masked while the “drag” on their academic performance averts them from consistently achieving at high levels. Thus, they are often not identified and go on to be severely misunderstood and underserved children. When gifted students fail to reach their potential, whatever the cause, our nation loses a great deal of talents.

Current regulations and practices for educating special populations need to be re-evaluated, because they often fail to combine academically talented children with dyslexia. To better services for this population, we must move away from using fixed definitions and cut-off scores to specify who receives special programming. Broader definitions of giftedness and learning disabilities are needed to permit for children with both exceptionalities, and programming options should be supple to meet the individual needs of these children. In actuality, the complex nature of human abilities suggests that all children would benefit from individualized programs to build on their strengths and redress their weaknesses. However, this is especially important for gifted children with dyslexia, whose cognitive profiles are likely to be more variable than other children. Support for the unique social and emotional needs of children who must deal with the large inconsistencies in what they are and are not able to do well is also significant, as is teacher training to help teachers in understanding the characteristics and needs of gifted children with dyslexia, as well as strategies to assist their learning.

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References

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Betts, G. T., 1995. Autonomous learner model.

Dyslexia Teacher [Online]. Available from ;http://www.dyslexia-teacher.com/; [23 May 2005].

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Share, D., & Levin, I., 1999. Learning to read and write in Hebrew. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Dyslexia Teacher [Online]. Available from <http://www.dyslexia-teacher.com/> [23 May 2005].

Franklin, M.E., 1992. “Culturally sensitive instructional practices for African-America learners with disabilities”,  Exceptional Children.

Greeley, CO, ALPS.Eisenberg, D., & Epstein, E. 1991. The discovery and development of giftedness in handicapped children. Paper presented at the CEC-TAG National Topical Conference on the Gifted and Talented Child, Orlando, FL.

Hannah, C. L., & Shore, B. M., 1995. “Metacognition and high intellectual ability: Insights from the study of learning-disabled gifted students”, Gifted Child Quarterly.

Harry, B., 1992. “Cultural diversity, families, and the special education system” Communication and empowerment, New York, Teachers College Press.

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“National Centre for Education Statistics”, 1992. American education at a glance, Washington, DC, Author.

Reis, S. M., McCoach, D. B., 2002. “Underachievement in gifted and talented students with special needs”. Exceptionality, 10(2).

Strop, J., Goldman, D., 2002. “The affective side: Emotional issues of twice exceptional students”. Understanding Our Gifted, 14(2).

Silverman, L., 2003. Upside-down brilliance: The visual-spatial learner. Denver: DeLeon Publishing, http://www.deleonpub.com.

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Vaidya, S. R., 1993. “Gifted children with learning disabilities”, Theoretical implication and instructions and instructional challenge, Education.

Wallace, G., Larsen, S.C., & Elksnin, L.K., 1992. “Educational assessment of learning problems”, Testing for teaching, Boston, Allyn & Bacon.

Whitmore, J. R., 1991. “Gifted children with handicapping conditions”, A new frontier. Exceptional Children.

Winebrenner, S., 2002. “Strategies for teaching twice exceptional students”. Understanding Our Gifted, 14(2).

Weinfeld, R., Barnes-Robinson, L., Jeweler, S., Shevitz, B., 2002. “Academic programs for gifted and talented/learning disabled students”. Roeper Review, 24(4).

West, T., 1997. In the mind’s eye: Visual thinkers, gifted people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, computer images, and the ironies of creativity (3rd ed.). Buffalo: Prometheus.

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