Strength on the down side of EI


“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ~ Elie Wiesel

When I started blogging a while back, I felt as if there were very few people who got me. The emotional roller coaster was a big part of the issue and being emotionally intense made me feel as if I lived in a world that so many people around me just didn’t see. In this community I feel my perspective is no longer so isolated.It has given me strength when I felt weak and a shared voice when my words failed me.

The challenges I (and many others who are gifted and have learning disabilities) face with emotional intensity is that no matter how hard we try, if we pit our area of disability against a standard norm, we will fall short. I will still fail to out memorize phone numbers against my 1st grader, or most first graders. —I shouldn’t use my children as an example because mine are simply the most awesome, and I’m sure I’m not biased. <insert eye roll>

My point is that if you are living with a disability, you have your built in emotional lows already set up for you. Set yourself up to have high points. Surround yourself with people who get you.  If you take a job only for a paycheck, you will not find many high points there.

One of my needs is to fight for worthy causes and recently I was accepted into Partners in Policymaking leadership training. This is a solid step toward taking on more social injustices, standing up for the rights of individuals with disabilities. This may be filled with low points along the way, when change-makers don’t buy in to your vision, but it’s a passion for me and it will also be littered with high points that can more than balance out the lows.

When I was college, a professor and I assembled a small group of students who were gifted and had learning disabilities. We would converse with each other and I could almost see the room catch fire and begin burning with flames of hope and life because we not only got one another, we were living breathing testaments to how much more we could do. We called ourselves the Hedgehogs and were against educational hegemony. We saw in each other how much strength, determination and resolve we had. It got us through those low points we would face while going through school often without accommodations.

First they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.Then they came for the Jews
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.Martin Niemöller

We still see injustices as we look around and know it’s wrong. It takes strength and courage to speak up, especially when you feel weak or alone, so I hope you have your own Hedgehogs to help you through those times. If you don’t have the strength you need, comment here, maybe we can be your Hedgehogs.

I Try to Think and Nothin’ Happens


 

Time flies when you’re having fun …or studying for the series 7 & 66 …or both. It wasn’t Super Tuesday yesterday, but it was an important Tueday for me as I helped and cheered for candidate that ultimately was not able to win the primary last night.

I completely spaced today’s blog post, but I have had it on my mind several times over the recent past. Most of my thoughts have been on the Series exams I have coming up. The problem is that it has been 10 years since I was in grad school. Since that time I’ve tried countless unsuccessful substitutes to Cylert (deciding med-free is best for me for now), had 3 children and changed jobs 4 times.  I’ve found that being a father takes more time and energy than anything else in my life.

I’m fairly typical ADHD in many ways, so studying is challenging usually. Studying dry material is much more challenging. In school I used to have moments where it felt as though lightning would strike. I would have evenings where I’d fall into flow and 2 weeks of studying would be done in a single evening.  …Those moments are not happening right now and it’s really irritating to say the least. Now I could not depend on these evening to occur upon demand, but if I spent 3 evenings studying, I was pretty certain one of those evenings would catch fire.

Yeah, it created terrible study habits and extreme procrastination, but it got me through both my undergrads and my MBA as well. The changes of added stress in my life, lack of sleep, and countless small-child distraction has certainly made getting into flow when studying a bit trickier. I know I’ll get through this task of getting certified, even if it’s going to be a long hard slog all the way through.

I have a wonderful set of doctors I work with and I can always try medication, but I’d really rather not. Initially I set out to take the Series 7 in 2 weeks, the 66 a week after that and be done in just a few weeks. I’m going on 2 weeks now and I’m just half way through the 7. It’s exhausting. It’s more than exhausting. I’d rather be physically exhausted and satisfied by my accomplishments, but instead I feel I’m working very hard and going very slow. I was told to expect to study 200 to 220 hours, but felt certain I’d be done in 40 or less if lightning would strike.  …Where is a storm when I need it. This draught is painful!

As my brain attunes to studying again, I look forward to the rain, even if I don’t see the lightning for a while.

Busy, Busy, Busy and I Need to Focus.


I have been busy. That seems to be a trend around here. I have often talked to others about my past as being “in an earlier life,” and this has nothing to do with reincarnation or being Daniel Boone. The reference is to when I would have a completely different job, or before being married or having children.

At one time I was a web developer working for a very large fortune 100 corporation and it does feel lifetimes ago. I immerse myself into whatever I’m doing. Some say I jump in with both feet, others say I get wrapped up in whatever I do (to a bit of an extreme).  I have also taught High School Marketing and Finance, and that was a different life. Before being married I enjoyed more …exciting sports. River kayaking down class IV and V rapids and rock climbing were a staple. I was an aquatics Director and later program director at a summer camp and for a while thought I’d buy a camp and run it.

My search seems to be endless as I bounce around what my entelechy really is. I am alive to present on the topic of Giftedness and Learning Disabilities. I have presented in Dallas, Chicago, Boston, Jacksonville, and countless smaller venues, but I’ve never been busy enough to even make it part-time work. Stipends are small usually, so I find I need to work. I enjoy learning new skills and helping people, and the closer I get to helping people understand themselves while being true to myself, the better.  Presenting is where I’m allowed to be my extroverted-dynamic-creative-caring-passionate self. That’s my entelechy. The challenge for me is doing everything else along the journey.

What’s your entelechy, and how do you work it or keep working toward it?

To read more about what entelechy means, you can Google Jean Houston and Entelechy or read a good blog post here

Define Authority


People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.“ ~David H. Comins

My posts often have quotes and references to educators and highly regarded professionals who say things I want to say as well.  It’s as if I’m not completely certain I have felt totally worthy of standing on my own voice and saying that my opinion/ideas are worth their weight. It’s still a self-doubt thing, but when it is a personal reflection of myself I guess I often put myself out there only with a shield. I have used excuses: “I’m not a real author,” “I don’t have a PhD,” “I have not served as professional advocate” or “I’ve never been a professional lobbyist.”

In my last post I mentioned listening to a slew of old albums. Listening to Pink Floyd The Wall in its entirety for the first time in about 20 years was amazing. If you’re not familiar with the story that Roger Waters delivers through the music, I’ll not spoil it for you completely, but I will say that the judge rules toward the end saying:

Since, my friend, you have revealed your
Deepest fear,
I sentence you to be exposed before
Your peers.

The Idea of being exposed as who you are in a very vulnerable, naked way, with no shield of others, is very scary. I read a lot, I retain a lot of information and can research well enough to find solid backing on a number of things I want to say, but the truth of the matter is that often it’s my opinion from my own experiences that should be able to stand on its own rather than needing the “experts” to have said it first.

Besides, in a place where I can find figures such as these:

‎”85% of what you read on the Internet is false.” ~Abraham Lincoln

73.6% Of All Statistics Are Made Up

Why would my opinions not be a valuable commodity? I’m not saying to hell with the scientific methodology, or that we should not listen to the experts. What I am saying is that my opinion matters because I am me and I have worthy things to say.

I am gifted and I’m learning disabled. I’ve lived with it my whole life. That’s a lot of experience.  I’ve had a number of friends (not enough) over the years who are also 2E and we’ve shared experiences, stories, and war wounds. My life has been educational in ways that no school classes could possibly teach. I do have an undergraduate degree. I returned 8 years later and picked up an MBA. I know my business accumen is pretty solid as I worked with many entrepreneurs as a business developer and could bring about rapid positive change in many businesses willing to put forth effort in making the changes I’d recommend. However, my business knowledge pales in comparison to what I have learned about 2E over my 40 some odd years living it, thinking about 2E, researching it, writing about it, and presenting on various topics surrounding 2E.

— I may get a bit geeky with numbers here —

One of my interests is statistics and math and it has led me to look at test scores from the Woodcock Johnson (WJR) and WAIS and numerous subtests. When we look at standardized tests we can group the subtests in various ways to see different ability groups to see different patterns emerge and get a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses. We can also look at significance and scatter of these tests results. Significance is how far from the mean the score lies and scatter is how much variance there is between subtest scores. On Scaled scores, the Mean is 10 and Standard Deviation is 3. So anything above a 16 is in the top 2% and anything below a 4 is in the bottom 2%.

If you were to test a person for disabilities and believe that it’s only significant if it falls outside the “normal” range, you are not looking at the individual any longer, and that’s not good. If you look at the test scores with consideration to their IQ and adjust where the Mean is so the Significance shifts up or down you have taken the first step forward in understanding the individual, but it’s a journey and it’s just a step in the process.

A gifted individual may have a mean that’s 15, 16 or even higher. Would a score of 8 not then be very significant? I am not a typical 2E individual, but I don’t know what typical really is when we discuss such an atypical group, but I have scores (plural) as low as 8 and I have scores (plural) as high as 19. I have scatter and I have significance, but more importantly, I have experience as myself, as 2E.

Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” ~ George E. P. Box

So what is normal for 2E and how can we even define it when we have such difficulty defining the term gifted? Is it like Justice Potter Steward said when explaining obscenity, “I shall not today attempt to define the kind of materials I understand to be embraced … but I know it when I see it…”?

The tests can all point to indications of giftedness or LDs, but when it all boils down, I know it when I see it.  No matter what scientific data, higher education or psychological tests may be used.  As I meet some people who are 2E there is a pretty close to “kindred spirit” feeling, very special, and it feels like catching lightning in a bottle. No authorities can take it away from me, and many will not understand it. I guess it’s like what a friend of mine told me about his religion, “I can’t say it’s right for everyone, but it’s right for me.”

Fair vs. Equal and Guilt vs. Shame


I wrestle with guilt and shame. They are very similar, but yet very different as well.  Guilt is about an action or behavior. You did something you should admit to and/or apologize for and you can put it behind you. Shame is more about yourself; you’re sorry that you are …yourself? It’s the difference between you did a bad thing vs. you are a bad thing.

I personally wrestle with this because of many factors. I do have learning disabilities. I have dysnomia, a marginal short term (working) memory, and AD(H)D. When I am disorganized and forget appointments it’s easy to get down on myself. When I can’t recall a persons name, it’s easy to get down on myself. When I can’t recall what somebody just told me, it’s easy to get down on myself. It’s hard for me to always remember that what I can do is amazing. I have to push back the shame with positive inner dialogue, saying, “I forgot my appointment, but wow did I get a ton done today.”  I have to tell myself that despite the fact I forgot my neighbor’s name, I still know them and help shovel/snow-blow their drive because their snow-blower has been flaking out on them recently. Besides, I’ll recall her name in a minute or two …or tomorrow.

This problem is magnified because I am hyper critical of myself and hypersensitive in many ways. I am also gifted and it comes with all the burdens as well as the benefits. Pearl S. Buck wrote:

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off…
They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.

I’ve had this lingering caveat associated with my giftedness.  I’m gifted, but I’m learning disabled. As if it makes me less gifted and more “normal” since I balance out by having a disability. As if this should hold the critiques at bay.  It shouldn’t matter though. I should be thrilled that I have the unique insight of being extreme in many ways. I have creative ways of solving problems. I not only think “outside the box,” I have no idea where the box is (maybe I was told, but forgot).

My brother recently sent me his old CD collection. I had forgotten so much of the old music I used to listen to. I ripped all the CDs onto my computer and began day dreaming of mid 70s and 80s as I listened to Pink Floyd and Rush. One Rush song “The Trees” off Hemispheres, overwhelmed me yet again.

There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The music had hit a place within me that had not been hit in a while. The condition of unequality in the forest resonating in society often times seeing gifted as “lofty” and LD as needing help.

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
“The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light.”

I changed how I thought about LD a while ago because I hated the idea of a “victim” mentality, but the lyrics were still impactful.

Now there’s no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

The song wrapping up with the vision of either everything being trimmed to the same height or just chopped down completely I don’t know, but it pushed my thoughts on to a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron.  It made me think more about fair vs. equal and how we often feel it’s not fair when it’s really just not equal or that we think it’s fair because it is equal. I have considered this a lot more as my children grow. I do not treat them the same way because they are not the same. To an extreme example I can say that I send the older one up to get dressed herself, but often help the youngest get dressed. The older is 8 and very responsible.

I often hear parents complain about schools saying that if they did something for their child, they would have to do it for all the kids. I’ve hated that reply due to the fair vs. equal argument, but for me it goes further into what I believe in. Instead of feeling as if education is a competition, give every child as much education/knowledge as possible. Why not give all kids the audio of lectures, the notes ahead of time, the extended time on tests if they want it?  It’s been shown that giving most kids extended time on an exam does nothing to improve their score, but to some kids with certain learning disabilities, it does wonders. We need to give people the opportunity to excel and grow to their potential. There is no limited resource of education that should be doled out in equal amounts. I understand economics and the allocation of scarce resources, but school and education is different. There’s no sunlight to fight over, nor any reason to feel we need a Handicapper General to equalize.  We are all different, and I guess that’s why I think we are all so important. I don’t think Oak Syrup would taste so good on my pancakes.

So I wrestle with guilt and shame. Am I oppressive because I have gifts and can think differently? Am I in need of supplemental aid because I have disabilities? I am who I am and provide my own unique services. I empathize with people who have gifts, people have learning disabilities, and people who have both. I can see creative solutions when negotiating FAPE, 504s and IEPs. As a business consultant I grasp vast amounts of information and find solutions to problems plaguing entrepreneurs. …but I do not taste good on pancakes.

From Disability to Difference to Normal


When I was young, people in wheelchairs were who I thought of when I considered disabled. I think it was in the 70s that the Rehabilitation Act pushed forward the accessibility laws and cities had to give curbs an overhaul and make the sidewalks accessible from the road for people in wheelchairs.  With this minor change, the public found that not only was it a benefit for the wheelchair bound individuals, but it also helped countless other people to roll off the streets.  I had already learned to hop my bike up curbs, but I doubt I’d have gotten so good with a stroller.

This peripheral benefit to the population is the same thing I’ve been pushing for education at times. We already know that some people learn better through auditory methods or better if they have notes ahead of time, and we also have learned that giving students who don’t need them these “perks” doesn’t significantly improve their learning, so then why do we see schools requiring an IEP in order to receive this “special treatment?” Why not give every student the best possibility of success?

In the 90s I read about a rock climber who was disqualified from competing because his prosthetic gave him an “unfair advantage” and it really got me starting to think more about this idea of disabilities and what it really could be. I don’t think it was Hugh Herr who was disqualified, but it he has pushed the concept certainly.  I saw a TED talk with him a while back, and I think he also sees more than just physical prosthetics as possible.

I’m a fan of Sir Ken Robinson, so when I first saw Changing Education Paradigms I was thrilled. I feel we do have to change the way we educate our children.  Looking at our blog and reading about how so many kids are getting the benefit of homeschooling makes me feel even more strongly that schools need to change. We can try to say that schools are only missing the kids on the fringe, those who are gifted and those who are LD, but I think there is a lot more to it. Especially when we start getting into 2E and those who fall out side on both ends.

I can understand why random people on the streets don’t understand the concept of 2E, especially after watching a few Jay Leno clips of Jaywalking, but school administrators and teachers should really know better. …School officials should also understand that intelligence has nothing to do with learning disabilities as well, but I guess that’s not the case either.

Alright, so I’ve rambled on and on without putting a cute little bow on this post, so let’s go with this:

Our education system is failing to meet the needs of the 2E community. It’s failing miserably, and these are the kids who see the world differently and will see the world differently as adults as well, and who come up with creative solutions than nobody else could. Who better to encourage and educate?

We currently have the stigma that if you receive special treatment in school, you’re less of a student. I had an instructor in college who told me directly that he did not feel if I received extended time on my test, that I should even be in college because I didn’t “belong” in college, but he would give me the extended time because he was forced to by law.  In an earlier post I said we needed to understand the differences and distinct aptitudes, and build on strengths. Rather than just looking at how to work on the problem though, we really need to address the social aspects of being different. Why can’t we make school a safe haven for learning for ALL students by changing school?

Just as we became tolerant of wheelchair abled individuals and learned how more alike we all are, we made the world a better place. As we begin to understand the contributions each person can make by seeing the world differently and seeing numerous possible solutions we improve the world again. These differences need to be welcomed as close to “normal” as possible to include people who see the world in different ways, and until then we will segregate and ostersise kids who should be included. I’m 100% against hegemony of education and if it takes an education revolution to get things right, in the words of Thomas Jeferson, “I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

Dear Gifted Me: A letter to Tom


Welcome to another installment of DEAR GIFTED ME, featuring our very own, Tom Furman. Take it away, Tom:

Dear Tom,

You will have some great times ahead of you because you have an amazing set of abilities. It may not feel like it at times, but you are a very gifted and brilliant person. Very few people will “get you” but that does not matter. You will have a number of teachers who don’t understand you either, and yes, teachers of all people should have an understanding, but most don’t. See, you are gifted, but you are also learning disabled. Don’t be scared, and don’t for one minute think that having a learning disability has anything to do with intelligence, because it doesn’t. LD just means that you learn, comprehend, and understand things differently than most people. You are exceptional, and I mean that in the best way possible. As I said, you have some amazing abilities that you can unleash, but I feel the need to impart some advice since I’ve been through it.

Your teachers won’t understand you, and they aren’t stupid, so don’t call them that. They are just uneducated in how to deal with somebody who is so gifted and LD. But don’t call them “uneducated” either, they don’t like that, trust me, it doesn’t help the situations you will be in. 🙂 They will want to find the areas you struggle in and try to make you do repetitive tasks to drill the ability into you. Don’t beat yourself up about not doing well. Once you understand the process, do it the way your mind understands it, and don’t worry about doing it the way they say is “right” as long as you get the right answer and understand what you’re doing.

You bounce and fidget. Enjoy that. Don’t be somebody you are not. You will never be a round peg. You will be a square peg in a round hole world. You will stand out and you will shine. If you try to fit into the round holes, you will shave off the edges of your world and it will be painful and you will NEVER fit for long. As I said, you are a square peg, and you will stand out, and you will shine. Very few people will “get you” but you will make waves in a lot of waters.

You will be intense. You will be emotional. You will love with amazing passion; fight for what is right with that same passion, and live your life with the passion very few people can understand. Embrace it, love it, and cherish how much love you have to give. Follow your dreams, cry when it hurts, laugh when it’s funny, and love through the hurt – even when the hurt feels unending, because it does end and the love never goes away.

Most of this first part was about your giftedness, but as I said, you’re exceptional in another way too. You are learning disabled, and again, don’t think that it has anything to do with being less intelligent

IQ tests are not easy to do for you due to a less than stellar working (short term) memory and dysnomia. You’ll score very high on them, but they score you too low. So even though you may score 135, it’s not accurate. Dysnomia is the “word on the tip your tongue” thing that drives you nuts and will make fill-in-the-blank questions next to impossible. Don’t sweat it. The reason you need to not worry about these issues is because they may actually help you. Dysnomia leads to finding synonyms and expands your vocabulary. It’s great for being creative and finding 5 or 6 words that would work instead of just limiting yourself to one.

The lack of short term memory is only relative. You score in the 33rd percentile, so it’s not as if it’s really horrible, but it just feels that way since you have so many strengths. The difficulties will make it easier on you to understand the full process of concepts rather than memorizing (which also gets nailed by dysnomia). This is why you have to figure out how to derive all those formulas in math and understand the “why” in science classes. Again, this is a bonus. Instead of just plunking in numbers and coming out with an answer, you will understand the questions and be able to not only explain the answers, but modify the formulas to fit situations that are different. It will drive your teachers crazy. It will drive your brothers crazy too since you can help them get the right answer, but do it the “wrong” way. Here’s a tip for you early; no matter how you derive the answer in math, there isn’t really a wrong way. It’s just finding a different path to the same destination. Your way just isn’t so well traveled.

Hang in there and enjoy who you are, because you are exceptional in many ways. Just as you enjoy roller coasters, your emotions will be the roller coaster ride and dampening them down with drugs is not a good thing even if you feel you need a break from it. Keep camping, stay green and growing, and know that there are people who do understand, but they are few and far between. They’ll be scarred by life/school/society as well, but when you make those connections, you will feel it in your soul. Until you find those people, know that I get you and love you.

Yours truly,

~Tom

P.S. This isn’t about the gifted LD thing, but when you meet that psycho with the initials R.B.B., RUN!!!!! You’ll find the right one eventually, but it’s really not her.

Different is as Different Does


Let me first say what an honor it is to be selected to guest blog for Christina. She has done some very remarkable things within the gifted community and I’m thrilled to contribute in any way I can.

That being said, I come with the Learning Disabled twist on Giftedness, so it’s a niche within a niche and not a huge population, but significant for more than just humanitarian reasons, and I’ve been thrilled to see more 2E folks out and about. Some may have a mental double take going on when thinking about how a person can be both LD and Gifted at the same time.  It’s not hard to imagine a person who is gifted and blind (Stevie Wonder / Ray Charles) or gifted and paralyzed (Stephen Hawking), but for some reason many people often think that if you’re gifted, you can’t be learning disabled. It would be an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp or broken Black Box. I was a little pained when it came out so recently (again) in a study posted by the L.A. Times “Dyslexia not related to intelligence, study finds” but I guess since I’ve been trying to dispel this myth for 15 years, I should be happy with any help in de-mything it.

The difficulty lays in finding/diagnosing such individuals because they often have learned how to jury-rig their life to get by at a rather early age.  They figure out how to compensate for areas that may be weak. I’ll use myself as an example here. I have dysnomia. This means that I have the “word on the tip of your tongue” syndrome. Everyone has that occasionally, but for me it’s once or twice per sentence, not once or twice per day. I developed a large vocabulary early and use analogies and examples often when expressing myself. This worked in many situations, but not in all.  Once I received a 90 out of 100 on a college sociology test in which I missed all 10 points in the “fill-in-the-blank” section.  I was still undiagnosed at this time. I always knew I stank at fill-in-the-blank but I didn’t know there was a reason behind it still. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was a semester away from either graduating college or dropping out.

Very rarely are these twice-exceptional individuals recognized as both. More often than not when they are discovered at all, it is the learning disabled aspect that is diagnosed and not the gifted. I don’t want to bash the LD system as a whole, but we often times find a very low-expectations system in place when it comes to kids in LD programs. Also when students with LDs are placed in “regular” classrooms as opposed to placed in Special Ed. classrooms they have greater success, as noted in No Disabled Student Left Behind posted in the Boston Herald earlier this year.

What I have not read in reports, but I hear from actual LD labeled students, is that they are “spoon fed” answers and often if they ask for further understanding of a question, they are simply given the answer instead. Imagine a gifted student who sees questions in multiple ways needing clarity on what is being asked. In a gifted program this is looked upon as creative. Unfortunately this same instance is looked at as slow in the LD room and confirms their LD label.

The real problem occurs when we start looking at the emotional issues that come forward as students are not understood and don’t understand themselves. They don’t fit in and feel it’s something they are not doing that everybody else can do, so they should be able to too. One of my colleagues wondered what it would take to make other people think, “I wish I had a learning disability.” I think that’s wonderful.  The new challenge should be finding the positive in the difference; celebrating our diversity and knowing we bring a rare perspective into most areas. Maybe we’ll see more studies like “The Upside of Dyslexia” soon.

We really need to change how we view differences, especially in students that have so much to contribute.  Maybe we need to start with:

1)       Identify and understand the differences
2)       Identify and understand distinctive aptitudes
3)       Build on strengths

What do you think?