Do you think that the parents of twice-exceptional (2e) children should focus on either the gifted or the disability first or try and blend both those issues together in working with their child?

Absolutely address both simultaneously.  A child with gifts and learning challenges needs supports in both areas to avoid daily frustration.  With 2e kids, it is important to remember three things – enrichment, accommodation and remediation.  For example, a gifted child with a reading disability will need reading remediation, but will be discouraged and bored plowing through early readers.  Luckily, there are videos, documentaries and field trips to keep him enriched. It may take a little juggling to get all the pieces in place, but a comprehensive program that serves both sides is essential.

The topic of special schooling has posed a considerable division between various professionals in the field of education, so what do you advise will be the next wave of institutional learning?

We hope the next wave will actually offer more flexible models of learning. We are a fan of both charter schools and accountability. There are more diverse learners than ever, even in groups of children who would never meet criteria for “disability.” Schools are beginning to embrace this, rather than require that all children conform to a particular model and sequence of learning. We think project-based learning and team-based learning are emerging as strategies for developing skills needed in the new work force. We also love the new models that integrate the mind with the body through incorporating nutrition and exercise.

There is no single type of learner. We need diversity in research, diversity in educational models, constructive arguments and informed parents for education to grow with the needs of our society.

For all the stakeholders invested in the process of evaluation and/or diagnosing, how do you all feel about labeling placed on children with learning disabilities?

This is something that many parents struggle with. They want a diagnosis that will bring some clarity and structure to the problems their child is facing, but they don’t want their child to deal with the stigma of a label or perception of disability.

Occasionally, a label is really not the most helpful thing. Some children defy categorization, and to put a label (or several) on that child can actually muddy the waters. In those situations, it might be more effective to describe the child’s personal strengths and weaknesses and work from there.

However, whether a child experiences a diagnosis as ‘stigmatizing’ often depends largely on how the parents and school handle the situation. It can be empowering for children to know what their issues are and be able to advocate for themselves. It’s not like they don’t know they have issues. They’re acutely aware of them every single day. Assuming it is a realistic goal for a child, they might as well learn how to explain their needs. It is a skill they will need to learn at some point anyway.

As far as the school goes, we believe that the more information any teacher has on a child, the more effectively they can teach. If a teacher does not seem to understand a child’s issues or how to deal with them, or seems to make negative assumptions based on a diagnosis, it’s time to get in there and explain things again. And that may or may not work. But, again, if the child has issues, it’s not like the teacher isn’t going to notice. You stand a better chance of success with transparency.