Suicide and Gifted Children

suicideA few years ago in my small community in Northwest Ohio, had a rash of suicides by teenagers. In the span of about 3 years we had half a dozen teens take their own lives, and it brought our community together.

Being a gifted advocate, I began to wonder what I could do to educate myself on the topic of teen suicide, and suicide prevention. I grabbed a copy of Tracy Cross’ book Suicide Among Gifted Children and Adolescents. Dr. Cross has done extensive research on suicide among gifted children and suicide prevention.

I am not an expert on the topic of suicide, but I wanted to be informed. So I am giving a short synopsis of what I learned from his book.

Suicidal behavior has four behaviors:

  • Ideation: thinking about suicide
  • Gestures: behaviors that are not meant to actually kill the person, but appear like they might
  • Attempts: efforts to die that fail
  • Completions: killing oneself intentionally

Dr. Cross mentions 10 risk factors for adolescent suicide. These factors are:

  1. Psychiatric disorders
  2. Substance abuse
  3. Cognitive and personality factors
  4. Aggressive-impulsive behaviors
  5. Sexual orientation
  6. Friend or family member of someone with suicidal behaviors
  7. Parental psychopathology
  8. Stressful life circumstances
  9. Glamorization of suicide through media coverage
  10. Access to lethal methods

Some characteristics of gifted adolescents are associated with an increased risk of suicide includes “unusual sensitivity and perfectionism; isolationism related to extreme introversion; some overexcitabilities as identified by Dabrowski. Jim Delisle has researched four different issues that make adolescents susceptible to suicide attempts: perfectionism, societal expectations to achieve, differential development of intellectual and social skills, and impotence to effect real-world change.”    

There are many different theories and theorists that are mentioned in Dr. Cross’ book. I would suggest to read, and to educate yourself on those if you are further interested. A few theorists that are mentioned are Durkheim, Gould, Greenberg, Venting, Shaffer, and Shneidman. I am in no way an expert, I am still learning and educating myself.

After knowing some characteristics to look for, I think we need to turn and look to prevention. What can schools do to help with prevention? Dr. Cross mentions some suggestions that we can as teachers can stakeholders can implement.

Some of these suggestions include:

  • Schools need to create an overt plan that includes a steering committee representing all stakeholders;
  • Create a suicide prevention plan that would be a significant part of an overarching plan to create a caring community;
  • Training stakeholders and teachers, and administrators should be thoroughly trained in suicide awareness and prevention. Depending on the understanding standing of gifted children will determine the sophistication of the training;
  • Training teaching staff and administration about the realities of suicide and incorporating the training into a curriculum of mental health students can partake in starting in upper middle school and high school;
  • Include students in organizing and steering a committee that will help to create a safe school environment.

As a collective group: staff, administration, parents, and community stakeholders we need educate our gifted children and our non-gifted children out the prevention strategies that they can partake in. Having this collective group also know about the characteristics of gifted children, and some of their proclivities can help create an understanding that can create an environment of understanding and caring.

What can we as stakeholders do to help create an environment of caring, understanding, and suicide prevention?  


Where are all the Gifted English Learners?

English Learners are some of the most underrepresented populations in gifted programs around the United States. In Ohio, where I am from, English Learners are very underrepresented. In fact, they more underrepresented in gifted programs than all other categories.


Why are English Learners so underrepresented in gifted programs? I have a few ideas that I want to share.

Language Acquisition

Lack of knowing the native language can mask giftedness. It can take up to three years for a child to learn conversational English. It can take up to 7 years to learn the academic language of the classroom. Since this lack of language skills these students are not recommended for gifted services.

For teachers, there are some aspects of language that should not be overlooked. To begin look for cross-coding. If you have an English Learner who is easily going from their native language to English and back again, they may be gifted. Another aspect is noticing how quickly these students are learning English and assimilating into the American Culture.

Lack of Assessments

Many people will suggest the best way to assess giftedness in English Learners is to use a nonverbal test such as the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test. To be honest there is some  truth to it, but the issue is not all English Learners are non-verbally gifted. Some are gifted in math, or visual-spatial. A test like the Naglieri won’t find those students.


Another aspect that needs to be brought up is that there aren’t many tests in other languages than English. There is Lagramos, the Spanish version of the IOWA. Some have directions that can be translated in different languages, but not in all. There are over 150 different languages spoken our schools today, and not all of these have translation.

Now, this post isn’t a comprehensive list. This is just a few issues.

Teachers, what kinds of strategies do you use to help identify giftedness in the English Learners in your classroom?


Book Review: Nothing You Can’t Do

bookcover.jpgI had the privilege to read the book Nothing You Can’t Do! by Mary Cay Ricci. This is a great book for middle school teachers and counselors to use with their students to either shore up their growth mindset or to assist them in changing from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

If you are familiar with the work of Carol Dweck and Growth Mindset, you will appreciate this book. This book gives students the opportunity to write in it, and share their own goals, stories, and extended responses in to help them grow and to change their fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Throughout the book there are tips that can help students who are in late elementary and middle school to help them to change their mindset. There are some examples that these students can use to help them understand the concepts discussed in each chapter. Also, this book is uses the vocabulary of this age-group, which to me is a great feature. For example, in chapter 2 the author talks about the words resilience, perseverance, and optimism, and how they relate to growth mindset.

Another aspect I like are the insertions of QR codes  throughout the chapters that link to short videos to help reiterate the author’s point. Many other resources are listed in the back several pages including growth mindset links, videos, movies, and websites to help educators and counselors to help middle school students better understand growth mindset.

Having just left the classroom, I feel like this book would have been a great book to go through  with some of my students who had a fixed mindset. Many of my students who are gifted struggled at times had issues with perfectionism, and with self-doubt. By using some of the tips and concepts my students would have benefited greatly.

To close, I highly recommend this book to all gifted educators to who have students who need a little help in changing their mindset. This book gives students the opportunity to interact with the concepts and tips to help them grow. Nothing You Can’t Do!  is a great resource that should be utilized by gifted educators who know their students would benefit from a change of mindsets.


Gifted Children and Technology

20180308_102215How are your gifted students using technology? Are they coding? Are they indulging in battles over Minecraft? Are they video editing, podcasting, or designing new ways of living in space or on the moon?

I am always fascinated by what my gifted students are doing on the computer. I have several of my students teaching me the ins and outs of Minecraft. I find it interesting how they can collaborate with each other, then go on a PVP battle (player vs player) and be so savage with each other.

I have some students who enjoy podcasting and video editing. The use websites like SoundCloud to upload their podcasts on whatever topic they feel is important to them at the time. I have some who are very good at video editing and Photoshop. They use their creativity to create something unique and interesting.

I have some students who are very good at coding. There are many different websites to help with this. Some use Tynker, some use Scratch, and some use and Code Academy. They use these sites and others to make games and apps.

What all of these activities have in common is the fact they force gifted students to learn and use the 21st century skills. Those skills are:

  • Collaboration and teamwork.
  • Creativity and imagination.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Problem solving.

Technology isn’t just a thing you put in front of students and hope they learn from it. Technology is a tool we can use to help our children to be fluent in technology skills. Everyday technology is creeping into our workplaces, homes, and schools. If we don’t teach our children the fundamentals of technology, and the importance of it in their future, then we are doing a disservice.

We need to teach our gifted children how to use technology to be productive, not just to find videos and music, and games. We need to show them how technology works in the real world, and why they need to know how to use technology along with the 21st century skills to be productive in the real world. Right now we are teaching our children and preparing them for a world where the job they may have doesn’t exist yet.

In conclusion, how are you challenging your gifted children in their use of technology and their growth in the four areas of the 21st century skills?



Book Review: Boost: 12 Effective Ways to Lift up our Twice Exceptional Children

b12-final-front-cover-cmyk-201x300Over the past few days I have immersed myself in the new book by Kelly Hirt entitled Boost: 12 Effective Ways to Lift up our Twice Exceptional Children. I was excited to have the chance to read this book due to the fact that I have had an influx of twice exceptional students over the past two years.

I really appreciate the way the book is laid out. She starts out with her personal story, and why she wrote her book. To me, this is a great way to get to know the author’s intentions and background.

The twelve Boost strategies that are discussed in her book were developed by Kelly. The 12 Boost Strategies are:

  • Educate
  • Communicate
  • Investigate
  • Separate
  • Anticipate
  • Accommodate
  • Accelerate
  • Facinate
  • Participate
  • Evaluate
  • Negotiate
  • Appreciate

Each chapter discusses an individual strategy. Kelly describes the strategy, and gives some background. She also provides some application ideas that can be used to help teachers and parents understand, and use the strategy at home or in the classroom. One of the main aspects I love about this book is the fact it is written by a parent and teacher who has been living with a twice exceptional child, and shares their experiences first hand. I found this to be very comforting, and encouraging.

I found this book to be very useful. I have made a plan to use many of the strategies Kelly provided in her book in my classroom over the next week or so. I guarantee if you read this book you would also have some great ideas on how to use it in your classroom or home.

As I have said, I now have a small percentage of my gifted students are twice exceptional students. I have had a hard time trying to understand them, and their social and emotional behaviors. I feel this book has given me a better understanding of twice exceptional children, and can be used a great resource.

I truly believe that this book should be read by any educator in the classroom teacher or home school parent who has twice exceptional children.

Skills Needed By Gifted Children

Building on what I posted the other day, I thought that if teachers begin to create activities and assignments that have rigor, then there are some skills that gifted children will need to know. Just because these children are gifted, doesn’t mean that they have acquired skills to meet those rigorous activities and assignments.

Many gifted children as they go through elementary school unchallenged, and they don’t learn skills most of their peers learn through struggling. Once they hit middle or high school the classes get more challenging, and they don’t have any coping skills to deal with the challenges. Here is just a few things I believe every gifted child in elementary and middle school should be taught.  (This isn’t a complete list, just a few.)

john-clow-stressed-out**Teachers don’t assume gifted students have these skills just because they are brilliant. These skills are essential not only in school, but also in real life beyond college and in to a career.

Study Skills: 

Before a teacher starts to use strategies that will help challenge their gifted children they should review different ways to study material. They should know how to organize information in ways in witch will meet their personality. Some students do better color coding material. Using different colored pens to match the material they are studying.

Gifted children should be taught how to use a planner. In today’s world everyone has a cell phone, or uses Google products. Both a calendar, and can be personalized to meet their needs. Having this tool at their disposal is great, but they need to know how to use it to get the benefit from it. (Some students need to use the paper version of a calendar or planner which is also alright.)

Since gifted children learn quickly, and retain huge amounts of material they don’t often learn to study for a test. Teach them strategies on how to study for a test. There are many materials on how to study for the SAT, or ACT. Use some of these ideas to help see why these skills are needed. Many of the skills needed to do well on these tests can use transferred to other tests and tasks that may take in the future.

Research/Note Taking Skills:

Many of our gifted children begin taking college level classes in middle and high school, and some wait until after high school. Regardless of when they begin taking this level of classes gifted children need to know how to research effectively. They should know how to use the library effectively. They need to know how to use the reference department, and other facets of the library.

They also need to know how to use the internet effectively. Checking on sources, knowing what is fake or not, and which sites are credible to use are important skills. Teaching our gifted children to recognize bias on different sites is also an important skill.

There are a variety of ways to take notes. Finding the system they are most comfortable with that will work for them is important. One great way that can be personalized in many different ways is the use of Cornell Notes.

I know that all students will benefit from knowing these skills.  Many teachers are under the assumption that gifted children can automatically do these skills because they are smart. Having these skills is important. For gifted students to use these skills effectively they have to be challenged and struggle. They only way that is going to happen is when teachers create activities and projects that are challenging, have stretch and complexity, and are rigorous.

If our gifted children are learning this while they are in college, or after we have failed them.

What skills do you think gifted children should know to help make them successful in and beyond school?

Gifted Children Need Rigorous Assignments…Not More Work

workplace4-kbf-621x414livemintAs I talk to fellow teachers around my area they ask a common question: “What do I do with my gifted students since they get finished before everyone else?” Many of their first thoughts is to add more work to their plate. Many believe if they can do 25 math problems in 10 minutes than I will give them another 25 to do to fill in time. That really doesn’t do much for the gifted child. Adding more work is just a punishment particularly when they already know how to do the work.

What gifted children need isn’t more work… its more rigorous assignments. To find out what you students already know I would suggest that you start with a pretest. If your gifted children score a 100% or close to 100% then allow them to choose an aspect of that curriculum and dig deeper into it. Allow students to explore the complex nature of the content. While doing this can cause some issues with grading, because not all the students are doing the same work, which can be a common concern, as a teacher you will figure out how to fit this into your grade book.

When developing rigorous assignments for gifted children you need to include thinking skills. You should have assignments where they have to use divergent or lateral thinking to come up with an answer. The use of Blooms or DOK will help with verbs and ideas of products that students can do.

One of my favorite ways to add rigor to assignments is to make it project based or problem based. Using real world issues and ideas can help add rigor. These type of projects can have multiple answers, and allow students to use multiple skills to complete it. Using the book Project-Based Learning in the Gifted Classroom by Todd Stanley is a great place to start. You can also look to for help on ideas, ways to set up the classroom, and other resources.

Finally, when creating rigorous assignments teach students strategies, not necessarily the answers. In the real world answers aren’t always simple, and sometimes they may never get an answer. So teaching strategies on how to get an answer is must intriguing and challenging.

Gifted children love to learn, and be challenged. When we don’t feed their mind gifted they can be discipline issues. I encourage all teachers to not give more of the same work to gifted children, but to give them rigorous, challenging, and mind stimulating projects and assignments.

What do you do to add rigor to your assignments for gifted children in your classroom?