This bias may be hurting your gifted or 2e kid

This bias may be hurting your gifted or 2e kid

This post is sort of like a guest post, but not quite. The brilliant Dr. Briscoe-Smith and I met in Oakland when she gave a presentation on implicit bias and how to talk about racism with kids. Her talk was so powerful that I knew I had to get her thoughts and strategies to you as soon as possible. This blog post is our brainchild. She wrote the first draft, and I integrated my understanding about the intersection of neurodiversity and implicit bias. Enjoy!

As many of you know, it is already a challenge to properly identify neurodivergent and differently-abled children as gifted. What may be surprising to some is that there is another layer to this challenge, persistent undervaluing of black and brown children that makes it even harder to see them as gifted; this layer is racism. While there is still unacceptable amounts of explicit racism operating to keep black and brown children out of the educational system, implicit racial bias is also operating, despite our best intentions.

There is plenty of evidence, both empirical and through our lived experiences, that proves how children of color don’t fare well in the educational system. For example, black boys are three times more likely to be kicked out of preschool, while black girls are six times more likely to be disciplined throughout their educational history. This is due, in part, to implicit racial bias. Our implicit biases are our unconscious, automatic, and stereotypical thoughts about other people. They happen outside our awareness, and are often antithetical to how we’d like to see others.

African American and Latino children are consistently overly disciplined, sent out of class, and rated as more problematic by their teachers. This happens even when black and white children’s behavior is the same. For example, when child behavior is controlled in empirical studies, black and brown children are disciplined more harshly, and rated as behaviorally challenging. Implicit bias has been directly implicated in all of these instances.

And just like there is a spectrum of skin colors, there is a spectrum of brain design. Children with both a skin color and a brain design in the minority are made to pay doubly for our implicit bias. Add this to the fact that gifted and twice-exceptional children are known to be intense, creative, and justice-minded, and you’ve got a recipe for misdiagnosis and misunderstandings. Our current education structure is failing a disturbingly large cross-section of students. Neurodiversity, racial, gender, and economic inequality are intersecting every day in classrooms all over the country.

Implicit bias has recently been implicated in the disproportionately low numbers of black and brown kids identified as gifted or twice-exceptional. In fact, these children are more likely to be identified as having learning deficits and behavior problems. The stereotype perpetuated by bias is that black and brown kids can’t be gifted, and that they are more of a problem in classrooms.

There are many well-intentioned educators who make biased decisions about black and brown children’s potential and behavior. These decisions add up to systematically keep these kids out of opportunities to advance, excel, and be seen as gifted or exceptional. This is often despite these educators explicit wishes to operate in more equitable ways.

We are all more likely to operate based off of our implicit biases when we are stressed or under time pressure. As educators, we are in situations like that multiple times a day; we are often in situations where we are making snap judgments about others, outside our awareness, and aligned with stereotypes.

So what to do about this? First, educators, parents, and other professionals that work with children must become aware of their implicit biases. There are great resources out there. You should start with the Kirwan Institute’s papers on education and implicit bias. You can actually assess your own biases through the Implicit Association Test. You could also take this information to the administration at your child’s school and ask them if the educators have had training in implicit bias.

But awareness is not enough; it takes practice and a commitment to change. The research out there is new on what it takes to change these biases. But one thing comes up as a potential means of reducing our negative biases — working on positive, genuine relationships with our children. Ask them questions like, “How did you come up with that idea?” and “What would you like to learn about?” Approach students with curiosity and open mind, then listen well. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Implicit bias operates as a smog to alter the way we see children. It obscures their true abilities and gifts with stereotypes and lowered expectations. Step closer to children of color, slow down to really see them. Then question whether or not your perceptions have been altered by the smog.

You have the ability to see children truly and to advocate for them wholly.


Allison headshot for Jade websiteDr. Briscoe-Smith earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University. She then received her clinical psychology Ph.D. from University of California Berkeley. She then went on to continue her specialization in trauma and ethnic minority mental health through internship and postdoctoral work at University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness or foster care. Much of her work has been with schools, as a clinician, consultant and trainer. Currently she is a full time professor at the Wright Institute and she provides consultation and training to bay area nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma informed practices and cultural accountability. You can learn more about her work at


Using the Pomodoro Technique

Using the Pomodoro Technique

On the whole, humans are born into this world with a natural drive to explore and learn. Through observation and interaction, we absorb how to communicate our preferences and move our bodies. As our self-sufficiency increases, we search out problems to solve as we push the limits of our understanding as far as they can go.

Our accomplishments are celebrated when they occur, and (if we’re lucky) it’s understood that the adults in our lives will remain patient as we figure things out.  

Then we go to school, and everything changes.

Imagine that our learning is controlled by a metaphorical steering wheel. Up to school-age, for the most part, we’ve had pretty good control over what we learn and when. However, once we get to traditional school, the steering wheel (along with the stick shift, brake, and gas pedal) we’ve grown accustomed to controlling is taken over by a well-meaning adult who prescribes to us a path of study. Suddenly, we aren’t in the driver’s seat anymore, not even a little.

Although educational guidance is necessary and useful, this method of total adult control is not ideal for the young learner; it robs us of our ability to have independent thoughts and a connection to our intrinsic motivation. When a new student comes to me through a micro-school or for educational coaching, many times they do not have the self-connection to engage in deep, focused learning that is meaningful to them. The traditional school model has trained it out of them. Consequently, supporting a learner to have deeper focus is usually my first step in coaching a student with poor executive functioning skills or an aversion to focused or formal learning.

I help them by using a modified version of a simple method called the Pomodoro Technique. Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s, the Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to manage work into bite-size pieces. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato; the technique is named for the ubiquitous tomato-shaped timer found in kitchens all over the world.     

This practice tasks the learner to focus for a predetermined length of time. When time is up, the learner rests for another length of time. They continue in this fashion until their task is done.

The original method defines a focus period of twenty-five minutes as ideal. Unsurprisingly, I hack the Pomodoro Technique to work for my students. For students just starting out, twenty-five minutes is usually too long of a stretch. Instead, I begin a student with five-minute work periods and five-minute breaks.      

When I first learned of this method, I was reluctant to use it. I worried that my sensitive students, particularly the ones who struggle with anxiety around timed activities, would stress out unnecessarily. I’ve found that this is very rarely the case. I explain to them that I’m not expecting them to finish anything in a certain amount of time; my request is that they make a good effort towards focusing.

This method isn’t only for kids! I use this method with nearly every blog post I write.
Inside our modern selves, there’s always a conflict raging. Do I focus on my high-minded goals of learning and personal development, or do I satisfy my craving for instant gratification by looking up what my hilarious and witty friends are doing on Facebook? With the Pomodoro Technique, you can do both!

Interested in learning more about the structures and techniques I found useful in my micro-school? My book, Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget is out now on GHF Press. And if you still want more, check out the Build Your Micro-School Summer Institute

{Book Review} Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development

{Book Review} Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development

This is a sponsored post; I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I want you to know that all opinions expressed herein are my own. This blog post also contains amazon affiliate links. If you’d like to support my mission of gifted advocacy and education please visit my Amazon store for a list of carefully curated books and games for gifted children, families, and the professionals that serve them.

“Who might be a good friend for your child? What are the interests and characteristics of that hypothetical friend? Do friends even have to be other children? Do you need to consider the family (siblings, parents) of the child in question, or the social dynamics of groups of children? You might find yourself hanging out with some of these friends; what will that be like?” Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development

If you’re a caregiver of a gifted or twice-exceptional child, my guess is that you’ve asked yourself these very same questions with a variety of responses.

Given the complex nature of these queries, you may also have wished that you had a resource to turn to for guidance. Corin Barsily Goodwin’s and Mika Gustavson’s new book, Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development is that resource.

WYOS-Front-Cover-202x300Moreover, when you read this book, you’re not only learning about socialization as it relates to gifted/2e kids; you have a chance to learn about the inner and outer world of gifted/2e kids in a deep and profound way that is tailored to parents. I often hear from parents who want resources that go beyond the basics of being gifted/2e. Here it is!

While reading this book, I enjoyed fresh connections amongst different facets of giftedness.

Particularly striking was how a caregiver’s attitude and history can help or hinder a child as they develop their own social abilities. This is critical!

Corin and Mika urge you to be honest with yourself about the reality of your child and the world they are living in. And they don’t stop there. They also provide you with a helpful and compassionate framework so you can assure yourself that you are.

You’ll learn about the stages of human social development and how the asynchronous nature of these children can create unforeseen complications for your family. And you’ll receive guidance on how to help your child draw upon their strengths to make meaningful connections with peers.

I particularly recommend Writing Your Own Script to parents with younger gifted or 2e children.

This book gives you a peek into your future, so you can get out ahead of it. It’s a virtual crystal ball.

Corin Barsily Goodwin’s and Mika Gustavson’s second book- Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development, is available now on Amazon. Learn more about the book, and the authors by liking their Facebook page.

Click here to purchase Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development. 

The Motivation for Perfectionism

The Motivation for Perfectionism

Do children evolve into perfectionists? Or are they born that way? The short answer is “yes”. To both.

But things are never so simple. So here’s the longer answer:

There are two major varieties of perfectionism at play at any given moment.

The first variety is inborn and is a byproduct of overexcitability. Some people are just born to strive for excellence, and when well-channelled, this type of perfectionism can be put to great use. 

Others develop their perfectionist tendencies via unhelpful feedback and consequences for making mistakes. How many of us have heard the phrase “You’re just being lazy” when we really didn’t understand the task at hand? Or gotten a low grade on an assignment we worked our rear-end off for? This second variety is externally-provoked perfectionism, perfectionism as a fear of failure.

And when both occur simultaneously, as they often do in gifted and twice-exceptional children, you better watch out. Life is about to get beyond intense.

People write me all the time about how to better support their perfectionist children and students. I think a part of the answer lies in understanding the different types of motivation and helping children find their intrinsic motivation.

Unhealthy perfectionism can evolve when a child is kept from connecting with their internally-driven motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is our drive to achieve because the achievement seems fun, interesting, and otherwise enriching.

Contrast that against external motivation, motivation that is driven by external gratification such as grades or other rewards.

There’s an emotional darkside when children begin to expect external gratification. When a child begins to rely on the approval of others before they can feel satisfied with their work, they may also begin to fear punishment for not achieving the way their teachers and families want them to achieve. Or they might be afraid that their friends will think they’re dumb for making a mistake.

External motivation often reinforces a fear of failure.

What keeps us from allowing children to connect with their intrinsic motivation? More often than not, it’s fear and our own unhealthy perfectionism! We fear that our children will fall behind others or won’t get into a good college, that these missed opportunities will lead them down a path of despair that leads to living in a van down by the river.

I get this. I get why it’s scary. We want assurances that our children have the tools they’ll need to live the amazing life we want for them. But while rewards for jobs well done may help us feel better in the short-term, in the long term they can have disastrous effects.

Why do we rely on external motivation, even if we know better?

Because it gets us fast results, but those results are not lasting.

I tend to think of it like this:

External motivation is candy; it’s easy to find at the convenience store and even easier to eat. Internal motivation is protein and vegetables; you have to walk all the way to the farmer’s market to get it and then you still have to cook it! (We all know what happens when we eat too much candy).

Here are a few ways you might tell if your child is struggling with externally-motivated perfectionism:

  • If your child isn’t immediately good at something, he gives up.
  • He’ll never try in the first place.
  • He constantly self-corrects without progressing. For example, he erases handwriting over and over to the point of tearing a hole in his paper with his eraser.

How can we help a child connect with their intrinsic motivation?

One way is to give the child control over aspects of their life they are competent enough to handle. This is one aspect of my Montessori training that I’m 100% aligned with. In the Montessori tradition we give children responsibilities, like tidying up, early on. Work like this is part of the daily classroom life. It’s an aspect of the curriculum. We also give children choice when it comes to picking other learning tasks in math, language arts, and other subjects.

A skillful teacher will guide the choice just enough to allow the child to experience feeling competent and independent.

Here’s a lovely example of one way a friend of mine gave her child a moment to learn about his intrinsic motivation. One morning, my friend and her kid were getting ready to go to the local park. Her boy told her he wanted greater independence. She told him to come up with his own list of guiding principles for their trip to the park. He came up with with two categories: how we interact with the space and how we interact with others. Isn’t that great? Because he came up with the guidelines, he got to feel what it’s like to be truly responsible for himself.

Talk about motivation with children! Explain the different types of motivation and why it’s important. Ask them where they think they need support.

And don’t for a minute think that I haven’t bribed or rewarded a child! Sometimes we all just need to get through a plane ride or a trip to the store. But I try my hardest not to rely too heavily on this strategy.

Independence is a wonderful feeling that I want all of my students to enjoy.

Education & The Sensitive Child

Education & The Sensitive Child

It could be said that all children are sensitive. New to this world, they are taking in vast amounts of data that as adults we’ve grown accustomed too. Asking tons of questions and exuding enthusiasm over what we experience as common. This could be one of the reasons people have children. To experience the world through fresh eyes and delight in the sense of wonderment that accompanies the novelty of life.

Yet there are some children that are wired to take in even more data, ask even more questions, and show even more enthusiasm. They have uncharacteristically strong reactions to environmental stimuli. More often than not, these children are gifted or twice-exceptional. A person’s tone or body language, a sad scene in a children’s film, and even the seams on a pair of socks can trigger huge reactions that can cause people to ask, “What’s wrong with that kid?”

Nothing is wrong with that kid, but something is different!

This difference is inherent, and requires a modification in educational environment and pedagogy. It’s up to the adults in these children’s lives to create educational environments that respect a child’s sensitivity so it can evolve into a strength. In fact, I’m of the opinion that sensitivity is innately a strength. It’s a lack of empathetic experiences that turns sensitivity into a dysfunction.

When a sensitive child’s needs are heard, seen and respected, they are likely to become some of the most effective individuals on the planet. Naturally predisposed to deep observation and understanding, these children are also more likely to have innovative insights and thoughtful contributions to our world.

This is not to say that if you do A, B, and C your classroom will magically become peaceful. There are proper diagnoses to consider, and a child’s home life, as well as other variables. The method of operation for this work is two steps forward and one step back. But hey, at least we’re taking steps!

An attempt to meet a child’s needs contributes far more than no attempt.

When working with my sensitive, gifted and twice-exceptional students, I’ve found that taking an authoritative stance works best. I have high standards that I back up with genuine warmth and a commitment to flexibility. I also attend to their needs for partnership and choice.

Before beginning a new unit of study I ask my students “What do you already know about this topic? What would you like to know? How would you like to demonstrate your knowledge?” I’m genuinely curious about the answers my students are willing to give, and I do my best to make sure I follow up on their requests. Sometimes their responses are unexpected. Or their requests aren’t doable. But I know that providing a space for my students to lend their voices goes far in promoting classroom peace.

Do your communication or teaching strategies accommodate your sensitive students? Homeschoolers, I want to hear from you too!

{Book Review} Gifted, Bullied, Resilient by Pamela Price

{Book Review} Gifted, Bullied, Resilient by Pamela Price

This is a sponsored post; I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I want you to know that all opinions expressed herein are my own. This blog post also contains amazon affiliate links. If you’d like to support my mission of gifted advocacy and education please visit my Amazon store for a list of carefully curated books and games for gifted children, families, and the professionals that serve them.

During my elementary and high school years I moved upwards of twenty times. I was the perpetual new kid who was also too tall, poor and gifted – a walking target.

Looking back, I can see how I was awkward to connect with. I was embarrassingly passionate about music and fashion. By the second grade I was endlessly studying pop stars and celebrities. Translating their looks from thrift store finds in the morning before school. I would obsess over teenagers I saw at the mall or on the street and scan them for style trends.

In my family’s home, Rock and Roll was like religion. I was introduced to groundbreaking artists as they emerged. Artists like the B-52’s, the Pretenders, and U2. There weren’t a lot of four-year-olds that could sing you Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics verse for chorus.

I was a weird little kid, and I knew it.

When groups of girls bullied me, I was devastated but I wasn’t surprised. After brief residencies at a couple different schools, I realized that kids everywhere were pretty much the same… and I was not. I expressed my devastation by withdrawing and losing trust in innocent friendly gestures.

Gifted, Bullied, Resilient by Pamela PriceBefore reading Pamela Price’s new book, Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families, I would reflect on that time and have no idea what could’ve helped. It also made it difficult to know if I was effectively supporting my students when they shared their experiences of bullying.

After reading Pamela’s book, now I know I needed two things as a child.

  1. Caring adults who listened without judgment and supported without caveats.
  2. Skills for processing my own intensity, complexity, and drive.

I also have a better understanding of how to speak with families about the impact of bullying and how they can embody resilience for their children.

The book is pleasurable to read and informative, a rare and delightful combination. I’m honored to count Pamela as a friend; I know first-hand how much of her heart is in this book. I watched as she scoured the research, sought out experts, and compassionately sat with families who were coping with the effects of bullying.

Read this book. It’s hard for me to imagine a person who hasn’t had experience with bullying. If you haven’t, you certainly care about someone who has. The strategies in this book and the low-cost suggested resources will help you be a better friend, parent, and teacher.

Pamela Price’s second book—Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families, is available now on Amazon. You can find Pamela at, Twitter (@RedWhiteandGrew), Pinterest, and

Click here to purchase Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families.