Monday, December 30, 2013

The Importance of Psychotherapy in Conjunction with ADHD Medication: an NIMH Study

Photo Courtesy of Mauro Barsi
     A recent study supports what I have been saying to parents for a long time: it is a mistake to assume that a prescription for a medication in a child diagnosed with ADHD is sufficient unto itself.
     It is my clinical opinion that ADHD medications quiet the mind and settle the child enough so that the work of psychotherapy can take place. It clears the space in the child's active mind for reflection and for understanding new conversations and topics. It allows for discussion of new and beneficial behaviors.
     Given my bias that many gifted children are misdiagnosed with ADHD in the first place, simply because they are different from the other children in a classroom due to boredom or creative and unconventional approaches to classroom material, I think this study is important for parents to read.
     To quote:
     "20-year-old study, funded with $11 million from the U.S. National Institute of Mental            Health, concluded that the medications outperformed a combination of stimulants plus skills-training therapy or therapy alone as a long-term treatment. But now experts, who include some of the study's authors, think that relying on such a narrow avenue of treatment may deprive children, their families and their teachers of effective strategies for coping with ADHD, The New York Times reported Monday."
     Here is the link to the report:
     I welcome comments or questions on this topic. It comes up regularly with gifted children and their parents.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It Really Is Your Genetics: You are Smart because You Were Born That Way

Photo Courtesy of Mauro Barsi
     New research indicates that the battle between nature and nurture may well have been resolved when it comes to intelligence. In a study of 11,000 identical and non-identical 16-year-old twins in Great Britain, results indicate conclusively that nature trumps nurture in determining how well these students performed on standardized examinations.
     The study is reported here in Science Daily: Differences in Educational Achievement Owe More to Genetics Than Environment, Finds Study of UK Students.
     What does this study mean?
     It suggests that native intelligence can triumph, even when home environments are less than ideal.
     Certainly, enriched academic and home environments have the potential to create stronger study habits, greater personal discipline, and a more purposeful sense of direction in growing children and adolescents. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that graduates of private high schools and public high schools in affluent neighborhoods perform better in college than their less fortunate peers.
     However, the good news is that even with impoverished or sheltered upbringings, even with dysfunctional families with alcohol or substance abuse, a child whose native intelligence is high still has a good shot at performing well enough on standardized tests to move forward into colleges and universities and change their personal environments to a more favorable place in which they can thrive and grow - and break the chain that tied them to the lack of opportunities presented to them in their early years.
     If you find this hard to believe, do some research into successful individuals who overcame great hardships in order to make their place in the world. They are legion. Some are famous. Some are not.
     Some are just like the kid in the back of the classroom who is always late because his alcoholic mother makes his life a living hell every morning before school, and who always gets top grades in spite of this.
     This British research gives hope to all children and adolescents growing up in less than perfect families.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Two of my Articles Are Published on

Photo Courtesy of Mauro Barsi
     They may be a drop in the bucket of the literature on the topic of intellectual giftedness, but I'd like to share two articles of mine which were recently published in the web site, which is part of
     The first article is entitled Intellectual Giftedness at War with Itself: All I Want is a Good Night's Sleep....
     It deals with aspects of existential dread faced by some of my clients when they consider the possibility of the obliteration or annihilation of individual consciousness at the point of death.
     The second article is entitled On Being Gifted and Talented. This article is actually a page from my professional psychotherapy web site, which I wrote as a manifesto behind my intention of choosing to specialize in working with intellectually gifted children, adolescents, and adults.
     It is my goal to spread the world regarding the importance of paying special attention to this population because it is my belief that in the field of psychotherapy gifted individuals are misunderstood and underserved.
     In Seattle, I meet monthly with two other therapists who specialize in working with intellectual giftedness. We consult on cases, but we also support each other.
     This is challenging work, and the three of us are grateful for the support we can offer to each other. We imagine that we feel the same way our clients appear to feel when they relax into the sofa and exhale, as if to say that they have been heard, understood, and respected, sometimes for the first time.
    Our work may be like the pebble making small waves in the quiet pond above. But small waves are better than no waves at all, especially to the lone pebble that is making the marks on the surface of the water. Our clients are like that pebble. A small splash at least proves that the pebble exists, an existential question often raised by our clients in the broader context of their life experiences.
     I recommend and as resources for gifted and talented individuals. You are not alone.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Your Gifted Adolescent and the Emotional Subtext of Family Holidays

Photo Courtesy of Mauro Barsi
     Your halls may be decked. Your carols may be playing. Your home may smell like cinnamon and ginger. Festive, right?
     If there is an emotional issue in your household that is being put aside until after the holidays or just plain repressed by all concerned parties, guess what?
     Your gifted adolescent is going to cut straight to the emotional undercurrents in the environment and view all your decorative efforts as if they were tinsel hanging on a dead curbside fir.
     And that adolescent is going to feel as if there's a chair on a lonely beach somewhere with his or her name on it.
     There is no person more sensitive to ambiguities and ambivalence, text versus subtext, overt versus covert, than your gifted adolescent. This is the age when the great questions come to the fore, and it is also the age when living with non-answers can be viscerally painful. The brain has developed enough to ask but not to answer. It wants certainty, though it is coming to see that in this world there really is no such thing. The gifted adolescent needs a nest, a home base. If your home is wrought with tension, which can be exacerbated by the facades of jolliness that pervade our culture at this time of year, the scene is set for a meltdown.
     Before you blame yourself for every little kerfluffle that may arise during the holiday season, understand that I am speaking of much greater issues than cousins bad mouthing cousins or pumpkin pies that were inadvertently broiled instead of baked (I am personally guilty of this one, though I doubt my own daughters recall).
     I'm saying that if there is tension in your household before the holiday season approaches, it will shout more loudly and more clearly to your sensitive adolescent now because the chasm is so great between what we are force-fed to believe as the ideal family holiday and what is often the more mundane and sometimes tawdry reality: the drunk uncle, the nasty sister, the passive-aggressive grandmother whose estate everyone hopes to inherit.
     If you can bring up the topic of this disparity in a convivial manner, including yourself in the aspects of disillusion that we, as adults, often experience between the ideal the the actual, you will be doing your adolescent a favor by providing at least a sense of hope that these initial bouts of despair can gradually be tempered by time and good humor.
     If the underlying currents are more malignant, such as impending divorce or a serious illness in a parent, you have another matter at hand. These are visible emotionally to your child. Don't think for a minute that because they don't know the details, they don't know something is amiss. They do. And they will add your disinclination to discuss it openly to the pile of grievances they are storing and packing to take with them when they seek that lonely beach chair.
     I know there is a time for every thing under heaven. I know there are things that you are not prepared to discuss with your teen at this moment. But perhaps you might consider offering comfort by addressing the fact that there are some things going on that you are unable to discuss at present, but that you will be free to talk about soon. This will relieve some of your teen's anxiety, but not all of it. If you can give a hint toward content, please do. If not, please offer as much reassurance as possible.
     Then prepare yourself to be completely rejected.
     Your teen has an attraction/repulsion relationship with that beach chair. Your teen suffers with ambiguity and enjoys the intensity of angst - at the same time.
     When the balance tips toward angst that is beyond your teen's ability to manage, please step in. As I said, you may be rejected, but rejecting you is actually part of what your teen needs to do right now. Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is a horrible time of year for this sort of thing,
     The fact that it is a horrible time of year for this sort of thing is precisely the reason your adolescent is upset in the first place.
     Be gentle with yourself.
     Be gentle with your adolescent.
     Sing this song in your heart.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 via The Byrds:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.