Does this mean I'm a runner?

I've always hated running. Back in jr. high, I was In cross country and track. Not because I enjoyed it, but because I thought I needed to have a few sports listed on my college application. My older sister ran too, and for some reason, I thought I should do whatever she did. So I ran, and I hated it. You know that girl coming in with a 12-14 minute mile? That was me... and I hated every step.

Fast forward to a few months ago, the husband had started running during lunchtime, and would come home and talk about it... how meditative it is, how great it felt to get outside, and I was actually intrigued! For once, perhaps the first time in my life, I actually wanted to run! I knew I had to start at zero, so I downloaded the "Couch To 5K" app C25K and Map My Run to track my progress. I bought some running shoes, set my alarm clock, and started running in the mornings.

And, I gotta say, for the first time ever, I actually like running.




I love getting up early to get a quick workout in. I've always been a morning person. As a mother of three, I feel like my days are so packed with taking care of my children, that the only time I really have to myself is when they are all sleeping. By running in the morning, I'm able to take advantage of the fact that the kids will not likely need me for anything. I also get to take advantage of the fact that their father is still at home, so I don't need to worry about finding child care. 


I love the fresh air. I'm typically an indoors person. I love air conditioning, especially in the heat of the summer. I hate sitting outside in the sun, sweating, with bugs flying everywhere. But, for some reason, I'm not as bothered by these things when I'm running. I expect to work up a sweat, so that's no big deal. And, for the most part, the bugs never bother me. I love breathing in the fresh morning air... and until I started running again, I had practically forgotten what it smells like.    



I love the scenery. The early morning skies provide me with constellations I haven't noticed in years. I look up to the sky to see Orion. I watch the phases of the moon pass by. I'm also fortunate to live ridiculously close to a beautiful wildlife preserve. When it comes to a morning run, there's no place I'd rather be. I've seen the most beautiful sunrises coming over top of the water. I love that I have to scan my area for deer, scare off skunks and egrets off the trail. 



When I started tracking my runs in July, I was running 2.31 miles in 34 min, averaging a 14:42 mile (including warmup/cooldown. Now, just 8 weeks later, I ran 2.84 miles in 29:25, averaging a 10:22 mile! Given my running history, I think it's safe to say that this was a lifetime personal best. 


Thanks for reading. What's your favorite way to exercise? Leave a comment below. As always, I read and respond to each and every one!

Twice Exceptional, Gifted, And Learning Disability Identification In Ohio

First and foremost, I'd like to thank my sister who has a PhD in Counseling Psychology for helping me every step of the way during this process. I never would have made it through this process without her help. 

I'm currently struggling to have my child diagnosed as twice exceptional (being gifted while having a learning disability) in Ohio. I'm sharing this information in hopes that it may help other parents going through gifted, learning disability, or twice exceptional identification in Ohio.

Twice Exceptional Identification 


Brody and Mills [1997] argue that this population of students(Twice Exceptional) "could be considered the most misunderstood of all exceptionalities".[8] In each situation, the 2e student’s strengths help to compensate for deficits; the deficits, on the other hand, make the child’s strengths less apparent.[9] The interplay of exceptional strengths and weaknesses in a single individual results in inconsistency in performance. They might present any of the three profiles identified by educator and researcher Susan Baum:
  • Bright but not trying hard enough
  • Learning disabled but with no exceptional abilities
  • Average.
A 2e student’s grades commonly alternate between high and low, sometimes within the same subject. The child might have advanced vocabulary and ideas but be unable to organize those ideas and express them on paper.

Their strengths are the key to success for twice-exceptional children. They thrive on intellectual challenges in their areas of interest and ability. Many 2e children do best when given work that engages multiple senses and offers opportunities for hands-on learning. However, a requirement for success for these students is support, either given informally as needed or formalized in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan.” - Wikipedia

I suspected my son was "Twice Exceptional", meaning he is gifted and has a learning disability. For me, picking up on my son's "asynchronous development" was a major key to discovering that my gifted son may also have a learning disability. "Average" kids can have a learning disability. "Above average" kids can have a ;earning disability.

"Once a person has a solid understanding of the characteristics of children who are twice exceptional, some will easily stand apart from typical peers. The inconsistencies of their abilities, or “asynchrony,” are the first telling signs. A learner who is gifted with a learning disability may be able to perform orally to high levels of performance but often performs miserably in written expression. " - https://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Special-Education/Students-with-Disabilities/Educating-Students-with-Disabilities/Educating-Gifted-Students-with-Disabilities/Twice-Exceptional-Guide.pdf.aspx

If you suspect your child may be twice exceptional, I suggest having the disability tested first. If there is one, your child can be put on an IEP, which can include aspects for giftedness as well. An IEP is enforcable by law.

A WEP (Written Education Plan) isn't enforceable, so should only be used if you can't obtain an EIP.


Gifted Screening And Identification




By law, every school in Ohio must have a process to identify gifted children. The school doesn't need to have a special gifted program i place for your child to receive benefits from being gifted. There is grade acceleration and subject acceleration, which is an option that has been deemed quite effective by the Ohio Board of Education, but still incredibly under-utilized.

I have long suspected my son was "gifted". He just seemed to be functioning at a higher level than most kids his age. When a recent math test rated his math in being at the 96%, I decided to pursue gifted identification.

I asked my son's teacher during a conference if she thought he might be gifted. She assured me that he was not, and that about 6 children in her class had scored in the upper 95-99% range on the math test.

Fun Fact: Teachers aren't qualified to diagnose gifted children. Their opinion is irrelevant.  

At another meeting, I asked the school principal about the possibility of my son being gifted. I was told there was no point in testing for giftedness before 3rd grade, because that's when gifted programming in our school district started. I proceeded to say I was interested in possible subject or grade acceleration. She gave me the number of the gifted coordinator for our district.

To initiate the process of gifted testing, I had to request it in writing. A sample letter could be as simple as this.



________,

My name is _________, and I was given your name by (The School Principal) at _______________. I would like to have my son ____________ tested for being gifted.

Sincerely,
My Name


She emailed me back with a  Gifted Referral/Permission to Test form that I filled out and mailed back. 

At this point, gifted testing was given, and everything seemed to be going great. My PhD sister requested a specific breakdown of my son's subtest scores. She's passionate about test score interpretation. Upon receiving the detailed breakdown of the test scores, she alerted me that it was highly likely my son had a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) because his math & cognitive scores were very high, but his reading scores were average. This breakdown gave her information that led her to believe my son, in fact, may also have a learning disability. 

In terms of accommodating my son's giftedness, he is currently on a WEP through the school. He is given small group instruction that challenges him in the areas of math and thinking. He's currently working on grade-level material, just at a more challenging level. While standardized tests have shown my son should be working at 2 grade levels up, at this point, I'm just going to allow the school to teach as they see fit. 

I'm not currently pursuing grade level acceleration due to the learning disability. I may possibly pursue subject level acceleration at a later time.



Learning Disability Testing In Ohio

Having my son evaluated for a learning disability was difficult. Expect to be lied to. Put zero faith in the uneducated opinion of anyone except a professional. While the process was long and difficult, it was not impossible. I have heard stories of principals instructing employees to deny everyone who initially asks for an evaluation. I've heard of people's jobs being threatened if they speak up during an IEP meeting. 

First and foremost, know that by law, all school districts must have a plan in place to diagnose for disabilities, including learning disabilities. I know people who have asked about this, and were told their school didn't test for learning disability. This is a lie. You, as a parent, just need to ask the right way.

You need to request an evaluation in writing. I would recommend emailing the request, since there will be a record and date stamp of your request.

A sample request could look like this.

Dear __________:

My child __________ is having a difficult time learning. I am requesting that my child be given a full, individual, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary evaluation for special education services. __________ is a ___ grader in __________'s classroom at __________ School.

I understand that any information collected during current interventions with __________ will be completed and a meeting date will be set within the timeline as required by federal law. This email gives my consent for my child’s evaluation to begin. I look forward to hearing from you. I am available by phone at __________.

Sincerely,
__________

My initial request for an evaluation was denied because of something along the lines of "he seems to be fine in school." Just as a reminder, a child can be performing average, or even above average in school but still have a learning disability. So, from here, I had to file a "Due Process Complaint". This process is detailed in the Whose IDEA Is This? booklet.

After I submitted the Due Process Complaint, I agreed to attend a resolution meeting in which we decide if we can reach an agreement without having to purse further legal action. The meeting went very smoothly, and I was granted an evaluation for my child based on no other information than what I had originally presented. 

The tests were scheduled over the span of a week, with 1-2 tests on each day. The testing process went smoothly. Each test took about 1 hour, and there were maybe 4 tests.

A few weeks later an Evaluation Team Report meeting was scheduled. It is during the ETR Meeting that you find out how your child did on the evaluation.

Tip: I highly recommend having a trained professional for advocate for you at this meeting. For something like a Specific Learning Disability, I would bring a psychologist who has experience at the doctoral level in diagnosing Specific Learning Disabilities. 

During my meeting, it was just myself and my husband. The team went over my son's results. I knew that in order to diagnose a specific learning disability, that my son's results needed to to looked at together. However, during our meeting, the results were looked at in isolation. The general sentiment was that as long as my son was performing at or above average level, there was no disability. I signed agreeing that my son didn't need services, which is something I WOULD NEVER DO ON THE SPOT AGAIN. I would have taken the results to be analyzed by a professional. Ideally, I would have brought that professional to the meeting. 

After the meeting, I told my sister with the Ph.D. what had happened, and she was furious. She told me I got duped, and that nobody there was qualified to diagnose a specific learning disability. It was when I saw this quote from the United States Department of Education that I knew I had been duped during our meeting, “No assessment, in isolation, is sufficient to indicate that a child has an SLD," United States Department of Education (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/041715osepmemo15-082q2015.pdf)
This was the point where I got furious. Not only did the people lie straight to my face, but the psychologist in the meeting quietly sat by, allowing it to happen. When I questioned using the results together, it was the school principal who told me I was wrong. My son was probably "just not trying hard enough".

I knew I goofed by agreeing to that my son didn't need services in the meeting. But, their psychologist goofed in the meeting as well. Specifically, she violated the American Psychological Association Code of Conduct. So, I sent a letter back to the principal requesting another interpretation of the evaluation results, as I believed the psychologist didn't:
  • (Violation 1) "take into account the purpose of the assessment"
  • (Violation 2) " indicate any significant limitations of their interpretations."
  • (Violation 3) "retain responsibility for the appropriate application, interpretation and use of assessment instruments, whether they score and interpret such tests themselves or use automated or other services."
  • (Violation 4) "take reasonable steps to ensure that explanations of results are given to the individual or designated representative"

I'm currently in the process of selecting a psychologist to conduct an independent evaluation, at the expense of the school.

Thanks for reading. Please leave any comments with your experiences in the comments. I'll keep this post updated on further developments.





VTech: Go! Go! Smart Enchanted Princess Castle {Review}

The product has been provided by VTech so I could experience it with my family; however, the thoughts and opinions are all my own.

PROS
  • Value - At over 4 feet wide, this is a MASSIVE  playset for $60. Add the fact that it’s electronic and educational just brings the value even higher.
  • Fun for all ages - My 1-year-old daughter LOVES playing with this. And, I think her 5-year-old sister and 7-year-old brother might like it even more!
  • Educational - I like that they sneak little bits of education into this toy!
  • Assembly - I was able to assemble the castle in about 15 minutes with the “help” of my 5-year-old and 11-month-old daughters. Everything just snapped right into place.

CONS

  • Construction - Plastic was a little flimsy. Pieces came off easily. The fold-up mechanism wasn’t very sturdy. Overall, this product is less sturdy than another similar brand we have at home.

Because those unboxing videos are all the rage, I decided to make one of those as well, including snippets of the assembly as well.


Overall, this is a great toy at an amazing value! I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a fun, educational play castle for their child.

Thank you so much for stopping by! What do you think of this post? Leave a comment below. As always, I read and respond to each and every one. :)

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