Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Can you change your IQ?

I keep reading articles about new research (published in Nature last month) finding that IQ is malleable. The sample size of the study (33 British students) was quite small, which means that outlier findings need to be taken with a grain of salt. One student's IQ rose from 107 to 128, and another's fell from 114 to 96. The trumpeted finding is that 9% of students showed a change of 15 points or more, but of course 9% of 33 is 3 kids. The most interesting finding is that MRI scans showed actual brain changes in the kids with the big IQ changes, which suggest that it might not be total measurement error. The idea is that one can possibly change IQ, on the margins, through certain brain exercises.

Some people will no doubt trumpet this as evidence that giftedness is some sort of made up concept, just capturing a snapshot in time among kids whose parents have trained them more than others. But one certainly doesn't have to draw this conclusion. I am comfortable believing these two things at once:

1. I am not nearly as athletically gifted as many other people and never will be and
2. If I practiced hard in any given sport, I could become better at it over time in a way my body might actually physically reflect.

These two beliefs also do not lead me to believe that we should get rid of varsity basketball teams, or camps for children who've shown promise in basketball or that athletic ability is some sort of social construct. So I'm not sure why the idea that IQ might change by one standard deviation in a small number of children would lead anyone to believe that there aren't children who learn differently and need more challenge than others of the same age.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Children and Rituals

The holidays are approaching, and they are always a time for traditions. This will be our first Thanksgiving and Christmas in our new house, and our first with three kids, and our first with any sort of space. As we start to put down roots, we can start to choose which rituals and traditions we will do, and hence our kids will someday think of as "normal." If you think about it, this is a heady amount of power.

Families raising gifted kids have the additional element of the constant "whys." When it comes to rituals and traditions, these are often good questions -- from both the mundane to the profound. Why do we have hamburgers and hot dogs on Sunday nights? (Because it's easy and your father grew up having that for Sunday dinner. That's why). Why do we give gifts? Why do some kids celebrate different holidays? (and this at an age where you didn't think you'd be explaining such things). Why were the pilgrims so thankful for food? Did they not have food? Why? What happens when you don't have food?

I think this year will feature some sort of write-up of what we're thankful for, some Christmas cookie baking, a decorated tree with lots of kid-made ornaments, an Advent calendar, and such. I'd like to take the boys shopping for another child through one of the non-profits around here, but I'm not sure how that will go. I'd love to hear from people about what rituals and traditions they've introduced or kept up in their families, what their kids think and ask about them, and how you've figured ways to celebrate the meaning of the season with small kids.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Fluctuating IQ in Teens

A new study in Nature this past month indicated that the teenage brain is fairly plastic; that IQ can change a reasonable amount during those years of rapid physical change (You can read one write-up of the study here).

As usually happens, some of the commentary on this study has raised the question of whether giftedness exists, or if it just captures a moment in time. But I think this misses the point -- while IQ may not be absolutely constant, a child whose IQ measures at, say, 150, is unlikely to then measure at 100. And just because IQ can change doesn't mean that giftedness shouldn't be accommodated. Gifted education is an intervention for children who need it. If one doesn't view it as a reward, then there's no reason children couldn't move in and out of needing services over time. It's something to consider.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Glaring Asynchronous Development

One of the challenges with gifted children is asynchronous development. This means that physical, emotional and intellectual development are not proceeding at the same pace. Sometimes this can be downright jarring. You can be having a real, fluent conversation with a 5-year-old about something, but she then proceeds to scream or cry because she's tired or hungry. A 3-year-old might be reading words on a box of his own diapers. You get the drift. What are some particularly glaring examples of asynchronous development that you've seen? How has this affected your parenting?