Cecil R. Reynolds, co-author of the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS) and recently revised RIAS-2, is one of the leaders in the field of gifted assessment. The following is part one of a two-part interview conducted with Dr. Reynolds concerning the use of assessments in gifted and talented programs.

Q: Theoretically speaking, what do you believe would be the most effective way to identify a gifted student?

Cecil Reynolds: I am often asked what tests or other processes should be used to identify children for participation in a gifted and talented program in the schools. My answer is almost always something along the lines of “What are the goals of the program itself?” and “What are the characteristics of the children you wish to identify?” The most important thing we can do is match the children to the program so they have the highest likelihood of success. So, for example, if the program is intended to promote academic achievement among the most academically able students in the school, I would recommend a very different selection process and different tests than if the program was intended to take the most intellectually talented students in the school and provide them with a challenging, engaging curriculum that would enrich their school experience, motivate them to achieve, and allow them to fall in love with something and pursue it with passion. While the students in these programs would overlap, the two groups would not be identical and certainly the academic outcomes would not be the same. But, the point is that we must know what characteristics we need to assess to identify and to place students in programs where they will be successful, and that requires us to first know what it is our program is intended to do.

Q: What are some of the challenges that psychologists and diagnosticians face when attempting to identify a gifted student accurately?

CR: Regardless of the program and its goals for students, the tremendous diversity in the American schools is our greatest challenge. We have an obligation to be fair, and just, and to promote the best in all children, and that is our intention. However, no schools in any country serve the range of backgrounds and abilities such as are served in our schools. The demands upon school staff to be culturally competent in so many areas, and to devise methods of teaching and accurate measures of intelligence, academic outcomes, behavioral outcomes, and school success generally, and to understand and to motivate such a wide array of eager young minds, are just incredible and require a commitment from the school board on down to the teacher aides. Maintaining this commitment and acquiring these competencies are undoubtedly staunch challenges to us all. These challenges can be magnified in the domain of gifted education because how “giftedness” is defined and valued may vary tremendously from one cultural group to another. The biggest concerns I hear from practitioners and diagnosticians center around the lack of proportionate representation of some ethnic minority groups in GT programs and how it can change assessment practices to overcome these issues. The RIAS and RIAS-2 are well suited to assist in identifying more minority students for GT programs since the minority-white differences on mean scores on the RIAS and now RIAS-2 are smaller by about half the differences seen on most traditional intelligence batteries.

Q: A lot has been written about the idea that just because a student has been identified as academically gifted, it does not mean he or she will be successful. Identifying them is simply step one. What things do you find tend to hinder their progress in our schools?

CR: Often it is the mismatch between the program and the student. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of the match between the program goals and methods of achieving them and the students in the program and their characteristics. We simply have to get the right students into the right programs. We also have to attend to students’ motivation to achieve academically as well as focus on study skills, time management, organization skills, listening skills, and other non-intellective factors that go into academic learning. IQ generally only accounts for less than 50% of the variance on academic achievement, and that is one of the many reasons we also developed the School Motivation and Learning Strategies Inventory (SMALSI). Just because a student is bright does not mean he or she knows how to study and learn, has good test-taking skills, or is motivated to engage in school learning—we should assess these variables as well and intervene accordingly.

Come back next week for the second part of this interview!

Lying has always been a popular topic for exploration, especially in the entertainment industry. It is very common to see crime shows in which an alleged perpetrator is hooked up to a polygraph machine to determine his truthfulness, or lack thereof. A few years ago, a TV show called Lie to Me hit the airwaves. The show is based on the work of Dr. Paul Ekman, a scientist and author best known for furthering our understanding of nonverbal behavior. Actor Tim Roth plays Dr. Cal Lightman, a scientist and lie detection expert who uses facial expressions and body language to determine whether someone is lying.

Surveys have shown that the average person lies at least once a day, with college students lying as much as twice a day. Since dishonesty is encountered on a daily basis, lying should be easy to identify; however, this is far from the case. Attempts to deceive others in everyday life are as difficult to detect as they are common and, contrary to what’s depicted in Lie to Me, a large body of research reveals surprisingly few valid cues of deception.

Psychologist William Moulton Marston invented the first lie detector in the 1920s. Interestingly, Marston’s invention led to the creation of Wonder Woman, the female superhero who could compel people to tell the truth using her magic lasso. Marston’s invention became the prototype for modern lie detectors, which record on a chart physiological activity such as skin conductance, blood pressure, and respiration. Although physiological activity may offer helpful clues to identify lying, the lie detector is far from infallible.

The polygraph excels at determining increasing anxiety or nervousness, but does a poor job of pinpointing the reason for the anxiety, which may or may not be due to lying. Rather than a “lie detector,” the polygraph may more accurately be described as an arousal detector. On Lie to Me, Dr. Lightman demonstrated how the lie detector test can be manipulated. In the first case, he gave a witness valium and then had her deliberately lie while hooked up to the machine. However, because of her tranquility, the reading indicated that she was telling the truth. In the second case, Dr. Lightman asked a male witness an identical set of questions using two different administrators. The witness answered truthfully each time. When the questions were asked by a man, the machine indicated the witness was telling the truth, but when the questions were asked by an attractive woman, the machine indicated the witness was lying. His attraction to her raised his anxiety levels.

While Lie to Me is accurate about the unreliability of lie detectors, it isn’t as easy as the show makes it appear to read facial expressions and body language to determine honesty. Even people trained in the criminal justice field such as judges and police officers can’t always identify if someone is lying. While there are no conclusive clues that indicate deception, honing skills of observation is still helpful, as people often do provide signs that they are being untruthful.

What do you think? Can lying ever be perfectly identified? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 
Among academics and mental health professionals, there is a widespread belief that hypnosis has the power to retrieve lost memories. In 1980, Elizabeth and Geoffrey Loftus found that 84% of psychologists and 69% of non-psychologists endorsed the statement that “memory is permanently stored in the mind” and that “with hypnosis, or other specialized techniques, these inaccessible details could eventually be recovered.”

The idea of whether people can truly forget traumatic memories has been debated for years. Early psychologists and psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud, Joseph Breuer, and Pierre Janet also endorsed the memory-enhancing powers of hypnosis. In addition, belief in the power of hypnosis has spilled over into the mainstream with the help of TV shows, movies, and books. However, experts in general agree that “hypnosis either has no effect on memory or that it can impair and distort recall.” While people can certainly remember events they haven’t thought about for years, the issue at question is whether a special mechanism of repression exists that accounts for the forgetting of traumatic experiences.

While there are many reports of people who seem to have recovered memories of abuse through hypnosis, David Holmes reviewed 60 years of research and found no convincing laboratory evidence for repression. In his book, Remembering Trauma, psychologist Richard McNally concludes that repressed memories are “a piece of psychiatric folklore devoid of convincing empirical support.” In addition, McNally gives an alternate explanation for the recovery of repressed memories: “Children may be more confused than upset by sexual advances from a relative, yet years later recall the event with revulsion as they realize that it was, in fact, an instance of abuse.”

People sometimes forget significant life events, such as accidents and hospitalizations, even a year after they occur; therefore, a delay in the recall of events isn’t unusual. While hypnosis may not be the magic potion that uncovers traumatic memories, not all uses of hypnosis are scientifically problematic. Controlled research evidence suggests that hypnosis may be useful in pain management, treating medical conditions, eliminating habits such as smoking addiction, and as therapy for anxiety, obesity, and other conditions. Memories recalled even decades later aren’t necessarily false; however, it shouldn’t be assumed that recovered memories are valid unless corroborating evidence exists.

What do you think? Is hypnosis the real deal? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 
Many children are antisocial and have trouble making friends; they even lie and fight, but these traits may indicate a deeper problem that can develop into psychopathy if ignored. Researchers at the University of New South Wales have found that some children as young as three years old display callous-unemotional traits (CU traits), demonstrating a distinct lack of emotions. DSM-5 lists four behavioral indicators for CU traits: lack of remorse or guilt, callous/lack of empathy, lack of concern about performance, and shallow or deficient affect. Two of the four must be present for a diagnosis.

When adults within the criminal justice system have CU traits combined with antisocial behavior, they are labeled psychopaths; therefore, children who exhibit severe conduct problems and CU traits are at an increased risk for developing adult psychopathy, according to the research. These children demonstrate lack of concern or empathy for others, excessive and often inappropriate pursuit of rewards, and poor processing of punishment cues. Such conduct increases the risk of substance abuse, criminal behavior, and educational disruption.

Because CU traits often resemble normal misconduct, punishment is often used as a preventive measure. However, these children are relatively insensitive to punishment, threats, or the distress of others, so punishment is largely ineffective. It is more useful to focus on positive reinforcement to encourage positive behavior.

The good news about early diagnosis is that treatment can be effective in reducing levels of antisocial behavior and CU traits. New studies suggest that children with high levels of CU traits respond to warm parenting. For example, it’s better to emphasize what they did well rather than what they did poorly. In addition, another study by Dadds emphasizes that children with CU traits could benefit from training in emotional literacy and emotional recognition.

When considering CU traits, it is important to distinguish between children who are capable of premeditated violence and children whose violence is primarily impulsive and in reaction to a perceived threat.

Eva Kimonis was the lead author of a study that involved more than 200 children between the ages of three and six. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, she said, “Until now we didn’t really have a way to identify those traits in very young children. This is really the first study which uses tools adapted for very young children, and the sooner those children are identified, the earlier they can be helped.”

What do you think? Can psychopathic behavior be identified and prevented in young children? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 
Dyslexia is often misunderstood and is used as a catch-all term for reading disorders. However, other lesser-known reading disorders often mimic dyslexia, such as Specific Reading Comprehension Deficits (S-RCD). While people with dyslexia struggle to sound out words and often confuse letters, people with S-RCD can decode words but struggle to understand what they read.

In an interview, celebrity Jennifer Aniston shared that she grew up believing she was stupid, revealing that she was finally diagnosed with dyslexia at age 20.  Other celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise also revealed they were diagnosed with dyslexia. It is very common for dyslexia not to be discovered until adulthood; therefore, people grow up with low self-esteem thinking they aren’t smart and that something is wrong with them. Yet according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there’s no correlation between dyslexia and intelligence. Many people diagnosed with this disorder have normal or above-average intelligence.

S-RCD often goes undiagnosed until it becomes an unavoidable problem. According to Neuroscience News, “Neuroimaging of children showed that the brain function of those with S-RCD while reading is quite different and distinct from those with dyslexia. Those with dyslexia exhibited abnormalities in a specific region in the occipital-temporal cortex, a part of the brain that is associated with successfully recognizing words on a page.”

A few months ago, the Mississippi Board of Education notified 5,612 third grade students that they failed to pass the reading test that would allow them to enter the fourth grade. While some deemed the test unfair, Governor Bryant believes that taking a tough stance is the best course of action in the long run, crediting his own fourth grade teacher with discovering that his reading disability was caused by dyslexia, and helping him overcome it. “Repeating the third grade was the best thing that ever happened to me,” the governor said.

Because of its prominence in the news, dyslexia often overshadows other reading disorders. In schools, it is necessary to break down reading disabilities, or learning disabilities in general, and match the disability with intervention strategies to assist the student. Once the underlying causes of reading disabilities are understood, school personnel can use their knowledge to help students understand their strengths and weaknesses regarding reading and language.

What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
When we think of self-esteem, the first thing that comes to mind is feeling good about ourselves. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the classic, The Power of Positive Thinking, is considered the father of self-esteem. He made the idea of positive thinking a phenomenon. In his follow-up book, Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to Change Your Life, he said, “There is a powerful and mysterious force in human nature that is capable of bringing about dramatic improvement in our lives. It is a kind of mental engineering... So powerful is the imaging effect on thought and performance that a long-held visualization of an objective or goal can become determinative... This releases powerful internal forces that can bring about astonishing changes.”

Merely thinking good thoughts and speaking positively may provide temporary benefits, resulting in pseudo-self-esteem. Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding That Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology, describes pseudo-self-esteem as “an irrational pretense at self-value” and “a nonrational, self-protective device to diminish anxiety and to provide a spurious sense of security.”

Genuine self-esteem goes beyond imaging and visualization. Those things may play a role, but they are just one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is doing good, according to Hartwell-Walker, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist and author of Self-Esteem: A Guide to Building Confidence and Connection One Step at a Time. She states, “Cultivating genuine self-esteem takes work and awareness. It’s a lifelong process. It means balancing ‘our feelings with our doings.’”

Though self-esteem and self-confidence often seem to go hand in hand, it is possible to have one without the other. Confidence is often the result of successful activity. The more success one has, the more confident that person will be on the next attempt. Therefore, confidence largely operates within the realm of the known. But esteem has to do with perception of one’s own inherent value.

According to Hartwell-Walker, the two parts of genuine self-esteem constantly interact with each other. “Feeling good about ourselves is the outcome of doing good things and doing good things (things that contribute to our community and to others’ well-being) is what makes us feel good.” Positivity without action leads to pseudo-self-esteem, and action without positivity leads to confidence without esteem.

What do you think about the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
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The story of autism spectrum disorder has always been told largely through statistics. Professionals speak of the costs to families of autistic children, the earliest age for diagnoses, and the percentage of children who develop the disorder. Many people have heard the term autism but don’t really know what it means because the statistics can’t fully convey what it means to be autistic.

Autism spectrum disorder is difficult to explain and grasp because it’s a very wide spectrum. According to psychologist Kathleen Platzman, “We need an educational model wide enough to take in the whole spectrum. That means it’s going to have to be a fairly broad model.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) proposes three levels of severity for autism spectrum disorder, which is meant to describe its impact on everyday functioning. Individuals who require “very substantial support” are rated level 3; those who require “substantial support” are rated level 2; and those who require “support” are rated level 1. While these ratings provide important information, they don’t do a lot to help visualize the complexities of the disorder.

Michael McWatters is a designer and UX Architect at TED, the organization responsible for TED Talks and various other initiatives. He’s also the father of a boy with autism spectrum disorder. When his son was diagnosed, McWatters wanted to know where he fell on the spectrum, but quickly became frustrated by the lack of an accurate visual representation of the disorder. He had envisioned the spectrum as a straight line that looks something like this:

Was his son’s condition mild, severe, or somewhere in between? It seemed overly simplistic. But then McWatters had a revelation—the spectrum isn’t a single line or flat continuum at all! So he decided to create his own diagram, basing his visualization on the three generally accepted axes for the disorder: social, communication, and behavioral.

In his visualization, the greater the impairment on any of the three axes, the further the point moves away from the center. This visualization of the symptoms acknowledges the dimensionality of the disorder in a way a simple spectrum line cannot.

We had the opportunity to speak with McWatters. He indicated that this is just the beginning of his efforts and that he views this as an experimental project. He is currently working with two leading autism researchers to revise his visualization to align more closely with DSM-5 and hopes to find a way to demonstrate both the strengths and deficits associated with autism.

For Michael McWatters, autism spectrum disorder can’t be reduced to statistics and percentages—it’s deeply personal. “People have responded very positively to this visualization,” he says, “and I think it’s because it not only provides a more accurate view of autism, it demonstrates just how unique each person on the spectrum is.”

You can learn more about Michael and his son on his Web site, ASDDad. We’re looking forward to his new discoveries and the graphic representation that he will create as a result.

What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave your comments below.
The negative effects of poor sleep habits have been well documented; however, research has also revealed a little-known negative effect—repeated nights of sleep deprivation can lead to problems with self-control. There is a complex relationship between glucose levels, glucose utilization, and the human capacity for self-control. Lack of sleep interferes with the brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose and, thus, to control impulses.

According to researchers at Clemson University, a sleep-deprived individual is at an increased risk for lack of self-control, which leads to impulsive desires, poor attention capacity, and compromised decision making. Self-control allows individuals to monitor responses; make decisions when presented with conflicting desires; forego temporary pleasure to meet long-term goals; and control damaging social behavior such as addictions, excessive gambling, and overspending.

The Controlled Attention Model maintains that sleep-deprived individuals suffer from low performance on tasks that require too much effort to complete. One study indicates that, when given a choice, sleep-deprived persons will choose less demanding activities to accommodate for decreased capacity. Therefore, good sleep habits could enhance a person’s ability to choose and tackle difficult tasks.

In the same way that physical activity depletes physical energy, self-control exertion depletes mental energy. Not only that, but the energy resources that allow for better self-control are more quickly depleted than replenished. This means that the capacity for self-control can vary as each day progresses. Because sleep restores physiological energy resources, a good night’s rest replenishes the ability for self-control and helps provide the necessary willpower to make better decisions, such as choosing a healthier snack, being more honest, or resisting temptation.

Individuals prone to lack of self-control can evaluate their sleep habits and pay attention to red flags such as the inability to fall asleep, poor sleep quality, inconsistent sleep times, and excessive sleep deprivation. Preventative measures for any of these issues begin with implementing good sleep hygiene, which comprises regulating sleep and wake-up times, preparing an environment conducive to sleep, avoiding caffeine and exercise close to bedtime, limiting or avoiding naps throughout the day, and engaging in relaxing activities to wind down at night.

Sleep and self-control have long been viewed as separate processes but can now be seen as a more integrated system. Scientists in the sleep field and scientists in the cognitive-based self-control field who once worked separately can now work together. By combining studies of sleep and self-control, we can better understand how the interaction among good sleep habits, physiological energy reserves, and an individual’s personal choices impact self-control, providing a valuable means to improve long-term health and productivity.
Although early onset bipolar disorder (EOBD) was first described in 150 AD, the diagnosis remains surrounded in controversy because no such diagnosis exists. A person either meets the criteria for bipolar disorder set forth in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or not. The problem is that, as with DSM-IV, the criteria describe bipolar disorder as it exists in adults. The child phenotype differs markedly from adult onset bipolar disorder. Children with this disorder exhibit a more chronic form of irritability, more rapid mood swings, intense emotional outbursts, and impulsive aggression.

An additional complication when making the diagnosis in children is that most of the symptoms associated with EOBD also exist in ADHD, OCD, and ASD. Moreover, children with EOBD also have high rates of comorbid conditions.

Though it was hoped that DSM-5 would resolve the main concerns, the following issues remain unaddressed:

  1. Technically, EOBD diagnosis still does not exist.

  2. Teens and children must meet adult criteria to be diagnosed as bipolar.

  3. Many children who would have received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder prior to the publication of DSM-5 will now receive a diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD).


Despite the hope for some consensus, experts in the field have yet to reach agreement on (a) what symptoms constitute the core features of EOBD, (b) how to differentiate bipolar disorder from other childhood disorders, and (c) how best to manage children who have the disorder.

When Drs. Richard M. Marshall and Berney J. Wilkinson began seeing children who exhibited severe symptoms of bipolar disorder, they used omnibus rating scales as part of their initial diagnostic assessment. To their surprise, many of the scales completed by parents and teachers had ratings in the normal range even though the children had symptoms of bipolar disorder. An item analysis revealed that existing rating scales did not contain a sufficient number of items associated with the disorder. To address these shortcomings, Marshall and Wilkinson developed the Pediatric Behavior Rating Scale (PBRS), a standardized, norm-referenced parent and teacher rating scale for use with children ages 3 to 18 years.

Rather than providing specific diagnoses, the PBRS enables clinicians to identify the core features of EOBD, thereby serving as the critical first step in differential diagnosis and intervention planning. The PBRS provides clinical researchers with another tool to assist in (a) defining this disorder, (b) differentiating EOBD from related disorders, and (c) evaluating the efficacy of interventions aimed at alleviating its symptoms.

Approximately 20% of our nation’s 50 million K–12 students meet diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder, and 10% experience significant functional impairments at home, at school, and with peers. Nevertheless, children exhibiting such symptoms are often punished for willful disobedience rather than receiving effective treatment. In fact, 80% of children with mental illness remain undiagnosed and untreated, resulting in increased risk for suicide, school failure, and criminal behavior. Accurate differential diagnoses of EOBD and related disorders is the key to effective interventions.

Unless otherwise cited, source material is attributed to:
Marshall, M. M., & Wilkinson, B. J. (2008). Pediatric Behavior Rating Scale. Lutz, FL: PAR.



What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!