Review of “High Intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities”

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Graphical abstract from the Karpinski paper

There is a new study,  High Intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities, published in the journal Intelligence, that has already garnered some attention from science journalists:

Hyper Brain, Hyper Body: the Trouble with High IQ in Neuroscience News

Having a High IQ May Lead to Increased Risk of Mental Illness in Thriveworks

First of all, I agree that the study is interesting and validates some of my personal experience. Also, I do think the concept of overexcitabilities can be a useful way to conceptualize gifted experience, and I am very encouraged to see any research on these topics. Research on giftedness usually takes a low priority, especially research on the kinds of difficulties gifted people face. However, when I read this paper, I was really disappointed by several major weaknesses in both their experimental design and their conceptual model. The best thing I can say of this study is that it encourages further study. The downside is the spawning of weak and credulous science reporting that contributes to negative stereotypes of gifted people and plays into the public’s willingness to define the problems of giftedness as defects located solely within gifted people: “hyper body” and “hyper brain”.

Issues with the study design

The authors claim to have demonstrated a correlation between IQ and psychological and physiological overexcitabilities. However, they did not test IQ (which presumably varies among Mensans) or use any other psychometric testing for overexcitabilities or psychological conditions, nor did they test specific physiological measures. Instead, they took a non-random sample of American Mensa members and gave them a questionnaire asking them to self-report whether they had specific physical and psychological conditions. The results of the questionnaire were then compared to the prevalences for those conditions found by the 2015 National Health Interview Survey and other national health surveys.

The Mensa questionnaire and the national health surveys did not ask the same types of questions, and they were not administered to groups with similar compositions in terms of age, race, socioeconomic status, education, or gender distribution.

“Participants included 2213 that identified as male (60%), 1472 that identified as female (40%), 22 who identified as non-cisgender, and 8 who declined to state. Regarding race, 87.9% of participants reported being European American, 2.7% as Asian American, 2.6% as Hispanic or Latino, 1.6% as African American, and 5.2% as other, mixed race, or who did not respond. The age range of participants was from 18 to 91 years (M = 53, SD = 15.18). Thus, the majority of participants were older, male, and European American.”

For comparison, the US Census Bureau reports that 51% of the population is female, 77% European American, 13% Black or African American, and 6% Asian. Essentially, the national survey data and the Mensa questionnaire data were apples and oranges. No attempts were made to control for other factors that could contribute to differing rates of various health conditions. Socioeconomic status is potentially a large contributor here. As Cory Doctorow pointed out on Boing Boing in his blog, Some thoughts on whether intelligence is linked to anxiety and depression,

“…in the US, access to medical care and thus formal mental health diagnosis is strongly correlated with income. That means that you’re more likely to have a professional affirm that your distress is caused by a clinical disorder if you’re wealthy than if you’re poor. High IQ correlates with wealth, and the wealth distribution in the study draws from disproportionately high-income subjects (“41.7% earned over $100,000; 16.9% earned between $76,000 and $100,000; 20.1% earned between $51,000 and $75,000; 14.9% earned between $26,000 and $50,000; and 3.9% earned less than $25,000″) so maybe they’ve found a correlation between wealth and mental health diagnoses.”

There is also very little evidence to support the assumption that American Mensa members are even representative of the gifted population. To get an idea of how restricted their pool of volunteers was, consider that the population of the United States is roughly 320 million people. Approximately 2% of those people could be expected to have IQ scores of 130 or higher (Mensa membership is open to those in the top 2% of intellectual ability). That would be 6.4 million people.  American Mensa claims over 50,000 members, which represents less than 0.8% of intellectually gifted Americans.

From this study, we can conclude only that people who join Mensa (and who volunteer for studies) are more likely to report having health conditions than the general population of the United States. Indeed, the fact that the respondents reported markedly higher rates for every condition the questionnaire targeted as “related to overexcitabilities” should be a red flag. A stronger study would rely not on self-report, but on actual medical records or physiological and psychometric measures.

Issues with the conceptual model

The authors offer a conceptual model for the mechanism associating overexcitabilities with health conditions, but they fail to give any a priori operational definition for determining which health conditions are related to overexcitabilities. Indeed, they did not administer any instrument to determine the degree of overexcitability in those they surveyed. An example of this confusion is their classification of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):

“Because ASD is listed in the DSM-IV, we have listed it as a psychological overexcitability. However, it is also included herein as a physiological overexcitability given the immunological processes at play that have been demonstrated in the scientific literature.”

The fact is that nobody yet understands the etiology of autism, nor has anyone established a physiological or psychological basis for it. The authors are making a huge assumption by classifying ASD as any kind of overexcitability. Is any condition found in the DSM-IV (why DSM-IV?) a “psychological overexcitability”? Lacking any clear operational definition of overexcitability from the authors, we must turn to Dabrowski’s meaning of the term.  According to the authors, “[Dabrowski] found these overexcitabilities to be associated with personality development, and observed symptoms of slight neuroses among them as well, such as depression, mild anxiety, and tics.” It does not sound like Dabrowski was describing the kinds of pathology described in the DSM. In fact, he was describing something he saw as a driver of personal growth for gifted individuals. It is worrisome to see Dabrowski’s positive concept broadened and focused on pathology.

Is any condition that involves immunological processes a “physiological overexcitability”, and why only immunological processes? The authors note that chronic inflammation is associated with many medical conditions, but there is by no means a consensus regarding a causal relationship between inflammation and any of the conditions they considered to be related to overexcitability. Instead, the authors engage in some faulty reasoning: stress, autoimmune disorders, allergies, mood disorders, ASD, and so on are all correlated with inflammation. Stress is correlated to intellectual overexcitability. Intellectual overexcitability is correlated with rumination. Rumination is correlated with anxiety and depression. All of these things may be true, but correlation is not transitive.  This means that “X correlates with Y” and “Y correlates with Z” does not imply that “X correlates with Z”.

The model the authors propose is based upon a flimsy chain of unjustified reasoning. Beyond that, its most glaring deficiency is its lack of consideration of the impact of a person’s social environment on their stress level and mental health. The authors include environmental triggers in their model, but according to the diagram, they oddly do not consider the environment to be a contributor to worry, rumination, or psychological overexcitabilities. We don’t need to postulate a “hyper body” model to explain the stress that gifted people experience throughout their lifetimes as a result of their intellectual mismatch with the people around them. The simplest explanation is that gifted people have the same basic emotional needs as everyone else, but that their intellectual differences make it more difficult for them to get those needs met. 

Ask yourself whether you would expect a study to find such a strong correlation between high IQ and every condition the questionnaire asked about. Doesn’t that raise some red flags? If true, how do we explain the studies which did not find a correlation between high IQ and the health problems? Or the studies that found a link between intelligence and greater life expectancy? Why would we expect to find no link between increasing IQ and increasing health problems and then suddenly see a large effect at the cutoff point for Mensa membership? The reported rates from their questionnaire are so much higher than expected that we should look very closely at these results. In particular, we need data on the rates reported by this group for conditions that are not supposedly associated with overexcitabilities. If this result is not simply an artifact of the study methods, we should observe that Mensans do not report higher levels of diagnosis for conditions not associated with overexcitabilities, and we should be very careful to define which conditions are associated with overexcitabilities to avoid simply reclassifying everything that Mensans report as being associated with overexcitabilities! We should look very closely at any study which proposes a complex and loosely defined conceptual model which appears to explain everything.

It is important to find out if people with high IQ are more susceptible to certain health conditions or have physiological or psychological differences that could affect treatment outcomes. But we need studies that actually define overexcitabilities in measurable ways. We need studies that are well-controlled. We need studies with better samples. We need studies that include actual physiological and psychometric measures. This study did not do any of those things.

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A Route from Private Home School to Four-Year College (California specific)

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Is traditional high school not a good fit for your student? Is your student ready for high school work, but is much younger than most high school students? The California education system is not designed for these kinds of students, but there are ways to navigate the maze of educational requirements while leaving the doors open for your student to attend college in the future. One way is to home school your student through a private school that you establish yourself. When they are ready for college level work, your student can take a test that guarantees them entrance to community college, even if they are younger than traditional college students. At the community college, they gain experience taking college classes, learn to navigate higher education systems on their own, and earn college credit. By the time they are traditional college age, they are usually ready to apply to a four-year college as either a freshman or transfer student. This post gives details on how you can help your student on this path.

First, establish your home school by filing a Private School Affidavit (PSA) online with the California Department of Education. You can start your home school at any time during the school year, but the PSA portal will not be available until October. The name of your home school will be the name of the high school your student will graduate from, so choose something suitable. If your student is already doing high school level work, record their grade level as “ungraded secondary”. List the highest grade your school offers as twelfth grade. This allows you to register them in a variety of activities at whatever grade level is appropriate.

If your child is currently enrolled in school, whether it is a traditional public school, charter school, home school charter, or brick and mortar private school, you will need to officially withdraw your child from the school in writing. For details and sample letters, take a look at the materials at California Homeschool Network. I recommend that you obtain a California State ID card for your student since they will not have a student ID. This will serve as their photo identification for exams. Another option is a US Passport Card, which is more expensive. Don’t rely on home school student ID cards since in many cases only government issued ID cards will be accepted.

Record all high school level coursework in your student’s high school transcript. I used a free tool to create basic transcripts called Homeschool Sked Track. Also collect and record brief course descriptions and any textbooks used. This will be part of your student’s descriptive transcript, an additional document that your student will need for their four-year college applications.

When your student is ready for community college (CC) level work, have them take the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE). If they are younger than 16, list them as “Will complete tenth grade within a semester of the next test administration.” Submit a copy of your PSA along with the registration form and payment. Home schools do not need an official seal or a non-family member to sign the form.  When your student passes the test, they will receive a CHSPE certificate, but do not graduate them from your home school high school yet. Continue to file PSA yearly, every October.

Have your student register for CC classes using the CHSPE certificate and a brief transcript of whatever high school work they have completed so far. It may help to list the coursework by subject rather than by year, especially if your student has been doing high school level work for several years. It may also smooth the path to assign letter grades on a regular 4.00 scale and give your student a GPA. Your student will be treated the same as high school graduates by the CC, but you do not need to officially graduate them from your home school high school. If you are getting resistance from a particular CC due to your student’s age, remind them that they are required to accept students with a CHSPE certificate or try a different CC. Some community colleges are more welcoming of younger students than others.

As an additional benefit of the CHPSE certificate, your student will also be eligible for paid employment without needing to obtain a work permit from your public school district. Work experience is a great way for your student to build independence and learn basic finance skills.

Record all CC work on your student’s home school high school transcript as concurrent college level work, along with any other additional high school level work they are still doing at home. Your home school high school is allowed to grant credit for whatever you deem appropriate. Keep the California high school graduation requirements in mind. There are multiple paths to admission to the University of California, but your student will be guaranteed a spot at some UC if they complete the a-g requirements with a good GPA. Some of these can be satisfied by Advanced Placement (AP) or SAT subject tests as well as certain community college classes. Many homeschoolers decide that they do not wish to be constrained by UC a-g requirements, which were designed primarily for public school students. Your student will still be eligible for UC through regular admission, admission by exam, or transfer admission even if they do not complete a-g.

At least a year prior to applying to four-year colleges, your student should probably take either the ACT or the SAT. Some colleges do not require college entrance exams, but most do. If your student wants to be eligible for National Merit Scholarships, in the year prior to their final year of home schooling (ie what would correspond to their eleventh grade year) they will need to take the PSAT/NMSQT. It can be difficult for home schoolers to find a high school that will administer PSAT to their student. Check with local home school groups to find out which high schools offer PSAT to home schooled students, and start early if you want to do this!

When your student is ready for a four-year college, they will either apply as a freshman or as a transfer student. This depends on how many college credits they have already earned. If your student is going to transfer, make sure they have completed all the transfer requirements. There are different transfer requirements for the University of California, California State University, and private colleges or universities.

Either way, your student should officially graduate from your home school high school prior to four-year college. If you wish, you may create a High School Diploma for your student yourself, or order one online from a site such as HomeschoolDiploma.com. When signed by you, this is a valid legal document. Make sure to include on your student’s high school transcript that a “High School Diploma was awarded on [date]”. Submit this final transcript to the college they will attend to along with any official community college transcripts. Your student will legally be a high school graduate even though your private home school is not accredited, with or without CHSPE. Their graduation date is not the CHSPE certificate date, it is the date you awarded them a diploma. Students who receive a CHSPE certificate are legally allowed to continue high school, either public or private (which includes private home schools) and receive a high school diploma.

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Save Money with Generic Epinephrine

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Have you seen the price of EpiPens lately? They are between $600-$700 for a two-pack. If you have high deductible insurance or high co-pays, you will be paying a large part of this cost. Here are some strategies you can use to find cheaper auto-injectors.

Buy Generic

Generics cost between $150-$450, and often have a lower co-pay. The generic epinephrine auto-injectors contain the same medication in a slightly different device. They are available in both 0.15 mg and 0.30 mg dosages, just like EpiPens. Pharmacies often do not tell customers about the generic option because they do not consider it equivalent based on differences in the device, but the generic auto-injector has a tried and true delivery system used by brands such as Adrenaclick and TwinJect. Generic auto-injectors are also smaller and lighter weight than EpiPen brand auto-injectors. http://www.epinephrineautoinject.com/index.php

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Here’s how to get generic epinephrine auto-injectors:

1. Check with your insurance to make sure that “epinephrine injection, USP” is covered and find out what your cost will be. You may save a significant amount! Also find out how many you can buy at once and how often you can refill your prescription.

2. Call around to pharmacies in your area and find out if they carry the generic epinephrine auto-injectors. If a pharmacy doesn’t carry them, they may be able to order some for you. Compare prices between pharmacies. Try using http://www.goodrx.com/epinephrine

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3. Get a prescription from your doctor that is specifically for generic epinephrine auto-injectors. Make sure you are not getting a prescription for EpiPen! Many doctors are not aware that generic epinephrine auto-injectors are available since these are not aggressively marketed like EpiPens.

4. Use $0 co-pay coupons. https://sservices.trialcard.com/Coupon/Epinephrine

5. Make sure you are getting a device that does not expire in less than 12 months. Before you leave the pharmacy counter, check the expiration dates on your devices. Epinephrine auto-injectors should last about a year (unless you use them.) You should not have to buy new ones before that.

6. If this is your first time using the generic auto-injectors, order a free training device and watch the training video on the website. https://order.qpharmacorp.com/epineprhinepen/

I hope this helps! Please share more tips in the comments.

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Hostility Toward Gifted Children

Bullying has been in the news lately, so I’ve decided to share my family’s experience with bullying in 2007.  Here’s  a little background on the situation:

Our son M is highly gifted.  He had been attending Kindercare since he was two-and-a-half. During the 2006-2007 school year, he began the year in the PreK classroom. After Winter break, the school decided to eliminate the PreK class, and place those students together with the three and four-year-olds.  The director decided to place M (who had been reading and doing basic arithmetic since before he was three) in the Kindergarten class instead. M had turned four just a few months before he was accelerated to Kindergarten.

M seemed to be doing fine in the Kindergarten class which he attended every morning for three hours.  Keep in mind that Kindergarten is not required in California, and there were no “graduation requirements” to be met in this class. Even if there had been, M would have met them. We paid for him to be in that class, and he did the work he was given in that class.  He participated with the rest of the kindergarteners learning a song for their end-of-year party and graduation. The teacher ordered cute little caps and gowns for the kids to wear for their ceremony, and M was excited to wear his.

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About a week before the party, I found this note in M’s cubby (names have been changed to protect the kids.)

Dear “M’s Parents”,

My name is Jack Hill. I’m Greg Hill’s father. I’m not sure if you know Greg. I know I’ve never met M.

Greg and Karl have been attending Kindercare since 2001, starting as babies just after the school opened. They’ve been here longer than any Kindercare employee. Brian and Nate started just a year or so later.

This Friday marks a completion for them—for Greg and Karl more so than the others. Greg and Karl will be the first children to complete a full course at this school. As tradition dictates, we mark that completion with a ceremony, including ceremonial garb and a certificate.

We do that to indicate and savor the accomplishment. We give the children a sense of achievement to carry with them in their new beginning as First Graders. We in turn are rewarded with a pride different from all the other feelings of pride we’ve felt for our child. This completion marks the beginning of our pride in watching our child become an adult.

My son tells me M will participate in the ceremony, but will not really graduate because he’s really just visiting Kindergarten. He wonders if that is right—and so do I.

Several of the kindergarten parents have asked themselves and each other the same question.

The children know that M is not really in their class. They know he won’t really be in kindergarten until next year. They know he hasn’t accomplished everything that they have. They know that when he participates in their graduation it will be pretend.

I would like you to know that your charade trivializes not only my child’s accomplishment or the other kindergartener’s, but yours as well—next year, when the accomplishment will be real. I began this letter with the intent to threaten and coerce you into doing what I think is right, but now I realize that perhaps you just didn’t know there’s really more to this ceremony than just dressing up. Perhaps you didn’t know that it had meaning for all of us.

I respectfully ask you to consider what this moment really means to you and your son. I ask you to weigh that value against tainting our children’s graduation.

I ask you simply to understand that you will be demonstrating reward for cheating to the entire 2007 kindergarten class by having your child participate in this graduation ceremony without basis.

I am asking you not to do that.

Sincerely,

Jack Hill

Now you might say that the author of this letter is obviously crazy, and should simply be ignored. However, I was concerned by the “threaten and coerce” line.  The idea that another parent (whom I had never met!) could harbor so much hostility toward my family was frightening.  My husband and I brought the letter to the director of the school who said she would talk to this parent.  Unfortunately, after talking to him she was so intimidated that she asked us not to attend the party!  We were frightened enough that we decided it wasn’t worth it to insist.  Four years later, I still feel a twinge of fear when I encounter the families named in the letter in the community.

School administrators need to be aware of hostility toward gifted students, and stand up to parents who bully other families.

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Social Consequences of Food Allergy

recent study published in Pediatrics reported that over 30% of children with food allergies say they have been bullied about their allergies.  Previous studies have also found that having a food allergy puts a child at risk for bullying.  I’d like to share my experience with raising two children with food allergies and examine why bullying is such a problem for this group.

Food sharing is one of the most basic social constants in human culture.  We use food as our social glue.  When a group shares food, we are saying we are a family, a team, a tribe.  Many cultural traditions and religious rituals involve the sharing of food.  We use it both as an offering and as a way of increasing our status within the group.  We use it as a way of connecting with one another.1  So what are the consequences when an individual cannot participate in these most basic of social interactions?  Asking this question can help us understand the social stigma of food allergies.

I have two children with anaphylactic food allergies who experienced this stigma during the time they were in public school.  When I was new to the world of food allergies, I didn’t understand why many people seemed so resistant to accommodating the needs of my children.  Why did they feel so angry about restrictions placed on bringing treats to class for holidays and birthdays?  To me, it seemed obvious that a child’s safety should be placed above custom, and yet there were a few parents and teachers who intentionally circumvented the rules, and others who obeyed, but grudgingly.  I learned that they viewed the safety rules as arbitrary barriers preventing them and their children from participating in the food sharing traditions they felt were vital for their own and their children’s social connections and standing.2

Now let’s look at the same situation from the perspective of a child with food allergies.  Whenever cupcakes were brought to class, my son was not able to eat one.  Yes, we did provide him with some other treat, but the deeper message was that he could not share what the others were eating, and was not part of the group.  Every event based on food sharing was a reminder of his separateness.  It was also a reminder that the adults in charge did not think he was important enough to be included.

An example of the kind of food sharing interaction we all take for granted:
A parent comes to the class bringing cupcakes.  Each student is offered a cupcake and enjoys the sweet treat.  The students’ trust and liking for this parent is increased.  The birthday student is a celebrity for a day, and when the other kids have their birthdays, they ask their parents to bring cupcakes.

What happens when there is a student with a food allergy in the class:
A parent brings cupcakes to class.  My son is offered a cupcake, but he must say, “No thank you, I have food allergies.”  He is allergic to egg, and these cupcakes almost certainly contain egg.  This is the first moment where the food sharing ritual breaks down.  The food allergic person is forced to refuse the offer of food.  In many cultures, refusing an offer of food is considered rude.  Even though he gives the reason (food allergies) this is often not accepted.  People become defensive, and don’t believe that the allergy is real or serious.  They offer objections: Their friend’s child is allergic to egg but can tolerate baked goods, so this cupcake is okay.   A little bit won’t hurt.  They are pretty sure the item doesn’t contain eggs, and so on. To them, his rejection of the food feels like a rejection of the person offering it.

Children with food allergies are put in the difficult social position of having to stand up to adults who are determined to give them unsafe food.  My son tries to mollify them by saying, “It’s okay, I have my own treat.”  Or he will take it and “save it for later,” but trying to avoid the stigma of the food allergy by saying that he is not hungry is not very effective because this is also seen as a rejection of the person offering the food.  Eating his own treat does not serve the same symbolic social function as sharing what everyone else is eating.  In fact, it carries the opposite meaning: he is separate, and not part of the group.  Having to refuse the offered food sends the message, “I don’t trust you, and I don’t want to be part of your group.”

Even if the food allergic student’s parents try to compensate by bringing safe food to share with the whole group, the inability to reciprocate by accepting food from others creates stigma.  When the parent of a food allergic child overcompensates by bringing multiple offers of food to the group, that is often met with resentment from the other parents who feel they are not given equal opportunities to share.  This is a no-win situation, and the resentment of the group is expressed as ostracism of the allergic child and his family.

Many times, excluding the allergic child is rationalized:

  • He needs to get used to being left out because food allergies are a fact of his life.
  • Kids shouldn’t feel entitled to special treatment; the world isn’t going to change for them.
  • She’s used to being left out; it doesn’t bother her.
  • This child’s parents are overprotective; this level of caution is unnecessary.
  • Other people with food allergies can eat this, so this should be good enough for her, too.

The reality is that kids with food allergies get plenty of practice at being excluded.  Far from feeling entitled to special treatment, they internalize the message that their food allergies are a burden to others.  Children with food allergies do not take inclusion for granted.  This is especially true for children with multiple food allergies, or who are highly sensitive to the allergens.  They are at the greatest risk for stigmatization because the necessary precautions seem unusual to people.  In addition, there are many people with food allergies who are not aware of best practices for food allergy management 3, and their casual approach to the risks involved is seen as more socially acceptable.

Modeling exclusion

My daughter’s teacher once decided to bring candy to the class for Easter.  Since it was a last minute decision, the teacher didn’t take the time to ask me which candy was safe for my daughter who is allergic to peanuts.  She gave the candy to all the children, including my daughter who tried to refuse it.  When my daughter wouldn’t eat the candy, she was told she could eat a leftover part of her sandwich from her lunchbox while her classmates enjoyed the candy.  My daughter was six years old.

When adults exclude the child with food allergies, they are modeling exclusion for everyone.  They are sending a message to all the kids that it is okay to exclude the allergic child, and a message to the allergic child that they are not worth including.  Many kids with food allergies are bullied at school because of this social stigma.4  Allergic children deserve to feel safe and that their well-being is important to the adults in charge.  They deserve to have their basic needs for safety and inclusion met.

Take a moment to look at this diagram.  If it looks familiar, that is probably because it is based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 5.  Notice that the need to belong is part of the base of the pyramid.  We are all social beings, and belonging is a basic, human need.  The power of that need is probably greatest in adolescence 6, and that is reflected in the fact that teens are at a greater risk of dying from their food allergies than younger children.  Years of social stigma take their toll, and teens may place a higher priority on inclusion than safety.  And in the school context, when kids’ basic needs are not being met, their ability to learn is compromised.

If we can bring awareness to these very human reactions, we can choose to respond differently.  We can choose to include kids with food allergies.  This is going to require effort because accommodating food allergies means conscientiously checking ingredient labels and carefully cleaning cooking utensils and surfaces.  It means talking to the child’s parents to find out what is safe.  It means accepting that those parents may not feel comfortable trusting their child’s life to home baked cupcakes, and choosing to center a party around non-food activities instead.  It means remembering that families with food allergies live with those inconveniences every day.  Most kids take being included for granted.  Imagine what it means to a child with food allergies.

What can you do?

As a parent of a child with food allergies you can:
Advocate for inclusion at school, and help raise awareness
Mitigate some of the exclusion by volunteering to share safe food
Support your child’s self-advocacy efforts

As a teacher you can:
Choose to use non-food items for class projects, manipulatives, and incentives
Promote celebrations that focus on activities rather than food
Support the self-advocacy of children with food allergies

As a parent of a child without food allergies you can:
Choose to send non-food treats for holidays and birthdays
Make an effort to include the allergic child in social events outside of school
Model compassion for kids with food allergies to your own children

References

1. Stevens JR, Gilby IC.  A conceptual framework for nonkin food sharing: timing and currency of benefits. Animal Behavior. 2004;67:603-614.

2. Fehr E, Fischbacher U, Gächter S.  Strong reciprocity, human cooperation and the enforcement of social norms.  Human Nature. 2002;13:1-25.

3. Sicherer SH, Mahr T, et al. Clinical report: Management of food allergy in the school setting.  Pediatrics. Published online Nov 29, 2010. Available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/126/6/1232.full?sid=6cfbd3cf-62c3-408e-92f5-4108643fec24

4. Pitchforth E, Weaver S, Willars J, Wawrzkowicz E, Luyt D, Dixon-Woods M. A qualitative study of families of a child with a nut allergy.  Chronic Illness. Published online Aug 16, 2011.  Available at http://chi.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/08/13/1742395311411591

5. Maslow AH. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review. 1943;50:370-396.

6. Resnick ES, Pieretti MM, Maloney J, Noone S, Muñoz-Furlong A, Sicherer S. Development of a questionnaire to measure quality of life in adolescents with food allergy: the FAQL-teen. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2010;105(5):364-368.

This post originally appeared in The Creativity Post.

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I was interviewed by Dan Peters for his Psychology Today blog

I decided to consolidate various blog posts here on Microscopes are Prudent, and I’d like to include a link to this blog post by Dr. Daniel Peters of Summit Center. Dr. Peters interviewed me on his From Worrier to Warrior blog in April for Autism Awareness Month about anxiety and autism.

A First-Person Perspective on Anxiety and Autism

 

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What is IQ?

Sandeep Gautam wrote in “Why IQ is a Myth”:“To me, to be frank a score of 162 or whatever on a test means nothing, and I hardly care if the test is Cattels , WISC or stanford-binet. When a lay person sees a score of 100 or 160 he assumes that a) intelligence can be fully measured and quantified and b) IQ is that measure.”

It is very true that IQ scores divorced from their context are pretty meaningless. It’s like saying, “Forty-two is The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” [Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] Forty-two what? What was the question?

We can list a lot of things that an IQ score isn’t:

  • It isn’t The Answer to the Ultimate Question about a person.
  • It isn’t an immutable number carved on your brain.
  • It isn’t able to measure the full range of a person’s abilities.
  • It isn’t a measure of someone’s worth.
  • It isn’t a map of someone’s destiny.
  • It isn’t a limit (or an expectation!) placed on a person’s potential.

But instead of underestimating the “lay person”, perhaps we should attempt to explain what an IQ score is. It is information about how a person performed certain tasks, under certain conditions, on a particular day. A full-scale IQ score makes sense only when we understand it in its full context, including: the type of test, its standard deviation, its ceilings, its error ranges, the other composite scores, and the subtest scores. A good tester also makes behavioral observations about how the person approaches problems and emotional factors that may have affected the results. To interpret the subtest scores, we need to understand the specific cognitive abilities being drawn upon by those tasks. A full-scale score is only the broadest summary of someone’s performance ranked as a comparison to the scores of others in the same age group. It gives none of the details about strengths or weaknesses.A typical full-scale IQ score (such as given by the Wechsler tests), is called a standard score. This score corresponds to a percentile ranking of the sum of the scaled scores of selected individual subtests, which are themselves rankings of the raw scores for each task normed for each age group. It is essentially a measure of “unusualness”. The more unusual subtest scores someone has, the more that will be reflected in the sum, resulting in a more unusual full-scale score. The logic of this process can be confounded in situations where a person’s scores in one area are unusually low and unusually high in another, giving the appearance of an average sum. This is why we need to look at the other composite scores (for example, Verbal or Working Memory) and the subtest scores in order to interpret the full-scale score.

An unusually high score, like Neha Ramu’s, is possible only when all or nearly all of the subtest scores are unusually high. What does this tell us about a person? It means that in comparison to others her age, she excels in skills that are predictive of academic success, which is what most IQ tests have been designed to measure.In its various incarnations, IQ has been linked to certain personal characteristics and learning outcomes—I’m not going to summarize those volumes of research here. The important thing to remember when reading about such research is that statistical correlations can tell you only about the likelihood of a given outcome. They cannot be applied to individuals. We cannot know ahead of time whether a person is part of the majority who will experience a given outcome or the minority who will not. The fact that there is such a minority does not invalidate the research, just as the fact that IQ scores may be misunderstood by some does not mean they are useless or absurd.

No psychologist trained to administer IQ tests would claim that intelligence can be fully quantified by IQ. I completely agree that it is sloppy journalism to report Neha’s score as evidence that she is smarter than Albert Einstein, and equally sloppy to compare her score to an estimate (Einstein never took the test Neha took). But instead of dismissing IQ tests as nonsense, let’s set the record straight.

This post originally appeared on Undiscovered Gold.

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