ECHA Recommended Articles for September 2022

Here are a few articles related to topics and keynote speeches of the ECHA 2022 conference.

Inclusive Support to Safeguard the Strengths of Twice-Exceptional Students

Prof. Alexander Minnaert (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) was one of the keynote speakers of the 18th International Conference of ECHA, in the Hague, where he focused on the inclusion practices in favor of twice-exceptional (2e) students. In a recent article (2022) he summarizes the most important and relevant information on this topic.

Twice-exceptional (2e) students are blessed with both a gift and a persistent developmental problem like Specific Learning Disorders, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorders. To appropriately include these 2e students and to provide equitable quality education, schools should accommodate them within a child-centred pedagogy to meet both their strengths and needs to prevent early school dropout. Even with a needs-based and increased focus on inclusive education, this is still a huge challenge. Unfolding major insights stemming from recent literature reviews on 2e students, it was concluded that schoolcounselors and teachers in cooperation with parents can play a vital and tailored role in helping these students overcome their frustration and negative school-related emotions, to prevent early school dropout, and to reduce the loss of talent to our society. Research aiming at 2e students’ profile of both strengths and weaknesses might pave the way to effective psycho-educational interventions.

Although an emerging focus on 2e students is to be found, challenges in the (early) identification of these students still comes to the fore, among both teachers and parents.

A Grown-Up Gifted Kid Helping People Through Therapy and Training

Dr. Matt Zakreski, a keynote speaker of the 18th International Conference of ECHA, in the Hague, is a high energy, creative clinician who utilizes an eclectic approach to meet the specific needs of his clients.  He specializes in working with children and adolescents, as well as their families, in providing therapy and conducting psychological evaluations. In his memorable speech at the conference he emphasized that failure is one of the most challenging aspects of life for neurodivergent people to manage and that failure is an unavoidable part of life.  Instead of becoming hopeless when faced with that reality, his talk focusesed on how to identify the positive aspects of failure, from teachable moments to opportunities to build resiliency. 

If you would like to recall these memorable moments of the conference, just listen to this episode of the Embracing Intensity podcast. Embracing Intensity is a community, podcast, and other media dedicated to help you use your fire without getting burned. Combining real-world experiences and educational knowledge, Embracing Intensity helps you identify and use your neurodivergent strengths, while supporting your challenges.

If you want to know Matt Zakreski better, if you are interested, how he learned to embrace his giftedness, why he speaks the language of caring and how getting in touch with his emotional world and being vulnerable have helped Matt harness the power of his intensity, it is your time to listen to this engaging conversation.

Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers

“Learning occurs through modification of the brains’ neural connections.”

“Academic achievement can be affected by skipping breakfast.”

“Environments that are rich in stimulus improve the brains of pre-school children.”

“Children are less attentive after consuming sugary drinks and/or snacks.”

Do you agree with these statements? Are they correct or not? You can check it at the end of the article Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers by Dekker, Lee, Howard-Jones and Jolles (2012), in which they take a closer look at those misconceptions about the brain that exist among professionals in the field of education.

In her keynote lecture at the 18th International Conference of ECHA, Prof. Niamh Stack (Head of Department at the Department of Psychology, Mary Immaculate College, Ireland, professor of Developmental Psychology) emphasized that we must look holistically at the individual considering not just academic strengths/needs but also social and emotional well-being, however, we may not have yet fully succeeded in these holistic aims. She showed examples within neuroscience (eg. the studies of the above authors) that in spite of the very best of intentions, the application of theory to practice and the meeting of multidisciplinary perspectives can go astray, and she called for better bridges of communication between psychology, neuroscience and education to make these discussions and their implications for provision more than a sum of their parts.

This article from the Frontiers in Psychology is about a study that investigated the prevalence and predictors of neuromyths among teachers in some regions of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. A large observational survey design was used to assess general knowledge of the brain and neuromyths. The sample comprised 242 primary and secondary school teachers who were interested in the neuroscience of learning. It would be of concern if neuromyths were found in this sample, as these teachers may want to use these incorrect interpretations of neuroscience findings in their teaching practice. Participants completed an online survey containing 32 statements about the brain and its influence on learning, of which 15 were neuromyths. Results showed that on average, teachers believed 49% of the neuromyths, particularly myths related to commercialized educational programs. Around 70% of the general knowledge statements were answered correctly. Teachers who read popular science magazines achieved higher scores on general knowledge questions. More general knowledge also predicted an increased belief in neuromyths.

These findings suggest that teachers who are enthusiastic about the possible application of neuroscience findings in the classroom find it difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from scientific facts. Possessing greater general knowledge about the brain does not appear to protect teachers from believing in neuromyths. This demonstrates – in accordance with Prof. Stack’s main takeaway – the need for enhanced interdisciplinary communication to reduce such misunderstandings in the future and establish a successful collaboration between neuroscience and education.