Author Archives: belinblank

Understanding Autism

We don’t know enough about autism – that’s why we need your help.

The Belin-Blank Center partners with many units across campus including our colleagues in the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. Our colleague, Dr. Jacob Michaelson, Roy J. Carver Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Neuroscience, directs the University of Iowa site for the SPARK study, the largest genetic study of autism ever.

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

SPARK is building the nation’s largest research community of individuals with autism and their families.  Participants are asked to share medical and genetic information with scientists and agree to be contacted about future research studies. All it takes is to register, complete a few questionnaires online, and provide a saliva sample via a kit mailed to your home. In return, you will receive a gift card valued at up to $50. You will also contribute to a better understanding of autism and help provide meaningful information and resources to individuals with autism and their families.  

Please consider participating if you are able!

Social Skills Intervention Group

It’s not too late (yet!) to inquire about participating in a social skills intervention group through our Assessment and Counseling Clinic.

Eligible students will be in grades 7 through 9 and demonstrate high cognitive and/or academic ability as well as social skills challenges (either due to Autism Spectrum Disorder or another diagnosis). Students will join 12 weekly hour-long virtual group sessions beginning in February through April of 2022.

Contact Amanda Berns, PhD at bbc-clinic@uiowa.edu for more information and to express interest in participating.

Message from the Director: Talent Scouts Not Deficit Detectives

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Be a Talent Scout, Not a Deficit Detective” 

University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education

This slogan, courtesy of our colleagues at the University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), appeared on large buttons at the November 2021 National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) annual conference. I made sure to display mine prominently. Although the Belin-Blank Center refers to discovering talent rather than scouting for talent, either verb captures the essence of the Center’s daily work. Discovering talent in partnership with families and colleagues worldwide and in our home state is essential to developing thattalent. 

Below are a few examples of ways in which we partner with schools and families to discover and develop talent: 

STEM Excellence and Leadership is a long-running partnership between the Belin-Blank Center and rural middle schools in Iowa, funded by NSF grants and recently featured in the Phi Delta Kappan’sspotlight on rural education (December 2021/January 2022). STEM Excellence and Leadership focuses on increasing the achievements andaspirations of bright rural middle-school students to better prepare them for advanced coursework in high school. 

Students from rural communities are less likely to attend college and, if they do, they are 60% less likely to enroll in STEM majors. This discrepancy may be partly because under-resourced rural schools typically cannot offer the same advanced math or science courses that well-resourced urban and suburban schools have available to their advanced students. Positively, rural areas are often very desirable places to live because of their strong sense of community. In general, smaller school systems are typically less bureaucratic, and educators and administrators often have more flexibility in creating specialized opportunities for advanced students. These upsides enable the STEM Excellence and Leadership program to make a difference in rural schools. 

Academic accelerationis a broad topic, encompassing everything from minor adjustments to the curriculum to grade skipping. The Belin-Blank Center offers a wide variety of information about acceleration through our Acceleration Institute website and more individualized advice with the Integrated Acceleration System tool. Through our collaboration with the NCRGE, we’ve reached an even broader audience on the benefits of appropriate acceleration. For the next few weeks, educators have an opportunity to indicate their interest in participating in an upcoming NCRGE academic acceleration study, which will provide free professional learning, universal screening, and stipends for participating educators. Watch a two-minute informative video to learn more about the study and how partnering with the NCRGE can benefit gifted students in your school. More details are available on NCRGE’s website.  

Finally, we are in the final stages of developing a Graduate Certificate in Talent Development, an online 14-semester-hour graduate certificate for full-time professionals, non-degree students, and degree-seeking students. Coursework spans multiple theories and perspectives across several talent domains (e.g., art, writing, sports) and culminates with an independent capstone exploration. We expect coursework to be available in Fall 2022. Stay tuned for more about this graduate certificate in the coming months! 

There are only a few more weeks remaining in 2021.  I hope you are inspired to join us in discovering and developing talent in the coming year.  

Best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy 2022. 

Metaphors for Gifted and Talented Students

In a recent one-semester-hour class about Differentiated Instruction strategies, members of the class shared their similes and metaphors for their gifted and talented students; the way they perceive their students powerfully impacts the way they provide appropriate differentiation in the classrooms (Godor, 2019).

Here are their ideas, lightly edited for length.

Gifted/talented students are like lichen

They are unique organisms that come in many different varieties, are a combination of two worlds, are equally hidden as they are noticeable, and are sensitive to their environment.

I try to use this umbrella as much as possible when I refer to GT student services. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to serving students under the GT umbrella…Like lichen, the variety and specific needs for a GT student to grow and remain connected are vast. 

When talking with colleagues about GT students, I often notice the lack of awareness about their unique needs…I hope to create an environment where lichen thrives, and our entire ecosystem is enhanced.  

In differentiating for gifted and talented students, it’s important to remember more work doesn’t equal differentiation. With each student being in a different space under the umbrella, it’s essential to understand how there may be support for each enrichment. 

Gifted/talented students are cheetahs

Most cheetahs have many easily identified characteristics, but they possess many other traits that are not as easily identified.   If cheetahs are not provided the proper environment to thrive and fully reach their potential, then many of their strongest talents–speed and agility, for example–may only partially develop.  Like cheetahs, students with gifts and talents need the proper environment and the proper “diet” of challenging instruction to fully develop their abilities. 

As educators, it is our responsibility to develop the skills and potential of gifted/talented students.  Differentiated instruction–beginning in the earliest stages of education–is an essential piece of the puzzle for these students. 

I cannot take credit for this metaphor; however, I feel that the article titled Is It A Cheetah?  (Tolan, 1996) accurately describes the experiences that many gifted students encounter when they enter the school system. 

I see gifted/talented students as geodes.

A geode is a rock that might look very similar to those around it, yet when it is cracked open has a crystal-like formation on the inside. Sometimes, I think it is easy to view a classroom of students as the same… a group of 30 second graders, for example, and in this metaphor, that would be like seeing a bed of rocks. This, however, is not accurate. Each rock is different and possesses various characteristics that make it unique.

Geodes can sometimes be difficult to crack open. However, once the inside is exposed, it is beautiful. In terms of differentiation, I think it is important to recognize that each student may need various support to succeed in school. It is vital that gifted students are challenged academically and receive the support necessary in order to develop their crystal-like gifts and talents.

Square pegs that don’t fit in round holes.

A few years ago, I attended a workshop led by Rick Wormeli. He mentioned that we need to stop trying to fit students into the round peg and instead need to let them be the square peg. I think this is the perfect metaphor for gifted/talented students. They’re definitely the square/star/diamond/dodecagon/etc. that we try to force into theround hole. They think in different ways, and instead of adapting our activities and instruction to their ways of thinking, we just try to make them fit our way. If we modify and differentiate our instruction, they can find a way to better fit into our pegboard without us forcing them to modify their way of thinking and what they need from us. This will help them to not stagnate but instead blossom into what they were meant to be.

Godor, B.P.  (2019). Gifted Metaphors: Exploring the Metaphors of Teachers in Gifted Education and Their Impact on Teaching the Gifted. Roeper Review, 41(1), 51-60. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epub/10.1080/02783193.2018.1553219?needAccess=true.

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

An icon of a calendar

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education: December 20, 2021
    • Program Models in Gifted Education: January 18, 2022
    • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs: January 18, 2022
    • Admin and Policy in Gifted Education: January 24, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: April 18, 2022
    • Belin Fellowship: June 19-24, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (On Campus): June 28 – July 1, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (Online): August 1-5, 2022

For Students & Families

Save the Dates for Professional Learning

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

SAVE THE DATES! The Belin-Blank Center will host several professional learning opportunities for educators in Summer 2022.

The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program is a unique opportunity for a cadre of educators to learn more about the area of gifted education, through a five-day summer workshop. Its purpose is to help teachers learn better methods for working with gifted children in their classrooms. The program is designed to help educators provide an appropriate program for gifted students, develop in students a heightened sense of social responsibility in the use of their talents, and provide leadership in gifted education. For Summer 2022, priority will be given to those in instructional coaching roles. The dates for Summer 2022 are June 20-24. Applications will be available on our website in mid-February.

Want to prepare for teaching an AP class? The Belin-Blank Center will be hosting BOTH on-campus and online Advanced Placement Summer Institutes (APSI). The on-campus APSI will be held at the University of Iowa in Iowa City from June 28 – July 1. The online APSI will take place from August 1-5.

The planned ON-CAMPUS classes are:

Biology, Calculus AB, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Government & Politics, Human Geography, Psychology, US History, and World History

The planned ONLINE classes are:

Computer Science Principles, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Physics I, Psychology, Spanish Language & Culture, and Statistics.

Stay tuned for more professional learning opportunities in spring and summer 2022. We hope you will plan to join us!

Free Day Camp for 2e Students

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022. This post is the second in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series:


This summer, the Belin-Blank Center is excited to build upon our collaboration with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute by inviting twice-exceptional (2e) high school students to the University of Iowa campus for a one-day neuroscience experience.  

2e students currently in grades 8 through 11 with an interest in neuroscience careers are invited to spend Monday, July 25, 2022, in the Carver College of Medicine interacting with University of Iowa faculty and graduate students. Participants will also get to complete a neuroscience laboratory experiment under the supervision of research staff. 

There is no cost to participate in this program, but spaces are limited. Contact the Belin-Blank Center’s Katie Schabilion, Ph.D., (katherine-schabilion@uiowa.edu) for more information on the program and the registration process. 

Social Skills Intervention Group for 2e Students

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022. This post is the second in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series:


The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is pleased to invite students grades 7 through 9 who demonstrate high cognitive/academic ability and social skills challenges (either due to Autism Spectrum Disorder or another diagnosis) to inquire about participation in a social skills intervention group, based on the UCLA PEERS Curriculum.  

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The UCLA PEERS Curriculum is an empirically supported curriculum that has been shown to increase social knowledge and social engagement for adolescents with ASD through group social skills instruction and parent support. Students will learn skills to support appropriate social interactions, such as building conversations with others, entering or exiting conversations, and using humor, as well as learn ways to manage teasing or bullying. Parents will support students to complete weekly assignments, such as helping students identify a social group to join, encouraging their participation in the group, and practicing newly learned social skills. 

Participation will involve 12 weekly group sessions conducted virtually, each 60 minutes in length, beginning in February through April of 2022. Parent support is required for participation. While the services are provided virtually, all clients must reside in the state of Iowa to participate in the intervention, due to Iowa licensure laws. Questions about the social skills group should be directed to Amanda Berns, Ph.D., at bbc-clinic@uiowa.edu . Please send inquiries by January 24th to be considered for participation.

A Summer Research Program That Boosts Your College Applications

Do you want an in-depth insight into university-level research? Check out the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) for students in grades 10-11. Applications are open now!

SSTP is an intensive summer research program that connects high-achieving high school students with world-class faculty research mentors from the research-intensive University of Iowa. SSTP offers rare access to elite opportunities that help students realize their academic and professional goals. Students participate in classes and events that will stretch them as researchers and scholars. They have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore their interests, enhance their academic skills, and make meaningful friendships with intellectual peers.

Research areas include:

On-Campus

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Business Analytics
  • Chemistry
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Genetics
  • Health & Human Physiology
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Internal Medicine
  • Mathematics
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Neurology
  • Neuroscience
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatrics
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical Therapy and Rehab Science
  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychology

Online

  • Biology
  • Business Analytics
  • Chemistry
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Genetics
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatrics
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical Therapy and Rehab Science
  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Religious Studies

Applying to college? This program can help your application stand out. Also, students in SSTP can earn 3 hours of university credit. 

Check out the SSTP website for more information on SSTP and the application process. Start your application today!

2e at the B-BC: New Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022.  This post is the first in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check back soon for the next installment!


Many individuals who identify as autistic also have exceptional gifts and talents.  When cultivated, these gifts and talents contribute to great advances across a variety of domains in society.  However, many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may also experience difficulty with a variety of skill areas, like executive functioning and adaptive skills that are necessary for flexibly navigating everyday life.  While many individuals who identify as autistic may have been supported within their primary and secondary education, there has been a proverbial “cliff” described for the significantly fewer services and supports they receive after leaving high school.  The Belin-Blank Center is bringing a new program to the University of Iowa to support college students who otherwise might have come upon such a cliff.  This program is called the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality.   

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is for University of Iowa college students who are on the autism spectrum or identify as autistic and have high cognitive ability and/or academic achievement.  Such students are also known as “twice-exceptional” (2e), given their exceptionality in both their cognitive ability and/or academic achievement, as well as in their neurodevelopment that results in a disability.  Participants in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality will be supported through weekly meetings with a graduate assistant, organized social events, and a weekly seminar, where they can identify goals, as well as gain knowledge and skills to support their adjustment to campus life and the increased expectations for greater independence. Additionally, professional staff at the Belin-Blank Center will communicate and work closely with parents to support their student’s success.   

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is currently in a pilot year, supporting 2e University of Iowa students who identify as autistic.  Activities include individual goal setting, and assistance navigating and adjusting to campus life.  Emily (Emmy) Kuhlmann, a graduate assistant for the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, meets with students on a weekly basis, to encourage their overall well-being and offer information regarding ways to seek appropriate supports if needed, either on- or off-campus.  She described her work with the students: “I have been working with students on individual goals to ease their transition into college student life. Some students wish to discuss organization and time management, others want to discuss stress and imposter syndrome. All are hoping to work on their goals to be successful college students – beyond the classroom.” Additionally, she added, “Goal setting and adjusting are a big part of my work. I want students to feel they can set big goals. I also encourage them to take smaller steps to reach their goals or adjust their timeline or approach if it’s not going well.” 

One current participant in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality shared how they have found meeting with the graduate assistant to be helpful.  They shared, “Emmy helped me get through college with ideas and suggestions for what I can do better or improve on for exams, projects, and life in college, overall.”  This U of I student identified organized social events as helpful in introducing them to new people on campus, as well. 

Emmy also described the importance of a strong working relationship with students.  She stated, “with my background in counseling, I have learned that the most successful growth and change comes through the support of a strong working relationship. With each student I am working with, I try to build relationships to really get to know the students – their interests, their strengths, and their needs. It is only by understanding more of who they are that I am able to assist with individualized support to work towards their goals. This has also been the most enjoyable part of my job, as I now know many wonderful students!” 

In addition to these invaluable relationships and weekly meetings, which are supervised by a licensed psychologist, weekly seminars are designed to support University of Iowa students who are in the Academy.  More specifically, seminars were developed with input from University-wide stakeholders who share expert knowledge regarding the needs of college students who identify as autistic.  Seminars were designed by Belin-Blank Center experts in education and clinical psychology to provide instruction aimed at building important knowledge and skills for independence, social-emotional maturity, effective communication, and career readiness, Belin-Blank Center professional staff and faculty also utilize instructional strategies and accommodations to help twice-exceptional students understand the importance of gaining and using new skills, such as instruction with visuals, support in perspective taking, and peer-mediated instruction.  “It has been such an honor to be a part of developing this much-needed service,” shared Dr. Amanda Berns, a clinical psychologist at the Belin-Blank’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic, with expertise in supporting twice-exceptional individuals who identify as autistic. An integral team member in the development of the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, Dr. Berns also indicates, “I am so excited to see the impact the Academy will have in so many young autistic people’s lives!”  

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is currently accepting applicants for the 2022-2023 academic year.  If you or someone you know is interested in attending the University of Iowa and participating in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, more information about the academy and the application can be found on the Belin-Blank Center’s website: belinblank.org/2eacademy. Questions can be sent through the website or via email at 2eacademy@belinblank.org . 

Research Opportunity for Autism Study – Recruiting Participants With and Without Autism

Check out this research opportunity from our friends in the Kliemann Lab! If you are interested in more information, please reach out to PBS-kliemann-lab@uiowa.edu or 319-467-3161. 


Researchers in the Kliemann Lab of the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department at the University of Iowa are currently inviting participants for a study investigating social behavior in individuals with and  without autism. You may be eligible if you:

  1. Are between 18 – 50 years old.
  2. Are fluent in English.

For interested participants with autism, you may be eligible if you fill the above criteria and you:

  1. Have been diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

This study consists of completing one or more of our ongoing experiments in this study. These range from simple behavioral tasks, to measuring where participants look at during a task using noninvasive eye-tracking, to questionnaires assessing social behavior, to a research brain scan.

 The specific parts (behavioral, eye tracking, and/or MRI) you participate in will depend on the current needs of the study, your eligibility for each procedure, and your desire to participate in each procedure. You may choose to participate in one, multiple, or none of these procedures upon our further correspondence and confirmation of your eligibility. These procedures will take between 1-3hours each and can be spread over multiple days.

Participants receive a compensation amount of $10 to $15 per hour depending on which procedures you are eligible for and choose to participate in.

If you are interested in participating, please email our lab at PBS-kliemann-lab@uiowa.edu, or call us at 319-467-3161. 

Message from the Director: Thinking Again

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Director of the Belin-Blank Center

Longer nights, cooler days, and brightly colored falling leaves signal that the school year is well underway, and it’s time to start planning for summer! Yes, that’s right, summer is very much on our minds, and we look forward to implementing all that we’ve learned over the past year and a half. 

Recent director’s messages have addressed the collaborative efforts of the fantastic Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff to re-imagine our services and programming during the pandemic. However, I hadn’t discussed how we adjusted our thinking, accepting a new level of ambiguity and change. This message offers a glimpse into that process.  

Late November afternoon light illuminating the Pentacrest.

A colleague recently discussed Adam Grant’s newest book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, with our first-year Bucksbaum Academy students. It’s been many years since I was a first-year student; however, we all get a fresh start at the beginning of each academic year. Because “thinking again” seems to dominate my thoughts these days, I  downloaded the book and was captivated from the start. There are many takeaways from Grant’s book, but two crucial words capture its essence: “humility” and “flexibility.” 

Humility has many dimensions, but at its core, it is the acknowledgment that even if we know a lot, we don’t know everything. As knowledge in all fields increases exponentially, there is little hope of keeping up entirely. Grant suggests that if “knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.” 

Flexibility, too, manifests itself in multiple ways. The consequences of showing cognitive flexibility – or inflexibility – can be far-reaching. If my colleagues at the Belin-Blank Center were not cognitively flexible, our services and programs would no longer be relevant. Thankfully, they have demonstrated cognitive flexibility in spades and our services and programming are more relevant today than ever. We also understand the process is continuous.  

The combination of intellectual humility and cognitive flexibility leads to progress. We are not only thinking about summer when the days will be longer and hotter, and we will look for shade under lush green trees. We are “thinking again” well beyond summer 2022.  

To be the first to know about the many exciting things to come, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow @belinblank on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Important Dates for Student and Educator Programs

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Differentiation Instruction for Gifted: October 25 – November 12, 2021
    • Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students: November 22 – December 14, 2021
    • Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention: November 17 – December 9, 2021
    • Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education: October 25 – December 3, 2021 and November 8 – December 3, 2021
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 18 – December 17, 2021

For Students & Families

Introducing the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

The college experience is an excellent opportunity for academic and personal growth. It is also a time that comes with unique challenges for first-year students. Academic expectations, time management, prioritization, staying healthy, and feeling disconnected are just some of the potential struggles. These areas can be more amplified and burdensome for twice-exceptional students. Twice-exceptional students have the potential for high achievement and also have one or more learning disabilities.

Twice-exceptional students are arguably an underrepresented population in gifted and talented education. Too often, this unique population is missed or denied access to programs and services for advanced learners. Experts at the Belin-Blank Center found that more than 50% of the twice-exceptional students in one study would have benefited from acceleration in school. As the number of students with learning disabilities attending the University of Iowa increases, resources and services to assist and support this population become very important.

Using its expertise in twice-exceptionality, the Belin-Blank Center is collaborating with other UI offices, including Student Disability Services, to establish the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality for individuals with high ability and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or who identify as Autistic. Too often, the school experience for twice-exceptional students is laden with walls and barriers.

The recent emphasis on inequity and injustice in schools has resulted in courageous conversations about the underrepresentation of specific populations in programs and services for advanced learners. Many times, individuals addressing the need for positive change in schools use a metaphor of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Two goals of the Belin-Blank Center’s Academy for Twice-Exceptionality are to support twice-exceptional students (an underrepresented population) and to tear down the walls and barriers facing these students, replacing them with mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.

Mirrors (Finding Community)
The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality aims to dispel any sense of not belonging. A group living situation in one of the campus residence halls is crucial to fostering relationships with others like themselves. Through a weekly meeting with other Academy students, individuals have a place to “see” others who are like them and are reaching for the same goal – success in college. The feelings and perceptions regarding the collegiate experience will undoubtedly be different for twice-exceptional students. Through discussions facilitated by the Belin-Blank Center staff, students will learn with and from one another about ways to address issues that arise.

Windows (Learning Opportunities)
As a world-class institution, the University of Iowa seems to have limitless possibilities for its students. The numerous options include programs and degrees, extracurriculars, campus services, fitness and wellness, and student research. With this incredible breadth of opportunities, students can become overwhelmed, especially twice-exceptional students. The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality includes individual sessions with a staff member to assist students in better navigating a large university by pointing them in the right direction.

Sliding Glass Doors (Support for Reaching Goals)
The Belin-Blank Center established the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality with one fundamental purpose. We aim to provide better access for success at the University of Iowa for students with high ability and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or who identify as Autistic. Twice-exceptional students can do great things, especially with support. The support features that are unique to this Academy help to “slide” open the door of access to all that the University of Iowa offers. Specific areas targeted include adjustment to campus life, communication, creating a sense of community, living independently, organization, self-advocacy, and setting goals. Through this Academy, we are committed to opening the University of Iowa’s “door to possibilities” and walking alongside students through it.

We are confident that the Academy’s combination of well-planned support structures and regular communication with families converts the goal of success in college to reality for twice-exceptional students. Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors are commonly found in a home. This Belin-Blank Center Academy strives to create a “sense of home” for twice-exceptional students at the University of Iowa.

Are you interested in finding out if the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right match for you? The Belin-Blank Center would love to share more with you. Contact us today to connect and start the conversation.

STEM Research Mentorship Opportunities for Students & Teachers

We are pleased to share two fantastic opportunities for high school student researchers and their teachers!

Mentorship for High School Student STEM Researchers

JSHS is offering a virtual mentoring program for high school students involved in STEM research.

Is this mentorship for me?

Any student who starts a research project and intends to submit their research at the regional Junior Science and Humanities (JSHS) competition can participate. This resource is free for students and supported by JSHS.

How can mentors help?

  • Mentors share their expertise and advice to help guide and encourage you throughout your research.
  • Mentors can provide assistance and feedback on your original research concepts.

How will I work with my mentor?

Chronus is a virtual mentoring platform that houses the JSHS virtual mentorship program. Through Chronus, you will be able to:

  • View mentor profiles and find mentor matches based on shared interests.
  • Connect with mentors for flash (one-time consultation) or long-term mentoring (on-going mentoring) year-round.
  • Receive valuable resources that help you get the most out of your mentorships.
  • Set up virtual meetings, ask questions, and manage your mentorships online or through the Chronus app.

How do I sign up?

Visit https://virtualmentoring.jshs.org/chronus to register today or reach out at admin@JSHS.org!

Mentorship for High School STEM Teachers

For STEM teachers, the Advancing Science Research Teaching (ASRT) program is accepting applications for their free, in-person, educational outreach program. This program is designed to equip high school teachers with the knowledge, insights, and activities to increase the amount, type, and scope of science research projects for their high school students.

Is the ASRT program for me?

The ASRT program is customized to help high school teachers who provide science research opportunities within a traditional STEM classroom setting, or helping those with a small, growing research program/club, or even helping those with more established Science Research Programs/Clubs. High school teachers may apply individually or as a group.

How are participants selected?

Applicants will be evaluated by a committee from Regeneron and/or ZEISS, based on a number of different criteria including, but not limited to:

  • Their interest in increasing the number of activities that build understanding & critical thinking, technology-based skills, networking skills, presentation skills, and lifelong skills.
  • Their interest in increasing the number of high school students who carry out projects and participate in regional, state, national and international science fairs.
  • Their interest in increasing the quality/level of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their interest in increasing the types/categories of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their level of support from the school community and their administration for creating science research/STEM opportunities for high school students.

How do I apply?

Visit https://forms.gle/W3335h1vRFP6aojVA to apply by November 14, 2021. The FAQ section of the www.ASRTprogram.com website has additional information.

Computer Science for Talented Students

We are hard at work creating new computer science opportunities for academically talented students! We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to. In the meantime, check out these popular options. Registration is open!

Advanced Computer Science
4th – 6th grade students,
Starts November 1st

Advanced Computer Science currently has one course open for registration. Explorations in Computer Science is an introductory course based on Project STEM curriculum that empowers students to engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun. Through a series of real-world scenarios, projects and challenges, students are introduced to foundational concepts that they will return to repeatedly throughout the course.


Computer Science Python Fundamentals
7th – 9th grade students
,
Self-paced; start anytime

Computer Science Python Fundamentals is an entirely self-directed learning experience to complete whenever and wherever you want. Computers are simple. They do only what you tell them. Through a series of interactive online modules, with built-in support from experienced programmers, you will learn to talk to computers using the Python programming language. You can progress through the modules at a pace that is just right for you, with access to an exclusive expert forum to have your questions answered along the way. During the course, you’ll learn more about programming, create programs of your own using Python, and have a lot of fun along the way. And, who knows, you may end up writing the next big program!

Welcome to Another Year of Invention!

Are you a teacher who works with students during the invention process? Invent Iowa will return in a virtual format on April 18, 2022. Now is a great time to make sure your budding inventors and entrepreneurs are getting started on their projects!

We are excited to announce a new platform from our colleagues at Invention Convention WorldwideInHub is a collection of professional development, curriculum resources and information about experiences and field trips. This is a free resource to learn and share with other inventive educators and students. 

If you are a student or have a student who would like to participate in Iowa’s State Invention Convention, be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates:

  • January 20, 2022: Registration opens
  • February 22, 2022: Competition materials are due
  • March 22, 2022: Students are notified of their qualification status
  • March 28, 2022: Qualifying students must commit to State Convention
  • April 18, 2022: State Invention Convention

For a helpful overview of the Invention Convention program, be sure to check out this helpful How-To Guide. Happy inventing!

Professional Learning Continues this Fall!

Photo by Max Andrey on Pexels.com

In Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery declared, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Anne of Green Gables is a great read for young gifted readers, as well as for you, if you haven’t read the classic!)  We look forward to collaborating with you this October and beyond!

October brings the midway point in the fall semester, but we have more offerings coming up than classes that are ending.  If you have at least one other person from your school/district interested in taking a class with you, in the spirit of a Professional Learning Community (PLC), contact us at educators@belinblank.org, and we’ll give all the members of your PLC a 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290/hour).

For those who are interested in continuing their professional learning about gifted education (whether earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement or not), consider some of these options, all critical for your practice. (All credits apply to one of the strands for the endorsement.)

Workshops

For these options, the cost is tuition without any technology fees.

Programming Strand

EDTL:4153:0WKA Gifted and General Education Collaboration (1 semester hour)
October 11 – 29
Instructor: Gerald Aungst
What is more important than collaboration to ensure the best for our gifted students?

EDTL:4025:0WKA Differentiated Instruction for Gifted (1 s.h.)
October 25 – November 12
Instructor: Debra Judge
One of the foundations of gifted education, especially since all educators have a responsibility to differentiate for gifted learners (e.g., see MTSS for Advanced Learners)

EDTL:4096:0WKB Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students (1 s.h.)
November 22 – December 14 
Instructor: Antonia Szymanski
HOT off the press, from Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, to help empower students who have been overlooked for gifted programs.

Administrative Strand

PSQF:5194:0WKB Leadership in Gifted Education:  ITAG Conference (1 or 2 s.h. )
October 21 – November 10 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange
Those interested in Iowa Talented and Gifted Conference credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

PSQF:5194:0WKA Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention (1 or 2 s.h)
November 17 – December 9 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange 
Those interested in NAGC credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

Practicum Strand

EDTL:4189:0WKA Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education (1 s.h.)
November 8 – December 3 
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Those interested in practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

Extension Classes

The cost of these classes is tuition plus technology fees.

EDTL:4067:0EXW Conceptions of Talent Development (3 s.h.)
October 18 – December 17  
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Psychology strand (2 sh); Programming (1 s.h)
This credit applies to both the Psychology and the Programming strand, exploring issues that are important to the focus on talent development in our field.

RCE:4188:0EXW Practicum in Gifted Education (1, 2, or 3 s.h.)
October 25 – December 3
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Practicum strand
Those full-time students or those interested in more than one hour of practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

The current schedule of courses is available at belinblank.org/courses; specifics about the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement are available at belinblank.org/endorsement.  Visit our website for instructions about registering with Distance and Online Education to take coursework as a non-degree-seeking student.  Share questions with us at educators@belinblank.org or give us a call at 319-335-6148!  We look forward to collaborating with you this fall to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

Message from the Director: First Days and Next Steps

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“It’s not up to you to finish the task… neither are you free to ignore it.”  –Ethics of our Fathers (and Mothers) 

The first bell of a new school year signals a fresh start for millions of families, students, and teachers. Beginning a new year is a natural moment of transition and reflection as well as a shared human experience that evokes many emotions. 

Our first-year Bucksbaum Academy students arrived last week, a momentous first day for them. A week later, our upper-class students returned to campus. It is energizing to have students and their fresh approach to learning in our midst. 

As an educator for over four decades, I have experienced many unique and energizing first days. This year, my professional first day of school coincided with a personal one. My grandchildren had their first days of preschool, kindergarten, and fourth grade! When the current 4th grader started school four years ago, I was entering my 4th decade as an educator. 

At that time, I offered my wishes for her as she began her academic journey: 

  • Find challenges in learning, both in and out of school. Learners, and those who teach them, know the optimal learning environment contains challenges. Challenged learners are neither bored nor frustrated but empowered. They seek new knowledge and develop further the sense of curiosity with which we are all born. 
  • Build resilience to become an empowered learner. She will need to recognize that there will be favorite subjects and those that are not favorites. She will have good days and days that are not as good. The latter is important to practice bouncing back to enjoy the good days and revel in great days! 
  • Develop leadership skills for a meaningful life and a positive impact on society. Sure, that is a tall order for a kindergartner, but it is an important aspect of learning and becoming. When she looks back on her career someday, I hope she will be able to see how her leadership benefited society. 
  • Hone a sense of humility to be grateful for her opportunities and gifts and mindful of privilege. 

These last four years – like the preceding 40 — have flown.  

This year juxtaposes my own educational path with that of my family’s young learners. They are setting out on their journeys of lifelong learning. My professional journey is nearing the end because, after 45 years as an educator, I will retire at the end of the current academic year.  

Thus, the start of this school year was a momentous first day for me as well.  

I will always be an educator. But with the support of family, colleagues, University of Iowa leadership, and our visionary advisory board, it is time for new leadership at the Belin-Blank Center. Although I will step aside as a professional, I will continue on a new personal path of lifelong learning. 

I am pleased to say I have not “ignored the task,” and I find it reassuring to know that I am not obligated to complete it.  

I am enthusiastic about the opportunities that a new director will appreciate. They will lead an exceptional team dedicated to nurturing potential and inspiring excellence. Together, they will bring a fresh perspective to a well-established center.  

I will always be grateful for my energizing, creative, and dedicated colleagues. They made my career possible, and I look forward to acknowledging and supporting their creative endeavors throughout the year.  

As I look back on a long, yet rapid, journey and ahead to a new one, I have a few more wishes for all lifelong learners. From those starting their educational journey as preschoolers to those nearing the end of a career in education, I hope you will: 

  • Continue to be curious 
  • Keep a sense of optimism  
  • Express gratitude each day 
  • Convey a sense of compassion  

Astute readers note that I focused on the cognitive aspects of learning four years ago but am now placing an emphasis on the psychosocial. The COVID-19 pandemic makes me appreciate their equal importance to a lifelong learner’s educational journey. 

As I embark on the next stage of that journey, I wish you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling year.  

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for the many exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators that are happening at the Belin-Blank Center this year! Even more to come soon.

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Intro to Educating Gifted Students: August 23 – October 18, 2021
    • Practicums: October 3 – December 3, 2021
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 18 – December 17, 2021

For Students & Families

10 Reasons to Get Started on JSHS Projects

Now that the school year is underway, it’s time for Iowa high school students and teachers to get started on projects for the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Your future selves will thank you!

If you are a high school student thinking that you would like to solve a problem, stretch yourself, and stand out – now is the time to get started on an original research project so you can present it at the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

If you are a teacher looking for opportunities for your students to present their work to an authentic audience of experts, explore STEM careers, and build a sense of belonging, start planning for JSHS now

Top 10 Reasons to Join Us at the 2022 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium:

  1. The symposium is returning to the University of Iowa campus!
  2. Learn how you can use publicly available data sets or working on a citizen science project to conduct research without a lab.
  3. Get hot tips from the brains behind a video series we made to teach you how to conduct a data science project. Check it out!
  4. Get a backstage pass to cutting edge University of Iowa research facilities like the National Advanced Driving Simulator. Since we know you can’t wait, here’s a 360 virtual tour to tide you over. 
  5. Trivia night is back! Geek out with nerds from across the state in a friendly competition. 
  6. Experience the wonders of the newest dining hall on campus where you can have sushi, a made to order burger, a Southwest salad, and pancakes all for lunch.
  7. Be inspired by research presented by students in Iowa who win big scholarships at National JSHS.
  8. Every high school in Iowa can bring 5 students and a teacher for FREE. We sponsor housing, meals, and all activities – including a trip down the lazy river
  9. Five students will win scholarships and an all expense paid trip to National JSHS in Albuquerque, NM.
  10. If we can’t meet on campus, we will meet online for virtual presentations, tours, and activities that span the globe. 

Join us on Monday, March 7 and Tuesday, March 8, 2022. 

Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education

The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) hosted a virtual conference over the summer, and one of the most exciting things shared was the new “Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education.” 

In the United States, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has provided sets of standards to help define best practices in Pre-K – Grade 12 Programming, Teacher Preparation in Gifted Education (in collaboration with the Council for Exceptional The Association for the Gifted [CEC TAG], and Knowledge and Skills in Gifted & Talented Education for All Teachers. The new WCGTC principles suggest the 10 most important concepts for professional development in gifted education, to strengthen local and regional practices on behalf of gifted children around the world.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Several scholars involved in the development of the principles share a presentation available to the public. A poster with the 10 global principles is available to download and share or post. The full document, with research-based rationales that could be of interest to educators anywhere, is available at https://world-gifted.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/professional-learning-global-principles.pdf.

The last of the 10 principles, Empowering, is one of the most important to the Belin-Blank Center. The Center has long committed its professional development opportunities to empowering the gifted community, and throughout the academic year, educators can enroll in a variety of classes, including three-semester-hour coursework as well as one- and two-semester hour “workshops” that expand understanding about themes significant to identifying and understanding gifted children and their unique needs. Coursework, aligned with NAGC standards, encourages professionals to adopt best practices for meeting the needs of advanced learners, from acceleration to classroom differentiation to homogeneous grouping. Classes also provide insights into programming options that facilitate optimal learning environments.

The current schedule of courses is available at belinblank.org/courses; specifics about the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement are available at belinblank.org/endorsement. Visit our website for directions about registering with Distance and Online Education to take coursework as a non-degree-seeking student.  Share questions with us at educators@belinblank.org or give us a call at 319-335-6148! We look forward to collaborating with you to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

Research Study for Academically Talented Students

We understand that COVID-19 has affected everyone in many ways, and that, particularly as a family with a gifted and talented child, things may have changed dramatically for you over recent months. The Belin-Blank Center is conducting a research study to assess how COVID-19 is affecting families. We would like you and your child to participate in the study by completing this electronic survey. If you have more than one child, please make sure to select a child who is at least in 6th grade and if you still have more than one, please take the survey once for each child. 

Sharing your experiences, both negative and positive, will equip us with information that can help us be more efficient and effective in preparing and allocating future resources that can help families like yours. The survey will take about 5 to 10 minutes for you and about 15 minutes for your child to complete. It is completely voluntary. Your identity or any other identifying information will not be linked to the survey. Whether or not you participate in this survey will have no bearing on your standing with any of our programs.

SURVEY LINK: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_02pwgvzVHGwYJ4W

We encourage you to consider sharing your experiences through this survey. We are so proud of all the ways that we have seen families respond with resilience and adaptiveness to the challenges of this pandemic. And, as always, if there are ways that we can help support you during this time, please let us know by reaching out to us.

Thank you, and stay well.

Brandon LeBeau

Belin-Blank Center

Message from the Director: Continuity and Change

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

In early June, the University of Iowa campus opened, and we returned to our offices at the Belin-Blank Center. The first day back was a little like the first day of school! Things had changed, yet there was a sense of continuity and familiarity.  

Sitting in my office on the 6th floor of the Blank Honors Center, I can see a sweeping view of the campus out my window. I reflect on those contrasting ideas of change and continuity as I look out at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. There, clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine occurred. I’m grateful to the frontline professionals and researchers who made it safe to return to campus after 16 months of remote work. They changed our lives and allowed us to continue to serve and pursue our mission in person.  

Shifting my view to the ground below, I see the top of a beloved 150-year-old copper beech tree. This tree suffered tremendous damage during the derecho of August 2020, yet the campus arborists did not give up on it. Although 25% of the tree was gone in an instant, it is full of leaves today. Its branches now represent survival through a challenging year, a metaphor for change and continuity.  

A large copper beech tree in front of the University of Iowa's Blank Honors Center.

The tree reminds us of our connection to the land, made up of the homelands of multiple tribal nations, upon which early Iowans built this campus. We acknowledge this complicated history by sharing the UI Acknowledgement of Land and Sovereignty. “To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory [we] reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial.” 

I reflect on the past 16 months, during which we continued our mission by adapting student and educator programming in response to the pandemic. The most recent of these efforts was the inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality in May. Over the past few months, we also welcomed new staff who will help us continue our dance of continuity and change.  

School is out, and summer is beginning. At the Belin-Blank Center, that means our summer programs have started. We have ongoing online programs for educators and students and the first of our in-person student programs begins again in late July. Our staff, like many people, are easing our way into a changed world. We continue to think about what that means for us.  What will remain consistent, as always, is our commitment to nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.  

Welcome back! 

Dr. Randy Lange Joins Our Staff

Dr. Randolph (“Randy”) Lange was recently appointed as the Coordinator for Professional Development and Curriculum at the Belin Blank Center.

Prior to joining the Center, he served as the Talent Development Services Program Coordinator for Illinois’ La Grange School District 102. There he developed a comprehensive K-8 program that includes: curriculum for accelerated mathematics & language arts, classroom-based differentiation, enrichment offerings (summer, evening and/or weekend), above level testing, mentorships, collaboration with community organizations, grade skipping, and support for families. Before joining District 102, he used his dissertation findings as a catalyst in developing a more equitable identification protocol in his former school district (Indian Prairie School District 204).

Randy has presented at the National Association for Gifted Children Convention, the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Conference, and the Center for Gifted Education National Curriculum Network Conference.  Over his career, he has taught a variety of courses through the Belin-Blank Center and professional development opportunities for educators. He currently serves on the Board of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children. Randy holds a Doctorate (Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Measurement, and Gifted Education) and Masters (Education Administration) from the University of Iowa, and a Bachelors (Elementary Education) from the University of Illinois.

We welcome Dr. Lange to the growing administrative team of the Belin-Blank Center and look forward to the many contributions he will make to programming, services, and research.

Save the Date for Summer

Summer means sun, fun, and learning at the Belin-Blank Center! Check out our many classes and events for TAG educators and gifted students.

FOR EDUCATORS

Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:

  • AP Summer Institute (online); credit option will be available
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021
  • Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses
    • July 1 – 22, 2021
  • Family Issues in Giftedness (Chautauqua)
    • July 5 – 23, 2021
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level
    • July 6 – 26, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics”
    • July 7 – 27, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Serving Visual/Spatial Learners in Gifted Ed”
    • July 9 – 29, 2021
  • Creativity: Issues and Applications in Gifted Education (Chautauqua)
    • July 12 – 30, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week I
    • July 12 – 16, 2021
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability Students: Real World Problem Solving
    • July 14 – August 3, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week II
    • July 19 – 23, 2021
  • Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted NAG/NDE Virtual Conference
    • July 26 – August 13, 2021

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Summer 2021 Belin-Blank Chautauqua

“The Chautauqua movement pioneered the idea of extending learning opportunities to adults and nontraditional students.”

Scott Howell and Alma McGinn

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua offers a choice of six classes in a fast-paced (accelerated) format.

The first two days of each Chautauqua class include time for participants to interact with each other and the instructor on Zoom. Each class continues online for three weeks of asynchronous opportunities designed by each instructor to maximize the value of each class.

During the Belin-Blank Chautauqua (virtual in 2021), we are offering two new classes about meeting the needs of a broader range of gifted learners:

  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB) focuses on the preparation required for gifted performers in the fields where these students stand out.
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners discusses ways to provide programming for students identified for advanced abilities beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities. More than one educator has acknowledged the importance of identifying traditionally underserved students, but they are not sure what to DO for these students, since traditional programming will not match their strengths.

Chautauqua Week 1 includes:

Family Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4119)
Jul 5, 6 – 23 (Psychology strand)
Dr. Haley Wikoff and Dr. Erin Lane, Team Teachers

Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB)
Jul 7, 8 – 27 (Programming)
Kathy Green, Instructor

Serving Visual/Spatial Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKC)
Jul 9, 10 – 29 (Programming)
Dr. Vince Moore, Instructor

Chautauqua Week 2 includes:

Creativity (RCE:4129)
Jul 12, 13 – 30 (Psychology)
Dr. Clar Baldus, Instructor

Programming: Facilitating Student Research Projects (EDTL:4073:0WKA)
Jul 14, 15 – Aug 3 (Programming)
Lora Danker, Instructor

Evaluation of Gifted Programs (EPLS:4111)
Jul 16, 17 – Aug 5 (Administrative)”
Dr. Kim Chandler, Instructor

Automatic Scholarships

Scholarships for the cost of one class are available to those who enroll in three classes in either week. Those who take all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week.  

Registration

To take part in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student.

For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status. If you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.

All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org!

Excellence Gaps in Education

On June 22, we are offering a three-week book study about Excellence Gaps in Education (Plucker & Peters, 2016). This online class (asynchronous) focuses on strategies we can use to eliminate the achievement gaps that exist even among the students who perform at the highest levels (EDTL:4096:0WKD).  

This is a new class, and if you haven’t read Excellence Gaps, this is the time!  Excellence Gaps won the 2017 Book of the Year award from NAGC, and our need to understand excellence gaps—going beyond achievement gaps—is more important than ever.  The Harvard Education Press posted:

In Excellence Gaps in Education, Jonathan A. Plucker and Scott J. Peters shine a spotlight on “excellence gaps”—the achievement gaps among subgroups of students performing at the highest levels of achievement. Much of the focus of recent education reform has been on closing gaps in achievement between students from different racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds by bringing all students up to minimum levels of proficiency. Yet issues related to excellence gaps have been largely absent from discussions about how to improve our schools and communities. Plucker and Peters argue that these significant gaps reflect the existence of a persistent talent underclass in the United States among African American, Hispanic, Native American, and poor students, resulting in an incalculable loss of potential among our fastest growing populations.

This is one of the Belin-Blank Center classes this summer intended to help educators ensure that their districts are doing everything possible to ensure that they are identifying and serving ALL their gifted learners—including those that have been traditionally underrepresented.  The other two classes include 

  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB), focus in on the preparation required for gifted performers, and 
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners, discussing ways to provide programming for students identified for advanced abilities beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities.

To take part in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status. If you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement, and the study of Excellence Gaps can apply to the Administrative strand.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org!

We look forward to having you join us for this one-semester-hour workshop, and for other classes available through June and July.

Art and Writing Summer Programs

High school students, don’t miss your chance to join our summer art and writing programs. Hurry – classes start soon!  

Summer Art Residency
Grades 9-12

High school artists will earn college credit for doing what they love! The University of Iowa houses a nationally ranked School of Art. Our talented faculty have been teaching art online all year long, and they know how to do it right! Students will receive 2 semester hours of graded University of Iowa credit. This will appear on an official university transcript that they can add to their college applications!

Summer Writing Residency
Grades 9-12

High school students will have the unique opportunity to work with world-class writing faculty from the University of Iowa – better known as the Writing University and home to the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop and landmark Prairie Lights bookstore. Students will receive 2 semester hours of graded University of Iowa credit. This will appear on an official university transcript that they can add to their college applications!

Workshop for Young Writers 
Grades 6-8

Middle school students will meet classmates from across the country and passionate instructors from the “Writing University” to help build a writing community. Accepted students can look forward to developing their writing skills, workshopping their pieces among peers, and expanding their creative abilities.

Belin-Blank Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality

Thank you to Bethany Erickson for this guest post about her experience at last month’s Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice Exceptionality. If you would like access to the recorded event, register by July 1 at belinblank.org/summit.


After attending the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, I am in awe and inspired.

I am in awe of the professionals who spoke: their expertise, experience, research and heart that came through their presentations. As a classroom teacher, I didn’t really know anything about neuroscience before this summit. Now, I wonder how can teachers be teachers without knowing more about how the brain works and learns.

The adage that ‘you don’t know how much you don’t know’ comes to mind. While learning from the presenters, three themes stood out to me over the course of the two days of lectures: the need for more collaboration, more research and more awareness to benefit twice-exceptional learners at all ages.  

Collaboration came up in almost every session.

So many of the presenters graciously gave credit to their teams and showed gratitude for the work they are able to do together. Parents talked about collaborating with educators. Students talked about the help they needed and received from their parents, medical professionals, and educators. Educators that work at the Belin-Blank Center, spoke to the importance of effectively communicating with each other as colleagues but also with parents and patients.

I was struck by several things during the student panel.

One student seemed to have had appropriate supports and interventions early on to help him cope with and understand his diagnosis. Another student didn’t find out about Autism Spectrum Disorder until later and had a harder path with fewer and later support services. Even so, both have found success and a way to overcome their difficulties by using their strengths and talents, which was another clear message from many sessions.  

I was impressed with how much these students could bravely tell us and it reminded me of the importance of knowing each individual.

I will be working with high school students for the first time next school year, and hearing the student panel reminds me that they are just looking for someone to listen and see them as a person, not just their diagnosis.

Another lesson on the importance of collaboration came from the parent panel.

The three moms on the panel gave such heartfelt and honest advice that I, as a teacher, will not forget. I wish more teachers could hear their stories. It stuck with me when they agreed that some of their most helpful teachers were the ones who admitted to not knowing about twice-exceptionality (2e), but being willing to learn along side them and see their child for more than just their behaviors or diagnosis.

I was so moved by the mom who explained what it felt like to drop off her son at a Belin-Blank Center summer program, and how it felt for her to know, for the first time, that he would be okay there without her because of the supports in place.

It made me think how much more school systems need to do for 2e students and parents to make school a safe place for them as well. A safe place where they can trust educators to be accepting of their talents and their challenges.

For students and parents to find schools as a welcoming and supportive environment for twice-exceptional students, teachers need to be made aware of 2e characteristics, talents, needs and challenges. It came up in the parent and student panel that they wished more people knew 2e students existed. As a teacher looking back, I can now think of several former students that were likely twice-exceptional, but I didn’t have the knowledge or resources at the time to help them.

This summit has given me an awareness that I am so grateful for.

The need to bring awareness to educators was mentioned in the student and parent panels. It was interesting to hear from the two teachers who were on the parent panel, as they shared how much they didn’t know as teachers until experiencing 2e as a parent. I wonder how many behavior issues could be prevented or diminished by addressing the needs of the students that are not being met due to undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders.

Before the summit, I was aware that students could have multiple diagnosed disabilities, but I didn’t know the symptoms, characteristics, talents and challenges. 

The research shared during the summit was so above and beyond what I expected.

An abundance of statistics, charts, graphs, and studies that all represent individual people and families, as one presenter pointed out.  Even in the midst of so much research, the case was continually made for how much more research is needed, all the things scientists still don’t know and want to know in order to better serve and accommodate for neurodiverse learners.

I was moved by how many presenters shared stories of their own children who have been diagnosed as twice-exceptional, and how that personal connection motivates their work.  

As I evaluate how this summit will affect my role as an educator, I hope it is by improving my collaboration with others – parents, students, colleagues, medical professionals, etc. I also hope it will affect my role as a talented and gifted teacher by granting me an awareness to help me see students that may need special education and gifted education services. Or notice characteristics of students that may come from having an indivisible disability and helping them to feel seen.

Experiencing this summit will help me bring an awareness back to my coworkers of what twice exceptionality is and how we can work together to find ways to support those learners and their families.

Research Study for Academically Talented Students

We understand that COVID-19 has affected everyone in many ways, and that, particularly as a family with a gifted and talented child, things may have changed dramatically for you over recent months. The Belin-Blank Center is conducting a research study to assess how COVID-19 is affecting families. We would like you and your child to participate in the study by completing this electronic survey. If you have more than one child, please make sure to select a child who is at least in 6th grade and if you still have more than one, please take the survey once for each child. 

Sharing your experiences, both negative and positive, will equip us with information that can help us be more efficient and effective in preparing and allocating future resources that can help families like yours. The survey will take about 5 to 10 minutes for you and about 15 minutes for your child to complete. It is completely voluntary. Your identity or any other identifying information will not be linked to the survey. Whether or not you participate in this survey will have no bearing on your standing with any of our programs.

SURVEY LINK: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3qNkTWbi8XPmA5f

We encourage you to consider sharing your experiences through this survey. We are so proud of all the ways that we have seen families respond with resilience and adaptiveness to the challenges of this pandemic. And, as always, if there are ways that we can help support you during this time, please let us know by reaching out to us.

Thank you, and stay well.

Brandon LeBeau

Belin-Blank Center

Social Skills Group for Adolescents

Our colleagues at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital Center for Disabilities and Development are starting a social skills program for adolescents with high functioning autism.

This 14-week intervention aims to assist teens (and their parents) who are interested in learning new ways of making and keeping friends.

If you are interested in participating, check out the information below and contact Matt Kressin at 319-353-6140 or matthew-kressin@uiowa.edu.

Message from the Director: Blue Sky Beyond

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Even when the sky is filled with clouds, the sun still shines above.”

Janet Donaghy

This sentiment strikes me as an apt description of our personal and professional lives during the past year.

We experienced literal clouds with the August 2020 derecho. We saw the figurative dark clouds of social injustice through systemic racism and health and economic disparities.  Yet, our university’s campus leadership steered our students, faculty, and staff through the clouds of the past year.

Through it all, they never lost sight of the notion that the sun still shone above.

We discovered not only blue sky beyond the clouds of lockdown but many silver linings.

We stayed connected through Zoom meetings. We stepped up with creativity and resiliency to convert our on-site services and programming to online opportunities. We collaborated to create new, innovative programs and services.

Last April, it seemed daunting to sustain our mission without one of our most visible services: summer student programs.  Yet, our team of creative and dedicated professionals committed to providing students the specialized programming for which the Belin-Blank Center is known.

The student programming team re-imagined opportunities for K-12 students, which have been available throughout this past year. To do our part to help end the COVID-19 pandemic, we have moved our signature high-school residential programs online this summer. While a bit different from our traditional on-campus experiences, our team has worked hard to create impactful programming that students will remember for a lifetime.

Our excellent Assessment and Counseling Clinic professionals continued to see clients through telehealth technology.

As soon as they were able, with appropriate safety protocols in place, they resumed in-person assessments and have been conducting these for nearly a year.  We have even added new services and hired two new licensed psychologists, Dr. Amanda Berns and Dr. Katie Schabilion.

Professional learning opportunities had already transitioned to online learning over the past several years and were well-positioned to continue. In addition to the many courses and workshops planned, we will host an online Advanced Placement Summer Institute. Additionally, individuals attending the upcoming Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality can earn a semester hour of credit for the course associated with it.

By being online, the Summit will share crucial research with many more people throughout the world. Because we will record each presentation, a broader group of people will have access to the knowledge for a longer time.

Photo by Sunsetoned on Pexels.com

During this year of unprecedented challenges, UI President Bruce Harreld and his leadership team demonstrated excellent governance. The College of Education (our academic home) also offered significant leadership during the pandemic.

President Harreld’s service to the campus and the state gained admiration because he fostered transparency and shared governance. People appreciated his service as a staunch supporter of public universities, recognizing their importance at both a state and national level. President Harreld has served our campus for five years. When he announced last fall that he planned to retire, new clouds of uncertainty about the future appeared on the horizon.

Now those clouds have dissipated.

The University of Iowa expects to announce its 22nd President later today (update). We are looking forward to working with new leadership to move into the future. We also wish President Harreld and his wife, Mary, the best as they embark on this next phase of their lives.

Today, the sky is blue.

Opportunities for students, educators, and families seem unlimited.  We know there will be clouds again, but we will find new opportunities to be supportive and collaborative when they appear.

We will remember that there are silver linings and blue sky beyond.

Mark Your Calendars for Summer!

Summer means sun, fun, and summer programs at the Belin-Blank Center! Check out our many classes and events for educators, students, families, and gifted education researchers.

FOR EDUCATORS

Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:

  • Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality
    • May 17 – 18, 2021
  • Neuroscientific Implications for Gifted: Neuroscience of Twice Exceptionality
    • May 20 – June 10, 2021
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students
    • May 25 – June 14, 2021
  • Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted
    • June 7 – 25, 2021
  • Reading for High Ability Students
    • June 14 – July 2, 2021
  • Academic Acceleration
    • June 14 – August 6, 2021
  • Belin Fellowship
    • June 21 – 25, 2021
  • AP Summer Institute (online); credit option will be available
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021
  • Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses
    • July 1 – 22, 2021
  • Family Issues in Giftedness (Chautauqua)
    • July 5 – 23, 2021
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level
    • July 6 – 26, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics”
    • July 7 – 27, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Serving Visual/Spatial Learners in Gifted Ed”
    • July 9 – 29, 2021
  • Creativity: Issues and Applications in Gifted Education (Chautauqua)
    • July 12 – 30, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week I
    • July 12 – 16, 2021
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability Students: Real World Problem Solving
    • July 14 – August 3, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week II
    • July 19 – 23, 2021

FOR RESEARCHERS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Professional Learning in Summer 2021

Author Jenny Han said, “Everything good, everything magical, happens between the months of June and August.”

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

We have plenty of courses available for anyone working toward the 12 required hours for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement.

We do begin in May, with two wonderful workshops. Teachers can earn academic credit with a 50% tuition scholarship* at our Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality (PSQF:4128). We are also offering Math for High Ability Learners (EDTL:4022). After that, we packed the summer months with classes that will increase your understanding of giftedness.

Join us for the magical professional learning opportunities this summer!

Serving Underrepresented Students

Gifted education programs focus on ways to identify and serve underrepresented gifted learners.

In June, we offer a book study about Excellence Gaps in Education (Plucker & Peters, 2016). This class focuses on strategies we can use to eliminate achievement gaps among the highest-performing students (EDTL:4096:0WKD).

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua, taking place online this summer, will also address the needs of these students. We are offering two new classes about meeting the needs of a broader range of gifted learners. Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB) focuses on preparation for gifted performers. Serving Visual/Spatial Learners discusses ways to identify talent beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua offers six classes in a fast-paced (accelerated) format. (Learn more about acceleration in Academic Acceleration (PSQF:4123:0EXW), a three-semester-hour class offered from June 14 – August 5.) The first two days of each Chautauqua class include time for participants to get to know each other on Zoom. Each class lasts for three weeks.

Chautauqua Week 1 includes:

  • Family Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4119)
    • Jul 5, 6 – 23 (Psychology strand)
  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB)
    • Jul 7, 8 – 27 (Programming)
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKC)
    • Jul 9, 10 – 29 (Programming)

Chautauqua Week 2 includes:

  • Creativity (RCE:4129)
    • Jul 12, 13 – 30 (Psychology)
  • Programming: Facilitating Student Research Projects (EDTL:4073:0WKA)
    • Jul 14, 15 – Aug 3 (Programming)
  • Evaluation of Gifted Programs (EPLS:4111)
    • Jul 16, 17 – Aug 5 (Administrative)

Scholarships for the cost of one class are available to those who enroll in three classes in either week. Those who take all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week*.

Online and Asynchronous Classes

Our online classes offer educators many options for better understanding their gifted and talented students. These classes take place over three weeks, but they have no scheduled synchronous meetings. These are designed to help you with your hectic schedule!

June

  • Counseling / Psychological Needs (RCE:4125)
    • Jun 7 – 25 (Psychology strand)
  • Reading for High Ability Students (EDTL:4026)
    • Jun 14 – Jul 2 (Programming)
  • Academic Acceleration (PSQF:4123:0EXW)
    • June 14 – Aug 5 (3 semester hours: 1 in Psychology, 1 in Programming, 1 in Administrative)
  • Topics: Excellence Gaps (EDTL:4096:0WKD)
    • Jun 22 – Jul 12

July

  • Advanced Placement credit for those participating in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI, formerly APTTI) :
    • (2 s.h., EDTL:5080)*
    • Jul 1 – 22 (Programming)
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074)*
    • Jul 6 – 26 (Programming)
  • Leadership Skills for G/T Students, K-12 (EDTL:4029)
    • Jul 13 – Aug 2 (Programming)
  • Current Readings/Research in Gifted (EDTL:4085)
    • Jul 20 – Aug 6 (strand determined by readings)

Practicum

Those earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement must have at least one semester hour (s.h.) in each of the four strands (Psychology, Programming, Administrative Issues, and practicum). Workshops vary over the two years teachers can use to complete their endorsements. We offer practicum every semester (EDTL:4189 for one s.h. and EDTL:4188:0EXW for two or three semester hours).

Registration

To take part in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status. If you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Questions? Email educators@belinblank.org!


*Classes with an asterisk provide an automatic scholarship for those registered as graduate students.

National Center for Research on Gifted Education Surveys on Acceleration

Our colleagues at the National Center for Research on Gifted Education are providing an opportunity for teachers to be involved in research on academic acceleration. Parents/Caregivers are invited to participate in a separate survey about their child’s school experience.  

Please see the official announcements below: 

Teachers

Are you an elementary teacher (K-6)? If so, the National Center for Research on Gifted Education is looking for educators like you to complete a survey on teachers’ perceptions about acceleration. The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete. The survey is anonymous and will help us better understand what factors related to acceleration are important to teachers. For more information visit ncrge.uconn.edu/teacher-survey.

Parents/Caregiver

Are you the parent/caregiver of a child in 2nd – 5th grade? If so, the National Center for Research on Gifted Education is looking for people like you to complete a survey on parent perceptions of their child’s school experience. The survey should take about 15 minutes to complete and will ask you questions about your perceptions of your child’s academic challenge, academic success, academic placement, and social well-being. The survey is anonymous; however, at the end of the survey you will have an opportunity to have your child complete a related survey on their attitude toward school (this is optional). If you elect to have your child complete a short survey about their attitudes towards school, you will be asked for an email where we can send the link for your child’s survey. For more information visit ncrge.uconn.edu/parent-survey.

Congratulations to Dr. Katie Schabilion!

We are proud to share that our Assessment and Counseling Clinic’s Dr. Katie Schabilion has successfully completed her postdoctoral training and is now a Licensed Psychologist and Health Service provider in Iowa! 

Dr. Katie Schabilion is an Iowa native who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Education Specialist in School Psychology, and Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology from the University of Iowa. During her graduate training, Dr. Schabilion gained experience supporting students through their school districts, outpatient assessment clinics at the University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development, and the Grant Wood AEA Early ACCESS Autism Resource Team.

portrait of Dr. Katie Schabilion
Dr. Katie Schabilion, Licensed Psychologist

Dr. Schabilion completed a practicum experience at the Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic and spent 5 years as a graduate assistant at the Belin-Blank Center in various roles. She worked with the Acceleration Institute, provided administrative support during the publication of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, assisted students and teachers involved in the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA), and served as a graduate teaching assistant with Belin-Blank Center Director Dr. Susan Assouline.

Dr. Schabilion completed her predoctoral internship at the Avondale Elementary School District in Avondale, Arizona, before returning to Iowa and the Belin-Blank Center to complete her dissertation investigating factors related to diagnosis of specific learning disorder in writing among high ability students. She remained on staff at the Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic as a postdoctoral scholar, providing clinical assessment and counseling services to gifted and twice-exceptional students and supporting the Center’s twice-exceptional research agenda. Dr. Schabilion is excited to continue conducting twice-exceptional evaluations and providing counseling services in her new role as a Licensed Psychologist. She is also involved in Belin-Blank Center events such as the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality.

Congratulations, Dr. Schabilion!

Career Assessment Services at the ACC

The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic offers a range of assessment and therapy services to help high ability and twice-exceptional students access opportunities and achieve their goals. Our career assessments are a useful tool in helping an individual explore their interests, abilities, personality characteristics, and personal values to assist in exploring potential careers.

You may wish to consider our career assessment if your child is:

  • Overwhelmed by the possibilities of the next stage of life and desires guidance to narrow the options.
  • Looking for information about the suitability of different career paths based on individual factors like interests and personality factors.
  • Seeking greater self-understanding but do not have a need for a comprehensive educational or diagnostic evaluation.
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

During a career assessment at the Belin-Blank Center, a student would participate in a brief interview with our counseling staff. Afterward, the student would complete computerized and paper-and-pencil rating scales to provide information relevant in making career choices. Our psychologists would then discuss the results and their implications with the student. Following the assessment, the student and their parents are provided with a report detailing the results and our recommendations.

The cost of a career assessment is $250. Because career evaluations are not medical in nature, fees for these services cannot be submitted to insurance for reimbursement.

In addition to career assessments, available clinic services include educational evaluations (to assist with academic planning), twice-exceptional evaluations (for psychological diagnosis), and therapy with licensed psychologists or trainees.

Could a career assessment be beneficial for your child? You can request an appointment through our online intake form.

Strength-Based, Talent Focused Learning

Thank you to Marcy Dann, M.A. for writing this guest post!


Families who have been provided with assessment services at the BBC in the past year may also be interested in a supplemental service that is being offered temporarily at a reduced rate through the Bridges 2e Center, where the motto is “Educating the Exceptional”.

The Suite of Tools™ is an assessment process to discover, organize, analyze and prioritize information for strength-based, talent focused learning. The evidence-based tools that are used have been refined at Bridges Academy, an independent school for the twice exceptional student population. These tools can lead to big changes in motivation and achievement.

The process involves having the child complete My LearningPrint™ and the Quick Personality Indicator (QPI™).  A team meeting, moderated by Marcy Dann, is held online with the parents to explore the results of their child’s Belin-Blank Center psychoeducational assessment. The meeting will include an in-depth discussion about the child’s strengths, talents and interests.

Parents will also receive a summary report with a personalized talent plan to supplement a student’s IEP, 504 Plan, folder and/or recent Belin-Blank Center evaluation. The report will include insights into when and how a particular student performs optimally, challenges to address, essential elements for learning, and the environmental conditions conducive to his or her development.

For more information, please contact Dr. Doobay at alissa-doobay@uiowa.edu.

Marcy Dann, M.A.

Marcy Dann, M.A. is a board-certified educational therapist who has been in clinical practice for over 35 years using a strength-based approach with school aged clients and their families and is a consultant at Bridges Academy, a school for twice-exceptional students in Los Angeles, California.  She relies on the parents’ perspectives when listening carefully to the vignettes they share about their child. She recognizes the academic, cognitive, social-emotional, creative and physical issues that must be addressed for students to access the curriculum and to show what they’ve learned in school and at home. Dann is currently collaborating with the Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic (BBC) by providing strength-based assessments.

Congratulations to the 2021 Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Winners!

In March, the Belin-Blank Center hosted students from across the state to compete at the premier high school science competition in Iowa, the 2021 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS). Students competed for scholarships and recognition by presenting the results of original research projects.

A panel of experts judged 10 impressive oral presentations, and the finalists were: 

  • 1st place: Meena Ramadugu (John F Kennedy High School) — “Comparison of nickel chelator to current standard triple antibiotic therapy to treat Helicobacter pylori infection” 
  • 2nd place: Kayla Livesay (Van Buren High School) — “Analyzing the effectiveness of nutrient placement on crop production and soil fertility: A study of the law of limiting factors” 
  • 3rd place: Shreya Khullar (Iowa City West High School) — “Dendrochronological data analysis to measure climate sensitivity and to develop climate reconstructions”  
  • 4th place: Claire Gu (Valley High School) — “Predicting harmful algal blooms in Iowa’s green valley lake using a machine learning model”  
  • 5th place: Karshana Kalyanaraman (Johnston Senior High School) — “Novel miRNA and gene enrichment associated with cardiac function in athletes”

In addition to scholarships, these five students qualified to compete at the 59th Annual National JSHS in mid-April. 

Approximately 160 high school students from all over the world attended the National JSHS to compete for scholarships and recognition in the fields of environmental science; life sciences; biomedical, cellular and molecular sciences; medicinal, behavioral and health sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer science; physics; and chemistry and material sciences. 

For the fourth consecutive year, Iowa regional finalists placed at the national competition! Kayla Livesay (Van Buren) and Meena Ramadugu (Cedar Rapids) both took home 3rd place in their respective divisions of the prestigious oral presentation competition, along with $4,000 scholarships.

This year marks the first time two Iowa regional finalists placed at National JSHS! It is also the first year an Iowa finalist has placed at National JSHS for a second time.

In 2019, Kayla earned third place in the Life Science division of the poster competition for her project, “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III.” This year, Kayla earned third place in the Environmental division of the oral presentation competition.

Congratulations to all who participated in both the Iowa Regional and National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia! For more information on getting started with student research or the JSHS program, visit: 

Introducing the Integrated Acceleration System

We are excited to announce the launch of the Integrated Acceleration System!

Making decisions about whether to accelerate a student can seem intimidating. We can help. 

The Integrated Acceleration System is an interactive online tool that integrates all the relevant information to help you decide if acceleration is a good fit for your student. It generates a complete, multi-page report that offers an evidence-based recommendation, provides resources, and helps the student, parents, and educators better understand the students’ academic needs. 

What do educators say? 

“The Integrated Acceleration System is exactly the tool all districts need to do the right thing for a student. I found it to be comprehensive and easy to use. Once our team experienced the depth of data included in the Integrated Acceleration System, they felt comfortable in the process to determine the appropriateness of a grade skip…. An excellent tool!”

Dr. Randy Lange, Talent Development Services Program Coordinator at LaGrange District 102, Illinois  

We’re celebrating with introductory pricing!

We are offering the Integrated Acceleration System for $59 (regularly $79) to celebrate its launch. This introductory pricing ends with the 2020-21 academic year, so reserve yours today!

Congratulations, Invent Iowa Winners!

On April 19, the Belin-Blank Center announced the 2021 Invent Iowa State Invention Convention winners who will advance onto the National Invention Convention. Young inventors from schools across Iowa submitted their inventions to the state competition. We were impressed to see so many creative inventions to everyday problems!

Winners qualified to compete at the virtual National Invention Convention. The Belin-Blank Center awarded the top 5 inventions with all expenses paid to advance to the next level of competition. Check out this Google Earth tour of the winning inventions!

Congratulations to our 2021 Winners:

1st place: The B.O.S.S. (The Beneficial On-Site Skin Scanner) by Charles Smith from Ottumwa

Firefighters have a higher risk of cancer because they are exposed to carcinogenic chemicals in fires.  There is not an on-site method to locate the toxins on the skin, which greatly increases their cancer risk.  The B.O.S.S. (The Beneficial On-Site Skin Scanner) is a dermal scanner that will allow firefighters to locate the carcinogenic chemicals quickly, enabling them to remove the toxins while on-site.  This helps decrease the chemical absorption through their skin, which would reduce their cancer risk and could save lives.

2nd place: SSS (Smart Sensing System) by Sujan Vijayraj Shadrak from Marion

The SSS is a system that can be used in an automatic sliding door. The SSS runs through a Rasberry pi 4 and is coded in NODERED. The SSS will use Artificial Intelligence and human image detection to first take a picture of the person standing outside, then process it, and if the picture resembles a human the door will open. This invention will prevent animals from entering public places and can also act as a filter by tracking who enters and leaves the area. We have made the SSS prototype along with a visual example of a sliding door.

3rd place: Ring Around the Dog Collar by Carolyne Jorgenson from Treynor

Leather dog collar that has multiple D-rings for easier leash attachment.

4th place: Aqua Cleaner by Manasvi Devi Reddy from Marion

It solves the problem of oil spills making the oceans and rivers clean. This in turn helps the ecosystem.

5th place: Reptile Pedicure by Mason Smith from Dyersville

The purpose of the Reptile Pedicure is to make it easier to get the toe shed off your reptile’s toes.  This allows your reptile to be comfortable during the process and the owner to have more control.  Those that own reptiles know that the shed on the toes is the hardest for the reptile to get off on their own.  This results in deformities and their toes to fall off.  It also changes their walking pattern.

Finally, we want to say a big thank you to our generous sponsor McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. Congratulations to all who competed, and keep inventing, Iowa!

Registration Open for AP® Summer Institute

Registration is now open for the University of Iowa’s AP® Summer Institute (APSI), hosted by the Belin-Blank Center! APSI will take place online from June 28 – July 2, 2021.

“Even if you are not going to teach an AP® class, the content and methods from the APSI at the Belin-Blank Center open up a myriad of teaching possibilities. I admit it—I was so energized about content after attending APSI!!”

-Jill Schany, APSI participant from Emmetsburg High School

APSI workshops offer online professional learning for these AP® courses:

  • Calculus AB
  • Computer Science Principles
  • English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition
  • Human Geography
  • Physics 1
  • Psychology
  • Spanish Language
  • Statistics
  • US Government & Politics
  • US History
  • World History
Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

AP® courses introduce high school students to academically challenging material and offer a chance to earn college credit by taking AP® exams. APSI prepares teachers to develop and teach an AP® course.

College Board-endorsed AP® consultants instruct each workshop. APSI participants will discuss questions about AP® subject-area content and receive an overview of the Advanced Placement program®. They will also learn how to complete the College Board’s required AP® Course Audit. 

Participants can also earn academic credit (with a 50% scholarship!) or Iowa Licensure Renewal Units for successful completion of an APSI workshop. Grants of $450 are available to Iowa teachers through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA).  

Click below to learn more or register today!

Apply for the Belin-Blank Fellowship in Gifted Education

This summer, the 41st Belin-Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education will be a virtual event.  Launched in 1981, the Fellowship is one of the oldest professional leadership programs in the United States, and the Belin-Blank Center welcomes teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and administrators to apply.  Because the Fellowship is virtual, educators who would find travel to Iowa difficult can dedicate the time for this program from their home computers.

More than ever, all educators need to know more about the unique needs of gifted and talented students—and about how to meet those needs—because of today’s ever greater challenges.  This professional learning opportunity facilitates professional understanding about best practices in serving advanced learners, including those who traditionally have been overlooked for gifted programs. Participants will interact virtually with others who have a commitment to understanding more about research-based strategies that promote authentic talent development among your school’s most capable students.   

Participants will need to be fully present throughout the week because the presentations, activities, and extended discussions will inspire your thoughtful engagement with new ideas and approaches.  For an overview of the program, please download a brochure (safe to open). Educators should review the program at belinblank.org/fellowship and apply online.  Selection of the 12 Belin-Blank Fellows will be based on a review of applications, as well as a review of the statements of support from administrators (also completed online).  

This unique Fellowship was originally designed for the general education teacher—the individual who spends the greatest amount of classroom time with gifted and talented learners. In recent years, we also have welcomed teacher leaders, school counselors, school psychologists, and administrators, knowing they work closely with teachers to ensure best practices for all students. 

An endowment covers the cost of opportunities to interact with nationally recognized experts in gifted education; it will also cover other costs associated with the program, including access to the online University library and a 50% tuition scholarship for two semester hours of credit (if credit hours would be useful for you). This year, when the program is a virtual one, we are waiving the request that the district support its participant(s) through a payment of a $250 resource fee.  You will leave the program with extensive resources that will enrich you and your district.

Please share this information about the Fellowship with those in your building. Encourage general education teachers, school counselors and psychologists, and administrators to apply online. Each applicant is responsible for completing the application process by April 15; must ask for a brief statement of support from you, the Superintendent, or another district administrator, also submitted online by April 15.

All of us at the Belin-Blank Center are confident this summer will continue a tradition that prompted one participant to relate:

“This is a game changer for me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

If you have any questions about the Fellowship or the application process, please contact Dr. Laurie Croft, Associate Director for Professional Development at educators@belinblank.org or 319-335-6148. We look forward to having an educator you know join us this summer!

Research Opportunity for Autism Study – Recruiting Participants with and without Autism

Our friends in the Kliemann Lab are currently recruiting participants for a research study on autism. Please consider reaching out if you are interested! Details below.


Researchers in the Kliemann Lab of the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department at the University of Iowa are currently inviting participants for a study investigating social behavior in individuals with and without autism. You may be eligible if you:

  1. Are between 18 – 50 years old.
  2. Are fluent in English.

For interested participants with autism, you may be eligible if you fill the above criteria and you:

  1. Have been diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

This study consists of completing one or more of our ongoing experiments in this study. These range from simple behavioral tasks, to measuring where participants look at during a task using noninvasive eye-tracking, to questionnaires assessing social behavior, to a research brain scan.

The specific parts (behavioral, eye tracking, and/or MRI) you participate in will depend on the current needs of the study, your eligibility for each procedure, and your desire to participate in each procedure. You may choose to participate in one, multiple, or none of these procedures upon our further correspondence and confirmation of your eligibility. These procedures will take between 1-3hours each and can be spread over multiple days.

Participants receive a compensation amount of $10 to $15 per hour depending on which procedures you are eligible for and choose to participate in.

If you are interested in participating, please email our lab at PBS-kliemann-lab@uiowa.edu, or call us at 319-467-3161.

Conversations on Autism Diagnosis and Assessment

Written by Dr. Alissa Doobay, Supervisor for Psychological Services at the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic.


Last fall, I received an email from Emily Kircher-Morris asking if I would be interested in recording a podcast. Emily is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Missouri. She is perhaps best known as the host of the thought-provoking and informative Neurodiversity Podcast (previously called Mind Matters Podcast). Her podcast focuses on the development of gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) people throughout the lifespan. 

I always feel more comfortable expressing myself with a keyboard than a microphone. Still, I felt deeply honored by Emily’s interest in my work. I quickly grew excited for the opportunity to be a part of such a fantastic resource for families. A few short weeks later, I found myself chatting easily with Emily over Zoom while sitting in a very professional-looking recording studio, courtesy of the University of Iowa.

Emily asked that I present on the topic of autism assessment in the twice-exceptional population. We discussed the obstacles families face in getting gifted children evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We also talked about differences in the presentation of ASD symptoms in the high-ability population, ASD in high-ability girls, and advice for parents seeking an assessment for their child. The information I share on the podcast comes from my 15 years of research and direct clinical work with 2e learners and neurodiverse students at the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic

My experiences at the Belin-Blank Center –first as a student, later as a licensed psychologist, and now as the supervisor of psychological services–shaped my current knowledge and expertise. I am exceedingly grateful to the families with whom I have worked over the years who have shared their stories and were willing to put their confidence and trust in me. I am continually awed by the kindness, tenacity, bravery, and resilience of these families. All of them share a goal of improving understanding, services, and support for their loved ones and the broader twice-exceptional community.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to listen to Emily Kircher-Morris’s Neurodiversity Podcast. You won’t be disappointed! If you are interested, you can listen to our discussion on episode 70, “Understanding Autism Diagnosis and Assessment.”

Need a Spring Break?

We’ve done the work AND saved you money!

Get a full year of access to three gifted kid-tested and parent-approved platforms for less than the cost of one.

Kids will have fun learning:

  • Creative Writing with Night Zookeeper
  • Math with Prodigy
  • Social Science and Humanities with BrainPOP

To Test or Not to Test: Is That the Question?

Written by Dr. Susan Assouline, Director of the Belin-Blank Center

Susan Assouline

We sometimes hear from parents, educators, and students who question the value of standardized tests, particularly as colleges and universities suspend testing requirements due to the pandemic. While there are valid concerns among these questions, I propose that test bias, rather than the value of testing itself, represents the more relevant question.

Test bias is an important topic that merits more significant discussion than is possible in this short blog post. Nevertheless, it’s important to offer guidance on such a complex issue because the many ways we discover talented students include standardized testing.

The test-development industry, state and federal courts, and higher education institutions have considered the complex topic of test bias for several decades. Early in the 20th century, tests contained blatant content, cultural, and ethnic bias. However, the field has evolved and established new standards, guidelines, and principles related to assessments. Now, three decades into the 21st century, the simple response to the question, “Are tests biased?” is, “It’s complicated.” 

Today’s standardized testing industry aims to reduce content bias in test items through the test development process. However, there is still the potential for ethnic and cultural bias during the administration and interpretation process. Moreover, our current education system’s inequitable nature means that not all students receive the same opportunities to learn.

Educators’ understanding of issues of equity in assessment is crucial. Educators can choose a test that research supports as equitable. They can administer the tests fairly, interpret results correctly, and provide the supports and challenges that help students learn and grow to the best of their abilities. 

People often make claims of test bias based on how schools have used tests to exclude students from gifted and talented programming. A common practice is to use standardized tests to limit the number of students eligible for specialized programs and services. The Belin-Blank Center takes the opposite approach. We use standardized tests to discover high-potential learners who need growth opportunities. 

The licensed psychologists in the center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic rely on tests to better understand individual students’ unique needs. Two of our grant-funded outreach programs, STEM Excellence and Javits Talent Identification-Career Exploration (TICE), use a standardized test called I-Excel as the first step in providing an academic challenge to traditionally underserved students. Because I-Excel administers 8th-grade content to 4th through 6th graders, it serves as an above-level test. The Belin-Blank Center expanded the guidelines to include more students in the above-level testing process. In this way, we discover a broader pool of middle-school students ready for advanced academic challenges.   

To create best-fit interventions that benefit learners, we must use the appropriate tools. In many cases, this includes standardized testing. However, whenever we use tests, we have an ethical responsibility to recognize the ever-present potential for bias. Thus, it’s complicated.

We use tests because we know they can help us better understand learners’ needs. Still, we also know that test results are only one useful tool in a more extensive toolkit. It is essential for those using the results to interpret and supplement them in a manner that accounts for potential bias.

Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality

Co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute

May 17-18, 2021
Online

Bridging psychology and neuroscience, the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute will collaborate to bring researchers, clinicians, educators, and parents together to address the current state of research on twice-exceptionality. Part of the purpose of this interdisciplinary summit is to form partnerships with other institutions in furthering twice-exceptional research and best practice.

The summit will take place on Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The event will be completely online and feature a variety of keynotes and breakout sessions delving into recent research’s insights into twice-exceptionality. Registrants will have access to the live sessions, as well as recordings of all presentations after the event.

How to Register

Registration is available now!

If you currently attend or are employed by the University of Iowa, email us at summit@belinblank.org to register for free.

Outside of the UI, standard registration is $145 and non-UI current students may register for $45.

A credit option is available to those who participate in the summit through PSQF:4128:0WKA – Neuroscientific Implications for Gifted Ed: Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality (May 20 – June 10). The Belin-Blank Center provides a tuition scholarship equal to 50% of the cost of graduate-level tuition. Whether you choose undergraduate or graduate credit, your tuition for this one semester hour of credit will be $280.). Learn more.

Speakers

We feature speakers sharing research from several different domains, including neuroscience, genetics, gifted education, special education, psychology, and psychiatry.

Belin-Blank Center – Iowa Neuroscience Institute Presenters

Members of the Belin-Blank Center and Iowa Neuroscience Institute collaborative team look forward to sharing their current work with attendees through presentations and panel discussions.

Ted Abel

Edwin G. Abel, Ph.D.

Molecular Mechanisms of Memory Storage

Jake Michaelson

Jake Michaelson, Ph.D.

Genetic Signatures of Twice-Exceptionality

Thomas Nickl-Jockschat, Ph.D.

Disrupted brain growth patterns – a key mechanism underlying autism

Susan G. Assouline, Ph.D., Brandon LeBeau, Ph.D., and Katie Schabilion, Ph.D.

Integration of the Medical Model and Talent Development Model in Understanding 2e Students (Panel)

Alissa Doobay, Ph.D., Megan Foley-Nicpon, Ph.D., Duhita Mahatmya, Ph.D.

From Data to Diagnosis: Complexity of Understanding 2e Students with ASD and Anxiety Disorders (Panel)

Featured University of Iowa Speakers

Lane Strathearn, Ph.D.

Epigenetics and Social Experience in Autism: Discovering Modifiable Pathways for Intervention

Hanna Stevens, Ph.D.

Neurodevelopmental disabilities and striatum: insights from mentoring smart trainees

Dorit Kliemann, Ph.D.

Brain Networks in Autism

Seth King, Ph.D.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Research for Individuals with Multiple Exceptionalities

For a full list of speakers and topics, be sure to check out our webpage. We hope to see you in May!

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Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality

Message from the Director: Doing No (Educational) Harm

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

The famous medical phrase, “do no harm,” has been echoing in my mind. Specifically, I consider the potential for harm when well-meaning educators or parents believe that the best academic intervention is to maintain the status quo. In other words, to do nothing.

Students with high cognitive ability need advanced and challenging educational experiences in order to be engaged in the learning process. Doing nothing is harmful because it may cause these students to disengage. If high-ability learners drop out from learning, both the student and society suffer the loss.

The Belin-Blank Center is a leader in research on twice-exceptionality and academic acceleration. Twice-exceptional students, as well as students who need academic acceleration, are equally at risk of disengaging from the learning process if their unique needs go unmet. Appropriate educational interventions, informed by research findings, keep them engaged. Below, I describe a few ways that the center supports parents and educators in supporting twice-exceptional students and students who need academic acceleration.

Practitioners in gifted education know much about high cognitive ability and the necessary interventions to help high-ability students. Educators with a background in special education have excellent training in supporting students with a diagnosed learning or social-emotional disorder. However, traditional assessment and intervention approaches often do not detect when a student has high cognitive ability plus a diagnosed learning or social-emotional disorder. In other words, they miss twice-exceptional students, which jeopardizes those students’ engagement in the learning process.

We continue to learn more about identifying and supporting twice-exceptional students. We’ve uncovered unique patterns of strengths and difficulties for twice-exceptional students through our collaborative research with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI). These patterns have important implications for educational interventions. We are excited to share these findings as part of the inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, held virtually on May 17 and 18. All registrants can access the live sessions and the recording of all presentations after the event.

Our work in academic acceleration encompasses a broad set of services, including above-level testing, student programs such as Advanced Placement coursework through the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy, and reliable resources through the Acceleration Institute. These resources enhance awareness about academic acceleration, guide advocates in creating acceleration policy, and help child study teams make decisions about various forms of acceleration.

The Integrated Acceleration System, our newest resource, is an online, interactive system. This tool integrates the necessary information for deciding whether acceleration is an appropriate intervention for a particular student. The Integrated Acceleration System synthesizes the data and generates a report with recommendations specific to that student. When it comes to academic acceleration, parents and educators need no longer assume that doing nothing is the best way to “do no harm.”

Educators and parents are essential advocates for appropriate placement and services for high-ability and twice-exceptional students. Taking action through tailored intervention is the best way to ensure that we do no educational harm and actively engage students in the learning process.