We are so excited to welcome Dr. Christopher Smith to the Belin-Blank Center! Dr. Smith is joining the Assessment and Counseling Clinic as a licensed psychologist.
Dr. Smith earned his BA from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and his MA and PhD from Alliant International University in San Francisco, CA. He completed his internship at an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Augusta, Maine, and his post-doctoral fellowship working with children and adolescents at an eating disorder clinic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He holds psychology licenses in Iowa, New York, and Massachusetts. Most recently, he worked as a licensed psychologist at ChildServe in Iowa City.
We are looking forward to having Dr. Smith on the team at the ACC! He will be involved in providing clinical assessment and counseling services to gifted and twice-exceptional students and supporting research and other clinic initiatives.
Be sure to check out all of the clinical services we provide in our Assessment and Counseling Clinic. If you are interested in requesting more information about scheduling clinic services, you can do so here!
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.
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 email@example.com . Please send inquiries by January 24th to be considered for participation.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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 email@example.com.
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.
Have you heard about Let’s Talk 2e! virtual conference? Launching for FREE on August 19-21, this conference (formerly known as “2 Days of 2e”) is for parents of twice exceptional children to learn about:
Strategies to address and relieve stress
Alternative educational placements
Identifying learning styles
Culturally diverse learners
Strategies to address trauma
Giftedness and Autism
Connecting personality and learning styles
Technology tips for your 2e learner
Launching your 2e child
Gain free access for 24 hours and then the option to purchase an ALL ACCESS PASS, which includes speaker gifts for you, audio files, and a live Q/A session with speakers!
Don’t miss our own Drs. Alissa Doobay, Megan Foley-Nipon, and Katie Schabilion’s session, “Twice Exceptionality: The Intersection of Giftedness and Autism” on August 20. And check out the rest of the incredible line-up below.