Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Executive Functioning and Giftedness

by: Erin Peace, LCSW, RPT
School Counselor

As we settle back into our routine for the school year, many of us emphasize setting resolutions for the new year. These resolutions or intentions can help us accomplish goals when we identify tasks that are meaningful and realistic; how can we encourage our gifted students to set and work towards goals that are meaningful to them?

Executive Functioning and Giftedness

Executive functioning refers to a neurological set of skills that help individuals regulate their emotions, and thereby their actions. These skills are needed in order to plan, organize, and follow-through on activities, and we can think of the executive functioning center of our brain as the concert conductor or air traffic controller of our actions.

Due to the asynchronous development of the brain among the gifted population, we see an extreme range of executive functioning abilities both among and within our students, and many of our students need scaffolding to help build these skills, especially in relation to non-preferred tasks. Due to their cognitive abilities, students may not have had to outline larger projects or executive time management as their same-age peers during elementary school, and they are forced to learn these skills in middle school or high school.

Collaboration with Gifted Students

In order to increase a student’s buy-in to increase these skills, providing education about the gifted brain and fostering collaboration with students can increase the motivation and willingness to pursue goals that are either important to them while increasing their sense of self-efficacy.

A collaborative conversation should be had with the student about a goal, and the adult can then help the student identify the steps into a checklist that the student can visualize and use daily. After using a system, we should then work with the student to evaluate the process and identify which strategies worked, and which need to be tweaked in order to be successful. Eventually, these systems should be modified to reduce adult supervision and intervention, which increases a student’s sense of self-efficacy and reduces the risk of enabling.

Task Initiation

Many times, our gifted students have an outstanding ability to focus and work on things that they find interesting or exciting. With larger or less-preferred tasks, we can help increase our student’s motivation by front-loading the work with enjoyable tasks, as well as setting a firm start time for the work. Short breaks can be interspersed with frequent acknowledgment of the student’s effort and progress. A solutions-focused approach can also be used to explore with the student about things they don’t procrastinate on, and what conditions allow for this increased sense of motivation and self-esteem. In a future blog post, we’ll explore how to help gifted students strengthen their time management skills in order to pursue these goals.

Where to begin? Start with an Executive Functioning Self-Assessment from Smart but Scattered HERE.

Book Resources: Smart but Scattered, and Smart but Scattered Teens.

Image Source for EF graphic: Focus Therapy
Image Source for Homework Planner: Smart But Scattered

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Nurturing Young Minds: A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Mental Health


Image Source

by: Erin Peace, LCSW, RPT
School Counselor

Over the last few years, educators and parents have identified a need for increased mental health support for children. These needs became especially clear after the transitions and stressors related to the start of the pandemic, and in April U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated that “kids’ and adolescents’ declining mental health is the crisis of our time.” A JAMA meta-analysis of over 80,000 youths globally done in 2021 showed about 1 in 4 adolescents demonstrated clinically significant signs of depression, and about 1 in 5 adolescents demonstrated clinically significant signs of anxiety. 

Parents and educators can partner to provide students with the tools needed to identify and address stress, and these shifts can start with us as the adults modeling healthy coping skills to students. Here are some tips for parents on how to have meaningful conversations about mental health with your children.

  • Create a Safe and Open Environment: Begin by fostering an atmosphere where your child feels comfortable discussing their thoughts and feelings. Let them know that their emotions are valid and that you're there to listen without judgment. Encourage them to express themselves in their own time and way.

  • Lead by Example: Children learn from observing their parents. Demonstrate healthy coping mechanisms and stress management strategies in your daily life. When they see you prioritize your mental well-being, they're more likely to do the same.

  • Normalize Emotions: Teach your child that it's okay to experience a wide range of emotions, and that these feelings are a natural part of life. Use everyday situations as opportunities to discuss emotions and how to deal with them effectively.

  • Active Listening: When your child wants to talk, be an active listener. This means giving them your full attention, maintaining eye contact, and asking open-ended questions to encourage them to share more. Avoid interrupting or immediately offering solutions; sometimes, they just need someone to listen.

  • Empower Problem-Solving Skills: Instead of solving their problems for them, guide your child in finding solutions. This helps them develop critical thinking skills and boosts their self-confidence in handling challenging situations.

  • Teach Stress-Reduction Techniques: Introduce relaxation techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or even physical activities such as yoga. These tools can help your child manage stress and anxiety effectively.

  • Stay Informed Together: Keep yourselves informed about mental health together. Read age-appropriate books or articles, watch educational videos, or attend workshops that focus on mental health topics. This shared learning experience can spark valuable discussions.

  • Seek Professional Help When Needed: Sometimes, children may need professional guidance to navigate their mental health challenges. Be open to the idea of seeking help from a therapist or counselor when necessary. Explain that it's a positive step towards getting the support they need.

  • Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your child's achievements, no matter how small they may seem. This boosts their self-esteem and encourages them to keep working towards positive mental health.

  • Consistency is Key: Make these conversations a regular part of your family life. Don't wait for a crisis to discuss mental health. Consistency will help break down the stigma and create an ongoing dialogue.

Promoting mental health is an ongoing journey, and it's okay to seek guidance from professionals if you're unsure how to approach certain situations. By fostering a safe and open environment to talk about mental health, you can create a lasting impact on your child's mental well-being, ensuring they grow up with tools to be resilient and emotionally intelligent individuals.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Shakespeare Fest 2023

 On Friday, March 31st ACE Academy enjoyed a day of sun, fun, and Shakespeare!

We began the day with fun activities in our Lower and Upper School classes. Then we went outside to have a festival that included crafts, feats of strength, music, costumes, and more! 

Face Painting by Kiwi's Party --

After lunch we enjoyed performances and Q&A sessions from The Baron's Men who performed scenes from A Winter's Tale and a group from UT Austin who performed scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Our students also performed the songs they learned with Robin Grace in the morning.

UT students performing

Friday, March 31, 2023

Robotics in Fourth Grade STEM

Last week our fourth grade students dove into an introduction of A.I. and how we use it in daily life. This week we began constructing our first robotic driving base and learning the proper code functions. As we progress our learners will begin to program their robots with a fundamental A.I. with the ability to run an obstacle course. What a fun and hard working group of learners!

Friday, March 10, 2023

Happy (early) Pi Day!

Students in our 8th grade Geometry class have just finished a unit on circles - so what better way to celebrate (early) Pi Day than by measuring and eating real pie?

Ensuring that each student received an equal share required the use of a few measurement tools and a keen eye for detail. They used a compass and protractor - measurement tools of choice of the ancients - to construct the center of each pie. Then they split it into equal size sectors, also known as perfect slices of pie!

Here is a problem the group completed (from Open Up Resources). Can you solve it?

Wendell really likes pie and has offered to pay twice the price for a slice of pie that is guaranteed to contain at least 15 square inches of pie. 

-- What is the degree measure of the smallest sector of an 8 inch round pie that will satisfy Wendall's cravings?

National History Day

National History Day (NHD) is 
a year-long program focused on historical research, interpretation and creative expression for 6th- to 12th-grade students. By participating in NHD, students endeavor to become writers, filmmakers, web designers, playwrights, and artists as they seek to create unique contemporary expressions of history. In the ACE Academy Middle School history classes, we introduce NHD to the students with the goal of fostering a more complex appreciation of history and developing the requisite executive functioning skills conducive to the successful completion of long-term objectives, products, and projects.

On March 8, 2023, our 6th and 7th grade students shared the results of their historical research and product development. The students presented the museum exhibits, websites, documentaries, and papers that they had created from their research into the annual theme: Frontiers in History. Their topics ranged from civil rights to scientific advances to alternative music, and their presentations were conducted before an audience of parents, teachers, and fellow students.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Global Fest 2023

The ACE Community had a wonderful time celebrating our cultural heritages at Global Fest on Saturday. We enjoyed delicious food, engaging musical and dance performances, and spending time together. Thank you to all of our staff and parents who made this event a huge success! A extra special thank you to our No Place for Hate student committee who put in a lot of time and effort helping support the planning, set up, and clean up for the event. 

Students from Austin Chinese American Network

Executive Functioning and Giftedness

by: Erin Peace, LCSW, RPT School Counselor As we settle back into our routine for the school year, many of us emphasize setting resolutions ...