"Twice exceptional children"—those who are gifted and struggle with a learning disability—often have trouble learning in traditional classrooms. But there's scant research on how to improve their learning. With a $75,000 Esther Katz Rosen Grant from the American Psychological Foundation, Jeffrey Gilger, PhD, is working to fill that research gap by using fMRI to look more closely at how these children process information.
In one study, Gilger, a psychology professor at the University of California, Merced, compared the spatial visualization processing skills of twice exceptional children with those of children who are either gifted or have reading disabilities. He found that twice exceptional children are not a mix of reading disabled and gifted brains; rather, they process spatial visualization problems differently than either group. He also found that the brains of reading disabled children are similar to those of twice exceptional children when they perform verbal and spatial tasks.
"The neurodevelopmental processes that make a child reading disabled might make a child [gifted] as well, given the right context and factors," he says.
Gilger's APF-funded research has led to further studies on how children with reading disabilities learn spatial problem-solving and on whether teaching these children spatial problem-solving would be more successful when they are very young.
The Esther Katz Rosen Fund offers annual grants to early career researchers who study gifted children. The application deadline for the 2013 fellowship is March 1.