Sept. 19, 2006 — Eleven-year-old Michael was frustrated in school. A bright and talented boy, he was having problems reading and writing and made “careless errors” in math. He began calling himself “stupid” and “dumb.” His parents persisted in finding a reason for his challenges, so took him to visit physicians and learning specialists Brock and Fernette Eide, who confirmed Michael’s tremendous strengths as a learner, but also discovered the root of his problems: dyslexia.
Brock and Fernette Eide, husband and wife physicians who have a national referral practice seeing children with learning differences and challenges, will be in Salt Lake City to present two lectures on gifted children. The presentations are free and open to the public and are part of the Eric Moerer Memorial Lecture Series, sponsored by the University of Utah Department of Family and Consumer Studies (FCS).
On Thursday, Sept. 28, from 2 until 3:30 p.m., the Eides, who operate the Eide Neurolearning Clinic, in Edmonds, Washington, will present “Gifted Children in Full Perspective: Neurobiology, Temperament, Motivation, Experience, and Development.” The lecture will be held in room 320 of the Alfred Emery Building, located at 225 S. 1400 E., on the University of Utah campus. That evening, from 7 until 8:30 p.m., the Eides will present another lecture, “The Midas Touch: How Giftedness Itself Can Become a Learning Challenge.” That lecture will be held in the conference room, on the fourth level of the Salt Lake City Main Public Library, 200 E. 400 W.
“Giftedness and learning challenges are important topics for parents, families, educators, therapists, doctors and child-care providers because understanding children’s unique learning styles is key to their educational success,” notes Cheryl Wright, chair of the U’s FCS Department and the former director of the U’s Child and Family Development Center. “By better understanding children who are struggling, we are better able to tailor education and parenting for those who have a learning difficulty,” she says.
Many of the children that the Eides see in their clinic have been formally identified as gifted and “twice-exceptional,” the term used to identify gifted students with disabilities, or dual exceptionalities. Their other patients were children who have broad displays of abilities, but were, for reasons difficult to identify, underperforming, developing oppositional behavior, experiencing academic and/or social problems or having challenges with organization or anxiety related to the school environment.
“We see many kids who are really intelligent, but for unclear reasons are having problems in school,” explains Fernette, adding that their practice focuses on deeper, neurological functioning and learning-basic motor control, memory systems, levels of sound and vision processing, the ability to regulate and modulate emotional responses to stimulation, personality, family and school environment and dynamics. “We use all of this information to match the diagnosis with specific interventions that help better match a child’s education and his or her unique neurological wiring,” Brock explains.
The Eides’ initial interest in learning difficulties was personal, which also became a professional interest. “Our own kids were struggling-and these were problems that were overwhelming for our whole family. Once we found out what was going on with them, we were able to get them the kind of help they needed,” explains Brock
“This work resonates with parents,” Fernette says. “They know the problems, recognize them and understand that there is a lot more depth to them. We try to look at how different brains are wired. We try to see these children as sensitive as human beings who have their own dreams and their own stories and give them strategies they can use.”
Quite often, Fernette says, gifted children might be struggling, “to organize the sheer quantity of information. They have a hard time organizing the burdens of brilliance.” She explains: “Gifted or precocious kids have a different developmental pathway, one that defies standard expectations and timeframes.”
The Eides, who are members of the professional advisory board for Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), stress the importance of avoiding “emotional and psychological baggage-loss of self esteem, severe pessimism, loss of motivation and frustration that can accumulate early on,” Brock says.
According to the Eides’ new book, “The Mislabeled Child-How Understanding Your Child’s Unique Learning Style Can Open the Door to Success,” the most important component of helping a child who is struggling with learning challenges is “an adult who believes in them totally and unfailingly.”
The Eric Moerer Memorial Lecture Series, sponsored by Tina and Michael Moerer, honors their son Eric, a gifted student who died while still in his teens. For more information on this year’s lecture, call 801-581-6521.
Those seeking more information on the Eides work, visit http://mislabeledchild.com/.