Psychologist, professor, international speaker, & neurodiversity ally
Matthew Zakreski, PsyD is a high energy, creative clinical psychologist who utilizes an eclectic approach to meet the specific needs of his neurodiverse clients. He is proud to serve as a consultant to schools, a professor, and a researcher on Giftedness. Dr. Zakreski is a member of Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children (NJAGC), and Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE). Dr. Zakreski graduated from Widener University’s Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology (IGCP) in 2016. He is the co-founder and lead clinician at The Neurodiversity Collective and his website is www.drmattzakreski.com
Failure is one of the most challenging aspects of life for neurodivergent folks to manage. We spent so much time thinking about it, worrying about it, planning for it, and then dealing with it. But failure is an unavoidable part of life. Instead of becoming hopeless when faced with that reality, this talk focuses on how to identify the positive aspects of failure, from teachable moments to opportunities to build resiliency. By accepting the reality and inevitably of failure, we lessen its negative impact on us. This talk will focus on how to build resiliency and navigate failure in the best possible ways.
Board Director, Mully Children’s Family Operations Director , Mully Children’s Family Kenya
Ms Ndondo Mutua is the Director of Operations at Mully Children’s Family. Her focus is on strategic planning, resource mobilisation, talent acquisition, and development in MCF.
Ndondo has been involved in rescues, rehabilitation, protection, and reintegration of vulnerable children/youths, focusing on identifying and developing their gifts and talent and fostering talent development in the STEMM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) areas for over 20 years.
She has previously been involved in Education Curricula development for the Special needs and High-performance children and youths in Kenya. She is pivotal in championing children’s rights and protection, immensely participating in training for persons involved in handling children, e.g., the police, government social workers, children’s officers and educators.
She has participated in ECHA conferences and has been the liaison person between the World Giftedness Centre in MCF Kenya. She is passionate about scaling up and replicating the Mully Model. She is currently a PhD student at Kabarak University, Kenya.
Mully Children’s Family (MCF) has evolved as a centre with deliberate programs geared towards promoting and nurturing gifts and talents among children and youths from marginalised and poverty-stricken communities. Nurturing their giftedness with the potential to excel in the STEMM related fields and in other areas, such as arts, performing arts, sports, social impact, and many more. This has been achieved through different approaches, including:
Identification of various gifts and talents among the MCF beneficiaries has been made possible through the guidance of MCF teams of co-workers. The individual children whose interests in pursuing multiple talents and gifts are sustained through special attention by role models and peer support and are nurtured through active clubs within MCF. These clubs promote youth participation in special seminars, joint practical projects, performances and competitions in various areas, including STEMM, karate, debating competitions, dance, singing, and arts. Currently, slightly over 5,500 beneficiaries are actively involved in the Giftedness and Talent development programs.
Investing in the establishment of relevant infrastructure, qualified tutors, coaches, and mentors to provide students with opportunities and support for quality learning and their potential enhancement. As a result, MCF provides an environment that facilitates the improved performance of both boys and girls, enabling them to secure qualifications for further education.
The program’s success has led to many achieving awards, recognising talents and gifts, and increasing the participants’ self-confidence to increase their chances of success in various fields of interest.
Professor Inclusion and Special Needs Education & Clinical Educational Sciences / Research project leader Learning and educational problems, University of Groningen
Alexander Minnaert, Ph.D., graduated with a master’s degree in educational, school, and medical psychology at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He obtained his teacher education certificate for secondary and higher education, both in Belgium and the Netherlands, a post-graduate certificate in learning and instruction at the Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena in Germany; and received his doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Leuven in 1996. In 1997, he was appointed assistant and associate professor in instructional sciences and clinical education at the Department of Education, Leiden University. In 2004, he became full professor at the University of Groningen with a focus on learning and development, inclusion and special needs education, motivations and emotion, giftedness, and clinical educational research methodology. He is appointed till 2029 as scientific advisory board member of the Academy of Finland.
The contribution of Alexander Minnaert will focus on inclusion practices in favor of twice-exceptional (2e) students, namely students that are blessed with a gift and a psycho-educational challenge. To safeguard optimal development and equitable quality education, learning and guided teaching should focus on both cognitive and non-cognitive aspects of 2e students. Although familiarity with the concept of twice-exceptionality is increasing, not so much consensus exists in schools on how to approach these students. Beyond, many questions still exist regarding full inclusive support and/or tailored quality practices for these 2e students to gain their self-regulation and self-determination, to overcome their frustration and negative school-related emotions, to prevent early dropout and the loss of talent. Hence, an overview will be presented on the literature and (clinical) research findings concerning 2e students, i.e., gifted students with specific learning disorders, with ADHD, and/or with ASD. Recommendations to further research, professionalization and policy will be provided.
Psychology Professor, Mary Immaculate College Limerick
Niamh Stack is the Head of Department at the Department of Psychology, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. She is a Professor of Developmental Psychology with a particular interest in development, difference and diversity across the lifespan. She is the Chair of the Education and Training Board for the British Psychological Society. This board works to support the society in developing its strategy in delivering education and continuing professional development for psychologists. She has worked within the Scottish Network for Able Pupils for more than a decade, working in collaboration with the Scottish government, local education authorities, schools and teachers on provision for highly able learners. She actively researches and publishes in the area of high ability.
There is a generally accepted symbiotic relationship between the disciplines of psychology and education when considering how we best support the development of children and young people and in this case the development of highly able individuals (Sutherland & Stack, 2018). There is also tacit agreement within the highly able field that we must look holistically at the individual considering not just academic strengths/needs but also social and emotional well-being. It is however argued that we may not have yet fully succeeded in these holistic aims (Worrell, Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius & Dixon, 2019). We know from examples within neuroscience that in spite of the very best of intentions, the application of theory to practice and the meeting of multidisciplinary perspectives can go astray (Howard-Jones, 2014). There are calls for better bridges of communication between psychology, neuroscience and education to make these discussions and their implications for provision more than a sum of their parts (cf. Wilcox, Morett, Hawes & Dommett, 2021). Within this session we will assess the current status of these discussions, where the opportunities and challenges lie, and what part we have each to play in making multidisciplinary provision for highly able individuals meaningful rather than messy.
Director 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, Bridges Academy
Susan Baum, Ph.D. is co-director of the International Center for Talent Development and Director of the National Institute for 2E Research and Development at Bridges Academy. Professor Emeritus from The College of New Rochelle, and an international consultant, Susan is published in a multitude of books, chapters, and articles in the areas of twice-exceptional students, primary-aged gifted students, social and emotional factors affecting gifted students, and multiple intelligences. She served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and is past president and co-founder of the Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students. She is recipient of the Weinfeld Group’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in educating the twice-exceptional child.
So many bright learners have brains that are wired differently resulting in extraordinary gifts and talents and perplexing challenges at the same time. Known as twice exceptional, these students have needs unlike others who don’t exhibit this paradoxical profile. I have spent over four decades studying these special youngsters and what happens when advanced abilities collide with disabilities. During this session I will share their stories and suggest five key ways to meet their needs.