Beyond IQ

Gifted Conference Planners presents:

Beyond IQ - Greater Boston

Books, Articles, and Videos

2017 Presenters

Keynote Speaker:
Michael Clay Thompson

Melissa Bilash
Darion Breslau
Anna Caveney
Kate Cook
Tamra Excel
Anne Fallon
Erik M. Francis
Barry Gelston
Caroline Geraci
Mika Gustavson (not attending)
Katy Hamilton
Alexa Kay
Jessie Kay
Kathi Kearney (not attending)
Carolyn K

Susan Eiseman Levitin
Erick Medina
Rachel Little Morris
Ryan O'Donnell
Tamora Pierce
Josh Shaine
Melinda Stewart
Michael Clay Thompson
Persis Thorndike
Eric Van
Abigail Walzer
Louise Waugh
Mary Ellen Wessels
Aimee Yermish
YA Program Staff

In Defense of
Serious Literature

Michael Clay Thompson

During a period of thirty years, Michael Clay Thompson was a classroom teacher, middle school head, and academic. Now Michael is a full-time author and consultant. An acclaimed speaker and workshop presenter, through his teaching, books, and presentations, he has inspired thousands of students and educators with a new love of language and literature.

Michael received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University, studied for gifted education accreditation at Mars Hill College, and obtained his MA from Western Carolina University. During his teaching career he taught in schools in Indiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

He has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and as an online instructor in language arts for the Northwestern University Gifted Learning Links program. He has been a faculty member of the Wake Forest University Summer Institute for Gifted Education, the University of North Carolina/Charlotte Summer institute for Gifted Education, and The Cullowhee Experience. He has served on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Association of Gifted and Talented and on the regional Board of Advisors to the North Carolina/South Carolina Future Problem Solving Program. He was formerly a consultant to the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, consultant and Lead Scholar for the National Javits Project for Language Arts, and President of the Indiana Gifted Association.

Michael has written more than 100 books, all with Royal Fireworks Press. All levels of his English language arts curriculum are available both in print form and as iBooks. His work also appears in Developing Verbal Talent (William and Mary Center for Gifted Education).

Michael lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife, Dr. Myriam Borges Thompson, a Spanish scholar who has co-authored several of his books.



    (C) = Children's Program
Educational alchemy: How project-based learning and an ancient mystery transformed gifted children into a team
Designed on a shoestring budget in a small US school for K-6 gifted students, the Antikythera project offered a “perfect storm” of gifted student passions: LEGOs, computers, math, astronomy, engineering, ancient history, and mystery. Involving every student in the school, this project-based learning lesson created a sense of community, quantum leaps in teamwork and collaboration, and other unexpected and remarkable social-emotional benefits.

 Melissa Bilash is a state-wide and nationally-recognized expert on education. As one of only 78 individuals in the nation to have completed the intensive Special Education Advocates Training (SEAT) program from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), she is seasoned in educational practice and policy. For over a decade, Advocacy & Consulting for Education (ACFE), her suburban Philadelphia practice, has served more than 600 students and their families by securing millions of dollars’ worth of desperately-needed educational services, tuition, accommodations, and settlement funds. Her advocacy work has received special Congressional recognition, and most recently, as a “thought leader in the field,” she was invited by the White House Office of Early Learning and the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a strategy roundtable for planning the way forward in supporting educators and families of young children and the use of technology to support early learning.

Ms. Bilash regularly works with prestigious national organizations and institutions serving gifted children. Most recently, she co-authored a chapter in the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)’s Guide to State Policies in Gifted Education, a document presenting detailed and research-based recommendations of best practices in gifted education across the country (published March 2016). She meets regularly with senior staff at the U.S. Department of Education to discuss priority initiatives, and she is continuously a voice for gifted learners at these meetings.  Additionally, she serves on the Legislative Committees of both the NAGC and Pennsylvania’s NAGC chapter, the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE), which named her the inaugural winner of its Innovator Award for launching Grayson and has previously named her Parent of the Year for her work with gifted children. A much sought-after speaker, she has presented to a wide array of audiences, including the Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) annual conference, the Special Educational Advocacy annual conference, and events at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, and Villanova University, as well as at a variety of local parent support groups, education-related expos, and local schools, libraries, and gifted education association meetings.

Introduction to Chain Maille (c)
From suits of armor to delicate jewelry, the possibilities are nearly limitless when you start putting together metal rings. Class will start with one weave, and possibly add a second if there's time and interest.
Limit 10 students.
 Darion Breslau is an artist who has been making, selling, and teaching chain maille for nearly ten years, as well as dabbling in stained glass, ceramics, leatherwork, and photography. He has also been writing (predominantly fantasy) for over a decade.
A Model for Looking at Depression
Many people confuse depression with the feeling of sadness. I am working on a signal-processing model of depression to help explain the difference between depression and sadness as well as to explain why successful treatments work. Depression makes most tasks harder. Gravity is stronger, bad things are worse, predictions are more dire, imagined explanations are less kind, and remembered stories are sadder and angrier. Depression isn't the only reason for a depressed person to be sad or angry: life provides us all with the chance to be sad and angry. Depression acts as a filter and a multiplier on the signal of life. Good signal gets filtered out, while negative signal gets amplified and repeated. People with mild depression have a smaller multiplier and a less aggressive filter.

Understanding Automaticity (c)

 Anna Caveney is the former BIQYA Coordinator and former Director of the MIT ESP summer program for gifted high schoolers. Anna viewed parenting from the outside before jumping in with a teenager. Since then, she has embarked on a lifelong study of parenting from the beginning of the process with the assistance of her 4-year-old daughter. Anna and her family have recently returned from 5 years in England.

Telling Our Stories: A Call To Action
(see below)

 Kate Cook provides advisory services to nonprofit organizations working towards community change through her educational consulting firm, KCConsulting. She is the parent of a profoundly gifted twice-exceptional child, a homeschooler, and an advocate for the gifted as a co-founder of Unleash Potential, Inc. She lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with her husband and daughter.

Gifted Sensate
Explore several manifestations of Highly Sensitive People and related traits, including hypervigilance, empathic senses, and synesthesia – especially mirror touch. Discuss challenges, defense behaviors, and the false assumptions others often make, as well as strategies for overcoming challenges and using these traits to one’s advantage.

 Tamra Excell has been called a catalyst, disruptor, and change agent. Her focus is on building awareness of, and advocating for, empowerment and personal agency. Education has been her primary platform, with neurodiversity and student voice as key focus areas, but she has also served in other capacities such as assisting domestic violence and other trauma survivors. She is the CSO and cofounder of Christa McAuliffe School of Arts and Sciences, and cofounder of Open Path Studio.

Telling Our Stories: A Call To Action
Through storytelling, each speaker will illuminate experiences of growing up gifted in a world that can vacillate between ignorance and intolerance of giftedness. Selected personal narratives are also intended to expose the investment of time and energy spent on trying to navigate a world that is not designed for the gifted. In sharing experiences, the presenters intend to inspire: your story, giving practical advice on the when, where, and how to shift the perception of GT - chipping away at anti-intellectualism, one story at a time.
 Anne Fallon is an Education Specialist with a private practice in Milton, MA, where she lives with her daughter, Audrey-Rose. Anne is an educator, researcher, and advocate with expertise in the design and delivery of mastery-based curricula. Anne is also a co-founder of Unleash Potential, Inc., and in her spare time loves creating art.
Now THAT's a Good Question!
Learn how to rephrase performance objectives of college and career ready standards into good questions that address cognitive rigor by challenging students to demonstrate higher order thinking and communicate depth of knowledge.
 Erik M. Francis is the owner and lead professional education specialist for Maverik Education LLC, providing professional development, guidance, and support on teaching and learning for cognitive rigor and postsecondary readiness (college and career). His professional development seminars have been featured at national, state, and regional education conferences. He has also conducted professional development training at K-12 schools nationwide. His book Now THAT's a Good Question! How to Promote Cognitive Rigor Through Classroom Questioning was published by ASCD in 2016.
Developing and supporting a successful, comfortable, and joyful math identity for the Gifted
Gifted people struggle in Math much more than the stereotypes would have you think. This workshop is focused on the struggles that gifted people experience in math. In this workshop, we will discuss how to improve in math by exploring our current mindset on learning math, what an ideal math identity will look like, and begin the conversation on how to change our approach. Mr Gelston will lead a conversation based on his experience as a practitioner and educator to help attendees to reflect and share their thoughts on how to tackle this problem.
 Barry Gelston is an educator; a licensed mathematics teacher with a diverse background in private, public, and alternative education supporting both general and special education populations. Barry is the principal educator for Mr Gelston’s One Room Schoolhouse, whose primary focus is supporting gifted homeschool children from around the world to develop a successful, comfortable, and joyful math identity. He is also a co-founder in the developing Collaboratory Zone, which is focused on creating and supporting online collaborative learning experiences and communities. Barry has an extensive background in business where his specialties have been in sales, marketing, software development, IT management, and project management.
Telling Our Stories: A Call To Action
(see above)
Caroline Geraci is a passionate advocate of authentic learning based on student engagement and the actualization of each student's abilities. Professionally, she is an education consultant, researcher, and author who works with the gifted community in Madison, WI. As the mother of 4 children with very unique learning styles and abilities, Caroline has personally experienced the difficulty of trying to navigate between different learning alternatives, which led to her current advocacy interests. Caroline is a co-founder of Unleash Potential, Inc.
Mika regrets that she will be unable to join us this year, but anticipates returning next year.
 Mika Gustavson
, MA, MFT is a therapist who specializes in helping the gifted to thrive. She is the director of Gifted Matters, where she supports families considering paths-less-taken in learning, nurturing and parenting. She maintains a private practice for parents of QUASIE (QUirky, Anxious, Sensitive, Intense, Excitable) children, as well as working directly with adolescents and young adults, and trains other professionals on issues touching on giftedness, homeschooling and parenting. Ms. Gustavson also supports the work of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s Professionals Division. She has published many articles in print and online venues, and is the co-author, with Corin Barsily Goodwin, of two books: Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child, and Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development. She works, lives and homeschools in Silicon Valley, with her husband, son, and an ever-changing menagerie (though goats seem to be a constant). When not doing any of the above she can be found playing with yarn, listening to jazz and baroque music, and trying to figure out how to get back to playing violin.
The Curriculum Paradigm

What is curriculum, and why do we use it? In this workshop, you'll get a primer on learning science theory and its intersection with structured and unstructured learning experiences.

 Katy Hamilton has spent the last nine years as an instructional designer. She has taught STEM courses for all ages, and currently works on Liberal Arts curriculum at Southern New Hampshire University.
Like folding, twisting, coloring, or paper models with interesting topological properties? If you enjoy any of those activities, come create artistically and mathematically interesting paper hexaflexagons.

 Alexa Kay is a Ph.D candidate and teacher in the Educational Psychology program at Penn State University with a focus on learning and teaching in mathematics, learning from multiple representations, and measurement and evaluation. Outside of school, Alexa enjoys finding inspiration through working with high school and college students on pre-calculus level mathematics, painting, and playing board games.

Theater and Improv Games (c)

Blurb:  We’re gonna make it up as go… Get it? Improv?

 Jessie Kay is having a very hard time writing a bio right now, but promised to have one to us soon!
Kathi regrets that she will be unable to join us this year, but she expects to return next year!
 Kathi Kearney is the founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children, a national resource and support network for exceptionally gifted children and their families. She has worked with gifted children as a teacher and administrator in a wide variety of settings, urban and rural, in public, private, religious, and home schools. Kathi is a recognized expert on homeschooling exceptionally gifted children. An excellent diagnostician, she works primarily in New England.

Your library or mine? A rainbow of gifted resources
When I was a kid, I loved the book "What color is your parachute?" Not because of the content, but because of the rainbow on the cover. Reading gifted titles, I'm often struck by the colors selected for their covers. The first few books on gifted topics that I read were grey, perhaps to support the appearance of a professional tome. And while I found a few tidbits to munch on in each of these titles, they were generally... grey. Then I found a book I could really bite into, and it's cover was a rich red. This tiny volume was chock full of research that told me, first and foremost, what I was experiencing was real. Finally! Other titles sported bright yellow covers with a few bright details inside, then a rich dark blue with lots more relatable details, and a hint of depressing realities. This seemed reasonable, albeit sad. As I read more and more titles, my library grew more colorful.

Join this roundtable discussion of our favorite books about gifted kids and adults. Bring your books or links to them online, and let's share the best titles we've found discussing the colorful world of profoundly gifted kids and adults!

 Carolyn K is the founder and director of Hoagies' Gifted Education Page ( She also serves on the Board of Directors for SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) (

There is a lot more to be said about her. You could look it up!

Zentangles (C)
Come learn to play with these!

 Susan Eiseman Levitin comes to BIQ from a long background of art and education. This is her fifth year attending and presenting. Currently, she homeschools her 12, 14 and 18 year olds, and is an active member of a number of homeschooled communities.


Narcissism is a term that’s gaining increasing currency today. One of the many things complicating its thoughtful discussion is a confusion as to what the term means. This presentation will discuss the history and clinical use of the term, as well as its popular uses and abuses. It will attempt to clarify what narcissism is, how it develops, and how it is treated in couples and individuals. It will also discuss some of the political implications and ethical concerns surrounding a contemporary discussion of narcissism.
 Erick Medina Psy.D. is a graduate of Georgetown University, where he majored in philosophy, and Rutgers University, where he obtained his doctorate in clinical psychology. He did post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School, Harvard Vanguard, and at the Integrated Center for Child Development in Canton, MA, and has taught at the high school as well as college level. He currently does psychotherapeutic as well as neuropsychological work with children, adolescents, and adults, and also works with couples and groups.

My Life as Mrs. Incredible 
Disney Pixar's 2004 movie, The Incredibles, portrays several situations that often confront the gifted family. In this presentation, "Mrs. I" discusses real life in the gifted family. By sharing her experiences and lessons learned in her own gifted family of "supers", she hopes to empower gifted families to live life to the fullest.

 Dr. Rachel Little Morris is the mother of three gifted young adults and grandmother to two beautiful little girls. Alongside her Mr. Incredible, she has been parenting with awe and wonder for over 23 years. Identified as gifted in early elementary school, Rachel's journey to embracing and understanding her own giftedness has not been easy, but parenting her own children was her greatest encouragement. It has also been her greatest adventure. 

Rachel is a microbiologist who teaches in the Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics Program at Michigan State University. When she's not teaching, she loves spending time with her family and her dogs, reading about science, and yoga.

Goal-Setting in the 21st Century: A Hands-on Behavioral Science Experience
Behavioral Science offers some extremely useful, but under-utilized, gems in the areas of self-exploration. Our team discovered these life-hacks through a 15-year journey of exploring over 55 years of behavioral science and technology. This workshop is based off of our Exploring Tomorrow (ET) program: a 4-week online course that teaches goal selection and achievement relative to each parent-stude
nt dyad’s unique situation, interests and values.

Goal-Setting in the 21st Century: A Hands-on Behavioral Science Experience (c)
See above
 Ryan O'Donnell received his master's degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in Applied Behavior Analysis. He spent years exploring the depths of behavioral science and networking to begin building instructional technologies for various populations. In 2015 he co-founded the Institute of Meaningful Instruction, LLC, with the mission to "Expand the human potential through instructional materials." IMI is now in its second year providing an online micro course called Exploring Tomorrow, which covers social emotional learning topics of self-awareness, goal setting, and communication strategies that align the passions and interests of gifted learners with their support network's supporting vision, values, and expectations. Founded on over 55 years of behavioral science, Exploring Tomorrow has achieved remarkable results that last for years to come given the instructional design and generative skill sets it fosters.

Creation: Where Do You Get Ideas? (c)
I'll be talking about idea sources taken from media, books, history, cultures, science, animals, television, music, etc. etc., applying it to different kinds of creation (music, art, dance, writing, sculpture), and getting unstuck (if unstuck is what you need to get).

Tamora Pierce is the winner of the 2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement in Young Adult Literature, the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, and the 2005 Skylark Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. She is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of more than 28 fantasy novels for teenagers, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including Worldcon 2016. She has written comic books, radio plays, articles, and short stories, and currently devotes her minimal free time to local feline rescue. TORTALL: A SPY’S GUIDE, a collaborative effort with other experts on her Tortall universe, will be out in October of 2017, followed in Spring 2018 by the first in a three-book Tortall series, TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER. Tammy lives in central New York with her husband Tim Liebe and their uncountable number of cats, two parakeets, and the various freeloading wildlife that reside in their back yard. You may find her at

First Time BIQ Attendees

If you have never been to one of our conferences, this will help provide you with orientation to recurring themes, particular vocabulary, and the various presentations throughout the rest of the weekend. I'll answer quotes, run rapidly through introductory material, and generally try to make you feel welcome!

Giftedness, Conflict, and Underachievement

This is one of my favorite books in all of education and one of only two book books I respect in the sub-field of gifted underachievers.

In this session I hope to give an overview of why this ~35 year old book remains a key resource for those of us striving to meet the needs of these children.

 Josh Shaine is a migrant teacher, working forhomeschool families, public and private schools, and whatever else comes down the pike. He works predominantly with gifted children, with a focus on underachievers and hg/pg issues. He is also slowly researching non-linear thinking styles.

(sample topic from a prior conference)
Necessary Failure
This talk is part of my ongoing project documenting normal psychological development in the intellectually gifted population. We will focus on the necessary limits and boundaries that one must experience in order to develop a cohesive and resilient personality.
We will address the following questions:  How is psychological development impacted by extraordinary intellectual ability?  How does asynchronous cognitive development affect emotional and psychological development?  How can we, as parents and teachers, facilitate normative developmental crises for highly gifted children in ways that are constructive and produce a positive, realistic sense of self?
I will present some of my thinking and some case material.  Workshop participants will be asked to provide examples of their own and we will think together about strategies for facilitating health development as well as providing good primary prevention of emotional and psychological difficulties in the children with whom we live and work.

 Melinda Stewart Currently the Director of Counseling at Groton School in Groton, MA, Ms. Stewart has worked with gifted children and adolescents in a variety of settings over the last 28 years.  She is the founder and former director of Voyagers, Inc., and has been on the staffs of the Stone Center at Wellesley College and McLean Hospital.  She is the mother of two PG children, one currently in college and one currently homeschooled.

TItle (C)

Gifted Personality / Brain Chemistry 
Q & A / Discussion

Ask Eric any question about personality traits or cognitive or emotional styles that may be present in the gifted, and he’ll either explain them with his neurochemically-based Deep Six personality trait system, or, more likely (and much more interestingly), he’ll start a conversation informed by it. The theory expands its explanatory power by being challenged with new data. So come challenge him!

 Eric Van entered Harvard in 1972 as one of future Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow's particle physics tutees and graduated in 1978 as one of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop's students. He has spent a number of years back at Harvard, as a Special Student affiliated with the Graduate Department of Psychology, taking 20 undergraduate courses in the field in preparation for an eventual Ph.D. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

Giant Bubbles and You! (c)

Have you ever wondered how to make the best giant bubbles? What stuff do you put in them? And what makes a giant bubble “the best”, anyway? I have three different giant bubble mixes, so come try them out. We’ll compare them, and then we’ll look at the recipes to see if we can guess what things make the best giant bubbles!

 Abigail Walzer is a person who needs a bio.

Making Stuff and Making Stuff Up (c)

Make *stuff* out of *stuff*.  (paper towel tubes, buttons, egg cartons, feathers....)  Play some drama games.  Make up improvised skits using the props you made!

 Louise J. Waugh has no advanced degrees and over 20 years experience with children of all ages. She probably knows some things and never eats children - even small, cute ones that would make a great snack.
Music & New Games (c)
(all ages)

 Mary Ellen Wessels is an educational advocate specializing in 2e kids, and a para professional at an arts integration charter school. She took the year long SEAT training through COPAA (Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys) and has worked as an advocate, a teacher and a paraprofessional. She has a M.Ed. in both Curriculum, and Arts Integration with a special interest in emergent curriculum. She is a musician, and a mother of two (2e) sons, one in high school, one currently unschooled. She loves collaboration, but her interests always outnumber her time! You can reach her at

(sample topic from a prior conference)

Straight Talk about Testing and Assessment
Testing and assessment are huge topics within the world of giftedness, and there's a lot of incomplete, confusing, inaccurate, and downright mythological information kicking around.  In this informal and open-ended talk, I will explain various types of cognitive, academic, behavioral, and psychological tests, what they can and cannot tell us, how they are designed and normed, and how we can go beyond mere numbers to thoughtful interpretation. I will also talk about how clients can participate more meaningfully in the process.  Bring your questions!

 Aimee Yermish, Psy.D. is an educational therapist specializing in work with children who are gifted, learning-disabled, or twice-exceptional, providing assessment, enrichment, remediation, mentoring, individualized program development, and parent and teacher guidance. She draws upon her analytical background as a research scientist and her practical background as a classroom teacher in order to create individualized strategies for each child. (

   YA Program Staff:
Jay Piltser and Andy Cowan coordinate the Young Adult program. Their bios, their presenters' bios, and the YA Program schedule and description are here.

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