#083 The 5 Levels of Giftedness – All Grown Up w/ Dr Deborah Ruf

#083 The 5 Levels of Giftedness - All Grown Up w Dr Deborah Ruf Website Podcast Featured Image

In our GAW episode, we’re talking to Dr Deborah Ruf about the 5 Levels of Giftedness and her new book which follows those original children who are now all grown up. 

Memorable quote… “

“So, those are the five levels and you really can find lists of those with lots of details and early milestones and that’s how I created it. It was after I looked at the milestones of children over the years and what they were like when they were born and what they were like when they were three months old and six months old, and then a year and then two years, and see what they are like. 

And then later we have scores and we see how those fit or don’t fit. And it really is rather amazing how well the scores are in the range you would predict from those milestones.” – Dr Deborah Ruf 


Deborah L. Ruf earned a Ph.D. in Tests & Measurement with a minor in Learning & Cognition at the University of Minnesota.  

She worked as a private consultant and specialist in gifted assessment, test interpretation, and guidance for the gifted for 30 years.   

She is the author of the award-winning book Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind (2005) and retitled 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options in 2009.

In 2023, Dr. Ruf will release her follow-up longitudinal book study of the now-adult children from the original book and how they are doing now.  Her focus has now progressed toward the social and emotional health of the gifted adults who parent gifted children.  

For more than 40 years, Dr. Ruf has served as a keynote speaker, workshop, and conference presenter, and written chapters for 5 textbooks, more than 12 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 100 plus articles and handouts for newsletters, magazines, and websites.

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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this week’s episode. This week here in Australia, it is gifted awareness week. Now that’s a week run by the AEG T which is the Australian association for the education of gifted and talented. And here in our gifted kids, we love to support this week, every may for two reasons. First of all, obviously we want to raise awareness of giftedness. 

But we also love to support it because of all the great work that the AEG T does and all of our state associations here in Australia. But of course, worldwide, we know we’ve got some really active state associations in the U S as well. 

And these organizations are so important and offer so much to the gifted community. So for gifted awareness week this week. We have a smashing podcast for you. 

 It is out absolute delight to be welcoming. Dr. Debra rough. To the Al give to gets podcast. And today we talked [00:01:00] to her about the five levels of giftedness, which was her. Original book. Which got renamed. And we talk about that. 

but it’s a body of work that. 

We all love and cherish and feel very grateful that she. Undertook and contributed such amazing research to the gifted community. And she has written a followup book. 

So in the original book, there were a bunch of case studies of gifted children 

and her follow-up book is along the traditional study of where those children are now. Fascinating stuff. It was an absolute delight to talk to Deborah rough about it and see what she has learned from that process. 

I absolutely adore having guests like Dr. Ruff on the show, because it’s just such an opportunity to learn. And I was really like, just soaking up all of her. Generous spirit and knowledge and experience in this episode. 

 And what I really loved about this conversation with Dr. Ruff is the [00:02:00] nuance that she brought to the conversation today and the different aspects of. The five levels that we talked about, but particularly where I started drilling her towards the end about different aspects of assessment. 

There’s a wonderful episode. I thoroughly enjoyed having Dr. Debra Ruff. On the show, please, if you have not read her original book, five levels of giftedness already, it’s an excellent book. But also keep an eye out for her followup, which I believe is coming out in bookstores near you. Very soon you can. Pre-order at the moment, I believe in this plenty of links in the show notes to her work. 

It’s a lovely way to support a great author and contributor to the gifted community. 

Please also check out what else is going on this week for gifted awareness week. There’s always lots of things online, but also locally around Australia. 

And if you’re not in Australia, you can always access the gifted awareness week blogs or online events.[00:03:00] 

And if you love the podcast, leave us a review. Five stars. We’ll do. Or share with us why you love the podcast. If you have gotten a lot out of what we share here, Investigate our podcasts patron program, which is a really great way to keep us going. Thank you so much. I hope you love this podcast as much as I did. 

And let’s get on with it. Let’s hear what Dr. Debra Ruff has to say. 

Hello everyone and welcome to the [00:04:00] podcast.

I am feeling very honored to introduce Dr. Deborah Ruff as our guest today. Deborah earned a PhD in tests and measurements with a minor in learning and cognition at the University of Minnesota. She worked as a private consultant and specialist in gifted assessment, test, interpretation, and guidance for the gifted for 30 years, she’s winning.

Author of Losing our Minds, gifted Children left Behind and possibly best known for her book, the Five Levels of Gifted School Issues and Educational Options, which we have talked about on this podcast before . And at the moment, Dr. Ruff is working on a follow up to this book, and we’re gonna have a chat about that today.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Ruff has served as a keynote speaker workshop and conference presenter, and written extensively on giftedness. Welcome, Deborah. I’m absolutely [00:05:00] delighted to have 

Dr Deborah Ruf: you on the show. I’m delighted to be here, Julia. Thank you. And so 

Sophia Elliott: let’s start with how did you first get into the gifted field?

Right back at the 

Dr Deborah Ruf: beginning, it was my kids. Yeah, I, I was a teacher in elementary school before that and I, I had my first child and quit teaching because I didn’t see how I could do both. Yeah. But as it turns out, I just did more unpaid labor for the next half dozen, full dozen years because I started to study giftedness and like so many people who are undoubtedly in your audience we saw some of ourselves in it.

And so it became a journey for me, not just as the mother, but [00:06:00] as the individual. . I went back to school. I already had a master’s degree in administration and supervision, but that’s not really my strength because I’m much more of a delegator,

And, and the idea of keeping people on track of my vision in an appropriate way, I could see it wasn’t really gonna work well for me. And I knew that if I did something more independent mm-hmm. , I could study it, share it, write about it, speak about it, and hope that I also made a living at it. But that wasn’t my first goal.

The goal was to share it. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: That’s so interesting. So many of the guests. Come on the show. And I, I always ask that question, how did you first get into it? And, [00:07:00] I don’t know, nine times outta 10, it’s, yeah, my kids . And then and then we inevitably, like you say, go on this journey ourselves. And I can certainly resonate with that over the past five years or so.

So you, you sought to sort of create this new path for yourself, and as we’ve already sort of discussed, you, you did a PhD and you’ve written a lot. By and far, I think the book about the, the five levels of giftedness has been, I’m not even sure what the word is. It’s like a.

you know, it’s, for me, it’s a real foundation of understanding giftedness. And so I know as a parent, when I found that book and I found your work, it really helped me make sense of my children and what I was dealing with and have some sense of a framework around that. Cuz what I was desperately grasping for [00:08:00] at that time was like, how serious is this?

Like how extreme is this? What exactly are we dealing with here? Like, how much do I need to go into panic mode? Like, this was early days. Right? And it really helped me, 

Dr Deborah Ruf: didn’t you? Yeah. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Oh yeah. Right. And it really helped me to to understand what I was dealing with. And I, I’m assuming you hear that a lot from 

Dr Deborah Ruf: parents.

Well, yes. And . Yeah. What I also hear is that it’s the relativity that they just didn’t get. And they, they made mistakes. We all made mistakes cuz we didn’t understand how different this child is compared to a different gifted child. Mm-hmm. . And you’re fortunate or unfortunate enough to have more than one child.

you start to [00:09:00] see they aren’t all the same and everything about them personality, what sex they are their moods, how you are treating them, everything starts to impact them. But teachers, they get they, they’re just so many different things that make it a real stressful, problematic journey unless you feel you have support.

Mm-hmm. , and I should point out, five Levels of Gifted is the same book as losing our minds, gifted Children left behind. Ah, interesting. Yes. But what happened is it was such a great title, the first one, but no one knew what it meant. Yeah. You know, they would’ve had to read the book first to understand mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm. . And that’s why I suggested we needed to change it. Mm-hmm. . But it’s problematic cuz it’s hard to get people to understand it’s the same book. You don’t need to get both of them. . 

Sophia Elliott: [00:10:00] Good to know. Good to know. Because I, I was about to say, I hadn’t read the second one, but now I know it’s the same. I’m, I’m Sorted.

Dr Deborah Ruf: We had And which one did you read? Oh, 

Sophia Elliott: I’ve read the Five Levels. The original one. Right? That’s the second. Oh, that’s the second one, right. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Yeah, yeah, 

Sophia Elliott: yeah. And, and it was, Yeah, and it was really it was a, it was really pivotal for me because like you say, I have three children. They are all very different.

And, and, and there is, like you say, no two gifted kids are the same. So it’s very hard as parents to, to kind of get a sense of like how hardcore we need to go with the advocacy and the support and the accommodations. Because our kids, I mean, my kids al they always just feel normal to me. You know, it’s within our family context, they’re [00:11:00] all very normal.

And so, Not having that sort of broader comparison. It was very tricky to see you know, where they kind of fit amongst their same age peers. Mm-hmm. and, and it was really helpful. So perhaps we could start, for those listeners that haven’t read the books with what the five levels are, would you be able to take us through 

Dr Deborah Ruf: them?

Well, I’m a big picture teacher and even my own, it’s like, ah, . But the first level is what I call the conventional gifted that sometimes, sometimes are not even identified in school. Mm-hmm. because they’re the, the smart kids, but they don’t have the magic 98 percentile cutoff that a lot of schools use.

And so they get overlooked. And that’s a problem because they are the average of the, the professional classes of our countries. , [00:12:00] I mean, that is. Who the lawyers and doctors and yeah. Leaders are in level one. Now they may be higher, but they, they need to be at least that to do those kinds of roles. Yeah.

Yeah. And so in school, if they are not figured into ability grouping and other learning groups, that the kids are more alike for the lessons, they will be treated like average as far as the schoolwork. And that’s a problem. And so level two is kids who have past that magic line, which is not really, you know, it, it isn’t a real line.

Yeah. And I should mention my pet peeve as somebody who majored in intestine measurement that that magic line is, , there’s such a [00:13:00] thing when you give IQ tests and ability tests of a true score, and that’s what that range is that they give you. Mm-hmm. , the true score is going to fall in a range that could be as big as three to four points on either side of the score, the child shot.

Yeah. But they don’t, they don’t pay attention to that with their magic cutoff in most stage, in most situations. So these are the highly gifted, and some of them also can be into that exceptionally gifted realm in some areas, but they are also conventional gifted. Everybody knows them. They’re in all the classes, unless it’s a very repressed atmosphere high poverty, or, and, and again, poverty is a trauma.

Yeah. And so trauma can suppress scores. So we can misjudge people and under prepare them when we have that kind of situation. [00:14:00] But level three is borderline between, we’ve still met all of them. We’ve had them in our class but they’re getting exceptionally to profoundly gifted there. They’re highly exceptionally to profoundly depending on their strength areas.

And I should tell your audience right now that when I used to give IQ tests, parents would ask me, so what are you saying is my child’s iq? I said, well, you know, . Cause if it’s not an even score, if it’s a very lumpy profile, I don’t want them to pay attention to the iq. , I want them to pay attention to the different highs and lows.

Mm-hmm. so they can meet the needs of the child better and they’ll be very frustrated. And I say, you have to understand a single score does not give you [00:15:00] nearly enough information. Yeah. And so I, I really feel strongly about that. If you’ve got a real balanced profile, then I, you can talk me into giving you the score, but it’s in the report anyway.

You know, . Yeah. So, but anyway, level three is really highly gifted. And these are the kids who, if they get no special treatment in their early school years, and the thing to remember is almost all high schools start funneling the children by their preparedness to. So there is less and less trouble by the time you get to high school unless you’ve refused to cooperate by the time you get there, because elementary school was so bad.

Yeah. And you’ve been destroyed by it, which I’m, I’m not kidding. Yeah. Some people, their personality types are such and their feelings are such that they just, no, I just wanna [00:16:00] finish this and get outta here. So, level three is the last one that you can actually try to send to school. , as far as I’m concerned, and then level four and five are exceptionally to profoundly gifted and profoundly.

Profoundly. Mm-hmm. and what that means and their scores, it depends on the tests. Mm-hmm. , you know, that’s what the levels of gifted. shows you, because I’ve given the Stanford be a lm, I’ve helped Norm the Stanford Benet five, the Whisk four, and the Wissy five. I might have those numbers mixed up, but they’re the most recent ones.

Yeah. And, and I really viscerally know what we’re getting. Yeah. And I’ve tested over a thousand kids over the years. Yeah. I lose track. You know, please, I don’t need to count that , but the levels [00:17:00] four and five, you can find some schools that will work for the four, like a real Montessori school, Uhhuh, , because they really do individualize mm-hmm.

And then you should talk other people, you know, who have kids that you think are levels three and four into being in the school too, because the more kids who are like your child, the better. Yeah. But. by four, you still might find others like your child by level five, you’re not going to, you know, they live somewhere else.

Mm-hmm. , they’re a daily age. It’s incredibly unlikely that you will have another level five in a class with your child during the first six to eight years of school. Yeah. Most of them have to leave for their own mental health and, and academic health. Early, [00:18:00] early parents start coming up with very different ways to meet their needs because the school really can’t.

And the idea of attending a school for gifted kids who are that gifted, it’s kind of problematic. I mean, it, it can happen, but it’s mostly gonna be levels two, three, and four in a gifted magnet school or private school. because it’s still that rare to have a five. Mm-hmm. , that doesn’t mean they’re one in a million.

I had a conversation with my original publisher and editor Jim Webb, Dr. James Webb, and we both agreed it was probably closer to one in a quarter million. It’s just that they’re spread out. Wow. As many as that. Yeah. But so many of them are failing. Yeah. Yeah. So my, my current book, longitudinal result of as many kids as I could find from the [00:19:00] five levels of gifted book, they’re all grown up.

And I’m trying to answer that question of what went wrong and what went Right. Because one, for instance, one of my level five subjects he did not get what he needed. and he hasn’t even gone on to university. And he was so smart. So smart. And so there are reasons why things didn’t work for him.

but not cause he was smart, it was because of the way he was treated. And it, isn’t that high intelligence makes you crazy. It’s the way you’re treated makes you crazy . So, or functionally not doing well. Yeah. Yeah. So anyway those are the five levels and you really can find lists of those [00:20:00] with lots of details and early milestones.

And that’s how I created it. It was after I looked at the milestones of children. over the years and what they were like when they were born and what they were like when they were three months old and six months old, and then a year and then two years, you know? Yeah. And see what they are like. And then later we have scores and we see how those fit or don’t fit.

And it really is rather amazing how well the scores are in the range you would predict from those milestones. 

Sophia Elliott: [00:21:00] Yeah. That is really incredible. And that’s one of the things I think I find most interesting is when you talk to parents about, the traits that you include in the levels, when did they crawl or walk or talk or read or recognize, , letters and numbers.

Those milestones. , the physical milestones as well as the academic milestones are right there from the very beginning. Even that sort of, how alert were they after birth , you know, in that moment, I a friend of mine last year shared, had just had a baby and shared this photo, and this baby was like less than an hour old, and the eyes were bright, and this, I swear this, this newborn was smiling, and I’m like, [00:22:00] oh my God, I’m watching you

I’m onto you already. It’s just that alertness. And so it has always fascinated me that you can, it’s a holistic thing, , it’s a whole experience phenomenon. Giftedness, and, and those. Traits and stories from parents can be a real indicator as to what you’re dealing with. And I know they’ve certainly helped me along the way as, as a parent as I’ve been trying to quantify and really sort of figure out because you always, am I imagining this or am I seeing things that aren’t there?

And you’re looking for something to compare it to and your, your lists that into those levels are really helpful in that regard, 

Dr Deborah Ruf:

Sophia Elliott: think. Yeah, no, they are. And I imagine I mean like most lists if parents are having a look at those you. [00:23:00] Children never tick every single box, but it’s looking 

Dr Deborah Ruf: for a sense of Yeah.

This is where they’re fitting. I’ve had I, you know, when my book first came out, the one back in 2005, 2009, same book . Yeah, same book. . When that first came out, I, I read reviews and I, I went on listservs to see what were people saying. And one of the things that just drove me nuts Yeah. Is when people would fixate on one of the milestones Yeah.

And argue about it, and I’m thinking, wait a minute, but I, I didn’t get involved. I just felt bad. Yeah. And because you aren’t going to have them ticking every box. I mean, even a level five isn’t gonna tick every box because that isn’t who they are. Mm-hmm. , there are other ways. Yeah. And plus I have, I.

I just, [00:24:00] it, it was so important to me. I, all the books I read and I just soaked them all up, as you can imagine for mm-hmm. about 10 years before I finished my dissertation, and which is my dissertation, which I’ll give to anyone, free P d f it to you. It’s highly gifted adults. Mm-hmm. and their journey to self-actualization.

And these were not people I had worked with or tested. And the ones, some of them, I said, I think you should be in this, cuz I knew them for one reason or another, and they’d argue with me, they, I’m not gifted. And I say, huh, listen, trust me, I know you’re gifted. But I finally would give them information about how they could see if they were gifted.

If it actually, I mean, it’s a funny thing because sometimes when you’re highly intelligent and other people tell you [00:25:00] you are, you think, ah, what do they know? . So you discount it mm-hmm. . And so that, that’s your proof. You’re not gifted, you discounted somebody telling you you are . Yeah. Anyway, they, there are tests they can take, like try and get into Mensa.

It’ll tell you if you’re o over the 98 percentile. They won’t tell you your score because they aren’t licensed to do that , which I think is silly. But anyway they also there’s something called the Miller Analogies test, and that’s a good one for adults to study up on and take through a university online.

Mm-hmm. . And it is, it’s got an excellently high score as far as a high ceiling. Ceiling. Yeah. . Yeah. And you’ll, I don’t know how they score it now. I know they’ve changed the metric, but you will be able to then find online what is this compared to in IQ scores. [00:26:00] Mm-hmm. . And then you find out how far into the gifted range you are, which is, you know, that’s all you need to know.

You don’t need to have an exact number. Mm-hmm. . And it helps you figure out yourself more. And as you figure yourself out more, you will be a better guide for your children, I think. 

Sophia Elliott: Oh, I think as well. Incredibly true. And it certainly has been my experience. And I would love to read your dissertation. I myself Have most certainly been going through a positive disintegration over the last couple of years.

Good for you I feel like I’ve come, I’m definitely coming out of it and more positive than disintegration these days. . But it is certainly a huge journey because, and I think just on a very basic level, it’s some validation that [00:27:00] we’re not typical, you know, our experience of life has never felt entirely normal. And it’s just this validation of, well, cuz you’re not typical and it’s kind of like, oh, okay, what relief, you know, like you say, just even at a basic level to acknowledge regardless of getting into the nitty gritty of numbers, Just to be open to that possibility that there’s, there’s something behind it.

And I think it’s, the more I have learned about 

Dr Deborah Ruf: myself, 

Sophia Elliott: the better parent I have become like just 10 times over. And it’s the journey that thankfully my husband and I have been going on together with our kids and, and I am yeah, always encouraging listeners and parents to take a bit of time to, to dig into those questions for themselves because it, it will help [00:28:00] you figure out what your triggers are with your parenting and some of your fears and concerns with your kids and their education and help you understand your children.

And, and I think as well, if you can get some insight into the levels that you know how kind of, Significant it’s not quite the right word, 

but I, I think rare, you know, rare about how many people really are at the same level as that child or yourself. Mm-hmm. . Because that helps explain some of the times in your life where you just didn’t fit and you didn’t, you knew it, but you didn’t know why.

Yeah, absolutely. And that sense of just desperate to find someone who I can talk about things to this degree. Absolutely. So I’m really interested then the follow up work that you’ve done now [00:29:00] with the, the children that you started with are now very much adults. What was perhaps the most surprising or interesting thing that you came across in that 

Dr Deborah Ruf: research?

Well, I’m still working on it. , , and I keep coming up with new things I’m surprised about. I almost didn’t have a section on bullying in my book, and I knew that had been covered enough about gifted kids feeling bullied sometimes. But I, I now have a chapter about sibling bullying and peer bullying has been covered plenty, but sibling bullying hasn’t.

It’s a recent research area and people are trying to turn it into also a mental health. A really important mental health issue because sibling bullying, not just in the gifted, [00:30:00] but among all children, is very, very high numbers, like more than half. And it has ramifications later throughout life. And so I, one of my editors actually suggested you should ask about bullying.

And I said, oh, okay. But I was thinking of the peer bullying in school. That’s not really, he, he was thinking of that, but he was also thinking about in the family. Yeah. And that chapter was very hard to write because I had to learn it. Yeah. Most of the things I’m writing about, I really viscerally know and know from all my reading and experience, but this one, Yes, I have experience, but I didn’t know how to interpret it.

And I’m not a therapist, so I didn’t wanna step on any therapeutics, toes . Yeah. And so, what, what [00:31:00] I found is how common some things are even among the gifted at all levels. And that’s the thing that has really the uniqueness is it’s sort of uniqueness. But I can tell you, you, you want an intelligent therapist, you want a guide, a coach, a therapist who is smart enough to be there with you, but they’re trained and able to be even a little behind you in intelligence, but still know their topic and human nature.

and I, I found one of the things that’s common among gifted adults is they don’t think anyone’s going to understand them. And they, that’s part of why they a [00:32:00] AHU therapy, because it, it’ll be a waste of time. Well, it isn’t always. Sometimes it is. And as the old columnist used to say, Anne Landers used to say, try a different one.

Try a different one. Yes. You have to stay with one that isn’t working for you. Mm-hmm. and the issues of family are huge. And a good therapist can help you with family issues, whether you’re gifted or not. And in. World, the developed world. Most people who, who are dealing with issues of giftedness have access to therapy.

They have access to books, they have the ability to work on themselves, and you are going to find that the therapists who are available had reasons for wanting to be [00:33:00] in that role. They’ll relate to a lot of what you’ve go been going through, and that’s part of why they got into that field. Just as we get into the field of gifted, it’s because, ah, this is an issue for my family, for me, for my teaching, for whatever it is.

But it’s, it’s personal. We don’t just pick out anything. We pick out stuff we’re already interested in solving and finding more about. So, what other other things were, oh, I thought. actual parenting styles made more of a difference than I found they do. 

Sophia Elliott: Okay. That’s interesting. Tell 

Dr Deborah Ruf: us more about that.

Yeah. Well, I went with the old bomb model, which is about authoritative, authoritarian and yeah. Permissive. Mm-hmm. and I added neglectful or not involved as she does too later on. [00:34:00] Yeah. And what I did is ask the adult children, how would you say your parents parented? And I gave them a link to read up on what those were.

And no one wanted to badmouth their parents. It was fascinating because they’d tell stories about this and about that, but they always gave their parents an excuse like, I deserved it, or I was a difficult kid. And so it depends on their age, what you’re gonna hear. Hmm. So there is a age trajectory of people finding themselves.

Mm-hmm. , some people may be sooner, but there’s a general, it’s almost impossible to, to make great strides when you’re in your early twenties,

And, and so I’ve become much more attached to, well, how old is this person? . Yeah. Yeah. [00:35:00] Cuz I’m not talking about whether they need a cane. I’m talking about how evolved can they be by now? Yeah. And so the parenting styles did not measure up as much as the Myers-Briggs styles. Oh, that, yeah. The, I, I was fortunate enough that I’ve always given the Myers-Briggs to the parents of my clients.

Yep. And so I had all of their. Parents’ information and I had their childhood Murphy Meers, which not everyone likes the Murphy Meier cuz they say, well, you know, they’re not really valid because they change, Hey, people change. , people change. That’s all it is. We wanna know what they’re like at the time.

Yeah. Yeah. And I think does a pretty good job. And so I have charts in the new book showing the parents types, the [00:36:00] children’s types, and then what the children scored as adults and many of them did change. Mm-hmm. . And you, it’s not hard to see. And it, it’s very interesting. So let’s see, there was something else that triggered in me.

Oh. So one of the things that was, I knew already from earlier research with my clients when I was writing papers based on what I was learning and. One of the things, the people who worry about their gifted kids the most are Jay Judges. . Oh, yeah. Yeah. And they, they have a view of what it should look like when their smart child is in school.

Mm-hmm. . And so if they have a p perceiver child, it isn’t good. 

Sophia Elliott: not a great match there. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Yeah. So the numbers are, [00:37:00] as more people read, my force fed information on personality styles. . More and more parents are considering, well, maybe other children in their family are also needing different support in school.

Mm-hmm. , but j Judger kids in school tend to do their work. They might think it’s stupid, they might think it’s a thing to do, but they do it. Mm-hmm. the P receiver kids, it depends on whether they’re feelers or thinkers, how they deal with it, but they basically don’t like to do it. . Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Okay. That’s 

Dr Deborah Ruf: really interesting.

So, yeah, and I do have an article out that mm-hmm. is, keeps recirculating it cuz I think, I don’t wanna keep going through this . 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, totally. I’ve written it 

Dr Deborah Ruf: already. Yeah. I’ll send you the link. And it’s about personality [00:38:00] types in school and yeah, so it’s, and the thing is there’s a, you, i, I don’t have a children’s version available free on the internet, but there is an adult version free on the internet called personality page.com.

and it’s great. I love it. And so I, I gave the official M B T I during my working, working with clients days, and I do not do that anymore. . And I was, you know, I got the training and the licensing and Yeah. Fee. And it costs me money too Yeah. To give the actual test. And now I just refer people to personality page.com.

Yeah. And because they also explain it to you mm-hmm. . So if you, if you want to get something out of my article, which I’d be happy to share, I mean Yes, that’d be great. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, [00:39:00] basically I’m keeping. I, I don’t think I’m ever gonna be totally deluged with emails from people, but I , I’m on Facebook and I have a page there for five levels of gifted, that’s my professional Facebook page.

And there’s a website, five levels of gifted, just words, no numbers, dot com. 

Sophia Elliott: Thank you. And we’ll definitely put all of those links in the show notes so many places I wanna go. I I think what we’ve talked about in terms of the five levels and, and going through will be really helpful for our listeners and our parents.

And, and I’ll pop links in so that anyone listening can go have a look at those levels and get a feel for it. And then refer back to what Deborah has said about what. You know, those children are likely to need an education because it is really helpful for, for us parents to get a, a sense of that.[00:40:00] 

I feel like it would be remiss of me to have you on the show and not ask you more about assessment given your wealth of knowledge and what you’ve shared so far. I mean, I mean, we have chatted a bit about assessment and IQ and I don’t know. I think,

I think what I’m hearing from you is, and I think something that you know, I value, I hold dear is assessments are incredibly helpful. You know, and unfortunately if you think your child is gifted and you’re on this path The investment in getting your child assessed is a, is a necessary investment because it helps you figure out what you’re dealing with.

And because every gifted kid is different and expresses that giftedness in different ways, and you can be very surprised at what those assessments come out as. And I can certainly speak from experience there amongst my three [00:41:00] kids. I think we’ve been through four different assessments so far, trying to get a sense.

One child has done two for, for various reasons, and probably only one of those has been a, a, a really sort of sound picture of that child. Another one. Was a really good sense, but it was incomplete because the verbal component wasn’t included because the child was speech delayed. And so, again, very helpful to see percentiles and the other two assessments we went through were problematic for various reasons to do with personality and sickness on the day.

And so having been through tho that as, as a parent I always encourage parents to go down this route, but the caveat is, you know, , [00:42:00] unfortunately, you need to invest this time, energy, and money. But how, but like you said before, it’s, it’s not about that IQ number. For me, it’s about getting a sense of those percentiles and what we are dealing with to figure out what level, you know, where we at with this child.

But going into it, knowing that there can be all sorts of complicating factors, what have you seen around that in your work? And you referred before to that scenario where a parent’s like, right, what’s the iq? And, and you’re like, well, it’s a spiky profile. There’s actually more in this story than just the iq.

Maybe tell us a little bit more about those spiky profiles. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Well, I wanna go back to one. Okay. Yeah, please do. You talked about how helpful the percentiles are. Mm-hmm. and I want to say, yeah. Oh, you don’t? 

Sophia Elliott: Okay, tell me more. You’re not into the percentiles. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Well, level one, for instance [00:43:00] mm-hmm. Has, it’s kind like the 90th to the nine 90th percentile mm-hmm.

To the 97th, 98th percentile. Yeah. Because that, but that isn’t a very big range, really. Mm-hmm. , when you get to the 98th percentile, it’s only four more points on most standardized tests before you’re at the 99th percentile. Yeah. And so the, it’s a truncated, forced bell curve. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: So you’ve got this range of numbers, but actually what you’re not taking into account is the standard deviation within that.

Is that what you mean? No. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Nope. Nope. What I’m saying is you have to start guessing and intuiting what you have. Ah, okay. After, after you reach a certain point. Yeah, because it’s, it’s not, even though I tested samples of gifted children who previously tested above one 30 IQ and other tests[00:44:00] it still puts all those children into 25 points on the test.

No, 15, 15 points on the test. 15 to 20 points. That’s it. Because they, they top out. Now, that doesn’t mean you an experienced gifted interpreter can’t tell you more about what it means, but the percentiles cease to have meaning the 99th percentile is the widest ability range there. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And yet, those, too many people are still repeating.

old test scores for the ranges drives me crazy. None of them majored in test and measurement , and yet they refer to an over one 60 is exceptionally gifted, and over 180 is, we don’t have tests like that. Yeah, [00:45:00] that’s 

Sophia Elliott: why I don’t like the IQ number. Yeah, because when you read about it, there’s such a variance and what you know, and like you say, 1, 1 70 profoundly gifted.

And I think that’s why, for me, I liked the percentiles because I can kind of go, well in that 99.9 range. You may well be anywhere from one 40 to one 70, but it, it gives me a sense of you’re at that very top end. And I think that’s why I found that easier to reconcile than the iq numbers because, , it can be old data, it can be different tests.

You know, there’s so much variability in what you might be reading 

Dr Deborah Ruf: about that. Well, the thing is, yes, please teach me . The thing is there’s the milestones actually tell you more. Yeah. Love it. Yeah. And [00:46:00] I, I like a lot of mothers and some fathers more and more fathers bless their hearts. Most mothers, well, when I made the rough estimates of levels of gifted online assessment, which I can’t afford to post, that’s why it’s gone.

I don’t have any funding. Yeah. And, and it costs money to post a test like that. Yeah. And the man who helped me design it for parents to take it online, and it was as accurate as the whisk test and the Stanford Benet test. And I’m in, I talked to, you probably know her fem OV in the Netherlands, uh mm-hmm.

she, her husband and I have talked about my giving that to them in some way so they can post it. Mm-hmm. and from it, she’s much better at [00:47:00] marketing than I am. And that was the problem. People thought everything should be free. And I’m not funded by a university, so I had no money. Yeah. Anyway, but I have lots of curiosity and lots of interest.

And so what happened was I had my, my. My friend who actually was the parent of a level five client, . Yeah. And it’s not what he does. I mean, he’s just brilliant, this man. And so he was, we were setting this up cuz I knew what it should be. And he said, okay, so we’ll have at birth and then we’ll have one year, then we’ll have two years.

And I said, no, no, no. We’ll have at birth, we’ll have three months, six months, nine months. And e he was baffled. Why would we do that? Yeah. I said, because it makes a difference. Yeah. And it is a time when you see clear differences between and [00:48:00] among children and those milestones. Mm-hmm. . And so, and then we went to 18 months and then 24.

and after that it was a few years and then it, we didn’t do it past age six. Mm-hmm. . And part of the reason for that is this is a pure form of what this child’s like. You can skew results through practice. You know, the kid looks more brilliant simply because they’ve been trained to do more, but that doesn’t mean they really are.

It might mean they are, but we can’t tell us easily. Same with trauma, you know, and poverty and that kind of thing. Some kids have caretakers instead of their parents, and nobody’s really paying attention to their milestones. That doesn’t mean they aren’t smart . Okay. So all of these things make a difference and percentiles well, [00:49:00] I’m posting my full articles and I’m writing new ones and.

modifying old ones on medium.com. Yeah. Yeah. You can read up to three free every month. And the membership, which helps me , the membership, helps me. But it’s also not very expensive. And so if you want, and I’m learn, I’m, there’s so many good things on Medium. It’s incredible. Yeah, it’s good. Yeah. So I recommend that people look me up on Medium.

As I said, the first three are free every month, even if you don’t wanna pay anything or aren’t able to pay anything. And I also, you can subscribe without paying, which just means you’ll be notified when a new piece comes out. Mm-hmm. and. . I’m actively doing that. And when I’m through with [00:50:00] the book, I will write as long as I’m, I’m able, and I’ll just admit it, I’m gonna be 74 in March, so , but my dad is almost 99, so you know, there’s a chance.

Plenty of time yet, . Oh no, he’s very, he’s really still very good at Jeopardy.

So, you know, maybe, but Medium is where I’m posting the full articles because mm-hmm. to have a platform cost money for me. And I don’t, I’m not making any money now. Yes. And so I have to be clever about how I share in a way that you can afford, you know, people can afford. Be shared too. Mm-hmm. , nobody has to be charged, but if anybody is willing to be, that would make me able to do a few more things.

Yeah, yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And that’s really interesting. So your experience has shown that[00:51:00] a keen eye for the milestones can be very effective establishing a child’s level of giftedness. Yes. And it, correct me if I’ve, if I’m summarizing what you’ve said correctly, where you, you’re frowning upon the percentiles, is that, that 90th to 97 percentile kind 

Dr Deborah Ruf: of being the 

Sophia Elliott: last like Yes.

The like one particular range, but then that 98th, 99th, so much being. In those in, you know, in that two percentiles there’s such a huge range within that, that you’re feeling like you’re not getting the accuracy of really determining the upper levels. Particularly like if we are looking at your levels of what’s going in, for example, in that 99th percentile.

Yeah. Yeah. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Absolutely. [00:52:00] I’m not affiliated on purpose . I made the choice. I’ve never applied to be a professor and, and the reason is I wanted to write, I wanted to think for myself. Mm-hmm. , I do tons of my own research and I read other, most everyone else’s research. Mm-hmm. and I wouldn’t have time if I had all those committee meetings.

Yeah. and I also didn’t want to be constrained by the fashions of the day as far as what was worth researching. Yeah. Yeah. That’s what universities do to you. You have to get funding for department and you have to have it be in areas. I mean, I’m pretty freewheeling and I didn’t want to not be Yep.

That, that’s right. And that’s what you value. I’m not, I’m not feeling sorry for myself. [00:53:00] I love my life. . Yeah, 

Sophia Elliott: absolutely. So tell me a little bit more then about the assessment piece that you had developed there with the milestones. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Well, first of all, there are some things in the assessment questions that are, are like, no.

No questions, that means that they don’t bear on the results. Mm-hmm. . And part of that is to keep parents from gaming it because parents fill out the form about their kids. Mm-hmm. and what they see as important and valuable might not be what is the most important and valuable. Yeah. So I don’t want to and I don’t want people to push anything unnaturally in their kids.

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So also most parents who have kids in a young enough age range still aren’t informed enough to cheat[00:54:00] 

Sophia Elliott: And if the kids are young, you might, you might actually remember the milestone. You’re, you know, you’re more likely to remember. I had a, a quick look at At the levels before we chatted, just to remind myself, and I was looking at them and thinking of my kids and, and sometimes it’s kind of like, oh, I don’t remember when that happened.

But then other things, you know, stick in your mind. So yeah, it can be 

Dr Deborah Ruf: tricky. , and it, it varies considerably with parents. Mm-hmm. . But it allows for that. It just like an IQ test when the kid is sitting there, when the child is sitting there, they can be pretty squirrely. And there are group tests, which are the ones that give in school where the whole class is there and somebody proctors it.

Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And those are not considered quite as accurate. You’ll see more flux between test administrations. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. In fact, I have a [00:55:00] brother who is just as smart as I am and he was put in a lower rung of classes for. About five or six years because first of all, he was not a cooperative student,

And second of all, when he filled out one of the forms for the test, you know, with the little bubbles, he and his friend were racing to see who could fill ’em out and be done first. They did not read the test and fill out the actual questions. Yeah. And so a score was artificially low. This can happen in group tests.

Mm-hmm. in a test administered by a capable administrator, somebody trained in it. And it’s best if you can find somebody experienced with high end, because otherwise they still aren’t gonna give you the interpretation you need. You know, they may say, oh, well he can do anything he wants. [00:56:00] That’s not helpful,

No, that’s not helpful. . Yeah. And so anyway, what. , what I look at is the individual tests. Which ones are they? And if a good report has been written, it helps me a lot to know whether this person knew what they were talking about in my language. You know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. And because if they don’t get some of the nuance of what the scores mean and how the child received the questions, whether they enjoyed it, how they were, it really, for most gifted children, taking an individual IQ test is like fun.

Yeah, totally. Cause it’s, it’s like being handed a box full of games and puzzles and problem solving issues, you know, I mean, it’s fun and it’s stimulating and they’re worn out at the end [00:57:00] because they’ve really focused and concentrated and it’s, it’s considered the gold standard to have the individual IQ test that’s Wexler or Stanford, Benet.

And then the others are all offshoots. But like the rough estimates, I know that Temo f Femke Vega’s site in the Netherlands, she’s developed a test that tests for extremely gifted and I. every bit as good as my levels of gifted one. It’s just for a different group and an age range. Yeah. And it can be done, but it doesn’t have broad application because we’re looking at a specific group, but that’s okay.

The specific group needs it. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The work they’re doing is really interesting. She did a podcast on Unleashed Monday with Naja, who’s a friend of the, the show. And [00:58:00] it was really interesting to listen to Naja who Naja Cereghetti is the host of Unleashed Monday, and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well.

Really interesting conversation there about the work they’re doing to, to get that test for the, that highly gifted area. 

And, and every 

Dr Deborah Ruf: now and then I. I, I, 

Sophia Elliott: I, you know, hop onto their website and see what they’re at, see if they’re doing it in English yet. Cuz when I first looked, it wasn’t in in English yet and hopefully in, in 

Dr Deborah Ruf: good English there, so they could do that.

Yeah, I 

Sophia Elliott: know, right. It would be great to have that available. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: And I want to, I want to make a comparison, a positive comparison between the work they’re doing. Two generations younger, two to three than Linda Silverman, who started the gifted center in Colorado. Both Femke and Linda are so good at running a [00:59:00] whole program.

Mm-hmm. , I, I don’t have the skills. I admire them both very much for this and they, in the process, they have brought in other professionals. and they have trained together and learned together, and that’s what Femke is doing. That’s what Linda Silverman did. And it, it makes it really I I, I wish more people did that and I wish I’d started earlier, but my life was a little crazy.

I didn’t start early , but it, it, it is it’s okay. You know, I’ve, I’ve been making a contribution that matters, but they do really good work and I, I just wanted to point out that similarity between them. But right now I can’t name another p Well, there are some other places kind of, but they, there are some other places that also address more specifically[01:00:00] the two E issues.

the twice exceptional issues. And so their testing and screening really delves into that as well. I think Silverman’s does too. And I don’t, I don’t, I, I basically tell, used to tell people if I thought their child was unusually odd, I would let them know. . 

Sophia Elliott: Well, that’s good to know. good 

Dr Deborah Ruf: to be pointed out.

The thing is, I, I don’t, I have absorbed the highly intelligent Yeah. And I see them as odd, so Yes, 

Sophia Elliott: that’s true. Yeah. Absolutely. I feel 

Dr Deborah Ruf: you there. Yes. I’m trying to make clear some of these other things are only odd to other people. Mm-hmm. and does that mean we need to fix it? Yeah. A absolutely 

Sophia Elliott: very good question.

Deborah, I really appreciated your time. I’m just kind of having a little look at the watch there if you have time for one more [01:01:00] question. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: I I, okay, great. , 

Sophia Elliott: excellent. Cause I could talk to you all day. I’m curious about your thoughts and insight into testing young children of like under five and I guess what’s the question I’m asking is so my understanding is testing under five can be quite inconsistent in terms of the results that you might get 

Dr Deborah Ruf: because of their age and maturity 

Sophia Elliott: and ability to sit the test.

And so it makes. More difficult, I guess, to get a, perhaps a clear picture. And perhaps in that early, you know, age group, that’s an opportunity for us to look more at the milestones as we’ve, as we’ve mentioned. But I just wondered if you had any particular thoughts about testing in those young [01:02:00] kids.

Dr Deborah Ruf: Good. Good. I thought you would. Alright. So it isn’t that they might be squirrely and not sit for the test. It’s that most children that young are that way. So they haven’t made enough questions on the test for it. Uhhuh, , Uhhuh, . And that’s why the child who is able to focus is going to get an artificially high score.

Ah, okay. Yeah. And so that can be very misleading to the parents. Yeah. And the school. , what happens is the best thing is to not start your child to actual school too early anyway.

So my, right now we don’t have a lot of schools cooperating with my idea , but I [01:03:00] would prefer more of a Montessori type setting for the early years. And if you can’t get that, you should get a good daycare or optional parent or grandparent or somebody who’s going to allow the child to just be the naturally curious child they are.

the academics are not what’s important. Mm-hmm. sitting down, most kids gifted above, I mean, level two and beyond, but even most level ones, they teach themselves to read from being exposed to the books. They’re people are reading to them. They don’t need to learn to read. You don’t need to sit down with them and make sure they’re learning to read.

They will , you know, they just do. They just get it. And so it, it’s [01:04:00] a very curious thing that parents think. And I was, I was guilty of this myself. I thought, well, he is so smart, he should be in school and then they aren’t dealing with what he’s ready to do so, or she’s ready to do so what would be better is not even starting school at all until age seven, if you can manage it.

And I realize it’s a problem when both parents work, but something, you know, you, you should try and do something that allows for the child to still just be learning at his or her own pace. And then if that isn’t possible, you would want not to start school early. Kindergarten is still a fun place, and let ’em be there and then let them skip first grade Uhhuh and go on to second.

But it depends on the level. And so I my [01:05:00] book and you feel free if you’d like, my assistant about these things, Michelle, and I can give you an updated chapter. Table of contents. Okay. And people can see what’s in there. Also, I discovered my first book, you can read up to 50 pages of it online at Amazon.

Mm-hmm. and you’ll, it’ll be like that when the next book comes out too. And so it, it’ll help you see some of these topics that help you make decisions about the very earliest years. Okay. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. But testing too early. You shouldn’t test before seven if you can help it. Yep. 

Sophia Elliott: And so, so the challenge there of testing early is that possibility for like a false positive because it can be skewed towards those children who have that focus, that ability to actually focus on the test and [01:06:00] perform.

Yeah. And those children who. Don’t have that focus or, or, you know, still quite squirmy. There’s sort of not enough in the testing to, 

Allow for the, like the squirminess for lack of a more technical 

Dr Deborah Ruf: word, squirminess. It’s not really the, okay. Help me understand. Test writing. The test writing, yeah.

Does not have enough questions in the early range for the more intellectual advancement of a kid. It’s just items that would really work for the typical kid. Yeah. So they, they, 

Sophia Elliott: the, the questions don’t have a high enough ceiling. Like the, the questions aren’t stretching the kids enough, so they’re not 

Dr Deborah Ruf: stretching, they don’t have a high enough starting point.

Yeah. And you can, you see on the. mostly they would be given the wissy. Yeah. And the [01:07:00] Wissy only goes to age six, but if you wait until age seven, you can take the full whisk the Wexler tests and that is actually better. Mm-hmm. , the Wii tends to overt test the young gifted kids. And that’s, that’s a problem because you might be led to believe your child should be doing this, whereas maybe this will be good.

Yeah. And it, and besides when we are young enough, ourselves, staff kids, young enough, we aren’t advanced enough in our own learning and self-development to settle down mm-hmm. and not push things . Yeah. And especially if you’re a j judger. Yeah. And. , as I mentioned, it tends to attract Jay judges. Mm-hmm.

And, and they, they know [01:08:00] what’s best. They know what’s right. And I was a Jay Judger at that time, myself. Mm-hmm. , I’m not anymore . And but it took a lot of work not to be, not that I was trying not to be a judger, I just became so much more aware when no one else is judging you. Mm-hmm. , and you’re free to really be your real self.

There are more p perceivers out there mm-hmm. . So that’s what I’m finding. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. No, that’s really interesting. Thank you. Because you know, as you know, parents are needing to go through this assessment process earlier and earlier to get into gifted programs earlier. Oh. And so it is quite challenging to.

to ensure that we’re picking up the gifted kids. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. They’re not falling through the cracks. And 

Dr Deborah Ruf: and it 

Sophia Elliott: sounds to me, [01:09:00] you know, the best we can do is really find a tester who has that intuition about giftedness. So they’re, they’re doing the test, albeit on a young person under seven but they’ve got a degree of they know what other things perhaps to look for within that and, and have that insight to be able to pick that child 

Dr Deborah Ruf: as well.

One of the things if you want early entrance to some programs there, I think it’s Stanford Benet five, I can’t remember for sure right now, but I think that one, you can, they only require certain subtest. To see if the child is ready. And that’s not so bad. Yeah. It doesn’t give you the fullest picture, but it can get your child into the program.

Mm-hmm. And the other thing is, does will the program fit your child anyway? Yeah. . Yeah. Yeah. And I would like to, I would like to see schools not be based solely on your [01:10:00] age. Oh, hallelujah. . Yes. And the person who wrote who was behind writing the Otis Lennon, the Olsat I think that’s the one. He out of the University of Iowa, that was a very popular group test.

Mm-hmm. and still is, he said in his years of doing this. And he also wrote achievement tests and he said, by first grade, year one, not kindergarten, year one. The typical same aged mixed stability classroom already has 12 great equivalencies of achievement in it. And yeah, that’s, that’s the, the fallacy, the, the folly of grouping kids by age for academic learning.

Mm-hmm. , now you can group ’em together for art class, for recess. Mm-hmm. for lunch. Mm-hmm. , I [01:11:00] don’t, I don’t want to have children not be exposed to the range. Mm-hmm. , but not in math class if math is their strength. . Yeah. It’s, this book is turned into more than 300 pages and it’s because, well, I better put this in there.

I better put that in. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, well, I can’t wait to read it. And I just appreciate your time today and thank you so much for talking to us. It’s an absolute delight to pick your brain, , 

Dr Deborah Ruf: and I, 

Sophia Elliott: I’m so pleased that you did. Thank you so much. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Okay. I hope I need you. I 

Sophia Elliott: would really love that. 

It was a pleasure. Absolute pleasure. Have a lovely evening and I talk to you soon. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Okay, bye-bye. Bye. [01:12:00]

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