#029 Why does my gifted child have an imaginary friend? We talk intuition with Dr Alan D. Thompson.

#029 Why does my gifted child have an imaginary friend? We talk intuition with Dr Alan D. Thompson.

In this episode, we’re talking to Dr Alan D. Thompson about intuition and giftedness. We ask what is intuition? We talk about intuition in science, the research behind intuition, imaginary friends, intuition in very high IQ children, how to foster intuition and imagination in our kids, why it’s so important and more…

Memorable Quotes

“Well, if we look at intuition as this innate process – everyone’s got it. It gives people the ability to know things without analytic reasoning. Let’s call it the opposite of science – it’s knowing without knowing how we know. I think it scares people. It maps to somewhere that we’re not comfortable going.” – Dr Alan D. Thompson

“I think one of the triggers for me writing this was noticing how many of my high ability clients from seven, eight years old had imaginary friends. And I thought that was fascinating… We’ve got the research that 34% of high ability or gifted girls have imaginary friends a little bit less for high ability or gifted boys.” – Dr Alan D. Thompson

“That can be as simple as lying in bed and talking about dreams in the morning. So, what dream did you have? What dream did the child have? Not with any sense of needing to interpret it, but what is flowing through the subconscious at night?” – Dr Alan D. Thompson



Dr Alan D. Thompson is a world expert in the fields of AI, intelligence, high performance, and personal development. He consults to families with special needs children including Bolshoi ballerinas, chess masters, abstract artists, and those with a mental age up to twice their chronological age.

Alan advises international media in the fields of exceptional ability and personal development, consulting to the award-winning series Decoding Genius for GE, Making Child Prodigies for ABC (with the Australian Prime Minister), 60 Minutes for Network Ten/CBS, and Child Genius for Warner Bros.

Alan’s dissertation was adapted into a book featuring Dr Rupert Sheldrake, Connected: Intuition and Resonance in Smart People.


[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Welcome everyone to the podcast today.

[00:00:01] I’m super excited to be talking to Dr. Allen D Thompson world expert in the field of child prodigies high performance and personal development. So, Alan welcome.

[00:00:15] Alan D Thompson: Thanks Sophia. Awesome to be here.

[00:00:18] Sophia Elliott: Firstly, I do want to touch on briefly. How on earth did you get started or end up coaching, highly gifted children, families and prodigies.

[00:00:29] Where did this all start for you?

More Transcript Here

[00:00:32] Alan D Thompson: That’s always a really long story to answer and you’ll probably find it in your own life that there’s twists and turns that you end up in a particular destination without really knowing the path that got you there. So I started out as a sound designer for. Well, actually my very one of my very first concerts was for a Grammy award winner here in Perth.

[00:00:56] And I was done. 1516 years old. It was back in the, in the 1990s. And it exploded from there ended up working with Sarah, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and, uh, some of the really big rock and rollers from Katie Lang to Cindy lopper, uh, to Metallica. So it was, it was all these really high performers. Some of them had been around for decades.

[00:01:16] And I just love this concept of super high-performance in the performing arts. And I wondered how that matched to any human being on the planet. I’d collected some degrees along the way. My computer science background included some psychology and then I went and did some gifted education at Flinders.

[00:01:36] And then I played around with this entire field of coaching, which is out of Harvard medical school. They’ve got their own Institute of coaching there, and it’s huge in the university of Sydney and combined it all together. And Here. I am sitting down with families that, that have some sort of high ability that they may not have translated to high-performance.

[00:01:57] But given my context of seeing what high-performance 24 7 for sometimes 60 or 70 years, looks like a, it’s a lot of fun to be able to play with them and to see how they can translate that giftedness, that capacity all the way through to applied talent.

[00:02:16] Sophia Elliott: I really get the feeling from having a look at your stuff that while, like, as you said, there it’s very much a deep interest in that high performance and it excelling a lot of your articles and work also talks about, you know, for kids in particular, the importance of play.

[00:02:36] And I get that feeling of, you know, being a kid. So I find, uh, in, in the way you talk about things is a really lovely balance between. This high potential and high performance, but also this grounded-ness would that be right?

[00:02:54] Alan D Thompson: Definitely. Definitely. And I think that comes out of the field. You know, if you’re going to a counselor or a therapist, you’re looking for problem solving, you’re looking at looking at all the challenges you’re looking at, what’s going wrong and how to solve it.

[00:03:08] Whereas coaching is also almost the absolute opposite end of the spectrum. We’re asking, instead of following the trail of tears, as one of my colleagues calls it, we’re following the trail of dreams. So there is this focus on opportunities on strengths, on values. Why is the child doing things that they’re doing?

[00:03:28] What’s important to them? What are their priorities? And then we tie that into the parents as well. Uh, so that we can see that full loop and the child can see, this is how mom and dad solves this, or this is how they applied their talent and they get that 24 7 modeling in the house.

[00:03:47] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, modeling. That’s a huge one.

[00:03:49] Isn’t it? So throughout your career so far, you’ve done a lot of really interesting things. Numerous TV shows people might recognize decoding genius or making child prodigies or child genius in the U S lots of travel and meeting some really, I mean, you’ve already rattled them off really interesting kind of people off the top of your heads.

[00:04:10] Do you have a couple of favorite moments?

[00:04:12] Alan D Thompson: Uh, yeah, you’re right. There’s been a lot. I was reading a quote from Isaac Asimov yesterday. He was actually the vice president of Mensa. I did not know that. Well, minster international. Yeah. He’s one of the most famous members and on his death bed, he said something like I’ve done more than I deserve to have done.

[00:04:31] Like I’ve accomplished more than really any person should I’ve had a lot of fun. You’re right. I think the moments where I get to see incredible high-performance that, that blows my mind, I think, would be similar to any person in the world’s experience in that it’s it crosses boundaries. That’s why this concept of high-ability is so interesting to people.

[00:04:55] So even though it sounds a bit cliche, I love seeing my very young clients. Grabbing a Rubik’s cube and mixing it up and then blindfolding themselves and solving it. I love knowing that there’s a colleague out there in Sydney who can read the Sydney, yellow pages, memorize the whole thing in 24 days and then recite it.

[00:05:15] I love knowing that there are, you know, I don’t like name dropping, but I’d like knowing that there are people like John Cleese out there, who’s been going for seven decades and hasn’t stopped in terms of his passion and inspiration. So yeah. All of those things remain exciting for me. I know you’re supposed to be border to a particular field after seven years, but it’s still very, very interesting to me every day.

[00:05:39] Yeah.

[00:05:40] Sophia Elliott: I hear you there. It’s those little moments, isn’t it? I think what excites me and certainly provides some passion to doing this is it’s just those quirky little moments where the kids just keep surprising you, and yeah, they’re incredibly precious. So we were going to talk to T today about your book connected, which is all about the intuition of smart people.

[00:06:04] And when we caught up recently I was a bit surprised that you have done a book about intuition, right? One could see that as a little bit wound left of field. So I have to kind of ask, how did you end up doing all of this research about intuition?

[00:06:24] Alan D Thompson: Yeah, you’re right.

[00:06:25] It seems almost like a different universe that certainly academics. Don’t talk about. I know in my overview, before I jumped in, it was sometime. Things that people would say, don’t even do this. There was a counselor told me, Alan, don’t look at that. Don’t write anything about that because you get burned at the stake.

[00:06:49] And I think there’s, there must be some sort of intergenerational trauma going a long way back with how we demonize this, this separate half of ourselves that really must be integrated. But the more I started looking, the more I found massive academics declaring there. Absolute belief and experience in this, this different hemisphere of ourselves.

[00:07:14] One of the big ones was Dr. Linda Silverman. Who’s a huge researcher in the field of high-ability and giftedness. And she has this almost poetic view of intuition, writes about it quite a lot, has published in journals about intuition down to, you know, Almost telepathy and mind reading or receiving sentences and receiving intuition and insights from people that are long gone.

[00:07:43] It was really fascinating. And that expanded all the way up to Nobel laureates, who were saying that they had experienced intuition and they really acknowledged intuition as the provider of their discovery rather than logic and intellect. So even though it might seem on the surface to be something that’s hidden away, it’s becoming more and more back in the zeitgeists and back in the fact that people can talk more about it finally, uh, where it may not have been something that was even allowed in the 18 hundreds and 19 hundreds.

[00:08:15] Sophia Elliott: That’s right. It’s always been a bit taboo. Why, why do you think it’s been taboo? What do you think that comes from?

[00:08:22] Alan D Thompson: Well, if we look at intuition as this. Innate process. So everyone’s got it that gives people the ability to know things without analytic reasoning. So let’s call it the opposite of science it’s knowing without knowing how we know. I think it scares people. It, it maps to somewhere that we’re not comfortable going.

[00:08:50] Certainly in the American culture, which has translated across to the Australian culture. It’s a little bit anti-science or has been viewed as anti-science where that’s just not the case. If you look at places that are not American centric or Eurocentric places like India, some of the Asian cultures.

[00:09:10] Intuition is a part of everyday conversation, belief in ghosts and belief in of much deepest spirituality is very natural there. I think with the advent of science, with the advent of criticism and arguments that the Americans in particular love to do, it’s really become something that hasn’t been discussed very much.

[00:09:31] And it’s been downplayed and said, well, that’s not factual. And we only do factual here.

[00:09:36] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, that’s right. I almost feel like there’s a sense of it’s something we can’t control and therefore we’ll squash it because we don’t understand it. We can’t control it. You know, back in the day would have been considered magic because we just didn’t even have research.

[00:09:50] And I was surprised you talk about how much research there is on this. And there is this buckets isn’t there. Like this is a heavily researched area. So we really do understand it, or at least. We’ve got the outcomes from that research, even if we don’t understand where it comes from, then we might been led to believe or think about, so Bravo for touchy topic that you wander off.

[00:10:13] I think they’re always the interesting ones. Absolutely. And you’ve got some wonderful case studies and stories in the book. Do you have a couple of favorites?

[00:10:26] Alan D Thompson: Well, the book is basically a literature review of some of the really big case studies. So I don’t think there’s even any big explorations of my direct clients or my direct experiences they’re collected from peer reviewed papers or published books that have kind of never been collected before.

[00:10:50] And they might’ve been from authors that are. Branded as psychics, but have a, an academic degree or they’re psychologists. And they’ve never, they’re kind of so far out there that I went and collected them and brought them back into the fold, so to speak and put them next to the Nobel Laureate some next to Dr.

[00:11:08] Silverman’s research. So, yeah, there’s absolutely a lot of fun. I think one of the triggers for me writing this was noticing how many of my high ability clients from seven, eight years old had imaginary friends. And I thought that was fascinating. And that mapped back to a lot of the big research into giftedness back to Hollingsworth’s research in the 1920s of, of children with IQs over 180 and two Louis Turmans research.

[00:11:39] Also back in the twenties, thirties, that looked at a collection of 1500. Very high ability, children follow them all, all the way through to adulthood. Hollingworth found some wonderful children, and these are the kinds of children that you just wouldn’t see that miracle only found 30th done in the whole of Australia.

[00:11:58] Hollingworth found one child of an IQ over 180, who had an imaginary friend that she would play with and talk to and kill, and then bring back to life. And it was all this playful conversation that the children were enjoying, obviously as a play element, but they were also learning from so one of my extreme, and it’s a very extreme stories in there is about an imaginary friend that showed up for a young boy in England.

[00:12:34] And his parents were not around very much. And so the imaginary friend helped him. With life basics helped him learn about nature and took him out, walking and helped him learn about which plants and very secret H and which helped him learn how to write letters and how to start a fire. Really outrageous stuff like unbelievable stuff.

[00:12:59] He got lost in the snow one day and this imaginary friend helped him walk back home. As, as in left footprints for him to follow. His parents recognized this imaginary friend. They would hear a knock at the door and they would answer it. And of course, there’d be no one standing there, but his mum would say, come on in this imaginary friend’s name was hi, when, and he looked like a lion or a dragon with a, with a lone tail.

[00:13:28] One of my coaching clients actually drew a picture of, of highway and. But that’s not the craziest part of the story. Right? So he would leave in dense on the couch and he would knock on the door and he would, they would know that he was around and the parents could sense him as well. When this guy grew up, he went back home as he was the age of 24.

[00:13:49] He went back home and his mum had a new child. She was two or three years old and she started telling him about her newest or who knew imaginary friend align with the Dragon’s tail was yellow. And she had a bit of a motor speech disorder, but she said his name was hi hideaway.

[00:14:15] Sophia Elliott: So

[00:14:16] Alan D Thompson: yeah.

[00:14:17] How do you explain that kind of thing? We’ve got the research that 34% of. High ability or gifted girls have imaginary friends a little bit less for high ability or gifted boys. We’ve got a Hollingworth as identified in her massively, exceptionally gifted cohort. What does this mean? Are there benefits to it?

[00:14:42] What world are they connecting to? What is that intuition that they’re tapping into?

[00:14:47] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, there’s something going on there isn’t there very magical. And what fascinates me is this idea that these imaginary friends are tapping into some other knowledge that they’re sharing with the kids. Do you know, it’s not, the kids don’t know these things already, so that’s really quite incredible.

[00:15:07] And there was another example in the book of where there were a bunch of highly gifted. Students working with someone about creating a story together. And there was always, almost like a bog hive, mind thing going on, where they didn’t need to verbalize it, but they all kind of tapped into the same storyline that totally freaked the teacher out.

[00:15:34] Alan D Thompson: Exactly. And that’s another example of super high. We’re talking about 200 IQ, exceptionally gifted children. That teacher was Stephanie Tolan, who is the author of, is it a cheetah, one of the best gifted writers around, she did the foreword for the book. And that story is just incredible. Again, there’s no such thing as owning a group of 200 IQ children.

[00:16:02] Exactly. It’s only one or two that I know of. Terrance towel out of Adelaide had a measured IQ of 200, 230 in one of the SBLs that America gave him, I believe. And there’s William James siddhis, who was up towards 300, they reckon, but without any proven tests. So they don’t, they don’t exist. They’re in, that would be the 99.9 9 9 9 9 9 percentile.

[00:16:29] And they showed up to this writing festival. So she really had an opportunity to play around with them. And you’re right. They were essentially reading each other’s minds in that room with her. And she documented that. And I’ve talked about that in her. Yeah, that

[00:16:43] Sophia Elliott: that’s really fascinating. There’s a lot of examples in the book of similarly.

[00:16:52] Like other worldly, almost, you know, experiences. Again, I think worth the note was the example that you provided from Julliard where they did the the test of sending and receiving. Can you tell us a little bit about that one?

[00:17:09] Alan D Thompson: Yeah. This was another case study that I brought into the fold of high-ability.

[00:17:13] Even though it was probably overlooked. So the Julliard academy in New York or the Julliard school in New York is a school for the very highest musical and drama performers. You certainly would have heard of it. It’s the, the musicians in the top 0.1%. You’ve got it. Chuck and all those kind of guys that went there back in the early nineties, this was around 92, 93.

[00:17:41] Some researchers sent in the best of the best scientists into Julliard to grab the musicians and the drama students who are high ability in this creative realm. So they’re a bit different to your high ability, mathematicians or physicists. Although we could draw a map between those two things. They took that to a research facility, which was divided into a few big rooms.

[00:18:12] They set them down, oh, let’s set them down. One at a time in a lazy boy in a room, the whole room was magnetic shielded, electrically shielded, soundproofed, completely laid this musician back in the lazy boy, put a blindfold over their eyes, put some, uh, put some headphones over their ears and played pink noise so that they could not hear anything.

[00:18:39] They then took the researcher down the hole to a completely separate room far away. No, no way that you could hear what was going on. And they had a, an observer as well. So there’s a researcher called them the observer. And then there was the sender, the intuitive center. This was someone that was quite good at taking an image and intuitively sending it to someone else without words.

[00:19:10] So the sender sat down at a computer screen. They were given a random image or video that would play on loop. So they might be looking at, say a picture of Santa Claus, and I would use their mental powers to send that to the high-performing musician or actor in the soundproofed room. Who’s laying back there in their La-Z-Boy chair.

[00:19:35] Super comfortable, no sight, no hearing. Cause I’ve had all that blocked off. And in that room with the student was a microphone where as they verbalized what was coming into their head, they could speak it out into the world. And it would be heard by the sender and the researcher down the hall in the other room.

[00:19:59] So while the sender is looking at Santa Claus on a monitor in the research room, the musician laying back on the La-Z-Boy is just verbalizing, whatever the, whatever they’re thinking of. Uh, and they’ve really got no context. They’re like the spy in cotton wool, right? They’re completely wrapped up and they’ve got, uh, all their senses turned off, just yelling out whatever words come into their head.

[00:20:27] And there were examples with Santa Claus. There were examples of the students saying white beard, uh, red. Father Christmas, just outrageous, outrageous results in the same thing for an airplane. I, the sender would be looking at an airplane as the student is verbalizing an airplane and looking down on people and clouds and, uh, the same thing for a clip from a movie called altered states where there’s this massive lizard opening its mouth on a red background.

[00:21:01] And one of the research has actually documented it quite recently, her experience of this, she was sending this clip as she was watching it. And she heard the students saying back to her from the other room, a really, really big lizard with a huge head. And I see red, red, red, and it’s opening its mouth. So look, that’s peer reviewed.

[00:21:25] That’s published, that’s in a journal that is high performers that we may not call gifted, even though they are a perfect example of gifted. I don’t have an explanation for what’s going on, but that is a study that has been repeated with results similar to that high above chance. And I find that fascinating.

[00:21:47] Sophia Elliott: That is fascinating. Isn’t it? And it’s like, you sail, right. We don’t know how that’s working, but we can’t deny that there’s something going on there. And I think the book is really wonderful, the way that you’ve, laid it out. You get to the end, it’s like, well, we can’t deny there’s something going on here.

[00:22:03] And if we’re all more open about talking about that, when, where might this lead us in terms of I don’t know into the future. And there’s some diff really interesting concepts that come up as well. One of the folk you talk about talks about what was it? Morphic, resonance. And Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and there’s a whole bunch of examples of the research that he did.

[00:22:31] Can you tell us a little bit about that?

[00:22:35] Alan D Thompson: Yeah. Dr. Is one of my favorites. He was so kind in in granting me an interview at his home in London. And he’s got his own chapter in the book because I thought it was just so important. He’s a, an eminent doctor. An academic is a Cambridge biologist is he’s got his PhD and is very well recognized.

[00:23:00] Of course he’s got detractors has got people that don’t like the fact that he’s a scientist and he’s talking about these things that are scary to them, but he’s also got such a broad range of research right now. He’s studying how sports players care. No what’s going on that ahead of time, because we can’t really predict, you know, that tennis player can’t really predict what’s going on at 150 K’s an hour is also done some research on how some people are very good at predicting particular movements of particular stocks in the stock market is most famous for his studies on people who know that they’re being watched all humans.

[00:23:47] Of course, you know, we’ve got this biological, this inherent genetic view, like from the tribal days, we know what our target is watching us, but he’s done research with CCTV cameras. And when the watcher looks at the CCTV monitor, it’s the same, the person being watched. No. W that someone is watching them and it’s not even human eyes.

[00:24:15] It’s just having this sense that it’s happening is done. Experiments are knowing who’s calling you on the telephone and I’m sure your listeners all have an experience of that before it actually happens or thinking of a friend and they call you, he’s got some great experiments that, well, if you’re in London or if you’re in the UK, you can try that yourself.

[00:24:36] He’s got some automated systems set up so you can type in for friends and then it will randomly assign one of those friends and dial each of you. And you get to guess which one it’s going to be. He’s, he’s just covered so much ground in this intuition with this really heavy academic background.

[00:24:56] So it’s fascinating to me that the work that he’s done and him as a person, because consider. Like my high-performance back in the performing arts, how persistent you have to be, how many conditions you have to go through and how, how rough you’ve got it for some of them for seven decades, Dr. Rupert’s been like that his entire life.

[00:25:15] He’s got people who are saying you’re wrong. Demonizing him writing about how wrong he is and he’s still going, like he’s still pushing through it and saying, well, I’ve got the proof here. How can you argue with this? Yeah,

[00:25:28] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. So really fascinating proof. And I want to read out actually a quote that I thought it was pretty fabulous.

[00:25:37] And it was from Nobel Laureate, Dr. Barbara McClintock because there is a chapter way. Talk about Nobel prize winners. And I think was at 86%. Actually acknowledged our belief in like a scientific intuition and talked about how, like you said earlier, a lot of their nudges in their research actually came from somewhere else in, in their own words and the quote in there, which I really love.

[00:26:08] And I’ll just read it quickly is she says basically everything is one, there’s no way in which he drew a line between things. What we normally do is make these subdivisions, but they’re not real. I wasn’t outside. I was down there with them and everything got big. I even was able to see the internal parts of the chromosome, actually, everything was there.

[00:26:30] It surprised me because I actually felt as if I was right down there. And these were my friends. And she’s talking about this experience where she was, she felt like she was actually, she was looking at microscope. Sells, but she felt like she was down there in it. And what I love about that quote is you can feel the enthusiasm in the quote.

[00:26:50] She was like, I was down there. It’s like I was down there. We have a connected, you know, that kind of you know, this is real, I’m trying to convince you within the quote itself. And so I think that’s really kind of beautiful. And I guess you don’t tend to see that side of the scientific world, which is what I find really interesting.

[00:27:07] Did that come as a surprise to you?

[00:27:10] Alan D Thompson: Absolutely. Yeah, it did because we don’t get shown that if you go and read a particular blog post, or you look at the mainstream media or you go and read the on sit in a post-graduate course, this stuff doesn’t show up, but it’s there. Like it’s right under our noses Barbra’s book is on my bookshelf there where she’s she is talking like that.

[00:27:31] And she’s a Nobel Laureate and a, and a professor. So. How can we collect it all together? How can we find this and put it all together? And that’s, yeah, that’s really what connected is all about finding these super high performers and bring them together. I love the way that she has this sense of excitement bound with that huge academic context.

[00:27:51] She’s very well recognized in the field for her discoveries. And she’s very similar to Einstein in that way as well. She’s got a lot of logic behind her, but she knows that there’s this other half of us that has been disregarded for awhile.

[00:28:06] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s great to hear a talk about that. So openly and in reading connected, there’s this numerous, quotes from scientists talking about like this other side of themselves, which is really fabulous.

[00:28:18] And you’ve mentioned Dr. Linda Silverman already, and there was a really great quote from her as well. Which I’ll just read briefly if that’s okay from the book. And it says there is in each of us, a source of wisdom, some of us are more aware that than others and rely on its guidance.

[00:28:37] Others deny its existence. I believe that we are all partly multiple and poly immortal. Now there’s a part of the self that transcends the human experience. It is the witness, the observer, the spirit of the human being. And it’s very hard to understand how we can be both human selves and infinite spiritual selves.

[00:28:56] This seems to make no logical sense.

[00:28:59] So

[00:29:01] I think what is exciting and when I was thinking about today’s podcast, I was I, and I, in all of the podcasts, I’m always kind of like what, what might be a takeaway for a parent of a gifted child out of this conversation. And I think for me, and what I hope for listeners as well is I think there’s a number of levels here.

[00:29:27] First of all, I think as a parent, we’re always saying, trust your instincts, trust your gut, but now we can kind of go, no, no really trust your instincts. As you’re tapping into some that you know that about your child go without believe in that. But also when it comes to parenting your child, I feel like this is the permission to indulge.

[00:29:53] Developing and supporting those conversations around intuition and following I think your own truth and that sense of truth that you have.

[00:30:04] Alan D Thompson: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And it’s really important for parents to consider the fact that we are in a very strange modern culture where this can get pushed down, but there are enormous benefits to to harnessing intuition there.

[00:30:23] You know, we, we say that this disappears say at the age of five or six years old, and before that. Particularly in Dr. Rupert’s experience, the children are able to know, when someone’s looking at them, they’re able to ensure that what’s going on with the parent. And that kind of gets closed down by combination of school and parenting almost at the same time that we say, right.

[00:30:47] Okay. Tooth fairy, that’s out and father Christmas that’s out. But if we can acknowledge it and then if we can embrace it, it’s the other half of humanity, similar to what Dr. Linder is saying that this is our university universality and the other half of us being able to embrace it is not just, Hey, here’s, here’s me being complete, but there are, there are some fun things you can do with it as well, in terms of going beyond empathy.

[00:31:15] Dr. Rupert had a wonderful example of even, yeah. A very material example of doing better in tests. So he talked about this concept of applying intuition in group settings when there’s this massive. Yes. The morphic resonance term that you used floating around. So everyone’s thinking about the same thing.

[00:31:40] If you just, if you’re in an exam situation and you start at the end, so that you’re. Giving yourself a one or two or three minute delay, start with the last question. And then come back to question one, as people are complaining or there they’ve moved ahead, you’ve got this something floating around. You can take advantage of the pre-work that people have done, and that the answers that are floating around in that room, I thought that was a fascinating, very, very specific application of intuition.

[00:32:14] And that would be, yeah, one of millions, you know, his research into how his high-performing adults have been able to very accurately and with, with great success, pick different stocks and different shares. I thought that was fascinating, but yes, you’re right. In being able to allow children to be more of themselves, this is important.

[00:32:38] Ever talk about hot housing or pushing children. I don’t see that with my clients. They’re just looking at understanding more of themselves, whether it’s their intelligences or their needs, that their ideal growth environment and intuition is one of these facets. How can we harness it? How can we play with it a little bit more?

[00:32:57] Yeah,

[00:32:57] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. Yeah, I can. And, and when you were talking about that exam situation, it made me think of, I’ve heard about when musicians play together, particularly jazz, where there’s a lot of improvisation, a similar concept of tapping into that resonance kind of thing. So for anyone who thought that exam situation was a bit out there, it’s like, no, you know, this is a thing, this is a thing.

[00:33:21] Give it a go.

[00:33:23] Alan D Thompson: Yeah.

[00:33:25] Sophia Elliott: We’ve talked a lot today about intuition so I think it’d be kind of nice to end the end, the podcast on, I think, encouraging parents to. Tap into their own sense of intuition and be open to that idea of flow in their lives and in their parenting.

[00:33:47] And I think play with the idea, , we’ve talked today about the idea of playing around with intuition and, and tapping back into something that maybe was squished a bit as a child because I know, and I felt very strongly when I read connection that intuition and synchronicities have been a huge part of my life and those threads through my life and decisions I’ve made at various points and leaps that I’ve made that didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense, kind of like the whole podcast idea.

[00:34:20] And sometimes like I have made decisions and I didn’t really have a full idea of the outcome or, or where it might head, but it’s following that nudge. And so I think what advice might you have for parents or anyone who. Just to help nudge them in the direction of maybe tapping into their, their intuition a little bit more, or if you got anything for us.

[00:34:48] Alan D Thompson: Yeah. I like your concept of just being more playful when it feels right. And that can be most of the time. Of course the parent has to have a guiding hand, but at the end of the day we’re not here to force or to criticize. If you can spend more time with this other half of our being humanness or a human beingness, it’s really valuable.

[00:35:14] That can be as simple as laying in bed and talking about dreams in the morning. So what dream did you have? What dream did the child have? Not with any sense of needing to interpret it, but what is flowing through the subconscious at night? Imaginary friends having a conversation about them and yeah.

[00:35:35] Dismissing them immediately because the researchers that they exist for gifted children or for high ability children more frequently than they do for the general population,

[00:35:46] Sophia Elliott: I was going to mention this earlier. There was a story in your book about someone who actually would just create like an imaginary friend. And I actually thought I’m going to do with this with the kids. Right. Let’s let you know. They’d been asking me for more pets. My daughter wants a rabbit and fish and it’s, I just can’t go there.

[00:36:04] Let’s create some imaginary ones. So what a great creative opportunity. Although we obviously went In the book, you talk about how the fellow who made the imaginary friend, other people could actually sense that friend as well. So that was a bit next level, but hopefully if we create a rabbit, it’ll just be, won’t be leaving anything behind.

[00:36:23] Alan D Thompson: Awesome. I love that idea. Yeah. I don’t know enough about that. It’s got the keyword topper there, if you want it to research on the figures that they were creating. And of course in connected, we go deep into that particular story where he creates, oh, I don’t even know what it is. I picture it as a kind of a stick figure walking around that he created by concentrating on this concept of a tulpa for one hour, but then his, while he was away at work, his wife was scared by this figure and could recognize it.

[00:36:58] And it sat down on the bed and scared I, yeah. People want to play with that. That’s great. And creating a rabbit. Sounds fantastic. I think the, you know, there are some more, more basic things we can play around with. I’ve been messing around or playing around with a PhD or quite a high profile PhD. I won’t, I won’t mention her name.

[00:37:16] With this concept of sending images and being able to see what the other person comes up with. You can do your own online version of this. It chooses a random image and you concentrate on what you think it might be sending you. And then at the end of the time, it pops up that image. So you can see how close you were.

[00:37:34] We’ve been doing something similar and choosing a random image from Google images and sending it to each other and see, seeing what happens. You might like to play around with that with, with your children. I know that when I presented the very early research on connected and the research on this started back in 2016 at a conference in Thailand, there were people coming up to me afterwards, some academics coming up to me afterwards telling me about their experiences.

[00:38:03] One woman mentioned that. She went to school and it must’ve been in the fifties or sixties. She was quite old. And the nuns would sit the class down, hold up an image that only the nun could see. So like a photo that only the nuns could see the children would close their eyes and they would speak out what ever came into their mind.

[00:38:26] So very similar to the Gainesville experimented at Julliard. So I thought that was interesting. And that was quite a while ago that that was happening. You might be able to try that with your child as well. It just having these playful discussions and not being deliberate about it, not being forced about it.

[00:38:41] There’s really no reason to go crazy with this as much as to be it’s the feel, this freedom of being able to be connected. I want us to mention that in my Interactions with coaching clients. I’ve had a number of families tell me that they came to me because they insured from my photo on my website or from my writing that I was the right person for them to work with.

[00:39:05] And I thought that was, that has been really fascinating to hear from some mothers in particular and even some young clients. I’ve got one client that I’m thinking of at the moment in Queensland. And this young boy has autism. He has a similar reaction when he sees my videos or looks at the photos on the site, he says, I want to talk to Allen.

[00:39:28] So like we talked about before children have their own drive, they have their own passion. They don’t need to be pushed as, as much as they’re going to be pulling to be going where they want to go with their particular field or interest or hobby or whatever their passion is at that moment might be astronomy.

[00:39:46] It might be geology. It might be a particular computer game. And just to be able to follow along with that, I wouldn’t put any kind of heavy weight on this or try to force it, but just to be playful with it.

[00:39:56] Sophia Elliott: Beautiful. So thank you. There’s some great ideas in there that people can play around with. And it’s actually nice that we’re talking about play today because conversations around giftedness and parenting gifted kids can. Feel like a lot of hard work, it can be very intense.

[00:40:18] And so I really appreciate the fact that we’ve had a conversation just about listening to our intuition today and having a play. And that’s kind of the note that we’re ending on. It’s been wonderful to talk to you. I really appreciated the time today. So thank you so much

[00:40:35] Alan D Thompson: because thank you. Fair, awesome conversation and great questions.

[00:40:38] And like you say, it’s really fun to have this freedom to play around with raising high-ability children can feel like a burden for the entire family, not just financially, but mentally, emotionally. I know that it can be quite draining, but there are resources out there and there’s a lot of fun and playing around with who they are and what they’re capable of.

[00:40:58] But not just for achievement also, just for this sense of being in this sense of sharing. Yeah,

[00:41:04] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. I think wise words to end on. Thank you.

[00:41:09] Alan D Thompson: Awesome. Thanks.

#028 Why is Self-Concept so crucial for gifted 2E students in the early years?

#028 Why is Self-Concept so crucial for gifted 2E students in the early years?

Today I’m speaking with Dr Geraldine Townend from UNSW about her research on self-concept of gifted, Twice Exceptional (2E), children and the lifelong impacts. We also talk about an awesome project she is supporting which is an educational screener for parents which is in its research phase and a great opportunity for you to get involved!

In the episode you’ll hear:

  • What is self-concept and why it is so important
  • Tools and strategies to address negative self-concept
  • A new education screener for parents called Ed Screening
  • How to get involved in the Ed Screening pilot program (see below)

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“Because our twice exceptional students do have things that get in the way of their ability to learn and build some of those core skills, their self-concept starts to go down because they are seeing the world or seeing themselves as less than by comparison. So they do start to build a negative self-concept.” – Dr Geraldine Townend

“And she said, I’m trying to develop, , a screener that is going to be available at a really affordable cost for all the parents and the teachers out there. We’ll screen all those things like autism, ADHD… dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, all the specific learning disorders and so on.

So the parents know in a moment who they need to go to next, which waiting list they need to get on for formal diagnosis… research based and really powerful.” – Dr Geraldine Townend


  • Ed Screening
    • The pilot is currently open and needs a couple of hundred parents to fill out the survey about their child.
    • It takes about 20 mins, it’s FREE during the pilot phase and when the data is crunched, you’ll get a free report. Eventually, it will be instant and low cost.
    • This helps to create an educational screener, backed by research, that will provide direction for parents quickly and help them to know what professionals to see and what strategies to use in the meantime.
    • Things like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, all the specific learning disorders, and so on.
    • It will save months, if not years, of being on waitlists that don’t turn up a diagnosis and potentially hundreds of dollars for parents by helping them to figure out who it is they need to see.
    • Parents from anywhere in the world can participate.
    • Especially if you have concerns or questions about your child’s learning needs or neuro-diversity.
  • The Power of Different Book
  • Gifted with Learning Disability Australia



Geraldine Townend is a published academic with over a decade of experience in the field of gifted education, having expertise in the area of twice-exceptionality. Geraldine lectures and conducts research in GERRIC (Gifted Education Research and Resource Information Centre) in the areas of gifted education, gifted with learning disability, and special learning needs. Her research interests focus on supporting gifted and twice-exceptional students to aspire to their potential in education, which includes the development of positive academic self-concept.

Geraldine advises government around curriculum and education and has been featured on national TV. She has been currently working in an advisory capacity with the Department for Education, New South Wales. Geraldine conducts professional development for schools in the identification of, and support for, gifted underachievers, and has featured on Australian National television.

She also provides advice for parents and families of gifted and twice-exceptional students, and works closely with State, National and International Associations.


[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: So Geraldine, welcome to the podcast. I’m really excited to have you here today with us talking about what we’re going to talk about two things, but first of all, let’s tell us a little bit about yourself and your work at a university of new south Wales.

[00:00:19] Geraldine Townend: Okay, I’m Geraldine and I’m a lecturer and researcher in the field of gifted education, university of new south Wales. And primarily my particular interest is in twice exceptional or gifted learners with disability. Those students who are perhaps the most overlooked students, , globally within our system, , for a number of reasons.

[00:00:42] And one of them is that they are so difficult to find. And one of my passion areas is to try and make it easier for teachers and for parents to find these students. And the other reason is the lack of teacher education, , around the students. And, , and it always, it starches me that we, we train so well out, , medical professionals and allied health professionals. And yet with our teachers, they get great training, but they kind of get training for the middle more general.

More Transcript Here

[00:01:19] And those outlier students. Yeah, most teachers are kind of go to a class and they’re hoping that if there are students with disabilities that impact their learning, that somehow the special needs educator in the school is going to parachute in and save them. And then they’re hoping that those higher ability at gifted students are going to kind of make it on their own.

[00:01:42] And this is very typical and very understandable in what’s becoming an extremely busy 21st century classroom. And so, , I did a big research around early career teachers and it was about 50% of them felt they were under-prepared for diversity within the classroom. That’s talking about both ends.

[00:02:07] So when without looking at twice exceptional GLD stuff, Well, it’s, it’s kind of that double-edged sword that we often hear about being talked about in the field. And so my, my interest is finding out more about these students. How can we find them and how can we support teachers and parents to support these students?

[00:02:28] , probably my drive it very often with education. My driving passion is social justice. I believe that everybody has the right to develop their full potential, and everybody has the right to know that they have a place in this world and a very valuable contributions to make. And it worries me about so many of our overlooked students, particularly GLD twice exceptional students.

[00:02:53] How many of those could have made a big difference? How many, when we’re talking about entrepreneurs and innovators and inventors, how many of those lost that self-concept, that self-confidence and decided to fly into the radar and just get through until they could get out of school and get, you know, do whatever is that they ended up choosing to do.

[00:03:15] And I always, , feel that for me, the thought of a state, anybody being at the end of their life and thinking, I know I could have done better. I could’ve done more. If I’d only had the chance, I wouldn’t want any of the students or the children I’d worked with ever say that. And so this is so, and generally teachers, , that I work.

[00:03:38] Without exception all believe the same. And so this is where I’m able to go in from a social justice issue to really support these educators to upskill. And they have to do it off their own back with their own money in their own time. They’re not trained through the main system. There are a couple of universities, UNSW as one of them in Australia that makes a gifted course mandated in pre-service training.

[00:04:04] But that sets, I think, two universities out of every university in Australia. , and this isn’t typical of Australia, it’s typical globally, unfortunately. So, you know, there’s change to be done, but without the advocacy role that I feel is also part in mine, it won’t happen. So, you know, onwards.

[00:04:22] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:04:23] I couldn’t agree more. We, it’s definitely a cohort of students that we need to have a much better understanding of so that we can support them. But we have to start by supporting our teachers, , like you say, with that professional education and development in that area and preparing them better, , because are we talking about outliers, but.

[00:04:47] It’s a lot of kids, right. She talking about a lot of kids, you know,

[00:04:51] Geraldine Townend: like thousands.

[00:04:54] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. You bet. Tens of thousands. You say they deserve that opportunity to thrive and they’ll only get that through being understood. , so yeah. Research, , that we were going to talk about today in particular, , is about self-concept and self-concept in twice exceptional learners or children.

[00:05:14] So first of all, what is self-concept

[00:05:18] Geraldine Townend: self-concept is the way that we view ourselves within our world. And so it can be positive. It can be negative too generally with pack animals and we place ourselves. , in the pack with, , social support, social comparison. And this starts at a very young age and it, and it’s informed by and informed identity.

[00:05:40] And your identity is pretty much built during these formative years. By the time you were in year 12. Your identity is pretty much set. Not, not completely, but, you know, but at the time, even adult would be pretty much set. And so this is an important time. , self-concept is important to recognize and be understood.

[00:06:00] The get, go from a very young age because it has such a long and far reaching impact on, , not only our, , successes and, , but our, our life happiness relevancy and, and all the things that we associate with a good life. And for a long time after we leave school as well for fairly important parts of our career, our social economic status.

[00:06:26] The families, partnerships, children, and so on. And so it’s, it’s very, , very profoundly part of identity and, and how we see ourselves in the world.

[00:06:39] Sophia Elliott: So, correct me if I’m wrong. For me, that sort of, so it’s like a belief system that we have that is very much a platform That will launch us one direction or another, depending on what that belief system is about, our kind of sense of value.

[00:06:55] So huge impact in terms of what careers you might choose, what study you might choose partners, you might choose just your sense of who you are and your self worth and self value. So hugely important stuff. So what is your research showing you about twice exceptional children? And their self-concept.

[00:07:15] Geraldine Townend: Well, their self-concepts yeah. Seems to be fairly standard, , fairly strong before they start school. But when they start school, they then have. They recalibrate to taking the, , the context, the, , the environmental inputs of school. So larger numbers of people, , classrooms, teachers input, or the parents input children and peers input and how they are compared to, if you’re on the soccer field, how many dojo points they get in the class, how good they are lighting compared to seven next door.

[00:07:46] And. And because our twice exceptional students do have very often things that get in the way of their ability to learn and build some of those core skills. Their self-concept starts to go down because they are seeing the world or seeing themselves as less than by comparison. And so they do start to build a negative self concept.

[00:08:13] Sophia Elliott: I imagine as well. And I know many young, twice exceptional children that they’re also getting a lot of potentially getting, , messages about potential behavior in the school setting. So that’s going to impact their self concept as well, and the way they’re going to see themselves, ,

[00:08:35] Geraldine Townend: Yeah.

[00:08:35] How about how the teachers, how the peers, how everybody responds to them and if they are, , if they’re having behavioral issues or being pulled up on behaviors. Maybe they can’t stop talking. Maybe they can’t sit still. Maybe they, , have impulse control issues. Maybe they just don’t understand. They can’t meet the social dynamic at the time.

[00:08:58] Then all of this imports back into them from their environment will affect their psychological view of themselves. And that’s the self. Yeah,

[00:09:07] Sophia Elliott: and the key here is that’s developing at this really young age. So as parents, as teachers, as a community, , we need to be more aware of the impact of those early years in terms of it’s far reaching into the future of an individual.

[00:09:25] So what advice might you have for parents, , or teachers, , I don’t know, around talking to their children about self-concept or tools or strategies or support.

[00:09:35] Geraldine Townend: Yeah. There, there are many things. And of course it does fairy a little bit with the age and the context in which the children are living, but, , just in general, , for example, the, so their frame of reference their comparison and how they compare themselves with everybody around them.

[00:09:50] , when I, when I talk to students, for example, that go into effective high schools and they have the issue of what we call the big fish and upon the fact. So try and get this idea across all age groups. They will top of their class, perhaps in certain subjects, maybe maths, maybe English, maybe whatever.

[00:10:10] And then some of them in an environment where they’re pretty much average Jones and they feel instantly less than I do not have the resilience and the, the tools in which to deal with it. So what, what I do with these students is consistently give them external frames of reference. Yes. You’re sitting in the middle, in this class, whereas this class sitting compared to your age peers, across the state, across Australia and across the world.

[00:10:40] And so they, then they, then, , we calculate, I guess, where they’re seeing themselves. So yes, they aren’t, they they’re fed some middling in their class, even the lower end in certain results. But they can compare themselves. So it’s really important to have those external frames of reference when, , when we talk about, so maybe that’s something that they aren’t particularly good at.

[00:11:04] So with twice exceptional students, maybe they have, they, they’re not very good with like on the soccer field. Okay. And so, , what can we do about that? Now, the minute students start going to school, the parents’ influence becomes less and they build their frame of reference on what. People beyond the family are saying, because by the time students, when they’re three, they know that mom and dad will always say the nice thing, or grandma always say the nice thing.

[00:11:32] And so they start relying more on the teachers and the parents and the other community members input. So as a parent and as a teacher, I’d recommend, okay. So, , I’m not feeling that I’m not strong on the soccer field. What can I do about it? Well, we talk about the growth mindset. You know, the more you practice, the better you are, but for some students, it’s a disability involved, no matter how much they practice, they don’t have the right supports.

[00:11:58] They probably are never going to feel they’re really across something. And so then we can focus on, okay, maybe this is my area of challenge, and everyone has an area of relative challenge. That’s my area of strength. And if we get to young enough, children’s still know that strengthened. It’s only after a few years where they start saying nothing.

[00:12:20] I have, I’m not good at anything. So, so the younger we can, we can get that. So I talk about growth mindset and grit, building resilience. I talk about, I run two scenarios was a parent. I would run through a scenario and saying, when you, in this scenario, How do you feel okay, what can you do to feel better about yourself?

[00:12:43] What can you remind yourself? How can, what, , I wouldn’t say the word internal dialogue to one student, but what can you say to yourself? Oh, well, I’m not that devoted, handball, but I’m fantastic at whatever it is. Okay. Yeah. Maths or whatever it is. , and I do, I do recommend, you know, that time in the car with your children.

[00:13:05] They’re trapped. That’s a time to discuss that, discuss this now and the bigger picture. Yep. And the bigger picture is, , like they may not know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I mean, I’ve talked to many adults that don’t know what to do for the rest of their lives, but, but, but what they, what we all do want to do is feel that we have options and we are able to develop in any way that we choose to utilize our strengths.

[00:13:33] And so having that strength based conversation, it doesn’t mean we ignore the, , the relative challenges. We cannot ignore if a student has dyslexia or ADHD or autism, we cannot ignore that. We have to support that. But by supporting that, we will support that, but we focus as well on their strengths so that they have this balance.

[00:13:58] We don’t leave them to fail because they’re focused on a strength. They still can’t achieve it because nothing’s been put in place to support whatever they need support.

[00:14:08] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. So with our, our twice exceptional students or children in particular, it’s coming back to that straight spaced model. It’s like, yes, we have challenges.

[00:14:19] However, acknowledging what the strengths are and using those strengths to, , pivot or. Getting that sort of frame of a broader frame of reference around what their challenges might be just to kind of give them a different perspective. So it’s not all focused on the, the challenge and this kind of.

[00:14:40] Sense of self that’s not achieving or very good at things, but kind of reframing that in the strengths kind of based model. And, , like, you know, where you’ve got these great strengths, everyone’s got challenges as well, and we’re going to work on those, but. Yeah. Focusing on those strengths a bit more.

[00:15:01] Geraldine Townend: Yeah, definitely focusing on strengths and that’s what I encourage teachers to, but it’s also really important to pivot on the challenges, the relative challenges. So w w what I do when I’m working with twice exceptional students try and rebuild their self so that they can. You at least thought to hope for a future that they can grow into.

[00:15:24] And so if they’ve, so I’ll, I’ll use examples of twice exceptional people who have been a success. And it’s not always that easy because on one of our twice, exceptional students have not been the success they want to be because they haven’t been recognized or identified or supported, but I’ll say I’ll find people who are, who have dyslexia.

[00:15:45] And I’ll say, so, you know, you’ve been diagnosed with dyslexia and look at these people who have dyslexia. The world is still your oyster. We will have to support the dyslexia, but it does. That does not define you. What defines these people is not their dyslexia. What defines them is the amazing ability in performing arts or science or, or whatever it is.

[00:16:08] And I’ll do that with all of them, ADHD, autism with everything. And so they actually have these role models that they didn’t realize were lonely. You have the, so I don’t ignore the challenge. That’s very much part of the identity. It’s part of who you are when you speak to people or you listen to podcasts by people like Richard Branson.

[00:16:30] He talks about his ADHD and it talks about, you know, a lot of it’s deficit things, but clearly he’s a gifted entrepreneur and he says, you know, I do have these relative deficits. What I do is I employ people to cover that stuff because I’m a big guy and I can get, and I can smash this if I’ve got people supporting that side of it, because I am so good at what I do.

[00:16:54] And so, , he’s a big picture. People with ADHD, with dyslexia, often a big picture thinkers. They’re great at running, , huge organizations, but they need somebody to be doing some of the detailed stuff for them. And that’s fine. Yeah. We don’t even warm it. We embrace it. Yeah.

[00:17:11] Sophia Elliott: And I know that there are, there are actually some good books out.

[00:17:15] I’m trying to think of the name of it. I will. Dig it up and put it in the, , in the show notes. But, uh, one in particular I’m thinking of is talking about different, , neurodivergency and for example, ADHD, autism, and dyslexia, and actually focuses on the strengths. That they have, , like you say, focusing on, , they’re, they’re obviously challenges, but actually they all have different strengths as well.

[00:17:47] And so that could be helpful information in terms of framing that sort of pivot, as you say, when talking about those areas of challenge. Okay.

[00:17:57] Geraldine Townend: And that’s still, and they’ve still got to get through that year 12 exams. Okay. Yep. So they might say, well, yeah, well, when I’m, you know, CEO of a big company, I can employ people to smell for me or whatever.

[00:18:07] , but I can’t do that for my year 12 exam. So you can’t, so let’s embrace it. Let’s acknowledge it. Let’s support it to give you the, every scaffolding opportunity you need to, , smash through year 12 and, and get on with what you got.

[00:18:23] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Support providing that support, , where they need it as well.

[00:18:28] , so some great practical tips there in terms of different approaches. , if we’ve got a student or a child who are needing some help with this self-concept now I know that. You’ve already talked about your sense of social justice and advocacy and your passion for this area. And I want to just pivot a little in our conversation and you do do work with different organizations and associations, and you’ve noticed that parents of twice exceptional children.

[00:19:03] Go on quite a journey often to get that understanding and diagnosis, to figure out what’s going on. You know, we, we go on waiting lists. We have appointment six months and then we got to go somewhere else. I’ve certainly been there and it can take a really long time to figure out what is going on. You’ve noticed that routine and a lot of parents, but you’re actually working with some folks.

[00:19:30] Who were trying to do something about it. So please

[00:19:33] Geraldine Townend: tell us about that. Okay. So when we’re at the university, , , we work with outside organizations and we also have, we do a lot of work with communities. , it’s like a community service thing university provides. So for example, we’ll talk it.

[00:19:47] You know, so the, gifted associations and, and things like contribute, talk and, and so on and so forth. And I was at one of those meetings and I was talking with a parent, and this is such a difficult story of, how many years they’ve been on waiting lists, how they’ve been sort of like a ping pong machine pushed from pillar to post because, and then they finally get a diagnosis.

[00:20:10] Of something, they already have the gifted diagnosis and they get a diagnosis of something else. And they’re so relieved to have something because they know something’s going on and they kind of stop there because very often with thousands of dollars down in the whole post, that’s why this point as well, as years.

[00:20:26] And as I said earlier, the earlier we can diagnose and support and identify these students the better for their long-term outcomes. And so there was this lady there who’s. You had, had, she spent thousands and thousands on with her daughter who was in timely school and, , gifted, um, believe there was dyslexia.

[00:20:49] I believe there was always different things happening. And she said, , I’m, I’m a corporate lawyer and I can afford to do this. What about all those parents? Don’t have the time and certainly don’t have the resources because this is important work it’s identification work, but it is very expensive as well.

[00:21:09] And so what she did, and I talked that about my passion with, , it’d be great for everybody to be able to find out or at least get a head, start a direction. And then about a year later, she came back to me and she said, , , I’ve left corporate law and I’ve, , I want to make the world a different place kind of thing, which is essential justice people.

[00:21:29] It’s always a good story. And she said, I’m trying to develop, , a screener that is going to be available at a really affordable cost for all the parents and the teachers out there that is, , we’ll screen. All those things like autism, ADHD, all the subtypes of that, , dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or the specific learning disorders and so on.

[00:21:52] So the parents know in a moment who they need to go to next, which waiting list they need to get on for formal diagnosis. And I said, well, I know that there are screeners and things like that out there. , and , you can Google them and she don’t know, but I want this to be research-based. I don’t want it to just.

[00:22:09] Something that, you know, that is research based and really powerful. And she said an Ivan I’ve got involved on a voluntary basis, a whole bunch of academics who are, and psychologists and people working in universities or research in all these areas. And they are actually giving advice. And I was like, please count me in.

[00:22:29] I really want to be involved and I can come in on the twice exceptional angle and if deal or whatever, what have you. And so, so w me together with a couple of other educator academics, what she said is for this particular screen, and not only do I want to give parents a quick affordable the turn on, okay.

[00:22:48] Go and see an OT to get this rolled out or rolled in and a psychologist to get this rolled out a little bit in a case, you know exactly where to go, which says we need as well. In the meantime, a bunch of strategies. But the teacher can work with them. We can work with at home while we’re waiting, because that lets me go down the medication route.

[00:23:05] And that is a pathway that’s open depending on the diagnosis. We still have to work with strategies anyway. So can you give us some help with that? I said, absolutely. I’ll definitely because teachers, they don’t have the training always in this. They have busy classes and , our medical colleagues and professionals, calc professionals, they do an amazing job and they do give great strategies to school after this long process has been through.

[00:23:34] Yeah. But what I was hoping to do was give strategies in educator speak, which I know will work for that busy teacher in a classroom with 30, but isn’t one-on-one with a student is one on 30 with students. And to just try them out and see what happens, something that’s really easy, not a big tone to lead because teachers, they barely have time for that.

[00:23:56] Initially, this is just an initial, we think something’s going on, but then to get it rolled out, can you try these strategies? Here’s all the information. You need, everything that you need to put this in place in the classroom. Can you give us feedback so that we can take back to the professional when we go for a diagnosis or whatever, and that is what they’re working on.

[00:24:17] I just, I like the fact that it’s, it’s, it’s not a thing of silly. Necessarily widgets and gimmicks to, you know, that quick fix parents don’t want a quick fix. They want to take the long-term view and have things staged for them so they can actually get results. And, , from the get, go get an incident report that that might, they do it for very cheap vies.

[00:24:39] They print off a report, they give a little bit to the teacher, they keep one for themselves and go, right, we’re going to put this, this and this person, and I’m going to do this. I got to say.

[00:24:52] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Yeah. So going through that process, so everything you’re saying resonates with me, like the years, the money, the, who do we see to get what diagnosis, it’s a huge journey.

[00:25:06] And, and you’re lucky if you’ve got the time and energy and the money to actually do that. Like you say. Yeah. And it shouldn’t be down to the luck of having resources to get the help that you need. And the fact that I did not know the backstory and the fact that it, a mum with a twice exceptional child has kind of driven this to solve this problem.

[00:25:29] I’m absolutely in love, totally on board. It’s

[00:25:34] Geraldine Townend: amazing. I’m such a good human being and that’s what we’re trying to do. Positive change. And as a parent, myself I know that we need all of the support we can.

[00:25:46] And if I had been a parent who couldn’t afford to go through that whole long process, but I could afford this small amount of money to get an instant, even if I couldn’t still afford to go through the process, I’ve got some strategies to work with and Hey, they may or may never get the diagnosis. Cause I don’t have that thousand or 2000.

[00:26:05] But I’ve got something I can work with better still the teacher, something and the teacher’s getting positive results from this child. And so there’s a better connection, a better relationship. So that instantly feeds into self-concept. I just feel it’s win-win

[00:26:19] Sophia Elliott: oh, it’s absolutely amazing. And so needed. I absolutely love it as well.

[00:26:24] So you were saying that this is in the kind of early stages and your pilot pilot stage, and we’re needing some parents too. Fill out the survey to do the research.

[00:26:39] Geraldine Townend: So that would be yeah. To get the research in place so that it’s a research basis. I think that, , they, , the team that working on this ad screening would absolutely love that they need to get research figures and to do the right sort of stats on it.

[00:26:52] You need, you need big numbers. And the, the questionnaire takes around about, I think it took me about 20 minutes to fill out. , I’m sure it’ll vary. We pay people, but generally it’s about 20 minutes, but the, okay, so the benefit of doing the pilot is the downside is you won’t get a report straight away because until the research is done, it doesn’t have enough information to generate report, but the minute it goes live, you get access to it.

[00:27:19] Yeah. The whole lot. Yep. And it would be fantastic. We’re looking for another couple of hundred parents to do. This would be all one parent with five children do a five times. Fantastic.

[00:27:31] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Okay. So what it is is, , it’s a pilot. It’s screener it’s screened is that what’s called it’s screening.

[00:27:40] And it’s an opportunity to spend 20 minutes filling out this survey. As you say, you won’t get the information feedback straight away. That is actually going to be part of the pilot part of the research, part of the information that they use to refine it. But when it does go live, you will actually get that report for free.

[00:28:03] And then the aim is, , when they’ve done this research in this pilot, they’re actually able to produce this tool. The survey that parents can pay for at a reasonable cost and get that kind of instant feedback and strategies. I love it a hundred percent behind it. So we need a couple of hundred parents to fill that out.

[00:28:24] Now, what kind of parents are we looking for? Are we looking. Parents of suspected gifted and twice exceptional or just

[00:28:31] Geraldine Townend: any parents or any parents. , if I think what they’re, they also screening for giftedness. So, you know, if you know that your or suspect your child has gifted or twice, et cetera, Well, if you suspect that that would be fantastic because that gives us really good quality data, then good point to doctors that they can work with it.

[00:28:55] , if you don’t suspect anything, , you could still do it and the chances are, it will come back. We know when you get the free report, when it’s all live, the chances are it’ll come back with those. There’s nothing to investigate and just some general, some general advice. So even if there’s, I think that their intention is that even if it comes back.

[00:29:18] , no, no identifiers that there is some general advice that say, okay, this is general advice to help keep your child’s faith or help keep them on task with all of their stuff. This is some good ideas of what,

[00:29:31] Sophia Elliott: so any parent can do it, but ideally if you. Have suspicions, uh, if your child is gifted or twice exceptional, that’s going to be amazing because that really gets, gives them the opportunity to crunch that data.

[00:29:45] And because it’s a pilot and because it’s in that development stage, I suspect and correct me if I’m wrong here. If you already know that your child is gifted, but maybe you you’re interested just to, to help, you know, bring this thing to fruition, or maybe you would like to see if there’s any, twice exceptionalities, you can still do it because you’re still going to kind of get that information back.

[00:30:08] So even if you’ve got some answers, but not all of them, you can still get involved now. Important question. Are you just looking for Australian parents or does it not matter?

[00:30:21] Geraldine Townend: Does not matter, does not matter? Well, we have, I think that they have reached out to Spain and UK and America. They’re trying to get global even better.

[00:30:33] Sophia Elliott: So wherever you are, that’s, that’s super because our audience is global and we have people from all over the place listening and sending in messages. So, excellent. No matter where you are jump online, we will put the link in the show notes and there will also be posts on the, our gifted kids, social media on Instagram and Facebook, just so we can get the message out there.

[00:30:59] Uh, so you can find that link. Participate in that pilot. And so just to reiterate, you won’t get that feedback back immediately because they need to crunch that data. But when it goes live, you will, but you’re contributing to this ed screener becoming a reality and , an accessible resource for, for parents.

[00:31:21] So in the future, it will be this kind of instant feedback. . That just sounds like something we all need to get behind and I’m super excited. , first of all, Geraldine to have had you on the podcast, uh, with this wonderful conversation around self-concept and twice exceptional students, and that you’re able to share that and we could kind of mobilize and get behind it.

[00:31:42] So thank you so much for spending this time with us.

[00:31:47] Geraldine Townend: Thank you too. And, and also another thing just for your parents, get behind the organizations, they can be really supportive. And if you have a twice exceptional child gifted learners, gifted learners with disability, JLD Australia is an online forum, which can also be very supportive.

[00:32:05] Anything people can do to support this, this organization with this pilot. , I just see always paying it forward, even though my children are now grown up and they’ve had all of their diagnoses and everything else, , w we’re paving the way for the future, children will try to make it easier. So that future parents, our children won’t have to go through what we’re going through with their children.

[00:32:27] Sophia Elliott: I couldn’t agree more. We need to make it easier for parents. , and so that our kids. Can get that support and understanding as soon as possible in their lives. It’s like you say, so that we’re when we can help them with that really positive self-concept from an early age, because they’re getting that support and they understand themselves.

[00:32:47] So I couldn’t agree more. It’s definitely about paying it forward. And, , please have a look in the show notes for all of those links, , and on our social media. Do you know how long it was open for, or.

[00:33:00] Geraldine Townend: I think they need a number, a minimum.

[00:33:02] Sophia Elliott: It’s a minimum. Yep. So no doubt once the pilot’s over, , the link will still lead you to that organization.

[00:33:11] So, yeah. So even if you’re listening to. Uh, kind of later in the year, , still check out that organization and see where it’s up to, because it sounds like it’s going to be an absolutely amazing future resource and, , and something I’ll definitely would love to keep tabs on and, , and see where it goes and let everyone know when yeah.

[00:33:33] , live and doing its thing. Cause it sounds like just what we need. I’ll definitely be filling in that survey. Definitely use some help. So thank you so much for sharing. It was just wonderful serendipity that we have that conversation and then can kind of share it with other parents. Thank you.

[00:33:52] Geraldine Townend: Thank you. Thank you for your time. I really enjoyed

[00:33:54] Sophia Elliott: it.

[00:33:55] That’s great. I’m glad. And, uh, yeah, I really appreciate it.

#027 Gifted is more than High IQ, Lets talk about the Brain!

#027 Gifted is more than High IQ, Lets talk about the Brain!

Gifted is more than High IQ, Let’s talk about the gifted brain!

Today we’re talking about a body of research about the gifted brain from Gifted Research Outreach (GRO), who are a non-profit based in the USA.

This research helps us understand why gifted kids have high IQ’s and how the behaviour of your gifted child is impacted by the way their brain is wired.

In the episode you’ll hear about the 6 key differences in the gifted brain compared a neurologically typical brain:

  • Increased regional brain volumes
  • Greater connectivity across brain regions
  • Brains operate more efficiently &
  • Expanded brain areas that respond more actively to challenges
  • Greater Sensory Sensitivity
  • Expanded brain areas dedicated to emotional intelligence

Tune in to hear more!

Hit play and let’s get started!

About GRO

“In the the first phase of research, GRO is reviewing existing peer-reviewed studies on the physiological differences in the gifted brain.

Our review is revealing that many studies provide a potential physiological rationale for the intensities commonly experienced by gifted individuals including intellectual, emotional, motor and sensory processing.

These differences also help explain gifted traits and behaviors that parents report their child experiencing, but professionals often dismiss or misdiagnose.

While GRO believes that this is just the beginning of understanding how the physiology of gifted individuals differs from the norm, as it progresses in its mission, we will not only have a better understanding of the physiology of this group of outliers, we will contribute to the better understanding, diagnosis, and the development of better medication and treatment protocols for ALL individuals.” – GRO


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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] I think as a parent of gifted kids, Some of the biggest gains I’ve had in my parenting, where I’ve made the biggest progress has not been where my kids have suddenly started doing something they didn’t do before or reached a milestone or anything like that. It often  come with my own shift in a mindset.

[00:00:27] Somehow my own perspective on something has changed. It’s allowed me to approach a parenting situation differently, and that in itself has resulted in big shifts in that parenting relationship and those day to day outcomes. And what I want to share with you today was a really big piece in the puzzle of understanding my gifted children..

[00:00:56] And that is the why the why behind gifted, if you’re like me and you were trying to understand what giftedness is all about. No doubt you have done a lot of research and, and maybe you were also searching for the reason why gifted kids have all of these similar characteristics and traits, because that didn’t add up to me.

[00:01:24] Okay. Gifted kids have similar characteristics. There’s a whole bunch of stuff, traits that they have. Why? Why? There’s gotta be something behind that. And there is yes. You know, I’d heard superficially it’s all about the brain and the way the brain works, but that was, yeah. That was all I found until probably about a year ago, which really isn’t that long ago I came across an organization called gifted research outreach or GRO,  G R O they’re an American not-for-profit.

[00:02:05] And their mission is to promote a comprehensive and accurate understanding of giftedness through research and outreach. And it was just one of those things. I stumbled across this website and I started digging and I think it changed everything because what we’re going to go through today, uh, the six reasons or the six things, I guess, that GRO, have found so far in their research on how the gifted brain is different.

[00:02:41] And that’s huge. So. I’ve been talking to folks at GRO  for a little while now, and they are super cool and awesome. It is definitely out there with one of my all time favorite organizations. And I said, I’m so excited to have found your work. Thank you for doing it. And I’m desperate to share it with everyone.

[00:03:03] Is that okay? Um, which is obviously okay. One of the great things about grow as a not-for-profit, they’re all about. Communicating this to the world. If you go to their website, which I will include in the show notes, or is GRO, gro-gifted.org, you will find all that information for free. And so we’re going to talk about it on the podcast, and there’s also free resources on the, our gifted kids website as well.

[00:03:35] So the gifted brain. First of all. Let me tell you how GRO  have ended up doing the work that they’re doing. There are a bunch of folk after conference on gifted education who got together. No doubt, probably with a few glasses of wine. I don’t know. Don’t quote me on that, um, to talk about how do we move things forward and it occurred to them, but throughout history, Major changes in the psychological and educational professions often came as a result of advances in medical knowledge.

[00:04:16] So GRO  became this organization about researching gifted physiology. So the body, they created this organization to use scientific findings, to break through those barriers that are preventing the needs of gifts. Children and adults from being addressed. So GRO  says there is plenty of evidence to suggest that gifted individuals, bodies respond differently.

[00:04:50] It’s kind of like that assumption that men and women’s bodies respond in the same way. And actually research shows us that men and women, our bodies work differently and respond differently. And it’s the same with a gifted community.

[00:05:08]So there are a lot of studies out there that go into this. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

[00:05:14]So grow uses a multidisciplinary perspective to better understand the physiological differences in gifted individuals and how these differences impact their lives, physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. So in the first phase of their research, they did a thorough review of existing peer reviewed studies.

[00:05:38] And. Have come up with these six differences in the gifted brain.

more Transcript here

[00:05:44]And the review is revealing that many studies provide a potential physiological rationale for the intensities commonly experienced by gifted individuals, including. Intellectual emotional motor and sensory processing. These differences also help explain gifted to traits and behaviors that parents report their child experiencing, but professionals often dismiss or misdiagnosed.

[00:06:13]So let’s get into it. We often think that the right brain and the left brain to of describe the source of artistic and scientific strengths, but actually it’s a complex interplay of the brain network that allows individuals to navigate through the world. There are 28 regions of the brain involved in intelligence.

[00:06:35] The brain does not grow at a consistent rate across all areas. And this leads to that asynchrony that us parents will be very familiar with sometimes great strengths, but also great challenges. Different parts of the brain develop in different ways at different times. And one area or another may gain greater influence this correlates to quirks in learning, thinking behavior and more significant overexcitabilities or comorbidities.

[00:07:11] What does that mean? If you particularly have a young gifted child, you will notice that there are different parts of the brain in play and still developing.

[00:07:24] So grow have compiled, a vast quantity of research to deduce the following six key differences in the gifted brain compared to neurologically typical brain. First of all increased regional brain volumes, greater connectivity across brain regions, brains operate more efficiently and expanded brain areas that respond more actively to challenges, greater sensory sensitivity.

[00:07:58] And expanded brain areas dedicated to emotional intelligence. So let’s have a little chat about what that means. First of all, increased regional brain volumes. So individuals with higher IQ have increased gray matter in some areas of the brain. The gray matter is a part of the brain use to compute information.

[00:08:25] These increased regional brain volumes may account for the ability of gifted individuals to make decisions quickly, especially decisions involving large volumes of information. So the areas with increased volume is the frontal lobes where complex decision-making and a hypothesis testing are memory, attention, motivation, executive function, language, mood, personality, self-awareness social, emotional reasoning.

[00:08:55] There’s a lot going on in the frontal lobe. The temporal lobes, which is the auditory processing and language interpretations, the parietal to lobes, which is your taste temperature and  touch. Also the integration of information recognition, visual spacial abilities, environmental cues, and sensory perception, and the occipital lobes, which is your visual information, your link with memory.

[00:09:23]So there’s also greater connectivity across the brain regions. That was number two. So the gifted brain has increased white matter. The white matter is what relays information across the brain. So they think that this may explain why processing speeds can potentially be faster, but also slower. In gifted kids, um, because that white matter is also all about processing speed and information transfer.

[00:09:58] Now, if there’s more white matter, you would think will processing speed and information transfer would be quicker. However, imagine you have a road going from a, to B one road. There’s one way to go. And if there’s one car it’s going to get that quickly and imagine now you have a hundred cars on that one road going from a to B, what’s going to be traffic jam.

[00:10:35] Right. And that’s, that’s true. Your pathway being flooded with ideas so that all those ideas may actually slow down that processing. Another way to look at it is imagine getting from a, to B there’s actually 40 different ways to get from a to B you know, imagine it’s not just one road, but there’s like a network of roads.

[00:11:02] There’s a whole map. And you’ve got to consider the best way to get there, so that could potentially take longer as well. And I think this is a really great example of something that’s not fully understood yet. And I think with all of this kind of research that we’re talking about today, this is what we know now. Imagine what we’re going to know in 10 years time, some of this may still apply.

[00:11:37] There may be other researchers or breakthroughs that shed different light on this. So take this like anything else with take from it. What helps you is my usual approach. And I think this kind of increased white matter and that impact on processing speed is a great example of. You know, an idea, not yet fully explored or understood.

[00:12:05] So number three, number four, brains operate more efficiently and there are expanded brain areas that respond more actively to challenges. So this I think is actually really interesting.

[00:12:21]So intelligence can be measured by how efficient the brain. In terms of working efficiently, not harder. And there’s actually research around the brain using glucose and the way that it uses glucose and efficiently using glucose as being an indicator of an efficient brain and a gifted brain is very efficient in terms of this research and this particular measure.

[00:12:51]And they also respond more actively to challenges. So for example, research has shown some with high IQ will use less glucose once they’ve mastered a task, therefore they’re not operating at potential. Once they’ve mastered that task. This is potentially why gifted kids resist repetition. They need only one to two.

[00:13:17] Uh, sort of repetitions to learn something as opposed to perhaps a typical child of the same age needing maybe eight to 10.  So efficiency equals that ability to use regions of increased volume in a qualitatively unique way.

[00:13:37] It will result in different approach to challenges and problem solving. And those brains actually engage in flow. Now, if you’ve come across the term flow before, here’s a new definition for you. And I really liked it. Flow  is working at high capacity as a coordinated unit. So imagine those 28 regions of the brain involved in intelligent working at high capacity in a coordinated way.

[00:14:07] So I kind of visualize. Um, some kind of extreme sport where you’ve got 10, like just mega athletes working at their peak in this absolutely coordinated way. And it’s this thing of beauty. So this excited brain may overflow into movement. So they think that that in that sort of tendency to pace or fidget or appear in attentive when the bodies are actually just mirroring that neurological activity and brain scans actually show like the, the gifted range as being on fire, because everything’s kind of happening.

[00:14:47] And, and this brain is, uh, You know, it is working at this high capacity in this coordinated unit. It just looks like it’s on fire and this fire overflows into the body and creates movement. And this sense of flow may also explain that rage to learn. That’s often a hallmark of gifted kids that, that, that need, and that dry.

[00:15:16] So we talked about the way that the gifted brain responds to challenges, but of course, challenge is relative. It’s all about stage, not age, uh, and you can see the emotional and behavioral issues lessened or eliminated when that gifted brain is challenged appropriately. And this reminded me of an interview that I had actually with Lynda McInnes from Dara School , way back at the beginning of the podcast where she talks about, and this is from Linda.

[00:15:49] When you have a relevant curriculum that’s relevant to that child, then all their issues disappear, boredom, disruptive behavior disappears, which also makes me think that. Uh, always makes me think of the quote from Maria Montessori, who was like from the early 19 hundreds. And she is quoted, has of saying one test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.

[00:16:21] And what I love about this research from GRO  is the way that it’s actually mirroring some of these. Uh, not just quotes and beliefs or observations that are out there. Um, but also, uh, Dabrowski’s Over Excitabilities  which we’ll talk more about in a minute. And it’s, and the research is kind of backing out these observations that people have had over time.

[00:16:51] So number five, that greater sensory sensitivity. So I think now’s a good time to bring in Dabrowski . He was a Polish psychologist and psychiatrist who created the theory of positive disintegration. The gifted community has embraced a portion of his work because it provides a vocabulary and framework to describe experiences, common amongst gifted individuals.

[00:17:21] You may have heard the term overexcitabilities before, and it’s an innate tendency to respond in an intensified manner to various forms of stimuli, both external and internal. Essentially this means a person has a stronger reaction than normal for a longer period of time to a stimulus that may be small or imperceptible two others.

[00:17:48]Research on the brain actually references Dubroski is overexcitabilities. What we’re talking about is the way we experience the world and the fact that we all experience it differently and that gifted.

[00:18:04] Children and adults will have that lived experience in such a way that you can actually quantify it. So it’s quantifiably different lived experience, and that’s really important, important when you’re parenting or teaching to really get that. And I know that this was an aha moment for me, just in appreciating that when we’re dealing with our kids or students that.

[00:18:31] You know, their reaction might be very reasonable to them, even though you’re looking at it going, what are you going on about actually to them, that’s a very real, and I think it’s an opportunity to stay, take a step back and just appreciate that that’s their lived experience. And from that perspective, managing a situation differently, maybe being less dismissive and more compassionate in those moments.

[00:18:56]So the overexcitabilities Dabrowski’s is framework.

[00:19:00]Provides that vocabulary for us. And as I said, it’s actually been, I guess, backed up by this research from GRO . So let’s look at those different areas. We’ve got the psychomotor, which as we’ve already mentioned, Gifted brain is in flow and all the different parts of the brain are working at peak performance together.

[00:19:25] And that energy overflows into our body, all that stir brow skis, psychomotor overexcitabilities those kids that are constantly active, high energy talk fast, need vigorous physical activity. That’s your psychomotor. Overexcitabilities. In terms of the sensual. So our sensory input includes hearing, smell, touch, taste sites, and they may be enjoyable, or they may be powerful.

[00:19:59] You may have an amazing pellet for food and become a great, you know, food, taster and critic, or you might found find food really difficult because it’s not pleasurable. They’ve also found in some research. The gifted brain, actually, he is sounds faster and louder. And for longer than a neuro-typical brain touch, different textures can be very irritating.

[00:20:32] The potential for sensory processing disorders, so that neurological traffic jam preventing certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. So there’s more happening and it’s more intense

[00:20:49]and because it’s our own lived experience. It’s easy to be unaware that we’re any different from anyone else. We can always just assume that everyone experiences the world the same way we do, but sometimes we need to dig into this a little bit deeper. Sometimes an occupational therapist or an audiologist might be helpful in determining how far that goes.

[00:21:13] If that’s becoming a real issue. So the intellectual over at overexcitabilities is that desire to gain knowledge, search for understanding and analyze and the emotional overexcitabilities are those intense feelings, complex emotions, empathy, and deep expression. Dubroski is imagination.

[00:21:36] Overexcitabilities refers to that imaginative play fantasy, the dreamers and the tendency for gifted kids to have imaginary friends.

[00:21:46]Now that intellectual overexcitabilities that desire to gain knowledge and search for understanding. Is actually mirrored in the research that GRO  have found in terms of that expanded brain areas dedicated to emotional intelligence. So there are brain areas essential for processing emotional information, they expanded and enhanced connectivity across those areas.

[00:22:11] This could account for that intense drive to satisfy that intellectual curiosity, the gifted brain uses that emotional information differently. Emotional information permeates all areas of intellectual functioning. They process through an emotional filter. So that frequency of heightened emotional responses, including depression and anxiety.

[00:22:40] There’s some suggestion in the research that both drive and anxiety may well be hardwired in the gifted brain. But as I said before, this is emerging research. So please don’t take away from this, that anyone who’s gifted will automatically have anxiety issues. I think it just suggests that this is something that we can look out for and provide some strategies and tools around if it becomes an issue.

[00:23:08]Grow does in their research. Talk about a body of research that explored the possible connections between anxiety, worry and intelligence, and found that verbal intelligence is a unique, positive predictor of worry and rumination severity. The potential for a link to be between that verbal intelligence and that tendency to worry and really think about things.

[00:23:36] So again, I think it’s an opportunity for us as parents, not to, not to worry, don’t worry, but to be prepared, and, and just be aware that, that tendency to worry that for anxiety. Could be an issue for our gifted child and to, to reach out, to get assistance and help when it’s needed, when we need help to build those strategies and tools for our kids to reach out to a professional, to a psychologist, to help us meet those needs.

[00:24:11]So the gifted brain and the sort of areas dedicated to emotional intelligence, , Also suggest this is where we get that intense demand for truth and justice, which is why gifted kids want schoolwork to mean something and gifted adults search for meaning there’s also this empathetic link to other studies showed deep capacity for empathy, even at an early age, also being hardwired.

[00:24:40]So our gifted kids may be more sensitive to the emotions in the room. They may read content above their emotional ability to handle it because of that. Asynchronicity, it may impact friendships and they may take it personal. They’ve got big emotions. So we’re going to need those tools and strategies to help us navigate, identify those emotions and learn to manage that emotional regulation.

[00:25:07] And I strongly suggest the help of a good psychologist who really gets gifted and neurodiversity when you need it and not to be afraid to reach out and to looking at the different options out there, uh, for, for help that you can get, if money is an issue. The gifted brain has this whole two-part learning thing going on. So what does that mean? It means the tendency to look at that big picture, but not yet the details. So it’s a child who sees those big issues through an emotional lens, but they’re having trouble breaking it down into emotionally manageable pieces.

[00:25:46] And this can lead to existential depression. And parents of gifted kids. Like you may already be familiar with this, but again, I think it’s good to be aware that this is a possibility. Uh, and, and should you see it unfolding? Understand? This can be typical of our gifted kids and, and to know, to reach out, to get assistance in those times where you might need assistance.

[00:26:16] So let’s dig into what that means a little bit better, and there’s this great quote, which I’ll read so Holt apart, learning describes the child who can understand large concepts, but does not have the underpinning concepts. For a child who sees bigger issues through a filter of exceptional empathy, the level of emotional intensity can become just too much to handle homelessness, climate change.

[00:26:43] And even the unfairness of being unheard, simply because as a child, they are not considered worth listening. May combine further with the inability to break these issues down into emotionally manageable pieces and thus lead back to that existential depression.

[00:27:03]So, um, gifted kids where they’re expanded brain areas, dedicated to emotional intelligence, experienced the whole world through this lens of empathy and emotion. It’s like filters through everything they do. You know, as an adult, if you’ve ever been told you’re too sensitive to emotional, we can just say, well, I’m gifted them because this is a part of the gifted brain.

[00:27:28] And it’s good to understand that because I think that they can be a superpower. Shouldn’t just be a weakness. I think that that then leads into that tendency for truth and justice and empathy for others. And I think those things are needed in the world.

[00:27:45]So they were the six different areas of the gifted brain that grow, have

[00:27:51]deduced from the research that they have done in terms of looking at all of the, the research on the gifted brain that is out there. So that was the increased regional brain volume. And we know that that relates to computing information, that greater connectivity across the brain regions. So that’s that relaying of information brain’s operating more efficiently and those expanded brain areas that respond more actively to challenge.

[00:28:21] So we’re talking there about being engaged. Yeah. Flow that flow overflowing into our bodies that need for challenge on a stage basis, uh, because his brain is, is one that, that works efficiently. That that, that flow working at high capacity as a coordinated unit, I think is a great visual

[00:28:45]and number five, that greatest sensory 17 sensitivity. So in, in real life, experiencing the world in a different way, and maybe that. You know, any of our senses, sound, touch, sight, smell all of these different senses being heightened. So we also have this expanded brain areas dedicated to that emotional intelligence.

[00:29:15] Meaning, we experience the world through that emotional lens. So it’s crucial to understand gifted as a result of a neurologically different brain through this understanding, we can more appropriately meet the needs of gifted kids and adults in education, healthcare, and psychology, and a big part of Grow’s mission is actually to ensure that.

[00:29:42] Gifted children, gifted adults are understood in all of the domains, whether it comes from the healthcare psychology or education that we understand that we take our brains with us into all of these different areas and this giftedness, and, you know, these impacts of this brain wiring needs to be understood in those contexts.

[00:30:07] 42 years ago, report to Congress in the USA, noted gifted children can suffer psychological damage and permanent impairment of their abilities to function well, which is equal or greater than the similar deprivation suffered by any other population with special needs. So to by the office of the educator, similarly, not that long ago in Australia.

[00:30:33]In a conversation we had recently on the podcast with Deb Newton about why parents chose a selective school for their gifted kids. We talked about gifted and talented students benefiting from rigorous relevant and engaging learning opportunities based on the Australian curriculum content. However, a review undertaken by a national Senate inquiry.

[00:30:58] In 2000, I code the results of a similar inquiry. 1998, affirming gifted children have special needs at school that many unknown having those needs met that many experience, underachievement, boredom, frustration, and psychological distress as a result. And that action was required.

[00:31:20]So we know this, and this is not new information. We have known it for some time and that additional information from grow around the brain, I think puts these things into context. And yet the majority of medical educational and psychological communities are not aware of how giftedness impacts a person’s overall health and wellbeing.

[00:31:46] The concept of giftedness is still limited to an understanding around achievement in education, but needs to be understood as a whole person experience this misunderstanding results in mistaken misdiagnosis, medicating, and pathologizing gift. Prescribing treatments that could and undermine the development of gifted children so we can do better.

[00:32:15] So instead let’s help them learn about flow. The way that their brain works at high capacity, as a coordinated unit, let’s help them learn about asynchronous development. Their brain will mature, but at different parts, diff develop at different times and different parts may have greater influence at different times.

[00:32:34] That giftedness includes both advantages and challenges. Let’s help them learn about managing emotional flow and intellectual excitement. That their bodies may mirror their minds in activity. They may learn quickly, but may need practice shifting from whole to part learning or into the uncomfortable space of not knowing, not being perfect.

[00:32:59] And that perfection is a hustle knowing when to go deep and complex and when to keep it simple. Has helped them learn about that rage to learn and it’s hardwired, but something we need to learn sometimes to moderate in life. The, our brains are wired to be challenged and how to find that sweet spot.

[00:33:25] Just feel their comfort zone throughout life. But the way they experienced the world is different and yes, you may hear taste, touch, smell, and see things distinctly differently. And this may be pleasurable or painful. You’re not imagining it. You’re not making it up. You’re a bit different.

[00:33:46]Let’s help them see that you see and experience the world through an emotional lens. You’re not too emotional. You’ll emotions are heightened and this can be a strength. You may need tools and strategies to help prevent your emotional experience of the world from developing into anxiety or depression.

[00:34:06] And these are things that we can all learn and implement, and everyone has bad days. So reach out when you need to and find your support network. Let’s help them learn to embrace your imagination as a source for great ideas. Be they scientific discovery or artistic creations strengthen this muscle, as it will provide inspiration in your life.

[00:34:32] Your deep empathy and sense of social justice can be a superpower. It’s okay to require a sense of meaning to your life and follow a path that holds value to you. And you’re not here to please others. Giftedness is who they are, not what they do. For example, they are not mathematically gifted, but mathematically inclined gifted children.

[00:34:55]Some of those, the last bits were my thoughts. I just realized I should probably make that clear. Uh, so in our conversation today, I have talked a lot about the research of grow and about the brain and ended on a note there. And some of the things that I think we can take away from that as a public nonprofit grow depends entirely on donations to complete its mission.

[00:35:22] The folk at grow are just super lovely, and I look forward to diving deeper into this topic in future podcasts with them and continue to share this crucial information about gifted. To find out more, there are direct links to the articles and grow in the show notes, as well as a series of videos I’ve recorded that talks about their research in more depth.

[00:35:44] If you like videos all free online, it’s really important that we get our heads around this and like grow. I agree with this understanding that giftedness is actually in neurological. Qualitatively different lived experience. I think we can all learn better. And ideally we have a world where we’re not looking for a doctor or a psychologist who gets gifted.

[00:36:13] It’ll just be everyone gets it. Everyone knows that whether you’re at school, you’re getting counseling. Or your seeing your GP, that the way your brain is wired is going to impact the way you experience the world and the help that you need and the support that you need and the understanding that you need.

[00:36:36] So thank you for listening today.

[00:36:39]Please check out the, our gifted kids website for more details on this podcast. And I look forward to seeing you again in a couple of weeks with a podcast that we have from Dr. Alan Thompson on intuition and giftedness. So there’s a little teaser, a little sneak peek. Thank you very much. And from our gifted kids, we will talk with you again soon.

[00:37:05] Bye.


#026 Creating Agency (and getting your kids to tidy their room)

#026 Creating Agency (and getting your kids to tidy their room)

We’re excited to be talking to Julie Skolnick today about 2E, giftedness, what is creating agency for your children, how and why you should!

Julie gives us heaps of tips that will help with validation, expectations, focusing on strengths, discussing why we do things, executive function and more!

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“How many people out there think that they’re the frontal lobe for their kids? You’re the one who sets up all the stuff. The checklist, the double checks, the making sure the do this, do that. That’s not agency. That’s taking agency actually away. The opposite of that is agency where the child actually is doing the stuff for themselves, that they’re making the decisions for themselves. And sometimes that’s super scary for parents of gifted and 2E kids… “ – Julie Skolnick



Julie Skolnick, M.A., J.D., Founder of With Understanding Comes Calm, LLC, passionately guides parents of gifted and distractible children, mentors 2e adults, trains educators and advises professionals on how to bring out the best and raise self-confidence in their 2e students and clients.

Julie serves as Secretary to the Maryland Superintendent’s Gifted and Talented Advisory Council, is an advisor for the Masters of Education Program for the Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity, is the Maryland liaison for Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), is a Committee member for the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and serves as an advisor to “The G Word” feature documentary currently in production.

A frequent speaker and prolific writer, Julie is also the mother of three twice exceptional children who keep her on her toes and uproariously laughing.

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Sophia Elliott: Good morning. Welcome to this week’s podcast. I am absolutely delighted to introduce Julie Skolnick who has made it, her life’s work to improve the lives of twice exceptional children. Julie welcome. I’m really excited that you’re here with us today. Thank you.

[00:00:17] Julie Skolnick: Thank you. It’s a delight to be here.

[00:00:20] Thanks for having me

[00:00:22] Sophia Elliott: wonderful. And I thought we, we have talked about 2E on the podcast before, but it’s one of those things like giftedness that people do have different understandings of. So I did think it might be nice just to start today with a quick. What’s your take on 2E  and giftedness. And having said that appreciating the fact that you could probably spend a day talking about that.

[00:00:49]Twenty-five words or less is quite a stretch, but let’s start there. So the work you do is very  2E based. What’s 2E .

[00:01:00]Julie Skolnick: And I appreciate that you pulled them apart, Sophia, that you said 2E  and gifted because I, when I started way back, when about eight years ago, I was referring to the population of gifted and distractible, trying to cast my net quite widely.

[00:01:17] And. It was funny. Cause most people scratch their head and say what does distractible mean? And to me, that’s the well-defined learning differences, learning disabilities, anywhere from dyslexia, dysgraphia to high functioning, autism working memory processing, speed challenges, auditory processing. There’s just so many and they’re well-researched, and there’s lots of interventions.

[00:01:40] And not that everybody, he knows how to do them or how to do them well or how to do them for a two week person. But I felt like the distractible part. That was probably more research, more understood, particularly by educators. Whereas the gifted piece, if you walked out on the street for you and Australia, me here in the United States in Maryland, and you said, Hey, what does gifted mean?

[00:02:02] You’re probably going to get actually the exact same answer, which is going to be smart. Bright potential high achiever, hard worker. And that’s, a teeny tiny part. Yes. That is part of the gift. You might say. That’s the gift and giftedness, but really the way that I define gifted is based on the Columbus group definition of giftedness and I’ve taken from that.

[00:02:25] And created what I called the chocolate layer cake of giftedness. Oh yeah, I know. Maybe I don’t mean to make you hungry, but the frosting part is that thin layer, but it’s above around in between all the layers and that’s that gift and giftedness, that’s that quote smart part. Then you have these three layers for three characteristics, asynchronous development, perfectionism.

[00:02:48] I actually call that a characteristic of gifted. The other side of which can be anxiety. And compare, combine that with your asynchronous development, right? And then intensities are what’s known and gifted parlance is overexcitabilities and that’s a term of art, but the quick, not so much 25 words or less, but as short as I can make it, those three layers plus the frosting that makes up the gifted plus the second exceptionality in there.

[00:03:14] And let’s not forget3E  which is really taking into account cultural, diversity, cultural, and economic.

[00:03:22] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And we had a conversation with Dr. Matt Zakreski last week’s podcast. Yeah. He’s awesome. About sexuality and gender. And so there’s also two other which are all just, I think, lovely ways to provide some understanding of the many representations of, or potential representations of giftedness. It’s like you say, it’s not just smart, there’s so much more to it. And I love that within your definition, you’re including those overexcitabilities and perfectionism and asynchronous development,.

[00:03:59] Julie Skolnick: And of course there are different levels of giftedness too. We have gifted, highly gifted and profoundly gifted.

[00:04:04] And frankly, we know research and best practices dictate that you differentiate within a self-contained gifted program for those different levels of giftedness, they can be so different. So there’s also the ability to compensate, right? There’s the ability to figure out what you need and to reign it in.

[00:04:20]And I hate to say it, but be what people expect you to be. And that’s not by any means what I think people should do, but yeah, for sure. But I will tell you this. I am known for my positive reframing. I call positive reframe all day long for clients and educators. And what I’m going to say is that 2E children are born. As these supernovas, right? They are bright and they are big and they come into the world and they make a big splash and they’re really vulnerable.

[00:04:53] And they’re really sensitive, really am pest empathetic. And the world keeps telling them be less of yourself. And finally, especially in adolescents, they’re like, I gotta be less than myself. You have to be less of who you are organically. And the way I think about it is it’s layers and layers, almost like a dungeon door being built brick by brick, by all of those environments that just can’t adjust or people, the grownups who are in those situations and refuse to adjust the environment.

[00:05:24] And we work so hard. I worked so hard with parents. I work with professionals, schools, and wilderness programs to try to actually. Clear away that dust or find the key to unlock that dungeon door to let the true person come out again. And unfortunately I see this over and over again with 2E kids   the cycle is the same.

[00:05:47] You come into this world and you’re like this, so cool. Oh my God. Parents are like, can you believe? He just said, did whatever that wow. And then the world starts saying stop doing all those things. And then the kid internalizes that, and then the kid loses self-confidence and then the kid starts to try to be something they’re not.

[00:06:07] And it’s really interesting that you brought up gender sexuality. There’s a lot of research done on cross sections of all these different differences. The other side are either end of the bell curve. And there’s a huge intersection with giftedness. And what does that tell us, like how cool is different differences?

[00:06:28] So cool.

More Transcript Here

[00:06:29] Sophia Elliott: A hundred percent. Yeah. I, and I couldn’t agree more. We get these amazing little people with these amazing little brains, and then we spend the next 10, 20 years. Trying to fit them into a box and tell them to be less. Yeah. And even worse than that, that they’re broken and then they should be less.

[00:06:51] And I love everything that I read and see. And everyone who works with that strength based model of actually let’s not focus on the deficit. Yes. We need to support that and put in. Strategies and scaffolding and whatever that needs, but let’s focus on the strengths and build them up.

[00:07:16] Julie Skolnick: Truth. Be told the typical, at least in the states, we are a diagnose and fix model, that medical model of diagnose and fix.

[00:07:23] And so you’re often told. I’d love for him to be able to join that club. I’d love for him to be able to have that enrichment opportunity. I’d love for him to be able to be the leader of that thing. But until we get his behavior under control, he really can’t. And the truth is it’s the opposite.

[00:07:39] Give them the enrichment, give them the leadership opportunity, give them that passion place and the behavior will go away.

[00:07:47]Sophia Elliott:  I see that all the time with kids who go to school with my kids, where they’re getting that strength based focus, suddenly there are no behavior issues very quickly.

[00:07:57] There are no behavior issues because they’re being met where they needed to be met. And it kills me when you hear that argument of we’re not going to give this child this. Enrichment until they can demonstrate that they’ve done this until they’re a good boy or a good girl, it’s oh, I’m not going to get the good boy or the good girl, if they’re frustrated as hell.

[00:08:17] What does

[00:08:17] Julie Skolnick: that even mean? Yes,

[00:08:19] Sophia Elliott: totally.  What I did want to talk with you today about is moving along to what it is to. Encourage our children to have a sense of agency. And so when we talk about agency, we’re talking about. Feeling as though we’re in charge and having some control or say over things, would that be right?

[00:08:48] Julie Skolnick: Yeah. I think when we talk about agency, we’re saying that, okay, so first of all, let’s back up, right? Yeah. How many people out there think that they’re the frontal lobe for their kids?

[00:09:01] You’re the one who sets up all the stuff. The checklist, the double checks, the making sure the do this, do that. Why? All that stuff, right? That’s not agency. That’s taking agency actually away. The opposite of that is agency where the child actually is doing the stuff for themselves, that they’re making the decisions for themselves.

[00:09:21] And sometimes that’s super scary for parents of gifted and 2E kids  cause maybe they’re scattered right. Maybe they have this diagnosis of ADHD. And so focus is hard and attention is hard. And when you were talking about strength-based, I was actually thinking about, in that school that your kids are luckily lucky enough to be in my guess, is executive functioning is being learned through strength.

[00:09:43] So that again is agency, right? Let me give you this writing assignment that you hate. And that’s really hard because you have a writing written expression challenge versus, Hey, you. Absolutely loves snakes. Can you write me all the different snakes that you know, that’s going to be like unbelievable.

[00:10:04]So that is a way of creating it. So one way of creating agency is to use passions and strengths to teach skills. Okay. So that’s one way of creating too, another way of creating agency. And this is at home, but teachers could do this too. And that is instead of telling, instead of teaching, actually asking questions.

[00:10:28] So a child comes home and they’re frustrated about something that happened. We could be a social, emotional thing on the playground. It could be, for older kids in the hallway, it could be something in school that just was a bummer. Instead of saying, so let’s take social emotional, kids on the playground somebody’s mean to them.

[00:10:51] And instead of saying, oh, they’re just jealous. You’re so smart. Or, oh, that person is so nice or yeah, maybe you should just shouldn’t play with them. Or did you try to talk to the teacher or any of those things where we try to solve the problem. Which we all go from his parents and by the way, I parents, three kids. We all go there as parents because we want to save our children and we want them to not feel hurt. We want them to be happy. So it all comes from a really good place. But if, instead of doing those things, first of all, we validate and say, wow, that probably didn’t feel so great. Hard stop that opens up space for them to be able to actually share their feelings.

[00:11:30] Because when we try to solve a problem, it’s actually telling them, we don’t think you can solve your problem. So first we have to validate the feelings and then we ask questions like, jeez, what do you wish happened? If you could go back, how would you do something? How would you do that different?

[00:11:47] What do you think you would have? What do you wish you did? How do you think you could handle that differently? How would you advise your little sibling or your friend to deal with that? So we’re trying to actually get them to solve their problem. And this gives them agency because they learn.

[00:12:04] Through talking about it, what to do. It’s super hard guys, because we want to solve our kids’ problems because we’re grown-ups and we’ve been around the block and we see from a to Z really quickly, and we make a whole bunch of assumptions. And what that does is actually take  away agency . Yeah. Making space feelings and asking questions really allows me.

[00:12:27] Creating agency. And then I also talked to clients about setting create, we do an exercise talking about expectations. What are your expectations for your kids? You guys are thinking about it in your head right now, right? Is it that they make their bed? Is it that they brush their teeth?

[00:12:42] Is it that they get dressed? Is it that they come downstairs? Is it that they sit at the table for dinner? Is it that they, what are your, that they do their homework, but they do their homework by certain time that they’re on screens, but they get off screens . What are the expectations?

[00:12:54] So whenever I do this exercise with parents, the first thing we realized. Is, they might have the expectations in their head, but it might not be really clear to their kids. What the expectations are or the expectation might be clean your room. I’m sorry, but I don’t know  a 2E  kid who can clean their room without very specific instructions of look at your floor.

[00:13:18] And take all your books off your floor and put them in the bookshelf. Come tell me when that’s done. And then the next thing right now, you might be thinking, but wait, Julie, you just told us to create agency, right? So there’s agency within different realms. If your child has executive functioning challenges, if your child has a focus and attention challenges, then for these very specific expectations, a you need to make sure they’re clear, concise, and consistent.

[00:13:48] And B that they totally understand what that what’s meant to do. And we talk about it that way. What are a responsibilities? What are B privileges and what are C expectations around those privileges and responsibilities. And then the last and very important step is once you go through that process what are the consequences?

[00:14:14] If you don’t meet. The expectations around those responsibilities and privileges and the child. This is creating agency determines what the consequences. So an example, screen time. Oh my gosh. Screen time, everybody in the pandemic screen time has increased expo. So first we have to say, okay, you have certain responsibilities, whatever those are.

[00:14:41] And screen time is a privilege. The expectations around the privilege are that the responsibilities will be done first, that when I ask you to get off of your screen time, you’ll get off immediately. That it’s for a certain amount of time, those are all the expectations. Those are some expectations that you won’t be on an inappropriate site.

[00:15:04] That you won’t be giving your information out to people, like those are all the expectations around that privilege of screen time. And then what’s the consequence, and you have that conversation with your children. You actually ask them to help you understand what’s expected what they think expectations should be.

[00:15:19] And then the question is, okay, so what’s the consequences. If you don’t meet them. The logical consequences left less or no screen time devices taken away, whatever it is, but the child has to come up with that and maybe they’ll come up with something different and even more creative. And that’s even harder on them.

[00:15:35] Very often that happens. And now you’ve created agency you’ve created, buy-in where the child really understands B has solved the problem. And now we’re going to be able to move forward with that very specific expectation around that. Responsibility or privilege. Does that make sense?

[00:15:55] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah, totally.

[00:15:56] So it’s starting off very much around being a validation. So just acknowledging the way that your child feels. So just. It must have felt really hard to experience that today and opening that space up for them to tell you about the event and process it in that way, rather than just jumping in there with solving those problems.

[00:16:25]And I really like the cleaning the room example because I’ve certainly had this moment myself. And something that I came across in the Montessori philosophy really early with my kids, went to Montessori toddler, class and preschool. And it was that idea that  encourages kids to be independent, but it also has this very structured way of teaching children.

[00:16:49] And it’s all about not assuming any knowledge, but. Laying out the steps very deliberately. So it would be like, it’s not go clean your room. First of all, it’s this is what cleaning your room looks like. And and I do this with one of my kids in particular, who just is a hurricane in the bedroom.

[00:17:12]If we can see any floor that’s a good day. And. And it’s not that child is messy or it’s just I just see it as a complete lack of being able to manage that space. And so they need that extra help. And so it’s very much okay. We’re going to clean the room today. Would you like me to help?

[00:17:31] Yes. Okay. And I stepped through that site. Okay. What I like to do is I get the biggest things first. So let’s pull your bedspread off and like you say, The books has lots of books, let’s pick them up. And we do, we step through that and I verbalize that as I do it so that they learning how to clean a room.

[00:17:51] And it’s the is it Marie? Who does the it’s minimalist stuff, but it’s, she’s very much, I watched a documentary on her and she, as a teenager interestingly. Went in search for this perfect way to organize a house and then put things away and tidy. And if you think about, your wardrobe at home, if you say to your kids, go put your laundry away.

[00:18:23]What does that mean? Go put your laundry away. And she has this very methodical. It’ll really appeal to a lot of people. It’s like you roll your socks in this particular way, because it looks after the socks and okay. But

[00:18:36] Julie Skolnick: what that’s lacking is the idea of  2E  people are very different. So if you talk to Susan bounds, She’s going to tell you that pilers  and there’s filers.

[00:18:44] That’s what she calls them. And so if you are a filer mama parenting, a piler child, or married to a piler, there’s a big difference between linear and what’s you’re calling hurricane. And so now what we have to do is go to the why, which is why I talk about expectations, being clear, concise, and consistent because our 2E  kids will not have buy-in unless they understand why.

[00:19:09] So why does it matter that their stuff’s not on the floor? Yeah. And giving that reason because they probably can find whatever they need or maybe not, but they don’t care. It doesn’t bother them. It’s certainly, there’s the mamas many mamas who are trying to either, back you meet or not have, critters come in to the bedroom or, leftover food and God only knows what else is under there.

[00:19:34]But so now we have to incorporate for them how we can make this okay. For them as opposed to. Putting our needs on top of how they, I try really hard to make my kids space their own. Yeah. So that might mean closing their door.

[00:19:51] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, totally. And I’m not in any way suggesting that everyone go home and Marie Kondo their kids because I couldn’t do that.

[00:19:58] I, if you look at my cupboard. I aspire to folding, but I can’t I just it’s beyond my capabilities. So I have no expectations of that as for my children. And I agree it’s very much respecting who they are and who you are as well, but trying to find that balance.

[00:20:17] Julie Skolnick: Yeah. And that teaches them actually, how to advocate for themselves.

[00:20:20]The advocacy piece comes into this agency and giving them the chance to tell you why it’s okay and why it’s not okay. You to tell them when it’s not okay. Them to tell you why it’s okay. And come someplace in the middle.

[00:20:34] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely.

[00:20:35]Julie Skolnick: We’ve,

[00:20:36] Sophia Elliott: I, I dunno if this is just  us or , your typical household with gifted kids, but we do a lot of talking about the why  we always have, with my first, I found very early on that if I explained why, this is a safety issue.

[00:20:53] This is why I’m asking you to do this or not to do this, or we need to do this so we can do that. He was always very reasonable and that worked, as a parenting tool. So we’ve definitely carried that through their other kids. And it’s a big part of, the way that we communicate when we’re asking stuff of our kids and yeah, I just find that works amazingly

[00:21:19] Julie Skolnick: and it’s really, so many people are frustrated by the, all the why’s, but it’s actually.

[00:21:26] Goes towards executive functioning it’s goal setting. If you understand why then oh, the goal is to meet that reason. Yeah. Think of it. So

[00:21:36] Sophia Elliott: tell us a little bit about what is executive functioning for parents who haven’t come across that term yet.

[00:21:43] Julie Skolnick: Okay. Sure. So executive function functioning, if you think about it, as, your brain as the CEO.

[00:21:51] It’s the one making all the cool creative decisions, but then how do we actually implement, how do we organize, prioritize start, continue through boring tasks to get to the other side, to get to that goal. So it’s really regulating our it regulates our emotion, our mood, and our attention. That’s what executive functioning is.

[00:22:17] And. Very often gifted and for sure 2E kids have executive functioning challenges. And part of that is because they’re crunching more data. So when I hear, for instance, slow processing speed. I never use that term. I’ll say deeper processing speed because what’s happening is take a computer that’s crunching X data.

[00:22:37] Take your gifted 2E  computer and it’s crunching X plus X plus X data. It’s going to take longer. Yeah. So it’s also going to be harder to organize. It’s going to affect working memory, right? So executive functioning is all that organizational that you think about, but executive functioning is also imperative to social success.

[00:23:03] How do I know what to say when not to say it, who to talk to first and who, especially in a group situation, somebody said this, somebody else said that and who do I answer first? And who do I look at? How do I look at them? That’s all executive functioning. So it really regulates our attention, our mood and our emotions.

[00:23:23] You think about it, if your CEO is the brain right. And making all these decisions, all the cool creative ideas the executive functioning is like the executive assistant. It makes it schedules. It makes sure you’re there on time. It’s and that’s executive function

[00:23:39] Sophia Elliott: and a lot of 2E  kids and gifted kids really struggle in that regard.

[00:23:43] So it’s important to acknowledge. As we’re sending them off to do different tasks or have different expectations, that can be a very real challenge.

[00:23:54] Julie Skolnick: Agency comes in there because we’re going to ask them to solve their problems. How can we organize this? How can, when do you have to be there tomorrow?

[00:24:01] How can you make sure that you wake up? Do you want to eat at school while you do? Okay. So how will you make that happen? Okay, so let’s talk about what kind of food that you need. You need a pro, so you need a protein, you need a fruit, you need a vegetable and let them  affectuate .

[00:24:20] Now again, if you’re using strengths for instance, if you’ve got an adolescent and their executive functioning is very challenged, I promise you their music is organized impeccably. They’ve got it by genre. They’ve got it by mood. They’ve got a playlist for walking the dog. They’ve got a playlist for when they’re mad at mom, they’ve got to play it right.

[00:24:45] And they do that, all that by themselves. An avid reader knows exactly how they’ve organized their books on their shelf. There’s certain things. And so then we need to extrapolate from those strength based experiences into the boring stuff, like writing a paper, how you’re organized your music and how you have liked the general stuff you really love.

[00:25:06] That’s like your introductory paragraph, and to extrapolate and use what they’ve actually already done to show them how to. Put it onto something that’s less interesting

[00:25:16] Sophia Elliott: and show them that they have the skills, they can do it. And yeah, and I think there’s a lot of power in showing someone that, with examples that they’ve already done, this it’s just, to just in a different way.

[00:25:33] And I a scenario that comes to mind, one of my children. Is really good with the skateboard, just a natural. And my others are, taking it out but assumed that they could do that the other child was doing because they could do it and went down this rather large ramp, which was way too big for them.

[00:25:57] And of course, inevitably fell off an ordinarily. That would have been the end of that because. Not being able to do something is very unusual for that child and the perfectionist. And that would have just been the end, but managed to work through it. And we’re at the skate park and they’re saying, I just, I can’t really, I can’t do this.

[00:26:21] And I said it’s all just physics, right? Yeah, the physics kit, isn’t this all just physics. Like what laws have we got going on here? And they thought about that for a minute. And they’re like, oh, that would be the third lore of start, five minutes about the physics of skateboarding and happily

[00:26:39] Julie Skolnick: hopped on the scale of reframe.

[00:26:41] Great reframe. Yeah.

[00:26:43] Sophia Elliott: Yep. Yep. Because that’s, that was the language and it’s doing great now. So that was a nice parenting moment. Not that they’re all like that, but they’re good when they come

[00:26:53] Julie Skolnick: together. Yeah. You

[00:26:58] Sophia Elliott: okay. So the importance of helping our children create agency, because I feel like what’s at the heart of this is very much, how we started off this conversation is that they have these amazing brains.

[00:27:11] They’re these awesome little people and, and so two of my kids are 2E  as well. And. That additional layers of quirkiness that comes with the 2E-ness is something that we really want them to keep a tight hold on to, into adulthood because the world needs more quirky, different people living in there and in the, being who they are and looking at the world differently and coming out with different ideas.

[00:27:44] And so I feel like. This process of helping them to create agency as a young person, as a child is going to really provide those skills as an adult to continue to have agency over themselves and advocate for themselves in adulthood and is really setting them up with some key skills for life.

[00:28:04] Julie Skolnick: For sure.

[00:28:05] And you feel good. You feel better when you’re in charge when you make decisions. And it’s a great way to learn that when you make mistakes that’s a really long lasting lesson. That it’s a good thing, but if you don’t have agencies, so you never make mistakes, it then becomes really hard to make mistakes because of perfectionistic.

[00:28:24] Gifted person really opens you up for yeah. Different experiences and to rely on yourself at the end of the day. And this can start very teeny, tiny, when the child’s getting dressed. Okay, you got to pick a pants and the shirt or what do you have to pick? What are the things, what are the items you have to wear?

[00:28:46] Okay. What are you going to put on first? Why. Yeah. And let them start thinking about those things.

[00:28:52] Sophia Elliott: A lot of, Hey, Google, what’s the weather today and cause it’s never the same. It’s, one week to the next it’s hot or freezing or whatever. And so yeah, a lot of, Hey, Google, what’s the weather today before they figure out what they going to wear and.

[00:29:10] And I try and convince them to put a jumper on because it’s eight degrees and we had a conversation but they’d certainly have agency and say I’m taking the jumper off later mum. And guess what

[00:29:21] Julie Skolnick: if they went to school without a jumper, which I’m guessing is a coat. Yeah. I guess they would learn.

[00:29:31] Absolutely. And that’s creating agency

[00:29:34] Sophia Elliott: so permission to not fight over the coat or jumper and let them learn the lesson.

[00:29:40] Julie Skolnick: Yup, absolutely. That’s a good one. And never forget it again.

[00:29:49]Who’s loving nagging right now. Not what any of us wanted to do.

[00:29:53] Sophia Elliott: No, I didn’t sign up for anything. Absolutely not. Julie, I just, I love that this has been so very practical tips in that for parents and ideas. And I know that you do a lot of work with parents and teachers and  you’ve got a couple of different websites that people can check out.

[00:30:12]We’ve got with understanding comes calm.com. Let’s talk  2E .com  and 2E resources.com. So tell us what we can find each one of those. Of course, I’ll put all of this in the show notes as well, make it easy for people to find.

[00:30:27] Julie Skolnick: Great. Thank you for asking. So with understanding comes calm.com, which by the way, is the God’s honest truth with understanding comes calm..

[00:30:37] So that’s why I’m called what I’m called that you can think of is like the umbrella. Organization. And that’s really where I do my consulting. I consult with parents all over the world. I have some great, wonderful clients in Australia, and I love working with parents. I love working with teachers and actually also too, we adults.

[00:30:59] So I mentor two, we adults as well. And this is something that I do one-on-one or one-on-two, if there’s a couple that I’m working with as parents or as adults. And then also under with understanding comes calm, comes all of my speaking that I do and all of the podcasts that I’m interviewed on and all of the videos that I create as far as when I go out and I’m talking with them.

[00:31:23] People at conferences, as well as my newsletter, which is free called gifted and distractable. So all of that you can think of as is under with understanding comes calm, then we have let’s talk to we.com, which you can still also get to through the, with understanding comes calm.com site, but let’s talk to each.com is really the place where I produce conferences.

[00:31:43] I’ve been producing virtual conferences. Since 2018, sometimes they’re for parents, sometimes they’re for teachers. And guess what? In November of 2021, I will be launching my first adult conference, which is going to be awesome, including some of the topics you’ve already brought up, which is sex and bringing up gender differences and the cross section of gifted, but lots of stuff for adults.

[00:32:06]And then I also have a community under let’s talk 2 E . So I do parent empowerment groups, their nine week courses. And they include live webinars and Q and A’s from me as well as community building. So parents from all over the world come together. It’s really beautiful. The support and the, oh my God.

[00:32:24] I finally feel understood. And there’s like the veterans. And then there’s the newbies. And everybody learns from everybody. And I always have an awesome guest who comes on for the ninth week. And then 2E resources.com was a dream of mine. I’ve had that URL for five years, but it just launched.

[00:32:41] Almost not quite a year ago and you can go there for free to E resources.com. And please do, because you can find a ton of  2E resources from all over the world. And it’s organized in five categories, education, clinicians, consultants, associations, and enrichment, and that’s a listing place of lots and lots of different  2E  resources.

[00:33:02]Check it out. And if wonderful  2E  resources, please connect them with us. We even have a coordinator who just handles that for us. So that’s everything. And then all over social media. So with understanding comes calm has its own Facebook group. And then we have a teacher’s lounge. Let’s talk to the teacher’s lounge.

[00:33:20] Let’s talk to the parents and the new let’s talk to we adults as well as everywhere on. Any social media channel, where you are. And we post all sorts of great stuff, articles, information events on our social media. So please like us join us. We’d love to.

[00:33:37]Sophia Elliott: That sounds amazing. What a wealth of resources there for everyone and, at the end of the day I think the more community we have around us, the better and the more people we can lean on resources we can get access to as parents helps us feel like we’re not alone.

[00:33:54] Now, this actually, there’s a whole bunch of folk out there going through very similar challenges and a whole bunch of folk with lots of great answers and ideas for us as well. Also love that in November, you’re doing the adult conference and it was in our last quick chat that we had with that very Sage reminder that if you have 2E  children, there’s a good chance.

[00:34:18] You have a 2E  parents, let’s be real. If you have a gifted kid, there’s a good chance you have gifted parents. Yeah. And I think, and I find. That journey often comes a couple of years after you figure stuff out for your kids. He’s

[00:34:34] Julie Skolnick: not

[00:34:34] Sophia Elliott: funny. Yeah. Isn’t that funny?

[00:34:38] Julie Skolnick: Who would have thought?

[00:34:40] Because I have adult clients from 18 years old to 70 something and the 70 something just found out. Yeah. Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that insane? Bravo for him. And it’s, it informs sometimes we will reach out and I have different sort of intakes for adults versus parents.

[00:35:04] And sometimes they’re like what if it’s like the adults as well? I do have 2E , we do everything. You can’t, you don’t separate, it’s important. All of this affects you. So if you have a, if your kid has an over excitability, you probably have. And and it’s usually more than one overexcitabilities right.

[00:35:20] So we have to think about, and there’s so many aha moments and emotion. Regulation is always a part of what we talk about, because again, the world is just not made up for this incredibly fine tuned, very strong antenna out there in the world called the 2E  person. Yeah.

[00:35:40]Sophia Elliott: And I’ll bet for that 70 year old, that sense of relief and a huh was no less than, oh yeah.

[00:35:50] Like you’re 18, 20 year old. I can imagine that it came as a huge relief and just epiphany for that person.

[00:36:00] Julie Skolnick: So people always ask me, is it too late? And it’s never ever too late. It’s never too late.

[00:36:08] Sophia Elliott: Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us today. That was a wonderful episode and really great to talk about that sense of agency and validation, those tips for parents.

[00:36:19] So thank you really appreciate it.

[00:36:22] Julie Skolnick: Pleasure. Thank you for having me. What a great podcast you have. Really. I’m sure. Helping so many people all over the world.

[00:36:29]Sophia Elliott:  Thank you. Do appreciate that.



#025 Why Would Parents Choose a Selective Gifted School?

#025 Why Would Parents Choose a Selective Gifted School?

Why would a parent choose a selective school? That’s what we talk about with Deb Nurton in this week’s podcast.

After reflecting on the intense effort required to navigate the education system for her academically gifted children, Deb returned to university to explore the current thinking in this field. Her research investigated the reasons why parents chose to enrol their gifted children in a selective school.

Deb now runs Nurture Connect, a service offering support and practical advice to gain positive outcomes for students and families.

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“They had all started out their children at mainstream, so they did know how mainstream worked for their child and each one of them had decided that they needed something different.

They all found that their child was actually underperforming. There were school absences. One parent couldn’t get her child to school previously. One child was made to repeat year one which is crazy. There was disruptive behaviour. One child would do their work in the morning and then nap in the afternoon. And children were disengaged. When they chose, so they were really looking for something, they had really unhappy children and they were feeling quite traumatized themselves.” – Deb Nurton

“I was surprised at the lengths that parents had gone to. I don’t know that school is the local school for any of the parents that I interviewed. Obviously, it’s closer for some parents than others. The one thing that did surprise me was that parents were traumatized by their experiences. And in fact, what that did for me was made me remember my traumatic experiences.” – Deb Nurton

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For more episodes, you can subscribe and to help others find our podcast please leave a review.

You can find show notes and more resources at www.ourgiftedkids.com

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Check out this episode!


Sophia Elliott: Good morning, Deb. It’s wonderful to have you on the podcast this morning. 

[00:00:04] Deb Nurton: It’s very lovely to be here.

[00:00:06]Sophia Elliott:  I’m really excited to be talking about your research this morning. So perhaps we can dive on in there and you can tell us what motivated you to conduct research within the sort of gifted education and what was your research about.

[00:00:24] Deb Nurton: Okay. I am the parent of two highly gifted children and so I went through their schooling experiences and I found that my experiences were quite different to my friends’ experiences. And the parents of my children’s friends they were a lot more laid back and I tended to be a lot more questioning of why they were underperforming or why they were unhappy or why the teachers didn’t understand.

[00:00:53]And so I had done my own research over the years. And then I decided that I would like to go back once I had got them a fair way through school. And and just have a look at, , what were the main policies and methods of.  Gifted education. And and our best experiences were teachers that ran respectful classrooms and that differentiated the work, but that everybody in the classroom felt that they were important.

[00:01:22]And , once we got to the selective high school things got a lot more manageable at that stage, but there was a lot of teachers not actually understanding what was going on for my children. So I looked into doing honors in giftedness and I was offered a research project looking into why parents chose a a selective school for gifted children.

[00:01:45] So a selective school is one where children are selected on the basis of. Of of their giftedness in this instance. And yeah, so that really interested me. And so that’s where I did my research.

[00:02:00] Sophia Elliott: Very interesting. And it was lovely to read your paper and I noted as well. I’ll just I’ve got a few bits to read if you don’t mind.

[00:02:12] And the first bit that really took me, not by surprise, because I think, I feel like I’m living this experience, but nonetheless is a bit shocking. And I’ll just read this bit out. You talk about. A review undertaken by a national Senate inquiry in 2000. So this is here in Australia, echoed the results of a similar inquiry in 1988, by the parliament of Australia, affirming that gifted children have a special needs at school that many are not having those needs met that many experience, underachievement boredom  and frustration and psychological distress as a result, an action was required.

[00:02:53] And then 10 years later, we have some researchers, Jarvis and Henderson saying that schools and they’re talking about south Australia in particular are not mandated to identify or provide specific educational provisions for gifted students. And teachers are not required to undertake specific preparation in this area.

[00:03:13] So that says to me, we’ve known at the highest levels of government for a long time, that gifted kids require. And in their words, special needs at school. And the sort of acknowledgement that we’ve really failed to do that, which it’s kind of

[00:03:29] Deb Nurton: sad, isn’t it?

[00:03:30]Sophia Elliott: it’s incredibly sad and it’s a shock to see it in black and white, in a national Senate’s, report time.

[00:03:38] And again not even like just once, but repeatedly to think that we haven’t managed to lift our game in all those years. So thank you for doing some research, and contributing to our knowledge around this area. And and so you, your research was around why parents chose a selective school for their children 

[00:04:00] Deb Nurton: if I can just go back a moment and say that I think it being the parent of a gifted child, especially if we’re talking about somebody who’s highly gifted then it’s it’s quite an isolating experience.

[00:04:15] So if that, if your child is on the 95th, 96, 97, 99th percentile what that means is there’s not very many of them around. And we go through parenting our children through school thinking thinking. What’s wrong here. What’s why aren’t the teachers taking any notice of what I’m saying?

[00:04:38]Why is that child picking on my child? And I think that it’s very isolating and like you, when I started to see this sort of thing in black and white, that there had been a Senate inquiry in 2000 and that had, that came after the 1988 one.

[00:04:57]I felt I became quite distressed about that because what I felt was I was expending a lot of effort as a parent, trying to fix something that they had known about. For decades. And and so I think that it’s, it is very isolating being a parent. And there’s not really if your children need a  selective school and there is not one available, then you’re always always doing half measures.

[00:05:28]Then you’re always running the roulette of, what happens this year? Will my child have a teacher who understands this year? And then, so you get through that year and you’ve got a great teacher and then what happens the next year, so that there’s not a great deal of like gift gifted giftedness is not a mandatory pat of of a teaching degree.

[00:05:49] Sometimes it there’s an elective where you can do an elective on giftedness or sometimes giftedness is it might be, two weeks or four weeks in, in another bigger module, which, might be about differentiation or it might be about inclusive classrooms   .

[00:06:05]Some teachers and especially there was one parent in my research who reported that the teacher had tried really hard to help her child, but the child was so far advanced that there was no help. For that child  even with early entry into our reception classroom, because reception is supposed to be you get children used to school and used to the, the work and the structure of the day and you teach them the alphabet.

[00:06:35] You make sure they know the alphabet. You make sure that they know their numbers. And if a child intersts school reading. Now I know also reception does teach reading as well, the basics of reading, but if your child is already reading well ahead and already knows their numbers, and is actually manipulating numbers, if they’re doing, plus and minus and division if they know Roman numerals if they are really interested in that or in science, then, if they’re talking about, w number of what the parents in my research talked about, their children being interested in high level science already beyond what most adults are even able to conceptualize.

[00:07:15] So if you have a child like that, entering reception, even if they have been given early entry, which is up to a year then you’re gone to be. Struggling that child is going to be wondering what’s going on. They’ve been doing a lot of independent learning and suddenly they’re in an environment which often they’ve been promised is going to be exciting because we all think that about our children, when they start school, that it’s going to be exciting.

[00:07:41] It’s going to be other children to play with. You’re going to learn some great stuff. And the children are suddenly, wondering what’s going on in their life. Now at the selective school, what they do is they do offer early entry, but it’s early entry into grade one.

[00:07:58] So it’s not early entry into reception where you’re covering the basics. It’s early entry into grade one where there’s a little bit of work. And then what they do is they look individually at the child and they decide where that level of that child is in every particular subject. And then in every subject that child is actually given work at their at their level.

[00:08:21] And I know many of the parents expressed their sheer delight is what I would call it. This was this was many parents said this to me that, oh my child my child is in, might go up for maths. And then they might go, they might stay in their level or even go down a grade for English or they might go up in English and all that down in maths and science.

[00:08:41] So the curriculum is actually differentiated to that. Child’s actual specific needs. And I think that’s. I’d done a little bit in in mainstream where you might have your reading groups, your literacy groups people might have a different textbook, you might have somebody on the textbook ahead of the year or the textbook below of the year.

[00:09:02]But but it’s only a very small range that, that are actually able to adjust for any particular child.  There’s the school that the parents I interviewed are at is is the only one in Australia, and if you’d think I think there’s about I think I was looking at the number of children who are in primary school at the moment.  I think it was about a thousand children who are on the first percentile in south Australia. And so obviously the selective school that the parents were at do not have a thousand children. And so I wonder how those other children are managing. Yeah. And parents choose a school because well, regular parents choose the school because, sometimes it might be convenient.

[00:09:52] It might be, the one that’s the, one of the local ones or it might be that, that’s the school I went to. So it, my children are going to go to that school. And but when you are looking at specific needs for your child, then you might need to let those things go out the window.

[00:10:08] You don’t actually think, oh there’s a school, half an hour away that I could take my child to or I could take them, three minutes down the road, that is actually an issue for parents. What we need is we need to be able to manage every gifted child in whatever school I actually attend.

More Transcript Here

[00:10:29] Yeah,

[00:10:29] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Absolutely. So like you were saying, they’re typically parents of typical children choose a school for a bunch of different reasons.


[00:10:40] it’s down the road, it’s conveniently located,

[00:10:44]Deb Nurton: Children that’s

[00:10:45] Sophia Elliott: right. Might be religious beliefs. We have a strong Catholic sector here in Australia, so there’s a whole bunch of reasons why you might choose a school,

[00:10:56]If you have a typical child, but that shifts is what you’re saying when you’ve got a gifted

[00:11:01] child and you were looking into the reasons, particularly why these parents chose

[00:11:08] this selective school.

[00:11:09] Deb Nurton: Yeah.

[00:11:10] Sophia Elliott: And so what was, what are the factors then that the parents considered when they were looking at the selective school?

[00:11:18]Deb Nurton:  They had all started out their children at mainstream, so they they did know how mainstream worked for their child. And each one of them had decided that they needed something different.

[00:11:31] And many of them didn’t know of this selective school because, it has opened only recently in the last five years. And what what they, most people will look at things like, is, yeah, is it close by one parent drove over an hour every day to get their child to to the school.

[00:11:52] Sophia Elliott: That’s a big commitment. Isn’t it?

[00:11:54] Deb Nurton: One child, one parent moved from interstate. So these are huge commitments that you would make. This is not going to the school down the road. Some parents chose a different. It wasn’t so the children went to mainstream schools that were a number of different ways.

[00:12:11] So it might’ve been the local primary school. Or it might’ve been a specialist a specialist stylist school, but they all found that, their child was actually underperforming. In fact, I’ve got here, there were school absences. One parent couldn’t get her child to school previously.

[00:12:27]One child was made to repeat year one which is crazy. There was disruptive behavior. One child would do their work in the morning and then nap in the afternoon. And children were disengaged. When they chose, so they were really looking for something, they had really unhappy children and they were feeling quite traumatized themselves.

[00:12:48] And when they looked at the selective school selective schools are still quite controversial because people think, oh you’re, you’re separating them from society or it’s elitist. And in fact this is a real issue, I think. And, but what they found when they found out about this school by a number of means  was they went to their pre entry interview and they were all, they all felt that the weight  being lifted from their shoulders.

[00:13:20]One parent talked about the sensory needs of their child and the the the staff explained that, that the school manages that and that really reassured that parent the the and there was reassurance for the parents too, about their child might stop feeling so different and might actually find people like them.

[00:13:42] And that certainly wasn’t outcome of their choice of what the selective school was that, they were actually they had friends and they had close friends for the first time. And they also they also really liked the fact that the whole program was differentiated for every child.

[00:13:58]I know that a couple of the parents talked about their children not wanting to do different things to the rest of their class in mainstream. And so they really stood out whereas. At the selective school, every child is like that. The normal is that you go up for this subject and you go down for this subject and, this term you might be doing, year four maths because it’s it’s, algebra and then next semester you, next term, you might be going up to grade five maths because it’s it’s I don’t know area and then the next the next time you might go down to a grade three maths because that’s that’s something that you find difficult.

[00:14:34]So there’s a normalness, I think that that happens at a selective school. Yeah. So the parents, when they were choosing, they liked the look of the school. But they, some of them were quite cautious. However, once they went to the pre-interview and they spoke with  spoke with the staff, it was, it was very much a feeling that things were that was the right place for their child.

[00:15:00] And also one parent reported that her child corrected one of the teachers at the pre-interview and the teacher dealt with that really respectfully. And and the parents said that’s when they knew that, that was where the child should go.

[00:15:15] Sophia Elliott: Yeah.

[00:15:15] And that I can imagine that would have been a beautiful moment because gifted kids, they don’t see that as anything.

[00:15:22]They didn’t mean anything by that, but they’ll readily correct an adult if they’re factually incorrect because they’re factually incorrect and quite frankly, the gifted child. Often know more about particular subject then as an adult, that’s the whole kind of depth of it. Isn’t it? So the point of difference for this school, as you said, is that it’s a selective school for primary of which there

[00:15:44] are no other here in Australia,

[00:15:45] and generally you get that selectiveness in high school and you touched on there this this view of selective schools.

[00:15:56] And I just wanted to read a little bit out of your thesis here, because it’s quite scathing, but this is the honest truth of what people feel about selective schools. And so you say. Arguments against them. That is selective schools include that they are elitist and bestow further advantage to the already advantaged take funding from children’s struggling to meet basic standards and provide an unnatural environment.

[00:16:25] They may damage self-esteem and diminish educational experience of children in mainstream. And will you even go on to quote the Queensland child and family commission? Yeah. Say they called them institutionalized separation. Yeah. Wow. There’s some really strong views there around selective school.

[00:16:50] And that makes me feel incredibly sad at the depth of the misunderstanding, because what you have said there is actually, we’ve already acknowledged that gifted kids, The Senate has acknowledged that they have special needs in education. And these parents are being very cautious about this choice.

[00:17:12] Some of them driving an hour, moving interstate, huge decisions around going to this selective school. And they’re making that decision on the basis that their kids don’t have friends. They’re not learning they’re in. I think you said get either traumatized by their experience in mainstream. And we can acknowledge that in the main stream, teachers are not being educated.

[00:17:36] You said earlier that might be two weeks in a differentiation unit. You might do an elective, like for 10% of the student population. That’s completely outrageous. I could you imagine that was the case for any other cohort of students? Yeah, there would be outcry, but it’s this idea that gifted kids, and as you say, here are already advantaged.

[00:17:59]And somehow, yeah, there’s that? And it’s oh, that makes me angry. It does, because there’s this misunderstanding that because one of the traits of giftedness is learning quickly and being, like you said, not just outside of the box in terms of, and you gave the example of being in reception is all about learning your numbers near letters, but actually already being able to read a few years ahead so that gifted kid is completely outside of that box, but there’s so much more to it than that.

[00:18:35] Isn’t it like? Yeah.

[00:18:37] Deb Nurton: To

[00:18:37] Sophia Elliott: giftedness and we’ve  yeah, we certainly talk at length about that here at our gifted kids, but those kinds of statements show an incredible lack of awareness of what giftedness is all about in my opinion. Yeah. And can

[00:18:55] Deb Nurton: I, can I just duck in and say that is there’s a thing called the Alice Springs?

[00:19:01]I’m not quite sure how to say this, but I think it’s

[00:19:03] Is it

[00:19:05] Sophia Elliott: the Mparntwe?

[00:19:06] Deb Nurton: Mparntwe  , my apologies to our indigenous people, , you probably said that better than people. But yeah, it’s a declaration. So every now and then the education declaration comes out, my latest one was 2019. And it says that our education system should create confident and creative individuals successful lifelong learners and active and informed members of the community. And if you’re going to make sure that everybody gets that everybody that includes everybody along that spectrum, regardless of their economic status, regardless of their home life, regardless of their capability and I know, and this is just a personal personal vignette, but at one of our schools my, my children went to three primary schools try and trying to find a school that would work.

[00:20:01] There was one teacher who was able to teach my child who, was years ahead in a number of. Topics, but extremely shy extremely shy. And that teacher was also able to support children who had a number of learning disabilities. And and in fact, she was able to meld children together who might’ve had arguments in the past, they’d be working together.

[00:20:31]And I think this is part of being in a respectful classroom where everybody is an individual. Everybody is a learner. And really that teacher, to me personifies this where she’s trying to create confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners and active and informed members of the community she was doing that.

[00:20:54]But she’s one teacher. And and teachers if they don’t have this training, it’s very difficult for them to understand. What they’re supposed to do. And I suspect that it’s quite challenging for some teachers who are used to being the point of authority in the classroom to suddenly have a child who might correct them.

[00:21:15]Or we’re going to do dinosaurs this week, and then the child says we talk about the Parasaurolophus and, when we talk about the the Paki cephalgia Saurus, and the teacher goes, hang on, back on,  apatosaurus or T-Rex,  so it, it can be quite terrifying I’m sure for teachers when you have a student.

[00:21:34] Who is so far as you say, out of the box and, so the children who were at at the selective school tended to be children who were quite advanced. They were probably more that the difference between their functioning and the functioning of a regular child, even a regular bright child was so far in advance that, the, and the teacher might only, I did see some research that said part of the problem is that teachers might only get one or two of these highly gifted children in their teaching career.

[00:22:08] And they might not have the time or, they might not have the experience or that’s what I did with the last person, the last child I had like this, suddenly they’ve got a child that’s like nothing made had before. And how do you manage those in a mainstream? How do you

[00:22:23] Sophia Elliott: recognize them?

[00:22:24] And, there is a whole other podcast, isn’t it? Like it is we’re woefully under preparing our teachers.

[00:22:31]Deb Nurton: There was a very much, a lot of research already about as something that one of the researchers Coleman in 2015 said that it was ready child unprepared school. So the child would go to school, be ready to learn everything. And the school had no idea how to manage them because it hadn’t been in their experience before.

[00:22:53]And and you could have a principal who is running a great school and suddenly they have a child that they don’t have any experience of, might actually try to see what’s going on for that child. If the system itself starts to fail that child, then suddenly, the parent becomes.

[00:23:10]Traumatized, the child is traumatized is underachievement. And then, then suddenly the principal, I has a problem.  you were talking about the elitist, the feeling that you’re that the selective school is as an elitist is an elitist school.

[00:23:26]And it’s taking the best out of, so there was a definitely a thread of, if you take all the gifted children out of regular mainstream school and put them in a special school, all on their own, then, what does that do to the to the children of the mainstream school? And then I’m thinking then you’re putting responsibility on those highly gifted children.

[00:23:50] You’re giving them a responsibility in the school of. Being part of the cohort to help the other children, when really they need the help. They need to be able to be looked after. Yes. And I have read research, which,

[00:24:05]Sophia Elliott: Argued or demonstrated that there was an advantage to the student body of having gifted kids in the classroom that kind of bringing up.

[00:24:16]And so there’s, there is research around that, but like you say, that’s not really the gifted child’s responsibility and of course there’s levels of giftedness as well. And we’re very much talking about, as you mentioned earlier, that top 1% that 99th percentile, particularly because there’s so extreme that our teachers, our schools who are catering for the mainstream, like you say, they’re unprepared for that.

[00:24:45] And. And it, and they don’t come along very often to not necessarily have had that experience because they’re so far out of that box. And yeah, and that experience of going to multiple schools in primary years, especially is very common amongst those highly gifted kids because of that lack of awareness and fit.

[00:25:08] So it’s not like it’s a problem just to one or two schools. This is a pretty broad challenge for schools. And it’s not saying that the school isn’t great for typical

[00:25:19] children

[00:25:20] and doing a great job but for gifted, this is a, this is why we have teachers who do masters in gifted education and specialized and give to that because it’s a very specific skill set required to understand a gifted child and the way they learn.

[00:25:36] And so when you’re doing your research, you were obviously asking parents. Why they were choosing a selective school, given everything we’ve said about what, some people think of selective schools and the challenges parents have had. Were there any surprises in what parents said about that making that choice or in, in the research?

[00:26:02]Deb Nurton: I was surprised at the lengths that parents had gone to. I don’t know that school is the local school for any of the parents that I interviewed. Obviously it’s closer for some parents than others. I would say ah, the one thing that did surprise me was that parents were traumatized by their.

[00:26:26]Or their experiences. And in fact, what that did for me was made me remember my traumatic experiences. When you have a child, you want to do your best for that child. And if your child is great at kicking a footie, you want to encourage that. And if your kid is good at doing maths, you want to encourage that.

[00:26:47] And to for anybody who’s got a child with an intense interest and that’s probably everybody to see that interest being treated poorly and And not be encouraged and nurtured. It’s very difficult. And so when these when you’re asking the school to do something and the school is refusing to do it there was there were a number of instances where the parents had actually provided the school with reports and the and the school had taken no notice.

[00:27:21]And that, that was a surprise to me because that is what happened to us. But I thought that must have been an isolated incident. One, in one instance, the teacher hadn’t realized that the child was gifted and this was a highly gifted child. And wasn’t given the reports. Hadn’t given the report being given the reports all year about this child.

[00:27:43]And in another instance, the school it wasn’t part of the school philosophy. The school philosophy was that the child needed to experience the world rather than, theorize about the world. And and that, that school actually had had reports as well and didn’t act upon them.

[00:28:03] And to me, that’s such a simple remedy. If if a parent has already gone to the trouble of finding out more about their child and has then provided that information to the school, Yeah, the school is lucky. The school has actually had the parents doing some of the work for them, and it’s not unreasonable for the parents to ask that the school try to create lifelong learners.

[00:28:29]And because that’s what the, that’s what that declaration says. And and so I think the trauma that was still being experienced, especially as you say against the fact that in 2000 there was a Senate inquiry. And before that there had been a Senate inquiry. And so it was a surprise to me how bad it was for everybody with a gifted child, how much there had been already researched into giftedness and how much was not being applied.

[00:29:00]Th there were, there was still a lot of issues that weren’t being covered and that. I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough for me. That is absolutely unacceptable. No. And these children Competent beings there. They’re able to think outside of the square and, as a society, why are we not encouraging these children as much as we can because regardless of the wellbeing of the child, which of course is very important there’s the ability to it’s the ability to actually help us as a society.

[00:29:37] And in fact, that’s part of the research talks about those, what are you doing? Why are you doing gifted education? Is it too, because they have the potential to help society or is it because the child the re requires the benefit of a specialized program.

[00:29:51] And I would say it’s both because if you when we met children are little  we want them to be happy. But as they grow older and they get into, the later years of high school and they get into university, what we want for them is we want them to actually feel like they are doing something that they are achieving  in an area that they love.

[00:30:14] That’s, that’s what we want. And if we have people doing that, then, it’s for the betterment of society. So providing for the wellbeing of the child is going to provide for the betterment of society in any case. What why would we not, why would we not, when the declaration says that we should be looking after everybody?

[00:30:33] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And what you say there certainly resonates with my lived experience and quite frankly, most of the parents, I talk to that challenge of Advocating within a school, even when you have a report and experts in black and white saying, this child is gifted and here  is a whole bunch of things that you can do to support them.

[00:30:55] And that trauma is very real. And I think as a parent, and I’m a parent, who’s not a teacher. So my expectation when I was, fronting up to school with my first child, is that they would teach them that they knew kids and whatever my child needed, they would be able to accommodate.

[00:31:19] Of course at the time I had no idea that they had gifted, but there was a huge for me, a huge sense of betrayal and disappointment and being let down, not just because they couldn’t help my kid. That would be one thing, but they refuse to. So I really get and resonate with what you’re saying there about that sense of trauma from parents, because that, yeah, that’s real, that’s hard.

[00:31:47] Yeah, absolutely.

[00:31:48] Deb Nurton: You can’t believe it. It’s actually incredible. But educators who I agree with you that we believe are the authority. We deliver our children to their school and we think they are the trained people who will lead them on their journey. And it’s an awful feeling of being let down.

[00:32:07] Sophia Elliott: It is awful. And look, I don’t in any way say that it’s malicious. But we really, as adults need to overcome our own sense of. I don’t know self-esteem of who we are and just sometimes be able to say, actually, I don’t know enough about this. I’m going to find out more or, what is it about that scenario that rubs teachers and schools so readily the wrong way that there’s this impasse that we’ve not yet been able to obviously across the board be able to move on from, and we, it’s almost like we just need that collective understanding that it is, it’s outside the box.

[00:32:49] Teachers schools do not have the adequate training understanding. That’s it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s where we’re at. Let’s just acknowledge that and be open to what it is we need to do. Because like you said earlier, if there’s a thousand highly gifted kids here just in our town, like where are the rest?

[00:33:10] What are they doing? Do we even know, do the other even identified because the reality is, and the research shows as well, gifted. Those there’s a good chance. A lot of those gifted kids are underachieving and hiding and masking and trying to fit in. They know that they’re different. And I noticed that you’re also acknowledged that sense of difference.

[00:33:34] And there’s a couple of quotes there and I’ll just read them a couple quickly if that’s okay. And you said one reported, her son knew he was different from a young age and this caused distress. When he was three, he kept asking me, why am I different? Why am I different? And he burst into tears and he knew he was different.

[00:33:55] He said to me,

[00:33:58] yeah, I know I’m only

[00:33:59] ever going to make your friends. I’m like, I’m trying to read that without crying. I’m like, oh, that’s devastating. And the participant or two participants talked about feeling broken as a reason for withdrawing their children from their first chosen school. One stated that she enrolled her child at the selective school because I wanted her to feel like she fit in because I didn’t want her to feel as like she was broken.

[00:34:27] And I don’t want her to grow up thinking that these things that are wrong with her, that she needs to change. That they’re just part of how her brain is wired. Yeah. Just devastating to me that we’ve got all these young kids at primary school thinking there’s something wrong with them. They’re broken because they know they don’t fit in.

[00:34:45]There’s no yeah. We’re deluding ourselves. If we think gifted kids don’t know that they don’t fit.

[00:34:50]Deb Nurton: And some of them do try to fit in. And there was that was in the research as well that that the, there, they looked at a number of those researchers looked at a number of ways that gifted children try to fit into a  regular school.

[00:35:04] And I think the, if I remember right the main way was they would plicate their their fellow students. So there was the example given that, if there had been a, this was with high school children, if there had been a hard test and, the group of friends were talking about how hard the test was, but the gifted child found it fairly straightforward.

[00:35:28]And then they said, how did you find it? What the what the gifted child would do is, just. Try to brush it off, placate them and go, oh yeah, it was, yeah. It was hard. Wasn’t it? And and so there’s that constant feeling that your different to the other people.

[00:35:49]Not only that, but it, the gifted child is often very aware. So they they’re often great observers and they watch other children and they feel different and they are really astutely aware that they are different.

[00:36:05]And so those kinds of quotes that you’ve just read out then Sophia,  heartbreaking

[00:36:11] Sophia Elliott: and devastating.

[00:36:13] Deb Nurton: I got quite distressed when I was interviewing. And when I was putting the thesis together and I got quite angry that it has to be this way. And w w. There, there are simple fixes and you

[00:36:27] know,

[00:36:28] Sophia Elliott: providing reports

[00:36:29] Deb Nurton: to the next teacher is just such a simple fix, perhaps having if you’ve got a highly gifted child at your school, you probably need not just to have every individual teaching.

[00:36:40] You probably need to have a whole of school. Policy about what to do. I know that one of my children’s primary schools, they were actually running a ship program and that’s the students of high intellectual potential here in south Australia. And there was schools who ran ship programs, but it was really at the determination of a particular teacher.

[00:37:02] And so the once we started having trouble with teachers not understanding, but the deputy principal of our school actually started running a ship program. So she started running it because I actually put my hand up and said, we need to do something about this. And so while that Deputy principal was there, those children at least got to get together with kids who were like them and they would do problem solving exercises.

[00:37:29]And so the child actually felt that they weren’t so isolated. They actually got something, even though it was once a month or once a fortnight or once a week or whatever it was. And that was the best part of their, of my child’s week or fortnight or whatever it was. And then that person left.

[00:37:46] And then somebody tried to take over the program, but they really didn’t have, they didn’t have any training. And so the problem I’m sure, after we left the program, would have just gone by the, by. There are some people who do a really good job. There are some people who are trained, but there are a lot of highly gifted children.

[00:38:07]And so there, there needs to be some determination from the from the declaration  to look after these children. Otherwise, what happens to that child who at three understands that they are friendless and understands that they are different that child at three, what happens to that child?

[00:38:27] If they aren’t actually accommodated at school. And to me, that’s terrifying, Yeah,

[00:38:32] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. It is terrifying. And that’s the thing. People can get on their high horse and have their opinions about selective schools and giftedness and the rest of it. But what they’re not acknowledging is the very real impact on these students of not having their needs met in terms of their mental health their quality of life, you know, their capacity to reach any sense of potential, let alone the high potential that they might be able to reach with the appropriate education and support.

[00:39:07] And that’s an absolute travesty is simply not good enough. We might end on the actual, the final quote in your thesis. Cause I don’t think we’ve quite touched on this either and all I’ll read this out and then I’ll ask you to comment on this aspect of your findings. So the quote is from this parent and I’ll try, read it without crying, but I can’t guarantee anything.

[00:39:33]The parent says, that’s the thing. I talk up the most to people. Yes. I know at the moment you’re really focused on the academic needs of your kids and that’s going to get taken care of, but once you’re comfortable with that, there’s more, there’s a place where we’re going to understand this has been hard for you as well.

[00:39:53] Keep it together. Sophia. It’s not just about the kids. There’s a place for everyone within the community. I think that’s the greatest thing about the school. It’s the cherry on top. Really? So tell us about that.

[00:40:05] Deb Nurton: Yeah, there were a few quotes. I found it quite difficult to decide which quote to put at the end.

[00:40:11]The parents were so grateful for the school running. And they th there were many times that the parents would say to me, something like, I turn up at the end of the school day and it doesn’t matter to anybody what reader group my child is in, because we all know that they’re all at different levels.

[00:40:30]So nobody cares. And everybody knows that there, the children are different to regular children and, nobody cares. And so you can turn up and there’s not the teacher making the beeline for you because your child has done something that day.

[00:40:46] It’s funny if one of the teachers is coming over to talk to one of us and we make a joke about it. And so there was a camaraderie that made me made me just wish that school had been there earlier. And , the parents at the school. Want the best for their child, but have always wanted the best for their child once the child was not being looked after they sought somewhere different for their child somewhere that would successfully nurture their child.

[00:41:17]And then once they were there, there was the shared experience of the journey that they had tried to come to the selective school. And there, there is a camaraderie in that I think, and, once your children are being looked after and your children are happy, your children, have friends and they don’t feel different, they feel different is good, and then you can actually relax and you can actually enjoy the community of the other parents without having to filter. All the time. Because I think I say in my thesis that the, parents of gifted children are just trying to do what what they think what all parents do, which is, to delight when their child has done something great.

[00:41:58] And, to be worried when their child, is underachieving. But other parents can see that, that see that as bragging. But if you’re at a school where all the children are similar, then there’s no. These that, that just isn’t a thing . Yeah.

[00:42:15] Sophia Elliott: Cause it’s not about bragging. We just want to celebrate our kids’ strengths wherever they are and have someone who we can talk to and understand the struggles of which there are many parenting, any kid is not easy.

[00:42:28]And so I think that’s a wonderful note to end on. Thank you so much for first of all, doing the research, because I think as those comments about selective schools showed us earlier we certainly need to be putting a spotlight on why parents choose it and out of the mouths of parents, why it is so great.

[00:42:50]And hopefully see more in the future for, this very out of the box cohorts of students and thank you for coming on  it’s been a real delight to, to have a chat about it and then talk to you. Thank you.

[00:43:04] Deb Nurton: Thank you, Sophia. Thank you for the work that you do, because I think, we are all in this together and we’re all looking after our children and this is something that really needs some attention.

[00:43:15] We need

[00:43:15] Sophia Elliott: the village, you’re absolutely welcome. We need the village, so

[00:43:18] Deb Nurton: we do need the village.

[00:43:19] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely.