What does being gifted really mean?

What does being gifted really mean?

What does being gifted really mean?

A few years ago a friend said to me, ‘you know your son is gifted, right?’.

Errr, no, I did not.

If you’re like me, you’d probably never even heard of it before so it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder what is it to be gifted?

What does gifted mean?

Is gifted just high IQ?

Well, no, nope, nuh-uh.

Gifted is being neuro-diverse or neurologically a-typical (which means your brain is wired differently to the majority of other people) and a part of that diversity is expressed as…

  • learning quickly,
  • knowing intuitively,
  • being highly sensitive emotionally,
  • having highly sensitive senses, like as in our five senses of touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell,
  • being very energetic, intense and often not sleeping well,
  • advanced reasoning and puzzle skills,
  • advanced in reaching developmental milestones like crawling, walking and sitting early,
  • a good memory, and
  • being very curious!

…. which means most gifted folk score highly in IQ tests and giftedness is accepted as being in the top 10% of IQ and to be highly or profoundly gifted is to test in the 98th percentile and higher.

Which is to say that your IQ tests higher than 98 percent of people your age.

So do you have to score highly on an IQ test to be gifted??

Errr, yes and no.

Giftedness results in scoring highly on an IQ test BUT taking a test is fallible and being gifted is more than about just having high IQ.

Maybe you have ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety about taking tests, you’re autistic, feeling sick, or you’re disengaged and your test results don’t reflect your true potential.

Yes you can be gifted and have learning challenges.

We’ve personally experienced one of our kids getting a 44 and 56 point difference in subtests between two different IQ tests just because they didn’t feel well that day. That’s a HUGE difference!

An IQ test can’t be fluked but it can underestimate a person’s intelligence for a whole bunch of reasons (including cultural background).

At the moment an IQ test is the most common way of identifying giftedness but there are ways of identifying giftedness without IQ tests, they are just less common and aren’t the current generally accepted way. Maybe that will change in the future.

So does that mean it’s all about IQ?

Nope. Giftedness goes hand in hand with…

  • experiencing the world through emotion and empathy,
  • being highly sensitive,
  • having a keen sense of social justice,
  • finding it difficult to fit in, and
  • asynchronous development.

These things can be hard.

It can be difficult to fathom that other people experience the world differently to us.

We all assume that the way we see the world and feel the world and exist in the world is the same for everyone else.

But we know that a person’s experience of the world can be different due to their gender, race, culture or sexuality. We are also starting to understand that a person’s neuro diversity changes the way they experience the world, like if you have ADHD or are autistic.

Giftedness is neurodiversity.

So in the same way, gifted folk experience the world differently.

It’s important as a parent and teacher to understand this because then we can start to understand that this child or that gifted adult is having a quantifiably different lived experience to what is considered typical.

And that is what we need to accommodate in our parenting and teaching.

This is a great definition that is a bit of a mouthful but expands on what we’ve been talking about…

 Columbus Group definition of giftedness:

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counselling in order for them to develop optimally.”

So what does being gifted really mean?

It means you have a different lived experience of the world and the better we understand this, the more able we are to know ourselves, our kids, our students and provide those absolutely essential modifications.

How do I find the right therapist for my gifted kid?

How do I find the right therapist for my gifted kid?

I feel so drained right now.

I just finished interviewing a new psychologist for my kids and retelling the past few years has sapped me of all my energy. It’s so hard carrying the mental load of everyone’s appointments, challenges, struggles, wins and issues.

I’m at my mums eating ice-cream and drinking coffee, it’s not pretty.

I don’t know about you but I have clocked up enormous hours in speech therapist, occupational therapists, psychologists, and many other therapists offices since becoming a mum (not to mention the hours of driving!).

It’s the mental load and just when I think, maybe it’s nothing, let it go Soph, they are ok, no-one else thinks something is wrong, I remember all the times I was right, which was like, ALL the times and I can’t let it go, so off we trundle to go get answers. 🤦🏽‍♀️

I freaking hate being right. It’s exhausting.

With three very different kids going through a variety of stages and phases and challenges, there always seems to be a piece of the puzzle we still have to figure out.

So this is what I want you to know, from what I have learnt:

Research actually confirms that parents are the best identifier of their child’s giftedness. That’s because we have parental intuition and we know our kids.
It’s not only ok, but it is essential that you interview your therapists.

What does that look like? 🤷🏼‍♀️

It just means, go to the first appointment by yourself and talk to the therapist.

If you don’t walk out of there feeling like they get you, they get your kid, they get gifted and they have what it takes to help, then keep on walking. 🚶🏼‍♀️

On the way there, ironically, I was listening to Brene Brown interview Abbey Wambach about her book the Wolfpack (now on my wish list!).

They were talking about how women have been taught to follow the path, be grateful and meek.

Abbey was contesting this culture and talking about the bravery of stepping off the path, being grateful but asking for what you are worth and holding your space.

As parents of gifted kids, we are not on the the path we’re way off in the scrub with a machete making our own way and occasionally bump into another parent of a gifted kid in the odd clearing that we ungraciously fall, in a heap, into.

I am incredibly grateful for the wise and insightful professionals that I have in my kids lives that have worked with us as a team and helped guide our kids in overcoming so much. I am so grateful. 🙏🏼❤️

BUT. I also know that I wont settle for less. My kids deserve that and I will not engage someone who doesn’t respect and understand them and their quirks and sensitivities. If you don’t get gifted you are not for us.

And I’ve heard some horror stories about the ways in which, no doubt well meaning professionals, have misunderstood our gifted kids and made the situation worse.

I have gotten use to existing in the uncomfortable space of being that parent and I don’t care what other people think of me. Not any more.

I have seen my gut instincts proven right time and again and I have seen my kids grow, given the right support and nurturing.

So, know that it’s not you. It’s ok to want and demand more and shop around.

Thankfully, I was lucky today. It is hard to find these people.

You might ask yourself, how do I know, what do I do?

Ask for referrals from other parents of gifted kids.
Watch how the therapist reacts when you say your child is gifted.
Ask them if they have gifted clients. Yes, you can ask that!
Do they understand that our kids are super sensitive and harsh old school discipline styles don’t work.
Do they understand that your kid may know more than them on certain topics. How are they likely to react to that?
They don’t always know better than you. If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right.
Did you walk out feeling comforted? Understood?

It’s hard to think about the money and walk out knowing you’re going to have to spend more to find another therapist but the right therapist will help the situation far more quickly and cost you less in therapy in the long run.

I’ve got to go wipe the ice-cream off my face and get the kids from school but I’m now all sugared up and caffeinated so watch out world! Good luck!

#016 Exploring the Gifted Identity with Marc Smolowitz from The G Word Film

#016 Exploring the Gifted Identity with Marc Smolowitz from The G Word Film

Today I’m speaking with filmmaker Marc Smolowitz about his upcoming documentary, The G Word Film. The film is currently in post-production with an expected release date in early 2022.

The G Word Film is the first major documentary on giftedness and asks the question, Who Gets to be Gifted In America? The shorts released so far describe a scenario that is seen globally.

In the episode, we talk about trauma, hope, and empowerment, gender and sexuality, identity, and more!

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“Trauma is a huge theme in every story. But I’m not here to beat you up. That’s just not my, I don’t believe that’s my job. I believe my job is actually more about giving you hope or leaving you with a sense of possibilities, prospects for change prospects, for making things better. I’ve dealt with, all kinds of traumatic stories and, trauma is, one side of the story. The other side is empowerment.” – Marc

“I had a sense of being other in the world.” -Marc


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Introducing Marc Smolowitz

Marc Smolowitz is a multi-award-winning independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.

With three decades of experience in the film and media business, Smolowitz is a director, producer, and executive producer who has been significantly involved in 50+ successful independent films wearing many hats across the entertainment industry.

The combined footprint of his works has touched 200+ film festivals and markets on 5 continents, yielding substantial worldwide sales to theatrical, television, and VOD outlets, notable box office receipts, and numerous awards and nominations. His long list of credits includes films that have screened at top-tier festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Chicago, Palm Springs, AFI Docs, IDFA, DOC NYC, CPH: DOX, Tokyo, Melbourne, Viennale, Krakow, Jerusalem, among others.

His film company — 13th Gen — works with a dynamic range of independent film partners globally to oversee the financing, production, post-production, marketing, sales, and distribution efforts of a vibrant portfolio of films and filmmakers. Founded in 2009, the company is known widely for being active on some 10-15 concurrent projects, both independent and inside Hollywood, and it has successfully advanced Smolowitz’s career-long focus on powerful social issue films and filmmaking across all genres.

In 2016, he received one of the prestigious IFP Fellowships to attend the Cannes Film Festival’s Producers Network and Marche du Film marking him as one of USA’s most influential independent film producers.

Join in the social media campaign! #MyGiftedStory

Check out this episode!


Sophia: [00:00:00] Welcome everyone. I’m delighted to be back here today with Marc Smolowitz the man behind The G Word Film. And as I have said before, in our previous podcast with Marc, a multi award winning independent filmmaker, who’s joining me today from San Francisco and almost decades of experience in the film industry with over 50 films under his belt.

Marc, I’m delighted to talk to you again. And welcome back to the podcast. How are you?

Marc: [00:00:32] I’m good. Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s great to be here again.

Sophia: [00:00:37] We’ve talked before about The G Word film. We got to know about the project  and the inspiration behind it and for anyone who hasn’t listened to that episode yet, please check it out, dig down into our episodes and you’ll find our first episode there with Marc.

What we’re going to talk about today is your background as an activist and a filmmaker. And you’ve mentioned before in our previous conversation, how, within that body of work that you have already, you, you’ve never shied away from challenging conversations or topics. And you’ve certainly covered a lot of challenging topics within your body of work of all your films.

That’s  for sure, so in terms of giftedness, what I thought we could have a chat about today was  those controversies within giftedness and talk about those stories that you are unraveling within the film.

Of people who aren’t  the typical stereotype of giftedness. And so I thought we could dive a little into what some of those controversies are that you uncovered through your journey and what some of those different expressions of giftedness have been for you. So I guess my first question is.

We talked a little bit briefly in our last conversation about trauma and looking at giftedness through that lens of trauma. So in terms of when you did your research on the film and you follow those different journeys, how did the trauma express itself, where was the most obvious or what stories can you share with us about where that, that came up?

Marc: [00:02:25] Wow. So there’s trauma in every story that we will be sharing in The G Word documentary. So I say extensively, there’s seven stories in the film. That’s where we landed.  We have we’ve, we debate that internally on the team. Sometimes there’s eight, sometimes there’s nine, but I really think there’s seven stories.

So there’s seven places on the map where you’re going to go on, with us on a journey. And. Each of those places in spaces is a point on the map where trauma resides and that’s for sure. So let me Telegraph for you, some of those traumatic flashpoints. So number one you meet Ilon and Church or both, who

were transgender and gender nonconforming youth or artists. Okay. There is trauma baked into being a transgender or gender diverse person in the United States. No question. Okay. That’s one. We take you to San Luis, Arizona, which is on the border with with Mexico in Southern Arizona, in the desert. Primarily Latin X immigrant migrant families.

Some, really poor and impoverished families, poverty and racism and border politics. There’s trauma. We have a story on the native American reservation in then in the Northern part of Minnesota where there’s a gifted and talented program inside of tribal school. There, the kids are dealing with multiple generations of trauma, that go back to a phenomenon called the boarding schools, where they took native kids from their parents and they forcibly put them into these institutions, just horrific stuff.

Twice exceptionality and neurodiversity come with great trauma. We meet we spend a lot of time in our film with a family here in Northern California called the Hayes family. And we learn a lot about the trauma that comes with being 2E through their family experience. So yeah, we spend time in Baltimore and, deal with racism and giftedness and what it’s like to be black and gifted.

We’re in a prison. I told you in the last podcast briefly. So we have not shied away from trauma. And trauma is a huge theme in every story. But I’m not here to beat you up. That’s just not my, I don’t believe that’s my job. I believe my job is actually more about giving you hope or leaving you with a sense of possibilities, prospects for change prospects, for making things better.

You are talking to a guy today who believes that the glass is half full. Okay. That’s just really how I live. That’s how I roll. If I didn’t believe that I probably couldn’t get up every morning. Especially in this moment in our country and our, in our, on our planet, we’re living through a horrific pandemic.

The United States is going through huge upheaval and craziness. If I, if I. If I got bogged down by that, if I really woke up and believe that the glass was half empty, I wouldn’t be able to do this work. I take on tough subject matter. I’ve dealt with PTSD, I’ve dealt with poverty, I’ve dealt with aids,  I’ve dealt with, all kinds of traumatic stories and, trauma is, one side of the story.

The other side is empowerment. Okay. Those two things always sit side by side there, but for the grace of whatever you believe, some people have resilience in them to combat the traumatic aspects of their journey. And I can’t tell you exactly why, because it’s very complicated.

Each of us is a unique expression of our human journey. But I am a guy that has a deep well of resilience. Okay. I somehow know that I am okay. And I have a background where, my mother and grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. I’m openly gay. I’ve been living with HIV since the late nineties.

These are all things I talk about very openly in all aspects of my life. You know my storytelling because I feel that as a documentary storyteller, like if I’m gonna, if I’m to, if truth is stranger than fiction, I’m in the business of truth, either when I’m working, when I’m making nonfiction, I also make fiction, but that’s another podcast or another time, when I’m making documentaries, like it’s actually who I am is in the room.

Okay. It’s ostensibly I’m there, right? I will never not be Marc making this movie. Okay. And the fact that I am gay, that I am HIV positive, and I am Jewish that I am a child of Holocaust survivors, all these things. Our filters through which I see my world every day. That’s the world I walk through every day.

So I bring those filters to the, the stories that I encounter in giftedness. And that’s what kind of got my tentacles. I noticed the trauma because of my own experiences with trauma and. What I understood very quickly was that there were amazing people in the room trying to help folks, find that resilience.

There’s an incredible community around people who are struggling and, really holds people close, in this gifted world and this gifted landscape that I have been able to witness and encounter that are, taking care of one another. So it’s not all just darkness. If it was only darkness, let’s just  it’s call it a day.

You know what I mean? There’s always light and I really try to show you the light and really show you the hope and really remind you that there, that hope and light are right there. Even if you can’t see them, they’re right there over there. Let’s move our attention over there. I think that there’s a certain kind of Comfort that I have with these dark stories.

I, I can, it, sometimes it’s clear to me why sometimes it’s not, I just feel comfortable, talking about these difficult subjects with people and being in, the moment with my characters, and creating environments of trust, where they open up to me,  I talk a lot about Ilon who is our trans character and

they, they met me when they were female, and were Gabby and they were 16 years old. And because of the trust that we created, they came out to me as trans, and that didn’t just happen because, it happened because I was listening and supportive to them on their journey.

And that’s the thing like with documentary, like these are real people with blood, sweat, and tears,  I have a soul, they have a soul.  There’s something that happens here that you have to trust and,  you’re giving someone an opportunity to represent you and to put you into a movie and to tell your story.

But, I don’t see myself as telling other people’s stories. I see myself in a collaborative dynamic with my subjects and characters, and I really want them to be a part of the storytelling and figure out ways to contribute or have their own voice in this journey. Because that too is a part of the empowerment piece for me.

More transcript here...

Like with a Ilan, Ilan is an artist and a Ilan is an animator and they are contributing like to the movie. And that’s vitally important to me. It’s not just about me taking the story and putting it in, on screen. It’s about how can we all create something? It may sound a little like idealistic, but how can we all create something where everyone has an experience and feels some ownership of their part in it.

And in the last podcast with you, I talked about how, when I interview people, I try to make people feel like they’re the most important person in the world for 30 minutes or however long I’m seeing, sitting across from them. I do that with every person, no matter what their sort of, their social status might be, you might be the most important doctor, in the history of medicine or you might be someone in prison, I’m going to treat you with the same level of respect and I’m going to like actively listen for the points in your story that I can help bring out through documentary storytelling that might be relatable to an audience.

Yeah. It’s, it’s trauma is a sess pool of, potential for storytelling, and there’s a lot of ways to dive into that pool. And a lot of strategies for, diving in and thinking that, it can be done in a way that is helpful for people. I really believe in hope.

When you watch the movie, there’ll be some dark scenes, there’ll be some tough scenes. There’ll be some chilling scenes you talked about, tear-jerking scenes, but they’ll also be laughter and joy and all that, because I really think those things co-exist side by side and we as storytellers, we get to highlight what we want to highlight in that process.

Sophia: [00:10:25] Yeah,

absolutely, and I completely understand where you’re coming from there because I’m very collaborative in nature as well and really liked to be able to bring people in and have that sort of joint ownership over the process. And certainly what I’m trying to do with Our Gifted Kids too. And. A lot of the stories I hear certainly have those elements of trauma.

And I think it’s certainly a connection point, but like you say, there is also a lot of hope in the world and a lot of people doing great things and it, I know that your filming and you’ve talked about this already. One of the short films that you have out and people can see in a number of small videos that you’ve spun out of the film looks at the I’m thinking of the North shore district.

Where it’s quite an affluent post code, zip code. And they had someone come in and do a review of their high achievers program or their gifted program. And they got that feedback that actually it’s like a, I think the words were a country club, your gifted programs, basically a country club because of the sort of affluent white students.

That were within that program. And it’s really interesting to see. I think it was the leader of that district in the video take on board, that information grapple with it. And. And then seek to do something about it, which is that it is that moment of hope in that journey. And there’s a lot of people out there certainly trying to improve.

And in that situation I think they went into universal screening and had some great results in finding a more diverse student body that were gifted because they were looking for them. So a lovely story there about race and about, like the movie says who gets to be gifted in America, but people doing something about that.

Tell us a little bit on the flip side, you mentioned already St. Luis. I think I’ve said that correctly, St. L uis on the iborder of Mexico. Quite a different situation there, again, another story, very much about race. So tell us a little bit more about what’s going on in St. Luis, which is. Not affluent, it’s on the border of Mexico and quite a different demographic to our, country club in the North.

So tell us a little bit about that.

Marc: [00:13:03] Sure. So it’s actually San Luis

yeah. All good. No worries. Yeah,  there’s. So officially San Luis is the second poorest zip code in all the state of Arizona. So it’s pretty poor. And when you go there, it feels poor. Okay. That’s just something I can say, because I’ve been there. I was very interested in.

Finding stories that sort of dove into sort of the experience of Latino and Latin X people in gifted what it might look like, what it might be to deal with your immigrant status and being gifted and what it might mean to be an English language learner. Okay. And so in that way, San Luis is a perfect place to explore those stories because that’s the entire town,  that’s really who lives there.

And this story I uncovered was it in the sort of backdrop of the, intense border politics. Of what was going on in my country. Okay. So under Trump, it’s been crazy with the U S Mexico border and his whole immigration policy. So we’ve been making the movie over the arc of the Trump years.

So these things are filtering into my own thinking all the time. And again, education is a social contract, so I’m thinking a lot about who gets to do what and. So the way that I discovered the story was that here in the United States, we have these advanced learners summer camps for students, they will, there’s the others also there’s these zooming out there’s these place called these talent development centers.

And they’re usually connected with very large and influential research universities. And so there’s about nine or 10 of them around the country. Maybe more than that, but nine that are really well known. And one of them is affiliated with Johns Hopkins and they’re called the Center for Talented Youth.

And they’ve been around since the seventies. And, I was doing some storytelling work with The G Word in Baltimore and they happened to be in Baltimore. And so I met with them and we had a really good meeting. They really liked this sort of spirit and kind of your stall of this movie. And it started a long form conversation because I was very interested in  they, clearly cost a lot of money to go to these camps, but the center for talented youth has a robust scholarship program.

They’re really, they have had, a track record of being an institution that was trying to do the interesting things in Baltimore with disenfranchised kids. They also are a big a part of this. Yeah, like the history of giftedness and the 20th century. So there’s there was a man named Julian Stanley.

He was a big part of the Movement, the push for acceleration and in, in the sixties and seventies. And this was all hubbed out of that, out of Johns Hopkins. And eventually that moved to another university. But there’s no question that CTY or the center for talent is an important stakeholder in this gifted landscape.

And, long story short, I struck up a nice relationship with the executive director at the time. And I met her at one of these advanced learners, summer camps, and spent the day with her and one of my producers. And we just walked around and talked to students and talk to teachers and different staffers.

And she orchestrated this very thoughtful lunch because she knew I was looking for stories. And one of the, one of the young gentlemen at that. Table was a 20 something who had grown up in San Luis. And so as people were going around the table at lunch, just introducing themselves, like at any lunch table, right?

You say who you are, what you’re doing, you’re where you’re from. And this young man is telling me that he grew up at the border, and, With telling his story and I pulled them aside and I’m like tell me more about where you grew up and, he was describing the place and how there was this man named Homero, who was the guidance counselor who had been this kind of, Unmatched cheerleader, for the community and its kids to unpack, the potential of these young people. And as I dug more into it with Elena was the executive director. This town sends more students to CTY learner camps than any other town of its kind in the nation. And it competes with the top 10 in the world.

So they’re performing extremely well. And it’s an interesting question. Like why is this poor town that is mostly immigrant, mostly migrant, mostly English language learners, mostly Latin X doing so well, especially when you put them alongside all these other white affluent districts. And so it just was immediately in the wheelhouse of the movie.

Because, and when we went there to film. It was clear that there was this kind of communal commitment to the kids. So it’s a town about 25,000 people, we’re walking around, we literally met the mayor. Like that’s the kind of town where you meet the Mayor, right?

Yes. Everyone knew we were, everyone knew we were coming to film every way. We were on the news, it was that kind of thing. And. Because these people care so much about their kids. And so there’s a beautiful virtuous cycle that is just like unfolding there every day, every school year. And it’s not something that happened overnight.

It’s been going on for over 20 years. And so they’ve had many of their students go to some of the top universities around the country and then they come back and reinvest in this town. And so that cycle of virtuosity was really appealing to me from a story perspective. And the fact that it was happening at the border was remarkable because it went so against the stereotype of what, like the mainstream media was feeding us about like life at the border and you go down there and it just doesn’t feel like what the media tells you, it’s going to feel like.

And it just was a delightful place to uncover. Students and families and teachers and administrators and community members who are all in for these kids. And it’s brutally hot in the Southern Arizona desert in the summers, like 120 degrees. And we were there filming in the summer. And I always joke what do you think kids are doing in the heat of the summer in San Luis?

They’re going to summer school because they’re in their indoors and air conditioning. And so they spend their summers just when they’re not going to CTY, because there are cause CTY is for a certain age, like learning engineering, learning, chemistry, learning, really being pushed to their, capacity and their potential.

It’s a pretty special place. The other thing I highlight about San Luis and the movie, and this is something I encountered a lot in, more poor and impoverished communities. Is that the way they got these kids excited was through music and culture, music and art. And so it was the music pathway that they emphasize to get these kids to learn how to love themselves.

So through music and art, these kids felt a sense of self worth. And then they were, had an easier time transferring over that excitement into math and science. And so it’s just, the whole story was just like brimming with beautiful views.

Sophia: [00:19:50] I love this story. I totally do. Having just said that  worked in Scotland with a cohort of, they have some of the most deprived areas within Europe, in these pockets of Scotland.

And I worked as a program manager there where we use arts to instill that self-worth resilience and confidence into these very vulnerable young teenagers to then help them shift them on to educational work and there’s something about the arts as a gateway. It’s really lovely. And why I just love about this story of San Luis.

And when I refer to having tears and getting the tissue in watching your videos it’s actually not about the trauma that sometimes, it’s discussed I think that in a way connects us, it’s these moments of absolute beauty, where people are stepping up and in this video San Luis

which I just encourage everyone to watch, it shows us the power of a teacher who believes a teacher who gets it, it’s not about resources. If they can get these results, if they can meet the needs of these students and all of their students individually, that, it shows us that the barriers, aren’t perhaps what we imagined, but it’s having the right adults there.

And I think one of the lines that I might get this slightly wrong was the. One of the teachers said, these children are our hidden treasures, so that sense of we’re doing it for the kids is incredibly strong and beautiful. And if we can have more people like that in the world who had just there to respond and meet kids where they’re at.

And you also talk in the video about, there. It’s it, they’re the way that they have helped these children to grow. It’s basically teaching them how to do hard work, teaching them to dream a but, how to make things happen, which is a huge thing for gifted children that. Resilience in terms of doing hard work and doing hard things.

And so they’ve really got this wonderful dynamic and I love that you’ve told this story of San Luis it’s one that we can all treasure, I think respect. So it’s really lovely.

Marc: [00:22:06] So I’d like to just on that really quickly. So what, so your audience understands what these shorts are. These shorts are a snapshot and then the movie will go even deeper, right?

So th the shorts are really a way for you to get, where are done some filming. This is the sort of, this is the tone of the film. These are this, the point of view of the film. This is the visual style, the pace and the editing, the music. And if you like it. Make sure to come back.

Sophia: [00:22:30] I look forward to hearing more of what they’re doing there it’s an absolute gem, so we’l shift  slightly there in terms of unexpected places to, to consider gifted expression.

Another one of your shorts as you talked about earlier centers around sexuality and one of the stories is about a transgender, as you said she was Gabby when you met her and and then they  , disclose to you about their transgender journey and right.

Because I want to touch on this because I think when we talk about giftedness there is an immediate misunderstanding about giftedness that it’s this kind of elite thing. But the truth is San Luis shows us it’s, gifted children are everywhere regardless of  demographic or race or culture.

But also I think something that we don’t look at very often is sexuality and how giftedness is expressed with that additional layer of sexuality. So I think it’s a really important thread.  In terms of the shorts that we’ve seen so far, and obviously you dive deeper into that within the movie as well.

Marc: [00:23:53] Yeah. What was interesting was it very early on when I was making The G Word? And I was started getting invited to conferences and being in gifted and talented spaces, if you will. I was being confronted with the fact that there were a lot of transgender and non-binary and gender non-conforming kids and teens and adults in these spaces.

And. I just noticed it anecdotally, it just was there. I, couldn’t not notice it because I’m queer and I’m an advocate of trans youth and I believe in, transgender empowerment and that’s baked into who I am as an activist and one of my own interests and priorities. And I’ve done other work with trans filmmakers and I’ve done other trans projects.

So my sort of, again, my tentacles were poised to notice this information and because of Ilon and Church and meeting them early on with the filming, both of them.  I found them both to be fascinating and amazing people. And I just wanted to tell their story. And I was also, there was a, the backdrop of their story was also of interest because I met them at an early entrance program where they were basically teenagers going to full-time college.

And that’s a special phenomenon that is available in some universities here across the country. And I met them at a  like a, not very prestigious school. It’s Cal state, Los Angeles. It’s not Stanford. It’s not MIT. It’s not some big Ivy league school. It’s a public university. No, as city campus, mostly commuters people of every age, every background.

And so these kids were blending in and you’re just going to college. And I thought that was really interesting. And that program in general was very diverse that early entrance program at Cal state LA, but Church and Ilon, then Gabby were super interesting students within that community that I encountered.

And so I go on glommed onto them because I was just interested in them. And not an out of that kind of there started to be this. Just increasing number of young people like them that were appearing in the rooms. I was, occupying in this movie and I have a very clear memory. I was at one conference in Chicago with, for gifted, where I was giving a keynote in 2017.

And I,  show, I must have shown the Gabby video, to that audience. And that night I was surrounded by parents of trans kids, and yeah. And  it just was so apparent that there was something going on. And. So much. So there’s  what’s going on here?

Has there been any research, has anyone ever looked into this? And so from a storytelling perspective, I figured out that there had been some research. There was some, there’s been some interesting research on transgender and autism, transgender and neurodiversity. And I just was interested in the fact that, that.

I needed to have, I wanted to have an LGBTQ story arc because it had really merged,  through my interactions with her, with a very prominent  author named  Andrew Solomon who wrote a book called far from the tree and far from the tree is a book it’s a very big read. It’s like 1200 pages, but.

The way that the book is basically a book about parents who had children, that they didn’t expect. That’s what the book’s about. Okay. And each chapter is as a different focus. And one chapter is on having a deaf child one chapter’s on having a dwarf child, one chapters on having a gifted or prodigy child, one chapters on having a transgender child.

And so I started seeing all these sort of, abnormal narratives, quote unquote in the same kind of space. And so I was just predisposed to it and we spoke very openly. Andrew and I, when I interviewed him about. The idea that when you are LGBTQ plus, when you’re raised as an openly gay person, when you grow up in a, as a gay person, you are predisposed to parsing out identity and experience and knowledges in ways that are pretty nuanced in part for survival, just to make sense of the world, to navigate the treacherous way of being in the world. And so he says very eloquently in Martin, my interview with him, About that. And and I’ve always felt that I knew that my gayness early on was a huge part of my giftedness. I didn’t connect those dots until I was an adult, but I know that was my understanding of the world, like when I was in those gifted programs, this is the joke I tell I was a very popular kid.

Like I was, my social skills were off the charts. My leadership skills were off the chart. I was good in theater. Good art, good. In language arts, great at history, super high achieving high-performing child. In those gifted programs, there were a lot of geeks and dweebs and kids who were bullied and struggling.

And I always used to fight for them. I used to stand up for them. I was a big social justice warrior, back in the day. And. I attribute that to my sense of knowing that I was different because I was gay. I didn’t know. I didn’t know the name. I didn’t know how to name it when I was seven years old, but that’s what was going on.

I had a sense of being other in the world. I could parse that meeting out at a very early age. Okay. Yeah. So I was able to figure those things out early. And then, so when trans kids were coming at me in this space of gifted, it was natural for me to want to explore it. Anecdotally as a storyteller.

And then as I did research, I saw that others in the kind of traditional research settings in universities and scholars were also researching. So it wasn’t just that I was like dreaming this up. When there are a lot of kids in the room, you start to notice them. It’s just how the world works.

And so I couldn’t not notice it. And so yeah, so the Ilon and Church’s presence in the movie is very much about exploring that question. Is there a correlation between gender identity and the brain and intelligence and creativity and giftedness and. Was thinking about that together, it’s really just, it’s another part of identity that I feel like is in the room, and I think I said on the other podcast that, we treat giftedness and neurodiversity in this movie as a vertical of identity. And so it’s your sex, your gender, your race, your class, your zip code. These are all verticals of identity experience that all show up with you when you walk into a classroom as a child.

And so if you have, a transgender child in your classroom, it would be who of you to be trained, to try to understand what’s going on with that child. It would behoove us as a society to understand that, I think that, this sort of long and the short of like why trans is so challenging, in this moment for so many has a lot to do with it.

It’s just new, it’s just, we have, and anything, anytime things are new and largely misunderstood and charting new ground. We do, people are like, what is this? That’s the thing is that new ideas around identity and how people express their identities.

Always throw people off, in large number. And that’s just how identity works. But the more we talk about these things openly, the more that we lean in to support, the more that we think of ourselves as allies of people who are different from ourselves, the more we will see that gender is not a binary expression.

I just really don’t. I think it is. And I’m delighted to be living in a century where we finally seem to have. A growing number of people who are open to the prospects of that. And I don’t think it’s going to be like the most, easily resolved set of, aspects of our lives, because I think gender is very complicated for a lot of people who are not comfortable with the idea of non-binary expressions of gender.

But. From my perspective, these stories belong  in The G Word because giftedness is everywhere.

Sophia: [00:31:15] Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And I think you, you really hit on something there that I can relate to. I wonder or feel that at the moment, because back in the day you just didn’t come across.

Trans children at school who are transitioning or even acknowledging that, or, coming out as trans. But with, I feel like we’re starting to see that now, but those children and parents are very much those trailblazers and in the decades to follow, it will, like you said, become normal life because it’s a new thing now, we’ll all get used to that and there’ll be less and we will know.

Where those children and parents are coming from will be better able to support them and understand them because yeah. Within my communities I know a few parents with trans children who have gone through that process. But I see that as this I think first wave of coming out in that space that can only be a good thing for the future, but certainly suddenly I think we need to.

I acknowledge and work to understand and support. And so it’s good to have that conversation within the gifted conversation as well and acknowledge that, of course, giftedness is everywhere and those expressions of giftedness  are everywhere as well. And that’s a part of that beautiful expression of being, neurodiverse and but also part of our identity and who we are.

Yeah. So thank you for touching on those issues and bringing them. And I look forward to digging deeper in the film, as you say your shorts. So your videos are just a snippet and a top level. So certainly look forward to digging deeper into those issues within the film, when it comes out. Now I’m very conscious of the time I had one last question before we wrap up these you’re okay for that, because there’s so much to talk about.

Okay, great. I was listening to a conversation that you were having recently with Nadja from Unleash Monday which is another podcast for gifted adults, which is great to listen to. And within that conversation, you were talking about the I, essentially IQ and the, how.

Gifted education relates to special education. And it’s not something that I’ve seen come up in your shorts, but I wondered if that was something that you’d come across in this journey within the film. And it piqued my interest because. About six months or so ago, I met with a friend of a friend.

Who’s a teacher within a special school because I was interested in how my gifted children and give to children, which are very much at one end of the spectrum how their their challenges might relate. Or if there was any connection to the challenges and the way that children within the special ed sphere experienced the world because in both of them in their extremeness and difference from center.

And I was interested that you were talking about that recently as well. Is that something that has come up within that journey that you’ve had.

Marc: [00:34:41] Absolutely. Absolutely. So the movie really does contemplate gifted ed alongside special ed. And what’s interesting is that in a lot of rural school districts here in the United States, the gifted ed coordinator and the special ed coordinator is the same person in part because of resources, because there’s so few.

Positions in some of these districts. So these people wear multiple hats, but it’s interesting that in an under-resourced environment, they put those two things together, because they see them in the same way. And they’re broadly a part of special needs intelligence, if you want to think of it like that.

And this sort of. Strange sauce of it is that, in part thanks to families and advocates and activists, special ed, had some, a wave of like explosive consideration that got it on the table in the 20th century, primarily in the sixties and seventies where, those families and those advocates and activists were able to get things changed and get things into law that got their kids, assurances in this kind of, free and fair, appropriate education model.

And, for all kinds of complicated reasons, the gifted ed side of that conversation became less and less. Of a priority, right? So in an environment where education, resources, was shrinking which was like very much the eighties it was really easy to say, Oh, the smart kids don’t need to don’t need special services because the number smart kids do, right?

Like you can make, you can justify what we have to fix that. Yeah. Especially in the language of, up down smart, dumb, all that sort of, not so nice way of thinking about the world. That’s why I like non-binary thing, because it’s like it leans into this sort of nuance of identity that is much more realistic and probably likely than not.

The, yes, there are people who are. Very much on this side of gifted very much on that side of special ed, but there are more people who reside in complex nuance. Aspects of intelligence. And we, the movie does lean into all kinds of things about sort of new ideas about intelligence.

Okay. So there are a lot of movements in the 21st century that are rethinking what even intelligence means and the, the movie does lean into this idea that. We’re overburdened by IQ. And that IQ is not a fair assessment of, of anyone’s intelligence. It’s bias, it’s Euro centric.

It’s, essentially doesn’t meet that need the child or the student or the person where they are. Given their cultural or other aspects of their experience. It’s interesting that earlier in our conversation, you talked about, giftedness and he used the word regardless of identity or regardless of gender, regardless of.

And I actually, and I guess, I understood what you were saying, but I think that’s a really simple sort of. We can just change our word there. It’s not regardless of identity, it’s actually because of identity. And I think, or gifting it’s, it operates like identity, and so I think, whenever you w when gifted is in the room, someone’s sex, gender, race, zip code classroom in the room, it’s just, that’s how that works.

And. You never bring you can’t you always bring your whole self to given moment. And so I think that’s, that’s extremely important. And yeah, Scott Barry Kaufman, who’s one of the experts that we interviewed in the movie. He talks a lot about personalized i ntelligence and how intelligence is,  much more personal than not.

And I think that is Likely, we’re, I probably feel comfortable sort of thinking about all these big issues is that it’s, each person is unique, and there are things like industry standards, education standards, there’s certain ways we have to put structure around conversations that help us understand programs and services and protocols and evaluation.

All, I get all that stuff like I’m not like lofty in my sort of, sense of reality. There has to be a way of, creating common language and common understanding of how we serve these students. But, in an increasingly personalized environment, each of us is unique and, if anything, the pandemic has shown us that, in a really powerful ways, right?

Like each student is unique and how they are not being served in the pandemic. Think of it, just take that basically out to the larger culture, in a non pandemic context. And it becomes pretty scalable to think about it that way. You just, things like pandemics show where the cracks are, show where the inequities are, show us where the challenges are.

But man, once we get out of this pandemic, we got to think differently about how to fix those challenges, highlight the strengths of people. I think, I’ve talked a lot about how there were this deficit based culture here in the United States, and I’m imagining it’s probably pretty similar in Australia focusing on problems we can fix as opposed to strengths we can highlight and cultivate.

And it seems so. Captain obvious, but for lots of reasons, we just don’t focus on people’s strengths. And we just, and we, and this is the century where we going to either break out of that stuff entirely and rethink systems and education among those systems or not. I really believe that I say this a lot.

I think the 20th century created a lot of problems. The 21st century, we got to fix those problems and that doesn’t, and that doesn’t mean that I try to fault everybody who comes before us, it’d be like, great work was done, always. That’s,  that’s, narrative of progress, but at the expense of what, and so we have, we always have the opportunity to learn and relearn how to. You know how to do this thing called civil society, and if there are, huge numbers of students not being served, isn’t that a worthwhile conversation to have, like, why are we not serving them and how can we serve them better?

And maybe there’s more there, right?

Sophia: [00:40:07] Yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely. There’s so much in that. It’s hard to know where to start. I think one of the challenge of giftedness in terms of that broader understanding of giftedness is certainly interesting related to that deficit model of where we focus on people’s deficits or where they’re having challenges and where they’re not being seen to be typical. But for some reason in giftedness we think giftedness is all.

Sunshine and lollipops, that’s the misnomer and the broader community doesn’t have that understanding that actually within giftedness, there are lots of challenges. There are challenges relating to the way that you’re experiencing or perceiving the world and being in the world as a gifted person because you’re so highly sensitive and that causes a lots of challenges as well.

So very much like you said, it’s about seeing. That wholeness.  And it’ll be interesting to see if, language and perception shifts around that, over the next 10 years, certainly, hopefully And,

Marc: [00:41:08] I think we’re all on a journey, I think that it, this movie for what it’s worth has been fortunate to join with that journey at a pretty dynamic moment.

And in the narrative of what gifted looks like in this century, what intelligence looks like in this century. So yeah. I’ve certainly been enjoying that. And I really want to partner with people who are passionate about, steering this journey and interesting and important directions.

We’ve got to ask as these tough and important questions and the movie hopes to be of service, to this, these conversations. I don’t think that the movie can be all things to all people. There’s only one movie and it’ll be about 95 minutes or whatever. And it can’t, It, our stories will be the stories that I’ve selected, that we have curated, that we are putting into a package that we hope will make, broader sense to a large audience, but what we can support our public conversations about things that may not be featured in the movie.

So the way that I highlight that for people is that. You may not see your exact family in this movie. Okay. That doesn’t mean that we’re not saying your child isn’t gifted. That doesn’t mean that your version of giftedness isn’t real or important or powerful or even, potentially worth, being featured in and.

In a movie. But these are the things that I have spent time noticing and uncovering, and I’m trying to package them in ways I feel will be of interest to the largest possible audience. So I think if people come with that, open-heartedness when they watch our film, they will be surprised and delighted.

We have had pushback, from different corners of the gifted community, around different things that we’ve prioritized and. And people are allowed to believe whatever they want to believe, but the way I always frame it, this is go out and make a movie. If you’re, it’s so important to you to, chime in about moving on, making, go out and make your own, you go out, you go try and do that.

And you see how easy it is, how easy it is.

Sophia: [00:42:50] Absolutely. Absolutely. No, I look, I can’t, wait to see the movie.  As you said at the beginning, it’s in post production at the moment we’re looking for early 20,22 release, which is very exciting. So I just want to wrap up with how people can support the movie.

Our Gifted Kids is a friend and partner of The G Word film, and I would certainly encourage. Anyone out there who’s in this space to, to have  a look at The G Word film website and look into that it’s very accessible and it gives us the opportunity to support the work that Marc is doing.  And so Marc, where else can people find you?

How else can they support that what’s going on here and get involved in this conversation? Because I think this is a great. Spotlight on giftedness and certainly a wonderful opportunity for us to have all of those broad conversations.

Marc: [00:43:44] I certainly encourage people to go to our website, follow us on social media.

We are active on social media. I’m a real believer in the power of social media. I try to create a welcoming and inclusive tone in our social media. So I think people will enjoy, following us and being in community with us. In the earlier podcast, I talked a little bit about our storytelling initiative, which involves photo-sharing called hashtag #mygiftedstory.

So please go to our website to learn more about that. Anyone anywhere in the world can contribute to that tapestry of photos. We’d love to have thousands of visual contributions from around the world to create that visual tapestry. And you can learn more about our impact manifesto, which is our statement about how we want to change hearts and minds about giftedness.

It’s, in part focused on US initiatives, but I think a lot of those will translate over to Australian, supporters. What about our impact manifesto? And yeah, you’ve joined our partnership yet. So organizations of all kinds that are committed to gifted and talented and neurodiverse education populations, services programs if you like this sort of look, feel, smell, taste of these, of what you heard here today, go to our website, look at the link and you can join with us.

Partnership starts at $250 US dollars, so we would be delighted and honored to have anyone who wants to join with us. Join with us and thank you so much for giving me a chance to be a part of your podcast and to amplify our message around this movie. It’s been great.

Sophia: [00:45:11] It’s been wonderful to talk to you.

I really appreciate the conversation and I feel like I’ve probably kept you up a little bit but thanks for being with us today its wonderful thanks.

Marc: [00:45:22] Thank you Sophia. 


#013 Screen time, help! Jocelyn Brewer talks Broccoli & Digital Nutrition.

#013 Screen time, help! Jocelyn Brewer talks Broccoli & Digital Nutrition.

Today I’m speaking with Jocelyn Brewer, creator of the Digital Nutrition concept. We’re talking about screen time and a new way parents can look at this challenging topic!  Jocelyn helps us stay human in a digital world.

In the episode you’ll hear:

  • A new concept for managing screen time – Digital Nutrition.
  • Gaming and computer games – an opportunity to show growth mindset and connect!
  • Using technology (games) to build on our weaknesses.
  • Communication and understanding – tips for parenting!
  • How to win a spot in Jocelyn’s Engaging (Tech Obsessed) Adolescents course!
  • The competition closes on Friday 26th March at midnight. The winner will be announced on Saturday 27th March 2021 via Facebook. Competition T&C’s are here.
Image for Jocelyn Brewer Competition


Memorable Quote

“Actually having a person sitting next to you with the controller and having that easy cool presence while engaging is like a digital super food.” – Jocelyn

“You don’t have to be a gamer and I guess this is what I encourage parents to really look beyond. We wouldn’t say, oh, I’m not much of a booker. If you could just go over there and do your booking and like, just, don’t ask me to want to know anything about what you’re doing with your books. We wouldn’t have that same kind of attitude. And so this is what I mean about curiosity.” – Jocelyn

“What we noticed with young people, especially around relationships or thinking they know everything is that they’re walking through this big dark, I usually call it a warehouse of their life, with a match. What they can see is only as far as that match gives them insight and they think, oh wow, I can see everything. Whereas the process of brain development and the experiences of life, start  throwing on bigger and better light bulbs.” – Jocelyn


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See you in the same place next week.


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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hi Jocelyn. Thanks for joining me today in the podcast. I’m super excited to be talking to you.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:00:06] Thank you. Thanks for having me. I love a good chat.

Sophia Elliott: [00:00:09] Absolutely. And I. I’m really excited because screens, is such a huge issue for parents.

And when I was thinking about this conversation last night, I was thinking, well, we’ve always had technology. And obviously technology shifts, but you know, when I was a kid and I’m watching, wanting to watch lots of TV and my parents nagging me about getting off the TV and then I’m like, is it just the same now?

But now I’m the parent, the shoes on the other foot, it feels worse and more overwhelming or has technology actually shifted as well?

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:00:49] Technology has absolutely shifted. Right? I guess part of the nature of technology is that rapid change and what we’ve seen is an incredibly rapid change over the last.

I dunno, 10 to 15 to 20 to 30 years with the internet. And the way I sum up the main ways that it’s changed is around how pervasive and persuasive technology now is. So it’s, yes, there’s lots of functional ways, but our life is easier and things that we forget about. Like, I have two different cars, one that’s 10 years old, and one that’s brand new and the different technology that sits within the safety of that.

It’s driving two very different vehicles, but then when we come to the screen based media use and young people and the developing brains, then that’s obviously a very different kind of conversation and deep learning paths. And I guess what you’re alluding to, as now we’re parents we do have, I guess, a whole new digital playground that we’re dealing with.

The playground has, a real life version, but then the online version. And it’s so different to when we grow up. When you know, I grew up in the eighties, finished school in the mid nineties. We had one TV. Then we had the second TV, which was a really big deal, but it was still only four, maybe five channels.

If your area was good enough to get SBS there wasn’t huge amounts of content, personal devices and your own digital identity and rabbit hole that you went down. So I think now the kind of big ways that technology and screen-based technology is really different to that one TV that we all crowded around.

Sophia Elliott: [00:02:20] That is so true. I remember going from two channels to four channels, it was during the Gulf war because I remember flicking between all of these amazing channels. And now if I think about our home, we’ve got Google, we’ve got lights that go on and off with voice command. My husband’s building this interactive screen with the kids, it’s you’re right.

It’s pervasive. It’s in all of our cars. It’s. It’s everywhere in our life. And, in your words, how do we stay human in a digital world? I’ve heard you say that. And I’ve gone,  that is the crux of it. Isn’t it? How do we stay connected and human?

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:02:59] I think some of it is really just about pushing back to some of what comes through technology and social media, this idea of like, Super  duper positivity.

and we’re  all thriving and we’re glowing and all of that kind of stuff. It’s just like, no, no, I just want to keep it real and keep it simple. So for me, staying human is really just staying connected to one another. Like keeping some of the things that we know as humans are good for our wellbeing.

And I think definitely through the pandemic. We we came face to face with that a lot more, even though it was face-to-face via zoom. A lot of the time, like we really recognized how important our communities are. We we’re recognizing how important it is to stay conscious as consumers. And I think this is another really interesting area around like media literacy and what we have given up as participants in the digital economy, because everything has seemed free and last week and Facebook’s media ban, I think we started to go, Oh, look how dependent we actually are on so many aspects of this digital space. So for me, staying human is, staying kind empathetic, conscious, connected A At a ground level, and then yeah, if you want to thrive and do all those fantastic other things great.

As long as it’s not coming from that toxic positivity, good vibes only, zone, which drives me as a psychologist, really quite mad because it’s not about just being able to tolerate some of the crappy things in life. 

Sophia Elliott: [00:04:21] And I’ve heard you talk about, The digital detox, not all of us can afford to detox or, and it’s not that simple.

And you’ve come up with this idea of digital nutrition. So tell us, what broccoli has to do with screen time.

Read the rest of the transcript here

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:04:36] Yeah, it’s a really good question. So digital nutrition is really a concept to help parents and really everybody think about how the activities that we do with our screen time, time being just one metric that we can look at how we can actually think about the virtual vitamins.

If we were to consider, two hours on a screen, We, and then look at what actually, each person is doing. That’s very, very different. Like our time here, having this conversation is very, very different. If I was sort of just looking at different diets on Instagram or hate  stalking my ex or something like that.

So considering what is some of the cognition, some of the things we’re actually thinking, the content and the quality of the content who generated it, whether it’s full of misinformation. The context that we’re doing it in, obviously the pandemic and homeschooling, remote learning and all those things changed, change the context that our screen-based media use was happening in.

So I have talked for about seven years, the idea that there’s a really big difference between digital broccoli and  digital candy, the kale or the candy, and really how that, there’s a place for a little bit of candy. There’s a place for a little bit of, mindless scrolling, but that if that’s a really big chunk of your digital diet and that’s probably not going to be healthy, So similarly to much of the good stuff  is also not necessarily healthy, either like four kilos of kale, isn’t going to necessarily jive with your guts. So really this is not prescriptive or there is not one digital diet that is going to fit everybody.

It’s really about thinking. What do I need to take from this? What was my family need when my kids need? And again, thinking about kids who might have, neuro-diversity be twice exceptional will have, gifted giftedness, their own personalities. They’re always going to have slightly different interests in that online space because it is such a massive playground to one another.

So yeah. Yeah, it’s just trying to use, everything we’ve learned about food over the last 30 years and piggyback that on to the things we’re doing with screens.

Sophia Elliott: [00:06:35] Yeah. That’s a really interesting way of looking at it because like you say, Even too much of a good thing is too much. If you eat too many carrots or whatever, it’s like you say it’ll wreak havoc and it’s still not necessarily doing the right thing.

So it’s about finding that balance the same way that we need to find that balance with food that’s really going to help stick actually. And I like that you’re talking about. Basically it’s consuming consciously isn’t it. And really thinking about what we’re doing and that connection. So how can we help our kids or how can we help parents make better decisions around that?

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:07:14] I think the first thing is all about the literacy aspect and the understanding what we’re participating in. When we step into the attention economy, there’s surveillance economy, whatever you want to talk about in terms of the trade off of our time and our attention for participating in these spaces.

So, I guess that’s why I’ve used that food analogy. So it’s not another thing to burden parents with in terms of all the things you have to learn about parenting that no one ever told you, and he’s not actually in any of the books. So it’s really about those conversations and it, for me, it starts with.

Rather than us as parents, othering young people and their online activities being curious with, ah like what is it that’s so amazing about that game that you would literally play for eight hours and not stop unless you needed to go to the toilet. Why is this much more fascinating to you than doing maths or science or talking to your grandmother?

So bringing that curiosity, but also knowing and doing our own due diligence as parents to have a sense of what You know what that, what is in that digital playground, because if we just looked at games and I guess your audience and the children of your audience are potentially going to be really, really heavily involved in gaming and very focused and passionate and engaged in that space.

And we really want to understand, like what’s the content of the game and what’s the game design that is going to tap into sometimes those vulnerabilities of their cognitive development and their brain architecture to create really deeply entrenched patterns that can be sometimes really hard to break.

Sophia Elliott: [00:08:41] That’s really interesting because I am not a gamer. I am, my brother was growing up and I just, and even now I just can’t get into it as much as I have a few friends that are like, come on and try world of Warcraft or this or that. And I’m like, okay, I’ll have a look at Minecraft, but thankfully my husband is, and.

When it’s come to our, in particular, our eldest, but all of our  kids wanting to engage in that space. What we’ve noticed is like our eldest loves certain games, uh, and some of them, I think, fill that sort of cognitive need they’re  very realistic technical games where he can build spaceships and all sorts of things, manage resources, you know?

And thankfully my husband’s into that too, but my son actually really loves playing with him and if he could do anything, yeah. He’d play a game, but he’d play with dad. And so we try and work that into our weekends. So that would be a good way of providing the connection, getting to know what they’re doing.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:09:47] Yeah,

absolutely. So gaming side by side is probably the best way to do gaming, according to a lot of the research. So we know that lots of kids obviously game with their friends in  their online kind of mods and little groups, whether that’s on discord or all those different places, but actually having a person sitting next to you with the controller and having that easy cool presence while engaging is like a digital super food. Let’s just say so, you don’t have to be a gamer and I guess this is what I encourage parents to really look beyond. We wouldn’t say, Oh, I’m not much of a booker. If you could just go over there and do your booking and like, just, don’t ask me to want to know anything about what you’re doing with your books.

We wouldn’t have that same kind of attitude. And so this is what I mean about curiosity. Being willing to be absolutely  shit  house at the game. A lot of the games that I play, I don’t play to win. I play just to have fun. So because again, couldn’t red, dead redemption, which is basically setting the wild West in the U S and I just get on a horse and ride around and the graphics are so amazing.

I can’t go horse riding in the middle of Sydney. I just ride horses and I trade my horse for a better horse or I’ll rescue a horse. And all of that, I get zero points. I usually get shot by a cowboy, but I’m riding a horse, which is something that I love to do. So kids  will  loved that we take some kind of interest again, don’t be creepy and don’t be like, Oh, I’m really want to game.

And like, they’re like, Oh God, leave me alone. And how embarrassing. But find a way that you can dip your toe into that digital kind of playground and be willing to be awful at something which I think. Again we usually try to get kids to try different things and try it, even though they’re not good at it.

And all those sorts of things that may be gifted, kids are always like, no, no. I only do the things that I’m going to be amazing at show them your willingness to screw up and have fun learning that experience. They will actually then teach you a lot. And that is another like really great relationship glue to help build connection with your kids.

Sophia Elliott: [00:11:51] That’s yeah. Great tips there and yeah, it’s all about modeling that growth mindset. Isn’t it? It’s like, yeah. I don’t know what I’m doing. You can teach me, let, just give you an opportunity to be in that space as well. That’s right.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:12:03] That’s right. And if you’re looking for new games, I have to give a shout out to this incredible website A guy called  Andy Robertson in the UK, he’s known as the geek gamer dad, or  gaming  geek dad or something like that. He’s created a gaming website called taming gaming.com. And it is this incredible database where you can search by a whole range of different factors. So  if you have accessibility issues around hearing or vision, if there is neuro-diversity, if you need some kind of quiet  or reflective games, games to tap into emotions strategic games. He’s created this database where you just search it. So if you’re on a kind of digital diet of Minecraft, Roblox  , Fortnite, some of those big kind of well-known games, and you’re really looking to supplement that digital diet with some diversity, that is absolutely an incredible resource that it’s free.

You don’t, it just opens up so many different opportunities for families. It’s I’m so glad it exists.

Sophia Elliott: [00:13:00] That sounds awesome. I’ll definitely put that in the show notes and check that out myself, because I feel like I need to break into this gaming world for my kids and something I’ve learnt about as well.

In the last couple of years we’ve gotten quite into board games. And I’m saying, board games, like online games, there’s all sorts of different categories and styles of gaming. And so there are options out there to find something that suits you and your family and your family values and that kind of thing.


Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:13:28] Yeah. Tabletop gaming is like massive. There’s lots of little courses that you can do to even design your own tabletop games. So, gaming doesn’t have to be through a screen that can be a handy way of doing things, but absolutely, there’s a huge Renaissance of tabletop in board games as well.

Yeah. PAX , which is the kind of big gaming festival that’s on in Melbourne used to be on in Melbourne when we had massive gatherings of thousands and thousands of that’d be huge sections of, retro gaming, tabletop, gaming, alternative video games. And then that. The big kind of Hollywood blockbuster style games.

It’s it’s massive, beautiful community too. Yeah.

Sophia Elliott: [00:14:06] Yeah. It is a whole new world. I’m certainly learning that. So with our gifted kids, you alluded there before, they’re going to have particular interests and certainly the gaming world, the technology world  has a certain appeal for a lot of gifted and 2E  kids.

Have you got any particular. Tips for parents of gifted kids. Like, is it really any different, the whole managing screen time to your neuro-typical kids? Yeah. Thoughts on that?

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:14:36] Yeah, look, it is quite complicated because it’s really about we, how that shows up, like what traits, if we think about, let’s say if we take autism, that’s not a spectrum from just high to low.

We know that there’s actually so many different sliders within that. And so if some of your sliders are. To not necessarily be great at social communication or social connectedness, then gaming actually is a place that you can go into and avoid developing some of those skills sometimes. So there’s certain types of games that are much more appropriate for kids who maybe need to develop those social skills.

So I’d really look at it, but the difference between what needs you need to feed and what things you need to foster. So for many kids, like the knowledge-based stuff, the strategy, we’re thinking that kind of the strategic thinking. Great. You’re already amazing at that. We want to foster and get some balance back into the sliders.

Maybe across that neurodiversity spectrum when you’re not performing as well was something that you can improve some of your executive functioning. So what. Again, it shows up so differently for different kids and then there’s the age appropriateness as well. That’s again, why  Taming Gaming is something that just is such a relief for me, because I finally have a place that I can say to families.

Okay. You go and plug in how old your kid is, and that’s going to give you a very different list of games if your child is 11 versus 14. And th the kind of. Almost the vibe or the mood within games. So some games, some researchers would say high dopamine or high sensory. So there’s a lot of that stuff coming at you rather than there’s lots of other games that are much more narrative and story-based.

The kind of like walking through a meditation. And there are some of the games that some kids would benefit from fostering more skills rather than just feeding  what their strengths and the things that we know that they’re already good at. So again, no one prescription. When I work with families, we really go into looking at what the characteristics and the traits of the  kid are  what their strengths, and then what their weaknesses and what we want to foster are..

Sophia Elliott: [00:16:42] I just feel like there’s a whole, , there’s a, we could spend a week talking about just that. And so it’s, so tell us about some of the work that you do. You obviously work with families and offer different services.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:16:56] Yeah. So I do a little bit of everything. I was somebody who wanted to be a vet and then worked out the  mark  was really high.

And  went , Oh, I’m not smart enough. And so I gave up on that and floundered around for most of her twenties. I was, it was a teacher. I ended up teaching at Sydney boys high school, not because I was a really great teacher, but because. That would desperate for teacher. And I got a job in two days and I stayed there for about five years.

I developed thier  really big debating program there and the nineties training program and became a school counselor. So I spent 10 years as a school counselor. So psychologist and teacher working across all different settings. At the moment I am here in  my office where I do see any human who wants to engage in therapy, but I do have a kind of specialty working with adults and working with families around, traditional family therapy, but usually what parents are coming to me for.

And the big conflict piece  at the moment is around screens and managing screens. The tech jeanie  is out of the bottle. Trying to pop that back in with a young person. Who’s probably quite desperate to hold on to some of those not quite great technology habits. Then I obviously do a bunch of presenting and speaking consulting.

And basically, w we’ll talk to anyone who wants to listen about this stuff to really try and break down some of the big myths, and some of their fee mongering kind of moral panic tactics that go around, but from people who don’t really understand some of the big opportunities that games and digital technologies present, there’s also a big divide between ed tech, like where if you’re doing technology for learning, that’s all good in some kind of beautiful utopia and then learning.

Oh, using technology at home, which is some sort of addictive, horrible cyber bullying space. So we really need to blend those two things to try and understand that even in those ed tech spaces, there’s some of the dark stuff going on, but also at home, the social learning that happens in the leisure spaces can also be really important as well.

Sophia Elliott: [00:18:51] And so on that note, you’re also about to start another course about engaging teenagers and this particularly around tech obsessed teenagers. Yeah, so that’s an online course where actually taking parents through that nitty gritty and I’ve been engaged in the previous one, which is really good.

And I found it interesting that of course. How do we talk to our kids about technology? And so there’s a lot of content in there about first of all, connecting and how to communicate.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:19:19] Yeah, absolutely. Because if you want them to put the device down  then  you’re going to need to be able to bridge to have communication to them, so that they’re going to listen to you and not just hear the nagging mum voice.

And we get into habits of communication and some kind of toxic ways of communicating because our desperation for them to see what  we see  is really strong. And we have to remember that their brain architecture is simply not there. We’re asking, a kid to ride a bike. When we haven’t put them on the, even the tricycle to begin with, there’s just skills.

They might get what it looks like, but they physically can’t operationalize it. So engaging adolescence itself is a three-week course. It was written by a psychologist called Michael Cortner, who runs parents shop. Many people would know. Michael’s work. He’s trained thousands and thousands of people in engaging adolescents over the years.

So I’m trained in at engaging adolescents. And then he’s given me permission to add on the digital nutrition  piece  or the tech obsessed kid piece  so that we can actually apply it to the challenges that modern parents are having. Yeah, webinars because then people can access it wherever they are trying to get.

Even trying to run an event and get people into one space is always really, really tricky. Let alone with COVID changing our lives every two seconds. So yeah, online it’s I try and make it as interactive as possible. I know that lots of parents are kind of shy about sharing and they’re reticent to put themselves out there and say, this is a massive problem.

Help me help me. That generally is better for a a kind of private. Therapy space, but it’s a good way to start developing some of these skills. And it’s all about like  make a plan   to communicate. When you communicate off the cuff out of stress, when the proverbial is hitting the fan, it’s going to go wrong.

And that’s okay. You just need to do the cleanup later.

Sophia Elliott: [00:21:02] Absolutely. And two of the biggest takeaways I’ve got from it so far, and I don’t think will ever leave me, first of all  is remembering that I have a fully functioning brain, my kids don’t. So like, I’m the adult with the fully functioning brain.

My kids are still developing. So I’m going to take that responsibility for not behaving like a twat  when things get stressful and, and calming  it down. So that in itself, I think is parenting gold. But also the anecdote about the kids with the match. Yeah. Can you tell us about that one?

Because I think that is brilliant.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:21:37] Yeah. So when, and this is to illustrate exactly that same point and a lot of parents get, have the same aha moment when, I just jokingly say, yeah. So what you’ve realized is your 17 year old son is not, he’s not a 43 year old woman. Cool. I’m glad we I’m glad we leveled that out.

And what we noticed with young people, especially around relationships or thinking they know everything is that they’re walking through this big dark I usually call it a warehouse of their life with a match. So what they can see is only as far as that match gives them insight and they think, Oh wow, I can see everything.

Whereas and the process, of brain development and, the experiences of life, start  throwing on bigger and better light bulbs. And it ends up being like, I think of it, those cars where they’ve got like massive flood lights, Like when I think of it like that, like we started the flood lights on and we can see their entire life playing out in front of us  because we have that insight of experience.

So we really want to reframe, yes, I can see what’s going on, but I don’t want to stop your learning because you feel that your match is really helping you. I can give you some different perspectives. And it’s the way you give that perspective. I think that’s really important and the way that you model what you’re talking about.

So if you’re saying, I know everything and I can see what’s going to happen a lot of the time kids are just going to be reactive to that. So psychological reactance is another really interesting thing. If you say this is banned, they will want it more than if you said, okay, let’s negotiate because it doesn’t take things off the table.

It doesn’t take things away. It doesn’t take their efficacy and their control away. So lots of little tips like that, just to reframe why we’re so frustrated with kids, especially gifted kids, because they get the concepts, but then they don’t operationalize things. You can’t see them. It’s a, should I know I shouldn’t do it, but I don’t actually make that happen.

And again, the storage system, the cognitive, like knowing  isn’t  in the same part as the doing, especially under stress.

Sophia Elliott: [00:23:43] Yes. Yes, yes. To all of that. And I’m thinking of my kids and it’s a wonderful reminder that we do offer all of our life of experience to our children, because quite often, especially with gifted kids, they, they think that they know everything.

And on some topics they are, far more knowledgeable than us. And even, one of my children in particular is so emotionally mature , but. But, at the end of the day, I’m the parent I’m putting in those. Boundaries and guide rails and yeah, I’ve got to take that responsibility on board.

Even though, they’re feeling very mature and knowledgeable, so, yeah.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:24:21] And as a teacher, like I was about 26 when I started teaching at Sydney boys high, which is in the top 10 schools in new South Wales. And again, I wasn’t there because I was an excellent teacher who did well in her HSC I remember being at the first assembly where the principal said, if your aATAR is under 80, then you’re not performing very well.

And my ATAR  back in the day was 75 and I thought, Oh, okay. I wouldn’t actually get to go to this school. And while a lot of other people might be quite intimidated then by the boys and need to pull a lot of power tricks to teach them. I was always really open about how intelligent they were, but how would I had, which was the emotional intelligence, maturity, and insight was something that they could really

stop and learn. So I think that’s the same, as parents go, you’re probably going to do a lot better academically than I ever did, but this is what I’ve got that you can learn from. And we’re going to exchange based on that kind of mutual respect.

Sophia Elliott: [00:25:16] Yeah. That’s great language. Isn’t it exchanging and respect.

I love that. So the course is starting up again in April. People have the opportunity to join you online and hear more about. All of this and it’s just been an absolute  gold today. Thank you so much.. And so where can people find you? You’ve got a website?

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:25:36] I do have a website amazingly and it’s a brand spanking new one that I spent a lot of time in the pandemic  re-doing.

So it’s jocelynbrewer.com. That’s where you’ll find digital nutrition being homed there, as well as information about my psychology services, which I do do via telehealth. So some of the parent digital coaching. And the programs and packages that I do up for families. We can do via tele health if that’s of interest.

I also in my little space here, I work with another psychologist, Kate Plum , who was a   school counselor with me as well. And she does a whole bunch of assessment for giftedness IQ assessment, but really has a passion for the giftedness space as well. So she’s does the assessment, so we’ve got a whole little, practice here in collective, as psychologist, which is lovely.

Sophia Elliott: [00:26:23] Then that’s wonderful to know because it can be really tricky to find psychologists who know giftedness. So they’re very prized among parents. It’s always in the parent chat who knows a good psych and it’s like, Oh, this one, but they’re booked out. So I’ll put all of those  details on the show notes.

 And I have to say, I do love the logo and the new website. So if that’s new, then Bravo. Thank you so much for today. I feel like we could just talk for weeks. There’s so much in there and I encourage everyone to check out your course.

I’ve found it incredibly helpful already. And. And there’s just so much parenting help in there. So thanks again for today.

Jocelyn Brewer – Digital Nutrition: [00:27:05] Pleasure. Love to chat.


How knowing my gifted kids’ level of giftedness helps me parent.

How knowing my gifted kids’ level of giftedness helps me parent.

One of my points from last week’s blog was that if you’re gifted then you’re 2E.

It’s a little controversial to look at giftedness that way; that’s not how it’s seen in the broader community. But then the broader community generally doesn’t realise that giftedness is not all straight A’s and academic awards, it’s often confused for just high achievement.

My point is that the challenges of giftedness are rarely adequately recognised or supported.

I usually refrain from all or nothing type statements because the world is so much more complex than that. Blanket statements like this can never cover all the nuances of giftedness; if you’ve seen one gifted kid, then you’ve seen one gifted kid.

They are all so different.

However, understanding the ‘levels’ of giftedness can help us understand our kids.

BUT, again, it’s important to say, you’ve gotta take everything with a grain of salt and ask yourself, how does this help me parent before you get bogged down in the details.

Although reading and other traits come up often in identifying a gifted child, and the lists that follow are very descriptive, not all gifted, highly or profoundly gifted kids read before school. So, don’t think, my child didn’t read therefore they aren’t moderately/highly/profoundly gifted.

And to be honest, I often look at lists and think, I don’t know!? Seriously, I was knee deep in toddlers and babies and sleep deprivation and trying to find something they would eat and the right coloured plate, I don’t remember the first time they showed interest in a book, is that just me?!

…and IQ tests… are not perfect.

They are a result of how your child performed on one day, constructed within norms of a white western culture. They are the best indication we have and can be extremely useful, but it is important that an experienced psychologist is able to interpret your child and the test scores and we see them for what they are.

Also, if you search the web, you’ll notice that there are different interpretations of IQ scores and levels of giftedness. Go search ‘genius’ and you’ll see what I mean.

So, I think of this information more of a guide and I ask myself, how is this useful to my parenting?

I do think that understanding ‘levels’ is useful and may help understand the degree of accommodation that your child may need in both parenting and education (or just life in general!).

It may help to understand that if your child is fitting into some of the profoundly gifted traits then they are going to need significant accommodation in education, however if they are fitting into the moderate level then a good, engaged school with a gifted program may be everything your child needs to thrive.

No level is better than another level, the world is so competitive, let’s not compete here.

The levels should be seen as descriptors. If your child is moderately gifted, don’t be tempted to think they are only level 1, moderately gifted.

Remember, all children are gifts!

Don’t take that away from them, they are very intelligent and bravo! you probably have a lot more choices of educational options than a child who is level 5, profoundly gifted.

Being profoundly gifted is a challenge, these kids (one in 25,000- 250,000), like all our kids, are treasures but life isn’t easy.

It’s not something I would wish on someone; it can be hard not fitting into a world made for the middle and profoundly gifted kids are one of the furthest extremes (the other extreme being severe/profound intellectual disability).

They are so different from their same aged peers. That’s hard. They need extra care to help them thrive and live a life that helps them shine. Dr Ruf says, frequently one parent must postpone their career to advocate for their level 5 child’s education.[i]

It’s not a competition, we just want them all to do their best.

This is all about helping you figure out how best to support your child, so don’t get too caught up in the numbers or details, take from it what is useful to you.

Ok, so let’s crack on, what are the ‘levels’ of giftedness?

The ‘levels’ were created by Dr Deborah Ruf and her research which led her to discovering five distinct levels of giftedness:

Levels of Giftedness[ii]

Level One — Ability Score (IQ) 117–129 — Moderately Gifted 120–124 to Gifted 125–129

Level Two — Ability Score (IQ) 125–135 — Highly Gifted

Level Three —Ability Score (IQ) 130–140 — Highly to Exceptionally Gifted

Level Four — Ability Score (IQ) — 135- 141+ — Exceptionally to Profoundly Gifted

Level Five —Ability Score (IQ) — 145+ — Exceptionally to Profoundly Gifted

That doesn’t tell us a whole lot, here are the levels in a lot more detail, taken from an online article by Dr Ruf. I’ve complied quite a long list from that article because I think it helps to have a number of descriptors to look at.

Level 1
  • Approximately 87th-97th percentiles on standardized tests
  • Terms Superior* to Moderately Gifted on IQ tests
  • IQ scores[1] of about 117 to 129
  • Generally top one-third to one-fourth of students in a typical public mixed-ability class
  • Many in this Level don’t qualify for gifted programs (scores don’t meet school criteria)
  • Predominate gifted program population due to higher frequency compared to Levels Two through Five
  • Start kindergarten with end-of-year skills already mastered
  • Many recognized colors and could rote count before age two.
  • Most knew and said many words before 18 months.
  • Many liked puzzles before age two.
  • Sat still and attended to TV by 18 to 30 months.
  • Real counting, most letters and colors by age three.
  • Complex speaking and extensive vocabulary by age three.
  • Recognized simple signs, own written name, and most knew alphabet by age four.
  • Most did simple addition and subtraction by age four.
  • Most showed interest in learning to read before age five.
  • All read simple signs and most read beginner books by age six.
  • Most were independent on computer and started to keyboard by age six.
  • Most fully grasped counting and basic number facts by age six.
  • All were reading and were two to three years beyond grade level by age seven.
  • All could read chapter books independently by age seven to seven and a half.
  • Many showing impatience with repetition and slow pace at school by age seven or eight.
  • Children of Level One can easily go to college, can benefit from accelerated coursework, and are often, but not necessarily, good and cooperative students.
Level 2
  • Mostly 98–99th percentiles on standardized tests
  • Terms Moderately to Highly Gifted or Very Advanced on IQ tests
  • IQ scores of about 125–135
  • As many as one to three in typical mixed-ability classroom
  • Qualify for gifted programs
  • Second most common in gifted programs
  • Master most kindergarten skills one to two years before kindergarten (by age 4)
  • Almost all the children understood adult directives and questions at 6 to 12 months.
  • The majority independently looked at and turned pages of books by 11–15 months.
  • About half the children said two-word phrases by 15 months.
  • A number of children played with shape sorters by 15 months.
  • Most knew many letters at 15–18 months.
  • Most knew most colors by 15–20 months.
  • Many liked puzzles by 12 to 15 months (8–10 piece puzzles).
  • Most knew and called out names on signs and stores between 11 and 16 months.
  • Several “read” numerous sight words at 16–24 months.
  • Almost all were speaking in three-word and longer sentences by age two.
  • Many recognized and picked out specific numbers by 12–22 months.
  • About 25% knew the entire alphabet by 17–24 months.
  • Most did one-to-one counting for small quantities by age 3.
  • Most knew most letters and colors by age three.
  • Most had extensive vocabularies and did complex speaking by age three.
  • Many could print letters, numbers, words, and their names between 3 and 4 years.
  • Several had high interest in facts, how things work, and science by 3½ to 4½.
  • Most knew many sight words by age 4.
  • Several read easy readers by age 4.
  • Most were independent on computer by age 4½.
  • Most fully grasped counting and basic number facts by age five.
  • Many showed intuitive grasp of number concepts by age five.
  • Most enjoyed having advanced level books and stories read to them by age five.
  • Most read easy reader books before age five, nearly all by 5½.
  • Most read for pleasure and information by six.
  • All read two to five years beyond grade level by age 7.
  • All read chapter books independently by age 7–7½.
  • Many showed impatience with repetition and slow pace at school by age 6–7.
  • Level Two children have the ability to do accelerated coursework almost from the time they enter school, take advanced placement courses and hold leadership positions, are capable of getting into competitive colleges and universities, and often go on to some form of graduate school. Although many Level Two children are excellent students, a number of them may resist typical school expectations and achieve less than they are capable of achieving due to the discrepancy between their learning ability and that of the majority of their same-age classmates. They may prefer to “fit in,” or they may conclude that the work is simply wrong for them and refuse to comply with what they see as “stupid” expectations.
Level 3
  • Approximately 98–99th percentiles on standardized tests
  • Terms Highly to Exceptionally Gifted or Very Advanced on IQ tests
  • IQ scores of about 130 to 140
  • One or two per grade level, more in high socioeconomic schools
  • Qualify for gifted programs — above level of most other participants and material
  • Unless gifted program includes more than one grade level, student may be only one of same ability in gifted class
  • Master majority of kindergarten skills by age 3 or 4
  • Question Santa or Tooth Fairy by age 3 to 5
  • Most spontaneously read with or w/o previous instruction before kindergarten
  • Most read simple chapter books by age 5–6
  • Most intuitively use numbers for all operations before kindergarten
  • Most were alert at birth or soon thereafter.
  • Most had books as a favorite interest before age one.
  • Almost all understood what someone was talking about by 6 months.
  • Most independently looked at and turned pages of books before 10 months.
  • Most made their families understand what they wanted before 12 months.
  • Most had large vocabularies, receptive and expressive, by 16 months.
  • A number of children played with shape sorters by 11 months.
  • Many recognized some colors, shapes, numbers and letters before 12 months.
  • Many recognized and picked out specific numbers and letters by 12–15 months.
  • Most knew many colors by 15–18 months.
  • Many liked puzzles by 15 to 24 months (35+ piece puzzles).
  • Most “read” names on signs and stores from between 20 months and 3¾ years.
  • Many children “read” numerous sight words between 15 and 20 months.
  • Many memorized the books that were read to them before they were two years old.
  • Many showed interest in letter sounds and sounding out short words by age 2½.
  • Most were speaking in complex sentences, more than four words, by 15 to 24 months.
  • Many could rote count to 10, many higher, by 15 to 24 months.
  • Almost all knew the entire alphabet by 17–24 months.
  • Most could print letters, numbers, words, and their names between 2¾ and 3½ years.
  • Many had high interest in factual information, how things work, science, by 3 to 4.
  • Most knew many sight words by age 3–3½.
  • Half could read very simple books — perhaps memorized — by age 3–3½.
  • Most grasp skip counting, backwards, basic addition and subtraction, by 3 to 4 years.
  • Many keyboarding — typing — by 3 to 4½ years.
  • Most could read easy readers by age 4 to 5 years.
  • Many questioned the reality of Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy by 3 to 5 years.
  • Most read children’s-level chapter books by 4¼ to 5½ years.
  • Many understood some multiplication, division and some fractions to 5½.
  • Most read for pleasure and information by six.
  • All were reading two to five years beyond grade level by age six.
  • All could read youth and young adult chapter books independently by age 7–7½.
  • Level Three children are capable of achieving in any career field. Opportunity and their own inner drive will determine which individuals eventually achieve at the highest levels.
Level 4
  • Primarily 99th percentile on standardized tests, although this understates the person’s ability; it is qualitatively different from a Level Three 99th percentile.
  • Also called exceptionally to profoundly gifted
  • Full scale IQ scores of about 135 to 141+ or a 145+ on either verbal or nonverbal or a specific domain, e.g. fluid or quantitative reasoning
  • One or two across two grade levels; two or three per grade level in high socioeconomic schools (e.g., 100 students in grade level)
  • Majority of kindergarten skills by age 3
  • Question such concepts as Santa or Tooth Fairy by age 3 to 4
  • Majority at 2nd-3rd grade equivalency in academic subjects by early kindergarten
  • Majority at upper high school grade equivalencies by 4th-5th grades
  • Show concern for existential topics and life’s purpose by early elementary school age
  • Almost all paid attention within months of birth while someone to read to them.
  • Books were a favorite interest before three or four months.
  • Almost all understood parental directives by 6 months.
  • Most knew and said some words by 5½ to 9 months.
  • Many had large vocabularies, receptive and expressive, by 14 months.
  • Many recognized and picked out specific numbers and letters by 12–15 months.
  • Most knew many colors by 15–18 months.
  • Many liked puzzles by 15 to 36 months (35+ piece puzzles).
  • Many “read” numerous sight words between 15 and 20 months.
  • Almost all knew the entire alphabet by 15–22 months.
  • Most “read” names on signs and stores from between 20 months and 3¾ years.
  • Many memorized the books that were read to them before they were 2 years old.
  • Many showed interest in letter sounds and sounding out short words by age 2½.
  • Most were speaking in complex sentences, more than four words, by 15 to 24 months.
  • Many could rote count to 10, many higher, by 13 to 20 months.
  • Most printed letters, numbers, words, and their names between 2¾ and 3½ years.
  • Many had high interest in factual information, how things work, science, by 3 to 4.
  • Most knew many sight words by age 3–3½.
  • Most grasp skip counting, backwards, addition, subtraction, more and less, by 3 to 4 years.
  • Most were independent on computer by age 3 to 4½ years, most keyboarding by five.
  • Most read easy readers by age 3½ to 4½ years.
  • Many question the reality of Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy by 3 to 4 years.
  • Many understand some multiplication, division and some fractions by 5.
  • Most read for pleasure and information by five.
  • All read two to five years beyond grade level by age six.
  • All read youth and adult chapter books independently by age 6–6½.
  • Most Level Four children were capable of finishing all academic coursework through 8th grade before they reach 3rd or 4th grade, but few of them had the opportunity; this does not include handwriting, organizational skills, or thesis writing, which takes time and maturity to master no matter how gifted the child. Also, girls are — on average — one to one-and-a-half years ahead of boys in verbal skills and writing until about the middle of elementary school due to differences in brain development between the sexes. If the environment, inner drive, and general opportunities are right for them, Level Four children are capable of performing at the highest levels in their areas and fields of interest.
Level 5
  • Primarily 99.9th percentiles on standardized tests, if such differentiation is reported
  • Profoundly gifted range or Highly Advanced on IQ tests
  • Full scale and domain scores at 145+ (slightly lower if tested after mid-teenage years)
  • High intellectual profile across all ability domains, great inner drive to learn across domains (although not necessarily demonstrated in the regular classroom)
  • Nationally at least 1:250,000, a higher proportion in metropolitan areas and high socioeconomic background schools
  • Majority have kindergarten skills by about 2½ years or sooner
  • Question concept of Santa or Tooth Fairy by age 2 to 3
  • Majority spontaneously read, understand fairly complex math, have existential concerns by age 4–5 with or without any instruction
  • Majority have high school level grade equivalencies by age 7 or 8 years old, mostly through their own reading and question asking
  • All were alert at birth or soon thereafter.
  • Books were a favorite interest of most before three or four months.
  • All appeared to understand parental directives between birth and four months.
  • The majority independently looked at and turned pages of books before 6 months.
  • Most knew and said some words by 5½ to 9 months.
  • All had large receptive vocabularies by 8–9 months.
  • Half spoke well before age one.
  • All spoke at near-adult level complexity by age two.
  • Most played with shape sorters before 11 months.
  • Many recognized and picked out specific numbers and letters by 10 -14 months.
  • All knew colors, numbers, the alphabet and shapes by about 15 months.
  • Most were good at puzzles before 12 months, 35+ piece puzzles by 15 months.
  • All showed musical aptitude before 18 months.
  • All “read” words on signs and simple books and labels before two years.
  • Many read numerous sight words by 15 months.
  • All memorized books read to them before 20 months.
  • All had favorite TV shows or videos before 6–8 months.
  • Many could rote count to 10, many higher, by 13 to 20 months.
  • Most could print letters, numbers, words, and their names between 16 and 24 months.
  • High interest in factual information, how things work, science, by two years.
  • Most read simple books, “board” books, by age 18–24 months.
  • Most grasp skip counting, backwards, addition, subtraction, more or less, by two years.
  • All were independent on computer by age two years, all keyboarding before three.
  • All read children’s chapter books by age 3½ to 4½ years.
  • All showed interest in pure facts, almanacs, dictionaries, etc. by age 3½.
  • All question the reality of Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy by 3 or 4 years.
  • All read any level fiction and nonfiction by 4¼ to 5 years.
  • All understand abstract math concepts and basic math functions before age four.
  • All played adult level games — ages 12 and up — by the time they were 3½ to 4.
  • All read six or more years beyond grade level by age six.

There is more information on the levels in this article by Dr Munson and this article, by Dr Ruf, also looks at the levels and how personality impacts educational needs.

Dr Ruf has also written books including 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options.

Let me know if this was helpful in our Facebook Group.


[1] https://eleanormunsonphd.com/2011/01/the-five-levels-of-giftedness/

[11] https://deborahruf.medium.com/ruf-estimates-of-levels-of-giftedness-7213a77089e9

[111] https://deborahruf.medium.com/ruf-estimates-of-levels-of-giftedness-7213a77089e9