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

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

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

In the episode you’ll hear:

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

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

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

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

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


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



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

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

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


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

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

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

More Transcript Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tune in to hear more!

Hit play and let’s get started!

About GRO

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

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

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

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


Subscribe & Review

If you enjoyed this episode and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments.

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

See you in the same place next week.


Connect with me on LinkedIn Instagram & Facebook!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

more Transcript here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:37:05] Bye.


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

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

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

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

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

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



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

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

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

Subscribe & Review

If you enjoyed this episode and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments.

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

See you in the same place next week.


Connect with me on LinkedIn Instagram & Facebook!

Check out this episode!


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

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

[00:00:20] Thanks for having me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:06:28] So cool.

More Transcript Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:08:17] What does

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:20:35]Julie Skolnick: We’ve,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:34:34] Julie Skolnick: not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



#025 Why Would Parents Choose a Selective Gifted School?

#025 Why Would Parents Choose a Selective Gifted School?

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

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

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

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

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

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

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

Subscribe & Review

If you enjoyed this episode and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments.

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

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

See you in the same place next week.


Connect with me on LinkedIn Instagram & Facebook!

Check out this episode!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:03:29] Deb Nurton: sad, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Transcript Here

[00:10:29] Yeah,

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


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

[00:10:44]Deb Nurton: Children that’s

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

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

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

[00:11:08] this selective school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:18:35] Isn’t it like? Yeah.

[00:18:37] Deb Nurton: To

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

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

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

[00:19:03] Is it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:25:19] children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:31:47] Yeah, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:33:58] yeah, I know I’m only

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:36:27] know,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[00:43:15] We need

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

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

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

#024 Sexuality & Gender – Tips for parents

#024 Sexuality & Gender – Tips for parents

Today is Part 2 of a conversation about sex education for parents of gifted kids that we started earlier this year with Dr Matt Zakreski. In this episode, we talk about gender and sexuality as they relate to the gifted population.

As parents of gifted kids, we especially, need to be open to accepting, knowing and understanding sexuality and gender issues and we talk about why.

We define sexuality, gender, CIS gender, gender fluid, transgender and all the letters in LGBTQ+ and why it is important to understand this language.

We provide tips for parents if your child starts talking about sexuality, or questioning gender, or comes out to you, or wants to talk about sex. Not to mention, how to talk about consent as an ongoing conversation.

This podcast is full of tips and how-to’s for parents to navigate what can be uncomfortable and complex conversations.

Continue the conversation in our Facebook Group or check out our NEW ‘What is Gifted’ page with a huge FREEBIE – Part 1 of Parent effectively by learning about the gifted brain. 🤩

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“What we’re doing is, we are normalizing these conversations. We are taking this out of the bedroom, out of the closet, and shining the light of day on it. And, to those of you who are out there, who are engaging with this, keep engaging with it.” – Dr Matt Zakreski

“What we want is to create an environment where it’s safe for people to come out and share all aspects of ourselves. And that starts very much with the language we use…we want to use gender neutral terms as best we can.” – Dr Matt Zakreski

“So the number one thing you say when someone comes out to you is thank you because they are choosing to do a brave thing and they have identified you as a brave person.” – Dr Matt Zakreski


Dr Matt Zakreski Bio

Psychologist, Gifted Expert, International Speaker

Matthew Zakreski, PsyD is a high-energy, creative clinician who utilizes an eclectic approach to meet the specific needs of his clients.  He specializes in working with children and adolescents, as well as their families, in providing therapy and conducting psychological evaluations.  Dr. Matt is proud to serve as a consultant to schools, a professor at the university level, and a researcher and author on his specialty, Giftedness. 

Dr. Matt thrives in supporting young people in understanding, developing, and celebrating their unique brains and ways of operating in their world. He is best known for his work with Gifted individuals and in being an advocate for implementing high-level supports and understanding of Gifted needs.  He is a board member of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education and active in multiple Gifted organizations around the country.

Subscribe & Review

If you enjoyed this episode and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments.

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

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

See you in the same place next week.


Connect with me on LinkedIn Instagram & Facebook!

Check out this episode!


Sophia Elliott: Welcome Dr. Matt, to part two of sex ed for gifted kids.

[00:00:08] I really excited. And I have to say about following our previous conversation. I think it was episode 15 where we talked about how do I talk to my gifted child about sex? A lot of those posts on social media are easily the most  engaged with posts. Now, the interesting thing is and I mean by thousands, like just above others, right?

[00:00:37] But there’s very few comments. So what I think is happening is parents are like, I really need this info, but I feel uncomfortable. I’m going to look at it quietly.

[00:00:49] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yes. Yeah. And what we’re doing is we are normalizing these conversations, right? We are taking this out of the bedroom, out of the closet, right.

[00:00:58] And shining the light of day on it. And, to those of you who are out there, who are engaging with this, keep engaging with it. This is, it’s so important to get this information. And if you’re not up for leaving a comment, you can message me privately, you so I’m sure you can message Sophia privately.

[00:01:14] And you know what I mean? Like, there, there is no shame in talking about this and engaging with it at the same time. If that’s not where you are personally or in your life right now, we get that. We support that. We see that. So then back channel that’s, that is totally an appropriate way to talk about this stuff.

[00:01:32]Sophia Elliott:  A hundred percent.

[00:01:33] And I think if anything, one of the big messages of the previous podcast was it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Because it’s an uncomfortable topic and that is a hundred percent. Okay. The important thing is we’re talking about it. The information is there for you. And if there’s this, there’s more questions like Dr.

[00:01:51] Matt says, send them in quietly. It’s all right. We are, we’re happy to hear from you. So we’re back though. We said that we would come back and talk about gender and sexuality because it was a whole other podcast and what, yeah. Literally that’s right. Buckle in. We’re in for a ride. What interests me about this is, I think it may have been in our previous conversation, but I’ve certainly come across this a number of times.

[00:02:22]And it’s that idea that gifted kids are more likely to identify as LGBTQ. So let’s start there. Tell me about that.

[00:02:31] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah. It’s something that the research on this is in its infancy. So this has been an anecdotal story for a long time. That even from when I was a young kid and going to gifted kid camps, I remember those, that was where I met my first LGBTQ kids right back then.

[00:02:48] And that was in the nineties. So it was much less mainstream, much less open, but, that was where I met those people. And then, we fast forward 20 plus years and, working with, primarily a gifted and 2E  population. I, so many of the kids I work with are on the LGBTQ spectrum, so diving into the brain research on this a little bit, we know that, the gifted brain is a different brain, right?

[00:03:13]There’s major differences there. And we know that the amount of neural connections, right. The amount of. Basically the wiring that goes on in our brain that leads to high levels of thought, output more creativity, more open-mindedness there seems to be a correlation with that and the LGBTQ spectrum.

[00:03:36] Now I’m not trying to say that LGBTQ people are more evolved than anybody else. I don’t want it to come across that way. It may be as simple as, the mind can consider more options. And when you have more out of the box thinkers who aren’t boxed in by traditional rules, it may give rise to more LGBTQ identities.

[00:03:58]So that’s without doing an entire third podcast on neuroscience, which probably, well, I could do that, but we should probably get somebody else. That’s that’s the basic. Idea here is that more brain connections seem to lead to more possibilities, more possibilities, seem to lead to more identities.

[00:04:18] Sophia Elliott: That is really interesting. And like you say, the research is still in its infancy, but there’s, we’re starting to see some trends in the research. And so as a parent of a gifted child, I think the message there is simply be open to the possibility. Your children may express themselves their gender  their sexuality in different ways.

[00:04:41] So in the previous podcast, we went through. Different ages and what was age appropriate in terms of sex education. And I noticed that as early as five to eight year olds, we need to be talking about having a basic understanding of sexual preference. Yep. So that’s good to know as a parent that we need to stop having age appropriate conversations around that age.

[00:05:09]Because I also noticed that gender and sexual identities can emerge as early as two and seven. Yeah. This is something I didn’t realize, it was necessarily that early, I mean, gender. Yes. Because I think you can see that cultural awareness of our kids when they start choosing blue or choosing pink, despite your best efforts.

[00:05:31]So, so tell us about twice other this term twice other, what is that?

More Transcript Here

[00:05:37] Dr Matt Zakreski: And twice other, which was a term that was introduced into the broader lexicon to, to give us a word to use for gift gifted in LGBTQ. So twice other and I see it in some of the literature. I don’t see it in other places, one of the key I asked one of the kids that I see who you know, what he thought about it and he’s like, I’m gifted and gay. And he’s like, that’s just what he’s like to me, that’s what it is. I’m gifted and gay. He’s like two G instead of two E. Right. What’s funny, you know? But the idea is especially if you’re familiar with the three E movement and that’s Donna Ford and her amazing team here in the states that we use the word intersectionality to talk about the fact that who you are within the gifted world, within the spaces you travel.

[00:06:27] Is a dimension we must consider. You know, Donna Ford, you know, so much of her work is about race and gifted black girls, gifted black boys. And how we have to consider that whether it’s a native identity or a Pacific Islander identity, or Latino, Hispanic, whatever it might come across, we have to consider that in how we approach our kids.

[00:06:47] And I think you could move sexuality within the three E ideas as well, because you’re going the way that we approach these kids, the way we’re going to meet their needs is that, that is a factor we must consider. So whether we use twice other two G or or three E the idea here is that a person’s identity is fundamental to how we educate them, how we reach them, whether you’re a psychologist, a parent, a coach, or a teacher.

[00:07:15]And we have to consider that.

[00:07:18] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. I remember talking to Marc Smolowitz in the episodes. I did talking about The G Word Film, and he talked similarly about that sense of gifted as a part of identity, just as gender sexuality, race are all kind of facets of our identity. So it’s impossible to consider anyone just in with one little bit, we have to look at the whole picture.

[00:07:44] So that, that makes sense. Uh, for parents who maybe get a bit overwhelmed with all of the letters, I thought it was a reasonable, reasonable place to start with just kind of, let’s just start at the beginning and and worked through the letters and what they all mean just to because what I, I think about it is.

[00:08:05] There’s actually this wonderful deep diversity, and I think that’s something that’s worth appreciating. So, so let’s have a look. So it starts with

[00:08:15] Dr Matt Zakreski: L yup. So L is for lesbian or so a woman who loves other women,  G is for gay. Now gay is also an umbrella term, right? So we, anyone can identify as gay though.

[00:08:28] The word traditionally is a man who loves other men. B is for bisexual a person who loves men and women T is for transgender. Now transgender is a gender identity. It’s actually being trans has nothing to do with your sexual preference. And it’s great that it’s within the LGBTQ spectrum. It also is a little bit more complicated because we go on sexual identity, sexual identity, sexuality, gender identity, and then we go back to Q, which is another umbrella term for queer.

[00:08:58]And that, that is anyone who’s in this broader space who maybe doesn’t have a preferred term, someone who is entering the sphere. And it hasn’t really figured out what they had, they want to identify yet. So queer a, a welcome to the world term. And then we have this little lovely plus at the end because the letters just keep going.

[00:09:18] Now, if I can, I’m gonna tell a quick story. So, I did five years of grad school working with kids and I, we had. Not even an entire semester class. We had three total lessons on this. So three days out of five years, and I sought out some research on my own working with a lot of LGBTQ kids.

[00:09:41] I want it to be up on the literature. And then I went to an all day training and the first thing they had us do was list all the letters of the alphabet this LGBTQ alphabet. So I said, okay, L lesbian B by G gay T trans Q for queer. Okay. W what else is there? And we could spend the rest of this podcast talking about all the different letters.

[00:10:05]There’s another Q for questioning. There’s a for asexual and on another, a for A gender, and all these other things that come in. And it’s around this point where my eyes start to glass over a little bit, because not because they’re not important because they are, but because it feels overwhelming.

[00:10:23]Many of us were raised with an eye with a pretty simple idea of boys are boys, girls, are girls, boys married, girls, girls, married boys. And it was very simple. And our brains as a general rule, like simple things, like things that are compartmentalized and, and as many inroads we’ve made there right now, people, men can marry women or other men and men can, love men and men, and all these other things that come in there.

[00:10:49] That’s great. But when I talk to parents, I find that LGBTQ, those five letters is about as much as I can get before they start to like start to hyperventilate a little bit. And, so that’s why I’m, so that’s why I like having the word Q on the end there, because queer is another all encompassing term.

[00:11:11]You may have a different gender identity or a different sexual identity and, and your letter is certainly in the broader alphabet of LGBTQ, but I put Q on my website. I, when I give talks, I always make sure I mentioned Q because that says me that even if I’m not saying your specific letter, I see you, right.

[00:11:31] I want, I want you to know that, whatever, however you identify within the spectrum, we’re here. We want to talk about it.

[00:11:38] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the big shift here is, like you said, it’s simply moving from that idea that it was binary. You’re either ha you’re you’re male or female Moving to the spectrum of actually there are many other expressions or basically your heterosexual or your heterosexual moving to a whole other bunch of other expressions.

[00:12:06] So I think the thing for parents maybe is to just hang on to the fact that your child is your child and they may express themselves in many, many different ways and that’s okay, they’re still your child. And you I guess you go on that journey together at that point, if you’re, if you’re, having that journey with your kid, because, so we’re looking at sexuality and we’re looking at gender okay.

[00:12:36] Let’s just talk about what the difference is between sexuality and gender, because there’s a huge difference. And that’s an important thing to understand as well. So yeah, run us through that one.

[00:12:48] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah. And people misuse the terms all the time. So what we’re going to do first is we’re going to talk about sex.

[00:12:53]Collective gasp from the internet,

[00:12:58] of course, sex in this case is actually biological sex, which is the, to be simplistic, the genitalia, you have

[00:13:07] Sophia Elliott: your physical expression

[00:13:09] Dr Matt Zakreski: physical, right? Yeah. And we are assigned a sex at birth. We are not assigned to gender at birth that we’ll get to that in a minute. You, if, you’re born, you have a penis, they’re saying, okay, you were a male, right?

[00:13:24] And within, the literature that it’s a M a B assigned male at birth or a fab assigned female at birth. Now there are people who are intersex who have both set sets of sexual organs. And they, you know, we go back to our LGBTQ. The next letter is I for intersex. You know, people who are intersex obviously exist, but also are a part of this community.

[00:13:46]So that’s sex. Gender is a social construct. So gender is a how we expect people to look and act. The based on their biological sex. So being an American, I have specific ideas of how men act and how women act. And it’s funny, cause you don’t realize how culturally bound that is until you go somewhere else.

[00:14:15] Like when I lived in Australia and  it was so funny because my host family said, do you want to go see a field hockey game? And I said, sure, I love field hockey. Right? My high school has a good field hockey team. So we got in the car and we drove to the field hockey thing and who was playing field hockey men.

[00:14:32] And I, because in the states field, hockey is a girl’s sport. I played ice hockey as a kid. But it’s just those things that are culturally bound that you don’t really even know they are until they run up against some friction somewhere. And you think about the types of bathing suits, you know, Australia, right.

[00:14:50] It’s common for women to go topples on the beach, not so much in American thing. You know, the types of bathing suits that we wear, I, the sort of Speedos or one of my favorite Australian terms, budgie smuggler, is, is not associated with heterosexual men here in the United States.

[00:15:05] But in Australia, it, come one, come, all right. It was one of those things that, I mean, this is what we talk about. When we talk about gender, how we dress, I’m wearing a very gender specific lighting, I’ve got the blue collared shirt, I’ve got my work pants on, it’s very sort of male presenting thing.

[00:15:27] So if you identify with the sex that was assigned to you at birth and your gender identity, so the social construct of gender fits that. You are CIS gender CIS gender. And the vast majority of people are that. So that is, you know, welcome to the majority. Then if you are born and you feel that the sex that was assigned to you at birth does not fit who you are.

[00:15:51]You know, I wanted to be a boy. I want to be a boy. I want to be a boy. I want to be to, but you’re a girl, but I want to be a boy. And you transition from male assigned at birth to female. You are a female, and then you would be transgender, right? So you have  taken on your true identity.

[00:16:12] So that’s the sort of, that’s the nice sort of duality of the trans identity rights that, something was assigned, who I truly am is another thing. You may also be gender fluid or gender queer. Those are people whose gender identities are more fluid, right? They are, you know, I will dress in male presenting things.

[00:16:35] I will just in female presenting things, I will mix and match. I, I will wear eye shadow and makeup, which are things that are more assigned to women. You know, and that’s, and the idea here is once again, our brains, like simple things, our brains like dualities and people who are in between, gender fluid, gender, queer, gender questioning kids can be really challenging for schools and parents and mental health professionals, because it is this sort of, who am I getting today? It, because it’s consistently inconsistent. I think a lot of people struggle with that. And it’s one of those things that.

[00:17:13] We are along on a journey and journeys are not easy. They’re not neat. You don’t say I w you know, I’m going to transition. I’m a boy. Okay, we’re changing your name. You’re dressing a boy clothes. We’re going to get you surgery. Great boy. End of story. For many people, it’s not that simple for many people.

[00:17:32] It’s a long journey of, of experimentation and talking, and developing and getting feedback. And, and it’s one of those things that, buckle up. It, it can be a long and painful journey, but there’s so much support out there, both within the gifted community. And outside of that, there are a lot of wonderful organizations who say, yes, we love our kids, and yes, this is hard and yes, here’s help.

[00:17:57] That’s very important.

[00:17:59] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. I think recognizing what a challenging situation that is, and. How serious that is in terms of potential mental health challenges going on that journey and how much incredible support is needed. No doubt for the individual going on that transitioning transgender journey, but also the family around to understand and provide adequate support.

[00:18:27]We were actually, my, one of my children were at a school where a primary age child was transitioning from one gender  to the other gender. And I thought that was awesome. And it was the first time that actually come across it in terms of that primary age anywhere. And I thought, how wonderful. First of all, how incredibly challenging that must be for that child and that family to go on that journey, as you say, but how wonderful that they feel like they have that option to transition at the primary school and effectively have that community go on that journey with them.

[00:19:14] Because as you say, it’s you know, our brains, like simple things that are known and it’s still quite new. And and that child in many ways is a trailblazer for future kind of generations. And so my heart really went out for them. And it brought up all of those kinds of questions around well actually, do you know what the interesting thing was that.

[00:19:36] My child and all the other kids just kind of went, yeah, whatever. And, and, it really didn’t register in terms of parents either. But I loved the way the kids were like, yeah, whatever. That’s all good. Know you’ve got a different name, you’re dressing differently. Yeah. Whatever it doesn’t matter.

[00:19:52] And I think the thing that was really beautiful, but it struck me that it was the very first time I’d seen that anywhere. And so hopefully, when we’re moving into that age where that’s becoming more of a norm, that people are, have that opportunity to be seen and find safe places within schools and communities.

[00:20:14]So yeah, cause that’s just really tricky. So I do want to touch on.

[00:20:22]First of all. Why is it important to know and understand why is it important to know and understand this language? We’ve talked about the different terms, what sex, sexuality, gender is all about. Why do we need to know this stuff?

[00:20:42] Dr Matt Zakreski: And I love that. And thank you for asking that question. Because actually you feel like the movement in many ways is assumed people know why it’s important, which can lead to this emotional disconnect of if it was a wallet.

[00:20:55] Well, why is this such a big deal? Right. So why is it a big deal? Uh, so Sophia, let me ask you a question. Is Elliot your maiden name?

[00:21:03] Sophia Elliott: No, that’s my married

[00:21:04] Dr Matt Zakreski: name. What’s your married name? Okay. So why do we call you Sophia Elliott?

[00:21:10]Sophia Elliott: Just a social construct of a woman taking a man’s name at marriage. And as a, well, for me, it was about my family having one identity.

[00:21:26] Dr Matt Zakreski: So identity is the key thing here. Now you are not Sophia Elliot your whole life.

[00:21:31]Sophia Elliott: No. I’ve had a couple of names

[00:21:33] Dr Matt Zakreski: actually. In primary school, you worked Sophia is something else. Yeah. Yeah. That’s right, right. So I always use this as an example because it’s something that those of us who are heterosexual and cisgender can wrap our heads around this construct of marriage and changing your name.

[00:21:50]And another way to think about it right, is I was not Dr. Matt, my whole life. I got my doctorate in 2016 when I was 33. Something like that math is hard. So I was for 33 years. You couldn’t call me Dr. Matt. I wasn’t a doctor yet. Since then everybody calls me, Dr. Matt, my mailman calls me Dr.

[00:22:09] Matt, right? It’s just, so identities are fundamental to who we are.  And we accommodate shifts in identity every day, every single day we do. And for many, many of us, those things we don’t even think about is the sort of a gen general empathy, social con contract. Right. Like, oh, so you got married.

[00:22:35] She’s no longer Sophia Jones. She’s Sophia Elliott. I will remember to call her Ms. Elliot now. And that’s the check we’re done, right? Yup. Yup. If your friend comes up to you and says, Hey, I know we’re supposed to go out for dinner tonight. I just came back from the doctor. I found out I’m allergic to soy.

[00:22:52] I cannot eat soy anymore. You can take your friend to Japanese food, swimming and soy sauce. That’s probably a bad idea, right? You would accommodate that new piece of identity. And I think that so much of our discomfort with accommodating the LGBTQ aspects of someone’s identity is related to our  fundamental discomfort with sex and sexuality and gender, because it’s so weird to us because, we get a lot of messaging that we’re not supposed to talk about it.

[00:23:23] And if someone says, Hey, I’m gay, then your brain goes to you’re gay. That means you have sex with men. Like, and like, I feel uncomfortable with this and. And so if you’re listening to this and you, and you’re nodding going, like, yeah, that’s how I feel. That’s okay. You are allowed to be uncomfortable with this.

[00:23:41] You’re not allowed to take that discomfort and make it that person’s problem or that person’s fault. And that’s the fundamental disconnect. And I mean, unfortunately we see this all over the world, and if you’ve taken time out of your life to listen to this podcast, you are already closer to being on the right side of history.

[00:24:02] And so I applaud you for that because this isn’t easy. I’ve gone through my own journey with this. This is, you know, I remember, struggling with language and struggling with mis-gendering people and not intentionally, but one of the fundamental ideas behind know, at least in my therapy practice is separating intention from impact.

[00:24:24]You know, so for instance, Sophia, if we were on the beach and and we were we were throwing a footie back and forth to each other. I want you to, I want to drop all my Australian terms and you throw it to me and I miss it and it hits me in the nose and breaks my nose. We were trying to break my nose.

[00:24:40] Thank you for that. Right. Some people do, but you don’t want to break my nose, but it doesn’t change. The fact that my nose is broken. So intention was good. Impact was bad. So if you mis-gender someone at work, if you assume that your colleague has a wife, when they have a partner or a husband, you made a mistake.

[00:25:05] Now that mistake is not the end of the world. But you have a choice in that moment, you can dig down and, and go to all those right wing talking points. Right. Well, you know, we all know.

[00:25:19] Sophia Elliott: Yeah.

[00:25:20] Dr Matt Zakreski: Or you can say, I’m sorry, that’s it right. And it’s amazing how fundamentally easy it is, but easy and simple are not the same thing.

[00:25:32]If you make a mistake, if you misgender someone, if you make an assumption about their, their domestic life or even their gender identity, based on what you can see, you made a mistake, your intention wasn’t to make that mistake. But the impact is that you have potentially hurt someone.

[00:25:53] All you can do in that moment is apologize, own it and ask how to do better. And if you do that enough times, It becomes second nature. I, I remember struggling with the they/ them pronoun for an individual person, many people who are trans or gender fluid or gender queer will use they, them as pronouns instead of he/she.

[00:26:17] And I would say eh, I don’t like that. Cause it’s like, well, are they going to be here soon? But they means one person and I, yeah, it’s the

[00:26:26] Sophia Elliott: single versus multiple people thing. Yeah. It’s hard to get right in your head. Yep.

[00:26:31] Dr Matt Zakreski: And then and so I owned that. I checked that and by owning it, I realized that I was going to make mistakes with it.

[00:26:39] I was going to have problems with it, but. I would just keep working on it and now I use it pretty fluently and it was a journey, you’re not this isn’t flipping a light switch. You’re not going to suddenly wake up like, huh, I am fully free of bias. And look at me, I’m of Cole ally. Good for me. I, I struggle with this all the time and I do this for a living.

[00:27:00] Sophia Elliott: Yep. And that’s why it’s called unconscious bias. It’s like, we’ve all got them. We don’t even know we’ve got them. Right. It’s unconscious. And the only way of overcoming that is by putting some consciousness into it. And, and like you say, practicing things within my podcasts and stuff. I obviously talk about my kids being, you know, the whole gifted kid thing, but as much as possible, I do try and respect their privacy.

[00:27:27] So I have started using. They a lot, rather than he, or she just because I want them to have some privacy despite I’m telling a story about them and yeah, it’s just getting used to using different pronouns. And I think that’s been a nice way for me to practice and get in the habit of using that particular pronoun.

[00:27:49] But I also liked what you said about changing surnames in terms of, I think it’s a nice way of imagining the possibility of shifting your own identity, because it does even, it’s a simple thing, like changing your surname does actually shift your identity and, and like you say, I had a surname at birth and I actually.

[00:28:15] Changed my name by deed poll in my early twenties, which was very much a conscious shift in identity for me. And then again, when I got married any, and it does have an impact words do matter. And yeah, so it is really important that we start to use correct terminology, but also, like you say, acknowledge that it’s a process.

[00:28:38]And I often tell my kids, because they are, there’s three of them, they go grumpy and cranky and stuff happens. And even by accident and I’m like, well, w and we often say, well, I have one child crying and the other one’s like, oh, is an accident. And I’m like, well, accidents still hurt.

[00:28:56] Don’t they, like, your sibling here is crying and in pain, I know you didn’t mean it but  accidents hurt , so what can we do for them? And yeah, that’s another really nice way of thinking about our impact on others, whether we mean it or not. And a lot of workplaces are getting better at acknowledging and using more inclusive language.

[00:29:17] And that’s again, a nice way for us to practice these things. You know, even before we bring it home and practicing it with our own family. Given what you’ve said about gifted children having or gifted children and adults, gifted people. Yeah. Potentially having that openness to possibilities and an increased inclination towards questioning sexuality and gender as a parent.

[00:29:47]If my child is starting to express alternative preferences in terms of sexuality and gender, because as we’ve said as early as two and seven your kids can start questioning these things. What tips have you got for parents? If, if their child comes out with something and they’re of like, oh, I didn’t see that coming.

[00:30:05]What should we do?

[00:30:06]Dr Matt Zakreski: So it starts, what we want is we want to create an environment where it’s safe for people to come out and share all aspects of ourselves. And that starts very much with the language we use. You know, in school when we are dividing things up, what’s the fundament, what’s the easiest way that we do that when we divide kids up in school.

[00:30:27] Well, you know, and, and this, that, this was a blind spot for me, because I do a lot of activities. Hey boys, on is that girls, boys versus girls. Yeah. Now you are potentially harming a child that way, and that intention versus impact, obviously, you don’t mean to, but the impact is you are, if you have a kid who is gender fluid or gender queer, you’re making them pick a side, you are potentially outing someone who has a different gender identity.

[00:30:59] And I say, and when I talk to schools, I specifically try to find the physical education, the gym teachers, because they never feel like these talks have anything to do with them. But when you do kickball, In gym and you do boys versus girls and they go, oh my God. I didn’t think about that.

[00:31:16] Of course you didn’t, it’s not your fault. It’s that is a reality. Let’s count off by ones and twos. It’s easy, easy fix, right? When you address the classroom, instead of saying boys and girls, same problem, right? Friends, folks, students, kiddos,  we want to use gender neutral terms as best we can.

[00:31:38] And we want to and we want to use our language around partnership in a way that isn’t biased. So, and instead of asking a little boy, do you have a girlfriend? Are you dating someone? Are you interested in someone? Because we also want to make space for people who don’t, who are not as.

[00:31:58] Sexually open or sexually active. We, you know, it’s like, well, are you interested in dating someone? I don’t want to make that assumption about you, um, and because, it’s that same thing. If you ask a, say 15 year old boy, oh, who’s your girlfriend. And that kid is gay, or that kid is BI.

[00:32:17] You are once again, either forcing them to lie or out themselves. You know, we, if I could get every school to stop using boys and girls and start, stop dividing, but I’d be like, my work is done. I feel like I’ve done a good job. That’s not going to happen. Cause it’s very much baked in, but we’re getting better at it every single day.

[00:32:36] So following that thread forward, if your child comes out to you and the, and coming out is a process and it’s not as simple as opening a door. It is. It is opening many different doors and many different rooms at many different aspects of your life. Not all of which have safe things on the other side of them.

[00:32:59] So the number one thing you say when someone comes out to you is thank you because they are choosing to do a brave thing and they have identified you as a brave person. One of my colleagues here in New Jersey, in the states, she said to me the other day, why, why did kids always come out to me? Like this keeps happening.

[00:33:18] My kids keep saying oh, by the way, miss I’m X, Y, Z. I’m like because you’re a very safe person. You’re a very easy person to talk to. And kids gravitate to authenticity, especially gifted kids. Like you’re an adult and you’re authentic. You don’t treat me like a baby. I can be real with you.

[00:33:37] And sometimes being real with you is, Hey, I like boys. And that’s so let we say, thank you. Thank you for telling me that. And then we can get into questions about who else knows, what do you want me to do with this information? The person who came out, it’s their story. So it’s our job to be the keepers of the key, right?

[00:33:59] So I, if you think about every person in your life, every system in your life is a different door, right? Kid, sometimes kids come out to their whole family at once. Sometimes kids come out to one parent, not the other. Sometimes kids come out to siblings, but not parents. I’ve had, I had a situation where a kid came out to their step grandparents and nobody else in the blended family, there was a there was, th there was step parents on both sides and step siblings and biological grandparents.

[00:34:28] And it was a step grandparent that knew, and the step grandparent happened to bring. The kid to therapy that day and asked to speak with me and say, what do I do? What do I do with this information? And right. And I already knew, the kid  had come out to me and this was a big deal. So we’re going to treat it like a big deal.

[00:34:47] So we had the grandparent come in and we had a conversation about being a keeper of the key. And I like this keeper of the key idea because it’s nice. It’s keys are power, but they’re also, you don’t unlock every door. You come to, you have a key that you can use if you need to. And if you weren’t given permission, you don’t unlock somebody else’s house.

[00:35:07] Hello. I still be on here. Right. That’s that’s strange. So if someone says you can come into my house, you use the key. And so we it’s one of the things that people fall into a lot is assuming that because someone’s out in one space that they are out in other spaces, And there are multiple reasons why people might not come out and multiple spaces, not every space is safe.

[00:35:34] Maybe you haven’t talked to them yet. One of the kids I work with he came out very early, but he’s like, oh, every family reunion I’m coming out again, because there’s a new girlfriend or there’s a new ex-wife or there’s is a guy just keep every summer I come out again, just transitioned to high school.

[00:35:53] And so then they came out again and it can be exhausting.

[00:35:56] Sophia Elliott: I can only imagine. Yeah, definitely. And never ending journey of just even being in that situation of, it’s almost like you have to continue to explain yourself because you’re not conforming to the majority. It must get exhausting.

[00:36:12] And I could certainly understand, picking who you’re going to have that conversation with. And And what, in what sort of environment she felt safe having that conversation with? Absolutely. So I’m imagining one of my kids or another kid has said, disclosed that kind of information.

[00:36:32] I can say, thank you for sharing that with me. I like that. You’ve said who else knows. And is there anything you would like me to do with that info or presumably, is there any way I can support you in that and seeing what happens from there? What kind of support might a child need?

[00:36:51] Dr Matt Zakreski: Most of the time, emotional support someone to hold.

[00:36:58] Some of that is, is all kids needed first. When we think about sexual identity and gender identity, we want to think about things in terms of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. So you might have a thought, right? That, oh, that person is an attractive person. And maybe as a heterosexual person, you’re like, oh, that usually the people I think are attractive are women.

[00:37:22] But I think that man is attractive. So then it’s like, oh gosh, does that mean I’m BI? Does that mean I’m gay? Or maybe it was just a good looking guy, right? That’s a thing. That’s right. And then those thoughts will trigger feelings. Those feelings of, is it a feeling of huh? I noticed this thing or, do you have feelings of sexual attraction of longing?

[00:37:42]We don’t know that. And then even, so then do those feelings lead to behaviors. So when we think about gender identity and sexual identity, using the thoughts, feelings and behaviors framework helps us know where to meet people. Because most of the time when kids are coming out to you, it’s thoughts, we’re in the thoughts area.

[00:38:05] I’m having thoughts. I think I like guys and girls, I think I might be BI that’s. Great. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel a little scared. Okay. Then I’m going to support you in that, what should we do about this? And then we, you know, do we want to go to a support group? Do we want to, there are, there are social skills groups and there are peer groups for LGBTQ kids all over the world.

[00:38:32]So some of them are online, some of them are in person. Do we want to start there? Do we just want to keep going as we go, but maybe start to be more intentional with our language at home and then maybe at school, right? Once the information has been shared, the what? One of the things that’s really interesting, and this is not necessarily anything has to change.

[00:38:57]You know, it’s, Hey, I feel this way. Okay. What should we do with that? Nothing is just, I’m just telling you, I’m not going to act on that yet. I don’t want to act on that yet. I don’t feel safe to act on that yet, but if you are a person with whom I feel safe, so therefore I’m sharing this with you.

[00:39:13] So as grownups, we tend to move into action. When we feel scared or act or activated, my kid is telling me something important. Okay. Well, I’m going to, I’m going to go on grinder and I’m going to start, reading,  James Baldwin and Tennessee Williams and I’m am I helping?

[00:39:29] I feel like I’m helping you

[00:39:32] Sophia Elliott: give me something to do. Let me make something, do something. Yeah, totally.

[00:39:36] Dr Matt Zakreski: We’ll get a rainbow flag tattoo right here. Calm. Yeah. Slow down. , all we can do is help someone carry their burden. We can’t carry it for them. And so instead of jumping into problem solving mode, which is very, it’s very easy to do say, Hey, I can find some research and some resources I can sit on this.

[00:39:59]I can help you have a hard conversation with someone else. I like to think about it as like the avengers, right? Every Avenger has a different set of skills, so you’re adding me to your Avengers team. Here are the things I’m good at, right? How can, do you need any of those skills from me right now?

[00:40:13] You may not need them right now. They didn’t call captain Marvel until the end of the battle and the, those Avengers end game. Um, probably would have been better if they called they

[00:40:22] Sophia Elliott: should have called earlier, but yeah, maybe you,

[00:40:25]Dr Matt Zakreski: So we’re going to miss Tony stark, but no, that’s the thing.

[00:40:29] So here’s what I’m good at. Here’s what I can do. And you’re, and based on what your kid tells you. That’s when you activate those particular skills and you do those particular things and in those moments, it’s okay to say, Hey, you know what? That is something, I don’t know if I’m good at, and that’s something I’m not sure I can help you with that doesn’t mean I’m not going to help you.

[00:40:49] It doesn’t mean I can’t help you. It just means I’m telling you where I’m at with this. Yeah.

[00:40:54] Sophia Elliott: And going back to what we were saying in the last episode about being upfront about going thank you for sharing, actually, I don’t know a lot about it. We could, if you want, I’m here, we could look into more information about this together.

[00:41:08] Or I like what you said earlier about actually starting with, just. Inclusive language, well, before any of this sort of happens. And I often think of that, that saying is if you want them to talk to you about the big stuff later, then you need to listen to the small stuff now, and just being as engaged and connected as we can, as a parent and listening to our kids talk about the little things as they grow up.

[00:41:37] And so that they’re in a place where they feel comfortable telling you about the bigger things when they get older. Okay. So we’ve had that conversation we’ve said and, and left it up to them to dictate to a degree what that, what it is they need from us at that point in time.

[00:41:56] And I guess as a parent, then it’s being aware of our language, maybe doing a little bit of our own research, so that where, like you say, where. We’re not impacting negatively, even though we’re not meaning to buy maybe our language or just even cultural expressions that we’ve kind of wouldn’t think twice about it, but now we need to give a little bit more thought about okay.

[00:42:24] So I think that’s really helpful. I imagine as a child does get older and is in that kind of teen territory where our thoughts, our feelings is moving into behaviors. There’s whole other conversations around behaviors, “quote marks” in “behaviors”, because we might be exploring a bit of intimacy and hopefully much later sex and that kind of stuff.

[00:42:55] So again, I imagine it’s just being someone they can talk to. If needed and, and having perhaps awkward, and uncomfortable conversations, but just being honest and upfront about that. Any, any advice for parents with teens perhaps in that situation?

[00:43:14] Dr Matt Zakreski: So it’s about yes, and it’s about two big things, whatever behaviors are going to do, it has to follow three rules.

[00:43:27] It has to be safe, sane, and consensual. And you’ll notice doesn’t have to be with a specific person or people, it’s it has to be safe, sane, and consensual. So safe means using. Protection being in a safe place to have sex. You know, what a kids do, they have sex and parked cars and, at the beach and, cabanas or, in the, in the locker room at school, because they don’t feel like they can go to a place with a bed that is safe.

[00:43:56] And this is a tough thing for parents to deal with. But can you have that conversation? I would rather you have sex in my home where I know it is safe then in a parked car somewhere. And those parents will tell me, because in the states, the drinking age is 21 where in Australia it’s is it 18? Yes.

[00:44:14] 18. Yeah. Yeah. Cause I’ll talk to parents and say I’m okay with my kid having a drinking party in my house because then I know they’re safe. I’m like, how is that different than sex?

[00:44:22] Sophia Elliott: That’s so true. Let’s

[00:44:24] Dr Matt Zakreski: be honest, shorter than a drinking party. Right? Second, 20 minutes, you know, drinking buddies for hours and hours and you know what I mean?

[00:44:33] And it’s, and I, when I point that out parents go, huh? I hadn’t thought of it that way. And I, once again, I’m not saying you have to be comfortable with this. I’m just pointing out. The idea that there’s an inequity there sane means, right? We want to be in a good head space, preferably not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, preferably not, super stressed out or, afraid.

[00:44:59]You know, and this is where we start to edge into, questions about consensual sex, right? And consent is everything, which is actually the second point consent. That’s a whole other point, right? When we talk to our kids about sex, regardless of who they are having sex with. It has to be consensual.

[00:45:19] Consent is active. It’s affirmative, it’s ongoing. It’s a conversation, can I do this? Would you like it? If I did this, how would you feel if we did this, do you need to stop? I’m checking in with you. We’re having a conversation and consent is so important to our gifted kids because our gifted kids with developmental asynchrony can be a little lower on the social skills side can be a little lower on the emotional skills side.

[00:45:46] And we are talking about, we’re talking about one of the more complex and nuanced social interactions. In a situation where you’re potentially sexually aroused, you’re potentially confused. You’re potentially scared. You’re potentially really, really, really excited. And that’s when we lose some of those skills anyway.

[00:46:08] Right. Any person neurotypical or not? When I was in college, we had a sex ed talk. And they had, um, a guy and a girl come in and they talked to us about safe sex and college. We talked about consent. And then we did the classic example of, can you put a condom on a banana? So, my friend, Nick, we all do.

[00:46:24] It puts the condom on the banana  well, you’re ready to go, Nick. And then, so the woman says, all right, that’s great. Can we do that again? Now I have to understand this woman was gorgeous. Like unbelievably attractive. So Nick goes on. I’ll do it again. So hopefully like he goes to Oakland condom and she gets right up next to him and starts whispering in his ear.

[00:46:44] Oh, you’re so hot. I want all my God take off your clothes. Let’s do it right now. And Nick got bright red foam, like condom flies across the room, the banana like explodes. It was hilarious. It was, it was hilarious. I mean, burned in very, yeah. Nick was a very cool guy. And he was like bright red and sweating.

[00:47:05] And she looked at, she was like, guys, because that’s what it’s going to be like, it’s not this calm. Yes. I am no putting the condom on very good. We may initiate sex. It’s hot and heavy, it’s it? You might be drunk. You might be, like really, really, really like she’s so you have to be ready to do this when you’re not calm and chill.

[00:47:24]She’s like, because you’re a freshmen boys in college and you’re not going to be calm and chill. And we’re all like shut upwho told you that? That’s weird that you knew. So to navigate that, to tell our, our kids about good consent about good social skills, those conversations start early, connecting with people, empathy, asking questions and not making assumptions.

[00:47:47]One of the things that. I, I, when I do my sex ed, talk to teens, I say, okay, so let’s say it’s Friday night, you go on a date with somebody. They goes, well, you guys make out at the end of the night, they go back to their house. You go back to your house, right? When you see them at school on Monday, can you kiss him?

[00:48:05] And everyone’s like, what? I’m like, well, can you kiss them? You kiss them on Friday night. Can you kiss them on Monday morning? And some people say, yes, some people say no. And some people look at me like, I’ve never thought of that before consent is a ongoing thing. Just because something happened once doesn’t mean it gets to happen again.

[00:48:24] And it may not get to have it in every situation, every moment with every environment, you know, I said if you made out with your partner at a party on Friday night, that kind of makes sense. Would you make out with your partner at a funeral? They go, no, I wouldn’t do that. But you, so, because the setting does impact behavior.

[00:48:41]So can conversations about consent, include the person, the place, the activity, and their ongoing, and that is modeling that and TA and having our kids get used to those conversations, even something as simple as holding your hand, growing up, my grandmother loved to pinch my cheek when we S when we was here.

[00:49:01] And I hated that I hated it. And I didn’t say anything until I was in my teens, which might’ve spent 16 years dreading seeing my grandmother, who is the sweetest woman on the planet. No consent is about any physical interaction. And we touched on this in the last podcast, but, really talking to our kids like, Hey, if someone is touching you or asking to touch you in a way that you did not feel comfortable with, you say, no, you get out of there, you come find me and I will come get you, or I will come talk to you until like, whenever that is.

[00:49:35] And when we start those conversations, when our kids are three, four years old, then they have the concrete bedrock skills to do that when they’re 16 and they’re in the backseat of somebody’s car and maybe clothes are coming off and we’re thinking I don’t know if I want to do this. Our kids have to be able to say no, if you can say no freely, then what you’re doing is consensual.

[00:49:57] If you feel like you can’t say no for whatever reason, then it’s not consensual. And teaching our kids to identify that, teaching our kids to how to have those hard conversations and stand up for themselves is important part of sex education. And I don’t mean to make it all doom and gloom, right? Cause obviously this train of thought goes to you know, rape and sexual molestation and sexual harassment and those things are important.

[00:50:21] And we want to talk about them. But the other side of it is that consent is sexy. Consent is awesome, right? Do you want me to do this? You don’t have to guess people, you like, you can ask your partner or partners. Hey, what do you like? Why like me, I would not have guessed that. Cool. I can do this now.

[00:50:39] Like I think it can be hot. It can be awesome. It can enhance sexual pleasure, sexual intimacy. And that is the conversation around consent has been this sort of like nerds only who even asks to kiss somebody. You should ask to kiss somebody you should ask because you are engaging in the high level social skill with someone you were trying to be intimate with.

[00:51:04] Sophia Elliott: I imagine sets a great framework for that ongoing conversation about consent, but also a certain expectation about an ongoing conversation about. What you do. And don’t like, with your chosen partner, which is incredibly important conversation to have throughout life. And, and teaching our kids that kind of consent conversation from a really early age.

[00:51:29] I know our kids are quite young. Yeah. And we get into a lot of situations where they were playing happily and then someone that’s not wanting to play anymore. And we, we frame that in terms of, well that they don’t no longer want to play and that’s okay. They can say, no, they don’t want to play at any point.

[00:51:51] That’s there. That’s up to them. That’s you know, and I’m hoping, that translate to many sorts of situations as they grow up and having that sense of control over themselves and their own destiny and their choices. So I think that’s really helpful. Thank you very much. I think I want to finish with one last question.

[00:52:11] Please. And and I want to finish with this question because I know that the stakes are really high, generally in terms of mental health and figuring out a lot of stuff around gender and sexuality, but especially in that trans journey. And so as a parent if, if my child was to express some thoughts and feelings indicating, gender differences and, potentially transgender ideas have you got any particular advice for parents in that situation?

[00:52:53] Dr Matt Zakreski: So. It’s probably the hardest thing you’re ever going to have to do as a parent. And it’s not hard because it’s bad. It’s hard because it’s complicated. And so having that conversation about what does that mean, and really just trusting yourself to listen and trusting yourself to learn means that you’ve been given a gift.

[00:53:23] You’ve been given a gift of a kid who trusts you, a kid who is dealing with something far beyond their age. And they’re saying, I need your help adult. I need you to join me on this journey. And it isn’t as you don’t go right down to the courthouse and change their name. You don’t buy different clothes right away.

[00:53:42] It’s a, okay. So you feel this way. Tell me what that means for you and tell me what, how I can help, and maybe your kid says, I don’t know. Okay. So then let’s talk about where we might go from here. Asking more questions is always the right answer. And when you feel like you’ve tapped out, like you don’t know any more questions to ask w you feel like you don’t know where to go from here.

[00:54:10] It’s okay to say that. Use that. Meta-communication right. Listen, I am so flattered. You told me this. I want to help. I feel like I don’t know where to go from here. I’d like to get some research and get some information and then come back to you and let’s start this conversation again on Saturday, over coffee.

[00:54:26] Right. I want to get, I want to know what I need to know first. Your, you don’t need to, you know, because you don’t have any control over this conversation. If someone comes up to you and comes out to you, you’ve been thrown into their journey. Right. Here we go. And. My, my advice to that is listen, ask questions.

[00:54:49] And when you feel like you’ve got a good sense of what’s going on, then you can say that here are the things I need to learn. Here’s what I’m going to do. And then put a back end on the conversation, but let’s come back to this in a week tomorrow, later tonight, whatever that is. You know, if you decided, Hey, I’m going to send an email to that guy.

[00:55:10] I heard the podcast on and and he was talking about this and I’m going to see what he has to say. Then email away Dr. Matt Zakreski, gmail.com, right? That’s, because there, there isn’t a magic phrase. There isn’t a tool box there isn’t a, a series of things you’re going to do.

[00:55:25] That’s going to get this right. But there’s a stance you can take. That’s going to facilitate more conversation, more openness. And then through that, your kid’s going to get where they need to go. Yeah. So

[00:55:38] Sophia Elliott: permission for parents not to feel like they have to know it all, or they have to know, like the exact right thing to say or do just you, like you said, you’ve been brought into a journey and it’s okay to say, well, let’s kind of go on this journey together and what do you need?

[00:55:54] And let’s do some research and keep talking about it, which I think is a great thing just to keep that dialogue going. So while we’ve been through a lot for

[00:56:05] Dr Matt Zakreski: a lot of ground, we do,

[00:56:07] Sophia Elliott: it’s the good stuff. And I think it is really important. And I really do appreciate it because people don’t talk about this stuff very often.

[00:56:16] I like you say, our kids are very highly sensitive and. And these are the kinds of conversations that, that may well come up anyway, just because they’re curious around life, let alone, in terms of their own exploration. So I think it’s good to have a little bit of a handle as a parent sometimes even if it’s just to know that it’s okay to go, actually, I don’t know, and this is uncomfortable and we’ll work through it together.

[00:56:41] It’s all right. So I, yeah, hugely appreciate you coming on and sharing all of that with us and having these wonderful, uncomfortable conversations so that everyone can continue to consume the podcasts and the social media in their own comfortable way. And, and know that, we’re here and happy to facilitate getting more answers to questions if people have, and that’s what you do, it’s what we do. And yeah. So thank you so much. I really appreciate your time again. And yeah. Hopefully we’ve been helpful for, yeah. I feel like I’m ready as a parent who knows what the future will hold, so yeah, it’s been great.

[00:57:20] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah. Well, this, I mean, it, you are so easy to talk to, and this is, just, it’s just a delight to be able to have these conversations because every time we do every click on this podcast, every share on this link, we are making the world a more tolerant, open place and what’s better than that.

[00:57:37]I mean, that’s awesome. We are contributing to our kids feeling safer

[00:57:42] Sophia Elliott: and seen just for who they seen. I

[00:57:44] Dr Matt Zakreski: love that. Right. We get up in the morning.

[00:57:47] Sophia Elliott: So thanks. It’s been wonderful. Yeah.


#023 Gifted Assessments & IQ Tests

#023 Gifted Assessments & IQ Tests

Today I’m speaking with psychologist Kate Plum about the assessment journey for gifted kids.

In this episode we talk about when an IQ Test is helpful, what steps are involved, the pros and cons of assessment, the nuances of cognitive tests for gifted kids, the components of the test and much more.

If you’re a parent considering whether you need to get your child assessed, this is the episode for you!

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quotes

“It’s very important that, that the parents. Get what they came for really? It’s not a yes or no scenario. Are they gifted? Yes or no? It’s yes, but, or no, but there’s always a, but, and, and that’s where that, that value, I think in the assessment lies.” – Kate Plum

“The assessment is the beginning. It’s not the end. A lot of parents think let’s get an assessment and find out once and for all. The assessments, just the beginning, the assessment is where we all know what that next step is. And then I provide what that next step is.” – Kate Plum

“We’re all highly trained in psychometric assessment. I think there is,  a widespread lack of understanding when it comes to how nuanced giftedness can be. It’s not just an IQ score. It’s part of it, but it’s not all of it that just tells us what that baseline potential is. It doesn’t show us what the child’s actually doing.” – Kate Plum



Kate Plumb has extensive experience in the assessment and treatment of a variety of issues in children and combines her dual qualifications of psychologist and teacher to develop specific and individualised intervention plans based on each child’s unique need.

Kate conducts a range of assessments for ADHD, Autism (including the ADOS), psychometrics (IQ) & learning difficulties (dyslexia) for any age. Kate provides support for kids and families of primary school age.

Subscribe & Review

If you enjoyed this episode and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments.

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

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

See you in the same place next week.


Connect with me on LinkedIn Instagram & Facebook!

Check out this episode!


Sophia Elliott: I’m super excited to be talking to you today on the podcast. Thank you very much for joining me. Thank you for having me. Thank you. I thought it’d be great to have a conversation today about assessment.

[00:00:13] Because so many parents I speak to  have these questions around giftedness something’s going on with their kids. They’ve stumbled onto giftedness. And so that the, the next step in that kind of questioning is how do I figure that out? Do I need an assessment? What is an assessment?

[00:00:32] All that kind of stuff. And as a psychologist, you do those educational assessments for giftedness. Yeah.

[00:00:42] Kate Plum: Yes. Yes. And so it it’s, I I’m sitting here pondering that question. Do you need an assessment? That’s where I’m starting to think. Do you need an assessment? Ideally? No you don’t. Because having that teaching background as well I’m primary school trained as a teacher in new South Wales, I would hope that our teacher training enables us to identify what a particular child’s learning needs are and cater for those in the classroom.

[00:01:17] The realities of being in a classroom, there were very different to what. We’re taught at university because the classroom is a dynamic place. A classroom is a very loaded place. There’s a lot of policy and procedure that dictates how we teach and when we teach and why we teach and what we teach. So for a teacher to identify that and cater for that is quite difficult.

[00:01:44] Very difficult. So that’s the teacher side of me. The parent’s side of me thinks, well, none of that matters. All that matters is my child. All that matters is that my child’s needs aren’t being met. And I think, you know, I’m noticing at home disengagement, I’m noticing under achievement. I’m noticing that, there’s a lot of negative talk about school.

[00:02:06] And so that kind of needs to be sorted because they need to be engaged with learning. So then the psychologist hat goes on and says, what, okay, well, what is it about the learning? That’s not meeting this child’s needs. Because quite often when you’ve got the parent and the teacher, they’re very disparate accounts of what’s happening for that child.

[00:02:32] So then I think the psychologist is then able to act as an intermediary. They’re able to see both perspectives to go, okay, this is how the child is at home. This is what the parents reporting. This is what the school’s reporting. What’s the real story, because there’s always the third side. To the story through assessment.

[00:02:51] I think it becomes unequivocal through assessment and through a very considered assessment with someone who is aware of what giftedness looks like and how it can manifest taking into account twice exceptionality as well, having that knowledge and that ability to be that person in the middle to take a bit from home a bit from school.

[00:03:17] A bit from that objective observation, and then come out with what it is that’s happening for that student. It, it then becomes, as I said, unequivocal for the parent and the school, sometimes the parents are surprised to find that their child. Isn’t performing where they think they should be not to say that they don’t end up being on the gifted spectrum somewhere, but there, those expectations, I think come to a very neat resting point where the discussions can then occur quite.

[00:03:56] Um, what’s the word I’m looking for quite openly and it’s it’s related now on, on hard evidence, whereas before it’s opinion and observation, which parents and teachers have very biased in, in that approach assessment. Yeah. Assessment is that thing you can’t argue with the trickiness with assessment though, is if you go to a psychologist, we’re all trained.

[00:04:24] We’re all highly trained in psychometric assessment. I think there is a widespread lack of understanding when it comes to how nuanced giftedness can be. It’s not just an IQ score. It’s part of it, but it’s not all of it that just tells us what that baseline potential is. It doesn’t show us what the child’s actually doing.

[00:04:49] Whether they’re underachieving, whether they’re they have a specific learning disorder, whether there’s ADHD going on, whether there’s also autism impacting or affecting performance on the, on, an academic scale in some way. And I guess I’m only focusing on the academic. The intellectual slash academic dichotomy here, I’m not really going into athletic giftedness or leadership, giftedness or creativity because you can’t assess for those things.

[00:05:18] You, you can’t assess there’s th there’s no psychometric assessment that I know of that exists for that. So it really is. Quite restricted in that it’s that intellectual slash academic issue that I’m looking at. So then when you have those numbers, it’s helpful for the parent to almost feel validated that they were on the right track in advocating for their child.

[00:05:42] And I think it supports the teacher in that they now have a. A very, a very strong reason to make sure that that child’s needs are met in the classroom, because I think it then helps them go to their stage leader or their executive to say, I actually need support for this child. Yeah. So that’s where assessment really, really does come into its own.

[00:06:12] Sophia Elliott: Yep. So in an ideal world, We have a classroom where the teacher’s able to look at the students wherever they are in terms of their, their stage for that age and is able to respond to that. And we don’t need assessment, but the reality is that I don’t know where that  ideal world exists, the  demands on teachers and the training.

[00:06:37] Isn’t always there in terms of identification. So therefore, That psychological assessment is a great opportunity to understand why parents are having one experience of their child and the school is having another experience. And like you say, be that broker in the middle and go, okay, I can see that you’re saying this and the school’s saying that.

[00:06:58] Let’s have a look in terms of assessing intellectually. What’s going on to see if we can get a clearer picture. And like you say, the assessment is just that intellectual test, because we know giftedness is expressed so many different ways creatively and everything else. So it’s not like it’s the be all and end all, but it is this window into understanding some, Oh, you know, what is going on?

[00:07:22]Kate Plum: Definitely, definitely. And, and I, that that’s both the strengths and the downfall of having the assessment is that it’s really not capturing. Yeah, the, the whole child, it’s not looking at, the fact that you, you could have this intellectual giftedness, but you could also be displaying that giftedness in terms of visual arts or public speaking, or, things like that.

[00:07:52]And. And it’s not, it helps, it helps to have that data, but it’s the interpretation around it. It’s the interpretation around what? Me as the psychologist with the parent hat. Kind of sitting there and the teacher hat  sitting there as well about how, what is the quality? What is the quality of not only the answers I’m getting, but the thought processes that I’m observing?

[00:08:21]What is what’s happening in that? You know, that chit chat between the subtests, where I’m setting up the next step, where, where is that child leading me in the assessment? And that to me is the most. Interesting thing about the entire part of it. The numbers are one thing. The numbers are there, but it’s the other stuff that goes on around it.

[00:08:47] It’s, it’s the conversations that I have during the assessment before and after with the child that I gleaned the most information, determining.

More Transcript Here

[00:08:59] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, a hundred. Yes. And it’s interesting that you say that because I was talking to a parent, not that long ago, who had recently had an assessment for a, a younger child.

[00:09:10] And she was saying how, within the report, the psychologist had brought up too, that I think they’d asked the child what. Tell me an animal that, that lays eggs and the child said elephant, but the psychologist could understand from their interaction with their child, that the child said that because they were bored and the questions are too easy.

[00:09:32] Not because I really think the elephant lays an egg. And I was just kind of being that kind of, a little bit cheeky, wicked side of giftedness. And I’m not going to jump through hoops for you. But instead of going, right. Well, Mark you down for that. It’s, it’s actually seeing that for what it was.

[00:09:47] So it’s, it’s understanding what is going on behind the numbers and behind the questions. Like you say, you really need someone who gets it so they can see those. Those kind of behaviors for what they are. Yeah, yeah.

[00:10:03] Kate Plum: Yeah. When, when we’re trained in the psychometrics and now I’m really just focusing on the IQ assessment.

[00:10:09] So most commonly we use the Wechsler tests, which are shown to be. They’re not perfect. They aren’t perfect by any means, but they’re the best we have when we’re trying to measure that, that elusive G G statistically is intelligence. So when we use the Wechsler tests and I think they Really suit kids who I’m assessing for giftedness because they are so language  laden  that there’s a lot of instructions.

[00:10:36] There’s a lot of higher order thinking that they really need to latch  on to, to really get to the ceiling to, to hit their head on the ceiling in those tests. And when I, from time to time, I do get those kids who are quite cheeky  and we’ll say things like, animal  lays an egg and they say elephant, and I go, really?

[00:10:59] What makes you say that? And I would then glean, out of that, that, of course I know the answer, but. To get the point. They do have to give me the answer. So I do try and elicit that. And I would hope that any psychologist who is, is conducting or administering an IQ assessment would have that same kind of innate knowledge that, of course they know the answer, but they do need to say it rather than just going, Oh, you said egg, that’s a zero or sorry, elephant. That’s a zero. And I think therein lies the issue where some parents rightly believing that that any psychologist can assess for giftedness, but it’s that nuance it’s that, that the stuff that’s going on.

[00:11:44] On on that interpersonal level that can impact so dramatically on, or you get the, The underachieving gifted kid who goes, I don’t know, I don’t know,  what a dumb question. That’s a zero saying don’t know is a zero. So it’s a, it’s about, making sure that you can build that relationship in a very short period of time to make sure they do their best because you don’t want them to tank.

[00:12:16] And we know gifted kids do that as well. We know that. Yeah. We know that they sit in class and do nothing because they are beyond  bored, they’re a pathic towards the whole educational process. So teachers write those kids off as not knowing anything, they feel justified in not doing anything because the teachers have no expectations.

[00:12:40] So when it comes to. Those kids in particular it’s vital, it’s vital. They’re assessed because working in, in, school counseling for many years, that those kids who were always the naughty kids in inverted comments, I would say, have they ever done an IQ assessment? And I I’d be looked at like, I’d grown another head.

[00:13:01] What? No. Thinking the teacher’s thinking they’d be at the other end of the bell curve on the left-hand side. But it’s yeah, you’re not just going to get The. The kids who thrive in those environments, you’re going to get the kids who make you work hard, the kidding for getting them in the room in the first place, but they, they won’t make it easy for you.

[00:13:27] And it’s having that knowledge. It’s having that, that prior knowledge of what giftedness can look like and how it manifests. It’s not just the kid in class with the hand in the air, answering the questions. It’s hardly ever that kid hardly ever. But knowing that, knowing that you could get the sullen  and I’m picturing a sullen  teenage boy slumped in the chair, shrugging the shoulders.

[00:13:54] I don’t know what that’s a dumb question. You know, it it’s it’s so. It’s so tricky. It’s so tricky sometimes.

[00:14:05] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, I can. I absolutely see. I can absolutely see that. And Yeah, it must be really challenging because you’re obviously sitting there wanting to help that child and wanting to get those answers.

[00:14:18] And it’s kind of like, come on, work with me here.

[00:14:22] Kate Plum: Exactly, exactly. But then, and this is the point I was making before. It’s the conversation between the subtests. It’s the conversation that goes on around the assessment. Where the, the beauty in the, in the assessment lies because the conversation could be, I know, you know, this what’s happening for you right now.

[00:14:45] And then you can kind of pull apart and tease it out. Well, no, one’s listened to me before. No, one’s interested in. You know, anything I’ve said before, so it’s allowing them the space to be themselves. It’s allowing them that opportunity to know that the person, which is me, isn’t thinking that, that they’re incapable.

[00:15:08]It’s me being an interested person going to show me what you can do. Yeah. Let’s see it. If this is the one and only time you’re going to do it. Well, come on. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:20] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And knowing to push in those places. So, yeah. So we’ve as a family been through the assessment process a few times. But for, for those listening, who kind of looking down the barrel of assessment Let’s have a little chat about what is involved.

[00:15:35] So we’ve personally pet assessments where we’ve had some questionnaires prior and we’ve had some that haven’t had that. So a parent might expect to get some questionnaires before the assessment. Is that a common thing?

[00:15:51] Kate Plum: Definitely for me. So. I try to maximize data collection, but I also try to minimize the impact on families.

[00:16:02] So, yeah. I’m still, it’s always a work in progress, how I kind of structure assessment protocols. But I think what’s working for me at the moment is I typically get, get a phone call or an email. I then do a phone chat quite quick phone chat, just to work out as you know how to tell the parent how it works, what they should expect booking the appointment time.

[00:16:27] And then the, I block out three hours. And that gives time for me to get to know the child through the parents. So I kind of get the child and the parent in, and we just have these very informal chat and everyone is seeing me write down all this information. And I do it as a mind map. So I put the child’s name in the middle of the page, and then there’s just arrows going off everywhere.

[00:16:52] And everyone’s seeing me write that down and I direct a lot of questions to the child  so I, I typically say, Oh, To the child. Do you feel, have you brought with you today because they’re the, they’re the center, they’re the, they’re the person that I’m most interested in. So I don’t ignore them, talk to the parent and then turn my attention to the child.

[00:17:14] It’s always child centered. And so they’re, they’re in the driver’s seat. And from that, I can already assess their language skills I can assess with they’ve got a sense of humor because I. Try and draw that out almost immediately. And I’m okay with looking like a fool. In some instances, but definitely in the assessment process it’s, what you see is what you get with me.

[00:17:39]If they want to talk to me about their topic of interest, if they have one going nuts, because I then take that info. Keep it in my head and then I can just regurgitate it to the next kid who has that similar interest. And I look amazing. I don’t know, half of what these kids are talking about. I can just retain that info and then just, you know, particularly about Minecraft or Roblox  or things like that.

[00:18:04] So. I’m using tricks as well to make them think I’m, this person who they can relate to or who they can, feel comfortable talking any topic about. And then I’m getting a lot of that developmental information from the parents, but the child’s hearing that too. And it might be the first time the child’s ever heard that they were walking at seven months old and could form complete sentences before they were 12 months old.

[00:18:28] So that developmental information is all also, just helping me churn this information in my head. What, what am I dealing with? Even, even though the research shows that the parent is the best. Identifier of giftedness. It’s not school it’s the parent parents are often dismissed. Parents are often not sure what they’re looking at.

[00:18:52] Particularly if it’s a first born, they think this is normal. And I know this from my own experience. This is normal. It’s. It’s not typical development. It’s not typical that your child, instead of using words to communicate builds a library of sounds and each sound is nuanced and different to each sound and you know exactly what they’re referring to by the sound they’re making.

[00:19:18] That’s not typical. Okay. And so, yeah. And so even though it’s not words, even though. That’s through, through my extended family. There’s been a generational history of. It’s usually girls speaking very early and speaking very fluently almost from day dot. And it’s quite confronting for people who see this gorgeous little person, just able to sit up in the trolley.

[00:19:49] Talking about the shopping list to them mother. Like it’s shocking to see, but that’s normal for the side of the family I married into it’s it’s nothing unusual. So to go back to the assessment process, sorry, I go off on tangents. So to go back to that assessment process, Already absorbing a lot of information before we even get to the assessment part of it.

[00:20:14] I then play some games because it’s important. I build rapport with the child, so they like me. So they will do their best. It’s a bit of a trick of the trade, but. If, if they don’t like me, if they think I’m onerous or odious in some way, I’m going to not get the best out of them. So then when it comes to the assessment process, the child is very comfortable remaining in the room with me and shoeing the parent out.

[00:20:42] And then the fun begins. So during the actual subtests there’s not a lot of to, and fro chit chat because I want them to concentrate. What I’m looking at there is how they problem solve what they’re doing with their body while they’re thinking some kids are laying on the floor by the second or third.

[00:21:06] Sub test  because sitting and being still is quite difficult for them. So they’re free. If, if they want to lay down while they’re doing this, that’s fine. If we have to have a 10 minute break, every two subtests, that’s fine. Because I asked them, what do you need? What do you need in this. In this scenario.

[00:21:26] And even if they can’t tell me, I can gauge, if they’re looking up at the ceiling, if they’re taking longer to answer a question, I’m already thinking we’re having a break, the next sub test. During the break, they can do what they like. They can do star jumps, they can color in like draw. They can eat whatever, because in my mind I need them to perform at their best.

[00:21:50] So. Hmm. That’s the assessment process at the end of it, I usually give them prizes depending on the age stickers. Things out of my prize box food, if I’ve already had that okayed by the parent. And then I say, give me a couple of weeks and I’ll be in touch. Those question is that I do send out beforehand.

[00:22:14] That’s when I look at them, I don’t look at them before I do the assessment. I don’t. I try to not load up on a lot of information about the child beforehand, because I want to be as objective as possible. I don’t want that to be I guess, biased in any way. Then I sit down and I have two iPads and a laptop open because I’m looking at all the data and I’m then maybe giving the teacher a call, getting them to do the teacher version of the checklist.

[00:22:44] Then I’m looking at that. The contrast between the answers or the commonalities. And then I write the report and it’s almost like a story that I’m writing. So even though I’ve got a template it’s the story of this kid where they’ve, you know, their development is all detailed. What. The teachers are saying what the parents are saying, what I’ve noticed, what the results say.

[00:23:09] And then that interpretation at the end for me, the assessment is the beginning. It’s not the end. A lot of parents think let’s get an assessment and find out once. And for all the assessments, just the beginning, the assessment is where we all know what that next step is. And then I provide what that next step is.

[00:23:28] And I look at our strengths and weaknesses profile as well. So interestingly, with a lot of gifted IQ profiles, it’s a relative weakness or relative strength because it is always assessed according to the norm, which is the, the bell . So looking at that profile, it’s talking about relative weaknesses where you might be, you know, in the, in the highest bandwidth of that, of that bell  curve for verbal comprehension.

[00:24:04] And this is the Wechsler tests I’m referring to now, but you might just be high average in visual spatial. You’re still above average, but there’s that. That discrepancy between what is your biggest strength and what is your relative weakness? So teasing that apart is quite important because if you’ve got a child in your class and they are excelling in terms of their literacy and their creative writing and things like that, but their maths isn’t quite as high, even though they’re above average, you’ve still got that.

[00:24:41] Possibly 40 point discrepancy between the two cognitive functions. And that needs to be explained that’s clinically significant that, that discrepancy. So there, there is that that interpretation on that very statistical level as well. I don’t just look at the scores. There’s a there’s a well-known child psychologist called Jerome settler and he proposes this almost like a pyramid of when you’re interpreting any psychometrics, you start as broad as you can, and you go as specific as you can, even down to differences between sub tests within those index scores.

[00:25:20] So that, and that’s what I do because it’s important. It’s very important that, that the parents. Get what they came for really? It’s not a yes or no scenario. Are they gifted? Yes or no? It’s yes, but, or no, but there’s always a, but, and, and that’s where that, that value, I think in the assessment  lies. Yeah.

[00:25:45] Sophia Elliott: So, yeah, so there’s the questionaires is but you look at them after, and that’s a lovely explanation of that assessment process and that dialogue with the child. So the assessment, and as you said, a lot of the, the  Weschler is a very popular one, but there are others. But within that there are the subtests, so.

[00:26:09] Verbal comprehension, visual, spatial fluid reasoning, working memory processing speed. Is it always the same five?

[00:26:18]Kate Plum:  Yes.

[00:26:19] Sophia Elliott: So it’s always the same five. So they’re The, and then you do a couple of tests for each of those sections.

[00:26:26] Kate Plum: Yes.

[00:26:26] Sophia Elliott: Average that out to get the overall school client, that kind of thing. We don’t need to go into that too much.

[00:26:32] It’s just kind of understanding that you don’t just sit one exam and that’s called your IQ tests. There are within that process, a little kind of tests that, that. Focusing on different sections. So your verbal comprehension or your visual spatial, or your working memory or your fluid reasoning or your processing speed, because you’re wanting to understand those things all come together to, to have that understanding about your intellectual.

[00:27:01] Kate Plum: Yeah. And exactly because you’re looking at cognitive functioning broadly, but also quite narrowly and. The it’s quite, it’s quite rare for an assessment to show that giftedness is. Almost lined across all of those different cognitive functions. You do see fluctuations and some fluctuations more than others, but then again, there’s ancillary analysis you can do within the Wechsler tests that look just at verbal non-verbal dichotomy.

[00:27:41] That’s your That’s your general ability index, then you’ve got your cognitive proficiency, which takes into account processing speed. As well as you know, that fluid reasoning aspect of it. I might be a bit incorrect on that one, but I will, I will have another look. Um, but then you’ve got just your non-verbal.

[00:28:01] And then you’ve got almost like a, um, like a problem solving and ciliary index. The one I tend to focus on most is the GAI  because quite often you’ll see a profile where they’re quite high for verbal comprehension, visual, spatial, and fluid reasoning, but the working memory and the processing speed in some way, dragged down the full-scale IQ in some way.

[00:28:27] Yeah, even though the full-scale IQ is a very stable measure of overall intellectual functioning. You can’t, I guess, discount those individual differences as well. So the full scale IQ is always going to be the most. Representative of a person’s IQ, but then if you see that there is that discrepancy and my cutoff is about 20 points between the lowest of the, or, sorry, the highest of the visual spatial fluid reasoning, verbal comprehension, triad, compared with working memory or processing speed.

[00:29:06] Then I go to the GI to see how, just how much that working memory and processing speed impacted on that full-scale IQ. As far as I know, Mensa accepts both. If you, if you were intending on applying to Menza, they do accept. The FSIQ and the gai. And that will take the higher of the two. But yeah, those ancillary measures exist because you’re not going to get a flat profile you’re going to get th th that profile of strengths, weaknesses.

[00:29:39] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. So within those five areas, you’ve got. Or your full-scale IQ

[00:29:45] or general ability index. And those two numbers come from doing the math in different ways, basically looking at different parts of those five areas to get those numbers, because that’s an acknowledgement that you rarely get someone who’s just, in the same area for everything.

[00:30:01] And so it’s kind of giving that opportunity to. To let those strengths come out in one of those scores in a way. Yeah, that’s really interesting because we had a situation where one of my kids scored very highly on some of the areas. But. Compare actually incredibly low on the processing speed.

[00:30:24] And the comment from the psychologist was who knew that child look, they’re just not, well today. This isn’t them. And I know them well enough to know that this isn’t, this isn’t representative. So, and then we did eventually retest that area and, you know, the score was much higher, but in that circumstance, there was a huge gap between.

[00:30:46] Some areas and the processing speed and working, working memory in particular. And, and on that particular day, that was because of the child not being particularly well. Where was I going with this?

[00:31:02] I guess it’s it’s like you said before, sometimes you do get these big discrepancies between one area and another, and quite a lot of literature that says often with gifted kids, that processing speed can be slower comparatively to other scores. And the rationale for that, that I was reading about was.

[00:31:22] When you’ve got so many more pathways in the brain, it takes a bit longer to investigate them all and get from a to B. So it can be quite typical that the processing speed is a bit lower than the other areas. So you’ve got these two different ways of interpreting those numbers to try and understand those strengths.

[00:31:39] Oh, and this is where I was going with that. It is possible to get a false negative, but am I right? And understanding it’s not possible to get a false positive. So for example, You can’t really fluke a high arch, but it’s obviously quite possible to get a lower Mark than you’re, you’re able to become a fluke a highway.

[00:32:03] Cause I’ll get parents. Yeah, we got this really high kind of result, but that must have kind of been a fluke, there’s that imposter syndrome and this is kind of like that can’t be my kids. So, so it, but it’s not possible to get false positive.

[00:32:17] Kate Plum: No. I mean the only way to get a false. Positive. And by that we, we mean, showing that a child’s gifted when they’re not is the examiner error.

[00:32:27] So it, a child, a child has a cognitive. Potential that should, you would hope is assessed appropriately with the tool they, they have at their disposal. But if it’s only the examiner who’s you know, assigning two points when it should have been one or one point when it should have been zero, not actually the child.

[00:32:56] Suddenly, you know, having all the answers and being able to reason things out and then the next day not, but it is very easy for a child to tank  very easy. So going back to, to our little fictitious teenage boy who is quite disinterested or uninterested in. The process if they just sit there and shrug and say, don’t know, and then our immovable on that, you would really have to question them one, if it’s a valid assessment, given what the referral question is, is this even a valid assessment?

[00:33:32]And then you can abandon it or you can still try and get something out of them. And. They just go on. I don’t know. Don’t know, but still give you a couple of answers. Will you know that they’re, you know, tanking a little bit on that, but then you’ve also got that scenario where not everyone tests. Well, not everyone can understand that being assessed is, is a very, it’s like a specific behavioral response.

[00:34:03] You, you need to have the skills to. To be able to answer a question when you’re, when you’re asked a question, but then you’ve got things loading on that, like performance, anxiety, or social anxiety or ADHD, which we know does depress IQ. So there’s a lot at play in, in, in that moment. And it’s the skillset of the assessor to know what’s impacting.

[00:34:32] Is this actually the child is that, am I getting a true representation of this child through this assessment? And if not, what, what then I need to do to ameliorate that, what do I need to do to, to try and minimize that impact? And even every report I write, even when I’m not assessing for giftedness, there’s a little disclaimer saying this is a snapshot.

[00:34:57] Things that impact on performance, on motivation, concentration, hunger, fatigue, tired, like all of those things are kind of put in the report to say, this is how they performed on that day. It isn’t set in stone and that, and that’s put there, whether, they’ve come out, in the 99 point ninth percentile or not because it.

[00:35:21] It’s really only the baseline that we’re getting. And, and I think to, to say that, you know, this, this child who is assessed is actually meeting their potential. We can’t say that for sure. So we just say, this is, this is what we saw on the day, but it could be impacted by this myriad list of things. Yeah.

[00:35:45] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So that’s all really helpful. And I feel like we’ve kind of gone through that process and talked about how that works and why, and I’m just thinking now, if I. You know, if I was talking to a parent and they’re saying, what does this assessment, they all about? What can you tell me? You know, what is it that I would want them to know about that process?

[00:36:09] And I think as a parent, it comes back to, in our experience, that information you get has been invaluable. And we went through it with our first child. And at that point we had three kids and we obviously never expected the first child to be gifted. Let alone. Mm, two and three, but we will like we going to do this for all of our kids, regardless, just because it gives such a fascinating insight into who they are.

[00:36:36]And it’s not the be-all and end-all absolutely, but it can be really amazing information. So I think for me as a parent, I, I, if. If people are needing to go down this track, it’s like, yes, it can be incredibly helpful as a parent to parent let alone, finding the right it, education environment for them. So I guess if you were having that conversation with parents who were considering whether or not to, to go through down that route, you know, is there anything you would want them to know or any advice or thoughts about that?

[00:37:15] Kate Plum: I guess, I guess there are certainly some positives for it.

[00:37:21] Doing an IQ assessment is a very, it’s not something you went into on a whim. You, you, you, it’s a very powerful assessment. And it can really open up conversations about potential. It can open up conversations about, the possibility of there being a specific learning disorder that was the child was masking for a number of years and, and it is about making sure that the end result of that.

[00:37:51] Assessment is to the betterment of the child. But I guess the, the warning there is. Once you’ve let that genie out of the bottle, if it’s a valid assessment and you can be sure that it was adhering to all the rules around standardization, which is what makes that tool so powerful, and it really throws out something you weren’t prepared for.

[00:38:18]Then, you know, you need to be aware that that’s a potential risk with any assessment. There’s, there’s a cost benefit. Ratio more often than not, you enter into an assessment because you want to know, you want to know what’s happening and how you can kind of help your child. But yeah, it, it can come at a cost.

[00:38:39] It can come and, and, uncover things that, that. Aren’t necessarily detrimental, but can just be quite challenging in a different way than you anticipated. And, that’s, that’s something that is discussed definitely with any parent who rings up no matter what the assessment is for.

[00:39:02] Even though for example, I get a lot of autism assessments and I say to the parent. Just because you’ve booked in for me to assess your child for autism. Doesn’t mean that’s the result we’re going to get doesn’t mean that, at the end of that assessment, you will be, or your child will be assigned with that particular diagnosis.

[00:39:21]And, and, for some of them that it’s something they’ve not even contemplated. And I say the same as well. Like you’ve come to me for an assessment to see if your child’s gifted. What if they’re not. What if they’re just high achieving and, just really awesome people. And what if, what if we don’t get that number?

[00:39:41]And, we have to say that we have to have that discussion because I think the ramifications of going into an assessment thinking you’re going to get an outcome and that’s different is quite You don’t want this to be a negative experience, no matter what the results are, you want there to be some kind of benefit to your child.

[00:40:02] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. So entering into it as a parent in an open way, not kind of wanting it to be any particular result, but just going to get whatever the information is, getting that information. And, and like you say, The, it can throw up. All the things like, you know, ADHD, autism, other learning challenges just kind of other stuff and being prepared and open to for that kind of stuff, because, and we know that, you know, ADHD and giftedness autism often get They kind of misunderstood for each other and there’s a lot of correlation there.

[00:40:45] So, so just because you’re thinking let’s get, I think my kid’s gifted. Let’s get an IQ assessment be prepared for the fact that they might not be gifted. There could be other stuff going on and, and there could be challenging conversations around. Around those, those other things and just kind of be ready and open for whatever those results are, being those results.

[00:41:07] Kate Plum: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And I, that that’s important and it’s, I guess it’s important and I’m being a bit So fishy when I say it it’s important for me that, that there’s not that expectation that I will find through the assessment that your child’s gifted when they’re not like that’s a lot of pressure to put on me as well.

[00:41:28] So if we just go into it open for any kind of outcome. To, to, to be found, but also knowing that whatever that outcome is, the next step will also be provided. What, what is that next step? Whatever that IQ result shows, whatever the profile analysis shows, whatever the other question is, I send out. So the other question is look at adaptive functioning, behavioral functioning, emotional functioning, social functioning, whatever they throw up and whatever.

[00:42:02] Kind of comes out of that. We need to all be comfortable knowing that it’s not the end point. It’s the beginning point.

[00:42:11]Sophia Elliott:  Yeah. Well, and that’s the truth and that is the G and the journey for uncovering can take years can attest to that. That, and, and we, we continued on that journey as a family not to find a label, not to get.

[00:42:26] I don’t know, just, just to understand so that we can help them understand themselves. Yes. And, and therefore, Grow up with that knowledge rather than become an adult and at 40 or 50 go, Oh my God. If I’d known this 20 years ago, I would have, my life would have made sense. Right. That’s right. I would have known myself, so that’s right.

[00:42:50] Oh yeah. I totally get that. Yeah, he really hard as a parent as well. Yes. Usually, I think if you’re, if you’re looking at your child who might be like a straight a student and you’re like, they gifted for sure. And then I could imagine how challenging that might be to come back with results. That they’re, they’re a high achiever and they’re highly intelligent, but not gifted.

[00:43:12] I was at something recently and I had to do the thing where I go, you know, I’m the parent of gifted kids and I, I have a. I have a podcast around supporting parents of gifted kids. And inevitably someone makes the, the comment after about all wish my kids were gifted and it’s like, really don’t and you just, and I always want to say, and sometimes I do, I just kind of say, actually, you really don’t like, and it’s okay.

[00:43:42] It’d be typical. It’s great to be typical because then you have a wealth of options out there for your child that they can fit into because when your child is gifted, the whole point of that is they’re not typical and they need things that aren’t in the mainstream. And it’s really challenging. And I wouldn’t change my text for anything, but it’s like that book.

[00:44:02]If this is a gift, can I give it back? Like it’s not easy. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:44:09] Kate Plum: And you know, that, that’s exactly how I feel as well. And, and having, I think having that experience, that parental experience helps in those situations because when, when you’re assessing a child for the first time, For this family, they don’t know.

[00:44:33] They don’t know what they’re about to walk in.

[00:44:38] Yeah. Yep, yes. Yeah, yeah. A whole different way of being, it’s a whole different way of relating. It’s a whole different way of advocating. And you, you need to be prepared for that because, and I guess this is, this is the other part of that conversation is okay. It comes back that they are gifted and.

[00:44:56]You do nothing with it. You, then you, you are, you have the impetus, you’re impelled to do something about that. Now you can’t just. Sit back and hope that they work it out for themselves because why else have you come for the assessment? They’re not working it out for themselves, then there’s an issue that’s been identified.

[00:45:17] So then now that you know, you’re, you are on this journey, whether you like it or not, whether it’s comfortable for you or not. And I don’t find it comfortable, I don’t find it a comfortable journey. I tend to not talk about. My own children’s giftedness very much. Because it’s, it’s fraught it’s fraught..

[00:45:42] Sophia Elliott: Yes. Yeah, totally. Yeah, yeah, a hundred percent. So thank you so much. That’s, there’s a wealth of information there and assessment’s really challenging. Really challenging process and really appreciate going through that. So thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:46:00]Kate Plum:  It’s my pleasure. My pleasure.

[00:46:02] Thank you so much, Sophia.

[00:46:03] Sophia Elliott: Thank you. Wonderful. I really appreciate it.