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

by | Feb 25, 2021

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

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

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

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

They are all so different.

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

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

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

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

…and IQ tests… are not perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, all children are gifts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levels of Giftedness[ii]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

https://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10480

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