The Rage-to-Learn Gifted Child: Meeting Their Needs by Dr Kathryn Murray and Gloria van Donge

The Rage-to-Learn Gifted Child: Meeting Their Needs by Dr Kathryn Murray and Gloria van Donge

by Dr Kathryn Murray and Gloria van Donge

Gifted children, with a rage-to-learn, have an internal motivation that propels and compels them to explore, to investigate, to learn. Rather than being forced into the rigidity of a system, these children need their own learning line.

The rage-to-learn gifted child

Alertness in babyhood and attention to their environment may be early indicators to parents of this type of gifted child. As toddlers, their conversation skills and counting ability begin early. Their questions are endless, endless: every answer only generates more questions. They are quick to recognize things like traffic signs, advertising logos, car brands. Their curiosity and insatiable hunger for learning seems unstoppable (Lammers van Toorenbury).

 

In the introduction to his book, Bright, Alan Thompson (2016) says, “It’s not possible to graph your child’s passion for counting absolutely everything including nutritional information on food packaging, or their motivation to learn to read the newspaper at the age of two.” (p28).

 

These children crave new ideas, new challenges and new experiences. They love complexity and are willing to take a risk. They immerse themselves in an area of interest, showing intense focus and concentration. They have an amazing capacity for facts and figures, processing information quickly and efficiently. They are independent and show high self-efficacy, passionately pursuing their own goals. At home, they invent and develop all kinds of activities. Their focus is more on the process than the product.

 

A local three-year old surrounded himself with sticks, cardboard, wood glue, lawnmower parts and other odds and ends. When asked what he was doing, he scoffed, “I’m making the making!” (Downie, 2014, p24).

 

In the classroom, the rage-to-learn gifted child may present a challenge because their learning is motivated by their own interests: they do not learn in order to pass a test. They are driven by task involvement with a goal of mastering skills, rather than being powered by performance goals measuring their ability to succeed. These children like to work autonomously and when learning is disappointing, they lose their sense of purpose and disengage in the classroom.

 

When the work is too easy, they lack persistence and fail to develop study skills. They may develop signs of anxiety, like health concerns and not wanting to attend school.

 

Meeting their needs

If the needs of rage-to-learn gifted children are not honoured, then behavioural challenges may emerge. Those who see themselves as intellectual peers of their teachers often reject authority and become argumentative. Their endless questioning converts into tireless negotiations when given adult directives. Being told what to do or think may insult these children and lead to outrage. As non-conformists, they may develop a critical mindset, intolerant of others and their own shortcomings (Betts & Neihart, 2017).

 

Being out-of-sync with their peers, the gifted child may be subjected to bullying. A study conducted in eleven states of America discovered that 67% of all gifted students were bullied by 8th grade. The vast majority were silent about this (Peterson, 2006). Depression, unexpressed rage and school absenteeism may alert teachers to this situation. Some gifted children deal with the emotional impact by becoming bullies themselves.

 

The teacher

In a classroom of 25 or more children, it can be difficult for the teacher to notice and identify a rage-to- learn gifted child. Often, the outward behaviours are noticed and responded to in ways that may not always be conducive to the gifted child feeling ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ by other children or the teacher. The competing expectations placed on the teacher by school administration, parents, and the needs of all children in the class can be very overwhelming and stressful.

 

Including children with special needs or gifted children into the mix can be problematic. It is easy to see why the gifted child’s behaviour and engagement with learning can be compromised.
Unless teachers have received training in identifying and facilitating the learning of gifted children, there may be a disconnect in the classroom. Generally, teachers do their best to teach to individuals and accommodate their needs for learning. Considerations of all developmental domains – social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language are part of the teacher’s focus for all children in the classroom. Curriculum requirements, participation in school committees, sporting teams and the like all add to a teacher’s daily responsibilities. A classroom is a busy place with many competing priorities.

 

Classroom considerations

Another layer for the teacher to address is that gifted children are renowned for hiding their giftedness in an effort to fit in with peers and form friendships. Setting up a classroom culture that honours individual learning approaches in a safe emotional space is essential for all children, but especially the gifted child.

 

A classroom designed with a range of smaller learning spaces provides the feeling of ‘psychological safety’ (Kirby, 2021). Smaller spaces are less threatening. They allow for greater focus on tasks, encourage intimate conversations with 2 or 3 others, and minimise potential self-regulation issues. Well-planned and designed spaces allow children of all abilities to enter into the learning at their own level. A gifted child could well be exploring ways of using ‘loose parts’ alongside a child with a disability. In this instance, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development theory suggests that the more experienced or skilled child can guide the other in
a peer tutoring approach (O’Donnell, 2012). This method supports the development of self-regulation and impulse control by managing social and emotional development.

 

Having an ‘assets-based learning’ approach focuses on valuing existing knowledge and strengths which supports strong self-esteem and identity development (New York University, 2020). When children feel comfortable and accepted, instances of disruptive behaviour or bullying disappear. Diversity in thought, culture, and traits are seen as assets to the learning.
Strengths of teachers and children are valued with the focus being on what they bring to the classroom rather than their differences and deficits.

 

Encouraging self-determined, assets-based projects that respond to the requirements of the curriculum provides the gifted child with autonomy and considers their interests. In turn, thinking and imagination is extended to their individual level. Having open conversations where the gifted child feels safe to be vulnerable and authentic can promote engagement with the learning and provide psychological security.
Changing the language in the classroom from ‘teacher’ to ‘coach’ or ‘facilitator’ helps to change the mindset and subconsciously builds more equity between the children. Being a coach in the classroom can be aligned with being a sporting coach. The role changes from leading and telling to providing advice, giving opportunities to practice skills and then allowing the individual to do his or her part in the team.

 

If this approach is used in a classroom designed with many smaller spaces, children can ask for individual advice, practice their skills and then share with the larger team. Then, learning is fulfilling for each child – no matter what their level of ability. The range of gifted children extends to more than the rage-to-learn child. Giftedness comes in many shapes and sizes. Each child should be looked at individually where ‘one size fits all’ is not a part of the classroom pedagogical approach.

 

Dr Kathryn Murray author of guest blog

Who is Dr Kathryn Murray?

Dr Kathryn Murray is the founder of Future Strong Education, a consultancy business working with teachers, leadership teams, early childhood educators, organisations and parents. Kathy has a professional background that spans 36 years in the education sector.

Her aim is to extend each person’s personal and professional capabilities by sharing current research and a range of experiences gathered over her career. Kathy speaks at conferences, provides professional development sessions and mentors clients nationally and internationally while continuing to share her expertise with pre-service teachers at Central Queensland University.

The life aim of ‘making a difference in the lives of children’ is what fuels Kathy’s passion to provide support in the world of education.

Kathy’s qualifications include: Doctor of Education, Master of Education, Certificate IV in Training and Assessing, Bachelor of Education, Diploma of Teaching (Preschool/Primary).

Who is Gloria van Donge?

Gloria van Donge is a mother of a gifted child, but she only discovered this in her retirement! If only she had known earlier when her children were small.

To help other parents and educators, Gloria has written five picture books to create a doorway into the world of the gifted and talented child.

Her stories cover pertinent issues like acceptance, camouflaging behaviour, perfectionism, being out-of[1]sync with peers and emotional giftedness. As an international author, it is her hope that these stories will generate discussion and contribute to the social and emotional wellbeing of the gifted. Gloria’s qualifications include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies.

More from Kathryn & Gloria...

Social and emotional wellbeing for gifted kids

Another Guest Blog…

Dr Kathryn Murray and Gloria van Donge also wrote the guest blog: Gifted Kids Social and Emotional Wellbeing for Learning.

5 great books for gifted kids podcast

A Podcast with Gloria…

Our Gifted Kids talked to Gloria about her gorgeous books in the Podcast ‘Gifted Kids Books with Gloria & Peter van Donge’.

References related to this article.

Betts, G. and Neihart, M. (2017). Profiles of the Gifted, Talented, Creative Learners.

Downie, R. (2014). Making the Making. Kids on the Coast. Education, May-June, pp24-30.
Kirby, A. (2021). How do we build psychological safety – in the context of neurodiversity?

New York University, Steinhardt. (2020). Thought leadership. An Asset-Based Approach to
Education: What It Is and Why It Matters. 

O’Donnell, A. M. (2012). Educational Psychology. Milton, Queensland: John Wiley and Sons
Australia.
Peterson, J.S., & Ray, K.E. (2006). Bullying and the gifted: Victims, perpetrators, prevalence, and
effects. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50 (2), pp148-168. https://journals.sagepub.com/
Thompson, A. D. (2016). Bright: Seeing superstars, listening to their worlds, and moving out of
the way. Life Architect.

Meeting Gifted Learning Needs and Fostering Children’s Effort with Dr. Joanne Foster

Meeting Gifted Learning Needs and Fostering Children’s Effort with Dr. Joanne Foster

Guest post by Dr. Joanne Foster

Around the world, from Australia to Canada and points in between, parents of gifted learners are concerned about their children’s development and well-being. Parents want to ensure that their child is receiving a quality education consisting of meaningful learning, appropriate challenge, and progress.

What does that look like in practice?

The Truth about Gifted Learning Needs

No two individuals are the same. Research in such fields as educational psychology, cognitive development, and neuroscience, points to giftedness occurring across the population, irrespective of gender, cultural background, language, race, age, socio-economic status, or the presence of other exceptionalities. A gifted learner needs well-targeted learning opportunities in one or more domains at a particular point in time as required, and as their understandings and abilities continue to develop.

However, in order for children to have and maintain a love of learning, they also have to invest something else—effort!

Contrary to what some people might believe, high-level ability does not necessarily come easily. Intelligence, creative expression, skill-building proficiency, content mastery— these outcomes are the result of time and effort. To that end, parents are well-positioned to offer their child guidance and support, foster their motivation, and encourage them to make the most of their learning experiences.

The best way for parents to accomplish this is to ensure that their child has (or co-creates) learning opportunities that align with their individual needs, including their areas of strength and weakness, interests, and learning preferences. In other words, parents can champion an Optimal Match approach that empowers a child to learn what they need and want to know, over the short, medium, and long haul. Such an approach is predicated on differentiation and choice, and a range of options. These might include acceleration, single-subject enrichment, mentorships, flexible grouping, gifted classes, leadership initiatives, entrepreneurial pursuits, volunteer activities, cross-grade resource access, extracurricular activities, technology-based programs, guided independent study, project-based studies, or other possibilities. (See Being Smart about Gifted Learning to find out more about these and many additional Optimal Match alternatives.). Children’s needs vary, and are always in flux, and should be monitored and adjusted on an ongoing basis.

Effort Through the Lenses of Parents and Children

An Optimal Match approach empowers kids to take initiative, and to stick with tasks and activities because they’re relevant, enjoyable, and worth doing. When children see the value of their learning and feel that the pacing and expectations are fair, they’re more inclined to put forth the effort required to see things through.

Considerations that parents can keep in mind are manageability, goal attainability, and the kinds of supports that are in place if a child encounters difficulty along the way. Parents can also demonstrate the strategies that they themselves use to stay on track, overcome obstacles, confront changes, acquire resources, and maintain a positive attitude and productive outlook. Other important ways to reinforce children’s effort is to offer reassurance if they stumble, to convey genuine praise as they progress, to be available to respond to their questions and concerns, and to show faith in their abilities. Also, by becoming well-informed about gifted level development, neurodiversity, and a growth mindset, parents can help children understand that intelligence, creativity, and other forms of advancement accrue step-by-step, with persistence and hard work. That knowledge will strengthen kids’ resolve and serve them well across the lifespan.

Last Words

Gifted-level ability is not a sure-fire ticket to success. An enterprising spirit, a sense of purpose, and connectivity with supportive others (such as family, friends, teachers, mentors) can make all the difference in how a child envisions and experiences their learning and personal growth. And, although an Optimal Match approach is responsive to individual levels of subject-specific competence at a given point in time, and presents variable means of meeting gifted learning needs and moving forward, effort is what provides the momentum.

In my upcoming podcast with Sophia Elliott for Our Gifted Kids, I’ll be chatting about how parents can encourage children’s effort and motivation, and I’ll be offering lots of practical strategies. I’ll discuss concerns, challenges, and ways to empower gifted learners at home, school, and elsewhere. I invite you to tune in!

Who is Dr. Joanne Foster?

Dr. Joanne Foster is an award-winning author who writes about child development and gifted education. Her most recent book is  Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews, 2021). For more information, and for access to many articles and timely resources on children’s well-being, creativity, intelligence, productivity, and learning, please go to www.joannefoster.ca.

Dr. Joanne Foster
What does being gifted really mean?

What does being gifted really mean?

What does being gifted really mean?

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

Errr, no, I did not.

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

What does gifted mean?

Is gifted just high IQ?

Well, no, nope, nuh-uh.

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

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

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

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

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

Errr, yes and no.

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

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

Yes you can be gifted and have learning challenges.

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

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

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

So does that mean it’s all about IQ?

Nope. Giftedness goes hand in hand with…

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

These things can be hard.

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

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

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

Giftedness is neurodiversity.

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

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

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

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

 Columbus Group definition of giftedness:

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

So what does being gifted really mean?

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

Gifted Kids Social and Emotional Wellbeing for Learning by Dr Kathryn Murray and Gloria van Donge

Gifted Kids Social and Emotional Wellbeing for Learning by Dr Kathryn Murray and Gloria van Donge

Guest Post by Dr Kathryn Murray and Gloria van Donge
Have you been in a situation where someone talks incessantly as a monologue?

Have you had difficulty controlling your emotions, had no interest in talking to someone or no inclination to take a risk and try something new?

Does it seem like everyone else has relationships that thrive, and you don’t?

In our experience with children and adults, we have found that some people naturally ‘read the room’, regulate their emotions, build strong relationships, make good decisions, and feel good about themselves. Having a strong sense of social and emotional wellbeing leads to better opportunities for learning.

Socially and emotionally stable children come to school prepared to learn.

In 2005, research suggested that happiness is determined 50% by our genes, 10% by our life circumstances and 40% by our life choices and behaviours. Whilst more recent research debates these percentages, the premise remains that we can influence our happiness.

It would follow that as parents and teachers it is crucial to teach and encourage children to develop strategies for life that will support a strong sense of social and emotional wellbeing that provides opportunity for greater happiness.
There is a solid link between social and emotional development and mental health.

Building opportunities for social and emotional wellbeing (SEW) and social and emotional learning (SEL) have been shown to decrease the rates of depression, suicide, eating disorders, stress, antisocial behaviour and the like.

A positive sense of self, developed through SEW and SEL activities, has been linked to adult productivity, success and happiness. Building competence in social and emotional wellbeing provides a firm platform for the development of social and emotional learning.

Children feel good about themselves so are willing to take a risk in their learning: they have a go at that mathematics problem, ask for help to complete an activity, and bounce back when something is completed incorrectly.

Classroom and family discussions that lead to the development of strong mental health begin by giving descriptive feedback, identifying emotions or using a story to begin conversations about characters and feelings.

Developing self-awareness, self-management, social connections, and acceptance of self are all part of the journey to wellbeing and learning. Embracing social and emotional wellbeing leads to higher social cohesion within families, classrooms and communities in general, which in turn builds social capital and positive futures for children.

Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEW) and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

SEW and SEL are the cornerstones of rich learning in cognitive, physical and language developmental domains.

The Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified 5 core goals for development of wellbeing in our schools. The goals highlight the importance of social and emotional wellbeing and learning and what it might look like in our classrooms.
1. Self-awareness — identifying and recognising emotions; recognising personal interests and strengths; maintaining a well-grounded sense of self-confidence

  1. Self-management — regulating emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and motivate oneself to persevere in overcoming obstacles; setting and monitoring progress toward the achievement of personal and academic goals; expressing emotions appropriately
  2. Social awareness — being able to take the perspective of others and empathise with them; recognising and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences
  3. Relationship skills — establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation and resistance to inappropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and constructively resolving interpersonal conflict; seeking help when needed
  4. Responsible decision-making — making decisions based on a consideration of all relevant factors, including applicable ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms; the likely consequences of taking alternative courses of action; evaluation and reflection.

Why we need to teach SEW and SEL

Students lacking in SEW or SEL may find it difficult to follow directions, self-regulate their emotions, or interact with others.

Social and emotional skills are key determinants of academic success and productivity in the classroom. Research indicates that students behind in their SE development are:

  • Up to 80% more likely to need a repeat year
    • 80% more likely to require learning intervention and support
    • And seven times more likely to exhibit difficult behaviour.

A clear outcome from this research is that SEW and SEL are highlighted as being vital to establish
positive approaches to individual learning and set students up for success.

The Student Learning and Wellbeing framework developed by Education Queensland reminds us of the World Health Organisation’s statement that “Wellbeing is a state in which every individual realises his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

With this in mind, the importance of SEW and SEL is evident for all students, but particularly gifted and talented students who may require further support to understand their unique approaches to the world.
One way to support students, is to use resources that explore the range of social and emotional competencies that are needed to strengthen and support self-awareness and acceptance of personal strengths and challenges.

The Gifted Kid Book Series does this in a gentle, entertaining, child friendly manner. The concepts found in each book align with the desired outcomes of education systems worldwide that identify the importance of embracing diversity and the World Health Organisation’s promotion of wellbeing.

Gifted children are good at camouflaging their strengths so they don’t seem ‘different’. Perhaps you have a gifted child in your class or even your family and don’t realise it.

In your class or school, do you have children who:
• Seem bored with school, so are disruptive?
• You think can do better than they do?
• Challenge ideas and offer different solutions?
• Constantly ask questions to the point of frustration?

Have you considered that they may be gifted?
Perhaps you have noticed that they:
• Excel in sports, dance, music, maths, or English
• Seem to be very serious and older than their years
• Learn quickly and retain what is learnt
• Think of innovative and creative ways to approach a standard problem3
• Set unrealistically high standards for themselves
• Have intense emotions and seem very sensitive to the feelings of others.

All children are to be encouraged to find their own level of SEW which then allows them to access SEL. This is particularly important with children who see themselves as ‘different’ from other children. This is the case with gifted children. The level of social and emotional wellbeing and building strong relationships may be difficult depending on the particular characteristics of the gifted child. The various forms of giftedness and the accommodations made by the gifted child is not in the scope of this paper, but is worth considering for future publications.

 

A photo of Gifted Kids Books Series written by Gloria van Donge
Dr Kathryn Murray

Who is Dr Kathryn Murray?

Dr Kathryn Murray is the founder of Future Strong Education, a consultancy business working with teachers, leadership teams, early childhood educators, organisations and parents. Kathy has a professional background that spans 36 years in the education sector.

Her aim is to extend each person’s personal and professional capabilities by sharing current research and a range of experiences gathered over her career. Kathy speaks at conferences, provides professional development sessions and mentors clients nationally and internationally while continuing to share her expertise with pre-service teachers at Central Queensland University.

The life aim of ‘making a difference in the lives of children’ is what fuels Kathy’s passion to provide support in the world of education.

Kathy’s qualifications include: Doctor of Education, Master of Education, Certificate IV in Training and Assessing, Bachelor of Education, Diploma of Teaching (Preschool/Primary).

 

Gloria van Donge

Who is Gloria van Donge?

Gloria van Donge is a mother of a gifted child, but she only discovered this in her retirement! If only she had known earlier when her children were small.

To help other parents and educators, Gloria has written five picture books to create a doorway into the world of the gifted and talented child.

Her stories cover pertinent issues like acceptance, camouflaging behaviour, perfectionism, being out-of[1]sync with peers and emotional giftedness. As an international author, it is her hope that these stories will generate discussion and contribute to the social and emotional wellbeing of the gifted. Gloria’s qualifications include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies.

 

5 great books for gifted kids podcast

 

Our Gifted Kids talked to Gloria about her gorgeous books in the Podcast ‘Gifted Kids Books with Gloria & Peter van Donge’.

 

 

References related to this article.

Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning. (2020). CASEL’S SEL Framework: What are the core competence areas and where are they promoted? 

Loewenberg, A. (2016). New study links kindergarten social-emotional skills to long-term success. 

Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K.M., Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology. Vol. 9 (2) pp. 111–131. 4

Newman, K. M. (2020). How much of your happiness is under your control? Greater Good Magazine: Science based insights for a meaningful life. February 18, 2020. 

Queensland Government, Department of Education, Training and The Arts. Guide to Social and Emotional Learning in Queensland State Schools

Queensland Government, Department of Education. (2018). Student Learning and Wellbeing Framework

White, F., Hayes, B. & Livesey, D. (2013). Developmental Psychology: From infancy to adulthood (3rd ed). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson

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

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

I feel so drained right now.

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

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

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

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

I freaking hate being right. It’s exhausting.

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

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

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

What does that look like? 🤷🏼‍♀️

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are all so different.

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

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

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

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

…and IQ tests… are not perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, all children are gifts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levels of Giftedness[ii]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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