#087 Unpacking dangerous myths about gifted & 2E boys w/ Deborah Gennarelli

#087 Unpacking dangerous myths about gifted & 2E boys w/ Deborah Gennarelli

In this episode, we’re talking to Deborah Gennarelli about gifted and twice exceptional (2E) boys. A great episode unpacking those dangerous myths about gifted boys, diving into what makes them different, and providing real hands-on strategies to walk away with.

Memorable quote… “

“I’ve particularly noticed, with the boys that I worked with, the emotional intensity. So these students think and feel deeply and often differently than other children. This is especially true for 2E boys who are wrestling with the fact that they’re gifted, but they also feel inadequate or shame or other negative emotions. And I saw that with all the boys that I wrote about. They knew they were really smart, but then they started questioning, “Am I really smart?” – Deborah Gennarelli


An experienced educator and gifted intervention specialist, Deborah Gennarelli has a master’s degree in gifted education and her passion has been recognised by Teacher of the Year awards in three different school districts as well as an “All-County Teacher” award.

As a gifted intervention specialist, she developed gifted education programs in several districts and now also consults; providing professional development on topics relevant to gifted children and supporting parents and students. A national speaker on the identification and support of gifted and 2e children, Deborah has also written the newly released, ‘Twice Exceptional Boys: A Roadmap to Getting it Right’. 

She is currently co-writing a second book about neurodiversity in adults and is a member of NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children), OAGC (Ohio Association for Gifted Children, and SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted).

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[00:00:00] Hello. And welcome back to the podcast. I’m excited this week to be talking to Deb generally,
who is a gifted intervention specialist, gifted educator and advocate.
And also author of twice exceptional boys, a roadmap to getting it right. And in this episode, we talk about gifted boys and twice exceptional boys and some of the very unique and complex. Additional challenges.
That we might experience as parents or as educators of these amazing little people.
I’ve always felt that it is really important to understand gifted boys As a distinct group of people. Because there’s so much about what is inherently gifted. That is expressed. When you’re a boy. Or a man, I think that contradicts so much of what has been considered traditional masculinity.
And in this [00:01:00] episode, it’s really nice to talk to Deb about androgyny and how that expresses for gifted boys. We talk about. The complexity, their sense of justice.
And we really dive into a bit of a case study because I’ve always felt that. It’s in hearing. Other people’s stories that we. Are able to see our own story. And so we have a fabulous conversation about some of the boys that she writes about in her book.
We talk a lot in the gifted community about the special supports and accommodations that are gifted kids needed and are gifted adults as well. And in this conversation, I really feel like we get to walk away with some concrete. Opportunities to reframe our understanding and reframe our approaches. That might actually lead to. Introducing and expanding on some of those sorts of supports and [00:02:00] accommodations that are gifted boys need. They certainly are. Uh, a unique group of people. Just as gifted girls are. And of course, all of our gifted children and adults who are non binary and may express their gender in other ways.
And it’s really important for us to understand. All of these groups within that are gifted in your idea of edging communities.
And for our boys in particular. As people who are very likely to externalize their feelings and be caught out in that.

Narrative about bad behavior and being naughty And all these other negative narratives. It’s a real opportunity for us to reframe that. And have a look at what’s going on underneath. So it’s a wonderful opportunity today to listen to Deb, talk about her book and her work and her understanding of boys and why this is such an important topic. And certainly as a parent of two boys, it was [00:03:00] wonderful to really unpack that and lead to a great understanding. Of of my kids and how I can support them more and how I might look at things differently as a parent. So, thank you so much, Deb, for joining us for this episode, it was so lovely to have you on the show. And I’m excited to be sharing this with, uh, with you all the listeners. I hope you love the episode. If you’re enjoying our gifted kids, please leave a review or give us some stars. That’d be lovely. It helps other people find us. If you’re wanting to dive in a bit deeper, we do have a membership. We have a course. Uh, or you can join us on social media on Instagram or Facebook. Check out those links in the show notes and have a wonderful week. And I hope you enjoyed the episode.
Sophia Elliott: [00:04:00] Hello and welcome to today’s podcast. I am very excited to be introducing you to Deb Generali, a gifted educator and author.
Sophia Elliott: Deb has worked from kindergarten to grade 12 as a gifted intervention specialist. She’s got a master’s degree in gifted from Kent State Universities and is such an awesome educator that she has been teacher of the year numerous times in different school districts and all county teacher award for her efforts to advance gifted education and secure two considerable technology grants.
Sophia Elliott: As a gifted intervention specialist, she develops gifted education programs in several districts. [00:05:00] To ensure that smart students are offered a variety of options to meet their needs in school, ranging from curriculum compacting, mentorships, and acceleration. She’s now a gifted consultant with her company’s SMART strategies and provides professional development on topics relevant to gifted children.
Sophia Elliott: She also speaks nationally about identification and the support of Gifted and two E Children. But we are here today to talk to Deb about her book. She’s now an author as well called Twice Exceptional Boys, A Roadmap to Getting It Right, which was published just last year. And Deb, I’m incredibly excited to have you on the program.
Sophia Elliott: Welcome.
Deb Gennarelli: Thank you, Sophia. I am so happy to be here. And thank you for the opportunity to talk about Twice Exceptional
Sophia Elliott: Boys let’s get started by sharing with us a little bit. How did you get into gifted education? [00:06:00]
Deb Gennarelli: Great question. So I began my teaching career as a kindergarten teacher and right outta high school, I always knew I wanted to teach.
Deb Gennarelli: And so after about five years of teaching in the regular classroom, I noticed that the really high potential kids in my classrooms were the ones not getting quite what they needed. It seemed like all my other students were doing well. Even my students who were struggling to be on grade level were doing well, but my high potential kids were not doing well.
Deb Gennarelli: So after about seven years or so I decided to go into gifted education. And began working as a gifted intervention specialist. Not all schools in America have gifted specialists. It just depends on the school district’s needs funding and how they wanna service their high potential kids.
Deb Gennarelli: So I’ve been very fortunate. The states that [00:07:00] I’ve taught in had gifted programs in most of their schools. So I was very fortunate to work with gifted kids K through 12 and their families, and I never looked back. It’s a passion of mine and most of my 40 year career is in gifted ed. I’m, I’m extremely passionate about it.
Deb Gennarelli: And fight’s exceptionality is another passion that began long ago because not only did the gifted kids in the classroom, Tend to struggle, but the twice exceptional kids weren’t even identified for many reasons. And we’ll talk about that today. So it’s, it’s been a passion and even though I’m not in a regular classroom anymore or in a school district teaching directly with kids I am now consulting with parents teachers, administrators.
Deb Gennarelli: I just did an in-service last week in a large school district here in Ohio with about 60 parents on social-emotional needs of gifted kids. And those parents were thirsty [00:08:00] to ask lots of questions that they had not, had not, they had not been answered the way that they, they were hoping to get answers from their school district.
Deb Gennarelli: So those are the kinds of things I’m enjoying now. So I, I’m keeping my hands all in it. I’m just not working directly with kids in the classroom.
Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And it is really important that we have folk like yourself who are there as consultants for us as parents, but also educators to lean into to get your expertise and help a variety of people.
Sophia Elliott: And I have to say like, congratulations on the book. Like it’s, it’s an excellent book. Thank you. I really loved reading it. Some of the things I really liked about it is you, you’ve done it in three parts and one of the sections is you go into four case studies of particular boys who you have worked with over the years and it’s a [00:09:00] really great to get that sense of.
Sophia Elliott: Detail and journey because you, you know, you unpack the child, there’s reflections from parents about those early years and then you talk about like, kinder through grade four and that the journey the child goes on and the ups and downs of that journey. But then also within that is embedded like actions.
Sophia Elliott: So you can really take away from it things that you can do either as a parent or an educator, which I really love. It’s there’s plenty of like, okay, because sometimes you’ll read something and you’re like, okay, that’s great, but where do I go now? And you’ve just got it all through the book, is the way you go now with this and what to do next.
Sophia Elliott: Right. And things to consider. It’s such a useful, it’s almost like a manual, you know, there, there’s so many tips and things in there and I think Right. You know, obviously I love stories and. [00:10:00] You know, and this is why, why I do the podcast because I think it allows us to see like our student or our child within someone else’s story.
Sophia Elliott: And really, as I was reading those 4K studies that, you know, there were components of those boys that resonated, you know, for me and, and my kids. And, and it’s, I think it’s really lovely to be able to see that in others when you’re parenting really complex kiddos. And and I wanted
Deb Gennarelli: to actually Thank you Sophia.
Deb Gennarelli: Yeah.
Sophia Elliott: Yes. Yeah. Well, you know, like writing a book,
Deb Gennarelli: congratulations.
Deb Gennarelli: Thank you. I will just say with those four students of mine that I wrote about, and there are many more like them that I’ve worked with. But I picked those four because I worked with them for many years. You know, they may maybe were identified in first and second grade, and I followed them through sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.
Deb Gennarelli: One of them [00:11:00] I followed all the way through high school. And I’m still in touch with today. I mean, he’s, he’s an adult working in the world. But I would tell different parents you know, hopeful stories about their Tuy boys. Because at the time that they crossed my path, many of these families were struggling, challenged, hopeless.
Deb Gennarelli: They didn’t know where to go. They thought their schools were failing them. They thought their son was going to end up dropping out of school. All kinds of very sad stories. So, One of my, my big purposes for this book was to give hope to parents and teachers who work with gifted kids that there are ways to really help them go from just surviving in school and at home to really thriving at school and at home.
Deb Gennarelli: And that’s the big thing from, from really just let’s not struggle anymore. Let’s start thriving and, and really being happy and successful in school and at home. So those four boys are [00:12:00] still near and dear to my heart.
Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And I love at the end of book, you, there’s actually a reflection from one of the boys now.
Sophia Elliott: Oh, a young man who actually reflects back. Yes. And, and we may have a little look at that later, but I wanted to read Yes. A little passage out of the book, if I may. Yes. Now I opened up, I opened up the book and I’m looking at the first paragraph of the preface. So many years ago in my teaching career, I met a very smart seven year old boy who lit up a room when he entered it. His enthusiasm for learning was contagious.
Sophia Elliott: He could never just sit still and wait for his dozens of questions to be answered. This smart boy was always went after the knowledge he sought with a passion. As the year progressed, I noticed that regular schoolwork became more frustrating and difficult for him. By the time this boy was 10 years old, the shining light in his eyes had glossed over and turned to anger.
Sophia Elliott: [00:13:00] Like that. That’s the first paragraph of the whole book. And I just kind of went, I wanna, I wanna cry. Oh man, this is gonna be good. I know. I’m like, I know. I like, I read that and I was like can I read this out loud without crying? Like, it just, for me, it sums up the entire challenge of parenting to e boys in that one paragraph.
Sophia Elliott: So I was like, oh my God, that’s so, such a powerful statement. And so let’s start with why two E Boys? [00:14:00] Why did you write a book about
Deb Gennarelli: two E Boys? Right. Well, Sophia since I’ve been talking about this book it’s the number one question I get asked. You know, why did I write about boys as compared to girls?
Deb Gennarelli: Why just not twice exceptional gift, you know, kids, boys and girls. It was never my intent to really sit down and, and write about boys. However, when I met that young student you just read about many, many years ago it impacted me a great deal. I would come home and worry about him and stress about him like he was my own child, my own son.
Deb Gennarelli: The interesting thing that happened was the Tuey Boys started coming at me like a deck of cards. You’re passing out cards. I worked with, I worked with twice exceptional girls as well, but the boys were almost four to one. That. You know, teachers, parents, administrators, were coming to me with questions about [00:15:00] these boys.
Deb Gennarelli: So I started doing some research, like, like, why is this happening? I thought I really knew so much as a veteran educator, but I really found out that, you know, I didn’t know so much as I thought I did. So some of the things I found out, and I’m just gonna read a couple things that or talk about a couple things that I wrote about.
Deb Gennarelli: And that is you know, if, if you just Google on your phone I asked parents to do this at the in-service I was doing the other night. If you just Google on your phone, boys in school, the first things that come up, Sophia, are there’s a u s A Today article. Boys are falling behind how schools must change to help young males.
Deb Gennarelli: The next article is from New York Post, why American Boys are Failing at School and Men are Losing In Life. That was a powerful one. And then there’s one boys are falling behind and what can we do about it? And I, I went, whoa, like, why is there nothing good [00:16:00] in these articles? But then I started looking at the fact that when, when the attention for STEM kind of focused on girls, why girls, you know, the gender focus related to STEM education, science, technology, engineering, and math it took a little bit of focus off boys in that they were experiencing some equally troubling issues just like the girls were.
Deb Gennarelli: And then I dug a little deeper and the National Center for Education in America. Recent statistics show that boys are more likely to be suspended from school. They’re expelled two and a half times more than girls. They’re more likely to use illicit drugs. They’re twice as likely to be in a fight at school.
Deb Gennarelli: According to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide right among young males is four times higher than females. And then there’s some, you know, going into minority gifted boys, there is even some more significant and [00:17:00] alarming information. These inequalities cross racial boundaries. Black boys are threatened or injured with a weapon at school more often than white boys.
Deb Gennarelli: Twice as many black boys are expelled from school as white boys and boys from minority and low income backgrounds are underrepresented in gifted education programs and overrepresented in special education. And some high minority in high poverty schools hesitate to provide resources for gifted coursework because they feel like they don’t have enough gifted kids to warrant the course offerings, which is horrible to hear.
Deb Gennarelli: So. I, I kept digging on the topic of boys and then the twice exceptional boys. When, when I left teaching in the classroom, Sophia, I had seven, twice exceptional boys that I was servicing. Seven. I mean, that’s, that’s pretty significant. So I felt like I really had to write about it. You know, I, I’ve heard many writers talk [00:18:00] about, you know, you’re doing the right thing when you, you just have to do it.
Deb Gennarelli: You just have to write about it. You have to take that trip or, or you just, you have to do it. And I, I was so devastated by some of these these facts, these are facts about boys in general in school, and then gifted boys, and then twice exceptional boys. It just kind of gets, it gets more profound as you go.
Deb Gennarelli: And so when I wrote that in the preface. That’s exactly how that young boy was. And all the others that followed behind him were exact, they’re all different boys, all unique, but they all felt the same way. They were so excited about school, they were so happy, their eyes were lit up, but by second grade or so, there was no more light in their eye.
Deb Gennarelli: And that’s, that’s a horrible thing to send a child to school and they don’t wanna be there anymore. So
Sophia Elliott: yeah, that’s devastating, isn’t it? It really is powerful and yes, it [00:19:00] cert, yeah, it certainly resonates with me as a mom of two boys. I have absolutely been in that situation, the, that sort of early year implosion of just that educational space, not meeting needs.
Sophia Elliott: And even with one of my children, having that experience before they even got to school. Like in just like a, a childcare situation. Yes. Which was pretty confronting and, oh, like, so, a number of years ago, I actually went on a quiet, the deep dive into gender equity as a a, you know, a mum at the time I’d had about four years off having, you know, three children and was returning to work and faced all those very typical barriers that you’ve, that yes women face in that situation.
Sophia Elliott: And, you know, naturally, yes, I went on a massive deep dive [00:20:00] into gender equity and the issues and the barriers and, and all sorts of things. And mm-hmm. You know, over the decades there’s been a big focus on gender equity issues, but, But in an attempt to redress that, like fixing the girls or fixing the women as an approach, you know, to try and, you know, balance things.
Sophia Elliott: And I’m using lots of air quotes here in fixing girls and fixing women, right? But then what we actually know now is like, women aren’t winning here, but men aren’t winning here either. You know? Yes, boys. Yes. Girls and boys are not winning. Women and men are not winning. We don’t fix the gender equity issues by focusing on one gender.
Sophia Elliott: No. First of all, we now know gender is not just binary. There are, it’s even more complex. But we, we really need to, and yeah, we really need to focus on how do we support boys [00:21:00] and men. As a way of solving some of those issues for girls and women. But then it’s, you know, it’s a very holistic problem and, and systemic problem.
Sophia Elliott: Yes. So it’s much bigger. So, yes. So I think it’s great that you’ve taken this time and felt compelled to, you know, dig down into this niche of twice exceptional boys within that kind of broader, you know, big picture, you know, challenges Wow. To a cohort of boys who are incredibly bright, but have a range of varying challenges, but also inevitably incredibly sensitive.
Sophia Elliott: Yes. And one of the, actually one of the things in your book that I thought was really interesting, let me just find my notes, was you were actually talking about
Sophia Elliott: Androgyny in gifted boys. Yes. Yes. Being that [00:22:00] combination of traditionally masculine and feminine interests and behaviors and that psychological Yes. Andro androgyny. Tell us a little bit about that. Yes.
Deb Gennarelli: That’s one of those, those topics, Sophia, that I didn’t know a lot about, and when I started researching some information, I, I was, it made so much sense to me as a gifted Yeah.
Deb Gennarelli: Specialist. Yeah. It made so much sense. It’s like that light bulb going off because I have boys who you know, may like to play football or sports, but I have some that, that don’t some that really enjoyed music, played instruments but you know, I had a couple boys who They tried very hard not to show what I say, a feminine side.
Deb Gennarelli: And what I mean by that is some of their interests, some would stereotype as feminine interests, for example, designing clothes. Although some of our best designers are [00:23:00] men, right? Or cooking, and some of ’em are best chefs are men. So, but it’s still a stereotype that particularly when boys are growing up, they need to be more masculine.
Deb Gennarelli: And I talked a little bit about you know, boys should be boys and those types of things particularly in American culture. I’m not sure about Australia, but American culture, boys from a young age are really, you know, generally, you know, you, you need to play athletics and. And by a certain age, you definitely don’t wanna cry.
Deb Gennarelli: And you, you need to really just pull up yourself from your bootstraps and let’s get on with this. And that sensitivity factor that we were talking about is pushed down. I had another student who, from like fifth grade, he was gonna be an actor and he talked to me at length about how much he enjoyed performing in the school plays.
Deb Gennarelli: And he, his mother [00:24:00] actually took him over the summer to some acting camps, I’ll call ’em camps, but they were we have a really great art center here performing arts center in Cleveland. And she would take him there in the summer and he would try out for different parts. So I knew that he loved acting, but his dad wasn’t real happy about it.
Deb Gennarelli: So he was already getting that, that pull, that dynamic pull of. I really love acting. My mom’s supporting me. My dad’s not. And why is that? You know, like, why is my dad not supporting something that I’m so happy about doing and I’m actually good at it? So androgyny was an important thing that I wanted to just put a little blurb in my book about.
Deb Gennarelli: Hmm. And when I thought about performers feel like prince David Bowie different, very well known artists who have, you know, prince is now, well, David Boy and Prince are both, have both passed, but when you watch [00:25:00] videos of them performing in their earlier days, signs of androgyny, you know, the way they dressed a lot of their performances that you know, and, and some people thought that perhaps they were gay, that doesn’t mean you’re gay.
Deb Gennarelli: It means you’re tapping into to that side of you as a gifted artist. So I think that’s real important for parents and teachers to understand when they come across those highly, highly gifted boys, because boys do get more you know, people talk to them more about that than than girls do. I mean, girls can experience the androgyny too, but the boys get it a lot more in our culture than the girls do when they start leaning towards, you know, performing arts and things like that, ballet, dance and so forth.
Deb Gennarelli: So it’s, it’s a sensitive topic with some, but I think it’s important to know about gifted boys that that could be something that, that you observe. Yeah,
Sophia Elliott: absolutely. It’s [00:26:00] certainly something that I see a lot amongst, you know, all the gifted kids. I, I know, and I think you’re right for a girl to. Interested in what might be considered traditionally masculine interests.
Sophia Elliott: You know, they can be a bit of a tomboy and that’s okay. You know, that’s acceptable. But the reverse for a boy is, I think, still much harder. We still have a lot of that toxic masculinity and yes, and I love how you sort of differentiated between, you know, it’s that even the difference between like an external androgyny, like you said, David Bowie, you, you know, certainly you, you know, to look at them, you can see this sense of androgyny, but even the difference between that and just the psychological androgyny, which is like, like you say may well be a heterosexual boy or young man, but just is interested [00:27:00] in what culturally we’ve assigned as feminine interests, but really like, We, we need to pull back from these gendered labels, don’t we?
Sophia Elliott: Because like you say, what’s, what’s feminine about cooking when we have great chefs who can be women or men or great designers who can be women or men. And, and why does, you know why, right. A boy who’s interested in art, why does that have to be seen as a feminine interest where many great male artists, as well as female artists since pulling back from these traditional, you know, concepts of, of feminine and masculine.
Sophia Elliott: And I think Exactly. Yeah. And I think within that intense sensitivity of gifted kids in general, but especially gifted boys, because it’s not a traditionally masculine thing, to be highly sensitive emotionally. It’s really something that I think parents and educators need to, [00:28:00] I’m not quite sure what the word is, but see and.
Sophia Elliott: Just sort of support and know that that’s who they are and that’s okay. Yes. And it’s like, how do we support this child who is intensely sensitive and that’s okay. Regardless of their gender identity, because it’s such a big part of who they are. Yes. One of my children, yes. Their kindy teacher once described them as paper thin.
Sophia Elliott: You know, like their skin was like not thick skinned at all. Yeah. He was paper thin. Yes. Just this incredibly sensitive, and, and it’s something that we have to be mindful of, like 24 7 because Yes, it affects his lived experience in so many ways. And Absolutely. And if you, if you don’t work with that as a parent or an educator, he, he can really shut down and just really, yeah.
Sophia Elliott: [00:29:00] Takes it very deeply. So I love that you’ve put androgyny in there just to kind of highlight that, particularly for boys and Right. You know, and it’s, and I, and it’s not something I’ve seen in any other book. Like, you’ve, you’ve done an absolutely smashing job here, so thank you so much. And Right.
Deb Gennarelli: Sophia, let, can I, can I just add Yeah. One thing one of my favorite movies is Robin Williams, dead Poet Society. And I, I mentioned that in the book that that’s a good example of it’s an all boys school that Robin Williams is teaching at. And one of his students sees that he’s really good at performing.
Deb Gennarelli: As I mentioned, one of my students was, and his parents found out about it and his dad said, you’re here because your path is to be a doctor. And you quit those plays, no more acting. And the student ended up committing suicide [00:30:00] powerful, powerful scene in the movie when the students find out that your friend has taken his life because his life has been planned for him.
Deb Gennarelli: His, his parents can’t see that, you know, there’s another way to his, his talents. It was so, I still get chills when I think about that, but that’s, that’s where it could lead. If, if we’re not more open-minded to all children have interests, whether they’re boys or girls, and we just need to be more open about, you know, helping them, supporting them, as you said.
Deb Gennarelli: And they’ll, they’ll find their path.
Sophia Elliott: Totally dead Poet Society was one of my favorite movies as a team, and yes, that storyline is, is really great because, and the sad thing about that is as. As, you know, parents, grownups, just individuals ourself. These things don’t have to be like either or they can be both, [00:31:00] you know?
Sophia Elliott: Right. That young man could have performed in theater and studied to be a doctor and filled up all of those, you know, interests and pursuits and it’s, you know, and a young boy may well love writing poetry and playing football. Like we don’t have to put people in these buckets and Yes. Put limitations.
Sophia Elliott: And I think as part of being a well-rounded and grounded person, yes, it’s having lots of different experiences. Yes. I know one of our, we we tend to set, you know, as parents, we’ll have a bit of a. Each year for each of our kids, you know, in terms of their, perhaps strengths and areas where they need support.
Sophia Elliott: And one of our goals this year is quite simply to help one of our kids find a, or experiment in a number of creative outlets to try and help in that journey of finding a [00:32:00] creative outlet that will help them express emotions. Because, you know, oh, great. It, it’s so important to have ways of expressing intense emotions.
Sophia Elliott: And it’s important to try lots of different creative pursuits because, and I mean, doesn’t have to be creative, but creative pursuits are so great in terms of that emotional expression. And so what has he
Deb Gennarelli: decided to do? What, what does he wanna
Sophia Elliott: do? Well, he’s, he’s actually found a bit of a niche in.
Sophia Elliott: Creating digital music. Oh, yay. That’s great. Yeah. Yeah. And so he’s exploring that at the moment and like he’s apparently really good at it, which is obviously a bonus. But the, yeah, the thing for us as parents is that it’s, he is motivated to do it, it’s creative and it just, you never know where it leads and it’s just kind of That’s right.
Sophia Elliott: Interesting. Right now, and it might move on to something else, but it’s providing a creative [00:33:00] outlet on top of what can be very, some very kind of logical science interests. Yes. And you know, things like that. Yes. So, oh, that’s excellent. Yeah. Yeah, it’s been really great. And so let’s take a little step back for a moment and mm-hmm.
Sophia Elliott: For any of our listeners that aren’t familiar with the term two E. Perhaps you could give us a little definition of what two E is and because in your book you, you cover like a whole range of these complicating factors. So share, share with us a little bit about that. Right. So
Deb Gennarelli: yes, so twice exceptionality the two stands for strengths and areas of need.
Deb Gennarelli: So you’re gifted, but you also have some kind of learning difference or differences and giftedness. One of the reasons we have trouble [00:34:00] identifying twice exceptional children in school, Sophia, is because there’s so many types of twice exceptionality. When you talk about just giftedness alone, we’re not just talking about academic giftedness.
Deb Gennarelli: You know, there’s musical giftedness and artistic giftedness and. Emotional giftedness. We could just go on and on. And then when we talk about learning differences, there are so many on that side. We have, you know, dyslexia and dyscalculia and autism and language learning disorders. I’m trying to think of some of the ones that, that the boys I wrote about.
Deb Gennarelli: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsession compulsive disorder. So you start putting all those things together and you have your giftedness with your learning differences twice exceptionality. Some of the reasons that those kiddos perhaps aren’t identified, there’s three categories.
Deb Gennarelli: One is their giftedness masks their learning difference. So you might have a gifted kid, [00:35:00] but you’ll never know that they have a learning difference or flip that you have a kiddo who you don’t. You don’t have any idea that they’re gifted, but they have some learning differences. And that speaks volumes to three of the boys in my book.
Deb Gennarelli: When they were identified gifted, all three of their teachers went what they’re gifted. And then the third category is the giftedness and learning difference mask each other. So the kid looks just like an average kid, you know, coming in and outta your class every day. You wouldn’t know they’re gifted, but you wouldn’t know they had a learning difference either.
Deb Gennarelli: Because those are kind of, masking each other. So one of the things that, you know, I worked with teachers at great length about was trying to find these kiddos in their classrooms. And there are signs you just have. Really well trained to find them. Something is gonna pop up and [00:36:00] a lot of times it happens where you see a student has such a discrepancy in their learning, you’ll notice that, you know, like for example one of the boys actually the one in the preface, he his verbal ability off the charts, off the charts.
Deb Gennarelli: When you sat and talked with him as a seven year old, you thought you were talking with a 15 year old. And but in second grade he could not read or write. So by second grade, his teacher was like, something’s not right here, something, you know, what is going on here? This boy is extremely smart, high potential, eager to learn.
Deb Gennarelli: Talks about so many different things on such a high level, asks questions that are. That are, you know, really, like a junior high student would ask, but he can’t hold a pencil and write a sentence and he can’t pick up a book on a second grade level and read. So now that’s a big extreme, but [00:37:00] those discrepancies in, in, you know, that teachers and parents observe are flags that you probably have a twice exceptional kid here.
Deb Gennarelli: And more assessing needs to be done to really identify those kids so we can get a plan for them, which is really what my book’s about as well, is getting that roadmap planned for them so they can have a more smooth journey throughout school. So yeah, there’s, there’s so many kinds of twice exceptional kids, Sophia and they’re really hard to find and
Sophia Elliott: abs.
Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And it’s the complexity, isn’t it, like the incredibly complex kids and Yes. Unpacking all that can take. Years of, of figuring out. So perhaps you would like to tell us another little story about one of the students that you’ve worked with and Yes. And what their journey
Deb Gennarelli: was like. Yes. Let me continue telling you about the, the [00:38:00] student that was mentioned in the preface.
Deb Gennarelli: So he, he after second grade, we the school district that I taught in, at the time, Sophia tested all second graders as a whole group for giftedness with an ability test. And his teacher and I, we suspected that he was gifted, but we also really knew in our heart he probably was not going to identify based on this whole group test.
Deb Gennarelli: And he did not. So went on to third grade. And at the beginning of third grade, I really flagged him. For individual identification get our school psyched to, to test him. But before that happened, he was at recess one day and he had a verbal altercation with another third grader. And both boys were hauled into the principal’s office and the principal began asking each one of them, their side of the story.
Deb Gennarelli: And my student [00:39:00] began speaking like a junior high kiddo and telling this principal his side of the story. And after she let them go, she sought me out and said, is he in the gifted program? And I said, no, he’s not actually. She goes, you would not believe what he just told me in, in my office about what went on at recess.
Deb Gennarelli: I thought I was in a court case. I thought I was in a, like a, you know, he was a lawyer presenting his point of view. So we had him individually tested. And sure enough, he identified gifted he was also receiving services for reading and this language disorder, learning language disorder that he was formally diagnosed with by fourth grade.
Deb Gennarelli: He was so done with school that he did, he acted it out more than any kid in fourth grade. And I advocated for him. There were times where I thought he was gonna get suspended but it [00:40:00] was solely based on the fact that his regular classroom needs were not being met. Fortunately I want, I, I wanted to take him with me all the time, but that wasn’t gonna happen.
Deb Gennarelli: I couldn’t keep him in gifted ed all day. So by the end of fourth grade, his parents said he needs to skip a grade. And I said, I agree with you. And he’s twice exceptional. And so some of the administrators were like, wait a minute, skip a grade. And he’s. You know, still kind of struggling with writing and reading.
Deb Gennarelli: And so we went through the acceleration process and lo and behold, he was a great candidate for it based on the criteria that, that the state sets up for districts to follow to see if a student is a good candidate. And he skipped fifth grade. Sophia went on to sixth grade and right before he went to sixth grade, at the end of fourth grade, he started talking to me about he wanted to be an attorney, which go figure, he’s in the principal’s office, you know, debating why he wasn’t the problem.
Deb Gennarelli: At recess I [00:41:00] found an attorney, a local attorney who would come in and mentor him, and I pulled him out. Some of his strength areas, which is I another option I highly recommend for teachers. If you have a highly gifted student, a very smart kiddo in your room, and there are some strengths that they don’t need to, they don’t need to sit through this, this, and this because they’ve already mastered it, then let’s find a challenge for them.
Deb Gennarelli: Let’s find something that they can do that really fills that, that need for them. So this, this father of some kids in the district said he’d come in and sit with my student, and they sat and talked like two law buddies from law school. And it was, it was the most astounding thing to watch, you know, a nine year old talk to this gentleman about being an attorney and the kinds of questions he asked him.
Deb Gennarelli: And, and it really saved him. It, it saved this student from [00:42:00] going down a really dark, dark hole in fourth grade. So when he skipped fifth grade and went on to sixth grade, his tra his trajectory started going up Sophia, because now he’s had a mentor, he’s had gifted services, he is now accelerated, he’s moving on.
Deb Gennarelli: And by high school he found mock trial and other extracurricular activities that filled that void where he’s a great leader. He wanted to find things where he could speak and be a leader. And lo and behold, he ended up getting which I could not be more proud, he went to an Ivy League school and got his law degree and now he’s practicing law in Washington DC So that is that surviving and thriving.
Deb Gennarelli: And it was all the different educational options. We put strategies we put in his place on his roadmap to help him. See that school was [00:43:00] really a good place for him. Mm-hmm.
Sophia Elliott: I love that you so brought, brought the mentor in to help. Oh, yes. Give him context around why he needed to get through school. Well, you know, necessary evil.
Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Sort of thing. And, and at the, I think it’s a very last page of the book, that student actually writes some comments. So I’ll see if I can read these without crying. Yes. Hang on. Take a deep breath. Yes. And he says if I were to give advice to another gifted student like me first, I would say take it day by day.
Sophia Elliott: And do not focus so much on being an adult right now. Although you may be very mature, there is still joy to be found hanging out with people your own age. Next, I would recommend that students should diversify their interests, play a sport, or join a club that is not just science or math oriented. Third, I would advise you to pick your battles [00:44:00] wisely, although you may be correct in principle, yes, in that a matter, it’s not worth getting into a heated debate about it.
Sophia Elliott: Fourth, I would tell students like me to be crazy ambitious. You have so much potential. Don’t rel. Don’t relegate yourself to mediocrity. Don’t ever settle. Also, don’t let your parents, teachers, or counselors think you’re dreaming too big. Finally, taking a deep breath. Finally, focus on being happy. Don’t be cocky about how smart you are because no one likes that kind of person and you won’t make friends that way.
Sophia Elliott: Getting the best grades and highest test scores won’t make you happy. You need more than that in your life. You need fulfilling hobbies and good friends have some.
Deb Gennarelli: It’s so beautiful. Well said, right? Well said. I know. I, I just, and that student boy, he grew over time because some of the things he said there to me and [00:45:00] those, that is an exact quote for those words are his words.
Deb Gennarelli: He, he always was battling adults in high school constantly, you know, looking for an argument, those kinds of things. Thought he had to have the best grades to be valedictorian. Didn’t wanna veer off that road to try something new. He had to stay really focused on. You know, the advanced placement courses.
Deb Gennarelli: And, but he finally started seeing that he had to be more flexible and the friendship part was important. And, hey, I think I wanna try a pottery class. And he did. And he loved it. You know, he wasn’t just doing mock trial where he was speaking all the time. He actually started doing some hands on stuff, you know?
Deb Gennarelli: Yeah. It was great. So, for him to write that at the end of his senior year I told him, I said, you know, I, I think I’m gonna be writing a book and you’re gonna be in it. I said, can I use that? And he goes, absolutely. Ms. Gen Rei, please [00:46:00] use that. It was great.
Sophia Elliott: I love that because I can absolutely see that, you know, young, I think you said nine year old in that principal’s office.
Sophia Elliott: Yes. Arguing the point. I can absolutely see that. It’s so beautiful and I think it comes back to something else you talk about in the book, which is Do no harm. And I like that you, I really love that you included this and talk, talk us through that.
Deb Gennarelli: Talk us through that. Yes. In my teaching career, Sophia, I have seen too many times where a team of, a team of pro professionals would be sitting around a table discussing a student, and ideas would be discussed, you know, to put in place for the student that, that I knew were gonna be harmful.
Deb Gennarelli: And so when I think about any child who’s having any kind of [00:47:00] educational plan written for them, we have to think about. No harm and you cannot put on paper anything that the entire team does not. They, they must all come together and agree that everything we’re suggesting is an accommodation or strategy or educational option for this kid is not going to do him any harm or her any harm.
Deb Gennarelli: I have recently been on a case where I am working with a school consulting about a first grade boy who is in the highly gifted range. They suspect he’s autistic. And the things that the last two quarters of school, Sophia, some of the things that have been implemented have broken my heart and they definitely have harmed the child.
Deb Gennarelli: So it, it, we have to think about. We have to, we have to understand [00:48:00] giftedness, we have to understand in detail what the learning differences are, if there are any, before we ever start thinking about, you know, what should we do for this child. And the case that I’m referring to an example of, of something that was harmful this student has been acting out a lot lately, and that means that he’s, he’s angry because his needs are not being met.
Deb Gennarelli: So prior to this situation, escalating Sophia, he was actually being accelerated and reading. He’s a first grader reading Harry Potter. So he was going to the gifted teacher for reading course, reading coursework. And right before spring break I talked with the new gifted teacher that I’ve been mentoring, and she said, Deb, I’m so upset the principal removed him.
Deb Gennarelli: From his advanced reading class and put him back in his regular first grade reading class because of his behaviors. And I, I [00:49:00] thought I was just going to scream because that is doing harm. We have now taken his strength area away from something that, that he loved and was excelling at and pulled him back into his regular classroom to read with first graders.
Deb Gennarelli: And this happened right before spring break. So I, I was on the phone with his mother right before spring break and we had a conversation about some things that need to be talked about, discussed for her son. He’s being punished for his behavior. Mm-hmm. And that’s doing harm because his behaviors, as we know, you’re a mom and I’m a mom, we know that when behaviors escalate like this, there’s a reason for it.
Deb Gennarelli: So let’s find out what the reason is. Absolutely.
Sophia Elliott: And unfortunately, that’s non uncommon story. Yes. Yes. And it’s, it’s this idea [00:50:00] that you can take away tho that those gifted accommodations as punishment like there’s some kind of a privilege and not actually exactly the truth, which is this is an essential accommodation.
Sophia Elliott: And learning need of a gifted student. They’re not a privilege. They’re not to be taken away for punishment. You don’t have to jump through hoops to get to them. You know, it’s that whole, show me what you can do before I’ll let you do things that you know, where you’re at. Idea. And unfortunately, you, I hear more of this than I wish I did.
Sophia Elliott: And it, I know, and it comes back to that as, you know, lack of understanding Yes. Of what giftedness is all about. And, and it is really heartbreaking because you are never gonna see improved behavior by taking away the things that kids need. No, [00:51:00] no. Like the, the lo there’s no logic in that at all. No. And if, and if that child was already accelerated in reading and the behavior was still an issue, then obviously like you say, there was more needed.
Sophia Elliott: You know, what else can we do? Try other things but not take away stuff like that. That’s, it is heartbreaking because like you say, it does do damage and the sad truth is a lot of twice exceptional students, boys and girls Yes. You know, can experience trauma from their educational experience and, and move from school to school and just become broken.
Sophia Elliott: And I’ve seen that a lot as well. And that’s just absolutely heartbreaking. And that’s why. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s why it’s so important that you’ve written this book and we’ve got this spotlight on this, you know, niche within a niche. And there was another great podcast I [00:52:00] did a little while ago that I often refer back to with Dr.
Sophia Elliott: Geraldine Townsend. And she was doing research on the self sense of self of twice exceptional students. And her research showed that as early as five, six or seven, that impact of knowing that they don’t fit into the classroom was already eroding their self-identity. And so I think it just, like you say, highlights even further that we have to do no harm.
Sophia Elliott: Right. Fundamentally. Right. So thank you so much for mapping that out for us and including that in the book. Absolut. As I said, there are heaps of suggestions and tips and you know, and direction and actions throughout the whole book. And I’d like to just kind of close off perhaps by sharing some suggestions for supporting our Tui Boys, boys in different areas.
Sophia Elliott: [00:53:00] And so in the book, you covered some areas like emotional intensity, hands-on learning, curiosity, questioning and coping. Perhaps there’s some, some suggestions you could, you could take outta those for us.
Deb Gennarelli: Absolutely. So, and again, you know, as I, as I talk about these in the book, Sophia, it’s, it’s, , they apply to boys and girls, but I’ve particularly noticed with the boys that I worked with, the emotional intensity.
Deb Gennarelli: So these students think and feel deeply and awfully and often differently than other children. This is especially true for two e boys who are wrestling with the fact that they’re gifted, but they also feel inadequate or shame or other negative emotions. And I saw that with all the boys that I wrote about.
Deb Gennarelli: They knew they were really smart, but then they started questioning, am I really smart? Or, you know, I’m really good at this subject, but I’m really horrible at this subject. You know, like Jake, who couldn’t read write in second grade, but knew [00:54:00] he could speak to any adult in the room and keep a conversation going.
Deb Gennarelli: You know, it was that, that really out of sync thing going on there. The two E Boys, they give little value to the things they do well, but instead focus on the things that they don’t do well. That’s kind of human nature, really. Teachers and parents may criticize them for not trying hard enough. Three of the boys that I, that I wrote about, talked about that a lot, either their teachers parents, or both said to them all the time, you’re not trying hard enough.
Deb Gennarelli: You’re not trying hard enough. You’re so smart. Why, why is, why are you not doing better? So some of this, these were just a few of the suggestions. There’s more in the book, but try not to minimize emotions by saying things, saying things like, you’re being too sensitive or you’re too intense. The parents that I spoke to last week at, at the the school district seminar were really interested about the overexcitabilities aspect of gifted kids.
Deb Gennarelli: Most of them had not really heard, heard about that because they were all asking [00:55:00] questions about, you know, my daughter, my son is so, you know, intense and so this and so that. And, and so when I talked about over overexcitabilities and sensitivity, they were like, oh, that makes sense now. Focus on coping mechanisms instead of trying to change your child.
Deb Gennarelli: As you mentioned, Sophia, we’re not here to fix anybody. These, these children are, are, are perfect human beings as they are. We just wanna help support them the best that, that we can help the child understand that intense feelings are normal for gifted kids. Listen to your child. Don’t rush to give them advice.
Deb Gennarelli: Don’t expect adult responsibility. My husband and I did that with our daughter. She spoke early and did a lot of things early, and we all, we all, we caught ourself one time going, she’s only four. Why are we like thinking She’s seven, you know? So, and then hands on learning. That’s a big one. Research tells us that to engage children’s brains, we must allow them to move, touch [00:56:00] and experience to learn.
Deb Gennarelli: That’s, that’s everybody, girls and boys. But research shows that in boy’s brains, a larger part of the cerebral cortex is dedicated to spatial and mechanical functioning. We sometimes learn better through movement and pictures than by listening to words. And some of the issues that I talked about in the book are in elementary school.
Deb Gennarelli: A lot of the teaching styles are geared towards girls as compared to boys. So when that happens, we have problems. So suggestions allow children to demonstrate their learning, not just by paper and pencil. I, I taught, I taught a lot of teachers how to do some great activities to assess learning that were paper and pencil, and they were like, oh, wow, I don’t have to do a worksheet anymore.
Deb Gennarelli: Allow students to perform plays or skills to demonstrate historical events or scenes from books. They’re up moving and acting and performing. Use interactive displays and collections in your room. This is a great [00:57:00] one. I did this and I’ve had some other teachers do it, use scavenger hunts to search for items related to a unit of study.
Deb Gennarelli: So you’re getting the kids up and moving lots of hands-on activities and when that happens, they’re out of their seats. They’re not sitting at a hard desk or a hard chair, and you will see a lightning bit of difference, like huge when kids are engaged as compared to just sitting and listening to lectures.
Deb Gennarelli: And that happens unfortunately as junior high. They get older. It seems like those activities kind of go away in some classes, which is unfortunate. Curiosity and questioning. Truly gifted kids tend to be intensely curious and ask a myriad of questions. And sometimes that gets them in trouble because if they get a teacher that doesn’t like lots of questions you know, they’re, they’re.
Deb Gennarelli: The teacher may look at them as they’re trying to derail their lesson plan. I had a teacher come to me one time and said, so and so is trying to [00:58:00] derail my lesson plan by asking me all these questions. So I had to give her a little gifted 1 0 1 lesson. The curiosity of gifted children becomes problematic when they must narrow their many interests to a single topic or idea to study for a class project.
Deb Gennarelli: Picking just one thing seems limiting to them. When a topic is selected, the child may have difficulty finishing the assignment because he wants to dig deeper into the content. Work deadlines should be extended. I’ve talked to teachers about just extend the deadline a little bit, or again their strength area should afford them some time to complete the chat.
Deb Gennarelli: More challenging project that they want to do. So, so the classroom needs to be a little more flexible with those high potential kids who really wanna go the extra mile. To finish something that, that they’re really interested in. Questioning, be accepting of all points of view. Provide time so students can continue to formulate, ask and discuss more questions.[00:59:00]
Deb Gennarelli: Sophia, I think questioning is one of the best ways to identify your gifted kids. If teachers learn how to be better at asking questions, higher level questions, you’d, you’d spot your high level kids like this. Curiosity. Create a room that invites inquiry. Be understanding about how high levels of independent thinking can lead students to question authority.
Deb Gennarelli: Teach children how to safely look for the answers to their questions, like utilizing age appropriate search engines and then coping. Many gifted boys who are expected to conform either by their families or society, find themselves in a dilemma about how to handle their situation. Some smart boys rebel and become angry, and I’ve seen that more than once at their parents, at their teachers because they don’t want to conform to fit a mold.
Deb Gennarelli: Two e boys must learn to cope with the fact that they’re gifted and excel in some areas, but are delayed in others. Gifted boys need coping mechanisms because they’re likely [01:00:00] to face different problems. And again, gifted boys. overexcitabilities can be seen by teachers as an effort to derail classroom management.
Deb Gennarelli: And we can lead, this can lead to failed like discipline kids when they don’t really need to be disciplined. But if the kids start acting out to the point where they have to go see the principal you need to kind of dig a little bit deeper about, well, what was the problem that caused them to act out again?
Deb Gennarelli: Suggestions start early by helping the child talk about their emotions and take his, take his s his issues seriously when he talks about them. Explain his heightened sensitivities can make him more emotional than other children and that his feelings are normal. But he must learn to recognize that he is getting out of control.
Deb Gennarelli: So he needs to understand his overexcitabilities is part of who he is, but there’s a way that we don’t wanna get out of control, you know? So as they get older, we start helping them learn how to do that and recognize that[01:01:00] work on a plan for what to do when he feels overwhelmed. Help develop your child’s tolerance for stress and frustration by exposing him to increasingly more age appropriate, challenging situations.
Deb Gennarelli: I’ve seen this so much kids that would come to my class. I’m a big project based. Teacher always doing in-depth critical and creative thinking projects. And I would, I would increase the challenge level for each project in the course of a year with one grade level. And they would start to notice how much more challenging it was getting.
Deb Gennarelli: And some of them, some of my gifted kids, Sophia, were like, whoa, I, I’ve never right. Felt this way before. But we want them to feel that challenge before they ever get to high school. Right? Yeah. Yeah. We don’t want them to get to high school and then they get to college and we don’t know how to handle a challenge.
Deb Gennarelli: So those are just a few things at the tail end of the book about hands-on learning and coping and questioning and all those things that come with both boys and girls, but [01:02:00] particularly boys. Wonderful.
Sophia Elliott: Thank you so much. Some really great insights there. And strategies as well. And I, I think what I love about the book as well is by.
Sophia Elliott: Painting this picture of what is really a long-term journey. You know, as parents and as adults, even, you know, we can be faced with a problem. I’m sorry. Okay, gotta fix this problem now, like tomorrow, today, fix it. But actually when our kids don’t need fixing two, it’s a long-term journey, you know? Yes.
Sophia Elliott: And it’s sort of like, and certainly something I’ve learned as a parent. So like, okay, I don’t, you know, we, we can actually breathe and look at this. As a journey we’re both on and sure. This is where we wanna end up. A lovely yes. Happy, well adjusted, thriving adult. But we’re on a journey [01:03:00] to get there.
Sophia Elliott: We can just kind of deal with, with yes. One or two things at a time and, and, and, and unpack and learn as we go and uncover different complexities because these are really complex kids. Yes. And like you said, there can be masking of different challenges or the giftedness, and so it takes, takes time to unpack all of that.
Sophia Elliott: Definitely see all those things. But an absolutely wonderful book. Thank you so much for putting in all that work. Thank you. To write it for us all. And thank you so much. Yeah. I just, I just love it. It’s just, it’s, it’s great. It’s really excellent and a lot there for both parents and educators. I really love the way you’ve written it is actually from multiple perspectives.
Sophia Elliott: So, you know, anyone picking that up parenting or working with Twice Exceptional boys is going to get you know, their, their needs met through it. So [01:04:00] a really wonderful resource. And where can people find it? I will put links in the show notes. I know it’s through. Oh, great.
Deb Gennarelli: It was, it was published by, it was published by Gifted Unlimited.
Deb Gennarelli: That’s it. Gifted Unlimited. But people can, if they’re unlimited, but people can purchase it at any of their favorite book stores. Amazon, Barnes and Nobles. Any, any book retailer should have it. It’s, it’s not, it’s, it’s distributed internationally, so. Yeah, that, that’s, congratulations. And my website is deborah generali.com.
Deb Gennarelli: Mm-hmm. Thank you. My website’s deborah jenni.com and we’re my publisher’s getting ready to do a reprint with some reviews on the back. We, we now have some people in the gifted field, well-known people that have reviewed the book. So if you wanna see some reviews, they’re on Amazon, but they’re also on my website.
Deb Gennarelli: So you can kind of see what other professionals thought about it as, as well as [01:05:00] yourself. So thank you for asking.
Sophia Elliott: Oh, the last thing I want to ask is, so you do your consulting work, you’re based in Ohio? Yes. Is it just folks in Ohio that you work with? Okay, so if you’re in Ohio, you can get in touch with Deb. Yes. If you’re needing. That kind of consultancy. Tell us a little bit about the consultancy that you do. I, it’s for parents and educators, is that right?
Deb Gennarelli: Yes. Matter of fact, one of my recent clients is a mom from Mexico City and we did some Zoom calls. She has a four year old son with 165 iq and she was telling me that there are no gifted services, gifted specialists in the schools. A lot. There’s not a lot of knowledge about gifted children you know, in, in the school that he is in.
Deb Gennarelli: And she said that some of his behaviors are starting to [01:06:00] become alarming to his teachers. So she found me on LinkedIn and she saw that I had written about two E boys, and one of the boy’s teachers said that he was hyperactive. But very smart. So, thank goodness this mother is an amazing advocate already for her son.
Deb Gennarelli: She is researching and looking and trying to find what is the best thing for her son, right? Do no harm, because she felt like he was getting ready to go down the road of these people, these professionals he was with didn’t understand him, and they were getting ready to put things in place that were gonna harm him.
Deb Gennarelli: And some of those were punishing his behaviors. And I, I I spoke with her three different times, so she found me on LinkedIn and she’s from Mexico. And I, I am so thrilled and I, I think I helped guide her. She was gonna have a big meeting with school psychologists and some [01:07:00] teachers, administrators, and I teed her up well, so she knew exactly the questions to ask.
Deb Gennarelli: And the answer that’s excellent to, for
Sophia Elliott: that’s brilliant. Yes.
Deb Gennarelli: Yeah. Yeah, and I, like I said, I work with school districts on all topics, not just twice exceptionality, but as I said, I did the social emotional needs of gifted kids, and it was a parent night that this district had. So, I’m all over the place.
Deb Gennarelli: I’m getting ready to do a social emotional needs of the Gifted sing.org is an organization that most gifted families are familiar with, and they have a a, their, their national international conferences in Philadelphia this summer. So I’ll be speaking at that on twice Exceptional Boys, and I hope to speak at the National Association of Gifted Kids in Orlando in November, consulting, speaking, writing. I’m writing a sec if I told you about that. It’s, I’m co-writing with a two E adult.
Sophia Elliott: Sorry, the, [01:08:00] the connection just dropped out there where you were telling us about your second book. Just tell us about that project that you’re on again. Are we good? Yeah.
Deb Gennarelli: Two adult and he is highly gifted, has had a very interesting life to save the least very successful life, but, but a lot.
Deb Gennarelli: He was diagnosed and he started learning about twice exceptionality again, he found me on LinkedIn and now we’re writing a book together.
Sophia Elliott: Well that sounds super exciting. I would love to have you both back when you are ready to talk about that book, cuz that sounds amazing. And it it, it dropped in, in and out a little bit there.
Sophia Elliott: But my understanding is the person you’re writing with is a twice exceptional adult who’s been diagnosed later in life. And so you’re working on a project with him to tell that story of, of what has been quite an interesting, you know, Lifetime for him and, [01:09:00] and share that with the world, which is really great to see, you know, these different experiences.
Sophia Elliott: So I can’t wait to read that one as well.
Deb Gennarelli: Right. We’ll, we’ll come back and visit with you, the both of
Sophia Elliott: us. I would love that. That’d be great. I would absolutely love that. And thank you so much for your time today. Hugely appreciate it. Such a, a great episode for parents and educators who are listening and what wonderful resource in your book.
Sophia Elliott: Congrats. I’ll put all those links in the show notes so people can find you. And it’s good to know that it’s not just folk in Ohio. If you’re outside of hi Ohio, you can do some Zoom conversations as well, which is really great cuz sometimes as parents we need people like you to help us through that process and with that, you know, educational knowledge of what to ask, when to ask for it.
Sophia Elliott: And so it’s great that you’re doing that work. Thank you so much.
Deb Gennarelli: Yes. Perfect. Thank you Sophia. Thank you for the opportunity. No worries. Take care. [01:10:00]

#086 What is living with ADHD really like? w/ Meghann Birks

In this episode we’re talking to coach Meghann Birks about being gifted and having ADHD,  late-in-life diagnosis, lived experience of ADHD, how we can manage from day to day, the challenges, the strengths, parenting and so much more.

Memorable quote… “

“I think that the flip side of this is that there are things I found challenging as an adult and as a mother, that when I started to really understand my brain, the perspective changed. And then there was another layer of perspective shift for me that came when I started to do the work on reparenting myself.

My 10-year-old son is constantly doing cartwheels and running around and I used to get quite resentful, especially in public spaces. I’m like, don’t run into people. Be quiet. You know? All those social norms that we all feel the pressure of… 

And when I realised, my therapist asked me, ‘what was something you needed as a child that you didn’t have?’ And my answer immediately was, I needed someone who could keep up with me. 

And immediately I went, I get to be that for him. And I can’t always physically keep up with him because he is 10 and I am in my mid forties. However, I can give you the space for that exuberance to exist.

And there is a huge part of the work that I do, especially with women, which coincides with midlife… Where a lot of the work that women do in midlife is far from a crisis. It is a reclamation of who we were before the world stamped it out of us.” – Meghann Birks


Meghann Birks, is an Embodiment Coach and Trauma Informed Professional Trainer based on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula where she lives with her partner and two highly spirited boys.

“I’m a coach, writer, dancer, Steel Mace Flow Coach and wannabe surf goddess who loves creating, coffee, lifting heavy, movement and sleep. I also have a wonderfully neurodivergent brain that shows itself via ADHD and I’m passionate about helping women with this diagnosis create an incredible life where they can flourish.

I am fascinated by the stories we tell ourselves, how they impact us and how we can, with proper support, change the narrative to move us toward a pure and joyful expression of who we are and why we’re here.”

She holds the designation of Certified Professional Coach from the International Coach Academy, one of the world’s leading training organisations. This intensive course covered an array of learning modules and she was required to coach both internal and external clients under supervision from a Master Coach before she received her certificate.

She also holds: Cert III in Fitness, Cert IV in Fitness (Personal Training), Completion of the Wim Hof Method Fundamentals Course, Numerous qualifications in the area of program design and facilitation, Steel Mace Flow Coach Level 1, Certificate in Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy from The Embody Lab, and ‘An Advanced Degree from the School of Hard Knocks, as some of my super fun eff-ups in life are the reason I am now so good at what I do.’

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#085 How to Use Creativity for Learning Differences & Executive Function w/ Dr Victoria Waller

#085 How to Use Creativity for Learning Differences & Executive Function w/ Dr Victoria Waller

In this episode, we’re talking to the vibrant and dynamic Dr. Victoria Waller about how to use creativity and a gifted child’s interests to work on learning differences or practice executive function skills. An episode full of great ideas.

You can find Dr. Waller’s ebook “If you can Dream it, You can do it!’ here.

Memorable quote… “

“So any parent that thinks, but I’m not creative, forget it. I’ve never met a child that can’t build something.” – Dr. Victoria Waller

“Every child wants to learn and it’s hard for them, some of them, and it looks like they don’t want to, but they do want to. I think the children with differences are geniuses of our time.” – Dr. Victoria Waller


For over 40 years, Dr Victoria Waller has been a reading specialist and educational therapist. She helps children ages 5-11 who have trouble reading and writing, can’t sit still in class, don’t feel like they can participate—children whom teachers have all but given up on.

Her book, Yes! Your Child Can – Creating Success for Children with Learning Differences, is #4 in Amazon’s New Releases in Children’s Learning Disorders. Every child can succeed in school and life, but some children need more help than others. She is here to help.

Dr Waller holds a B.S in Education from Wayne State University, an M.Ed., is a certified reading specialist, and an Ed.D. focusing on reading and learning differences from the University of Cincinnati.

She has been awarded the University of Cincinnati’s Distinguished Alumna College of Education Award, was one of three finalists for the L.A. Music Center’s Bravo Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Her articles on creative reading and writing projects for children have been widely viewed on U.C.L.A.’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior website, and the award-winning Grandparentslink.com. She speaks about learning differences in children to many groups all over the United States.

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#084 Executive Function Strategies for your Gifted & ADHD Kids w/ Dr Marnie Cumner

#084 Executive Function Strategies for your Gifted & ADHD Kids w/ Dr Marnie Cumner

Join Dr Marnie Cumner to learn more about executive function in gifted, ADHD and autistic kids and adults and get lots of strategies and tips.

Memorable quote… “

“Executive functioning is that term that relates to the set of thinking skills that are responsible for things like planning, organisation, getting started on things, finishing things, regulating your own attention, regulating your own behaviours and emotions. So it’s the overarching skills that help to organise us and organise our thinking.” – Dr Marnie Cumner


Dr Marnie Cumner is a Clinical Neuropsychologist on The Sunshine Coast, with specialised training in understanding how brain function affects our everyday thinking and behaviour.

Paediatric Neuropsychology is a professional speciality, which focuses on understanding how the development of a child’s brain relates to their cognitive (thinking), behavioural, social and emotional functioning.

Marnie provides assessment services for children and adolescents to better understand their individual strengths and difficulties.  She investigates thinking skills, such as, memory, attention, language and problem-solving, as well as social-emotional functioning, academic performance and behaviour.

Marnie uses the child’s individual profile of strengths and difficulties to provide tailored recommendations for improved learning, behaviour and emotion regulation.  She uses a strengths-based model, which focuses on using a child’s strengths to minimise their difficulties.

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#083 The 5 Levels of Giftedness – All Grown Up w/ Dr Deborah Ruf

#083 The 5 Levels of Giftedness – All Grown Up w/ Dr Deborah Ruf

In our GAW episode, we’re talking to Dr Deborah Ruf about the 5 Levels of Giftedness and her new book which follows those original children who are now all grown up. 

Memorable quote… “

“So, those are the five levels and you really can find lists of those with lots of details and early milestones and that’s how I created it. It was after I looked at the milestones of children over the years and what they were like when they were born and what they were like when they were three months old and six months old, and then a year and then two years, and see what they are like. 

And then later we have scores and we see how those fit or don’t fit. And it really is rather amazing how well the scores are in the range you would predict from those milestones.” – Dr Deborah Ruf 


Deborah L. Ruf earned a Ph.D. in Tests & Measurement with a minor in Learning & Cognition at the University of Minnesota.  

She worked as a private consultant and specialist in gifted assessment, test interpretation, and guidance for the gifted for 30 years.   

She is the author of the award-winning book Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind (2005) and retitled 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options in 2009.

In 2023, Dr. Ruf will release her follow-up longitudinal book study of the now-adult children from the original book and how they are doing now.  Her focus has now progressed toward the social and emotional health of the gifted adults who parent gifted children.  

For more than 40 years, Dr. Ruf has served as a keynote speaker, workshop, and conference presenter, and written chapters for 5 textbooks, more than 12 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 100 plus articles and handouts for newsletters, magazines, and websites.

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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this week’s episode. This week here in Australia, it is gifted awareness week. Now that’s a week run by the AEG T which is the Australian association for the education of gifted and talented. And here in our gifted kids, we love to support this week, every may for two reasons. First of all, obviously we want to raise awareness of giftedness. 

But we also love to support it because of all the great work that the AEG T does and all of our state associations here in Australia. But of course, worldwide, we know we’ve got some really active state associations in the U S as well. 

And these organizations are so important and offer so much to the gifted community. So for gifted awareness week this week. We have a smashing podcast for you. 

 It is out absolute delight to be welcoming. Dr. Debra rough. To the Al give to gets podcast. And today we talked [00:01:00] to her about the five levels of giftedness, which was her. Original book. Which got renamed. And we talk about that. 

but it’s a body of work that. 

We all love and cherish and feel very grateful that she. Undertook and contributed such amazing research to the gifted community. And she has written a followup book. 

So in the original book, there were a bunch of case studies of gifted children 

and her follow-up book is along the traditional study of where those children are now. Fascinating stuff. It was an absolute delight to talk to Deborah rough about it and see what she has learned from that process. 

I absolutely adore having guests like Dr. Ruff on the show, because it’s just such an opportunity to learn. And I was really like, just soaking up all of her. Generous spirit and knowledge and experience in this episode. 

 And what I really loved about this conversation with Dr. Ruff is the [00:02:00] nuance that she brought to the conversation today and the different aspects of. The five levels that we talked about, but particularly where I started drilling her towards the end about different aspects of assessment. 

There’s a wonderful episode. I thoroughly enjoyed having Dr. Debra Ruff. On the show, please, if you have not read her original book, five levels of giftedness already, it’s an excellent book. But also keep an eye out for her followup, which I believe is coming out in bookstores near you. Very soon you can. Pre-order at the moment, I believe in this plenty of links in the show notes to her work. 

It’s a lovely way to support a great author and contributor to the gifted community. 

Please also check out what else is going on this week for gifted awareness week. There’s always lots of things online, but also locally around Australia. 

And if you’re not in Australia, you can always access the gifted awareness week blogs or online events.[00:03:00] 

And if you love the podcast, leave us a review. Five stars. We’ll do. Or share with us why you love the podcast. If you have gotten a lot out of what we share here, Investigate our podcasts patron program, which is a really great way to keep us going. Thank you so much. I hope you love this podcast as much as I did. 

And let’s get on with it. Let’s hear what Dr. Debra Ruff has to say. 

Hello everyone and welcome to the [00:04:00] podcast.

I am feeling very honored to introduce Dr. Deborah Ruff as our guest today. Deborah earned a PhD in tests and measurements with a minor in learning and cognition at the University of Minnesota. She worked as a private consultant and specialist in gifted assessment, test, interpretation, and guidance for the gifted for 30 years, she’s winning.

Author of Losing our Minds, gifted Children left Behind and possibly best known for her book, the Five Levels of Gifted School Issues and Educational Options, which we have talked about on this podcast before . And at the moment, Dr. Ruff is working on a follow up to this book, and we’re gonna have a chat about that today.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Ruff has served as a keynote speaker workshop and conference presenter, and written extensively on giftedness. Welcome, Deborah. I’m absolutely [00:05:00] delighted to have 

Dr Deborah Ruf: you on the show. I’m delighted to be here, Julia. Thank you. And so 

Sophia Elliott: let’s start with how did you first get into the gifted field?

Right back at the 

Dr Deborah Ruf: beginning, it was my kids. Yeah, I, I was a teacher in elementary school before that and I, I had my first child and quit teaching because I didn’t see how I could do both. Yeah. But as it turns out, I just did more unpaid labor for the next half dozen, full dozen years because I started to study giftedness and like so many people who are undoubtedly in your audience we saw some of ourselves in it.

And so it became a journey for me, not just as the mother, but [00:06:00] as the individual. . I went back to school. I already had a master’s degree in administration and supervision, but that’s not really my strength because I’m much more of a delegator,

And, and the idea of keeping people on track of my vision in an appropriate way, I could see it wasn’t really gonna work well for me. And I knew that if I did something more independent mm-hmm. , I could study it, share it, write about it, speak about it, and hope that I also made a living at it. But that wasn’t my first goal.

The goal was to share it. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: That’s so interesting. So many of the guests. Come on the show. And I, I always ask that question, how did you first get into it? And, [00:07:00] I don’t know, nine times outta 10, it’s, yeah, my kids . And then and then we inevitably, like you say, go on this journey ourselves. And I can certainly resonate with that over the past five years or so.

So you, you sought to sort of create this new path for yourself, and as we’ve already sort of discussed, you, you did a PhD and you’ve written a lot. By and far, I think the book about the, the five levels of giftedness has been, I’m not even sure what the word is. It’s like a.

you know, it’s, for me, it’s a real foundation of understanding giftedness. And so I know as a parent, when I found that book and I found your work, it really helped me make sense of my children and what I was dealing with and have some sense of a framework around that. Cuz what I was desperately grasping for [00:08:00] at that time was like, how serious is this?

Like how extreme is this? What exactly are we dealing with here? Like, how much do I need to go into panic mode? Like, this was early days. Right? And it really helped me, 

Dr Deborah Ruf: didn’t you? Yeah. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Oh yeah. Right. And it really helped me to to understand what I was dealing with. And I, I’m assuming you hear that a lot from 

Dr Deborah Ruf: parents.

Well, yes. And . Yeah. What I also hear is that it’s the relativity that they just didn’t get. And they, they made mistakes. We all made mistakes cuz we didn’t understand how different this child is compared to a different gifted child. Mm-hmm. . And you’re fortunate or unfortunate enough to have more than one child.

you start to [00:09:00] see they aren’t all the same and everything about them personality, what sex they are their moods, how you are treating them, everything starts to impact them. But teachers, they get they, they’re just so many different things that make it a real stressful, problematic journey unless you feel you have support.

Mm-hmm. , and I should point out, five Levels of Gifted is the same book as losing our minds, gifted Children left behind. Ah, interesting. Yes. But what happened is it was such a great title, the first one, but no one knew what it meant. Yeah. You know, they would’ve had to read the book first to understand mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm. . And that’s why I suggested we needed to change it. Mm-hmm. . But it’s problematic cuz it’s hard to get people to understand it’s the same book. You don’t need to get both of them. . 

Sophia Elliott: [00:10:00] Good to know. Good to know. Because I, I was about to say, I hadn’t read the second one, but now I know it’s the same. I’m, I’m Sorted.

Dr Deborah Ruf: We had And which one did you read? Oh, 

Sophia Elliott: I’ve read the Five Levels. The original one. Right? That’s the second. Oh, that’s the second one, right. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Yeah, yeah, 

Sophia Elliott: yeah. And, and it was, Yeah, and it was really it was a, it was really pivotal for me because like you say, I have three children. They are all very different.

And, and, and there is, like you say, no two gifted kids are the same. So it’s very hard as parents to, to kind of get a sense of like how hardcore we need to go with the advocacy and the support and the accommodations. Because our kids, I mean, my kids al they always just feel normal to me. You know, it’s within our family context, they’re [00:11:00] all very normal.

And so, Not having that sort of broader comparison. It was very tricky to see you know, where they kind of fit amongst their same age peers. Mm-hmm. and, and it was really helpful. So perhaps we could start, for those listeners that haven’t read the books with what the five levels are, would you be able to take us through 

Dr Deborah Ruf: them?

Well, I’m a big picture teacher and even my own, it’s like, ah, . But the first level is what I call the conventional gifted that sometimes, sometimes are not even identified in school. Mm-hmm. because they’re the, the smart kids, but they don’t have the magic 98 percentile cutoff that a lot of schools use.

And so they get overlooked. And that’s a problem because they are the average of the, the professional classes of our countries. , [00:12:00] I mean, that is. Who the lawyers and doctors and yeah. Leaders are in level one. Now they may be higher, but they, they need to be at least that to do those kinds of roles. Yeah.

Yeah. And so in school, if they are not figured into ability grouping and other learning groups, that the kids are more alike for the lessons, they will be treated like average as far as the schoolwork. And that’s a problem. And so level two is kids who have past that magic line, which is not really, you know, it, it isn’t a real line.

Yeah. And I should mention my pet peeve as somebody who majored in intestine measurement that that magic line is, , there’s such a [00:13:00] thing when you give IQ tests and ability tests of a true score, and that’s what that range is that they give you. Mm-hmm. , the true score is going to fall in a range that could be as big as three to four points on either side of the score, the child shot.

Yeah. But they don’t, they don’t pay attention to that with their magic cutoff in most stage, in most situations. So these are the highly gifted, and some of them also can be into that exceptionally gifted realm in some areas, but they are also conventional gifted. Everybody knows them. They’re in all the classes, unless it’s a very repressed atmosphere high poverty, or, and, and again, poverty is a trauma.

Yeah. And so trauma can suppress scores. So we can misjudge people and under prepare them when we have that kind of situation. [00:14:00] But level three is borderline between, we’ve still met all of them. We’ve had them in our class but they’re getting exceptionally to profoundly gifted there. They’re highly exceptionally to profoundly depending on their strength areas.

And I should tell your audience right now that when I used to give IQ tests, parents would ask me, so what are you saying is my child’s iq? I said, well, you know, . Cause if it’s not an even score, if it’s a very lumpy profile, I don’t want them to pay attention to the iq. , I want them to pay attention to the different highs and lows.

Mm-hmm. so they can meet the needs of the child better and they’ll be very frustrated. And I say, you have to understand a single score does not give you [00:15:00] nearly enough information. Yeah. And so I, I really feel strongly about that. If you’ve got a real balanced profile, then I, you can talk me into giving you the score, but it’s in the report anyway.

You know, . Yeah. So, but anyway, level three is really highly gifted. And these are the kids who, if they get no special treatment in their early school years, and the thing to remember is almost all high schools start funneling the children by their preparedness to. So there is less and less trouble by the time you get to high school unless you’ve refused to cooperate by the time you get there, because elementary school was so bad.

Yeah. And you’ve been destroyed by it, which I’m, I’m not kidding. Yeah. Some people, their personality types are such and their feelings are such that they just, no, I just wanna [00:16:00] finish this and get outta here. So, level three is the last one that you can actually try to send to school. , as far as I’m concerned, and then level four and five are exceptionally to profoundly gifted and profoundly.

Profoundly. Mm-hmm. and what that means and their scores, it depends on the tests. Mm-hmm. , you know, that’s what the levels of gifted. shows you, because I’ve given the Stanford be a lm, I’ve helped Norm the Stanford Benet five, the Whisk four, and the Wissy five. I might have those numbers mixed up, but they’re the most recent ones.

Yeah. And, and I really viscerally know what we’re getting. Yeah. And I’ve tested over a thousand kids over the years. Yeah. I lose track. You know, please, I don’t need to count that , but the levels [00:17:00] four and five, you can find some schools that will work for the four, like a real Montessori school, Uhhuh, , because they really do individualize mm-hmm.

And then you should talk other people, you know, who have kids that you think are levels three and four into being in the school too, because the more kids who are like your child, the better. Yeah. But. by four, you still might find others like your child by level five, you’re not going to, you know, they live somewhere else.

Mm-hmm. , they’re a daily age. It’s incredibly unlikely that you will have another level five in a class with your child during the first six to eight years of school. Yeah. Most of them have to leave for their own mental health and, and academic health. Early, [00:18:00] early parents start coming up with very different ways to meet their needs because the school really can’t.

And the idea of attending a school for gifted kids who are that gifted, it’s kind of problematic. I mean, it, it can happen, but it’s mostly gonna be levels two, three, and four in a gifted magnet school or private school. because it’s still that rare to have a five. Mm-hmm. , that doesn’t mean they’re one in a million.

I had a conversation with my original publisher and editor Jim Webb, Dr. James Webb, and we both agreed it was probably closer to one in a quarter million. It’s just that they’re spread out. Wow. As many as that. Yeah. But so many of them are failing. Yeah. Yeah. So my, my current book, longitudinal result of as many kids as I could find from the [00:19:00] five levels of gifted book, they’re all grown up.

And I’m trying to answer that question of what went wrong and what went Right. Because one, for instance, one of my level five subjects he did not get what he needed. and he hasn’t even gone on to university. And he was so smart. So smart. And so there are reasons why things didn’t work for him.

but not cause he was smart, it was because of the way he was treated. And it, isn’t that high intelligence makes you crazy. It’s the way you’re treated makes you crazy . So, or functionally not doing well. Yeah. Yeah. So anyway those are the five levels and you really can find lists of those [00:20:00] with lots of details and early milestones.

And that’s how I created it. It was after I looked at the milestones of children. over the years and what they were like when they were born and what they were like when they were three months old and six months old, and then a year and then two years, you know? Yeah. And see what they are like. And then later we have scores and we see how those fit or don’t fit.

And it really is rather amazing how well the scores are in the range you would predict from those milestones. 

Sophia Elliott: [00:21:00] Yeah. That is really incredible. And that’s one of the things I think I find most interesting is when you talk to parents about, the traits that you include in the levels, when did they crawl or walk or talk or read or recognize, , letters and numbers.

Those milestones. , the physical milestones as well as the academic milestones are right there from the very beginning. Even that sort of, how alert were they after birth , you know, in that moment, I a friend of mine last year shared, had just had a baby and shared this photo, and this baby was like less than an hour old, and the eyes were bright, and this, I swear this, this newborn was smiling, and I’m like, [00:22:00] oh my God, I’m watching you

I’m onto you already. It’s just that alertness. And so it has always fascinated me that you can, it’s a holistic thing, , it’s a whole experience phenomenon. Giftedness, and, and those. Traits and stories from parents can be a real indicator as to what you’re dealing with. And I know they’ve certainly helped me along the way as, as a parent as I’ve been trying to quantify and really sort of figure out because you always, am I imagining this or am I seeing things that aren’t there?

And you’re looking for something to compare it to and your, your lists that into those levels are really helpful in that regard, 

Dr Deborah Ruf:

Sophia Elliott: think. Yeah, no, they are. And I imagine I mean like most lists if parents are having a look at those you. [00:23:00] Children never tick every single box, but it’s looking 

Dr Deborah Ruf: for a sense of Yeah.

This is where they’re fitting. I’ve had I, you know, when my book first came out, the one back in 2005, 2009, same book . Yeah, same book. . When that first came out, I, I read reviews and I, I went on listservs to see what were people saying. And one of the things that just drove me nuts Yeah. Is when people would fixate on one of the milestones Yeah.

And argue about it, and I’m thinking, wait a minute, but I, I didn’t get involved. I just felt bad. Yeah. And because you aren’t going to have them ticking every box. I mean, even a level five isn’t gonna tick every box because that isn’t who they are. Mm-hmm. , there are other ways. Yeah. And plus I have, I.

I just, [00:24:00] it, it was so important to me. I, all the books I read and I just soaked them all up, as you can imagine for mm-hmm. about 10 years before I finished my dissertation, and which is my dissertation, which I’ll give to anyone, free P d f it to you. It’s highly gifted adults. Mm-hmm. and their journey to self-actualization.

And these were not people I had worked with or tested. And the ones, some of them, I said, I think you should be in this, cuz I knew them for one reason or another, and they’d argue with me, they, I’m not gifted. And I say, huh, listen, trust me, I know you’re gifted. But I finally would give them information about how they could see if they were gifted.

If it actually, I mean, it’s a funny thing because sometimes when you’re highly intelligent and other people tell you [00:25:00] you are, you think, ah, what do they know? . So you discount it mm-hmm. . And so that, that’s your proof. You’re not gifted, you discounted somebody telling you you are . Yeah. Anyway, they, there are tests they can take, like try and get into Mensa.

It’ll tell you if you’re o over the 98 percentile. They won’t tell you your score because they aren’t licensed to do that , which I think is silly. But anyway they also there’s something called the Miller Analogies test, and that’s a good one for adults to study up on and take through a university online.

Mm-hmm. . And it is, it’s got an excellently high score as far as a high ceiling. Ceiling. Yeah. . Yeah. And you’ll, I don’t know how they score it now. I know they’ve changed the metric, but you will be able to then find online what is this compared to in IQ scores. [00:26:00] Mm-hmm. . And then you find out how far into the gifted range you are, which is, you know, that’s all you need to know.

You don’t need to have an exact number. Mm-hmm. . And it helps you figure out yourself more. And as you figure yourself out more, you will be a better guide for your children, I think. 

Sophia Elliott: Oh, I think as well. Incredibly true. And it certainly has been my experience. And I would love to read your dissertation. I myself Have most certainly been going through a positive disintegration over the last couple of years.

Good for you I feel like I’ve come, I’m definitely coming out of it and more positive than disintegration these days. . But it is certainly a huge journey because, and I think just on a very basic level, it’s some validation that [00:27:00] we’re not typical, you know, our experience of life has never felt entirely normal. And it’s just this validation of, well, cuz you’re not typical and it’s kind of like, oh, okay, what relief, you know, like you say, just even at a basic level to acknowledge regardless of getting into the nitty gritty of numbers, Just to be open to that possibility that there’s, there’s something behind it.

And I think it’s, the more I have learned about 

Dr Deborah Ruf: myself, 

Sophia Elliott: the better parent I have become like just 10 times over. And it’s the journey that thankfully my husband and I have been going on together with our kids and, and I am yeah, always encouraging listeners and parents to take a bit of time to, to dig into those questions for themselves because it, it will help [00:28:00] you figure out what your triggers are with your parenting and some of your fears and concerns with your kids and their education and help you understand your children.

And, and I think as well, if you can get some insight into the levels that you know how kind of, Significant it’s not quite the right word, 

but I, I think rare, you know, rare about how many people really are at the same level as that child or yourself. Mm-hmm. . Because that helps explain some of the times in your life where you just didn’t fit and you didn’t, you knew it, but you didn’t know why.

Yeah, absolutely. And that sense of just desperate to find someone who I can talk about things to this degree. Absolutely. So I’m really interested then the follow up work that you’ve done now [00:29:00] with the, the children that you started with are now very much adults. What was perhaps the most surprising or interesting thing that you came across in that 

Dr Deborah Ruf: research?

Well, I’m still working on it. , , and I keep coming up with new things I’m surprised about. I almost didn’t have a section on bullying in my book, and I knew that had been covered enough about gifted kids feeling bullied sometimes. But I, I now have a chapter about sibling bullying and peer bullying has been covered plenty, but sibling bullying hasn’t.

It’s a recent research area and people are trying to turn it into also a mental health. A really important mental health issue because sibling bullying, not just in the gifted, [00:30:00] but among all children, is very, very high numbers, like more than half. And it has ramifications later throughout life. And so I, one of my editors actually suggested you should ask about bullying.

And I said, oh, okay. But I was thinking of the peer bullying in school. That’s not really, he, he was thinking of that, but he was also thinking about in the family. Yeah. And that chapter was very hard to write because I had to learn it. Yeah. Most of the things I’m writing about, I really viscerally know and know from all my reading and experience, but this one, Yes, I have experience, but I didn’t know how to interpret it.

And I’m not a therapist, so I didn’t wanna step on any therapeutics, toes . Yeah. And so, what, what [00:31:00] I found is how common some things are even among the gifted at all levels. And that’s the thing that has really the uniqueness is it’s sort of uniqueness. But I can tell you, you, you want an intelligent therapist, you want a guide, a coach, a therapist who is smart enough to be there with you, but they’re trained and able to be even a little behind you in intelligence, but still know their topic and human nature.

and I, I found one of the things that’s common among gifted adults is they don’t think anyone’s going to understand them. And they, that’s part of why they a [00:32:00] AHU therapy, because it, it’ll be a waste of time. Well, it isn’t always. Sometimes it is. And as the old columnist used to say, Anne Landers used to say, try a different one.

Try a different one. Yes. You have to stay with one that isn’t working for you. Mm-hmm. and the issues of family are huge. And a good therapist can help you with family issues, whether you’re gifted or not. And in. World, the developed world. Most people who, who are dealing with issues of giftedness have access to therapy.

They have access to books, they have the ability to work on themselves, and you are going to find that the therapists who are available had reasons for wanting to be [00:33:00] in that role. They’ll relate to a lot of what you’ve go been going through, and that’s part of why they got into that field. Just as we get into the field of gifted, it’s because, ah, this is an issue for my family, for me, for my teaching, for whatever it is.

But it’s, it’s personal. We don’t just pick out anything. We pick out stuff we’re already interested in solving and finding more about. So, what other other things were, oh, I thought. actual parenting styles made more of a difference than I found they do. 

Sophia Elliott: Okay. That’s interesting. Tell 

Dr Deborah Ruf: us more about that.

Yeah. Well, I went with the old bomb model, which is about authoritative, authoritarian and yeah. Permissive. Mm-hmm. and I added neglectful or not involved as she does too later on. [00:34:00] Yeah. And what I did is ask the adult children, how would you say your parents parented? And I gave them a link to read up on what those were.

And no one wanted to badmouth their parents. It was fascinating because they’d tell stories about this and about that, but they always gave their parents an excuse like, I deserved it, or I was a difficult kid. And so it depends on their age, what you’re gonna hear. Hmm. So there is a age trajectory of people finding themselves.

Mm-hmm. , some people may be sooner, but there’s a general, it’s almost impossible to, to make great strides when you’re in your early twenties,

And, and so I’ve become much more attached to, well, how old is this person? . Yeah. Yeah. [00:35:00] Cuz I’m not talking about whether they need a cane. I’m talking about how evolved can they be by now? Yeah. And so the parenting styles did not measure up as much as the Myers-Briggs styles. Oh, that, yeah. The, I, I was fortunate enough that I’ve always given the Myers-Briggs to the parents of my clients.

Yep. And so I had all of their. Parents’ information and I had their childhood Murphy Meers, which not everyone likes the Murphy Meier cuz they say, well, you know, they’re not really valid because they change, Hey, people change. , people change. That’s all it is. We wanna know what they’re like at the time.

Yeah. Yeah. And I think does a pretty good job. And so I have charts in the new book showing the parents types, the [00:36:00] children’s types, and then what the children scored as adults and many of them did change. Mm-hmm. . And you, it’s not hard to see. And it, it’s very interesting. So let’s see, there was something else that triggered in me.

Oh. So one of the things that was, I knew already from earlier research with my clients when I was writing papers based on what I was learning and. One of the things, the people who worry about their gifted kids the most are Jay Judges. . Oh, yeah. Yeah. And they, they have a view of what it should look like when their smart child is in school.

Mm-hmm. . And so if they have a p perceiver child, it isn’t good. 

Sophia Elliott: not a great match there. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Yeah. So the numbers are, [00:37:00] as more people read, my force fed information on personality styles. . More and more parents are considering, well, maybe other children in their family are also needing different support in school.

Mm-hmm. , but j Judger kids in school tend to do their work. They might think it’s stupid, they might think it’s a thing to do, but they do it. Mm-hmm. the P receiver kids, it depends on whether they’re feelers or thinkers, how they deal with it, but they basically don’t like to do it. . Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Okay. That’s 

Dr Deborah Ruf: really interesting.

So, yeah, and I do have an article out that mm-hmm. is, keeps recirculating it cuz I think, I don’t wanna keep going through this . 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, totally. I’ve written it 

Dr Deborah Ruf: already. Yeah. I’ll send you the link. And it’s about personality [00:38:00] types in school and yeah, so it’s, and the thing is there’s a, you, i, I don’t have a children’s version available free on the internet, but there is an adult version free on the internet called personality page.com.

and it’s great. I love it. And so I, I gave the official M B T I during my working, working with clients days, and I do not do that anymore. . And I was, you know, I got the training and the licensing and Yeah. Fee. And it costs me money too Yeah. To give the actual test. And now I just refer people to personality page.com.

Yeah. And because they also explain it to you mm-hmm. . So if you, if you want to get something out of my article, which I’d be happy to share, I mean Yes, that’d be great. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, [00:39:00] basically I’m keeping. I, I don’t think I’m ever gonna be totally deluged with emails from people, but I , I’m on Facebook and I have a page there for five levels of gifted, that’s my professional Facebook page.

And there’s a website, five levels of gifted, just words, no numbers, dot com. 

Sophia Elliott: Thank you. And we’ll definitely put all of those links in the show notes so many places I wanna go. I I think what we’ve talked about in terms of the five levels and, and going through will be really helpful for our listeners and our parents.

And, and I’ll pop links in so that anyone listening can go have a look at those levels and get a feel for it. And then refer back to what Deborah has said about what. You know, those children are likely to need an education because it is really helpful for, for us parents to get a, a sense of that.[00:40:00] 

I feel like it would be remiss of me to have you on the show and not ask you more about assessment given your wealth of knowledge and what you’ve shared so far. I mean, I mean, we have chatted a bit about assessment and IQ and I don’t know. I think,

I think what I’m hearing from you is, and I think something that you know, I value, I hold dear is assessments are incredibly helpful. You know, and unfortunately if you think your child is gifted and you’re on this path The investment in getting your child assessed is a, is a necessary investment because it helps you figure out what you’re dealing with.

And because every gifted kid is different and expresses that giftedness in different ways, and you can be very surprised at what those assessments come out as. And I can certainly speak from experience there amongst my three [00:41:00] kids. I think we’ve been through four different assessments so far, trying to get a sense.

One child has done two for, for various reasons, and probably only one of those has been a, a, a really sort of sound picture of that child. Another one. Was a really good sense, but it was incomplete because the verbal component wasn’t included because the child was speech delayed. And so, again, very helpful to see percentiles and the other two assessments we went through were problematic for various reasons to do with personality and sickness on the day.

And so having been through tho that as, as a parent I always encourage parents to go down this route, but the caveat is, you know, , [00:42:00] unfortunately, you need to invest this time, energy, and money. But how, but like you said before, it’s, it’s not about that IQ number. For me, it’s about getting a sense of those percentiles and what we are dealing with to figure out what level, you know, where we at with this child.

But going into it, knowing that there can be all sorts of complicating factors, what have you seen around that in your work? And you referred before to that scenario where a parent’s like, right, what’s the iq? And, and you’re like, well, it’s a spiky profile. There’s actually more in this story than just the iq.

Maybe tell us a little bit more about those spiky profiles. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Well, I wanna go back to one. Okay. Yeah, please do. You talked about how helpful the percentiles are. Mm-hmm. and I want to say, yeah. Oh, you don’t? 

Sophia Elliott: Okay, tell me more. You’re not into the percentiles. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Well, level one, for instance [00:43:00] mm-hmm. Has, it’s kind like the 90th to the nine 90th percentile mm-hmm.

To the 97th, 98th percentile. Yeah. Because that, but that isn’t a very big range, really. Mm-hmm. , when you get to the 98th percentile, it’s only four more points on most standardized tests before you’re at the 99th percentile. Yeah. And so the, it’s a truncated, forced bell curve. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: So you’ve got this range of numbers, but actually what you’re not taking into account is the standard deviation within that.

Is that what you mean? No. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Nope. Nope. What I’m saying is you have to start guessing and intuiting what you have. Ah, okay. After, after you reach a certain point. Yeah, because it’s, it’s not, even though I tested samples of gifted children who previously tested above one 30 IQ and other tests[00:44:00] it still puts all those children into 25 points on the test.

No, 15, 15 points on the test. 15 to 20 points. That’s it. Because they, they top out. Now, that doesn’t mean you an experienced gifted interpreter can’t tell you more about what it means, but the percentiles cease to have meaning the 99th percentile is the widest ability range there. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And yet, those, too many people are still repeating.

old test scores for the ranges drives me crazy. None of them majored in test and measurement , and yet they refer to an over one 60 is exceptionally gifted, and over 180 is, we don’t have tests like that. Yeah, [00:45:00] that’s 

Sophia Elliott: why I don’t like the IQ number. Yeah, because when you read about it, there’s such a variance and what you know, and like you say, 1, 1 70 profoundly gifted.

And I think that’s why, for me, I liked the percentiles because I can kind of go, well in that 99.9 range. You may well be anywhere from one 40 to one 70, but it, it gives me a sense of you’re at that very top end. And I think that’s why I found that easier to reconcile than the iq numbers because, , it can be old data, it can be different tests.

You know, there’s so much variability in what you might be reading 

Dr Deborah Ruf: about that. Well, the thing is, yes, please teach me . The thing is there’s the milestones actually tell you more. Yeah. Love it. Yeah. And [00:46:00] I, I like a lot of mothers and some fathers more and more fathers bless their hearts. Most mothers, well, when I made the rough estimates of levels of gifted online assessment, which I can’t afford to post, that’s why it’s gone.

I don’t have any funding. Yeah. And, and it costs money to post a test like that. Yeah. And the man who helped me design it for parents to take it online, and it was as accurate as the whisk test and the Stanford Benet test. And I’m in, I talked to, you probably know her fem OV in the Netherlands, uh mm-hmm.

she, her husband and I have talked about my giving that to them in some way so they can post it. Mm-hmm. and from it, she’s much better at [00:47:00] marketing than I am. And that was the problem. People thought everything should be free. And I’m not funded by a university, so I had no money. Yeah. Anyway, but I have lots of curiosity and lots of interest.

And so what happened was I had my, my. My friend who actually was the parent of a level five client, . Yeah. And it’s not what he does. I mean, he’s just brilliant, this man. And so he was, we were setting this up cuz I knew what it should be. And he said, okay, so we’ll have at birth and then we’ll have one year, then we’ll have two years.

And I said, no, no, no. We’ll have at birth, we’ll have three months, six months, nine months. And e he was baffled. Why would we do that? Yeah. I said, because it makes a difference. Yeah. And it is a time when you see clear differences between and [00:48:00] among children and those milestones. Mm-hmm. . And so, and then we went to 18 months and then 24.

and after that it was a few years and then it, we didn’t do it past age six. Mm-hmm. . And part of the reason for that is this is a pure form of what this child’s like. You can skew results through practice. You know, the kid looks more brilliant simply because they’ve been trained to do more, but that doesn’t mean they really are.

It might mean they are, but we can’t tell us easily. Same with trauma, you know, and poverty and that kind of thing. Some kids have caretakers instead of their parents, and nobody’s really paying attention to their milestones. That doesn’t mean they aren’t smart . Okay. So all of these things make a difference and percentiles well, [00:49:00] I’m posting my full articles and I’m writing new ones and.

modifying old ones on medium.com. Yeah. Yeah. You can read up to three free every month. And the membership, which helps me , the membership, helps me. But it’s also not very expensive. And so if you want, and I’m learn, I’m, there’s so many good things on Medium. It’s incredible. Yeah, it’s good. Yeah. So I recommend that people look me up on Medium.

As I said, the first three are free every month, even if you don’t wanna pay anything or aren’t able to pay anything. And I also, you can subscribe without paying, which just means you’ll be notified when a new piece comes out. Mm-hmm. and. . I’m actively doing that. And when I’m through with [00:50:00] the book, I will write as long as I’m, I’m able, and I’ll just admit it, I’m gonna be 74 in March, so , but my dad is almost 99, so you know, there’s a chance.

Plenty of time yet, . Oh no, he’s very, he’s really still very good at Jeopardy.

So, you know, maybe, but Medium is where I’m posting the full articles because mm-hmm. to have a platform cost money for me. And I don’t, I’m not making any money now. Yes. And so I have to be clever about how I share in a way that you can afford, you know, people can afford. Be shared too. Mm-hmm. , nobody has to be charged, but if anybody is willing to be, that would make me able to do a few more things.

Yeah, yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And that’s really interesting. So your experience has shown that[00:51:00] a keen eye for the milestones can be very effective establishing a child’s level of giftedness. Yes. And it, correct me if I’ve, if I’m summarizing what you’ve said correctly, where you, you’re frowning upon the percentiles, is that, that 90th to 97 percentile kind 

Dr Deborah Ruf: of being the 

Sophia Elliott: last like Yes.

The like one particular range, but then that 98th, 99th, so much being. In those in, you know, in that two percentiles there’s such a huge range within that, that you’re feeling like you’re not getting the accuracy of really determining the upper levels. Particularly like if we are looking at your levels of what’s going in, for example, in that 99th percentile.

Yeah. Yeah. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Absolutely. [00:52:00] I’m not affiliated on purpose . I made the choice. I’ve never applied to be a professor and, and the reason is I wanted to write, I wanted to think for myself. Mm-hmm. , I do tons of my own research and I read other, most everyone else’s research. Mm-hmm. and I wouldn’t have time if I had all those committee meetings.

Yeah. and I also didn’t want to be constrained by the fashions of the day as far as what was worth researching. Yeah. Yeah. That’s what universities do to you. You have to get funding for department and you have to have it be in areas. I mean, I’m pretty freewheeling and I didn’t want to not be Yep.

That, that’s right. And that’s what you value. I’m not, I’m not feeling sorry for myself. [00:53:00] I love my life. . Yeah, 

Sophia Elliott: absolutely. So tell me a little bit more then about the assessment piece that you had developed there with the milestones. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Well, first of all, there are some things in the assessment questions that are, are like, no.

No questions, that means that they don’t bear on the results. Mm-hmm. . And part of that is to keep parents from gaming it because parents fill out the form about their kids. Mm-hmm. and what they see as important and valuable might not be what is the most important and valuable. Yeah. So I don’t want to and I don’t want people to push anything unnaturally in their kids.

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So also most parents who have kids in a young enough age range still aren’t informed enough to cheat[00:54:00] 

Sophia Elliott: And if the kids are young, you might, you might actually remember the milestone. You’re, you know, you’re more likely to remember. I had a, a quick look at At the levels before we chatted, just to remind myself, and I was looking at them and thinking of my kids and, and sometimes it’s kind of like, oh, I don’t remember when that happened.

But then other things, you know, stick in your mind. So yeah, it can be 

Dr Deborah Ruf: tricky. , and it, it varies considerably with parents. Mm-hmm. . But it allows for that. It just like an IQ test when the kid is sitting there, when the child is sitting there, they can be pretty squirrely. And there are group tests, which are the ones that give in school where the whole class is there and somebody proctors it.

Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And those are not considered quite as accurate. You’ll see more flux between test administrations. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. In fact, I have a [00:55:00] brother who is just as smart as I am and he was put in a lower rung of classes for. About five or six years because first of all, he was not a cooperative student,

And second of all, when he filled out one of the forms for the test, you know, with the little bubbles, he and his friend were racing to see who could fill ’em out and be done first. They did not read the test and fill out the actual questions. Yeah. And so a score was artificially low. This can happen in group tests.

Mm-hmm. in a test administered by a capable administrator, somebody trained in it. And it’s best if you can find somebody experienced with high end, because otherwise they still aren’t gonna give you the interpretation you need. You know, they may say, oh, well he can do anything he wants. [00:56:00] That’s not helpful,

No, that’s not helpful. . Yeah. And so anyway, what. , what I look at is the individual tests. Which ones are they? And if a good report has been written, it helps me a lot to know whether this person knew what they were talking about in my language. You know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. And because if they don’t get some of the nuance of what the scores mean and how the child received the questions, whether they enjoyed it, how they were, it really, for most gifted children, taking an individual IQ test is like fun.

Yeah, totally. Cause it’s, it’s like being handed a box full of games and puzzles and problem solving issues, you know, I mean, it’s fun and it’s stimulating and they’re worn out at the end [00:57:00] because they’ve really focused and concentrated and it’s, it’s considered the gold standard to have the individual IQ test that’s Wexler or Stanford, Benet.

And then the others are all offshoots. But like the rough estimates, I know that Temo f Femke Vega’s site in the Netherlands, she’s developed a test that tests for extremely gifted and I. every bit as good as my levels of gifted one. It’s just for a different group and an age range. Yeah. And it can be done, but it doesn’t have broad application because we’re looking at a specific group, but that’s okay.

The specific group needs it. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The work they’re doing is really interesting. She did a podcast on Unleashed Monday with Naja, who’s a friend of the, the show. And [00:58:00] it was really interesting to listen to Naja who Naja Cereghetti is the host of Unleashed Monday, and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well.

Really interesting conversation there about the work they’re doing to, to get that test for the, that highly gifted area. 

And, and every 

Dr Deborah Ruf: now and then I. I, I, 

Sophia Elliott: I, you know, hop onto their website and see what they’re at, see if they’re doing it in English yet. Cuz when I first looked, it wasn’t in in English yet and hopefully in, in 

Dr Deborah Ruf: good English there, so they could do that.

Yeah, I 

Sophia Elliott: know, right. It would be great to have that available. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: And I want to, I want to make a comparison, a positive comparison between the work they’re doing. Two generations younger, two to three than Linda Silverman, who started the gifted center in Colorado. Both Femke and Linda are so good at running a [00:59:00] whole program.

Mm-hmm. , I, I don’t have the skills. I admire them both very much for this and they, in the process, they have brought in other professionals. and they have trained together and learned together, and that’s what Femke is doing. That’s what Linda Silverman did. And it, it makes it really I I, I wish more people did that and I wish I’d started earlier, but my life was a little crazy.

I didn’t start early , but it, it, it is it’s okay. You know, I’ve, I’ve been making a contribution that matters, but they do really good work and I, I just wanted to point out that similarity between them. But right now I can’t name another p Well, there are some other places kind of, but they, there are some other places that also address more specifically[01:00:00] the two E issues.

the twice exceptional issues. And so their testing and screening really delves into that as well. I think Silverman’s does too. And I don’t, I don’t, I, I basically tell, used to tell people if I thought their child was unusually odd, I would let them know. . 

Sophia Elliott: Well, that’s good to know. good 

Dr Deborah Ruf: to be pointed out.

The thing is, I, I don’t, I have absorbed the highly intelligent Yeah. And I see them as odd, so Yes, 

Sophia Elliott: that’s true. Yeah. Absolutely. I feel 

Dr Deborah Ruf: you there. Yes. I’m trying to make clear some of these other things are only odd to other people. Mm-hmm. and does that mean we need to fix it? Yeah. A absolutely 

Sophia Elliott: very good question.

Deborah, I really appreciated your time. I’m just kind of having a little look at the watch there if you have time for one more [01:01:00] question. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: I I, okay, great. , 

Sophia Elliott: excellent. Cause I could talk to you all day. I’m curious about your thoughts and insight into testing young children of like under five and I guess what’s the question I’m asking is so my understanding is testing under five can be quite inconsistent in terms of the results that you might get 

Dr Deborah Ruf: because of their age and maturity 

Sophia Elliott: and ability to sit the test.

And so it makes. More difficult, I guess, to get a, perhaps a clear picture. And perhaps in that early, you know, age group, that’s an opportunity for us to look more at the milestones as we’ve, as we’ve mentioned. But I just wondered if you had any particular thoughts about testing in those young [01:02:00] kids.

Dr Deborah Ruf: Good. Good. I thought you would. Alright. So it isn’t that they might be squirrely and not sit for the test. It’s that most children that young are that way. So they haven’t made enough questions on the test for it. Uhhuh, , Uhhuh, . And that’s why the child who is able to focus is going to get an artificially high score.

Ah, okay. Yeah. And so that can be very misleading to the parents. Yeah. And the school. , what happens is the best thing is to not start your child to actual school too early anyway.

So my, right now we don’t have a lot of schools cooperating with my idea , but I [01:03:00] would prefer more of a Montessori type setting for the early years. And if you can’t get that, you should get a good daycare or optional parent or grandparent or somebody who’s going to allow the child to just be the naturally curious child they are.

the academics are not what’s important. Mm-hmm. sitting down, most kids gifted above, I mean, level two and beyond, but even most level ones, they teach themselves to read from being exposed to the books. They’re people are reading to them. They don’t need to learn to read. You don’t need to sit down with them and make sure they’re learning to read.

They will , you know, they just do. They just get it. And so it, it’s [01:04:00] a very curious thing that parents think. And I was, I was guilty of this myself. I thought, well, he is so smart, he should be in school and then they aren’t dealing with what he’s ready to do so, or she’s ready to do so what would be better is not even starting school at all until age seven, if you can manage it.

And I realize it’s a problem when both parents work, but something, you know, you, you should try and do something that allows for the child to still just be learning at his or her own pace. And then if that isn’t possible, you would want not to start school early. Kindergarten is still a fun place, and let ’em be there and then let them skip first grade Uhhuh and go on to second.

But it depends on the level. And so I my [01:05:00] book and you feel free if you’d like, my assistant about these things, Michelle, and I can give you an updated chapter. Table of contents. Okay. And people can see what’s in there. Also, I discovered my first book, you can read up to 50 pages of it online at Amazon.

Mm-hmm. and you’ll, it’ll be like that when the next book comes out too. And so it, it’ll help you see some of these topics that help you make decisions about the very earliest years. Okay. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. But testing too early. You shouldn’t test before seven if you can help it. Yep. 

Sophia Elliott: And so, so the challenge there of testing early is that possibility for like a false positive because it can be skewed towards those children who have that focus, that ability to actually focus on the test and [01:06:00] perform.

Yeah. And those children who. Don’t have that focus or, or, you know, still quite squirmy. There’s sort of not enough in the testing to, 

Allow for the, like the squirminess for lack of a more technical 

Dr Deborah Ruf: word, squirminess. It’s not really the, okay. Help me understand. Test writing. The test writing, yeah.

Does not have enough questions in the early range for the more intellectual advancement of a kid. It’s just items that would really work for the typical kid. Yeah. So they, they, 

Sophia Elliott: the, the questions don’t have a high enough ceiling. Like the, the questions aren’t stretching the kids enough, so they’re not 

Dr Deborah Ruf: stretching, they don’t have a high enough starting point.

Yeah. And you can, you see on the. mostly they would be given the wissy. Yeah. And the [01:07:00] Wissy only goes to age six, but if you wait until age seven, you can take the full whisk the Wexler tests and that is actually better. Mm-hmm. , the Wii tends to overt test the young gifted kids. And that’s, that’s a problem because you might be led to believe your child should be doing this, whereas maybe this will be good.

Yeah. And it, and besides when we are young enough, ourselves, staff kids, young enough, we aren’t advanced enough in our own learning and self-development to settle down mm-hmm. and not push things . Yeah. And especially if you’re a j judger. Yeah. And. , as I mentioned, it tends to attract Jay judges. Mm-hmm.

And, and they, they know [01:08:00] what’s best. They know what’s right. And I was a Jay Judger at that time, myself. Mm-hmm. , I’m not anymore . And but it took a lot of work not to be, not that I was trying not to be a judger, I just became so much more aware when no one else is judging you. Mm-hmm. , and you’re free to really be your real self.

There are more p perceivers out there mm-hmm. . So that’s what I’m finding. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. No, that’s really interesting. Thank you. Because you know, as you know, parents are needing to go through this assessment process earlier and earlier to get into gifted programs earlier. Oh. And so it is quite challenging to.

to ensure that we’re picking up the gifted kids. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. They’re not falling through the cracks. And 

Dr Deborah Ruf: and it 

Sophia Elliott: sounds to me, [01:09:00] you know, the best we can do is really find a tester who has that intuition about giftedness. So they’re, they’re doing the test, albeit on a young person under seven but they’ve got a degree of they know what other things perhaps to look for within that and, and have that insight to be able to pick that child 

Dr Deborah Ruf: as well.

One of the things if you want early entrance to some programs there, I think it’s Stanford Benet five, I can’t remember for sure right now, but I think that one, you can, they only require certain subtest. To see if the child is ready. And that’s not so bad. Yeah. It doesn’t give you the fullest picture, but it can get your child into the program.

Mm-hmm. And the other thing is, does will the program fit your child anyway? Yeah. . Yeah. Yeah. And I would like to, I would like to see schools not be based solely on your [01:10:00] age. Oh, hallelujah. . Yes. And the person who wrote who was behind writing the Otis Lennon, the Olsat I think that’s the one. He out of the University of Iowa, that was a very popular group test.

Mm-hmm. and still is, he said in his years of doing this. And he also wrote achievement tests and he said, by first grade, year one, not kindergarten, year one. The typical same aged mixed stability classroom already has 12 great equivalencies of achievement in it. And yeah, that’s, that’s the, the fallacy, the, the folly of grouping kids by age for academic learning.

Mm-hmm. , now you can group ’em together for art class, for recess. Mm-hmm. for lunch. Mm-hmm. , I [01:11:00] don’t, I don’t want to have children not be exposed to the range. Mm-hmm. , but not in math class if math is their strength. . Yeah. It’s, this book is turned into more than 300 pages and it’s because, well, I better put this in there.

I better put that in. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, well, I can’t wait to read it. And I just appreciate your time today and thank you so much for talking to us. It’s an absolute delight to pick your brain, , 

Dr Deborah Ruf: and I, 

Sophia Elliott: I’m so pleased that you did. Thank you so much. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Okay. I hope I need you. I 

Sophia Elliott: would really love that. 

It was a pleasure. Absolute pleasure. Have a lovely evening and I talk to you soon. 

Dr Deborah Ruf: Okay, bye-bye. Bye. [01:12:00]

#082 Growing Creativity in Gifted Kids w/ Stephanie Higgs

#082 Growing Creativity in Gifted Kids w/ Stephanie Higgs

In this episode we’re talking to one of our favourite gifted educators and differentiation coach, Stephanie Higgs, about how we can all grow our creativity muscle, especially in our gifted kids.

Memorable quote… “

“When we broaden that definition of what creativity even looks like, I think a lot more of us fit under that umbrella than we would initially think. And then even those of us who don’t feel like it comes as naturally – that’s one of the things I’m here to share today, is how we can grow and refine that area of talent.” – Stephanie Higgs


Stephanie Higgs is a passionate, energetic, and engaging educator whose colleagues describe as radiating contagious joy. She has devoted her entire professional life to education, teaching in two of Tennessee’s three grand divisions.

Stephanie earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she then taught for six years at a museum magnet school and helped students achieve up to three years’ growth in reading in a single year.

After relocating to Middle Tennessee, Stephanie became a fourth-grade teacher, which had been her dream since she was a fourth grader herself! In 2019, Stephanie became a gifted educator and differentiation coach, where the staff quickly named her their Teacher of the Year before being named a region-level semi-finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Soon after, Stephanie was honoured with the TAG (Tennessee Association for the Gifted) Horizon Award, which is given to a gifted educator demonstrating promise and leadership in the field.

Later, Stephanie was named the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) Teacher of the Year. Stephanie recently graduated with an additional graduate degree from Tennessee State University in Instructional Leadership and now serves on the executive board as secretary for the Tennessee Association for the Gifted.

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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to today’s podcast. I’m super excited to be here with Stephanie Higgs today. Now you might remember Stephanie, just from a couple of weeks ago, she was talking to us about those early years of school. And so we’re really excited to have a back. And today we’re talking about growing creativity and gifted kids. 

Well, not just gifted kids, really? Anyone. Us to the parents, our creativity can grow, who knew. Maybe you feel like you are a creative person or your. You’re like now I’m not creative. I don’t play the guitar. I don’t do this. I don’t do that. Well, actually we all have that creativity inside us. 

And it’s really interesting to learn that it’s actually like a muscle that we can build and grow and get better at become more creative. So it’s a wonderful episode today. Stephanie always comes along with so many tips and tricks and you walk away feeling like you can do a million things. 

So if you didn’t catch our last episode with Stephanie, let me tell you a little bit about her. [00:01:00] She became a gifted educator and differentiation coach in 2019, where staff quickly named her teacher of the year before being named region level semifinalist for the Tennessee teacher of the year. She’s also honored with the tag Tennessee association for the gifted. 

Horizon award, which is given to a gifted educator, demonstrating promise and leadership in the field. 

She’s also been the Tennessee performing arts center teacher of the year. And she recently graduated with an additional graduate degree from Tennessee state university in instructional leadership. She now serves on the executive board as a secretary for the Tennessee association for the gifted. So she is a very, very passionate primary school teacher. 

And her energy is infectious. 

It’s always an absolute delight to catch up with Stephanie. She has so much wisdom to share with us. 

And always comes with a bucket of ideas. 

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did. If you love the podcast, you can support us in many ways. [00:02:00] Leave us a review. Just leave us some stars. 

You can subscribe, tell your friends about us. And if you really love us, you can leave us a tip or join the podcast. Patron. 

Take care, enjoy the episode and I’ll see you again soon. 

I’m super excited today to be back with Stephanie Hicks, our like gifted educator extraordinaire with all of her energy, all the way from the US . Stephanie, how are you going today?

Stephanie Higgs: I’m great. I’m so thankful to [00:03:00] be back with you. I just felt so warmly received the last time I had to get right back on your calendar. , 

Sophia Elliott: I, I know I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation around those first years of school and, I just, your energy is infectious and I am delighted to have you on the show and your generosity at kind of just sharing your wisdom and knowledge with everyone.

Hugely appreciated. So thank you for coming back and we’re gonna talk about creativity today. How cool is that? 

Stephanie Higgs: Yes. I’m so excited. This is such a passion of mine. So I’m thrilled to be able to share a few of my favorite ideas with parents of gifted learners and anyone else who might be listening.

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. I, yeah, I have a big, a big passion for creativity myself, and it’s one of those things where folk will often say, uh oh, I’m not creative. You know, I can’t play the guitar. I can’t sing, do you know, and or I can’t paint. and have this [00:04:00] idea around what creativity is. Mm-hmm. . So I guess my first question is, let’s break that down a little bit.

What would you say creativity is and can we become more creative? 


Stephanie Higgs: I love that. So I love to play MythBusters, especially in gifted education. I think there are all sorts of myths that are prevalent out there. Mm-hmm. . And I think lots of us, you know, adults, kids, all, I’ll kind of hear this, spoken over lots of different people, but, oh, I’m not creative.

Oh, that’s, that’s not really my, Space. You know, like you mentioned, I’m not good at this instrument or this type of specific fine art or performing art talent. So I must not be creative at all. And so what I would really love to kind of demystify there is the idea that creativity can be taught and it can evolve.

And so all of us, uh, can constantly be growing in that. I have a couple of theories I’ll kind of reference here in a second to, to support that a little more. You know, the opinion of one gifted educator . But what is it? What is it not? And I think when we think about [00:05:00] creativity, I think it’s anytime we’re thinking about a new way of doing something.

And anytime that we’re demonstrating, you know, kind of growth or change and so I think a lot of times, you know, when we think about the famous inventors of our time, Quite often, more often than not, they’re solving a problem. They’re looking at something in their everyday life and saying, ah, there’s gotta be a better way.

That’s really taxing, that’s really tedious. There has to be a quicker way, a more cost efficient way. And so creativity can look like that where it’s not necessarily. Splattering paint on a wall, but it’s problem solving. So I think a lot of the different models that we have for critical and creative thinking can really kind of shape the way that we’re developing, especially in our young kind of gifted kiddos and that gifted population, how we’re teaching them to think and, and kind of changing that mindset from a more fixed mindset to a growth mindset of, well, what does creativity look like?

Does it have to be pencil and paper and, and fine. Does it look like visual arts and performing arts? Does it even look like creative problem solving? [00:06:00] That might be in, you know, a company that works with map and numbers or science and something else. I think it’s important to think about too, is the idea of how many famous failures we have.

I have some lessons that I do with some of my students about either how often they were told no before they were ever told. Yes. Or how often they were unsuccessful before, finally in their, you know, 900th attempt, they found success. And so I think there’s a lot of social emotional development. Then it can occur through refining creative processes as well.

Learning to push through failure, developing stamina, developing perseverance. Grit, I think is such an. Skill in the 21st century. And so I think all of those can be developed through creativity. But I think anytime you’re being innovative, thinking about things in new ways thinking about something that maybe has never been done before, all of those can be defined as creativity.

It’s a lot more than just being, you know, strong in art, I think. And I think sometimes people immediately associate, oh, that’s [00:07:00] not really, that’s not my speed. You know, and I even hear that a lot in teachers of, oh, I’m not really creative. Here’s a secret. I don’t know, a teacher who’s not creative, it just might not be that they have cute, bubbly handwriting and they make great posters or you know, something like that.

But again, when we kind of broaden that definition of what creativity even looks like, I think a lot more of us fit under that umbrella than we would initially think. And then even those of us who don’t feel like it comes as naturally that’s one of the things I’m here to share today is how can we grow and refine that area of talent?

Sophia Elliott: I couldn’t agree with you more. And, and as you’re talking there, I’ve, I’ve got all these things popping in my head. Uh, one of the first things was a TV series that I watched last year, and I will try and find it and put it in the links because I’m so bad with names and I just can’t remember the guy’s name.

But it was all about brain training, and he did this exercise to assess his creativity. And then he had to do all of. . [00:08:00] Uh, so he did the exercise, he had this, he got a score for creativity right from this expert in the US somewhere. And then he had to do all this brain training for a month and then do another activity to, and assess his creativity and actually demonstrated, like you said, that creativity can be learnt and, and like improved upon this sort of idea of creative thinking.

And I had flashbacks to. So my first, uh, my undergrad was actually in fine arts way back in the day, and so I was a, a, a lit, you know, an artsy creative person. But, but then I went and worked in politics for most of my twenties and some of my thirties. And during that time, one of. My colleagues jokingly referred to my undergrad as the degree of paper mache and which was quite derogatory

And I think it’s clearly never quite left me, but. [00:09:00] that sat with me for a while, and actually what I realized, uh, on reflecting on what I was doing at the time, why I was good at it, actually all came down to my creative thinking and my ability to be creative in problem solving and, you know, appreciating other people’s points of view and thinking outside the box, which had all been strengthened by doing that undergrad in fine arts.

And so, Linking this idea that actually being creative is, it’s like a mindset. It’s, it’s an approach and a way of thinking. So I, I would love to hear more, you referenced some, some theories around creativity. Do you wanna share, share a little bit of those with us? . Sure. 

Stephanie Higgs: So there’s really two that I’ve been researching and kind of delving into as of late.

And the first one I think is really great for parents to know about, and it’s the idea of the four C [00:10:00] model of creativity. So there are two doctors that are pretty involved in that research. One of those is Dr. James Kaufman. The other is Dr. Ronald Baggetto. And the two of them have come up with kind of this overarching model the four C model of creativity.

And so basically parents, Super, super young. I know Sophia, we recently chatted about those very early kind of gifted qualities that we’re seeing in these really little kiddos. Well that can actually sometimes be defined based on this theory as the mini C level of creativity. And so that’s basically when students are not necessarily doing anything that’s super revolutionary, but, but to them it’s new and it’s meaningful.

So for example, I recently spent some time with friends who have a little bitty, just two years old. And he took a little cup after we were finished with our dinner. And it had, you know, some kind of dressing or, or topping in there and it was empty. And so he took that cup and then somewhere else he found this tiny little ball that rolled.

It was really light. And the next thing I know, I look up and he’s taking that ball and he’s dropping it in the cup and he’s. [00:11:00] Blinging the cup up in the air and running around to try to catch the ball in that cup. So how creative is that, that he kind of made something new and meaningful? It made himself a game.

So that’s a level of creativity. We would call that, that mini C level. So for him it’s new and it’s meaningful. , but that’s that very earliest age. So that’s where a lot of the parents who would be listening might find themselves, you know, kind of working with their little with their child. So then that next level is exciting because that’s really where I focus a lot of my time.

And quite honestly, this might sound surprising, but I would find myself identifying as just this next level. So that first level is that mini C level of just kind of very new, very revolutionary. Well, that next level, that little. C level is basically where you’re still finding a lot of growth in creativity.

So you have kind of identified you have some creativity, and then there are lots of ways that we can go in and refine that creativity. And that’s kind of what differentiates between the mini C creativity and little C creativity is that idea of growth that we’re learning, that we’re [00:12:00] growing and that we’re evolving as creator.

It’s shocking to think, okay, we started that little bitty and I’m only at the very next one. Well, that’s because the next level of creativity is a pro C level of creativity. And so that’s someone who is a professional creative. You know, there’s tons of different careers that would involve that, but it could be things we’ve talked about, people that are inventors, that could be visual artists, that could be graphic design.

But people who have moved into that professional level of creativity. And then last but not least, you think, well, gosh, where do you go from there? But the last one would be the big C level of creativity. And so those are the names that we’ll remember in the history books. You and I are not even sharing the same continent right now, so are there names that that would kind of blend across all continents and be remembered well after their lifetime?

So that’s really kind of that last level that. C level of creativity. So that’s really kind of given me some vocabulary and some language to shape where I am as a creative, where my students are as creative. And then for all the [00:13:00] parents who would be listening, a lot of our gifted children that you all that you all have would probably fall under either that first level, that mini C, they’re really little and they’re just learning and starting or that next level, that little c level of creativity where they’re starting to demonstrate growth.

So that’s one. . And then the other work that I really focus a lot on in gifted education. And if you are parents of gifted children, this is probably a name that’s great for you to know. And that’s Dr. Paul Torrance. He is a hugely famous name in gifted education. And basically the work of Dr. Paul Torrance focuses on four tenants of creativity.

And so that’s fluency, flexibility. Elaboration and originality. And so I have lots of ideas kind of to help parents who are listening sort of, flush those out in your, in your child and, and practice those and again, grow those. That’s the ultimate idea here is that we would take what level of creativity we’re kind of coming to this conversation with and that we would all be able to evolve and demonstrate growth through practicing some [00:14:00] really specific exercises to continue growing and developing as a.


Sophia Elliott: a great point of reference just to understand, those levels and just. Have that broader understanding of creativity. So let’s talk about, well as parents, uh, because as you know, we’re, we’re always trying to co okay with each episode, what can the parents take away with them. Uh, Stephanie, I know that you’ve actually got some strategies that you can share with us today based on these theories, uh, around sort of.

Sparking this creativity or encouraging this creativity. Do you wanna share those with us? 

Stephanie Higgs: Absolutely. So lemme elaborate a little bit more. Haha, that’s one of Dr. Halter’s four tenets, but elaboration is one of them. Uh, let me elaborate a little bit more on what his four tenets of creativity look like and how as a parent you might be able to apply that with a small child and especially a gifted learner.

So the first one, [00:15:00] Fluency. So Dr. Torrance really identified that it’s very important that our brains, of course, they’re muscles. We’re trying to train our brain to think of ideas as quickly as we can. The more ideas we produce, the more creative they’re going to become. Oftentimes, our first idea is not our best idea, and so if we can train our brain to generate ideas more quickly, that’s going to help strengthen us as a creative.

And so that could be as simple as list as many. and you could fill in the blank list all the things you can think of that are blue. You know, that could be, we’re driving down the road in the car and we’re just back and forth, you know, blueberry, sky ball, you know, just as fast as we can back and forth. So then that next step would be, okay, how could I train my brain to do that a little bit faster?

Well, partly just practice, right? We can just do that and continue to practice and get better. But what I teach my students sometimes is to think about categories within that. Okay. So, you know, I just said blueberry. [00:16:00] Let me think if I can think of any other. Foods that are blue, that’s gonna help develop my fluency.

If I can pick a category and I can go all in, I can tell you all the foods I can think of that are blue. Well then I said the sky is blue. Well, lemme think about all the things in nature I can find that are blue. All of a sudden my brain is able to. Create a lot more ideas. So working on our fluency is one way to really strengthen that specific tenant of Dr.

Torrance’s and even a game as simple as categories. I don’t know if you’ve ever played the game categories, but categories. Not only do you have to give very specific items and you’re up against a timer, but they all have to start with the same letter. So that would be even a way to kind of advance this to that next level.

Let’s think of all words that start with an s that are. And so things like that are a great way to really develop that tenant. Another one of his tenets is elaboration. So adding as many details as you possibly can. That could be going back and forth, sharing a story, and each one of you is adding the next line to the story.

You could do this [00:17:00] orally or you could even do this pencil and paper, but can you elaborate? Can each of you add on one? To the story, but it has to make sense. And then you can add a surprise twist, but it has to go along with what’s been happening in the story. It could be the same with drawing. So adding as many details as you can to a picture making that picture as exciting as possible.

Making that picture tell a story. So how c how can we elaborate both visually and then also orally. Another one is originality. And so for this one I have a favorite tool that I use. You can find these on Amazon or other places online, but they’re called doodles. And that’s the work of Roger Price.

And basically they’re very, very simple line images. So he will just have a few very simple lines. And what you could do is you could put this in a common place in your house, you know, maybe this is in the kitchen by the sink or on a board where we keep everybody’s, you know, special events. But you would put up a doodle, which again is just a very simple drawing, kind of a doodle.

And every time you have a new idea of what the doodle is representing, maybe you just keep a pad of sticky notes nearby [00:18:00] and you just walk by and you add an idea to the list. And so the funny part is the gimmick, kind of the, the saying behind doodles is that you don’t. Understand until you ask, and then it’s too late to wish that you hadn’t.

And that’s because a lot of the ideas that you and your family would come up with are even more original than the very simple idea that the creator had. And so how fun would it be to leave up, you know, just a very simple sketch or drawing and every time you walk by, that could be, you know, this or that could be, lemme get even more original than.

Gonna be and kind of slapping up a new idea there. And then one of my favorites, I have tons of ideas here. I know sometimes listening to me can be like drinking from a fire hydrant. I love that Stephanie I love that as quick as they come. But the last of his four tenets is flexibility. And so the way I define that is other uses for an item.

So that can be as simple as looking around. And saying, okay, I’m looking at some coat hangers right now. What are other uses for a coat hanger? If it’s not a coat hanger, what could it be? And so there’s other [00:19:00] kind of ways you can word that too. So like, what can you do with, I’m at my office a paperclip?

What are all the different things we could do with a paperclip? Well, if we unfolded it, we could use it to pick a lock. So it’s not a paperclip anymore, now it’s a lock picker. You know, could we use it as a tiny little. Sword, like a jousting, you know, fencing sword for a squirrel, right, because it’s teeny tiny.

So kind of really thinking in those really creative ways. So other uses for something. What can you do with something besides its very much intended purpose. Another sentence starter for that one can be, this used to be a blank, now it’s a blank. So, you know, this used to be an envelope, but now it is, you know, and come up with, with other uses for that it.

Or you mentioned kind of outside the box thinking, so that’s a fun one to use. The phrase, so inside the box, this is a greeting card outside the box, this is, and then think of other uses for that item. So that’s just kind of a fun one [00:20:00] You can play. You can always use like two pipe cleaners and say, I want you to show me the importance of creativity.

Use two pipe cleaners. Show me the importance of creativity, or use two pipe cleaners and tell me what you learned about in. Today. So how can you demonstrate that if I just give you two pipe cleaners? Another favorite of mine is forced association. So you could have just photographs, you could have them look around the house and you could say, I want you to find me an item that represents, The topic of electricity, what’s something?

And it can’t just be, you know, a light bulb, right? We know that’s already sort of a symbol for that. I want you to find something creative that represents the idea of electricity. Letting them go around the house and find something like that. Or having photographs and they have to find a photograph of an image or go online and find an image that best represents kind of that principle or that concept maybe that they’re studying at.

Another favorite of mine online is a resource called Carly and Adam. So Carly and Adam create these gorgeous pictures. If you are watching the recorded [00:21:00] video, is it recorded video this time, Sophia 

Sophia Elliott: Video and Audio? So, yeah, our listeners will be listening, but uh, we have our members will be able to view.

Stephanie Higgs: Hello that so for this one you show them half of a picture. So like for this one, Carlene Adam showed half of a snowman. So it’s like the left half of a snowman. So you see kind of the half of a small circle, half of a bigger circle, half of the biggest circle. But the direction say it’s not a snowman.

And so Carlene Adam have these for every season and they are. Sloop blast because of course when you look at it, the first thing you see is a snowman. Snowman. They have ’em for a it’s not a snowflake. And so I did this with my kiddos a couple weeks ago where smack dab in the winter here in Tennessee.

And so it wasn’t a snowflake, it was a crown. And so some, one of my students took that and turned that picture into a. and so Carly and had ’em have those for every month, every season. But those have been great fun for my, my kiddos as well, and I know they would love that sometimes [00:22:00] recreationally in the home setting.

There’s also a book, it’s called Creativity Calendar and it’s by Laura Magner. And what I love about that book is she actually specifically addresses those four tenants monthly. So she, she kind of gives you a year to glance. And you could take that, you could do it as a workbook or you could make copies if you had multiple kiddos at home.

But she actually has one exercise each month of the year for each of those four tenants. And then she starts all over. So she actually has two full sets of affluency of flexibility and originality and an elaboration. And so she, you know, for the elaboration, we’ll just give you like a little doodle.

Like, it’ll just be one little squiggly line and then you have to add tons of details and kind of hide that image in your bigger picture. So lots of elaboration. So that’s great fun too. One of my friends who is a teacher, bought that for her, her kiddos at home, and she has said it has just been the biggest hit.

She’s been doing that with them in the evenings, just kind of to, to wind down, take a minute, kind of get some thoughts out on paper and, and kind of draw together. And she said she’s already seeing [00:23:00] progress. So it’s fun just to see as. Quickly as you implement these how quickly kiddos kind of catch on.

And then another one that I love this one’s actually a membership, but it’s 28 to make. But it’s the idea that it takes 28 days to make a new habit. . And so like one of the exercises they have on there is like a 30 circles challenge. So you have to turn each of the 30 circles into something else besides just a circle.

Could it be an eyeball, could it be a clock, could it be anything? You know a coin? Mm-hmm. , anything you can think of that’s small and circular. So you’ve gotta think an exercise like that is going to work on fluency. How fast can you come up with ideas? Could a circle be besides just a geometric shape and then elaboration?

Can you add lots and lots of details to each one? You know, and then kind of how flexible is your thinking When we look at that, we do just see a circle, but could we, you know, kind of get creative with what we’re doing that could we extend and break out past the circle? Have something kind of around that, that initial object.

So, so those are great fun, just really quick, easy ways. Another fun [00:24:00] one would be to take some sort of item and add it to paper. So it could be something as simple as like a piece of food. You know, it could be an m and m and you have an m and m and you put it on a piece of paper. And the m and m has to be part of the picture that you make.

It could be a pretzel, it could be, you know, anything that, that you have at home, but an object plus a pencil. Means creativity. So, so those are just a few of my favorite ones, but lots of different ways there to to think about how we can sort of, you know, encourage that creativity. 

 Another model of creative thinking that I love is [00:25:00] called Scamper.

And so scamper is all about kind of going back to that original, you know, meaning I shared of creativity and the idea that it’s not necessarily something that has to be visual art. It doesn’t have to be a performing art. That it can be really creative problem solving and innovation and maybe even inventing something new.

And so the Scamper model is the work of Bob Eberle and each letter, AMPER stands for something. And so basically you take something that already exists and you use the letters of scamper to change it. And so this is a great one for the home setting. And so I went to Lipscomb University here in Nashville for my gifted endorsement to teach.

And I had Dr. Emily Mok, that was who first introduced me to the Scamper model, but she had us try the Scamper model with an Oreo, so you could, again, take something that’s really basic, really classic. But then she had us go through each of the letter. Scamper and try to invent or create something. And so in Scamper, the S stands for substitute.

Okay. So when we think about just the classic Oreo, [00:26:00] can we think about a way to substitute either the chocolate cookie or the cream? Well, that’s a great conversation because it has been done many, many times, right? Our Oreos aren’t just one package on the shelf anymore. We have a whole half of a shelf full of all the variations.

So they are using, whether they even call it that or know it as that there are people, uh, you know, kind of in the Oreo world, in the Nabisco world who are using the elements of scamper. Well, we’ve done the chocolate cookie and the cream filling. How could we substitute, could we use graham crackers as that cookie instead of the, you know, the chocolate cookie?

Could we take out the cream in the middle? Could we substitute that for, I mean, they’ve done all kinds of things. Peanut butter and jelly and, you know, chocolate icing and all sorts of things. So the essence Scamper stands for sub. The C stands for combine. So is there any way that we could combine two items to come up with something new?

So could we combine an Oreo with something else to invent something that’s not been done before? The A stands for adapt. So how could we make changes there and adapt that Oreo? Could it be the M stands for [00:27:00] modify, so could we minimize it? Could we maximize it? Again, they’ve done that with the Oreo.

They’ve got the teeny tiny little Oreo. They have, you know, the jumbo double stuffed Oreos. So they, they’ve done some of that minimizing and maximizing the p is put to another use, which again, is that flexibility that we talked about. What are other uses for Oreos? You know, the first one that comes to my mind is we use those a lot to do moon phases at school.

And so all of a sudden it’s not an Oreo cookie for eating. It’s an essential ingredient for your next science project. And then the e stands for eliminator. Parts of the Oreo cookie that could be eliminated. And then last but not least, the R stands for reverse. So are there, you know, could we flip it out?

Could we do an inside out version so you can take that scamper model and you can use that with anything and your kids are, you’re gonna be blown away by the things that they create. By the way that they rearrange, reorganize, you know, just come up with brand new ideas you’ve never heard of before.

What if the calendar was reorganized or re, you know, kind of if we redid those dates and reordered or reversed, you know, for that letter R. So you can use that scamper method with [00:28:00] anything. But that’s just another great way to have your kiddos practicing, thinking about. , what could be possible, what could exist?

You know, I think for a lot of us, the older we get, the more the creativity is sort of driven out of us. I think we just kind of get in a more monotonous lifestyle. And so when we give kids these, you know, open-ended questions, the potential is just endless. Their imagination is endless. And if we foster that at really young ages, uh, I think there’s just really no telling how far this could go once they’re a little bit older.

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Lots of great ideas there. And so as you were sharing those, I was kind of thinking to myself as a parent, uh, . It’s like, right, how could I incorporate that one? So for example, we do, you know, a bit of commuting to and from school. Mm-hmm. , it’s not sort of in our neighborhood. And we have a few different car games that we have in the car, but I’m loving that sort of just simple as, right, right.

How many things can you think of that are blue? You know, how [00:29:00] many, and that TV show I, I watched I wonder if it was the same. Uh, Doctor that you were referring to, because some of those things were similar and he had to think of how many different uses he could think of for a shoe. Uh, and he had the doodle thing as well.

Mm-hmm. . And so it can be as simple as when you’re doing, going to and from school, having a few of those little activities in mind that you can just do, you know, driving along. Uh, we also do those sometimes. over dinner as a family, which can be really nice. And I think what I really love about all that is.

You know, we can tend to overcomplicate things. I’m speaking for myself here. I’m sure no one else does that. But , you know, overthink things and overcomplicate things. I’m sure I’m the only person listening who, who might do that. But it’s the simplicity of these activities. Actually improving [00:30:00] creativity because, and just, you know, as an interest that show I watched when he practiced for a month, he wasn’t doing any crazy kind of creativity thing.

He was literally just every day find a thing. How many different uses can I think of for a pencil or what do I go around me, uh, a computer mouse or this cup of coffee? Do you know? Like it’s as simple as that. And that can actually. improve our kids’ creativity and our creativity. If we are doing that together, it’s, it’s not sort of, This overcomplicated thing that we might think it is.

So I love this idea of incorporating those things into just our daily routines. But also I think I’m gonna have to check out that book that you mentioned, because it sounds really cool. And sometimes it’s nice as a parent because, you know, you’ll, you start off, well, maybe again, this is just me, but the first week you might.

you might remember to do it, you know, every day for three days, and then you forget. But you [00:31:00] do it the next day and by the end of the second week you’re kind of forgotten about it. And that’s when I kind of like to go, all right, where’s that book? Give me another idea. Okay, we’ll do that this week as a bit of a reminder and keeping me on track.

So that sounds like a really great resource. But you’ve, you’ve got other ideas for us as well, how we can integrate these sort of arts at home as families. So share those with us cuz these are great. 

Stephanie Higgs: Absolutely. Well, and I think a couple more kind of points on that before I move a little bit more into arts integration.

I think sharing is so important, so making sure to carve out that time of Yeah, you did that. And then I got started on, you know, dinner and I, and I wasn’t paying attention. So proud of what they create. They are just bursting to share with you, to share with sibling, to share with dad, to share with anybody that’s around.

They are so proud of what they’ve created. So definitely carving out that time for them to share. And then, like you mentioned, oh my gosh, I know the, the best of intentions, you know, the best laid plans. And then two [00:32:00] weeks later, we haven’t picked it back up. So my charge is always this, could you commit to like once a.

for three minutes and that’s it. And maybe you name it, maybe you tell, tell the kids so that they’ll help hold you accountable too. Maybe it’s gonna be, you know, on Mondays like we’re gonna have marvelous Mondays and we’re gonna have three minutes of being creative and maybe that’s what we commit to at first.

Or maybe Thursdays are, are slower night, we’ll do it on Thursday evening. But what’s Im funny is your kids will start holding you to it because they love it so much. So that was my professional goal as a teacher. I really wanted to embed more creativity and daily lessons and weekly. And so starting really, really small, not feeling like you have to do all of those really fun ideas at once, but could you find three minutes somewhere in your week and say, okay, that’s gonna be it.

That’s gonna be, you know, Monday right after dinner, we’re all gonna sit at the table. We’re all going to have, you know, kind of one of these activities and we’re gonna puzzle through that together. Or during, you know, the car ride on Tuesdays, we will play one of these games back and forth while we’re driving.

So I think that’s always great too, is [00:33:00] to start really manageable, really. Size with just one little piece and then go from there. And the fun part is it becomes their favorite thing and then all of a sudden it’s not once a week. They wanna do it once a day. And it really does seem to pick up speed.

So I think that’s important. So giving ’em time to share for sure. And then also starting really, really small and really, really simple. And then letting it kind of build up and evolve from there, because I know I just kind of shared quite a few ideas, but just starting really. . Another really important piece as we are thinking about Brian Housen is a big name in gifted education and he has this idea that we wanna be sure that we are creating pianos.

Not stereos. And the first time I heard that, I mean, it was just kind of that mind blown emoji that we want to be creating producers of art rather than just consumers. So we don’t just want the stereo that can just kind of mimic what somebody else has done or just kind of see what’s already been out there and been done.

We wanna create the piano where it’s just these endless possibilities. It’s making the music itself. So [00:34:00] really the idea of producers and consumers of the arts. And so one way that can easily be done, Through really looking at your community resources, what does your community offer in terms of the arts?

Whether that’s a performing arts theater, and that can be a commitment as even once a year that we try to visit either the children’s theater or you know, the performing arts theater that’s traveling through town. That can look like going to a visual art museum. If that’s something that’s of interest to your family, one of my favorite ways to do that is you can, you could give your kiddo like cards if you wanted to, like little index cards or you could just have them kind of come back to these questions.

But I love to give them kind of these six charges. So it’s not just kind of a free for all roaming, it’s, we’re gonna do that, but at the end I’m gonna ask you some questions and so one of those is out of this entire museum, Which piece of visual art do you think is worth the most money and why?

So if you wanted to do that on an index card, you could put, you know, a dollar sign and then take that and the kiddo takes that to which piece of [00:35:00] art they think would be worth the most money and why. So kind of evaluating that level of art. Another one. Which one would they hang in their home? So which piece of visual art would they, if they could choose one to take home, which one would it be?

And. Which one evokes the strongest emotion in your child, and why does it evoke such a strong emotion? What does it make them think of? What does it remind them of? What are they connecting that to? Is it kind of the mood of the piece? Is it kind of the tone that it’s setting? What’s kind of causing such a strong emotion?

Which one do they have the most questions about? And having a few minutes for them to kind of share some of those I wonders. What are they wondering about one of these art pieces, uh, which one would they give as a gift? Which one would they, you know, they see some value in that and they would share that with someone else.

And who would it be and why? Or even, you know, which one, kind of thinking about multiple perspectives, which one would you wanna step inside and explore further? So that’s something, you know, just kind of taking, kind of, you know, using. Experiences using community offerings and then kind of leveling those up for our gifted kiddos instead of just [00:36:00] taking them to that experience, adding just a little bit more thought, you know, really valuing them.

Again, that’s being more of a consumer of the arts, but really kind of having them evaluate that and evaluate that experience and kind of make some deeper connections there. So I would definitely encourage parents to think about all of the community offerings to which they have. And how those are gonna continue to refine.

You know, again, by this point, most of us are in that little sea level of creativity where we’re demonstrating some growth. Are we able to really evaluate pieces of art and what, and speak to what they mean to us and how they move us and and those types of things. . 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Lots of great ideas and I love it.

It’s just taking that next step of like, okay, we’re here, we’re at the gallery looking at things, but how can we now engage with and look at things in a different way, in a bit of a game? Cuz if it’s a game, then it’s always fun, of course. And, uh, engaging. Yeah, absolutely. And imagining which one would we, you know, take home, put our wolf we could.

I love that game. . Uh, so yeah, just, uh, [00:37:00] giving us permission to. Play in those spaces that, you know, feel a bit like, uh, really aren’t always play spaces, I guess , , but no, lots of lovely ideas there. I really, uh, value that you’ve given us lots of examples as parents because sometimes it’s just kind of like, oh, I’d love to do that, but where do I start?

And I think what’s really nice about this is the simplicity of it. Mm-hmm. . , , and it’s just about being a little bit consistent. , As a family and and engaging and building those creativity muscles, but it’s really very sort of easy and accessible for us. And I think what I was kind of thinking about as well as we’re talking there is obviously with gifted kids there, you know, a trait is that sort of inherent creativity and.

you know, they have that hyperconnectivity, so they tend to think, [00:38:00] have that tendency for thinking outside of the box and doing things like that. So absolutely lends itself to growing that muscle within gifted kids. Mm-hmm. . But I guess what I wanted to throw out there was something I learned that I found really fascinating was, uh, and I, let me just check what the book is called.

It’s one of my favorite books and I’m having a brain dead moment, but I will put it in the link because it’s an excellent book. I highly recommend it for all parents and. The person, the author who wrote it, is a doctor, and what they have actually done is unpacked the strengths within Neurodivergence.

And I, I kind of mentioned this because one of the things that she talked about in this book was how the A D H D brain, you know, there’s a. Part of the brain in the A D H D brain that controls impulse. And in the adh, A D H D brain, that impulse control [00:39:00] is just a little bit loose. And so it’s harder to control those impulses.

And sometimes, you know, as parents and teachers that can, uh, you know, be challenging for us to, uh, help our kids to manage. But the upside of that is creativity. So what they’ve linked that to is when we have these creative thoughts, . Often what people will do is self censor. Oh, I can’t say that or you know, but actually what they found, and this has been shown in, in the research that she referred to, was that in the A D H D brain, because they don’t have that impulse control working the same way, they don’t have that self-censoring of their creativity.

And there’s actually a little research out there linking A D H D to high levels of creativity. So you know, if your gifted kid is also A A D H D kid, Uh, just throwing it out there that maybe exploring creativity is going to tap into a potential natural strength. [00:40:00] One of the other interesting things in that book, Which also stuck with me was about the autistic brain.

And there is that tendency sometimes for autistic folk to do repetition. Uh, and within this context, what she was talking about was, and she gave this particular example of this, uh, You know, child, and, you know, the, the example went onto kind of adulthood and as a child was hyper-focused on music in a particular repetitive way, uh, during that autistic brain was, was really finding a lot of comfort.

Comfort in that repetition. But she said, what c what then can happen is you move from repetition and mimicry into, uh, morphing into their own creativity. So you start off just, uh, repeating it the same way, but over [00:41:00] time, just, uh, mimicking that can actually turn into your own expression of that. So in this example with this boy in music, uh, it started off with a very intense, uh, repetition, sort of focus on some music, but actually it grew into his own creativity.

It started there, but it kind of went somewhere else. And so I think it’s just kind. Again, uh, tapping into, uh, potential strengths and looking at that neuro divergent piece in a different way, uh, within that creativity sort of context. Uh, and because, you know, As parents, we’re always looking for ways to support our kids and help them find their strengths.

And so, uh, there’s a lot of sort of scope and things to look at. Now. I will put the details of that book and I’m kind of like kicking myself that my brain isn’t just pulling out for me because I have talked about before. It’s such a good book. And it talks about different strengths of all sorts of neuro divergence.

So there may be other things [00:42:00] in there that you’re interested in as well. But thank you so much, Stephanie. I feel like we’re all well prepared now to step into the world and work on our creative muscle. And it’s as easy as the next time I’m in the car with the kids. Tell me all the things you can think of.

That’s, that are blue. I’m just gonna start with blue. It’s in my head and we’re gonna go from there and, and sort of, and see where we end up. And so, . It’s really, it’s really great to have you sharing those theories and connecting it to these simple acts we can do. And then I think as a parent, having that, uh, confidence that actually it is this simple and it can have this much impact.

We don’t have to over-complicate it and we can do these tiny little simple things every day that can really work on this creativity muscle that can just be used. [00:43:00] Like everywhere in life, do you know any kind of, like you said, uh, you know, any kind of problem solving or, or just getting through life, that ability to look at things in different ways.

So a real gift. Uh, yeah. And so thank you for coming on and sharing that with us today. And I know that you’re an Instagram and you’ve got lots of ideas there that you share for parents and educators of gifted kids. Tell us a little bit about that and how people can find. 

Stephanie Higgs: Sure. Instagram is definitely a great starting point.

So that’s at Little Miss Gifted. There’s a link tree on there that has all the links to the other things that I’ve done. So I have kind of gotten into the YouTube world and the TikTok world a little bit sharing some specific ideas and kind of some bite size strategies, but just like I did on this podcast today, that’s always my.

Can we break it down to just one tiny step? Just one tiny, yes. Can I just try this one piece tomorrow and then you can always check back when you’re ready for the next little bite size piece. But yes, I would love to see [00:44:00] everyone on Instagram at Little Miss Gifted and like I said, that will kind of direct you to some of the other resources that I’m starting to kind of put out into that space.

That’s new for me. I just started that in December and so just a couple months old at this point. But finding great success there and, and loving that opportunity and that outlet to share not just with the teachers of the gifted, but also with parents of the gifted. So I would love to, to have anyone there the more than merrier.

So all are 

Sophia Elliott: welcome. Thank you so much and thank you so much for all of your energy at the end of a long day, and staying up for us. Uh, of course, hugely appreciate it and look forward to talking to you again, and thank you very much. We’re all gonna come back and next time we’ll all Bess. More creative we’ll be working on.


Stephanie Higgs: that’s, I have to hear how it goes. So please, if anyone tries any of these, I would love to hear from you. Even through my Instagram, you’ll see a tag to email me. So you can always just go there and that would even help you send me a message of, Hey, we tried this, or Hey, [00:45:00] we tried this. What would you suggest I do next?

Hey, this was kind of the pro, you know, the products that my kiddo made. What, what do you think about that? Where should we go from here? So, I would love to continue that conversation and support however I can. Like I said, could you start with just three minutes, once a week? And that’s a great starting point, and then kind of see how that goes and go from there.

But yes, I would love to, to hear back and hear how it’s going. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll share all of those links in the show notes for everyone so they can find you easily and, and yeah, we’ll have to touch base next time we catch up. So thank you so much for joining us today. It’s, it’s been awesome.

Stephanie Higgs: Appreciate it. Of course, Sophia, thanks for having me and anytime I would love to come back and visit the Sweet community anytime you’ll have me. So thank you so much. Awesome. See 

Sophia Elliott: you soon. Yay. [00:46:00]