#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]

#081 The Secret to Teaching Gifted Kids with Learning Differences w/ Dr Victoria Waller

#081 The Secret to Teaching Gifted Kids with Learning Differences w/ Dr Victoria Waller

In this episode, we’re talking to the vibrant and dynamic Dr Victoria Waller about teaching gifted kids with learning differences. Author, with over 40 years of experience, Dr Waller found the secret to engaging these awesome gifted kids!

Memorable quote… “

“Look at Anderson Cooper, Richard Branson, astronaut Scott Kelly. They call them learning disabilities, but they’re not. They’re learning differences. They learn differently and they use their strengths and passions to learn. And that’s what made them successful.” – 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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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to today’s podcast episodes. The secret to teaching kids with learning differences with Dr. Victoria Wala.

Now as parents of gifted kids, you might be familiar with that sense of sometimes our kids are just racing off in a certain direction and as parents we’re just kind of. Holding on for dear life as they take us on that journey with us. Well, put on your seatbelts. Strap yourself in get ready because Dr. Victoria Waller is about to take us on one of those adventures. She is an absolutely.

Dynamic energetic. Like just guesstimating woman with so much to share. And so many stories and it was such a delight interviewing her for this podcast. She is really just an absolutely extraordinary woman. And I really love. The opportunity of talking to so many of our guests who have just been [00:01:00] working in this space for, for so long and have so much wisdom and grace to offer us all and share with us all.

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

Dr. Walla has bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees. And of course, PhD. She’s been awarded the university of Cincinnati is distinguished alumni college of education award and was one of the three finalists of the LA music centers. Bravo award for outstanding teaching. She writes many articles on creative reading and writing projects for children that can be found online.

And she speaks about learning differences in children to many groups all over the United States.

Her book is just lovely. It’s called a yes, your child can. And she shares with [00:02:00] parents, teachers, and therapists have proven techniques to create success for children with learning differences. And draw out that. Particular genius within your child. It’s compassionate. Non-technical easy to understand language. It gives step-by-step guidance on how your child can achieve in school and build that the lifelong intellectual confidence. She draws in the latest science and her own wide ranging experience. And explains why it’s so important to pay attention to your first gut, feeling that your child may need extra help. And shows us how to navigate testing medication and choosing a team to help your child.

Most importantly, and this is what we. This is what this episode is about. And I think it really shows that Dr. Victoria Walla was well ahead of her times when it comes to her approach to helping these students with learning differences. She shows us how to use your [00:03:00] child’s natural strengths and passions to build their academic, social and personal confidence.

And we talk a lot about that on this show. It’s all about that strength based approach. Her big secret. And she really dives into that and gives us lots of beautiful examples. On what that looks like for different children within this episode.

And I think. Most of all Dr. Victoria Wallace shows us the difference we can make. If. We just believe in our kids. Whether they are our kids or student. Uh, grandchild, whoever they are. It’s the difference that can be made to someone’s life when they have someone who believes in them .

And it was an absolute delight to hear. So many of Victoria’s stories about her experience and how much joy she’s had working with this particular cohort of students and how amazing they really are.

Please enjoy the episode. You can subscribe to our gifted kids on our [00:04:00] website. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook, you can become a patron of the podcast. Just check out our gifted kids.com or head to all of the show notes for a whole bunch of links.

Please enjoy the episode and a massive giant thank you to Dr. Victoria Wala. For all of her time and energy and just such a delight to have this conversation with you today, please enjoy.

. [00:05:00] Victoria Waller, it’s an absolute

Dr Victoria Waller: Delight to see you today. , thank

Sophia Elliott: you so much to coming to us from across the season over the planet and uh, through the miracle of technology We got

there in the end.

Thank you so much.

Dr Victoria Waller: I’m so excited to be, to be talking to you and I love Australia so much. I wanna come back.

Yes. Well australia would

Sophia Elliott: be delighted to have you .

Dr Victoria Waller: Listen, you have to have an extra bed. I’m in. Ouch. Absolutely,

absolutely. Anytime. Um, it’s always a pleasure, such a vibrant character.

I’m like, I’m talking to Victoria today. It’s gonna be full of energy and, I’m hopefully that, , tech hiccups haven’t slapped us of all that, but let’s do it anyway. And so, Victoria, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into

the work that you’re doing now

for a [00:06:00] billion years,

I hate to say how many years, so I say over 40, but I was, I.

Over 40 and

stopped counting. I stopped counting , but I’ve always called, I like the children that I taught. I’m an educator and I liked the children who were different. Mm. And even 40 years ago, they would say they’re disabled. And I go, no, they’re really not. They’re really smart. And the funny thing was I always liked teaching them better because they were always interesting.

They always had some interesting, either a hobby or something that they knew about and would tell me about. And so right away I taught for several, I think three, five years, something like that, in a second grade. And. , there was a reading teacher there and I loved her. Uh, sadly she passed away. I loved her.

And I would always go to her room, what are you doing? What are you doing with these kids? The kids who couldn’t [00:07:00] read. Those were the ones I really liked, and I knew they were really smart, so I didn’t really understand all this, you know, Orton Gillingham and, and Getman, and they’re all disabled and well anyway, so I get married and we moved to Cincinnati.

My husband was making ice cream cones. That’s interesting. And there were no school, there was no jobs. Can you imagine? No jobs. Okay. And so I went to University of Cincinnati and I met this woman and she said, oh, come here. You can get a master’s degree. What are you interested in? I said, well, I’m really interested in kids with learning differences.

And she said, we can give you a scholarship. I mean, I think back to what schools cost now. Oh yeah. I got a full ride for a master’s degree and a doctorate because they had money and nobody was using it. Wow. So they gave it to me and I had fabulous teachers [00:08:00] and I just started learning about kids with learning differences.

Differences. Mm-hmm. And I think one of the classes that I taught, I went into the inner city and they were seventh grade boys. And the man that I was like working with taught them to read by using Motown music. Well, excuse me, I’m from Detroit. I love that. Yeah. Okay. I am from Detroit. Mm-hmm. . And I’m a Motown girl.

Mm-hmm. . So I, I was absolutely. . I couldn’t believe that he was teaching them to read. He had all the music printed out. Do you know to this day, one of the first things I, I’m an ED therapist now. The first things I ask one of my children, what’s your favorite song? And they’ll tell me a song. And some of them, it’s so funny cuz when I tell the parents what I’m doing, they go, oh, I hate that song.

Over and over all of a sudden they wanna read it. Yeah, yeah. I find blends and digs and suffixes and [00:09:00] prefixes in songs. So it’s something I still am doing. Mm-hmm. . And then I taught after that a couple more years. But as a reading teacher, and it was really funny because I had, you won’t believe this, teachers will know this.

They wanted me to teach there. They were very excited. They took a hallway, which would not be allowed. So instead of using it as an exit, they put a wall in . My literally, Two by two room and that was my reading room. Oh wow. And it was just, it was fantastic. And I loved being there and I loved doing it. And then I got my doctorate and I’ve been, I just teach all the time and I’ve always taught children with learning differences because, and I’m telling you, I’ve taught thousands of kids and I always find what they can do.

And it’s very funny, it’s in England, there’s this man called Mr. Doodles and I read about him in the week, junior Magazine, which is the [00:10:00] best magazine you could ever get for children or for me, cuz it’s all the news in a magazine, but it’s all for kids. So we can find kids love. Non-fiction. Non-fiction.

Yeah. This Mr. Doodles has doodled his entire 3000 foot home in England now. You don’t understand. Wow. The toilets every, anything that’s showing is doodled. Okay? Mm-hmm. . I was absolutely. First of all, I’ve dying to know if he had any kinda learning differences. Hmm. I’m gonna find out yet. Well, I wrote them a letter.

I said, my students I’ve read, read everything about you. They sent me a newspaper, huge newspaper on him with pictures of this house. It’s online, you have to go to Google and see it. His name is Mr. Doodles and my students are just, we’re all, so I talked, I sent a letter. I said I’d like my students to interview him.

I do a lot of interviews with famous people if a child likes somebody. [00:11:00] So the man writes me back. He’s head of something for Mr. Doodles, but he was Mr. Doodles art teacher. Isn’t that funny? And he now, I love that. That’s great. He runs his company and he said, when I read your. , it really resonated. And I said, oh, you have to tell me about Mr.

Doodle. Did he, did he read well or was he only doodling and getting in trouble? So my kids wrote questions cuz they can dictate questions to me. And then they read them and everybody goes, how could they be reading these? I said, cuz they wrote them, they know what they wanna say and they know some of the words.

So most of my students are very bright so they could read. So we had to, he’s not doing a Zoom with us, but they, I did videos of them asking him questions, like real TV producers. It was fantastic. Seven year olds reading and they can’t read. They were reading and they asked questions and Thursday, tomorrow in LA he will give us a, a video [00:12:00] back.

So he’s not doing a zoom with him. Mm-hmm. . But I’ve had a lot, lot of zooms once. I don’t wanna do Well let me tell you another story cause I’m so hopped up. Yes, please do. I believe in connecting kids with their heroes. So a student came in and I said, what? You know, what are your interests? I asked the mother goes, well, he plays video games and I’m thinking he’s gotta have something besides the video game.

And he comes in, he says, well, I really do like whales. I said, you do? Yes and sharks. I said, you do? I said, wow, that’s interesting. And he said, I love them. He could tell me every single thing about them. This is not just like, I like a whale. This is telling me things I don’t even know about. Wow. It was this summer that the man who lived in Maine was a fisherman.

A lobster fisherman. He still likes going down in the water. Now they just put those crates down to catch the lobsters. He likes going down. He was caught [00:13:00] in the mouth of a whale. Look it up on the internet. You won’t believe it. He was caught and okay. So I was, I’m like mesmerized. Right. . I said, we have to find out about this.

Like, would a whale eat him? What? You know, he, he’s alive. I asked him if he, I called him up. You know, everybody’s on Google. If you google it enough, you could find anybody’s telephone number. In fact, I love it. I love it. An author said to me, how did you find my number? And I said, well, I looked you up and it said who you were married to.

So I looked her up and I called her phone number. Anyway, this man said, um, he said, I, uh, you can, he can interview me if he wants. We did it on Zoom. This kid, I made the mother stay and watch. She thought this kid was like this dumb kid. The father was really bully, bully, bully, bully. This child interviewed him.

It was unbelievable. He [00:14:00] got caught in the whale’s mouth and he knew he lost the breathing tube and he knew, I can’t believe he knew it. He thought to himself, what’s not a shark? because it’s Bayline. So I know that I’m not gonna be killed, but he’s going to kill me if I can. So he found his, the breathing apparatus in the, the mouth of the whale, he put it back in and the whale spit him out.

Oh, wow. It’s a absolutely phenomenal story. That’s online too. It’s, and his name is, oh, Michael Packard. But it’s those kind of things that I try to find what the child likes, and I used those to teach them. And that’s what I’ve always done. And it started with, I wanted to write a book. I had one student that I, I was seeing him, he loved cooking seven years old, and I mean, cooking.

We went in the kitchen. I can follow a recipe. , [00:15:00] but if it’s missing something, I can’t tell you what it’s missing. Seven years old he’d say there’s a, we need another fourth of a spoon of salt. It doesn’t have any, let’s put a little sugar. I, I have no idea I was seeing him. This is very unusual. Two days a week after school and three hours on Saturday morning.

So we spent some of that time cooking and this child now is 17. He’s getting all A’s in school. And the parents said, you know, it was because you believed in him and you did what he loved. He even made hi, he made his hamster a hamster mitzvah instead of a bar mitzvah and Jewish, they have bar mitzvahs.

He made his hamster hamster mitzvah. He made the food. He planned out games, talk about executive functioning. So I tried to find what the kids love and used that. To help them learn to read. It’s just the way I’ve always done it. I feel, and [00:16:00] I know that these children are the geniuses of our country and our world.

They are. Look at Anderson Cooper, Richard Branson, astronauts, Scott Kelly. They all have, they call them learning disabilities, but they’re not. They’re learning differences. They learn differently and they use their strengths and passions to learn. And that’s what made them successful. Um, Richard Branson had very interesting.

He was in the spaceship and they said, okay, you were up there 10 minutes. What’s one thing you wanna tell us? He said, well, I’m dyslexic. Whatever. I’m dyslexic. So I don’t know my right for my left very well. And they. , undo your seatbelt so you can fly around, you know, on in the spaceship you get become flying around.

But because he’s dyslexic, he did the other one, which was his parachute. Oh no. Yes. But that just that one [00:17:00] thing. What did you think of That’s the one thing. The one thing, yeah. We thought of in space. And too often we talk about what’s wrong with these children and it’s absolutely wrong. We have to be talking about what’s right with them.

And my, what I did was, I wrote this book called, um, yes Your Child Can Creating Success for Children With Learning Differences. Oh, I don’t have a book to show you. Do you have a book to show me? Oh my goodness. I’m supposed to show you. I will

Sophia Elliott: definitely pop a link in of the book. Definitely.

Dr Victoria Waller: Oh, sorry. I’m supposed somebody said you always have to have your book.

Well, I wrote it cause every book that my parents opened. You see a brain, adhd, dyslexia, there’s a brain. Every parent says, I close the book. I can’t read it. Well, I can’t either. I’m not a, I’m not a medical doctor. I can’t read about the brain. I thought I have to help the teach. The parents go through this step by step.

They have to be able [00:18:00] to say, oh, wait a minute. Not gonna snap out it. He’s not lazy. He’s brilliant. And now I have to do what I have to do. So my book is like, you know, there’s a book called What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s been in the, on the time, yes. 18 years about exactly what happens when you’re pregnant every month.

And that’s what I said I’ve got to do. I’ve got to do what? They’re not gonna snap out. What is testing about? I had a parent come to the door two o’clock in the afternoon, the doorbell rings. I go over and I thought, uh oh. I opened the door. She’s hysterical. They said, I have to have my child’s brain tested.

I said, what? I said, you mean go to a neuropsychologist? She said, A brain. I mean, come on. You know that. You have to know who are the people that contest a br. You can go to a neurologist, you can go to pediatric, um, specialist [00:19:00] who specializes in learning differences. You know, getting that whole testing thing is frightening.

Getting past the fear of medication. 40 years ago they had Ritalin. That was it. Now there’s so many, and I have a little girl the other day. I said, gee, you’re really focused. She said, you know, I’m taking my, you, you had my mom send me to this doctor. She said, it’s a little tiny pill. and I said, does it help you?

And she said, yes. Because in school when I’m daydreaming, it sort of keeps me, I remember I can listen to what’s going on. It’s not anything to be afraid of anymore. It’s not like one pill or he’s gonna become a drug addict. You know, who’s become drug addicts? The kids who are 15, 16 who’ve never been tested and gotten help, that’s who takes drugs because they wanna self-medicate.

But a little tiny pill. Now, I’m not a doctor, I just can tell you what I see with the kids that do take something and it’s a [00:20:00] very small pill she takes and she’s very happy on it. She doesn’t have any, you know, they check to for side effects. Um, also getting the right person to help your child. That’s another one of my steps.

How do I do that? Who do I go to? A woman called me and said, I just wanna tell you, I have interviewed 26 people and I thought, uh oh, this is gonna be bad. Can you imagine this is gonna be a mother I don’t wanna get near. And meanwhile, of course, I, I work with a child who was brilliant, helped him to read, write.

He’s now getting all eight, is very big private school. So I told her, well, the 27th one was good luck then. Yes. Also, in my book I talk about, you know, and you know, it’s very funny, you don’t have to have somebody with a doctorate work with your child. You don’t. One of my students, once he left me, I don’t do like seventh grade, eighth grade, I can’t do the homework.

It was just a [00:21:00] girl that he really, he liked listening to her and she told him how to help and how to study. She was really good at study skills. You know what, it has to be someone that they get, that it’s somebody they connect with that can teach them. It does not have to be me with the doctorate. It does not have to be some specialist.

It can be, I’m sat at a table with somebody a couple months ago. and she said, oh, I have differences. And she’s 32 dresses, movie stars in Hollywood. Very, very successful. And she said, my second grade teacher loved history and math and all that. She took me all the way through high school and I’ve never heard that.

I could never do the math. I can’t do the new math in the fifth grade. And she said I loved her. She took me all the way through and I had differences and I was able to do it. That’s important. Also, the child’s team. Who are they and who’s like, I would be head of the team or teacher. Could be. And you have [00:22:00] everybody meet maybe twice a year.

How is the child doing? You know, I write a report every single time I see a child, not 20 pages. These are the things we did. This is what I saw she needed. And the teachers all write back to me about this is what we’re doing in class. Otherwise, a lot of the tutors just, they come in and they’re making go kaka kapa.

That that’s not teaching them how to read and write and to do executive functioning. Um, my book also go, goes with activities, books. There’s a whole list of books. Uh, vacation meltdowns, finding your child’s strengths and passions, number one. Number one, number one, number one little girl came in the other day, 20 pages of definitions.

I’m thinking def on geography definitions. What am I gonna do with, she just would have to memorize them. I took her in the garage and then 15 minutes I said, here’s on Amazon [00:23:00] Box and other boxes, and I have lots of stuff in my, oh, this is my garage where you see these books. And then I have all those, those things there have stuff in them for the kids to make stuff.

I said, I want you to make the geography. Make an ocean. Make a forest. She made all the thing, the teacher wrote back, she made her take it to school. She said she got an A on this test because she saw it. Mm-hmm. , it wasn’t, you know, she’d saying, ocean, where is that? And it took 15 minutes and every kid, you can tell a ch, everybody bring an Amazon box to school today.

It wouldn’t have taken the teacher. They don’t like to lose time in class. It wouldn’t have even taken a half hour. And those kids would’ve done the whole thing, stuck it on with garbage, whatever, and they’d all get A’s, mm-hmm. . Everybody either doesn’t have time, doesn’t wanna do it, you know, you have to change.

The teachers have to change what they’re doing too. It’s not all about [00:24:00] reading, writing, and memorizing. I can guarantee you this little girl’s not gonna ever forget that geography. She won’t. because she did it. She saw it, she touched it. Um, I have lots of book lists. I think the book, the book is for teachers, parents, educators, college professors, teaching, reading, because it goes through everything and it goes through lots of activities.

I have a lot of activities that the parents can do or teachers can do, but I’m always into what their strength is and it’s very easy to, you know, it’s funny. I mean, I call everybody like, um, they had a contest, doodle dazzles. Do you know Doodle dazzles? No. Markers? Yeah, the markers. Yeah. Yep. Oh, the, that’s markers in the whole world.

So she had a contest. Mm-hmm. . I get my kids to enter contests and I usually write a little note. They have learning differences. I cheat a little bit [00:25:00] because that makes the person, first of all, I know their artwork or anything is fantastic. I cheat a little because I tell who they are that makes them say, oh, I should give this kid, you know, something.

And they win. They win contests. I always have. I mean, I always say to them, you might not win, but they always win because they’re usually very bright in anything they do. But all of these things, the passions and strengths is what you wanna do. And if your child, you know, you know, I love when I ask a parent, what’s your child good at?

And they’re so scared about what they’re not good at. They don’t think about that. The boy with the, um, that interviewed Michael Packard, he came in the next time I have it over here, I could show you. He made me, now I use plasticine, you know that easy Clay? He used real clay. and he made a whale out of real clay.

And then he had feet, the man’s feet, sticking outta his mouth. But I [00:26:00] mean, he’s, and he drew a picture of my dog. Now, anybody who draws a picture of my dog, you know I love them. I mean, you know, and it’s adorable. I said to the mother, he’s extremely artistic. I mean, I said, what is he good at? She said, video games, that’s not what he’s good at.

So I used what he was good at in art and whales and sharks, and then I did all that. I taught him blends and diagrams and anything he needed to know, and that’s what I do. But parents can be doing that at home, but they have to follow my step by step. They have to take the bull by the horns and not think they’re going to snap out of it.

They’re not.

Sophia Elliott: [00:27:00] So let’s talk about that.

Um, so what is the step-by-step journey? I think you’ve mentioned a few chapter titles there, but what is that sort of journey that you talk

Dr Victoria Waller: about in your book? Well, that’s, that’s exactly what it is. It’s realization. He’s not snapping out of it. Oh, he’s lazy. Do you know?

Now listen to this. This is very sad. Two statistics that just came out. 48% of parents believe their child will snap out of it. They’re totally wrong. They’re not snapping out of it. 33% of teachers think the kids are lazy. That bothered me more than the parents. , but the actual step by step, and you can see it in, um, in the, uh, front of my book because it’s, you know, what is, why will they not step out of it?

What’s testing? [00:28:00] What about medication? Hiring the right person, just what I said before. Mm-hmm. , the reading, the writing technology, finding their strengths and their passions. That’s probably number one. But I think you have to come to the realization your child isn’t lazy and they’re not gonna snap out of, and you’ve got to get some help, whether it’s a tutor or getting them tested.

It was funny, one of my little students said in my room, you can’t see by here, but the room I work in is very small and I do have, do dads all over. They’re, I call ’em do dads, but I do, I have the shark and I have, I have loads of Pokemon and everything like that. and the little girl said to me, oh my God, that doctor that I went to, I said, he’s the most lovely person.

I think he’s a little, has some little issues. Maybe he might be a little Asperger. It’s okay. He’s bright, he’s smart. She said, you should see his room. It’s filled with things. I [00:29:00] said, oh, like my room . And she said, yeah, but I don’t mind it in your room. Maybe when they first come in, maybe they look at everything and then maybe, but it is filled with pictures of kids and Pokemon and little rabbits, , everything in my room.

I think it’s so funny. But that is the big thing, is to read the book and follow along. What do I do? Another thing, child finally gets on medication. Great. They’re going on a vacation. The parents go, we’re gonna not let ’em take the medicine during vacation. It’s a vacation. , what do you think happened? Oh, yeah.

It’s not pretty. It was, it was miserable. It was horrible. Yeah. So why would he said, I said, it’s, we take whatever we take if we’re older. I’ve always had a thyroid thing. I’ve taken a pilsen’s, I’ve been 25. I mean, it’s okay. It makes him not anxious and not doing those things that he does that makes his parents upset and [00:30:00] makes him listen.

The kids are upset with themselves, but it’s a very important, easy book to follow. Like what to expect when you’re expecting. It will tell you who to choose. It’ll, it’ll list all the people should you get. You know, it’s not necessary to get a $7,000 test by a neuropsychologist. A good pediatric, uh, uh, uh, pediatrician who is a developmental pediatrician can do the same thing and it’s paid by insurance.

Mm-hmm. , you know, from a doctor, and they’re fantastic. . Yeah. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s finding that thing that what are their passions? What are my child’s strengths? And it’s making them, you know, feel good, find out about it. Um, it was funny, one, one of my students was into Google, this was like seven years ago, and he said, Vicky, why did you do when you didn’t have Google?

And when I went to a place called a library and I opened [00:31:00] these weird things called books, and that’s what I did. The funny thing is not long. We studied Google, not long after I’m in Argentina, in, um, in Argentina, there’s a man with two kids. So I always talk to kids to find out what books they like and I said, oh, where are you from?

And he goes, mountain View California. I said, mountain View, California. I said, Google . I said, well, yeah, yeah. He’s like President of Paris, Google. And he’s vice president of all of Google. And guess where Vicky took her student? Not to Paris, but we went to, we went to um, place here in California with his father.

And we went and we toured and he interviewed this vice president who’s now president. We’re still in contact with him, by the way, which is so good. Brilliant. Well, cuz he says, I wanna work at Google. I said, wow, you’re gonna be going to college in a year. You can work at Google in your summers. And the man is wonderful.[00:32:00]

But it was so funny, when we went to Google, every room had a big bowl of candy. Wrap candy. Well, this seven-year-old was going, oh my gosh. And taking, and his father kept saying, stop eating the candy. So I was putting in, in my purse, of course I was gonna give him the candy and when, and I was so excited about the day and him interviewing and going all over Google and he was eight when we were on our way home.

I said, what was really important to you? And he said, gosh, there was candy in every room and you could have as much candy. I’m gonna work here when I grow up. I said, well, truthfully, big sign. Bring your dog to work. I’m there. I’m there.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, that’s great.

Dr Victoria Waller: That’s absolutely brilliant. Just finding with, I just, I try to find whatever interest kids, and besides being on the computer, I do think.

Covid has been very difficult. Mm-hmm. , because our kids have, I thought they would love being on the computer. They love doing [00:33:00] games and stuff. They became addicted to the computer, but not teaching. They got addicted to doing things, and you can hardly, I mean, they’re on the computer all the time and they’re playing games and it’s hard to get them off.

I mean, everybody has to make rules. You have to make rules. You know, you do your homework, you have an hour of that, and that’s it. It’s really, it’s been very tough, I think for children, for everybody, teachers.

Sophia Elliott: Very, very challenging, , navigating screen time. But Victoria, you’re, you are clearly ahead of your time in terms of focusing on that strength-based approach to learning.

And you’ve talked a little there about how as parents, we can, dig into, , what our kids’ passions are. Have you got any tips for parents about how do we, how do we, , unpack those strengths and passions and, you know, how do we find the whale beneath all the video games,

Dr Victoria Waller: [00:34:00] so to speak?

Right. Well, usually though, they’ll have something if they’re like, I have found the kids like stuff like an young kids, animals, sports, if they’re a sports nut, get some books about their favorite players. I mean that Now we have Google. I know it sounds dumb, but you can at least go on. Look at Mr. Mr.

Doodles. I read a little tiny squibb about ’em this big, that’s all. And I thought, who is this? I went right to Google and there’s thousands of pictures of him. So used. You can use the computer as a learning base. If they love, I mean, I think the way to get them off of computer as much as you can is get them if they, like many of my students who have learning differences are very creative.

Whether it’s building stuff, whether it’s, it’s just funny to me that it, that tends to be what they’re really good at. Animals. They love building things. They love creating their [00:35:00] storytellers, but they may not be able to write. Then you say to them, listen, let’s go. Let’s go to, uh, the aquarium. Okay. And he loves every animal.

When you get home, what did you love about it? Give me five things. Type it up for them. If they’re little, you can type it up. You go to a museum, get a book on the, the sharks that you can cut out things and write, you know, so they have that little book to read. And your older kids, they all have something.

Most of them have, I have found they like sports and they like, they like interesting stories. All of my students are really smart and they like interesting stories. Like Mr. Doodles, it would, that would be something they go, whoa, like, look at this. I mean, you look at, you can’t even believe it. The funny thing is, one of the questions the kids ask, so you’re having a baby, are you gonna make the baby?

Are you gonna draw on the baby face? You don’t understand. They wear all doodle clothes. Oh wow. No. [00:36:00] Everything is doodles. All right. I will have to,

Sophia Elliott: definitely a couple. Mr. Doodles. I’ll definitely put Mr. Doodles in the show notes. , I feel like we all need to see

Dr Victoria Waller: this , right? But I think what you have to do is try to find what their strengths and passions are.

I’ve never met a child that didn’t like cook. It’s very funny. I would think it would be a girl. A lot of my boys like cooking. Mm-hmm. . Now your therapist that you choose may not be as crazy as me and you know, do cook with them, but they’re fun things. You can cook, you can make, you know, baby sushi, whatever I made it with, she made it with, um, oh, I can’t remember.

It wasn’t real sushi, but she may, she, they come up with whatever they wanna make. One that had the, the. bar mitzvah for the the hamster mitzvah. Have them have a party, have a readathon. You know, your three friends come over and they get a sleepover in a half hour. You read and then a half hour you do an art [00:37:00] project.

If they, like a lot of the kids like art, art sports, that’s what they like a lot. And using just anything that’s creative. These are kids that are interested in so many things. They’ll come in, they’ll say, I’m interested in, you know, just, I mean anything. You know, one kid was interested in Mattel cars. I just got a letter from him.

He’s in his third year, N Y U, and he’s going, I think business. And he loved Mattel, their little cars. Okay. But they’re old. I read an article in the newspaper about the man who’s head of Matchbox cars at Mattel. What did he have? He said, well, I didn’t focus much in school. I knew what he had. Okay. I called Mattel.

I said, may I speak to whatever his name was? And I said, I told him about this kid. I said, what you wrote about that you really have to focus and care about what you do? Will you let us come there? He said, sure. [00:38:00] So the kid walks in third grade and his teacher thought he was stupid, which I love that she used that word.

I was ready to, I mean, I have to be careful what I say to her, but I really was very upset. And we go to Mattel, we walk in the door. That was it. Two hours. I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were talking about the color, and when it came out, little tiny, those cars, the little Mitch box. Yeah, yeah.

When did it come out and what’s it worth? Because old ones are worth, and the outside of the Mattel building, this is weird. It’s not. There’s no name. because it’s so, making those cars is like a secret. Oh, wow. . And he had questions. He had to interview him and then we had to go back. He had to write the answers and we took a video and everything, but I tried whatever they’re interested in.

I just tried to find that person or what they’re interested in, and I just try to, you know, take them there or [00:39:00] do something with them. The one who like to cook, we have a chef here in la, Nancy Silverton. She’s been around for 30 years. I’ve known her since before she was a cook, and she, he was allowed to follow her a whole night.

And I said to him after, I said, what did that mean to you? You know that she’s such a good chef? He said, no, it was the way she worked. He said, Vicky, she was such a hard worker. I said, well, but look what she’s produced. You want fun? Funny. He still likes. . He’s like 12th grade now. He’s, I won’t, I won’t be surprised if he goes into something with cooking still.

He had it, he had a knack for it. Unusual for a little kid. You know, they like to make cookies. Yeah. But they don’t, he wanted to make all kinds of stuff. Um, and then I had, it’s an interesting story. I bumped into a mom. So you talked to Dr. Waller. We and my kids say, if we have to hear that one. My, my gr adult children.

Yeah. How many times do we walk by somewhere and [00:40:00] somebody goes, are you Dr. Waller? She says he is now at, um, Harvard in his second year. And I’m like so shocked. Okay. He was a child who, English was a second language. He was in my reading center and everybody thought he was stupid. The teacher too thought he was stupid.

Okay. Cuz he didn’t talk much. But I think it was because he didn’t, he could speak English, but it was sort of broken a little bit. So that I think he felt funny about it. And we were having a big play on Nina Laden’s. I love her. Nina Laden’s book. The Night I Follow My Dog, we’re in Hollywood. So the parents made me a backdrop.

They made dog costumes and we sang songs from Mama Mia. But they changed the words and made to this. And he came up to me one day and he said, may I play the music with my guitar during the play? I said, I think that would be fantastic. And my partner at school goes, [00:41:00] you’re letting him do what? I said, he doesn’t speak okay, whatever with language.

But he said he can play the guitar. He said, well, does he? Do you think he plays it well? I said, you think I care? I don’t care if he strums one note. He’s a kid who appears. Can I tell you something? He was the most fantastic guitar player you’ve ever heard. And at the end, Nita Elda got up and she said Thank you to the kids and how great a play it was.

And thank you. To the, I’m gonna cry to the guitar player who made it fantastic. This mother said to me that letting him do that and him getting that from Nina Laden, she said, he is at Harvard now. She said it changed his whole view. It was beautiful, beautiful. So if you find, and I think everybody just has to do, I think you have to re if you have a child, you know, it doesn’t even have to have, they have to have differences.

Maybe they’re just different and they walk to a beat of a different drummer. You know, my book will help you. And it’s [00:42:00] all written. And it’s so funny, the woman who edited it said, I wanna put a blue box at the end of every, every chapter with a summary. and went, I said, fine, I don’t care. And when it came out, I thought that was genius because if you look up executive functioning, you think, I don’t wanna read that whole chapter.

You look up the blue box and it tells you the 10 important points. So I said that was probably the best. Well, that’s why I’m an editor , and you’re a writer. But that’s what I did. And that’s, you know, I, it is just, I’ve never, I’ve only found a child fail, but I don’t know if they failed. When one of the parents is saying he doesn’t need anybody.

He’ll be fine. She’ll be fine. And they never either. Never were they weren’t because you didn’t help them. You need to get them help early. You see it, you can see it early by five six if your child has speak. Oh, it’s another [00:43:00] thing. I’m sitting in a classroom and I said to the parents, you know, he’s seven and he has a lisp, and it makes it hard for him to spell.

because that is d a t. The words are all, and the parents looked at me and said, you must be thinking of a different child. And this is a really big, big Hollywood producer. And they leave and I think I’m gonna be fired at this job, that’s for sure. I open my mouth, so I go running to see the kid. I’m right.

I was right. I didn’t write it down for nothing. Yes, of course. And the parents went and got him help. But they don’t realize things like that, that that’s spelling, that’s reading, that’s listening. I mean, anything like that you want, it’s just like with attention issues. You want to help the child so that they do attend.

It’s funny, I had one child and in my room there’s a, a, a window and I have a big tree. I can’t remember the name of it. It’s just huge. [00:44:00] Okay. And he was with me three years and one day he said, you know, you have an alligator in your tree. . I said, what an alligator in my tree. And I look outside and the way the bark goes, it’s an alligator.

He hasn’t been with me in 12 years and every time I look out my window, I see an alligator in the tree. But he was, he wasn’t focused. He was looking at an alligator in the tree. You know, they don’t have, kids don’t have to be hyperactive. I find the kids that the parents aren’t sure what’s wrong are the kids who are inattentive.

Yeah, yeah. Calling them 10 times and they’re not coming. Although that everybody’s doing that now. Cuz the computers, mm, you call ’em 10 times and they don’t pay attention to you. But it’s just, we too often, we talk about what’s wrong with these children. We have to start talking about what’s right with them.

I can guarantee you I’ve taught thousands and I’m right about all of them. All of them. It sounds to me,

Sophia Elliott: Victoria, what you really give these kids, um, [00:45:00] you know, above everything else is

Dr Victoria Waller: you believe in them. Yes.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. You help them find that thing that, , lets them thrive and shine and just give them that space to shine in whatever way they’re going to shine.

And, uh, uh, I have, I, I didn’t, correct me if I’ve asked this question already, maybe I have, maybe haven’t. But, um, what I was thinking of as we’re talking is, and wondering how much has changed over the years. How much have you seen change in this space of learning differences? And these particular

Dr Victoria Waller: kids who,

Sophia Elliott: you know, people think aren’t particularly bright, but actually are really bright, but they’re just having this learning difference and struggling to shine, find that place to shine.

And so, yeah. I’m curious that, have you seen a shift to change? [00:46:00] Yes. No. You know, like hopefully. But um, yeah, like just over the, over the, over the years. What do, what’s, are we getting better? No. Okay. Darn it.

Dr Victoria Waller: Darn. Um, because they’re still calling it dyslexia. Horrible word. Dyslexia means inability to read that would, you know, I know children who are severely disabled, severely, I don’t even know what you, and they might not be able to learn to read because something is wrong with their brain.

Mm-hmm. , I don’t like that word. I don’t like disabilities because they have abilities. I mean, I’ve, how many? I’ve seen thousands of kids. I think there’s not enough teaching in college. . Um, I sent my book to my friend who’s a president of a college, and I said, please get the books for your teachers. And it’s not, you have to understand, it’s not that the teachers don’t wanna do it.

You go to college, you [00:47:00] get one class in reading and you read about how to teach reading. You have a book, you have this, you have that writing. You hear about phonics. They say there’s the big fight between phonics and whole language bologna. It’s all of it. I mean, I don’t sit there going, ah, ah, ah, I would do it like the song.

Okay. And it’s a song that has a lot of s st. Words that I’m gonna be doing blends, I’m gonna be, but I take it whole to part. Yes, they have to do phonics, but they don’t do it in isolation going, ah, ah, ah, which they’re still doing. A lot of these programs have been around since the seventies, and I think they need to start.

Thinking about the passions and strengths and teaching in a way that involves these passions and strengths, but they have to learn to teach. And I, I think you’re just not getting it in college. You’re gonna get one class on reading, maybe one book. [00:48:00] And even now a young, you know, a young teacher will say, oh, he must be dyslexic.

I go, no. He probably has yes, learning differences and maybe this is a good time to talk to the parents, but they, they look at them differently. Parents still go, do you think my kid is that word? Do you think he’s, no, he’s not that word. Does he have differences? Yes. Can it be helped? Yes. Take my book. Look at how to go the step by step and what to do.

A parent just wrote me a letter, beautiful letter, and I made her do the step by step and she wrote a letter and said she just. Can’t get over the difference in the child in one year, how I’ve made them see what they should do. Mm-hmm. . Now they went for the big test that cost a lot of money and, and I have to tell you something, it was 50 pages long.

It took me hours to read it, even though I’ve read them all the time. Parents didn’t know what, and you [00:49:00] know what? They made a mistake. They put the wrong child’s name in the report. And do you know why? Well, because a lot of it is Boiler point. She didn’t do that. He didn’t do that. So then it’s this, so they have basic things to fill a 50 page report.

I mean, who writes a 50 page report with words a parent doesn’t understand? Yes. Um, I think that’s, I think a lot of people are going towards pediatric, um, uh, pediatricians, developmental pediatricians versus the $7,000. And then, and at the end of the, this big report, this woman did. The parent went, so what do I do now?

And this woman who is a wonderful, um, neuropsychologist, really brilliant. She says, I don’t know how to teach him. I can tell you what’s wrong. You have to ask Vicky what to do, Vicky, I’ll tell you. So I think, you know, you have to find the school. Listen, schools have very good testing. I have to [00:50:00] tell you that.

Very good testing. It doesn’t cost anything. Mm-hmm. , they have very good testing and you have to get somebody good to work with your child. Yeah. And it could just be a teacher that they really like. My student the other day said, I can’t stand this reading teacher, my school. I said, why? You’re, you know, learning to reach.

She says, she makes me, if the word is catchy, makes me go. I went, oh dear. You know, it’s old fashioned or it’s, they don’t know how to do any better. And they think that’s the way you do it. . I think you have to be eclectic and do it all. Cat. I would teach with this at Sound, cat, rat, sat, you know, and then make, oh, let’s make up a poem about that.

And they’ll remember it. If you sit there going a a, ah, they’re not gonna remember. A child with learning differences will have difficulty. Maybe a regular, a child who can read easily won’t. But I have found once I work with a child, they learn to read the hard They I’m now, they, they comprehend [00:51:00] way above.

They’ll comprehend what I love as a child will read it a chapter in a book and they will pick out things that I didn’t think about when I was, cuz I read fast now. Okay. And I think it’s so funny they pick out the really things that are interesting to them. You know, it’s interesting. It’s very interesting the way, the way.

Kids read and the way teachers are teaching, you know, they want them to sound out, they want them to do these things. And I think it’s not whole language verses there’s no verses. It’s all of it put together in a way. And we teach a child. It’s not I’m for this, I’m for the, no, it’s all in a circle. My child, one of the kids, my students, the mother said, I’m taking him to Linda mood bell.

Now I have to tell you, Vicki Waller did Linda Mood bell in 1975. That’s how old I am. The New York Times had it called, um, it was called teaching resources. [00:52:00] And it was called Lynn Mood Bell, but whatever. But it was the New York Times. So I, I go to conferences and they always give you, they used to give teachers freebies and they sent me the whole box.

It was so boring. And so I, I I, and I’m going what I wanna do, stuff that the children read a story about, you know, about Mr. Doodles and who is that and what’s he like and tell me about him and make a picture about him doodle something. I was so shocked. And so I, I, I used it for a little while and it just, it was not my thing.

Fast forward 10 years ago, they now have Linda Mood Bell centers all over. I personally think that Linda Bell is a genius cuz she took the New York Times teaching resources. She bought it from them, which cost nothing, I’m sure. Then because they didn’t really care about it. She has these all over the world and the mother says to me, Well, the problem is it’s so boring.

He hates it. And he learned to read, but he [00:53:00] hates reading. I said, well, that’s a good outcome. Learn to read. But he hates reading. Hmm. You wanna get with somebody that he’ll like reading, you know, your child to great literature. Read to your child every, even, you know what, fourth and fifth graders get a good book and read to them.

Hey, they love to be read to. And plus the fact if you can get ’em off the computer, but you know, that’s a nice thing to do. Um, I think my son is still finding good books for my sixth grader, seventh graders. Still reading to them. Yeah. Just as an enjoyable time. Oh, listen, I, now, I do that by reading articles and I’ll say, I found a great article and I’ll read an article to them.

Listen, we’re living in, I don’t know. I’m worried because a lot after Covid, we’re losing a lot of teachers. They don’t wanna do it anymore. It’s really sad. , I worry about that. And they’re not really being taught, they’re doing, just like the teacher, I’m telling you, this teacher is such a good [00:54:00] teacher and she just gave this 20 pages of definitions, 20 pages of definitions on geography and all she had to do, let’s just put together, just let them take a half hour out.

You know? Or just let them make something. Then they, and they’re not that, they’re bad teachers. I’m dealing with some very good teachers and the kids love them, but I look at them and I think, whoa, you know, the kids that are having difficulties, this is not an easy class to be in. Yeah,

Sophia Elliott: absolutely. Very challenging.

So what would be the last thing you would wanna tell parents and educators about the children? We’ve been talking about those children with learning differences, uh, and like you said, the. , you know, the dyslexia, the A D H D, all the, the learning challenges that many of our, um, very [00:55:00] gifted kids,

Dr Victoria Waller: uh,

Sophia Elliott: struggle with.

Um, you know, what can we kind of walk away from this conversation with? And I think especially as parents, it’s

Dr Victoria Waller: like, well, they’re scared. Yeah. Yeah. They’re scared. Yeah. Yeah. And they’re worried. And probably the mother father have differences. That’s what’s funny. One of my fathers went, I have a company for 20 million, and I’m just, and he’s just like me.

I said, right, but right now, maybe he needs a different kind of learning. And he didn’t. This child was so sensitive. The father was a tough, tough guy. And he said, tough it up. And the kid was sweet and sensitive, and the father was really bashing him when the father had the same problems. , you have the same problems.

But if, you know, I said, get him help, and he’ll be just like he’ll, he’ll be able to be successful. I don’t know if he’ll do it. You do, but he’ll be successful. But [00:56:00] you have to help him. But my thing is, you buy my book first because it takes you on that journey and you choose, okay, I’m gonna do this now. It takes you, it’s readable.

There’s no brains in it that you have to look at a brain , and it takes you on a successful journey with your child who has passions and strengths. And yes, they will succeed. They will. I promise you. Yeah. I never, no, I love that. But if the parents follow what I’m saying, and they don’t have to use me, but they got a good tutor for them that the child liked.

You know, if a child hates a tutor, it’s really not gonna help. You know? There’s one mother who said, you know, I took him to Linda Mundell every day, and he cried and screamed and yelled. I said, did he learn to read? She says, yeah, but now he won’t touch a book. Good. That’s great. Yeah. So you have to accept it and think to yourself, you know, don’t think the child’s lazy.

Cuz they’re not lazy. They want to do it and they want to succeed. And I [00:57:00] know they have strengths and passions. I know they do. Mm-hmm. . I know they do. Yeah. Yeah.

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Okay, so Victoria, how can people find you in your book? What’s the best

Dr Victoria Waller: places to look? Well, my book is on Amazon. Is it? Is it where you live?

Is it in any stores there? I don’t know. You’d have to check, but I know it’s on Amazon. I’ll put

Sophia Elliott: the links in the show notes. Yes.

Dr Victoria Waller: Amazon. And you know what have them. They’ll get a lot of good ideas on my Instagram. I think, I can’t remember, I think it’s Dr. Victoria Waller. I don’t know, something like that.

If you put that in Google, Dr. Victoria Waller, Instagram. Go to the Instagram. Mm-hmm. , because I’m posting like ideas and different things my students have done so they can also get ideas and get feelings for, you know, what is this all about? What should I do? But my book really is, yes, your child can, and it really.

It’s creating success for children with learning differences. And that’s what you want. If you, truthfully, when somebody says their child is a learning difference, I go, what’s he good at? Because I know there’s something really [00:58:00] good there. . Yeah. No, I love that. You have, you know, even if it’s after school, you get them into whatever they’re into, whatever they love.

If they, they’re not getting it at school. Mm-hmm. a lot, a lot of the problems too. I find that my students will learn to read. They pretty much learn to read pretty fast. I do lots of things that they’re inv, they like, whether it’s whatever they like, I work on that, songs, whatever that, but I find that the writing spelling is the hardest.

That’s the hardest. I do a lot of phonograms, like a t e is eight rate. May I do that? So they see a hole and then you put a letter to it. I try to pick them out of things they like, but um, . I think that’s probably writing and executive functioning, doing step by step to do something. How do you do it? What do you start with?

Okay. And parents can help. That’s in my book. It’ll [00:59:00] teach you

Sophia Elliott: Uh, Victoria, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was so fun. You’re such a delight. Thank you for

Dr Victoria Waller: your energy, . We’ll see you soon.

 Thank you so much.

#080 Parents Guide to Gifted Kids’ First Year of School – 5 Things You Need To Know

#080 Parents Guide to Gifted Kids’ First Year of School – 5 Things You Need To Know

In this episode, our host Sophia Elliott takes us through the big 5 things you need to know about a gifted kids’ first year of school. 

  1. When should my gifted child go to school?

  2. Where should my gifted child go to school?

  3. How do I work with the School?

  4. What do I need to know about the academic journey?

  5. How do we get through the year looking after their social and emotional well-being?

Memorable quote… “

“What are the top five things that we really need to know as parents? 

This episode is kind of like the cliff notes, and maybe that’s showing my age. Anyone born after the seventies may not know what Cliff notes are, but back in the day, if you had to do an assignment on a book, but you didn’t have time to read the book you would buy a tiny little book called Cliff Notes, which just told you about the book. 

They were great. So this episode’s like the Cliff Notes on the previous episodes and all the great things that you need to know about that first year of school and a bunch of extra tips.

So thank you so much for joining us on this.” – Sophia Elliott

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Parents Guide to Gifted Kids’ First Years of School Series:

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Hit play and let’s get started!


Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to our final episode in the series that we have been unraveling over the last month. The Parents Guide to Gifted Kids first year of school, and we have been on quite a journey. We started out with. A parent of a gifted child, Emily, who had lots of questions and was the inspiration for this whole series, getting in touch and saying, do you have a podcast that covers all these things already?

I was like, no, but let’s make one. So we did. So she was very brave. Thank you, Emily, for joining us on this journey and in that episode, because they were just going into that first year of school, we had a conversation about what was the journey so far.

What are the questions they have, uh, as you’re entering that first year of school? And then we had our episode with Stephanie Higgs, who is, , an educator and differentiation coach for gifted students. And Stephanie [00:01:00] was able to give us some great insights from that educational perspective about some of those big questions as well.

And then we wrapped up with a great episode from Jess Farago. And Jess had just completed their first year of school with her gifted child. And so it was really great to kind of have that reflective conversation of all the things that they’d learned along the way.

So today’s episode is a bit of a wrap up. What are the sort of top five things that we really need to know as parents? It’s a, it’s kind of like the cliff notes, and maybe that’s showing my age. Anyone here born after the seventies may not be know what Cliff notes are, but back in the day, if you had to do an assignment, On a book, but you didn’t have time to read the book.

You would buy a tiny little book called Cliff Notes, which just told you about the book. They were great. So this episode’s like the Cliff notes on the previous episodes and a bit of [00:02:00] a summary of all the great things that you need to know about that first year of school and also a few extra tips and things, uh, about what you might expect.

So thank you so much for joining us on this. Let’s get into this episode. If you want to support the podcast, you can certainly leave a review, leave us a tip in the tip jar, or even become a podcast patron. You can join us on Facebook or Instagram, and it’s a delight to have you listening. So let’s get stuck.

 [00:03:00] Okay, let’s do it. Let’s get stuck into this conversation. So, I’ve kind of really tried to find five key areas of things that you need to know, and this, this hurts me because, um, it hurts to summarize so small, but I’ve done my best. So first of all, we’re gonna go into when, when should a gifted kid go to school?

Where should a gifted kid go to school, working with your school? Then we’re gonna look at the academics and then we’re gonna look at the social emotional. So they’re sort of the five big areas about

getting into that year and how to get through that year.

So let’s start with when. When is the best time for your gifted child to start school? And I’m going to start here with the wise words of Stephanie Higgs [00:04:00] in her episode. And she actually said, well, Maybe there’s not a right answer to this question. We talked about the, the pros and cons of starting early, starting with their same aged peers, even starting later, which is often the advice for children who are born later in the year or sometimes boys and maybe they’re just isn’t a right.

It’s the kind of answer that’s going to be different from one family to the next, one child to the next, and very much about what that particular child needs, their maturity, uh, their cognitive ability. There’s so many things at play here. I also think it was very telling that Emily shared her experience of when they got the psych evaluation done for their child, who that did.

Clarify and confirm that they were gifted that it wasn’t so much about when that child went to school, but [00:05:00] actually about where that child went to school.

So I know it’s very painful not to have an answer because I think as parents, we have this problem in front of us and we just wanna solve the problem Now, preferably today, preferably if we can, but sometimes there is no right answer. And sometimes these challenges are sort of long term challenges and we need to.

Just relax into knowing it’s more about making the best possible decision that you can with the information you have and the options that you have available, and that’s going to be very different from family to family. For some families, they may have the privilege of staying home for longer and allowing their children that extra time before engaging in formal education for other families.

There’s a real need to actually. Get that train going because the financial sacrifices of not working just can’t be made. So again, it’s not about wrong or right, it’s about doing what is [00:06:00] best for your child and your family. Because in meeting the needs of the child, we also need to meet the needs.

Or at least consider the needs of parents and the rest of the family as well. Because if we make one decision, which is great for one person in the family, but actually completely writes off everyone else in the family, well, it’s not really going to give us that outcome that we are really looking for.

It’s going to cause a potentially, Broader harm. So we might need to compromise those positions and do the best we can for that person and allowing us to do the best we can for everyone else as well. So I guess it’s just a little bit of reassurance and validation that if you’re finding this a really difficult decision, if you’re doubting yourself, then really it’s.

What’s the best possible thing that you can do? What’s the best possible decision that you can make at this point in time? And just go with that.

We also talked a lot about [00:07:00] where should a gifted child go to school. So that was our number two. And it is a big question. And ultimately, when it comes to education of our children, We either do it ourselves or someone else does it for us. And there are a lot of families who do homeschool, they’re gifted children.

And if you have capacity to do that, then that could be available option for you. But many of us aren’t able to make those choices. And so we’re actually, we are looking for someone else to take care of that educational journey for our kids that may. Public schooling, or it may be private schooling.

And as we’ve discussed, if we could just throw money at a solution, then at least we would know that we were getting a particular outcome. But unfortunately, when it comes to the education of gifted kids, not even that is a sure thing. It doesn’t actually matter whether it’s private or [00:08:00] public. There are some.

Schools that are public and there are some great schools that are private. , it’s not down to one particular sector. It’s very much about. The leadership and the teachers within the school, the awareness of the school to be able to meet the needs of a gifted child. And it was really great to talk to Jess and Emily about the different things that they did to determine what schools nearby might fit their needs for their children.

Jess shared with us that she actually started looking at schools quite early, and then she was able to sort of revisit. The favorites, I guess as her child grew and developed and was able then to have a really good sense of what might work for her child when the time came to make the move. She talked about how she worked really closely with the psychologist and the kinder educators to make that final decision about when, her child should go to school and then we [00:09:00] had Emily also sharing with us her journey of selecting a school.

There was a real sense there of a lot of Googling to see what was in the local area or, and how far we can as a parent. , Commute each day to do the school drop off, especially when we’ve got more than one child. There can be multiple drop-offs and, and the logistics really do matter and really do impact a family as someone who, for,

for a good one or two years had three separate drop-offs. And spent like almost two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon dropping off each of my three children at very different locations around the city. That is hard. It is really, it’s hard to maintain that.

I think the only thing that got me through is I knew it was for a set period of time and, and, and we really just did not have any options. But if I’d had to do that for any longer, that would’ve just become unsustainable and probably was for the time that I [00:10:00] had to do it. But it was just a matter of grin and bear it.

So the simple matter of logistics and where a school is can it legitimately plays a part in deciding where your gifted child goes to school. There’s no point finding a great school that’s going to take you so far out of your way that it’s going to.

Impact your ability to parent and to exist in life. Because ultimately what’s good for our kids , when we are, our needs are taken care of as well. When we are happy and when we are grounded, when our needs are met, then we are better able to meet the needs of our children.

So there’s no point chopping that off at the knees. Driving insane distances to try and meet the needs of our kids when it’s just going to impact us dramatically. So it’s finding these balances. Emily shared how she also went on a whole bunch of school tours and how challenging it can be in that environment to say, [00:11:00] tell me about your gifted program, or what do you have for gifted kids?

I mean, it’s hard enough to talk about. Giftedness and raise that issue to start with, let alone being in a school tour. And there’s other parents around and, you know, you can be walking on these school to school tours and, and trying to find clues of how, aware they are of gifted students and their needs.

 So what Emily did, which I thought was really awesome. Was she actually then called all of the schools, like just anonymously after she’d done the school tours and just flat out asked them, what do you have for gifted education at your school? And it was great to hear that cause it was very telling.

And she just said, some of the schools were like, huh, what’s that? Never heard of it kind of thing. Which is good to know.

But other schools were really engaged and had a great conversation with her about giftedness and were even able to recommend some other schools for her to look at if they had their wait list was full and things like that. So I just thought that [00:12:00] was an inspired idea and can be a really good way to get the information you need, but kind of take that awkwardness out of it, just that anonymous phone call.

Because ultimately the conversations we had about disclosing our children’s giftedness all ultimately agreed that what we really need to do as parents is be upfront with the school and say, our child is gifted. Here’s the report. Are you able to meet their needs? What are your qualifications as a school?

Do you have teachers who are qualified in gifted ed? And what are your gifted program? We need that upfront conversation because the school needs to know what they’re dealing with. And as parents, we need to know that they’ve got some clue about how they’re going to meet the needs of that child.

So it can be a really difficult conversation to have, but ultimately one we need to have, and if we can just call anonymously and bingo. We find a school that [00:13:00] responds the way we want to, it can be so much easier to have that conversation.

 And this leads on to working with the school. So , we’ve decided when our child is going to school, we’ve decided where now the rubber hits the road , it’s the first year of school and we’ve gotta work with this school as a parent.

And the one thing we always talk about on this podcast is that our children need a community around them. We need that village around our children, and that includes parents, educators, and potentially. [00:14:00] Allied Health and all sorts of people in that village supporting our child.

So when it comes to our children in that first year of school, it’s all about working together with the school, with the teacher. With the principal and whoever might be involved, uh, in a partnership to meet the needs of what is a complex little individual and someone who is not going to, uh, fit into that sort of box of norms easily and needs those particular accommodations and support.

So we had some conversation about , when do you talk to the teacher? And I think there was a, a consensus there that ideally you are sending through if you’ve got a cognitive report or any reports that you’ve got through to the school and the teacher ahead of time. So they have the opportunity to read that and become prepared if that’s their approach.

But you’ve done your bit as the parent in terms of providing that information. And then we had a chat about catching up with the teacher about a month [00:15:00] in, or , a few weeks in when the teachers had the opportunity to work with your child for a few weeks. And that allows the teacher to get to know your child, have a little bit of a, a think about what they’ve seen and, and what, what accommodations or supports might be.

 Something else that Jess learned in her first year. Was if she had her time again, she would’ve had a, a quick chat with all of the teachers that were involved with her child’s education rather than relying on one central teacher to pass on that information about their giftedness and needs to every single teacher.

So that may just depend on your school, how many teachers are involved, what their communication networks are like, but

it might be something that you could just check in on whether you need to do that for yourself or whether that’s taken care of within the school’s communication processes.

It’d be worthwhile as well. Doing a little bit of homework on what are the policies for gifted ed in your particular state, whether you’re in the US or Australia or where, wherever you are in the world, [00:16:00] everyone’s going to have different policies. Here in Australia, we discuss that in some states it.

Actually policy to have an independent learning plan or a personalized learning plan. They can be called different things at different schools, but it’s basically just that individualized plan that identifies the supports and accommodations that your child needs right from the beginning of term one.

Which is great. That’s the kind of thing you really wanna have in place, so worth inquiring about whether that’s something that happens at your school or in your state as a requirement, or even if it’s just something that you can be an advocate for your child and ask for.

It’s a very reasonable thing to ask for as a parent of a gifted child. And then once you’ve got that learning plan in place, having those catch-ups perhaps at the end of each term to see how things are going. Were the things in the plan implemented? How did that go? What are we doing for the next term?

And just having those [00:17:00] ongoing conversations throughout the year as a part of that, working as a team between educators and parents.

 So our third area then is sort of about academics. It’s meeting that cognitive need for the gifted child.

We had some great conversations with Stephanie Higgs in her episode about this and some really great advice she shared with us an analogy from Andy McNair that she had heard. Which went along the lines of school should be like surfing for a gifted learner. An amazing experience, and it should be like that for all of our children.

They should be coming home excited about what they did that day and getting up excited to be going back to school. That’s what we’re all wanting as parents and educators. She also talked about the difference between snorkeling versus scuba diving. So if you can imagine, snorkeling is your, you’ve got your goggles on and you’re floating on the top of the water and you’re just kind of looking [00:18:00] down, but it’s very shallow and it’s very wide, whereas scuba diving is about going really deep into things.

So gifted learners love to go deep into things, and so it’s having a bit of scuba diving in amongst the snorkeling when they’re. So it’s talking about that depth as well as acceleration. Stephanie shared that it’s not always about just speeding ahead because they can, and they will, as you know, as a parent of gifted kids, they will happily just speed ahead and consume more and more content.

They love, , the depth, , and within gifted learning. It is quite common that they might develop gaps in various parts of their knowledge about things, , because of the way that they learn. Uh, and that’s something that happens quite a lot, and that’s okay. It’s just when those gaps are identified, it’s just about taking a little bit of time to filling in that gap, uh, and moving on, and of course trying to reduce gaps as you go. But understanding that is [00:19:00] very much a part of the way that the gifted brain learns is that these gaps can pop up.

I think I may have told this story before, but I think it demonstrates it really well.

The child was demonstrating some good literacy and reading skills at home, but that hadn’t really transferred to the preschool, and so the parent was having a conversation with the educator about how can we also, you know, see some of this reading growth. At preschool as well. How can you support them?

And the educator commented that the child really wasn’t across rhyming yet. And so while there was a gap, they weren’t going to accelerate in any particular way because obviously they didn’t want gaps in knowledge. But then the parents sort of turned around to the child and said, Hey, This is what rhyming is and, and explained what rhyming is and provided a few examples.

And then they said to the child, well, can you tell me some words that rhyme? And the child replied with a few rhyming words and then the parents sort of turned around and said, well, we’ve filled that [00:20:00] gap. Now can we kind of move on? And. And start doing some reading, you know, that he’s demonstrating at home as well.

And probably a bit of a cheeky example, and I’m not meaning to paint the educator in a bad way there, but, but just a way to demonstrate that as a gifted learner. Gaps don’t have to be a big deal. Obviously we don’t want them, but they will pop up because of the way gifted learners learn it. And that’s to do with that high level learning sometimes and the way that they consume that content.

But they’re gifted. They’re very capable learners. So it’s just about pausing. Okay. Oh, found a gap. Let’s pause here for a moment. Fill that gap in. Are we good? Yep. Okay. Now let’s move on. It doesn’t have to stop meeting those sort of cognitive needs. It doesn’t have to be a big brick wall.

It was also great talking to Stephanie because she pointed out very rightly, just because they [00:21:00] can doesn’t mean they always want to. So it’s about we never wanna be pushing our kids, whoever they are, gifted or not. It’s not about pushing them and as a parent of a gifted child, I know that you hear me when we say we don’t need to push them.

They, it’s, as a parent, it’s more about hanging on while they’re just going miles ahead. That’s rarely pushing involved at all. But when they’re at school, a gifted child is going to have those moments where. , maybe accelerating with things, but then they might cruise and process for a little while. You know, the speed of learning can go up and down and that’s quite a good thing. You would never wanna be like full steam ahead forever. So it’s about providing those opportunities.

Just because they can, doesn’t mean they always have to for the whole time. Starting school is also about. Learning how to school, what are all of the expectations and the personalities [00:22:00] and dynamics that they’re having to learn. So it can be not always about acceleration, but providing opportunities to kind of work horizontally. And Stephanie shared a great example about addition. So if you had, uh, an early learner and they’re already across addition and the rest of the class are doing addition, rather than racing ahead to multiplication or something like that, maybe just enrich that moment of time with addition by bringing in some basic algebra.

So that they’re as a, yeah, as a gifted learner. They’re still dealing with addition, but they’re sort of broadening the experience of addition rather than racing ahead to the next thing. And that’s a really great example. It’s not always about accelerating. We do need to have that breadth as well for our gifted learners.

I also love that Stephanie said there is space for both picture books and chapter. This warms my [00:23:00] heart. No, because I love picture books and for children, uh, of I, you know, any age. A great picture book is a great picture book. Don’t give them up too quickly. Stephanie was advocating hard not to miss great literature, even though your child might be at reading chapter books already. And bear in mind, not all gifted kids start school being able to read. That is also totally normal. They may pick it up quickly once they’re there, or they just may come to it in their own time.

Don’t think because your child’s starting school and they’re not already on chapter books doesn’t mean that they’re not gifted. So definitely don’t miss great literature. Those picture books are amazing. There’s so many great picture books with different. Stories and values and morals for our kids to learn, and so many great picture books that can be very supportive for children as they’re grappling different [00:24:00] things.

We’ve got some great books here that talk about how to deal with a challenge, how to do hard things, how to deal with perfectionism, great illustrations, great stories, so there is always space for both, and I absolutely love that. Thank you, Stephanie. Stephanie also talked about not limiting what they can learn because they might be lagging in social or emotional area, and that comes up a lot at schools.

An educator might say, well, we’re not gonna move on to this sort of academic area, because what we are seeing here is some social emotional kind of issues. Ironically, a gifted child is more likely to exhibit behaviors that are challenging when their cognitive need is not being met. So if you’ve got a young student who is having some challenging behaviors in the classroom, the first thing you wanna do is provide more challenging content, and that you may just find that that is what the child is bored and not coping, and actually what they desperately need is that more [00:25:00] challenging content.

I also wanted to challenge this idea of lagging in social emotional skills. And they may not have been Stephanie’s words, but, but this issue comes up time. And again, for gifted children. They’re seen as having very high cognitive function and often very advanced in that intellectual area. But compared to their same age peers, they can sometimes demonstrate what appears to be a lag in that social and emotional development.

But if we think about what a gifted kid ears. Their child with very intense experience of the world. Very intense emotions. So rather than this idea of a lagging social skills or emotional skills, Perhaps, it’s just taking a while for them to learn to emotionally regulate because their emotions and internal world are so incredibly intense. Other children, their age don’t have to find their way through such intensities. So inevitably it might take a bit longer to build those emotional regulation skills.

Especially in those [00:26:00] younger years, because that asynchronicity is so extreme. There’s a big difference between their cognitive ability at those early ages and their ability to manage such intense emotions. As they grow older, different parts of the brain develop at different stages and this difference or this extreme asynchronicity starts to lessen.

But they’re always going to have an intense experience of the world.

They’re always going to be individuals with. Heightened sensitivities and. When big feelings. But as they grow older and mature, The brain starts to develop in different ways and they learn tools and strategies to use. They gain that life experience. As their brain develops over childhood and into the teen years. And they learn those tools and strategies to use, to manage their , increased sensitivities. They’re basically gaining that life experience. So be gentle with our little gifted kids. Nurture their [00:27:00] intellect because I absolutely need it, but support them with compassion as they navigate these big emotions that their same age peers aren’t necessarily going to be grappling with.

I can recall numerous conversations with the psychologists of my children. Whereas parents where we’re trying to find solutions to certain challenges and the psychologist just flatly saying, look. Any number of these things that you have already tried would have typically worked the first time with a typical child, but your child is asynchronous complex gifted, and it’s just that.

That bit more challenging to find those solutions that kind of meet all those needs. And so when our kids are a little, we really do need to just. Find out deepest compassion for what they’re going through because they’re having such bigger emotions and experience [00:28:00] of the world than other kids, their age they’re having to deal with.

 So our final kind of fifth area today, was that looking at that social, emotional. So let’s have a chat about that. And basically I kind of call this section that getting through the year section really. Because in meeting those social and emotional. Needs of our children through that first, in those early years of schooling. And to be honest, I think these tips could apply to any year of schooling.

It’s really about how do we set our kids up for success socially and emotionally. So the first thing I would say, and something that came across, definitely in that conversation with Jess who was on the, the end of that first year of school was low. The expectations. And lower them everywhere.

ALO them the expectations of your child. Uh, low the expectations of the school, of what [00:29:00] academic outcomes you might think there will be low. The expectations of yourself. Just. Breathe. And just breathe. And I think this is important because there’s been inevitably. Either some angst or quite a lot of angst in that process of when do we go to school? Where do we go to school? How do we talk to teachers and talk to people about giftedness? Like, it’s a pretty intense period of time for us as parents, to me navigating this all. And then we find ourselves in that first year of school finally. And so we can still be very.

Heightened in terms of, right. What is this going to be like? We’ve just. Managed to navigate our way through getting here now, what is this experience going to be like for the next 12 months? So I would just say breathe. Let’s lower, our expectations of everything and everyone. The important thing about this particular year.

Is that you get through it. And that’s basically the important thing of every [00:30:00] year. And I would say that you get through it as a family. With lots of laughter and fun. And there can be various times in our children’s lives where.

Stuff just gets real. And hard. And the best thing we can do is connect to our children and connect through fun and laughter and love. And especially when the world around them is really hard, what they need at home is that connection. The love and the laughter. So the more we’re able as parents to just kind of chill.

Have the confidence that it all be okay in the long run. And to be in the moment. And connecting with our kids. And just spending that time with them after school. That’s that’s the one thing that we can do for our kids every single day. I picked up a book recently called ADHD 2.0. And it’s on my reading list too. I picked it up and this cause there was a [00:31:00] section called love. I’m like, hello. Don’t usually see that in these kinds of books. What does this have to say? And basically it just validated that idea that what our kids need more than anything to build up their confidence and resilience is.

To be told that they’re loved so reassuring our kids of the great things that they’re doing, telling them that we love them, giving them lots of hugs, having those opportunities to do whatever it is that we enjoy doing together. And I think.

Those things will be the things that you personally enjoy doing as well. I personally like reading and so. I have some really nice moments with my kids of all ages. Where we will find a book we’re both into and read together. And that’s really nice and, and all the other things that you enjoy doing with your kids, but we try to laugh a lot and that goes a very long way. So if I would say.

The one thing that’s going to get you through that [00:32:00] first year of schooling is remember as a family to laugh a lot. And if you have so much on your plate as a parent, And I know, I believe me. I’ve so been there. I’m trying to claw my way out. Like everyone else. If we have so much on our plate as a parent, that we can’t just be in the moment with our kids and connect and laugh.

As a family and have fun. We really got to get rid of some stuff. We’ve got to reevaluate. So we’ve got this first year of school. Our kids are learning how to school. And we talked about that. In our conversation with Jess. It’s not all about the academic outcomes in that first year of school. It’s just about learning. What does school look like? What are the expectations? It’s also about building that resilience of lasting five days a week at school.

And that can be a really big thing. So two of my children. Uh, had the option in their first year of school. To have a half day on one of those days. So if you’re a [00:33:00] parent and you’re able to accommodate that in your life, or if you’ve got a grandparent, who’s able to pick them up for half a day. And that’s something that the school does.

It’s a great option. . You might do it for just a couple of weeks or you might do it for the first term. It just helps them adjust to. You know, being at school for five days, because in the afternoons, they will be getting tired, especially later in the week. So it was also a great idea to limit the extracurricular activities during this first year of school.

All that afterschool stuff or the weekends stuff that used to do it. Look, it’s great. I’ll gifted kids love doing these extra curricular things. They’re always into new experiences and going deeper with it. Favorite topics. But when you’re expanding all of your energy on just getting through that five days a week at school, because it’s a new thing. And if you’re learning about all the different things at school,

It can be a period where you just, you don’t need the extra [00:34:00] stuff. And actually what’s really nice is to create that space. So I would say limit all of the extracurricular and weekend activities that you can. And. And even Jess shared some really lovely examples of school holidays. Uh, and not over-scheduling school holidays, and actually allowing our kids to use that period to rest and recuperate and sort of build up their batteries.

There’s nothing worse than if you have a busy weekend or a busy school holidays, and then you’re sending your kids back to school and tired on Monday. Or tired in that first week, it’s really missed that opportunity for them to recharge that battery that they really need. Uh, and I can say that from experience have totally been there and done that and felt bad about it. It’s like, oh, sorry.

Um, Learning that lesson, but where possible look at weekends and holidays as a time to recuperate. And [00:35:00] recharge. Um, in as much as the gifted kids, they get bored and they want to be busy. I get it. I really do. So there’s always going to be some stuff scheduled and perhaps you need vacation care because you need to keep working.

That’s totally. Okay. It’s just, don’t feel like you have to be doing things. Uh, because that’s that space and free time is going to be good for them. Unstructured play is still one of the best things that kids, all kids can do growing up.

It can also be great to get into a particular routine. And that routines. R a way of providing a sense of safety and consistency that stability lets kids know what’s coming and what they can expect. And that’s one less thing that they have to think about. So, if you’re able to get into routines throughout your week or over the weekends or the holidays,

these are really great ways to support ourselves as well as our children.

It’s also important that throughout [00:36:00] the year, you’re keeping an eye on your child and to see whether there are any. Extreme differences in behavior between home and school. A child that demonstrates a very different behavior in either of those environments or just between the two environments can be a real red flag that actually all is not well.

Your ideal is a child who wakes up is happy to go to school. Comes home from school and is still regulated. Like isn’t melting down. Seems to have had a nice day. And when they’re at home is also sort of grounded and regulated. If you’re finding a child is. Either demonstrating sort of challenging behavior at school or is fine, totally fine at school, but then you pick them up and they’re melting down or their, their revenue slowly can sharing information. When they’re at home. These are red flags that.

They’re not getting their needs met. Often. Those [00:37:00] kinds of behaviors can relate to a gifted child. Not getting those cognitive needs met. And as I said before, it’s really important because if a child isn’t getting that challenging educational experience, their behavior will deteriorate. But people who don’t get gifted will go, well, we’re not going to do.

The more challenging staff until the behavior improves, but they don’t actually get that. You need to meet the needs, the educational needs before their behavior will improve. And that’s one of those times where you really want a school or a teacher that gets gifted so that they can help to make those decisions in the best interest of that child.


meeting their educational needs is not. A reward. It’s not a privilege that they get for behaving. Well, it’s an essential need.

It can be great if you are a parent who has this time too, when you picking your child up from school. Um, two. And this can depend on the [00:38:00] school. Some schools are different. They’re like not, you’ve got your kid off. You go. We need to close the gates and do other things. And that’s understandable.

Um, but we’ve, you know, as a family also been at schools where. There’s a, you know, you can hang around for 10 minutes as the kids kind of play and just decompress. It can be a nice opportunity for them just to move once they’ve gotten out of the classroom. I have a little chat with their friends. You can have a little chat with parents or the teacher just before transitioning out of the school and heading home.

It’s not always possible. And, and you may not always be on pickups. Your kids might be going to after-school care. But if that’s an option, it can be a really nice mechanism just to stay in that regular contact with your educator and, and being a part of the team and just like, how are they going? How is it today? Or sometimes the educator will make a bit of a beeline for the parents that they need to talk to, which is great to be there for that.

If you can.

Also what we do. And I think this is great for kids at any age [00:39:00] is. Providing opportunities for our kids to regulate after school. So you may have heard of that kind of Coke bottle metaphor. Um, so if you put a mentor’s into a Coke bottle and give it a shake or, or actually just shake a Coke bottle, obviously.

The top will pop in all spurt out. So some kids, if they’re really having to hold it together through that out the day, You know, they might make it to the car or not even the car or they might make it home. And then there’ll be a huge meltdown. That’s that Coke bottle popping. And that indicates that they’re really ha they’ve been holding it.

Well a lot. Together that really had to manage their way through the day to the point that when they get home to you and that safety of home and you as your parent, They’re able to let out all these big emotions and this big meltdown. It’s a very. Natural kind of process. Um, and in, in those moments,

It’s important to. [00:40:00] Just support your child with the utmost compassion, you know, meltdowns, it can be very challenging behavior. They’re not being naughty. They’re just completely dysregulated after having regulated themselves so hard all day. And so what can be good is providing opportunities for them to help regulate after school.

So some of the things that we’ve tried in the past is a couple of blocks from school is actually a park. So I was, went through a phase where I actually parked my car at the park. Walk to school, but the kids we walked back to the park had to play before we got in the car and went home. And that just allowed that opportunity to move and regulate.

I, we always have snacks in the car when I pick up my kids. Uh, because one they’re hungry, but too chewy or crunchy foods can be quite regulating and you don’t have to make this hard on yourself. Sometimes it’s literally a packet of rice crackers, cheese flavored, usually. Um, and that does the job. [00:41:00] Sometimes I’ll stop at the bakery and pick something up.

Uh, don’t make it hard. It’s just. A little bit of food to quell those hunger grumps and. And I try and go for chewy or crunchy things. Cause that just adds that extra kind of regulation.

It can be great to have fidget toys in the car as well. Uh, or other things in the car to help regulate. So I’ve seen little lap pads that are like little weighted blankets, which can be good or little pillows, which have like a vibrating thing. So you hug it and it kind of vibrates can be a really nice regulating thing.

Or just any old fidget toys, squishy balls, fidget spinners. Anything that, you know, you can pick them up. Stationary shops. They can be just great. Ways to fidget and help regulate on that trip home, or even, um, you know, ear protectors, uh, noise, canceling headphones, or just kind of them. The ones that [00:42:00] block out the noise can be great. If you’ve got more than one child.

Uh, and someone’s feeling a bit sound sensitive. It can be good for them just to put those on.

So it’s setting our kids up for success and it’s sort of anticipating what their needs will be. Likewise in the mornings. How can you set yourself and your child up for success? Just in terms of getting out of the house in the morning. Some kids really struggle with executive function. And so while they might be more than capable of putting clothes on.

Asking them to get dressed for school in the morning. Maybe more than they’re capable of because of the executive functioning processes involved in that the opportunity to get distracted by a book or anything else along the way to finding their shoes or. Or just the process of digging around in the cupboard and finding their uniforms might just be a step more than they’re capable of at that moment. [00:43:00]

And so it’s good to kind of scaffold this and it depends on the kid. Um, and where they capabilities and how far you might go with this. Sometimes if. I know, where are they going to be in a real rush or in like it’s turned four. My kids are naked. I will actually just put there. You know, close on the ch on.

I have one set of clothes on each chair for the kid, so they can just grab it and put it on. Uh, sometimes we have tried in the past as well, having a little visual chart. So, um, particularly for those that might not be reading it, they can just tick it off when they’ve got their socks on their shoes, on the brush, their teeth, and it can be a helpful reminder. You can go like, what’s next on your chart rather than like, nagging, go get your shoes on.

And you know, it just kind of shifts. That communication in the morning. Because ideally. What you want, what the goal is. We all get in the car on our way to school. And we’ve managed not to [00:44:00] kind of. Yell and get stressed at that process. Like that’s kind of parenting Nirvana. It’s getting through that morning, everyone’s dressed teeth, a brush, breakfast lunches, already bags, et cetera, et cetera. And we’ve managed not to yell. We’ve managed not to get stressed. We’ve managed to get in the car.

Because we all we want to set out. All of ourselves up for success in our day. And when we, when. That environment. First thing in the morning is a bit stressful or tense because it’s busy. The how kids take that into their day with them as do we, as humans, you know, we take that. So at that ideal is we, we get through that morning routine.

Without that stress and or yelling. Um, so that we’re all getting set up for success in our day. So I’m a parent, there’s no judgment. Like we’ve all had those mornings. Believe me. We [00:45:00] as a family have gotten much better over the years at avoiding getting to that situation. There’s certain things that we do and that I know will help me and the kids.

And sometimes it’s also about making a judgment call on where they’re at and where we’re at in the year and how tired we are and going, you know what, I’m just not going to expect that from them today. Because I know that’s too much. I’m going to help them out a bit. And I’m going to get up 15 minutes earlier so that I’m fully dressed and I’m not also trying to get dressed and ready to get out the door while they’re all getting dressed and ready to get out the door.

So some tips prepare lunches the night before. Um, I’ve gone through a phase of doing that. I don’t do that at the moment, but I w I will do is prepare all the lunchboxes and make sure they’re all clean from the day. So the night before I’ll put all the lunch boxes out and make sure the bits are ready for the morning so that I’m not.

You know, it’s like, 20 minutes to walking out the door and I’ve realized I’ve got a dirty lunchbox from the night before you got to [00:46:00] wash it and dry it and everything else. Um, as I said, sometimes the kids will just get dressed. Other times we might be at that point of the year. I’m like, here’s your clothes right now. Go pop them on.

Sometimes I will get breakfast balls out and things ready just to get us started. Uh, we’ve have, and I’ve got a friend who uses Google to. Um, for reminders. So Google it, you know, with half an hour to go, Google might be, might say, A little alarm might go off and it might be like, Hey, everyone should have finished breakfast. Please go put your shoes on. And it’s just this little reminder. That’s not the parent that guides the children.

Um, which has really great way of using that home automation. Uh, we also use Google to Google, you know, is our alarm in the morning and it pops music on. It gives us the weather. Because it’s always different here.

Make space for yourself in the morning. I mean, we’re getting our kids already. But make sure you [00:47:00] eat breakfast, grab your coffee, have time to get dressed. And I say, this is someone who inevitably is racing out the door at eight to get the kids to school. And I have not eaten breakfast or had a coffee and I’ve barely gotten dressed. Um, and I always pay for it. So it’s like,

Even if it means getting out 15 minutes earlier, so you can just sort yourself out. It’s always worth it because it puts us as parents in the best place we can to parent our children and be there for them. And that makes it easier for everyone. We also have a what’s called like a launch pad. And it’s a little part of your house where.

You might set up the school bags and the shoes, and you might have all the things that you need for the day. Um, so for us, we’ve got three hooks near the kitchen that the bags go on every afternoon. Uh, and then we take the lunch boxes out. And so, and we always have the shoes always in the shoe box by the front door. So even have a think about where things go around the [00:48:00] house that can make it easier for you in the morning.

Uh, or in coming home from school. So when the kids come home from school, Uh, I’m not saying it’s perfect, but we are getting better at rather than get a bag, getting dumped at the front door, the bags, getting hung up on the hook. Um, or at least thrown under. At the wall under the hook. So it’s, we’re making progress.

Um, but it’s it, you know, we know where they are. It’s right next to the kitchen. We pull the lunchboxes out and it just makes life easier.

And probably my last tip is. Ten four is hard. As the year goes on. Everyone just gets more knackered. It just gets harder. So as the year progresses, Uh, yeah, we deliberately don’t do things in term for any more. We don’t do or we limit. The appointments and activities that we [00:49:00] do. In that last term of school, because.

You just find that by the end of the year, resilience is low. Everyone’s a bit tired and we just need that space to recuperate. And care for ourselves a bit more. Uh, and, and in all, honestly, since COVID. And, you know, life has gone back to whatever normal that might be. I’ve actually noticed that study to kick in, in the late term three.

So that latter part of the year, we really try to be kind to ourselves and we will take whole terms off appointments as well. Just to create space in our lives for both the kids and the parents, because it’s a big commitment. You with gifted kids, we can be doing lots of appointments. So it’s just sort of like, how can we make our lives easier from time to time?

It’s, you know, our kids need various therapies, but it’s okay to take space out from that. It also gives our children that opportunity to consolidate what they’ve been doing in that space. So it can be really good [00:50:00] thing to have in amongst the therapies as well.

So there are five things. When should we go to school? Where should we go to school? Working with the school, the academics and the sort of getting through that year in terms of the social and emotional. I hope that those tips are helpful. It’s a bit of a consolidation of the conversation we’ve been having so far as this.

Parent’s guide to gift a child’s first year of school. If you’ve got more tips you would like to add to that. I would love to hear them. You can get in touch with us on Instagram and Facebook. We have a free Facebook group. You can get involved in and share your tips there.

And it’s been lovely having you on this journey with us, and I’m really looking forward to our next episode. So I will see you again soon. Bye. [00:51:00]

#079 Parents Guide to Gifted Kids’ First Years of School #3, Part 2 w/ Jess Farago

#079 Parents Guide to Gifted Kids’ First Years of School #3, Part 2 w/ Jess Farago

We’re talking to Jess Farago, a provisional psychologist, and mum of a gifted child this week and today Part 2 of that conversation goes out.

In this episode Jess shares how the second half of her son’s first year of school went and all the tips and tricks she’s discovered along the way.

Memorable quote… “

“I like to do things with people and socialise and hang out with friends but I also found when we spent our holidays with more downtime than social time, it was so much better for him.

I saw a different child starting one term when spent the last week of holidays doing nothing.

We just hung out at home. Took the dog for a walk, hung out with family, and caught up with a couple of friends, but it was a really low-key break.

He went back so refreshed.” – Jess Farago


Jess Farago is the mum of a gifted son; a 5-year-old who has recently completed his first year of primary school. 

In addition, Jess is a provisional psychologist who has a passion for neurodivergence and understanding the gifted and neurodiverse brain and behaviour. 

Jess observed differences between her son and other children when her son was a baby, and it was drawn to her attention by professionals, that her son might be gifted and to monitor it. Therefore, the journey of extensive gifted research, reading, understanding and ongoing observation began. 

Jess has found the path of being a mum to a gifted child filled with so much joy, however, it has not been easy and is exhausting.

Some of the most challenging parts for Jess over the last 5 years has been with the stigma attached to the word ‘gifted’. For years she felt isolated and that there was little to no support out there. But that didn’t stop Jess from ensuring her son received as much support as possible wherever he went and that she advocated for him. This is where Jess found navigating the mainstream school system a challenge. 

Jess has good knowledge of the education system having worked in the school system and has been faced with some very positive experiences, however, there have been some big challenges in the mainstream school setting concerning her son. 

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[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the I’ll. Give tickets podcast. We are back with part two of our conversation with Jess Farago. Now in part one, you may remember she was telling us about that journey of selecting the school for her son who is entering into their first year of schooling.

And we’ve got about halfway through the year in that episode. So in part two, we finished hearing about the rest of the year. How did it go? Was it still smooth sailing? Because we had a very good beginning. Or. Well, there’s some challenges. Hmm, that could be a spoiler. And then just shares with us some of the tips and tricks that she has learned over the year. Uh, about just kind of navigating that first year of school with her son. What worked, what didn’t.

What she’s going to continue to do into the future. So a really great episode full of lots of things. I think you can take away with you. If you’ve got a child still. At primary school, but probably even high school.

 It’s been a wonderful series. We started off with Emily, who is a [00:01:00] mom of a gifted child, and they were just entering this first year of school this year. And then we had a chat to the delightful Stephanie Higgs. , gifted educator and differentiation coach, where we talked about some of those issues around those early years of schooling.

. And then we had this conversation with just a provisional psychologist who is at the end of that first year of school with her son. So it’s a really nice wraparound and we’ve got one more episode to go. Which is going to be lots of tips and tricks, a bit of a summary of all those great things that we’ve learned over the last few episodes. That we can all take away with us. I haven’t recorded it yet in all honesty. So there is still time to comment on social media, either Instagram or Facebook. I will be going all over the comments over the next few days. See if anyone’s got any further questions or further tips and tricks that, you know, maybe there’s some things that you have discovered over that first year of school that you would like to share. So [00:02:00] by all means,

Comment away, Facebook and Instagram, let us know. And I’ll be having a look at those over the next few days. And. Recording that final episode in this series next week, which I’m super excited about. Thank you so much to all of our guests who have been involved. It’s been a really great topic and it’s been really lovely to dig into it from these different perspectives.

If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, you can support us by just leaving a review sharing with friends. There’s a tip jar, and there’s even the opportunity to become a podcast patron, you can find all those links in the show notes. We’re on Facebook and Instagram. You can join us there, subscribe on the website, or even join our free Facebook group. Thank you so much. Let’s get on with this episode and see how this year ended. Talk to you soon.

Bye. [00:03:00]

Sophia Elliott: so you’ve had a very successful beginning, which is just, oh my God. So amazing. Sounds like the educator is really on board with working through this and the school. Mm-hmm. , what happened


Jess Farago: Well, yeah, he was, had a, he loved school, so happy.

So throughout the year, like every term was almost so individual. There was no smooth flow between terms. Mm-hmm. , so term one was this. You know, what do you call it? Like studious, well-behaved. I’m here to learn. I’m never gonna interrupt kind of child. I’m new, I guess, you know, you’re the good job. Teachers pet kind thing.

And then the second [00:04:00] term it was, oh, he’s getting comfortable. He’s starting to be a bit of a rat bag. Not in the classroom, but in the playground. So, because being younger, we started to think that, and I just had constant conversations with the teacher. This is the other thing I recommend if you’re able to hang around the prep area, which we were, and I didn’t hug her or anything, but she always came out and said hello to the parents.

Yeah. How day. You know? And if she said, oh look, we discuss it. Yeah. A lot of the times you go, can we have a quick chat in here? And I’m like, oh, what’s he done now? Yeah. Never did anything big, but being, I think it’s being younger because the older boys didn’t do this. He went through a phase of six weeks where once a week he did something really silly in the playground.

Like he showed his bottom, thought it was really funny. We had to have a chat and discuss whether he got the response he wanted. He said no. So he learned that that wasn’t gonna work, so he didn’t do it again. So he never repeated the same mistake, but there was a lot of life learning incidences

that happened.

So there’s a lot of experimenting [00:05:00] socially.

Oh yeah. And, but yeah, that was term two then term three, he was a completely different kid. Yeah, he was, there was no experimenting in the playground anymore. He was leader of the pack and he was suddenly everyone wanted to be. , well not everyone, but he formed like a nice group of friends.

Yeah. But this is where it got challenging cuz amongst it he became best friends with this little boy and they got tunnel vision for each other. Uhhuh . And no one else existed in that room except for those two when they were, the moment he was playing with other friends and this little boy came running down the hill.

Bang, he was there. No other friend existed and he loves his other friends. Yeah. But we spent a whole term with this is where it got challenging cause the teacher and I had very different approaches. Mm-hmm the teacher’s going, he needs to learn to include everyone. And I’m going, he’s neurodivergent you shouldn’t be changing or I don’t think you should be changing how he, who he wants to play with, but I [00:06:00] think we can find a way in which he can articulate it in a nicer way to his friends.

Cuz he’s only five. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t mean to go No, I’m busy. Yeah. Cause he’s distracted by his friend. We need to teach him how that makes others feel. And so we eventually came to a certain point, but I battled this, trying to change the way he was socially. And I’m all for strategies and interventions to improve challenging behaviors.

Mm-hmm. and I I, but what was happening was, was this little kid, the two boys who are perfectly happy. Yeah. And. Others were wanting to change that and say, no, you go play with them. You have to include them. And I’ll remember this incident where one of the boys in their class who’s got some challenging behaviors, but my son really likes him.

They get along quite well. Wanted to play with my son and his best friend. They both, my, my son and his best friend both said, no, we’re playing our [00:07:00] game. So they’ve been practicing. So my son would turn around and go, no, we’re actually playing together, but maybe I can play with you later. This boy pulled him off the monkey bars.

He, uh, my son hit his chin on the ledge where you stand. But yeah, my son got in trouble because he wasn’t including this boy. Oh, that’s tricky. And so I started to get a little bit frustrated cuz I felt like I was at this roadblock where I was not going to be supported in how to approach the situation and anything.

I said to the teacher, I got fobbed off. Oh, but he’s gifted. He should know how to behave. And I’d be like, oh no, but he’s neurodiverse, he needs support. There should be a support in place, you know, and I didn’t wanna get in her bad books cuz she really was such a good teacher. But these little things along the way made me go, oh really?

Like, you know, and there’s, there’s ways we can approach this. Yeah. And so I was doing it at home and I’m [00:08:00] saying, so he came home one day and he said, mom, so and so was running away from. . And I was like, oh, that’s not very nice. How did that make you feel? He’s like, well, it made me really sad. And I said, so how did you deal with the situation?

I went and spoke to the two boys and I said, I really don’t like it. It makes me really sad. And one of ’em was his best friend. His best friend stopped, but we had a chat about it and I said, do you remember at the start of the year when you and your best friend were doing that to that boy? He goes, yes.

And I said, well, that’s exactly how it would’ve felt for him. And it’s never happened since. Mm-hmm. But the way that the school were approaching it was, you play with that kid. You Yeah. So my strategy at home, which is going against the teacher, was, okay, so if I’m gonna make up names, if Lisa and Jane come up to you and Yeah.

Boris Dunno why I pulled that name out. . And they say to you, while you and Boris are playing, can we play with you? And you are in the heart of a game because as you know, and I’ve heard you in some of your podcasts, the gifted child [00:09:00] tends to like to rule a roost in the game. And he would make up a game about animals.

And his best friend basically did what he said, . Yeah. He made the rules, but the best friend didn’t complain. Yeah. It wasn’t like a, a bossy situation. So this would happen. And I said to him, when these two kids come up and they wanna play with you, how about we approach it with something like not? No.

Thank you. Not right now. Yeah. But I’d love to play with you later. So he started this approach. It was only scripted, which I’m not a huge fan of, but it worked. And really it worked because I said to him, if the way you are with these particular friends all the time comes across as me, they’re not gonna wanna hang out with you.

Mm-hmm. as simple as that. And I said to the teacher, he’ll learn, he will learn when they stop hanging out with him. Where are we? Where at the end of prep. And he’s played with every single one of ’em over the holidays. Yeah. So if he really was that bad, they wouldn’t have come back. That’s how I see it.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. [00:10:00] Yeah. That, that’s a, it’s a real, thank you for sharing that story. It’s a really interesting story and I’m, I’m, I’m listening and, and, and thinking about, uh, do you know from the, like you say, from that parent perspective you know, and, and with my parent hat on, I, I’m very cautious of situations, whereas adults, we are invalidating our kids’ ability to make choices.

Mm-hmm. about themselves, their friends, you know, it’s, it’s almost like a consent. Mm-hmm. thing for me. Uh, and this is just as a parent, I would be interested to you know, . I mean, I, I know you’re a provisional psych, but to get like, you know, a, a professional, you know, dissection of this. But as a parent, I’m kind of [00:11:00] like, because to me it’s like, when we say things like that as parents, what we are saying to them is, how you feel and what you wanna do and who you wanna play with is irrelevant.

If someone wants to play with you, you have to do that thing. Do you know? And, and I, and I try to empower my kids to feel like actually what they want is important and they don’t have to put other people first. It’s a healthy thing, right? Yeah. And so, and I think for me, it kind of boils down to that our own personal self-worth and consent mm-hmm.

and, and that kind of stuff, you know? And so, but, but, but like you said, and I’ve certainly had these conversations in the past, is kind of like, while we get to make these choices about who we spend our time with, it’s important to be kind to people

Jess Farago: that Yeah. And you know, yeah. I hope that’s how I told the story, that [00:12:00] that’s the kind Yeah.

Yeah. It is. Yeah. Totally. I, I’m, I mean, from a professional perspective, yeah. Yeah. A mum perspective. So I worked in a primary school last year for my yeah. Placement. And I’m all about empowering. Yeah. Their, their feelings, their emotions, what they need, what they want. But so I found it quite difficult to navigate because I was almost at a point where it was like, like, I’ve gotta do something that’s gonna work, because Yeah.

Otherwise it’s, he’s gonna be forced to do things he doesn’t wanna do. Yeah. So the way I approached it with the teacher was literally, I, I kind of hate doing this. It’s really against my values, but I kind of had to dumb myself down and be like, you know, I’ve sort of had a chat to him and told him that, you know, he’s gotta be kind to everyone and include everyone, but really I was saying to him, this is what we need to speak nicer.

I said, I, I said to him, darling, I know that it doesn’t come from a bad place. I know you, you’re not mean, [00:13:00] you don’t mean to do it like that. All that you see is your best friend and you don’t want anyone else. I totally get, I was like at school too, but you don’t like it when someone tells you to go away.

So we’ve gotta find a way in which we can approach that. So I went down that path. Yeah,

Sophia Elliott: totally. Yeah. And, and, and likewise as a parent, I’d be, do, would, and I feel like I have, sounded very familiar, you know, a, a very similar approach. And uh, I just had a thought, what was it? Uh, BEC and it kind of brings me back loosely, but I’m gonna roll with this. What I really liked about the Montessori philosophy in its essence is this respect for the child and respect for the child’s work and the, the child’s work is play. And so we’re especially, I mean, all kids, but you know, especially with that tendency for a gifted kid to hyperfocus and stuff, when they’re like in the middle of that game, with no doubt, very complex rules.

Oh yeah. You know, very complex game. And they’re in the middle of that game [00:14:00] being interrupted. Whe whether it’s a par parent saying, stop this, we’ve gotta go now. Or someone saying, I wanna play with you. It’s like, no, I can’t cope. I’ve gotta just keep doing the thing. And it’s sort of like, it’s catastrophic.

Yeah. That’s right there. There’s, in, at the heart of that, there’s this also I think, a, a sense of respecting where the child is at in that moment. Yeah. You know, anymore than if I was having a coffee with a friend and, and got kind of interrupted and pulled away, would I be sort of, you know, unhappy about that?

So similar kind of things. So, yeah. So you’ve obviously, you know, lots of pros about this. about your educator and the school, but obviously a few challenges around. And I heard you say that educators, like he’s gifted, he should know better. Oh, you know, that’s obviously a very unfortunate mindset. So tell us about the, the final term.

So you, you, it’s a very [00:15:00] much a shift. Each one, I think we’re up to third or fourth term

Jess Farago: now, and, but they all sort of keep foggy in my brain, but I remember yeah, totally was, look it, the, the biggest challenge for me, which was what I was gonna segue into, which was sort of in, in line with what you were literally just saying about empowering a child’s autonomy, needs, want, that sort of stuff.

As well as my biggest challenge I was faced with, which I left the school in tears and I will never forget it. And, and I don’t know whether all parents would feel this way, but for me it really, it broke my heart to hear the teachers say this. So, the big, so this was term four. Otto has always been a very affect.

Child. And I, I could be wrong here. I have read that gifted children tend to be very affectionate, highly sensitive, emotional, big emotions. We, we know the big emotions. Yeah. And maybe it’s to do with the way that we are. Cause at home we are very affectionate with each other cuz it’s just us two.

I, I don’t know. I’m not saying others aren’t, but that’s how I see it. And so he’s always hugging his friends and he, I [00:16:00] hear him going, you know, so and so, I love you. And he cries when he hasn’t seen one of his friends for a week and he’s going for a play date because I haven’t seen them for so, so he’s got these big feelings for these kids.

Big, big for his friends. And he told his teacher he loved her every day. And I remember being approached by his teacher in term four, and I’m quoting her on this and she said his affection towards his friends is unhealthy and I’m working on some strategies to change it. And I did not know what to say.

I had been that mum that had defended him, advocated for him, done the, if I wasn’t sure about something, I wouldn’t say much. I’d go home and I’d research and come back with something. Yeah. But this time I was like, oh, there’s three weeks left of term. I’m just gonna deal with it next year. With the new teacher.

I could not say anything. I didn’t want her to, to live on a bad note with her. Do I feel silly about doing that? Do I regret it? Yes. Because I feel like I let him. , [00:17:00] but I felt like it was going to be a losing battle with this one. And I remember watching all these other kids running around, hugging each other, and then he runs up to his friend and gave her a hug.

The friend was perfectly happy. She hugged him back. The teacher said, Hmm, Otto, so-and-so doesn’t like that. You need to get off her. And the girl, the friend goes, I’m fine. I love him. And that really upset me. And then what I experienced after that was so hard to watch. We went to a play friend’s house for a swim in their pool with two other friends.

And he was so excited to see them. And he said, I can’t wait to see them. They’re two of his best friends. And I’m, no, no, I’m not gonna hug them. I go, but you have them. And he goes, no, I’d rather not hug them cause I don’t wanna get in trouble. It’s easier for me to just not hug. And I was trying not to cry.

And I was like the poor little kid, like he’s changing himself just to keep the peace. This is crap. And I got really upset. And so I had a big chat. He wouldn’t even hug me that weekend. And we hugged all the time [00:18:00] and I had a big chat to him and I can’t remember what I said, but essentially I basically said to him, your affection, your love, your feelings, your emotions are all what make you you, they are the most beautiful qualities about you.

That what? That’s what makes your heart so amazing. I never want you to change. You should never change. Stay who you are cause you are, I can’t remember what the wording was. I always get in trouble and I didn’t know how to approach it. And I said, look, the way I see it, if the school are gonna constantly tell you to stop hugging, and you feel safer, then maybe just ask beforehand.

Cuz they’re all about consent. Mm-hmm ask if that’s beforehand. So then the teachers know that you’re doing the right thing by the school rules. But no, deep down inside that you can hug your best friend without getting in trouble, you know? And he was like, oh, I love you mom. And he gave me, gave me the biggest hug and he’s back to being the author that I know.

But today with the park bumped into a friend, he said, can I hug you? So he’s like doing the consent thing. So I was like, [00:19:00] go by the consent. But that really upset me when they said we’ve gotta change him. And again, sort of on that same path, we had an incident at Aftercare, and this is still part of the school, I was told I didn’t need to meet with anyone to chat.

And this is the advice I give parents as well. Yeah. If I could do it all again, insist if they say no to meet with the specialist teachers, even just for a short time, they don’t need the whole details. But what my teacher did was told all the specialist teachers his gifted, that was it. And so I get a phone call halfway through term three from the PE teacher saying he’s distracting everyone.

I had to call him aside, he couldn’t participate. And I said, well there could be many reasons for this. And I said, he could be overwhelmed, he could be panicking cuz he doesn’t like. The delivery of the instruction, as I mentioned earlier on. Yeah. And I’ve noticed that instead of crying, now when he doesn’t get the instruction, he distracts others.

So he gets pulled away so he doesn’t have to hear it. Mm-hmm. And I gave all these suggestions, I gave all these possibilities. I get an [00:20:00] email three weeks later to say he’s a different child. Thank you so much. I wish I knew this at the start of the year. So what I’ve done differently for next year is I’ve approached all the specialist teachers cause they changed for grade one.

And I said, look, I just wanna meet up with you guys for half an hour with the head of wellbeing. I’ve got a strategy list with possible possible challenges that we faced in prep that we can iron out this year. Just as a starter. Not saying to do that starting prep because I don’t think you’d know what half the challenges will be in prep.

You might have some stuff that’s being consistent, but if you can just meet with all the teachers, even if it’s in one meeting, because it would’ve saved a lot of time. He got in trouble in art and got, I was told he was gonna get his first attention and we got him out of it because he’d already got punished that day.

Oh, that makes me feel sad. Him and his best friend, they were writing letters to kids and they wrote something that was a bit cheeky. They thought they were being funny and a week later they were gonna give him detention during art. And my friend actually ended up emailing the teacher saying, no, I [00:21:00] don’t agree with that.

They’ve already been punished. And so we got out, they got outta that one. But these are just little things that happened along the way that could have been prevent. , had the teachers known what he was like and maybe, no, he probably would’ve written the n the naughty note anyway. But, you know, there are lots of things that I think could have been a bit easier if people had known, because every response I’ve had is what I mentioned earlier.

Oh, he’s gifted. He should have known better. Yeah. Yeah. No, and then I’m, I, I have my script. Yes, but he’s neurodiverse, he needs support. So I’m always responding with that. And they go, oh, Izzy. I said, okay, well if he was autistic and had support and funding, what would you do? Oh, we’d have this, this, this is in place.

So the, yeah, I think for me personally, the biggest challenge is that emotion one, uh, the, the affection one and the aftercare. So I was gonna say before the aftercare teacher at the start of the year, O uh, Otto liked to play by himself cuz he didn’t know anyone. And [00:22:00] for six, first six times he went, when I picked him up, I got told by the head of aftercare, what’s wrong with him?

I go, what do you mean? And she goes, he’s just sitting there playing. And I go, is he happy? She goes, yeah, he was until I came over And I said, what did you do? She goes, oh, I just kept bringing kids over saying Play with them. Play with them. Why won’t you play with kids? I said, no, why are you forcing him?

It’s not. And she goes, it’s not normal for him to be playing on his own. And I’m like, you are running an aftercare. And so that really bothered me as well. And he goes, you start crying and I go, because you’re making him do something he doesn’t wanna do. He’s feeling safe on his own.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. He may have had a Big Dane.

He just needs a quiet time to regulate. Like you said, he doesn’t know anyone. He just Exactly. Needs to ease into it. And I don’t

Jess Farago: compassion. Yeah. And I don’t know whether any of these personal stories people will either resonate with or they’ll find useful, but they’re things that I think com you can be prepared [00:23:00] for with the ignorance of some people and there are some people who are just so open and supportive.

Yeah. But being open in communicating with them and being transparent for me is what I think worked. Because at the end of the day, I’m his mom and I don’t really care what they think about me, but I want him to be. Yeah. But I also don’t wanna get a bad rep cuz I don’t want him being punished for it either.

So it’s like, yeah. Yeah. My approach is usually quite like, I’m polite and I’m kind and I’m, you know, I approach it in an appropriate way, but I will constantly pull the gifted line because until they get it, what else can I do? Yeah,

Sophia Elliott: absolutely. And look, I really feel for you with the whole hugging thing, and it’s, I’ve certainly been in that situation. It’s like, you know, [00:24:00] sitting it out versus taking action and it’s like, we’ve just gotta get through this. And, and by the end of the year, like term four is so hard. Like, my kids are always knackered by the end of term four, especially first year of school, because I’m not sure about your school. But, uh, we were lucky my kids school, during that first term, the kids were allowed to have an afternoon off, you know, just to help with that five days a week thing and things like that.

But it’s just massive and yeah, just, I, I just think boys should never be discouraged from hugging. Like, it just really, like you said, it’s really concerning to think that a, a little boy would be discouraged from showing healthy affection. I mean, sure, let’s have those conversations about consent and asking, like, that’s just, you know, [00:25:00] good, uh, you know, a good thing to learn and start practicing at whatever age, but to actually discourage them from doing it at all is.

Just not cool. Like, and we, and we know better now. We know that now we need help. Like we, so I’m just kinda like, oh my God, we know better

Jess Farago: than that. We know so much better than that. And what I found really handy though, is all the challenges I’ve been faced with this year, I’ve approached, well, I didn’t approach the grade one teacher came up to me the last day and said Yes.

And so she already has been passed, had information received from the prep teacher. And she said, let me go over it. Same thing. But before school starts, so she’s starting with me earlier. Yeah. And I basically just went straight in and said, look, there are some things that happened this year that I would like to not happen in grade one.

So we’ve got strategies that can work for that. Let’s work on that this year. I know [00:26:00] that we’re probably gonna be faced with new challenges this year, and this our process throughout the whole entire schooling every year. This is what happened this year. This is how we can approach it next year. And that’s, I guess, I, I’m a yeah.

Organized, structured person. So I’ve structured that in my brain as a way Yeah. In which I can predict a pattern happening, which is useful for me. I’m prepared for change, but mm-hmm. , yeah, it’s been like those stories are pretty big. It’s also been a wonderful year. Yeah. And he’s beautiful friends, and he’s been supported in many ways.

Oh, and if your child, I’m assuming there’s Walter parents out there being gifted will be on every school has different names for it. But extended learning program, um mm-hmm. Independent Learning program, whatever they call it, I, naive me, didn’t know that if they’re on one, you’re meant to be having a meeting every single term or every or twice a term with the wellbeing coordinator and the teacher to discuss whether those goals are being met, where they are with at it.

I didn’t get [00:27:00] any of that. And last week I saw his end of semester two and where he was at for next year. I had no idea. Yeah. So that’s my I was gonna say that’s my, my my fault. It’s not. They should, that was their job. But now I know. Make sure that you have your consistent meetings. Yeah. And yeah, just as hard as it is, and I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart, my heart raced every single time I used The, G, Word.

Yeah. That it, it has to be done because Yeah. Yeah. They are. And that’s the reality of it. And it’s not gonna change. Yeah. And assessments are a wonder like they, without the report, I would not have got what I got. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So it’s highly recommended by, excuse me, my record voice cuz of the space I’m working in, it’s a neurodiverse affirming clinic.

A lot of the clinicians are ed and dev psychs or educational and developmental psychologists. Mm-hmm. for those that don’t know they predominantly work in conjunction with or as a multidisciplinary team with OTs and speeches [00:28:00] and schools to support your neurodivergent children and deficits, difficulties, behavioral, emotional, all that stuff.

And so the advice that I’ve been given by the many that I have met and my sons one, get a report before they start school. However, you can’t get two within two years. So if they’ve already had one, you have to wait. But that report is brilliant. But if the school just take it on like it’s just another bit of paper, then that’s another story.


Sophia Elliott: absolutely. And it comes back to having those open, open educators who are up for the, the, the journey to go on, on that journey with you.

 [00:29:00] Well what a massive year. And like you say, we obviously have just dissected a few of the challenges there, but all in all a wonderful year. He’s made some lovely friends.

It sounds like the school have tried to live up to expectations as best they can. Some ups and downs there, but you know, have certainly tried to meet his needs academic. That be alright?

Jess Farago: Uh, yes. There are many, many things that he does that is not even recognized at school. But that’s probably a whole nother conversation.

But with the masking thing, like that’s, oh, that’s the other thing I started to notice towards the second half of the year, he’s n used to dumb himself down in kinder. So we worked really hard during kinder to bring that back up where he Yeah, confident enough. So he is [00:30:00] confident now to just not, uh, to, to, to be free of who he is, to be open about who he’s, but there are things like he is his drawings and his coloring in, I, it’s better than what I can do, you know, like it’s, but you know, the report in art said that he was just below his peers in particular areas.

And look, this is just my own headspace and my own view, but if this helps any other parent out there, I don’t, I dunno how everyone’s gonna take this, but I took me a lot of my own work with myself to do this. A lot of the time I have to read the report and just take it with a grain of salt because I know that that’s not what he’s like.

And if I go, okay, you’re an amazing drawer, but is it impacting at school? No. Is me talking to the teacher and saying, Hey, this is what he can do. Is that gonna change anything? No. Cuz he is not doing it at school. So for me, it. , the areas that he’s obsessed with and that he’s just passionate about are being [00:31:00] nurtured.

Mm-hmm. , the other stuff he’s doing at home, whatever, like Yeah. You know? So, and I,

Sophia Elliott: yeah. And look, I think that comes down to, as a parent, picking your battles. Yeah, exactly. Do you know, and Totally. You know, and it’s like you said, the three weeks of term left, do we take on the hugging battle, the, the report and the, ah, it’s like, what?

And like you say, what are the priorities? Are they being met? What are the, what are the battles we’re gonna pick? Well, cause I absolutely, you don’t have the energy to take it all on, let alone, like you say, what is it gonna achieve

Jess Farago: in the long run? Yeah. Yeah. Not at all. And the way I look at it, you know, Otto’s two years ahead in reading and writing.

Yeah. And he writes and reads every day. And he has all through prep, he started obviously very young, but it was in spurts now it’s every single day. And he has taught himself because he loves it and he’s photographic memory, teaches him the spelling of the words. Like, he’s got this system and I don’t even get it.

But I know that it’s not only his way of [00:32:00] regulating, it’s what makes him happy. Mm-hmm. . And so that’s where his independent learning program w what it’s for. And I believe that that is what makes him the happiest. Mm-hmm. . But if he didn’t receive the support in that area, that’s where he would really dislike.

Yeah. So if he’s stuck sitting there doing writing, that cat sat on the mat and he’s writing about car office and the evolution of the Triassic period, that would traumatize him. Yeah, totally. So everything else, he doesn’t care about what he’s learning, but with that he does. Yeah. And that’s where he plays up.

So that, and, and that’s where it’s worked.

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And I think as parents, we also need to kind of be grounded and realistic and know there is no perfect school. Doesn’t matter what school you’re at, they’ve all got pros and cons. There will never be, you know, that nothing could ever possibly be perfect for everyone.

And so it’s [00:33:00] kind of like, well what are my priorities? Is it meeting those priorities? Mm-hmm. , and, and kind of taking a bit of the good with the bad, so to speak. Yeah. Uh, yeah, the perfect school is just a myth. .

Jess Farago: Yeah. Yeah. And if I can just throw something in there, you mentioned it earlier about you know, they come home, they’re exhausted, that sort of stuff.

One thing that was given advice that was given to me by a friend of mine who’s got older kids that had already been through school, but she had a preppy starting with Matt, with mine, and she just kept saying to me, just remember that they’ve been a school all day, cuz her son’s neurodiverse, they’ll be exhausted when they come home.

So from my own experience, if this helps anyone, , the advice I was given was no extracurricular activities. In term one, I start swimming. Cause I think it’s a no-brainer. They need to do swimming, but that’s just me personally. Yeah. He did

Sophia Elliott: nothing else. Swimming’s also good for regulation. I was about say that is also good.

Jess Farago: Yeah. So yeah, a hundred percent. So what I noticed with Otto was [00:34:00] the second week of each end of term. Mm-hmm. second last week of the end of term, we started to get the big emotions daily, naked. Yep. Normally, you know, when he’s overwhelmed or I’ve done too much of him. Yep. Every day the teacher would say, oh, he’s been, been emotional all day.

So that was either he’s emotional all day because he’s exhausted or because he’s and this happened for two weeks and so my, it’s not even advice. I’m just letting parents know, be prepared for it. And the other thing that I found brilliant, which is advice that my mother dearest gave me, which I absolutely love, they’re gonna be stuffed, like you said, when they get in the car, they’re being listening all day.

I let auto navigate. I don’t say is your day, I just say, hi darling, I miss you. So good to see you. Mm-hmm. and then, you know, we just sort of. He gets out his writing book cuz that’s how he likes [00:35:00] to regulate. And then when it’s his time, he’ll go, do you know what we did today? Or it might even be the next morning.

So, or maybe I do say, how was your day? Cause I like to find out how his day was, but I don’t ask questions. What did you do? Who did you play with? And the other advice I was given by a psych was don’t ask who they played with because they may not want to have played with anyone. And it puts this expectation that they have to play with children.

So I usually say when we’re, when we’re talking and he’s navigated it or instigated it, I will then say, what did you do at lunch? What game? Yeah. And then he goes, well I played with so and so and blah, blah blah. Yeah. You know, so and I trial and error, but I found it really worked. A lot of kids I do know, come home and act out.

Might have tantrums, block, whatever it is. So be prepared for big, big, big emotions. Mm-hmm. , I’m not trying to boast, but I was lucky I didn’t get that. He was slow and bright, but I wouldn’t see him for two hours . So yeah. So I missed him. So they may, you know, they’re all different. But yeah, definitely being prepared for [00:36:00] big emotions, exhaustion, and maybe not wanting to do what they usually do at home.

Cause they’ve done it all at

Sophia Elliott: school. Totally. And really great advice there. And I, we certainly experience that as well. Uh, like I said before, that first term of that first year of school, if your school offers a half day or an early finish and you can take, you can take that up. You know, work allows you to make the most of that Definitely considerate because it, it’s a big shift going to, it’s like going to full-time work from part-time work.

Do you know? Yeah. It’s exhausting. It takes a good term or more to settle in, to build up that resilience to get through the week. They’ll definitely be knackered. Great advice not to do extracurricular activities in term one. . And like you say, by the time the kids get to the end of term, they’re exhausted.

I used to see a lot of term four fatigue where they were just, the whole term was exhausting. But [00:37:00] actually the last couple of years I now see term that building from term three. Wow. They just get really tired. And for those kids who are doing like OT or speech or psych or whatever it is on top of school or extracurricular, we actually will have whole terms off appointments.

Just to have a bit of a break. And when I pick my kids up, I have

Jess Farago: snacks. Yes. I do that too. Always have food hungry. Yep.

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And crunchy or chewy is a really good regulating food, so I’ll often have something crunchy or chewy. So they get in the car, they have some food, like you say.

Jess Farago: I found routine help too.

Yeah. So we had a scheduled day. Yes. That didn’t have anything on after school where he would know. We got every Tuesday we were at the library, so he Nice. I picked him up. Those library books were there cause he loves the library relaxes. Yeah. So he would know and [00:38:00] really, really helpful. I also found hanging around after school really helpful as well.

Cause he got run around his, his friends and really be.

Sophia Elliott: And that’s a good opportunity for them to decompress after school. Yeah. You know, get the sillies out, so to speak. Uh, absolutely. I probably linger longer than the school would like with my kids, I can have a bit of a run. And it also means you can chat to the parents or the teacher,

Jess Farago: Some wonderful friends here.


Sophia Elliott: absolutely. And we also have a whole range of fidget things in the car. And even cuz I, I, you know, I’ve got three kids and we offer carpool so the car can be full of kids and I’ll have some, uh, ear protectors. I’ve, I’ve always got a few pairs in the car. So for any child who’s just like, I don’t wanna listen to everyone else, can put them on, try and dull the noise a little bit.

Um mm-hmm. if needed. Uh, yeah. So various tips there, which are great and obviously [00:39:00] do what works for your family, but definitely lower those expectations. Oh yes. In the first year

Jess Farago: of school, 100%. I went in with this expectation of I have a child that can read and write. He’ll be starting off on grade one stuff.

not the case. , he has to meet all the, uh, basic criteria and assess he get to where he needed to be. So I was faced with the kid coming home, going, the cat sat on the mat, he went to the beach, he did this, blah, blah, blah. What’s it about? I don’t know. And the teacher did not get him to the next level because he had to decode it.

So I was. . So I had to lower my expectations. So that’s another really good thing that you pointed out. Mm-hmm. . So I’ve been telling one of my other friends who’s got a neurotypical child starting prep this year. I was like, don’t put too much pressure on yourself with the reader. Yeah. Because the teacher will be giving a particular reader, even if it’s so easy for her, it’ll be for a reason and they like to build the confidence up as opposed to giving them something so hard that they have a meltdown.

And, cause I remember she, Otto’s teacher gave him, [00:40:00] she was almost trying to prove a point. I opened it and went, oh, she’s got me this time, hasn’t she? And it was this full on reader that it was way, way, way beyond what he’d been reading. Like he reads different stuff at home, but this was really fine print, you know, it’s changing.

He was going reading it, the words emerging, and he just had a meltdown. Like he burst into tears. And I was like, if they’re trying to prove a point, you win. So what she was trying to show me, I’m assuming is build it up, don’t go up. And then, yeah. Burst confidence. So I’m with her on that one. As frustrating as it is, making a kid do a reader that’s so mundane and boring for them, there’ll be a reason behind it.

Yeah. Yeah. So as much as the teachers can be frustrating when they don’t really get it, there’s also reason behind a lot of it. Yeah. And ask lots of questions. If you’re unsure, find out why the teacher is doing that with your child. And if you don’t agree with it, tell ’em why.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. And open communication.

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And it’s like we are, we often, I don’t know, sometimes I feel like we give [00:41:00] teachers a hard time on this podcast and to Absolutely not intended at all. Oh. They do an amazing job. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience and a job. You know, it’s just a challenging space with gifted kids for them and us, you know?

And I just wanna acknowledge, like you said, they have a, a wealth of knowledge that, you know, there’s gonna be all sorts of reasons behind what they do. Uh, and sometimes it can really help as a parent just to understand where they’re coming from, uh, and to get that. So yeah, talking, talking it through, trying to ask those questions like you say and be curious.

Jess Farago: Sorry. Sorry. I was just gonna say one last thing. I also found Yeah. Please. Reminding myself all the time, cuz obviously, well I do, when you dealing with your own child in your mind, that’s the only person you’re thinking about. Yeah. But also I found a helpful to remind myself that we are, I’m, that the teacher is dealing with in, in my son’s class, 18 other kids.

Yeah. And I know that there was at least four or five in that class that were [00:42:00] also neuro divergent. Mm-hmm. . So it’s not just our kid that they’re dealing with. So I had to keep reminding myself of that too, because like you said, they got a wealth of knowledge. And I am, I admire teachers. I don’t know how they do it.

But yes, that’s where the open communication comes in.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But no doubt, first year of school, a massive year. Congratulations on both of you getting to the end of it, and coming back for more in the, in, you know, back for year two or the, the second year of schooling. And you know, one thing that my husband and I do at the beginning of each year is we’ll actually have a bit of a sit down and talk about each of our kids and we’ll, we’ll kind of pick one or two things as a priority for the year, right?

We’re gonna work on this this year, uh, as a way of not getting overwhelmed by, you know, all of, you know, different areas that will, you know, might need some work, but also it [00:43:00] means you’re not focusing on too many, like, deficit areas. And it’s also like, what are the strength areas we’re gonna focus on?

Let’s support them in this way and that way. And like you said earlier, you know, you’ve got a couple of things this year you’re going back with. And it’s good to have a little think about that at the beginning of the year. And, and those goals can be quite modest, you know, for one of our kids this year, it’s as simple as we wanna.

encourage them to learn a couple of things where they’re going to have to try and they’re going to have to practice, you know? And sometimes it’s as simple as that, but that is actually a big thing. Uh, and that’s the goal for the year. And quite frankly, that is enough, you know? And so, and, and it, because it is as much as we are, we’re in the here and now, it’s also about the long game.

We don’t have to feel like we’ve got to fix everything that needs fixing overnight and we can just enjoy our kids, you know, and be in the moment and have fun [00:44:00] and enjoy that journey. The

Jess Farago: journey. Yeah, for sure. And the other thing that I thought of just then as we’re talking about them getting tired before at the end of term is I found over the holidays, like I like to do things with people and socialize and hang out with friends.

But I also found when we spent our holidays with more downtime than social time was so much better for ’em. Cuz they need, oh my God. Yep. And I saw a different child starting one term when we, I think spent the last week of holidays doing not. Yes. We just did that at home. Took the dog for a walk, hung out with family, caught up with a couple of friends, but it was a really lowkey break.

Yep. He went back so refreshed compared to filling our cup every single day. Cuz sometimes you feel like you have to fill that kid’s cup. Mm-hmm. with a brain like that. Yep. But I’m seeing these holidays a very overwhelmed child from all the things that we’re balancing. So I’m [00:45:00] starting my new job, you know, it’s just so I highly encourage even I got into a routine of day on, day off, day on, day off.

Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm over the holidays so they weren’t too overworked cuz school is huff

Sophia Elliott: gig. I hardly endorse that. The kids get knackered too. Like they really do need holidays as rest time. They do. And, and we’re the same. We, and you know, back in the day I used to put them in, they’d do a bit of a vacation care thing and they’d do this and look, sometimes that’s still nice, but I err on the side of what can we do that’s relaxing.

Mm-hmm. sometimes you actually just want a few days mooching at home. Mm-hmm. reading, playing a video game, watching some movies. Just total mooch. Mm-hmm. sometimes, we’ll it’ll be like, right, we need to get outta the house. Let’s do something in nature, which again is regulating. And then sometimes you do want a big day out and a, a [00:46:00] vacation care activity or whatever it might be.

But, uh, but yeah, more and more we do a very balanced holiday with lots of mooching because like you say, the kids need that rest time as well. Absolutely. Yep.

Jess Farago: Definitely. Yeah,

Sophia Elliott: totally. So huge lessons there. Huge journey for you. Thank you so much for sharing all of that with us, . I’m, I hope, and I’m sure that anyone who is embarking, uh, on that first year journey or is in that kind of kinder phase, uh, will take a lot from this conversation.

And, uh, and even like, you know, towards the end there talking about tips for holidays and, and things like that, you, you kind of forget when you’re a few years in, uh, you know, all the tricks that, the journey you’ve been on and the tricks that you’ve learned about stuff like that. So thank you very much for taking us, uh, down that road as well.

And it’s okay. Yeah, it’s been just an absolute delight to [00:47:00] spend time with you and to hear about everything you’ve, you guys have been up to and through.

Jess Farago: Thanks. I really appreciate being on this. Like, I’ve, I’m very passionate about it, not just cuz he’s my son, but just in general. Like when I go and start my job, I’m.

You know, one of my goals is to really get down into this giftedness and twice a multi exceptionality, cuz I’m just like, I had an epiphany last year, I went, why aren’t I looking at doing good job in this? Like, Yes. Aren’t you? I’ve got, I’ve got the knowledge. Yeah. And you know, like, and just like I said earlier, everything I have said is my own personal experience.

And I, and I hope that people can gain some stuff from it. But there might be some things I’ve said where someone goes, you know, how could you say that? It, it’s literally nothing is targeted at anyone. Nothing is to hurt or upset or offend anyone. It’s just purely my own personal experience and what worked for me, what didn’t work for me.

And my recommendations are based [00:48:00] around a very, you know, gifted child that needs so much nurturing but also needs so much downtime. Yeah. And yeah, so I hope that I have given some people some good insight into what they may have

Sophia Elliott: ahead of. Yeah, no, absolutely. Because, uh, and I put a lot of value. I mean, , I started this, , just as a parent sharing experiences and, and , we always, uh, encourage people if they’re having particular challenges to find those AR experts and therapists to work through one-on-one.

But this is a safe space where we can just share our stories, share what we’ve learned. People can take from that what they will. Uh, and, and I, I think what I feel is a lot of people do see themselves in those stories of other people that we share here and do connect. And it can be quite a relief to hear that they’re not alone [00:49:00] mm-hmm.

And, and take, , what works and leave, leave, what doesn’t. And that’s, , obviously the intended thing. And so No, totally cause absolute joy to have you. And please by all means, we need more, , psychologists and assessors who get gifted and bring that lived experience. So if I encourage you to go in that direction, please do.

I’ll be able to refer everyone to Jess in future . It’d be very helpful. We need more people working in the area, especially with that kind of personal lived perspective. So thank you so much for being with us today. You’re welcome. Yeah. You’re so welcome. And I will share in the show notes. Of course.

How people can get in touch professionally , as your professional self, uh, as well. And yeah, really look forward to catching up again and uh, maybe seeing where you’re at after the second year of schooling . See what your journey’s

Jess Farago: been like. Yeah, when catch up. I know. I’m really curious how it goes.

Cuz the teacher last year was very warm and this teacher seems very robust and I’m like hmm, could this [00:50:00] not work for him? I’m a bit nervous cuz he likes that real warm. This firmness could be really good for him, but I don’t know. We’ll find out. I’ll let you know next year, . Yeah,

Sophia Elliott: absolutely. Let us know next year.

Thanks so much for your time this evening. It’s wonderful. Thank you so much Sophia. Thank you.


#079 Parents Guide to Gifted Kids’ First Years of School #3, Part 2 w/ Jess Farago

#078 Parents Guide to Gifted Kids’ First Years of School #3, Part 1 w/ Jess Farago

In this episode, we’re talking to Jess Farago, a provisional psychologist, and mum of a gifted child who is at the end of their first year of schooling. She shares with us their journey over the year and the tips and tricks she’s discovered along the way.

Memorable quote… “

“There’s a stigma attached to it, which I found really hard dealing with. And I still do. I’m getting a lot more confident about it. 

But my heart races if someone says, ‘oh wow… look at [his] writing, look at his reading… you should have him assessed’. ‘Oh, I have, actually, he’s gifted…’ 

But my heart’s racing. I’m so used to the eye roll…

It’s really challenging… We are like a little team. It’s definitely been difficult but it’s also been amazing.” – Jess Farago


Jess Farago is the mum of a gifted son; a 5-year-old who has recently completed his first year of primary school.

In addition, Jess is a provisional psychologist who has a passion for neurodivergence and understanding the gifted and neurodiverse brain and behaviour.

Jess observed differences between her son and other children when her son was a baby, and it was drawn to her attention by professionals, that her son might be gifted and to monitor it. Therefore, the journey of extensive gifted research, reading, understanding and ongoing observation began.

Jess has found the path of being a mum to a gifted child filled with so much joy, however, it has not been easy and is exhausting.

Some of the most challenging parts for Jess over the last 5 years has been with the stigma attached to the word ‘gifted’. For years she felt isolated and that there was little to no support out there. But that didn’t stop Jess from ensuring her son received as much support as possible wherever he went and that she advocated for him. This is where Jess found navigating the mainstream school system a challenge.

Jess has good knowledge of the education system having worked in the school system and has been faced with some very positive experiences, however, there have been some big challenges in the mainstream school setting concerning her son.

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Hit play and let’s get started!


[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to episode three. I’m a parent’s guide to gifted kids. First years of school. Today, we’re back with a conversation with Jess Farago. Jess is a mother of a gifted child. Who’s just at the end of their first year of school. And shares her journey about how that first year has gone. She’s also a provisional psychologist with a deep interest in your idea, virgins. And so is lovely. 

To have Jess as a guest on the podcast and share her story with us today. Again, we’re dividing this episode up into two parts. So. Today, Jess shares sort of the beginning of her story. And like, I think we get about halfway through the year and in part two, we round up the year and all of their experiences. And we talk about some tips and tricks that Jess has learned along the way. So. 

Part, two’s definitely worth a listen to get all of those tips and tricks. If you are in the early years of schooling. 

So in this series so far, we’ve had [00:01:00] Emily who is a mum of a gifted kid at the beginning of their first year of school this year. We’ve had Stephanie Higgs, who is a gifted educator, sharing her knowledge and experience about those early years. And today we’ve got Jess a mum of a gifted kid at the end of that last year of school looking back and sharing their journey. 

Jess Farago, a mum of a gifted son. A five-year-old who’s recently completed his first year of primary school. Just as a provisional psychologist who has a passion for neurodivergence working in that space and understanding the gifted in your eye, diverse brain and behavior. 

Jess observed differences between her son and other children. When her son was just a baby. And began that journey of extensive gifted research, reading and understanding. It was lovely to have Jess on the show talking about some very positive experiences throughout the year. And some of the challenges that there have been as well. And we’ve got one more episode that will come next week, which is like a. A Roundup of all the tips and tricks. Uh, and things to keep in mind for [00:02:00] that first year of school. I hope that you’re enjoying the series, do let us know on Facebook and Instagram. You can support us by sharing the podcast, leaving a review. 

Uh, leaving a tip, becoming a podcast patron, or just generally subscribing and getting involved. We love that. You’re listening. Thank you so much for your feedback and yeah, if you’ve got any more ideas or questions about that first year of school, do let us know on social media, because we would love to be able to include them. Thanks very much for listening, stay quirky and we’ll see you again next week with our last episode in the series. Bye.[00:03:00] 

Sophia Elliott: 

Hello listeners and welcome to the podcast. I am very excited today to be talking to Jess Farago as a part of our series on that kind of first year of schooling. And super excited to be having this conversation because Jess is kind of at the end of that first year of school.

So we are going to have a conversation about her experience you know, ha being freshly through that kind of process. And so Jess, welcome to the podcast. I’m super excited that you’re here. 

Jess Farago: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here too. Oh, very good. Uh, first of all, so tell 

Sophia Elliott: us all a little bit about yourself, cuz you’re obviously mom to a gifted kid, but you’ve actually been working in this area as well.

Tell us about that. 

Jess Farago: [00:04:00] So to quickly point out my role, I am a provisional psychologist, so I’ve just finished my five years of study. So I’ve been working in the neurodiverse space for a couple of years throughout my studies. So through that I have developed a fair bit of knowledge around giftedness and twice a multi exceptionality, which sort of helped me in my journey as a mother of a gifted child.

And so they sort of went hand in hand essentially, but I found out my son was gifted before I started my studies as a psychologist. And it’s quite interesting cuz he’s what motivated me to become a psychologist. 

Sophia Elliott: Quite the journey then that you’ve been on together. Mm-hmm. . 

Jess Farago: Yeah. So I noticed that he was yeah, very different from four months old and yeah, sort of started from there.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. So, Tell us a little bit about those early years before we get to the first year of school. Mm-hmm. , just about your journey then. And so [00:05:00] obviously you had inklings from a very early age. Well done for recognizing something wasn’t typical. Cuz I was completely clueless at that, that point in time. I didn’t know 

Jess Farago: what it was.

Oh yeah. . Yeah. So, I, I’m very transparent about my situation, so I was a single mother from pregnancy. And so, I embarked on this journey with a lot of family support. But I was living with my son in this little tiny unit in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Completely clueless as to what I was doing.

And I had a number of mum friends that I’d connected with that had babies around the same time. And as I seem to have discovered a lot of mothers, do you take photos of your baby? Look what they’re doing, look what they’re doing. Oh, isn’t that cute? And a lot of the time, the photos that I was sending, I just thought was what normal kids do.

I shouldn’t say normal. Typical kids do. Mm-hmm. . And I’m getting response to saying, oh, mine’s not doing that. Mine’s not doing that. And I, I started to feel uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure whether I was, seemed like I was gloating [00:06:00] and I didn’t, I didn’t know what was going on and you know, all but then my friend’s kids were doing things that my son wasn’t doing and I was like, why isn’t my son doing this?

And you know how parents can’t help it. They get quite competitive. Yeah. And I was like, so I didn’t know what I was seeing, but I’m a, I’ve always been really observant and I found that my observant skills, I guess really paid off for this because I’d be watching and I’m like, okay, what four month old is screwing little bolts into toys.

Yeah. Not many, I have to say. And yeah. And so I started looking things up and I went to a maternal child health nurse for his appointment and he’s pointing and she said he’s pointing at four months old. That’s usually a sign of giftedness. Just monitor it. I was like, gifted. That’s what, you know, I had no idea what bravo 

Sophia Elliott: for that health nurse to even be the, you know, onto giftedness.

Jess Farago: Wow. Tried today that she retired. Yeah, I would’ve as well. Brilliant. It was amazing. [00:07:00] And so I stuck with her. I even traveled to keep seeing her when I moved. And I was like, okay, so I’ll monitor with this. And I didn’t really delve into it too deeply at that point because I was like, what have I been hit with?

I don’t know what’s giftedness. And I did a bit of reading on it, but I sort of wanted to just be his mum and not Yeah. Digress from that. We didn’t fit in in our mother’s group. Like I always felt like he was different. I felt out of place. And I couldn’t put my finger on it. Yeah. He all, and as he sort of started to develop, he was, this is the interesting thing cause I know that with gifted kids, they tend to speak early, but he didn’t, he was quite delayed and.

There was one word that he was said from really, really young, which was this. And he pointed to every single little thing. So I’d be carrying him and he’s going, this, this, this, this. At everything that I walked past. And I had a, I, not a breakdown, but I, I bursted into tears his one day when it took 20 minutes to get from my kitchen to my car.

Yeah. Because he stopped me at everything and I had to tell him what everything was. And if I didn’t, he’d start [00:08:00] screaming. Yeah. No one around me understood what was going on. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I’d never seen it before. Yeah. And so this just kept developing. And then by nine months old, when he is lying on his tummy and he does a 20 piece puzzle, I start going, okay, this is what . And so, it just went on like that and I just started to notice we went up to a friend’s house who is a teacher, a primary school teacher. She had this big alphabet puzzle that I’d never seen before. My son had never seen before. He was sitting at this point, I think he was like maybe 14 months old or something.

He just does the whole alphabet in a row. And she’s going, wow. And I’m like, and I, I, I started to notice a pattern where, you know, everyone that saw him doing things, I just got a lot of Wow. Wow. Yeah. Wow, wow. And I’m going, wow. You know, and I was quite surprised at what I was seeing. Yeah. But, but I became so used to it.

Yeah. But I didn’t know any different. But the problem was if I said anything to anyone around me, and this is no [00:09:00] one’s fault in my world. Mm-hmm. like my family, I really felt like I came across as boasting. So I just stopped saying stuff. Yeah. And then I became so isolated because I had no one to talk to about it.

Mm-hmm. that, oh, I had a couple of friends I could talk to and they were really supportive. But the people that I was hanging out with, I just felt really uncomfortable. Mm-hmm. . So I felt like I was just watching this kid teaching himself to read and write it too. And if I said anything to anyone, I was like, you know, look what he’s doing kind of thing.

And that whole bias sort of stuff, it’s so tricky. It is really tricky. And, but I also started to experience the challenges of it. Mm-hmm. where rigidity kicked in and the he was never into organizational lines or anything, but it was all about you know, his reading. Like we had to read 35 books before he was tired.

So bedtime started at three 30 some days and would read till seven. And I was like, , I’ll just do what I gotta do to make him happy. It’s like a drug for him. He needed [00:10:00] his fix. Mm-hmm. and the, I’m condensing it. There’s obviously so much, but yeah, as the journey went on, I noticed that he’s, oh, he, the gap was getting bigger between his age and what he could do.

Yeah. And that was one of the signs that the health nurse said if he’s gifted at six months old, he’ll be doing things of a 12 month old or 12 months, it’ll be of an 18 month old. Like if the gap gets bigger and bigger. And I’ve just been noticing that the whole time. Yeah. And I also started to notice his emotional articulation I suppose, or emotional intelligence I should say, was quite advanced from quite a young age as well.

So he was experiencing guilt and shame from really young. Yeah. And empowerment from really young. And that was hard because other people didn’t get it. Yeah. So, I’ve been learning as I go . Yeah. Really. So yeah, that’s kind of, I hope I’ve covered a fair bit of it. There’s probably hours to cover . 

Sophia Elliott: Oh, absolutely.

I mean, what an absolutely wild ride. And I think the thing, , as you’re sharing your [00:11:00] story, thank you so much, but it’s sort of like, these examples, they’re so extreme that the, the, the typical person, the average person hearing stuff like that will be like, oh, that can’t be true.

Do you know? That’s what I got. Yeah, absolutely. But when you, you, you kind of, enter the gifted world and you meet more and more people, uh, who are having similar experiences, , obviously all the kids express in their own way, but then it, it must have been a bit of a relief, , as you got into that space to meet other people who, whose response was kind of like, oh yeah, my kid too, or, yeah, no, I get what you mean.

As opposed to, , that can’t be true. 

Jess Farago: Yeah, it, it definitely was. But what was hard was he’s now, he’ll be six in Feb and I’m only experiencing that in the last few months. Oh yeah. Because even though [00:12:00] I started to work, I worked it as an integration aid working with a myriad of d. Presentations of Neurodivergence.

Yeah, I did come across a gifted kid in grade five, and I found that fascinating to watch, but I didn’t get to work with him personally. But even then, like if, if I ever mentioned, oh you know, I’m finding this really interesting because my son’s gifted and I’m seeing similar traits. Oh, so he’s autistic.

Oh no, he’s gifted. There’s a difference. Like, you know, and he might be autistic. I don’t know. That’s something that we’ll always monitor for, but, so he receives the right support. But that’s the response I always got or I would get. Oh, so he is a genius. Mm-hmm. And that made me feel even worse because yeah, I understand he’s exceptionally smart, but he also, well, you can say something to him and he burst into tears cuz he doesn’t know what you’re saying.

Mm-hmm. . And so he doesn’t get it. And so a lot of people have this, there’s a stigma attached to it, which I found really hard dealing with. And I still do. I’m getting a lot more confident about it. But my heart [00:13:00] racists, if someone says, oh wow. Oh my gosh. He’s like, blah, blah, blah. Look at the writing. Look at his reading.

Look at this. Look this, you should have him assessed. Oh, I have actually, he’s gifted. Oh, right. And then I’m, but my heart’s racing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m so used to the eye roll and the of course that, yeah. I’m always terrified of saying it, but now I’m more of an advocate for him. I’m more, I go with he’s neurodivergent, he’s gifted together.

It’s really challenging. . Yeah. But it’s been, it’s challenging as it’s been. He has been an absolute joy to parent. And I think it’s my type of personality too, cause I always like a hard project. . So for me it’s like always homework. And I’ve made many mistakes along the way and I’ve found what works and what doesn’t work.

We are like a little team. So it’s, it’s definitely been difficult and, but it’s also been amazing. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And, and I think that sums it [00:14:00] up. It’s definitely difficult. It’s definitely amazing and you definitely need to find your people that safe space where you can both be yourself. And the more people you find like that around you just the easier that makes life.

Jess Farago: Yeah, definitely. And what I, what I have noticed is a number of my, a lot of my, or a few of my friends have been friends for a long time. So we’re talking 15, 20 years. And those particular friends have been, I guess my rock really. They’re the ones that have started the whole way. They’ve never really judged.

They’ve supported, I have a couple of other friends that have really been there too, but and they’re all probably seeing going, that was me. But it’s more the fact that. , a number of them are neurodiverse. So it was easy to go on that path with them. Mm-hmm. , and my family have been just like the most amazing support cuz they’ve just like gone along with it.

Mm-hmm. and they’re like, right, yep. Teach us, [00:15:00] oh, does that mean regulation? Right. Okay, awesome. Like, they just take in everything. Yeah. Yeah. And I think he’s just a classic, so , they just love the fact that he, you know, the, the, the little quirks that he has, 

Sophia Elliott: he sounds like an absolute little dynamo. And so that brings us sort of to this first year of school mm-hmm.

period of time. And so one thing that a lot of parents will ask cuz they’re sort of getting to that point in the journey, is when is the right time to start school and how do I select a school? So I’m interested in your experience of when your son started school and how you went about selecting that 

Jess Farago: school.

Okay. So I am super organized. So I started looking when he was two and a half . Mm-hmm. , maybe I was bored, I don’t know. But I found an area where I live now, which I fell in love with. And so I was set on staying here and they were surrounded by a [00:16:00] number of really good schools. So I thought if I start touring early, and I start being very transparent and saying, Hey, this is my kid.

Have you had experience with kids like this before? You know, if you haven’t and I, you know, put hypotheticals out there if this was happening, how would you deal with it? So I sort of started it early because I wanted to narrow it down. So then when I found the, maybe the two that I was umming and ing about when he got older before enrollment, I would go and do it again, see it from a different perspective.

So I’m not sure other parents would do that. Might seem like it’s nuts to some, but it worked for me. And so I decided to send him when he was four.

Mm-hmm. based around a lot of discussion with the psychologists that assessed him, the kinder teachers. He went to a brilliant sessional, kinder that were so supportive and on board with everything. They were the ones that picked on picked up cognitive fatigue. Mm-hmm. , he couldn’t regulate emotionally, but he could.

So there was a lot of discussion and halfway through the year they had to make a [00:17:00] decision of whether they kept a spot for him. This is halfway through a four year old kinder, or whether I sent him. Yeah. I’d already decided I’d send him, because for me, I could not imagine him doing another year of kinder academically, he would.

Yeah, he, he, he wouldn’t cope, but I would always do what a kinder, a professional, kinder educator would recommend. And so this particular educator, if, if she was a bit blase and wasn’t really supportive throughout the year, I probably wouldn’t really go by what she said, but because she was so in tune with him mm-hmm.

so communi, uh, with open communication with me regularly and I’m so supportive, I really was gonna do what she recommended. Yeah. So we had a meeting and she said, look, I think he might benefit from another year due to his emotional dysregulation. And as open as I am to her suggestions, I was quite surprised because the psychologist had noticed how his emotional IQ was pretty advanced.

And he could tell you, I’m overwhelmed. My body feels like this. I need a break. [00:18:00] And he would cry and he would tell you why he’s crying. A lot of the time he doesn’t know now, but that’s what we experienced. And I said, look, I’m more than willing to keep him on, but I’m still on the fence. Let me speak to the psychologist.

I’ll get back to you. Spoke to the psychologist, explained what the teachers had been experiencing. She said, this is cognitive fatigue. Let me send you some stuff. Give it to the teachers, leave it with them. Go on from there. I did that. A week later, the teacher calls me and says, I owe you an apology. I said, no, you don’t.

And she’s like, yes, I do. He’s got cognitive fatigue. So we started noticing a pattern. So every time she started noticing a pattern, she’d ring me up. What’s happening at home? Well, he’s writing seven hours a day. Okay, well, you know, and we’d look at the patterns cuz he sleeps. I know this is not like an absolute gem.

Like seven till six every single night. Bless that child . Yeah. Give or take, you know, sick days, whatever. So I was very aware of when things were different. Yeah. And so because we noticed that pattern, she said, I’ve noticed he can regulate his socially age appropriate [00:19:00] because he was younger. There were some social differences between the nearly six year olds and him.

But you know, that compared to a kid that was emotionally ready Yeah. Academically advanced. I had to send him to school. Yeah. But, so I sent him and um, when I, so I timed the whisk in preparation for school start. Yeah. Which was recommended by the ed and dev psych I’ve been seeing. Got the report, the kinder wrote an amazing report about what was needed for him to thrive.

Yeah. He basically said, you gotta keep up with him or he’ll get bored. And went to the school, was really happy with the school’s approach and they, the, the prep teacher contacted me the year b, the end of the year before he started to basically say, look, I’ve gone over the reports, I’ve done this, I’ve done this.

I’m researching over the holidays. Leave it with me. and then we’ll, we’ll meet next year. So when he started, I did think he was the youngest, but there were three other kids in his class. The same age? Yeah. Literally [00:20:00] either side of his birthday. Yeah. Wow. But when look at these kids, they’re very mature for their age.

So I can see why they started. Yeah. You wouldn’t know. So that’s kind of how I started. So yes, I started looking at schools early, but I’m glad I did because I, the, one of the schools I looked at was the one I decided on. Yeah. So when I went back, I had a different outlook on it. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, totally. So first of all, uh, you, you were talking about having a look at the schools and then going back later and having a look at them again.

Can I just say brilliant, because as you know, and I’m sure you’ve experienced so much of the, of, of picking the right school is about the leadership and the teachers, and that can change quickly. So I, I think like you, you did a great job there by, making a point of going back, it being a bit later, making sure there’s still, what they presented the previous visits. I think that’s a fabulous approach. Share with us all though. You mentioned cognitive fatigue, so share with [00:21:00] all about what that is about. Cause probably a few listeners haven’t heard of that before. 

Jess Farago: Sure. So my understanding of cognitive fatigue and what my son experienced was where they, cuz their brain is wanting to learn all the time and pretty much doesn’t stop, they well my son specifically would find a particular thing of interest.

So it might be, I wanna learn to write. So he would start writing and he would write all the time. And so for example, he’d get up at six and we were going out at nine. Between six and nine. He wrote the whole entire time. And then we would go to leave and he’d pack up his writing stuff, walk to the car, hop in the car, and write in the car wherever we were going.

And then this would go on all day. We’d get home, he’d be in bed writing or he’d be in bed reading. And so, because it was hours and hours, like in total of the day, depending what we did, kinder was a bit different. But he would just be doing the same thing. And the way I understood it was he was developing this new skill.

Yeah. And [00:22:00] he was enjoying it and he was watching it develop. But what was happening is this was going on for weeks and so his brain was not resting. Yeah, he was going to bed, going to sleep brain wide, waking up, sitting down, writing, reading. And his brain just got so, so, so overworked that he hit this wall.

Like, like, the way I compare it is when, you know, I guess as adults in a busy lifestyle, we just keep going until we burn out. So I would call it another one burnout. But be, it’s cuz his brain’s overloaded and what we would experience is crying over something that he doesn’t normally cry about. So, you know, I pick him up from kinder and the teacher said, look, someone dropped a droplet of water on his foot and he burst into tears.

So I would know that was cognitive fatigue related. Yeah, he would sleep. So I would get in the car, drive him home, he’d be asleep at three o’clock and he’d sleep through till seven the next morning. So this big sleep would happen the next day though, following this cognitive fatigue window, there was no writing or reading.

Mm-hmm. . And so that’s how I kind of started to notice the pattern. Did I pick every [00:23:00] time I started? No. By the sixth I would start going, oh, we’re in that cycle. Yeah. And go on every couple of months. So first you’ll be reading, writing, then it was learning every dinosaur, then it was learning every animal, then it was learning every country.

So this kept happening. So I hope I’ve answered the question. But the cognitive fatigue is the brain in overdrive that’s not resting cuz they are determined to master this skill. , yeah. Burn. Yeah. 

Sophia Elliott: Totally. Absolutely. And so you got incredibly lucky there. I mean, obviously you did your homework and found a, a great kindie and a good school, but, uh, it, it sounded like the kindie as well really had a lot of well prepared to do the work and really learn about your child and, and what they needed.

So you had a good rapport with them there. 

Jess Farago: Oh, they were amazing. They would’ve a meeting with me every term. They also, we came up with a strategy that when he was experiencing cognitive fatigue, whoever knows the [00:24:00] first would contact. And that’s when we started our intervention, which was 500 breaks between activities.

Mm-hmm. . So he would get time to read cuz that’s how he regulates. Yeah. Now three. Right. And it just, it, it really helped. And looking back, now that I’m talking to you, my God, he’s changed , but it’s, yeah. But that was a period cognitive fatigue experience A lot long happened a lot longer than what I was aware of.

Yeah. Yeah. He was going through it a lot when he was two and three that I didn’t know. Yeah. Because he was so young and he couldn’t Yeah. Oh, I didn’t know as much then. Yeah, of course, of 

Sophia Elliott: course. It’s a total journey. [00:25:00] Mm-hmm. . And so you’ve already mentioned there that, uh, because another question that parents will ask at, at this point in time, but you know, in that transition to any kind of new school is.

what do I say to the school or the teacher about my child being gifted? Do I tell them, don’t I tell them? How do I tell them? So you’ve already mentioned that you were very upfront when you were looking at schools about the giftedness. Mm-hmm. . Share a little bit about that experience, uh, with us. 

Jess Farago: Okay.

So I believe that I had to be upfront because if I wasn’t, cuz all the research that I’d done and things that I’d read and listened to everywhere stated that if your child does not enjoy their academic experience, it can be a horrible time for them. I have read horror stories, which I won’t even talk about on here cuz it makes me cry.

So I was like, I can’t have that. Like, I’ll do anything I can to prevent that. So if that means that I come across as [00:26:00] that mother, yeah, I don’t, he’s number one. So I yeah, just approached, approached the principal and said I, he was quite surprised that I was looking for primary school for two-year-old or three-year-old, whatever it was.

And I said, look, there is a reason but I’d like to meet you privately, not a group tour. So I did, and I basically just started off with, before we get on the tour, I need to just disclose some information about my son because it’s gonna be a big determinant on whether I choose this school or not, and will be based on how I believe you will be able to support him.

And I just said, look, my son’s gifted and I just had to pretend. . I’m not even pretend, I just went with the attitude of you don’t know what that is because Yeah. Now I, I’ve got a different outlook based on what one of your interviewees said a while ago on what response you get from a teacher. But then I was like, okay, so my son’s gifted.

I didn’t know it was neuro divergence. Then I just said my son’s gifted. He is already reading and [00:27:00] writing at three and I’m looking for a school that will be able to provide him support. Oh, and by the way, my son didn’t like being taken outta groups. He didn’t like being different at kinder. And I said, I want a school that can extend him where he needs it without removing him from the class.

Cuz a couple other schools I looked at take them out. Yeah, yeah. And I just at that time went, no, it’s not gonna work. And he’s like, all right, well, you know, we have integration aids in classrooms. And so he took me to a classroom and there was a teacher writing. The cat sat on the mat and I said, oh, this is a perfect opportunity.

They, that teacher’s writing cat on the mat to the preps and they’re all writing it. So my hypothetical situation for you is my son’s writing that. Now, he may not be, his handwriting’s not neat or anything, he’s obviously got a lot of work to do, but if he’s got the basics of writing, what will you do in a situation like that to extend him?

Yeah. And he said, well, we’d make sure he is in a class with an aide. Not that he needs an aide, but it would be handy to have one to be able to come over and say, Hey, but we will have extra work set up for him. [00:28:00] So if he’s already writing sentences and he’s got to that stage at school where. , he is at the level it’s appropriate because at three his writing is not where it would be at Prep, it was the spelling.

We would introduce the next stage, so either punctuation or he can write a story about a cat. You know, we’d make it different for him. And I was like, oh, perfect. That was music to my ears. Yeah. Win win. Awesome. And a lot of, so to answer your question, the advice that I’d give any parent is when asking questions is hypothetical situations of what your current, your child is currently doing.

Mm-hmm. knowing that there is room to change, knowing that your child might be very different at school. They may not do any of that at school. Yeah. Not do different at school and at home. My, my child, child was very obsessed with learning and I’m sure they all are, but he didn’t change much between school and home.

He didn’t care. It was like, gimme the, gimme the words, you know? But he so I found giving them situations. [00:29:00] How would you deal with that? Yeah. I also say, what will you do if my son starts playing up? Cuz he’s bored. Yeah. How will, how will you manage that cause? And I said, look, I’ll be honest, I said to the principal, because it’s just me and my son, he gets everything he needs from me because I don’t have any interference.

I’ve got no other siblings. If he needs something, he gets it. So it’s gonna happen at school. Cuz he may not wanna do that. He may already know that he might be bored and he starts playing up. What are you gonna do? Oh, we’ll find another work to do. I’m like, yep, perfect. And he said me examples, the VP or the vice principal who was there, she’d been there 40 years.

She was amazing. And then she retired when we started, so that was just the worst ever. So, her, so anyway, so hopefully that answers that question, but that is definitely the questions to ask, I think are when you ask, this is what I know now. Yeah. Which I know then when you’re talking to them about giftedness, if they respond to you with, and I know Cantara Phillips said this, if they respond to you with Oh [00:30:00] yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

No, I know, I know. Mm-hmm. to me that means that they don’t know and they’re not willing to learn anything new. The experience I had was a teacher who was, look, I dunno much. I’m doing the research. If you’ve got resources, send them. So I sent your podcast with an episode about teaching. Hope you don’t mind.

I sent documents, I sent books that really helped. And I know that she got them from other parents who had other presentations of neuro divergence. So it seems a bit extreme, but if the teacher or the staff or the principal are willing to take on a child and say, Hey, we dunno much, but we’re willing to do it and to learn, you’re in a good shot.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And, and I absolutely share that experience as well outside of a teacher going. You know, we have a gifted program and we have these post-grad qualifications and giftedness. The next best thing is someone with an open mind who’s [00:31:00] like, I wanna learn. Let’s go on this journey together.

Absolutely. Yeah. And 

Jess Farago: if they do have a staff member or a gifted program that’s completely gifted, I’m talking from someone, mainstream government, primary school where there’s no gifted program. They claim, and I know this isn’t true, but they claim that they ha they haven’t had a kid like Osho come through the school.

And I’ve said to them, you would have, but you wouldn’t have noticed it. So now you’ve got this. Let’s see what we can do. So starting and getting into the school was the easy part. The first year of prep, it hasn’t been terrible, but there’s been challenges. Yeah. Okay. So 

Sophia Elliott: there were certain expectations set when you had those conversations at the beginning.

So how did that pan out in reality? You know what, tell us a little bit about that. The next 12 months when school actually started and the teacher, the educators, and the school actually had to deliver. What, how did that go? Ooh, 

Jess Farago: good question. I would [00:32:00] say overall it was a really good first start to school for him.

Brilliant. With some minor to medium hiccups. Starting out, it was a breeze teacher. Oh my god. She, she was amazing. and I have mentioned this to a few parents with gifted kids that are starting next year, cuz I found this really beneficial for me. At the time, I didn’t like it because I, I wanted to have a meeting with the teacher before he started because I wanted to explain everything.

Yeah, yeah. And she took me aside and she said, what I’m gonna do, and I’m deliberately saying this cause I think it really worked, is I’m gonna observe him for four weeks. I have read your reports, I have read the kinder report, but I’m not gonna action on anything until I can observe everything I’ve read.

And my heart’s going, Hmm, why? Why can’t you just, you know? But it was the best thing we ever did because within those four weeks she noticed that everything [00:33:00] aligned with the report to what she read, the, with what she read and what she saw. But what she also noticed was things that the psych didn’t pick up on.

I didn’t even know about him. That he didn’t understand a certain way that instructions were given. And so she observed that the moment she said, okay, today we’re going to, he burst into tears and she went, there’s gotta be another way to do this. So she changed the way she delivered, but she worked with Otto privately first to find out how to deliver those questions that he would understand.

And when she worked it out, she ditched the whole class for the whole year and there was no issue. So I found those four weeks before we even had a meeting. So beneficial cuz she was able to come to. and say, yep, I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this. This is what I’ve observed, this is what I’m gonna be doing.

I’m like, oh my gosh. Brilliant. Mm-hmm. . So my recommendation if it’s, or I guess disclaimer is if a teacher [00:34:00] says to you, look, gimme a few weeks before we hit me. Mm-hmm. , I back that up 100%. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. I, and I don’t disagree with that, but I think for me the caveat is, uh, a child who is less likely to code switch between school and home.

Uh, although that being said, if a teacher observes for, for four weeks and goes, actually I don’t see any of it, that in itself will tell you an awful lot. As long as that doesn’t invalidate the report. Oh, I didn’t see any of it. So it can’t be true and doesn’t exist because the lesson there is, oh, I didn’t see any of it there.

That’s lots of red flags. Like, you know, we need to work on that cuz they’re, they’re masking and they’re trying to fit in. Yeah. So yeah. So that kind of period of observation can be a really good thing. And, and look, even where my kids go to school at the beginning of term, there’s a period of what do you know on [00:35:00] this subject we’re about to get into, you know?

So there, there is definitely, uh, uh, I think. A good practice. I think my only concern would be it’s gotta be an educator who isn’t going to therefore just say, oh, I didn’t see it doesn’t exist. would be my only worry on that front. But 

Jess Farago: yeah. Will you make a really good point cuz I should have probably mentioned that that’s what worked for me in my situation.

Yeah. Yeah. When you look at it it, it, it would be very different if Yeah, the child masks, the child doesn’t perform at all. And how heartbreaking would it be if the teacher came and said, okay, so I’ll rephrase it. I think you’ve gotta cater for what your child needs. Yeah, absolutely. And if you believe that your child needs to be or you need to have a meeting with your teacher before they start, then push for it.

Do push for whatever you believe is right for your child. I didn’t, because I’ve never seen him be [00:36:00] different from home in school and went with it. Mm-hmm. and that was fine. But a hundred percent if you’ve got a situation with a kid that you know, like I know a girl that knew the alphabet before she started prep and then when they did those assessments at the start, the teacher said she didn’t know her alphabet.

So I know the difference. So I do agree with you there. That was my personal experience. 

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And thank you for sharing your experience. And because you had said earlier that you. You know, he’d always been quite consistent between uh, situations.

So yeah, that totally makes sense. And I don’t, uh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting people don’t take that approach. I, it’s just, you know, if you’ve got a, an educator who is out for going on that journey, well then, , regardless of, you know, whether the child is just who they are or a masker, that can still work and you can still learn an awful lot through that process.

I’m not saying, don’t do it, but it’s just kind of like, you do hear a lot of anecdotal [00:37:00] stories from parents trying to work with educators who are like, well, we don’t see it, so we’re not gonna extend or whatever. And, uh, it just does require that open, lovely, open-minded person that we referred to earlier who’s willing to learn and go on the journey.

So, no, totally. 

What you would hope for then in that situation is I don’t see it. So therefore, if this report is telling me this, you are telling me this, but I’m not seeing it. Red flag, right? Mm-hmm. , so this child isn’t feeling comfortable to be themselves at school.

How can we make those changes to meet their needs so they don’t feel that they’re having to work so hard to fit in and not get their needs met? Mm-hmm. . So it, it’s a learn, it’s an opportunity to learn, but it just requires, I guess, that little bit, uh, of insight about the, the, the potential and capacity of the gifted brain in these tiny little 

Jess Farago: people.

Oh yeah, definitely. And, and look, there was an incident where, what was [00:38:00] observed, there was one thing that she observed that was not what the psych or me saw, and it wasn’t, it was just his uh, the way he, oh, I remember she saying, oh, the way she, he holds his pen is quite delayed. And I went, mm-hmm. . Oh, right.

And then I felt like a bit of a fool, cuz I was like, oh, he’s been writing since he was two. And I, I, I was coming from the parent, defensive parent perspective. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And she went, look, she wasn’t rude or anything, but she said, look, you know, it could be the fact that he’s not feeling safe here yet.

So he’s nervous holding it differently. I don’t know. But don’t, don’t worry about it. We’ll get the, the, the holding of the pen. Right. Or pencil right. Over time. And I’m thinking, why does it even worry me as long as he’s happy, you know? But then two weeks later she took me aside and said, you are, I was, you know, my suspicion was right.

He was nervous or Yeah. Whatever it was, because he was holding it differently two weeks later and that wasn’t from learning. And, and I was like, that’s how he’s always held it. Yeah. Yeah. There were things like that. And as the years gone by, [00:39:00] there’s, I’ve been starting to see differences between school and home.

Yeah. That wouldn’t if 

Sophia Elliott: you want. Yeah, no, please tell us about that because yeah. How did the, the year, so you’ve had a very successful beginning, which is just, oh my God. So amazing. Sounds like the educator is really on board with working through this and the school. Mm-hmm. , what happened 


What happened next? Indeed. Well, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait a few days for part two. We’re going to stop the episode. There we come back with Jessica and she talks about. What happened in the rest of her journey with her son in their first year of school? And we round up that is part two conversation with a whole bunch of tips about some of the things that she learned through that first year of school, which were really great to share. So I will see you again soon in part two. 

Thanks for tuning in. [00:40:00]