#072 A Very Gifted Christmas – Permission for Parents of Gifted Kids to Make This Christmas Easier

#072 A Very Gifted Christmas – Permission for Parents of Gifted Kids to Make This Christmas Easier

In this episode, we’re daring to re-imagine what Christmas might look like for our gifted families and giving parents permission to make it easier!

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Memorable Quote

“And so by this time of year, our kids are also tired and frazzled. We all are. So then, I dare say what we don’t need to add to that mix is a lot of stress and the demand of a hectic Christmas. Over the last couple of years, my husband and I and our family have made different decisions around Christmas. And they have been decisions in response to… Where are we at? How are we feeling right now? What do we actually need?” – Sophia Elliott


Hit play and let’s get started!


[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this week’s podcast. This week, we’re talking about a very gifted Christmas. What does that even mean? Well, we will get to that, but first of all, thank you. Thank you for coming on this journey with me. We’re like at the end of another year, it’s been another amazing year. And we’re getting very close to reaching a hundred thousand downloads at the, our gifted kids podcast, which is incredible and super exciting.

[00:00:27] And you will certainly hear about it when we do get there and it’s amazingly not far off. So thank you so much for listening for your reviews for sharing it with friends and for letting me know when. Things are. Do you know, when you’re having those aha moments or it’s making an impact and it’s helping.

[00:00:50] Because that helps me too. Keep going. Uh, two. No. What’s resonating with other people. Because we are a big and varied community. Um, but nonetheless, I think many of the themes are very universal.

[00:01:07] So I really appreciate all of the kind words everyone has sent through this year. Thank you so much for being on this journey with me. So this is the last podcast of the year. We’re going to talk about Christmas. And.

[00:01:21] In this podcast, I talk a lot about parenting gifted kids. It’s what I do. And 24 7, it’s a very lived experience thing. And sometimes I am knee deep in living that experience. And I wrote a very recent blog about hitting the wall really badly. Recently I had to cancel some stuff. And make some different decisions about what I needed, what my family needed right now.

[00:01:52] And the reality is as parents of gifted kids are gifted kids themselves. At this time of year, we all do often hit the wall.

[00:02:04] And we hit the wall for a lot of reasons. And we’re going to have a chat about that in this podcast episode.

[00:02:11] And instead of doing the recent webinar that I had hoped to do, we’re going to walk through some of that stuff in this podcast instead. So you won’t miss out. Anyone who’s looking for. Or is having challenges around the whole Santa thing. And what do I say with my kids and how do I deal with that? In the past, we have done a couple of great episodes on.

[00:02:36] Uh, new approaches to the whole Sante conundrum. And I’ll put those links in the show notes. So you can check that out. It’s all still very relevant. And now that we’re a few years in trying that sort of philosophy. I can tell you it has worked. It’s been really useful.

[00:02:54] Also, I want to acknowledge that while Christmas is all about joyful and connection and family time. And. Presence and all sorts of things. It can also just be a really hard time of year for many people, for all sorts of different reasons. And.

[00:03:11] And if that’s you. I just want to say. I see you, it can be really hard and tricky. And encourage you to reach out and get some support around you as you go through this holiday season.

[00:03:27] Next year, we’re going to have more exciting podcasts coming your way. A new course about giftedness, our membership communities. Continue. Uh, eBooks both freebies end for sale on the website. If you love the podcast, you can leave a review and help people find us. You can share it with a friend. You can say, thanks with cake or join our support community for the cost of as little as a coffee a month. But most of all, thank you for listening.

[00:03:57] This is an important conversation. There is real change needed for gifted kids and gifted adults. And we’re all a part of that change by having this conversation and being engaged and involved. So thank you. It means so much to me. That.

[00:04:13] This podcast is, you know, it’s a privilege to do it and to have that impact. And so thank you. So have a great Christmas holidays and we will be back in January. Uh, stay quirky and let’s get on with the podcast.

[00:04:58] Hello. And let’s talk about having a very gifted Christmas. First of all I want to ask you. How are you? Like really. How have you been the last couple of weeks? The last month? This year. How are you going?

[00:05:22] ’cause I know in this family, we get to this time of year and it’s just this slippery slope downwards. As we all just become. More and more fatigued.

[00:05:34] And well, we know that research shows that parenting gifted kids is. As stressful. And difficult as parenting a child with a physical disability. And I think that speaks to the challenge that people have with all sorts of things, where we don’t fit into the mainstream box of life. So if you’re always butting up against that box, it takes extra energy.

[00:06:04] Uh, and extra work to, to kind of work. You know, work around that box. And within the gifted community. That means us too. We did our kids. Don’t fit into the education system easily. I often have a range of therapies and accommodations and support that they need. Accommodations in parenting. That’s harder for us as parents.

[00:06:32] I got this wonderful validation recently. And, and I’ve had it before in my parenting journey where talking to a psychologist and they’ve said to me, do you know. All these things you’ve tried. Any one of those things. Would most likely have worked with a typical child. But your child, your child is a very complicated and complex.

[00:07:00] And so it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong. It’s just finding the correct approach or solution. He is taking so much more effort and work because you have this child that just doesn’t fit in the box. And as a parent, it’s really nice to hear that. Because. Oh, that’s, you know, sometimes you, if there’s a particular issue or challenge, you try a million different things and.

[00:07:28] You feel like it’s you. Do you know, I feel like it’s like, what am I doing wrong? Why can’t we move forward and find some progress on this? And it helps to know that. You know, And a typical parenting situation.

[00:07:44] Those things probably would have worked any number of those things, but without complicated complex, Little asynchronous. Gorgeous fabulous children. They haven’t. And so we, we need to keep trying, but that takes extra energy, extra effort. And so that empties our cup. So by the time we get to this time of year,

[00:08:09] We’re knackered. But then our kids are knackered too, because they’re also at the coalface trying to engage with and work their way through. Uh, an education system in a world that is not made for them. So they get weary. They get tired. And it’s hard for them. And so by this time of year, they too are.

[00:08:34] Tired and frazzled. So then if we consider. You know, A family of tired and frazzled individuals.

[00:08:45] I dare say what we don’t then need to add to that mix. Is a lot of stress. And demand of a hectic Christmas.

[00:08:57] Over the last couple of years, my husband and I and our family have made different decisions around Christmas. And they would decisions in response to.

[00:09:09] Where are we at? How are we feeling right now? And even recently. Uh, you know, living the experience of having all this going on. I had to ask myself. What can I cancel? Like, do I really need to be doing it? Well, can I reschedule? What can wait until January. What can I delegate? Like, do I have to do it, or can I just delegate this to someone?

[00:09:35] And so I’ve been left with a list of things that I do need to do, but it is a smaller list. After being quite ruthless. And sometimes that is just absolutely necessary.

[00:09:49] So how do we apply some curiosity to Christmas?

[00:09:54] I want to give you permission. To make life easier for yourself and your family. This Christmas. And this is what the ebook is all about. It’s all about re-imagining Christmas as a family of gifted neurodivergent complex, complicated. Grownups and children. And kind of asked ourselves. What does a fabulous Christmas look like to us?

[00:10:26] What. You know, we often feel. You know, at Christmas time that there is all these things that we have to do. What if we did not have to do them. What would it look like to you?

[00:10:41] What do you actually want more of in your life right now? And what do you actually want less of.

[00:10:48] So I’m going to go through. A few questions that we talk about in the book that help us to start to reimagine what kind of Christmas we might have.

[00:11:02] And first of all, I want to ask you. What does your family need? What kind of year have you had? And so what do you actually need right now? Because from thinking about this, we can actually create a holiday intention. So, for example, our family. Has had another very busy year. There have been some big things going on that have impacted us all.

[00:11:30] In the home front. That have worn us down. And I think it’s okay to acknowledge that. So we’re all got to the end of this big year and we’re all feeling quite tired. And, you know, our cups are empty. So, what we need is rest. That connection with nature, because that always helps you ground and feel good. And it helps us to move. Be.

[00:11:56] We’ve had a very wet and cold yell. And the sun has finally emerged. I think we’re now having summer. And so we desperately need to get outside, enjoy that warmth and get moving. And really just. KA reconnect in that space. So our holiday intention is all about resting. Eating well, moving our bodies and connecting.

[00:12:27] As simple as that. And so if it doesn’t fit into that box, we’ve got to ask ourselves, why are we doing it?

[00:12:36] So think about what maybe your family needs, what kind of a year have you had? Has it been really busy, like, like RC. You need a rest or. Have you, are you still feeling the impact of COVID and what you’re all desperately seeking is connection with your extended family. What is it? Reflect on your year and the year that you’ve had.

[00:13:01] To help you answer that question.

[00:13:03] And then once you’ve had that reflection, what we do every Christmas is we have a family board meeting. And this concept came from a book. And I can’t remember what the book was called. If I do, I will put it in the links, but the idea is, and we do this periodically throughout the year. We have our family board meetings.

[00:13:28] And it’s an opportunity for everyone in the family to have a voice. And to have a say in guide, you know, where we’re going and we definitely do this at Christmas. And what we ask each other is.

[00:13:43] What does Christmas mean to you? You know, if you think about Christmas, What are the things that you love to do? First of all, what do you love to do? So. For me personally, I love baking with the kids, Christmas cookies and things like that. I really love. Getting them involved in making some kind of gift.

[00:14:10] I love having a quiet, easy day.

[00:14:14] My kids love swimming in the pool. My kids love it. When some of our extended family visit. They of course love the gifts. Uh, and they love food. And so we also talk about food and it’s like, when you think of Christmas, what food do you think of? And everyone’s got their own little personal take for me. It’s Pannetone Annie. I love it. I would just eat the whole thing if I had the chance. So I really only get it at Christmas so that I can share it. And. Do I need it all myself. One of my kids said pavlova.

[00:14:48] Another one. My kids loves those gold coins with the chocolate inside and candy canes.

[00:14:54] One of my other children talked about fruit mince pies, which they really love. Um, my husband loves chocolate orange, and I usually get tonics teacakes, which is a Scottish sort of marshmallow biscuit. At Christmas time because they are absolutely divine. And it’s one of my Christmas treats. So we all have something and we all write the contribute, and we have this conversation about what food. Inspires us at Christmas and we add that to our list.

[00:15:26] Then we talk about the activities that we like at Christmas, and we add that to our list. And we talk about. Who Christmas means to you? Like. Who do you love to have here at Christmas and as much as possible, we try and incorporate that as well. So by the time we’ve had this family board meeting, we’ve got the food that we really love, the things we love to do, who we love to see. And from that we create a day.

[00:15:52] Or, you know, it’s usually a few days. In which we can fit some of those things in, but we tend to take the view of that. Christmas is not just one day it’s, it’s a number of days. And that way there’s less pressure on doing all, everything in one day. Yeah. We see family Christmas Eve and boxing day as well as Christmas day. And that just makes it easier for everyone. And we eat the food we love over numerous days.

[00:16:22] Rather than trying to eat all of our favorite desserts on the one day. Because let’s face it. When you start talking about Christmas and your favorite fruit food, there’s usually at least six different desserts you want to eat. So we do that over a week.

[00:16:38] But this way, everyone is kind of scratching that itch for Christmas. We’re meeting all of our needs. And when we talk about needs, we may also reflect on those needs that are particular to being gifted and you are divergent. So. For some of us may, may be avoiding the crowns. And for some of us, it may be avoiding going out to dinner or those things that we just don’t fit well into. Or if we do, it’s having a strategy about how do we get through that?

[00:17:12] So it’s about taking that power back to ourselves to make those decisions so that we end up with. Uh, holiday experience that is actually meeting our needs. And working for us. So they are some of the ideas that we. Are included in the Christmas ebook that we have. So take some time to look at your Christmas traditions and ask yourself, are they working for you? What could be different? What would make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone?

[00:17:46] You can check out our new ebook, a very gifted Christmas. Uh, on the website, it’s there for sale. There’s a heap of ideas about how to make it through a new re-imagined Christmas for your gifted family. There’s planning pages. There’s some stories there’s. There’s a whole kind of framework to work through. It’s like 50 pages.

[00:18:09] There’s tons in it. But if that feels too overwhelming. Check out the blog. There’s some questions in the blog. And maybe just start to imagine what Christmas might look like for you. And build on it over a number of years, don’t feel like you have to achieve all these things in one year. So Merry Christmas.

[00:18:32] Thank you for coming on this journey with us this year. Um, it’s hugely appreciated. We’re very grateful. We will see you in January. We’re super excited about that. So stay quirky, stay safe and have fun. Bye.

#071 Unpacking Strength-Based Learning w/ Sam Young

#071 Unpacking Strength-Based Learning w/ Sam Young

Today we catch up with a recent guest Sam Young, from Young Scholars Academy, as we unpack strength-based learning and find out what the big deal is all about!

Keep an eye out for:

Please leave a review on your podcast player and help parents find us!

If this episode inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about it in our Facebook group or Instagram or feel connected & supported in our community, the Our Gifted Kids Hub.

Memorable Quote

“When we think of strength based learning we’re really talking about focusing… where the energy or where the mind goes… everything flows… and a strength based education is just a choice to focus on here, the strength area, and just bring this up knowing that this [the area of deficit] will come to.

It’s a choice that we make as educators and as mentors, as psychologists, as a therapist, everyone to say, yes, there are these areas, there are these struggle areas, but we also need to focus on developing, primarily, the strength areas, the areas that feel good and know that everything else will follow suit.” – Sam Young

“At its core, deficit-based learning… steeps our students… in a space where they are not thriving and it constantly reminds them… of where they’re struggling, how they’re coming up short and what they’re not doing. And that has been shown to have real consequences on their psyche, on their self-worth, on their self-esteem, on confidence and their ability to then be successful in this life. Paradoxically, by helping someone bring the bottom up, so to speak, you’re actually harming them.” – Sam Young




Sam Young

Samuel Young, MEd, is a growth-minded, two-time Fulbright Scholar and Director of Young Scholars Academy, a strength-based, talent-focused virtual enrichment center that supports twice-exceptional students and their families. Samuel is a neurodivergent educator who has ADHD. As an ADHD learner, he has a tremendous understanding of, experience in, and respect for all things related to neurodiverse education.

Before founding Young Scholars Academy, Samuel taught in a variety of capacities—including nearly a decade at Bridges Academy—at an array of programs in the US, Europe, and Asia. Travel and culture are near and dear to him. He has led 2e students to over 7 countries for immersive cultural and educational trips.

Samuel has been featured in the documentary 2e2: Teaching The Twice Exceptional, the textbook Understanding The Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Students, 2nd Ed., Variations Magazine, 2e News, and other publications.

Hit play and let’s get started!


[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Hello, and welcome back to the Al gifted kids podcast. I am delighted to be back, and I’m also excited to present this episode to you. We catch up again with Sam young, from young scholars academy. Now that name may ring a bell. He was on the podcast recently as a part of gifted, talented, and your diversity awareness week.

[00:00:21] Where we discussed, why they use D and D as a part of their young scholars academy offerings. Which was a great episode. But Sam’s back because I felt like it was really important. That we have a conversation about. Y the strength based approach to not just learning, but even parenting gifted kids or, I mean, any kid.

[00:00:47] Is the bee’s knees. We go on about strength based learning. On the podcast, you would have heard that term before. And we were well overdue having a chat with someone. About just kind of, what is it? What is it all about? So we dive into that with Sam. Which is lovely because that is what young scholars academy is all about.

[00:01:11] And so I feel very grateful that he made time and we got to catch up and dive into that. Now young scholars academy. I think they have a new round opening soon. I think they do 10 week sort of blocks and a new one coming out. But what they’re doing is an open house online on the 8th of December, where you can actually kind of take a sneak peek and meet some of the students and families.

[00:01:36] Who get involved and the teachers or educators. And Sam, so a really great opportunity to kind of check it out. If it sounds like it might be something that interests you. Because I know as a parent of gifted kids, I’m always looking for those opportunities for my kids to connect with other gifted kids.

[00:01:56] And also find those spaces where. They can just be themselves and there’ll be understood and people kind of get what they need. And so young scholars academy is certainly one of those places. So thank you, Sam, for joining us. Um, it was a lovely episode. Uh, as a couple of ADHD is, and I think Sam why me saying we did go off on a couple of tangents, but like that we’re really good tangents.

[00:02:21] And we certainly came back onto topic. So really lovely episode, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Also at the moment, our gifted kids has a new Christmas book for gifted families. I got rather carried away. It’s about 50 pages long. It’s an ebook. Called a very gifted Christmas available for sale on the website for 9 99, Australian.

[00:02:45] And we’ll be doing a free webinar. We worked through a couple of things from the book. Uh, which is kind of exciting because it’s all about. Well, actually, I shared it with a couple of friends and one of my friends. This is what she had to say about it. She said Christmas can be many things. And here is a book to help you along full of inspiration. But at the end of the day, it will empower you to not feel like you need to live up to expectations.

[00:03:11] And as I, oh, that is so sweet. It is. Exactly. The intention is just kind of like taking back Christmas and. Making it something that meets our gifted needs. And so it was really fun. I could have made it so much longer. Uh, and may well in future years. Um, and I’m excited to be talking about it in the zoom. So we’re going to go live on a zoom webinar. It’ll be available for replay if you register as well. And that’ll be December 5th, 7:30 PM. Adelaide time.

[00:03:45] And there is links in the show notes about that also links in the show notes for young scholars academy. So check out their open house on the 8th of December and. Have a lovely Christmas.

[00:04:00] It feels slightly early to be saying that, but I’ve got to get the Christmas decorations out this weekend. So maybe not.

[00:04:07] Enjoy the podcast stay quirky and I will talk to you soon.

[00:04:43] Hello and welcome everyone. I’m super excited to be here today with Sam Young from Young Scholars Academy.

[00:04:49] Sam joined us recently in gifted, talented and neurodiversity Awareness Week to talk about why. He uses Dungeons and Dragons as a part of his kind of offering to engage young people. And Sam is back today and we’re gonna dive into the power of strength based learning, which I am super excited about because if you’re a listener of the podcast, first of all, thank you.

[00:05:14] But secondly, we have talked about strength based learning a lot, but never really sort of dived into what is it really all about? It is what Sam is all about. And so Sam, welcome. I’m delighted to have you

[00:05:30] Sam Young: back. Thanks, Sophie. I’m really happy to be back and again, I feel very fortunate to be here two times in uh, two months I think.

[00:05:36] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, no, it’s super exciting. Uh, I love to have regulars. It sort of, I feel like it builds a relationship and part of the community, so thank you for making the time. I really appreciate it. Absolutely. So first of all, for anyone who didn’t catch the d and d episode yet, , tell us about what you do and how you got into what you’re doing.

[00:05:59] Sam Young: I like that. Yeah. Go back and listen.

[00:06:01] Sophia Elliott: Pause that. That’s right. It’s really good. You’re missing out .

[00:06:05] Sam Young: So, yeah. My name’s Sam Young, as Sophia said, and I run a virtual enrichment program for neuro divergent students, twice exceptional students and gifted students. And the vision is really to have a, a strength base as we’ll get more into today environment where our students can be celebrated.

[00:06:21] Scene where they’re triumphing as opposed to what we know is often the status quo, which is where a lot of our students are, you know, kind of, uh, steeped in their deficits, right? Steeped in areas where they need to improve and where the kind of bringing the bottom up, so to speak. So the vision at Young Scholars Academy is to create kind of a school without walls that does learning for the sake of learning.

[00:06:44] Where in the business of saving, learning, connecting students, uh, fostering creativity and building friendships and, and also

[00:06:51] GMT20221115-200712_Recording_640x360: mentor.

[00:06:53] Sophia Elliott: And that really warms my heart because the joy of learning is, I think, intrinsic to the gifted soul. And the one thing that gets like, smashed to a pulp in the school system sometimes if you’re not lucky.

[00:07:10] So I, I love that your approach is all about that joy of learning and, and not having walls. I really, that’s a great visual for me. You’re online, you’re virtual, so literally people from around the world can tune in and. Your classes?

[00:07:29] Sam Young: Yeah, so there’s synchronous classes. So the only thing that can hold people back are the, uh, the time zones, right?

[00:07:34] Mm-hmm. . So, uh, we’re working on offering more and more actually, and, uh, offering them at different times that, uh, we historically haven’t to reach a broader audience because we have families. Probably once a week I get a, a new family from a new country reaching out and just saying, Can you offer this earlier, uh, or way later?

[00:07:52] And I’m like, Well, we haven’t yet, but Sure, let’s try. So we are, we’re working on bringing together, the vision is to connect students from all over the world who may be the only student like them. Yeah. And cause the research is very clear that they need to be with other students like them. Right. So going from Maros to, you know, fitting in and being like part of a group.

[00:08:13] Sophia Elliott: Oh, do you know? And that’s just. The heart and soul of it, isn’t it? It’s like our kids absolutely need to see themselves in their similarly aged peers, and it’s not like, it’s not like an age thing, but they need that reflection back to them of who they are in other people around them, other kids around them.

[00:08:34] It’s so important and getting so tricky to find. I often have parents reaching out. With very sad stories that really like, you know, tear jerking stories of just their children’s struggles to find friends and not getting invited to parties. And it just seriously breaks my heart. And so, you know, as we know, virtual is real.

[00:09:00] I think the one gift over the last few years is those virtual connections that we can make. And, you know, as someone who connects with people from all over the world doing this podcast, you know, like these connections are real and valid. And thank you for offering those because it’s very much needed.

[00:09:19] Yeah. A wonderful, Yeah. Oh, sorry.

[00:09:21] Sam Young: Go ahead. No, no, you go. I think it’s just so important to, you know, we sort of let go of like what we’re doing and focus a lot more on who we’re doing it with and Yeah. You know, we’re one of my favorite guests on my show once said, human beings are social creatures who happen to.

[00:09:36] Not thinking creatures. Who happen to feel right we’re we’re social first and a lot of times we get so caught up in what our students aren’t doing and what they need to be doing. But the reality is that when we focus on the social development and we focus on that connectedness and you know, these basic human needs that they then can blossom, right?

[00:09:55] They then can access that like prefrontal part of their brain. They can then start doing this sort of higher order thinking because they feel accepted. They feel like they’re a part of something now that they can ascend, so to speak.

[00:10:07] Sophia Elliott: I absolutely like Spawn because it’s like no one can learn or be creative or connect when your brain is, you know, operating in a state of fear or uncertainty or a lack of safety.

[00:10:21] And so it’s, it’s integral to our children’s development that they find that safe place that they can then explore and connect with. And. And I think what you said is so important because sometimes as a parent of a gifted kid, it can be really tricky to find that balance between the expectation, the pressure and responsibility of it’s like, Oh, I’ve got this child with potential, like the P word, and it’s like, Oh my God, I’ve got to, what do I have to do?

[00:10:55] I’ve gotta make sure they’re doing, uh, stuff and extending and uh, you know, and get really kind of wound up and stressed about offering stuff, stuff, stuff. When the reality is we just kind of need to breathe. And like you said, the best thing we can do is actually find that space where they can connect.

[00:11:18] People like them socially feel, feel connected, a safe space and the other stuff will come, you know, and you know, yeah, find the classes or whatever. But as a first port of call, addressing that need that we have as human beings, like tribe animals to find our tribe. Mm-hmm. , are those. A great, we, you know, we, we did a great podcast with Dr.

[00:11:46] Geraldine Townsend, and her research was about how important it is that our kids find that sense of self and have that positive sense of self from an early age. And I strongly believe that a huge part of that is finding those like-minded peers to reflect back to them. And like you say, meeting those social emotional.

[00:12:08] Sam Young: Yeah. I often say, I might have said this in the d and d one that we did recently, so forgive me, but I think about like the X and the Y axis, right? On the one hand. Mm-hmm. , like we have our students who need the, they need like the lateral, they need peers just like themselves, as we’ve said. Right. And then they also need on the other, they need like to look up at a neuro divergent mentor or educator.

[00:12:26] Yes. And be able to say, Okay, these people are like me. That person’s like me and they’re doing something. They’re succeeding. Yeah. So like it’s gonna be.

[00:12:34] Sophia Elliott: Yes. Ah, that’s just beautiful. I love it. And perfect. And I really like that. Again, I’ll, I’ll remember that. I’ll be like, Mr. Sam said , the X and the Y.

[00:12:46] The X and the Y. Because it is, we do need those mentors. And you know, even personally on my adult journey, that often comes after you figuring your kids out. Uh, I have, especially over the last year or two, been seeking out my. Equivalence, you know, to connect with. So to help me see myself in that kind of neuro divergent space.

[00:13:12] And so it’s really important for all of us to, to have the X and the Y needs met . Absolutely. Yeah. So I love that. So let’s dive into today. You’ve touched a little bit on it already, but what is strength based learning like? Break it down for us. What’s it all about?

[00:13:32] Sam Young: When we think of strength based learning, we’re, we’re really talking about focusing, right?

[00:13:36] We’re talking about where we put our focus, and I like a saying like, you know where, where the energy or where the mind go, right? Everything flows. So what a lot of the times our students are, They’re really sort of being depicted like this, right? Like we’re focusing like they’re asynchronous, right? They have this gifted area and they have this kind of lagging struggle area, and we often think like, we need to get this here so they can be successful.

[00:13:59] And a strength based education is just a choice to focus on here, the strength area, and just bring this up knowing that. This will come to, Right. So it’s a choice that we make as educators and as mentors, as psychologists, as a therapist, everyone to say, yes, there are these areas, there are these struggle areas, but we also need to focus on developing primarily the strength areas, the areas that feel good and, and know that everything else will, will follow suit.

[00:14:26] Right? So an example, I have a student who really, really struggles with emailing and a lot of the executive function around that kind of, And, uh, I spoke with him and I, I just kinda shared my story. I was like, Look, me too. Okay. It’s a big thing in my head. I open ’em and I forget to do them. So here’s a couple systems that I’ve done, but to be honest with you, I didn’t really start getting good at emails until they became authentic.

[00:14:48] Like, until they became like the other end is a family that I can help, right? Or the other end is like a network of families I can help. Then all of a sudden I got better and so I spoke with him and then over the. Uh, he came back and we connected and I said, How’s it going with the timeliness and, and the executive function stuff?

[00:15:06] He said, It’s great, and I, I said, I, I heard you got a job. How’s it going? He said, I haven’t been late once. I said, Why? And he said, It’s like my email’s, Mr. Sam, I get paid to show up. And I, Oh my God, it’s amazing. And it’s like, you know, just now being on time, now doing these things is all of a sudden it’s not like vanished, but all of a sudden he’s handling business because there’s a reward, there’s a reason to do it.

[00:15:29] Mm-hmm. , Right? So, sort of a bit of a tangent, but a lot of the times choosing to be strength based or choosing to focus on what students are already doing can kind of take away from that deficit focus. And like with a student that I exampled sometimes choosing to focus on someone’s strengths. And then just shifting the context can allow a student to absolutely thrive, right?

[00:15:50] Like a fish out of

[00:15:51] Sophia Elliott: water, so to speak. I love that because we can also get caught up in this idea that our kids have to be good at everything, and especially like all they’re gifted, well they’ve. Kind of gotta be good at everything. And it’s like, well, no one is, We’ve all got various different strengths and areas of weakness, and I too have a find emails very challenging.

[00:16:14] I’m currently catching up on, you know, A couple of inboxes that got totally away from me over the last month, and I have in introduced a system. So I’m all about systems at the moment, which is working, but I agree with you when you find the meaning behind it. And so I, I get a lot of emails from, from parents and folk, which I absolutely love, and I.

[00:16:38] I take quite a bit of time to reply, you know, to those which, and I really enjoy that. And now that I have this system around it, I’m like, okay, I’m feeling like I can catch up and, and, but stay on top of that from now on because I’ve kind of created that space. So, And that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s kind of like finding the meaning for us.

[00:16:59] So the meaning for me, Like the whole point I do all this is to connect with people and try and make things easier for people. And so by connecting to that and finding a system to support it, I’m better able to do the things I’m not particularly good at, which is like yourself, emails . And it’s the same with our kids.

[00:17:20] It’s sort of like, what is it that intrinsically motivates them? How can we tap into. And build on that. So why is strength based learning a better kind of approach than a deficit based approach? And what is a deficit based approach? I mean, you’ve kind of explained it there, but maybe, Yeah.

[00:17:42] Sam Young: And. It’s, it’s a very good question.

[00:17:44] I would love to delve way deeper into strength based, cause I think I was eager to share my , Dunno that I did the question justice. But when we think about the difference between strength and deficit, again, strength-based approach is choosing to focus on what the student is interested in. An area in which they are strong and it’s helping them to develop those interests and things.

[00:18:04] Uh, deficit is often focusing on bringing, I like to say, bringing the bottom up. Okay. So it’s, when we think about our two E students, so our students who are twice exceptional, right? They’re characterized by having these dual exceptionalities. On the one hand they have the exceptional strength area, uh, above average IQ or a certain strength in a certain domain, kinesthetic, whatever it may be.

[00:18:25] And then they also might. In above average struggle area, right, Which would be that they are, maybe they have ADHD or dysgraphia or dyslexia or autism spectrum disorder, and so they have this, this, this chasm, this. And more often than not, deficit is simply just focusing on the bottom right. It’s the, it’s usually the, uh, Japanese proverb, right?

[00:18:46] Like the nail that sticks out gets hammered down, right? So we focus, okay. You know, so and so is really brilliant. They’re doing such a great job in class, but they’re not turning in their work. Okay. You know, red flag. So we need to work on that. And I’m not saying we don’t, by the way, I do think that we do.

[00:19:01] I think it’s important that we can help our students be successful, but the difference. We’re choosing to focus on the area in which they shine and then bake those things in. Uh, now this is a delicate balance. One of my favorite guests who’s native to your country, uh, Dr. Shaban Lamb, uh, was on my show and she talked about the importance.

[00:19:23] She did this kind of break, the fourth wall. I wanna talk to you parents. And she said, Just make sure that you don’t bake all the deficit stuff around. The strength, right? Because what do we do? We, we, we can kill the strength, right? If I say like, Sophia, I know you love Dungeons and Dragons, so we’re going to do Dungeons and Dragons math.

[00:19:41] You’re gonna do Dungeons and Dragons writing. We’re gonna do a Dungeons and Dragons science experiment. It’s gonna be great. Right? You may very well at the end of that Hate Dungeons and Dragons because of what I’ve done, right? So it’s a fine line. But at its core, To answer your question, at its core, deficit based learning trenches, our students, steeps our students, if you will, in a space where they are not thriving.

[00:20:04] And it constantly reminds them, It’s constantly a reminder of where they’re struggling, how they’re coming up short and what they’re not doing. And that has been shown to have real consequences on their psyche, on their self-worth, on their self-esteem, on confidence, uh, and, and their ability to then you.

[00:20:22] Be successful in this life, paradoxically, you know, by helping someone bring the bottom up, so to speak, you’re actually harming them.

[00:20:29] Sophia Elliott: Mm. And some, I, you know, I’m aware of some extreme examples where you’ve got a twice exceptional child. So someone who is, does have that gifted degree of intelligence. A very evident deficit area.

[00:20:50] All that focus being on the deficit area and, uh, you know, being in classes that are, you know, special classes that are solely focusing on that deficit area. So that intelligence is. Just ignored. Absolutely. And I could only imagine the damage done in that extreme situation. And in fact, I’ve got a very close friend who, and that was their experience at school, very intelligent issues with dyslexia and dysgraphia got put in the special class as a teenager.

[00:21:25] and just eroded confidence and that sense of self during those very important teenage years, uh, because the, the intellect was never acknowledged. Mm-hmm. . And, you know, obviously that’s being done with good intentions, but we know better now, we know better that, you know, you’ve gotta meet the, the whole person where they’re at and.

[00:21:54] and we’re talking very heavily about two e kids. Uh, but also I think it’s important to acknowledge. You know, if you’ve, if your kid is just gifted and use, you know, air quotes mm-hmm. giftedness within itself is a synchronous and will have relative strengths and relative weaknesses. And so those can be more extreme with a twice exceptional kid who has a diagnosed something else going on.

[00:22:25] But nonetheless also, Situation that gifted kids find them in because of those relative, sort of weak areas compared to their strengths. Uh, so yeah, a real potential pitfall regardless of kind of where you’re at in that journey but something worth really keeping an eye on. So for you, you’ve mentioned a few sort of examples of things that you do but maybe, you know, what does that look like?

[00:22:56] Uh, so if. A parent or an EDU educator listening, what would a strength-based sort of approach look like in that classroom setting? In terms of what Some examples of the kind of approach you take?

[00:23:12] Sam Young: Lots of choice. Uh, I mean, strength-based education is election. It is fundamentally very democratic. It is very flexible and malleable, and the students are co constructs with you.

[00:23:22] So when we think about what it looks. It what it looks like is just as important as what it does not right. Again, as you say with the example, with your friend, you know, focusing on what students aren’t doing. Right. Focusing on where they’re coming up short is going to fundamentally rob them of the development, rob them of the, the, the, the learning and rob them of their becoming themselves.

[00:23:47] So what we want to do is we want to allow them to have more choice, right? If we’re teaching a unit on, on history, right? Are we flexible in the piece? Are we flexible in the product? Are we flexible in the process? Can we make it so that our students can maybe go through a certain, there’s certain things that we want them to do.

[00:24:04] Let’s say we want them to, uh, reference sources. We want them to be critical consumers and information. That’s all well and good, and those can be our standards that we, we hope to hit, but we can let go perhaps of how it gets done and what it looks like when it’s done. So if you say you have to write a paper, you’ve just.

[00:24:24] A good part of your brilliant kiddos, right? But you could probably get more depth, complexity and rigor out of them. If you say, I want you to record a podcast, or I want you to make a documentary, or I want you to put on a play right now, they’re, they’re casting, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re thinking about the historical accuracy and they’re doing all of these really deep-seated incredible things that we want our, you know, young historians, young students to be doing.

[00:24:46] And they’re doing it in a way where they feel like they’ve had a voice, they’ve gotten to navigate it, they’ve had uh, choice, and, and now they’re proud of their work.

[00:24:56] Sophia Elliott: Right. Yeah. That’s really beautiful.

[00:24:58] Sam Young: Keep going. Sorry, the last thing I, I go on like these long. No, no. I love them. Keep going. Authenticity.

[00:25:05] But it has to be authentic. So when we go back to, like Joseph Zuli, who I think I talked about last time mm-hmm. , you know, Zuli talks about in his three rings. One of them is that it has to be something that is authentic. It has to be something, uh, that’s really meaningful. Excuse me, not three rings. The, uh, the type three model.

[00:25:22] It’s, it has to be something that’s authentic and is meaningful to them so that they can, they. Be doing something bigger than themselves, right? If it’s just an assignment, it’s enrichment’s only going to go so far. Strength application’s only gonna go so far. So do they have choice? Is it an authentic assignment and is it a flexible assignment?

[00:25:41] I think those are the

[00:25:42] Sophia Elliott: big three. What that brings to my mind is now where particularly lucky that my kids go to a school that is strength based and child centered. Very different approach to mainstream models, and I know that a part of their approach is, like, for example, at the beginning of each term, they, they assess the kids on where they’re at with a particular sub stream of the subject.

[00:26:16] So, so first of all, they’re learning at the right level, which is amazing, but. They have a conversation with the kids around, right? These are the outcomes. This is, this is what we need to learn this term. How, like you said, having that conversation with them, How are we going to do that? I’ve got some ideas.

[00:26:35] What are your ideas? Let’s workshop that. This is the, you know, these are the points we need to hit. This is what we need to learn. This is where we need to end up. How are we gonna get there on that journey together? And it is, when you were talking there, I’m like, Oh wow, this is comforting . Cause it’s all about the flexibility and the negotiation and the conversation.

[00:26:56] Because the truth is with gifted kids, you know, they can go through a terms worth of content in. A couple of weeks, you know, it’s sponge, just suck it up. And then it’s kind of like, well then what is the point of school if it’s not just churning through content? And there is, there is much more going on at school than just kind of sucking in facts.

[00:27:19] It’s how do you work as a team to present what you know, you know, And how do you build your skills around? You know, like eventually you will need essay writing skills to go to university and get into the deep stuff. How do we start to build those skills at whatever level you’re at? And so it becomes those sort of, the skills and experience needed around the content, you know, and the sort of the teamwork, the social aspects.

[00:27:53] And so it becomes about more than just. Wrote learning facts. Mm-hmm. which I thinks really beautiful because that’s the world we live in. As an adult going to work, you don’t work, you know, as an island you’ve gotta deal with people around you. You’ve gotta present them with your ideas. You be convincing, This is where we need to end up on this project.

[00:28:15] How do we get there together? And it feels very, A very authentic journey to go on with a student, and so I really love what you’re saying there about that flexibility and that negotiation.

[00:28:29] Sam Young: It’s so important everywhere. I mean, if you look at the foundations of, of, uh, gifted education, uh, and, and, and go beyond just schooling and we look at, you know, gifted application, right?

[00:28:40] Talent application. You look back at like the United States military and, and going into World War I, right at some, one of the first times that we really had. Uh, early testing. What are people’s strengths and talents? Like? It wouldn’t make sense for me to have someone who is a, a doctor and then just chuck ’em on the front line, right?

[00:28:59] And say, Go get him. Here’s your carbine. Let’s go fight him. You know, what the military did going into the war, into the, the great war, the first World War was they actually took the time to reflect what are our talents and, and strengths for our different soldier? And then let’s put together this elite fighting force by maximizing people’s talents and strengths, right?

[00:29:18] And the same is true of everything. When during the Cold War in the 1950s, the Soviets got Sputnik into space and the United States thought, Hold on, maybe we need to start doing more testing. And they placing our students with really high aptitude, high IQ in certain domains, right? Let’s develop their strengths, uh, in the workforce, right?

[00:29:36] Same thing. So it doesn’t really matter what domain, I mean, we’re talking academically. But strength based, talent focused education is everything. And, and you’re so right Sophia, Like when you’re talking about the, the, the, the application of what it looks like in a school, it’s a huge disservice to our students.

[00:29:54] It’s a massive disservice to our students to only focus on. You know, everyone doing the same thing because that’s not the real world. The real world dictates that our students become deep seated experts, right? That are, we’re in the information era. This is no longer, you know, the 1890s and like terrorism where everyone goes into a workshop and you.

[00:30:14] Rotate on the bell and the whistle, and we’re, we’re trying, we’re, we’re in the information era where students are, should be encouraged to. We have a responsibility, I say, to encourage our students to explore their interests, explore their strengths, and then figure out how can they serve, how can they better society, How can they create a brighter future with those strengths, with those interests?

[00:30:32] And I can tell you it’s not going to come from making students focused on whether or not doing. And then having them do more of it. That’s just not the answer. .

[00:30:40] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And you know, if I think about what I want for my kids, uh, do you know it is to have a life where they’re doing something they love with people that they like.

[00:30:54] You know, fundamentally, you know, is that not success? If you can go to work, do something you love, get paid well for it, be surrounded with like-minded peers, and so why would you focus on things that they don’t love? Why would you beat them down with deficits? And, and sure. You know, uh, as a six year old, as a 10 year old, as a 14 year, Whatever they’re into right now, it may not be the exact thing that they go off and into the sunset as an adult and work on, but it will lead them somewhere.

[00:31:29] One love will need lead to another. Love will need lead to another love. And there, there is a, there’s a pathway there where they’re developing the expertise and the skills and experience as a big foundation to. You know, what they could potentially do into the future. And so I think that’s a, a much nicer vision than, you know, and we’ve all, anyone listening who’s done a job that they hated , you know, like, I did not want that for my kids, you know, And so let’s build them up from the beginning in, in that space of, of, of doing something from a place of joy and love.

[00:32:09] I think there’s a lot in.

[00:32:12] Sam Young: And, and let’s be honest, you know, I’m not pretending to say that strength based education is that students will never have to do anything they don’t love. I do agree with you. Oh yeah. It’s not fun doing what you don’t love. Right. But our students actually do need to be able to tolerate, you know, complexity and handle difficult tasks and so forth.

[00:32:27] So I’m not saying throw all that out, I’m just saying where do we choose to place our students? Where do we choose to steep them? And if that’s not the majority focus, Than, than something needs to give. And there are so many different pathways to a strength-based education, right? A strength-based education can sometimes be, Hey, let’s knock out what you have to do so we can do what you want to do.

[00:32:48] Right. That’s fine too. We can say we don’t need to, it doesn’t need to be all about the interest. Let’s just, let’s do what we need to do to check the boxes. So, and then let’s do. What you love, right? And then what we’ll build extra around that. And that’s well and good as well. Obviously it’s less ideal, but that also is a way for parents who say, like, I can already hear a lot of my parents say like, Okay, we’re in a public school and you know, we are in a great district.

[00:33:13] We don’t have a lot of control. We can’t really dictate as much. The classes are big. Okay, great. Can we make a program so our students can realize life’s a pie chart, right? , Yeah. Life is a pie chart. How can we shrink what we have to do so we can do more of what we want to?

[00:33:26] Sophia Elliott: and that’s a really important life lesson.

[00:33:28] Uh, and we, you know, on the podcast we talk a lot about helping our children be comfortable in being uncomfortable, you know, and the grit and the growth mindset and working through that space. So, like you say, it’s absolutely not about some kind of nirvana where we’re just floating around doing things we love all the time.

[00:33:49] We do have to live in the world and be off the world. But. It’s those systems and strategies and that knowledge around it, and you, you’ve framed it really well there. Let’s just, sometimes we’ve just gotta do the stuff to get to the other stuff

[00:34:04] and that in itself is a really important life lesson, a really important skill for our kids to have, uh, learning that grit and. In reality, sometimes, you know, sometimes we’ve gotta put the laundry away. Mm-hmm. , , no one, no one wants to put laundry away. , uh, or we’ve, we’ve, you know, we’ve gotta do the thing, uh, but let’s do it quickly and get it out the way and, and do the other thing.

[00:34:29] So, yeah, that’s a really great analogy. I like the pie chart. I’m a very visual person, so that appeals to me. And in breaking that down for, for my kids, it’s kind of like, okay, there’s this much of stuff that we don’t really enjoy, but we’ve gotta do tidying up . If I’m a parent and I’m thinking, you know, at home, uh, some of those things, So for example, If we’re having to do chores, I might say, All right, let’s put on three songs.

[00:35:00] Let’s dance our way through tidying up let’s, and, but let’s like see if we can get all this done in three songs. And it’s kind of like a race and the music’s on and it’s like a bit of a disco race, but it’s kind of like, how can we. Turn this into an obstacle that we have to get through as a team just to get it done as quickly as we can.

[00:35:23] And, and so, and then let’s go do something fun. So perhaps a good example there of how, how you could apply that as a parent.

[00:35:34] Sam Young: That’s a great example. Yeah. You’re, you’re, you’re prioritizing, you’re thinking creatively, you’re, you’re problem solving, you’re collaborating, right? Like you’re doing all these things and you’re having.

[00:35:43] Yeah.

[00:35:46] Sophia Elliott: And isn’t that a key to it? Do you know? Doing anything you don’t actually wanna do is humor. Yeah. You know, and if I was going to suggest anything, uh, to parents listening, uh, when you hit those big brick walls And some kids have those walls that shoot up more quickly than other kids. . Uh, you know, as parent we try to break that down with humor, uh, and it’s like, yeah, it’s, it’s the one tool in the back pocket.

[00:36:19] My husband is particularly good at it because he’s naturally a very cheeky individual and, and my, my particularly challenging child is also very cheeky, and so thankfully that works really well. Just cracking down the wall with a bit of humor. Mm-hmm. .

[00:36:39] Sam Young: No, that’s so, so important. I always say that when I train my teachers or bring on my educators, I’m always talking about how it’s the number one way to diffuse.

[00:36:48] Mm-hmm. and our students have really witty sense of humor. Right. They’re really bright mm-hmm. and they often have a sense of humor that’s well out, matured their body. Right. And so they’re misunderstood by their students. So sometimes we. Place where once they come to the classroom, all of a sudden there’s a bunch of students who can handle their sense of humor, right?

[00:37:05] And they mm-hmm. , they get really excited. I’m like, It’s rain in a little bit here, so I’ll crack a joke, you know, and try to reign everyone in and be self-deprecating Right. And, and sort of try to pivot a little bit. Yeah. But you’re right, it’s such a, such a powerful tool.

[00:37:23] Sophia Elliott: So I, I feel like we’ve, we’ve done strength based learning.

[00:37:27] Justice there. Uh, and can I add one more thing though? Yeah, yeah. I was gonna say, what else do you wanna tell us? ?

[00:37:33] Sam Young: Yeah, so, cause you asked, you asked for an example and I don’t know that I gave you one. So a good example like of strength-based learning like we’re doing at Young Scholars Academy would be, I’ll give you two if it’s okay actually.

[00:37:43] Cause I can’t think. Yeah. So one example of strength-based learning would be, uh, a speech. You’re taking something that is authentic, you’re taking something that students care about that they want to do well in. And you are, you are creating an environment where they can. Pick a topic they care about.

[00:38:00] Okay. School should start later, right? We’re not saying like, let’s compare this book to this book, which they may be interested in by the way, but it’s something that affects them. Let’s, School should start later. Everyone should be homeschooled or school. Everyone should wear uniforms. You know? Something that,

[00:38:13] Sophia Elliott: Something meaty to

[00:38:14] Sam Young: care.

[00:38:15] Yeah, exactly. We sink the teeth in. It’s authentic. And then, Okay, Now what, what are your strengths? Are you the kind of person who really wants to like, open with, you know, bravado? Do you want to really kind of research like what are the roles that you can play both within as a, as an individual and also perhaps on a team?

[00:38:32] Right. So we can kind of empower someone by getting them to not only care about what they’re learning about, uh, focus on the method in which it’s being delivered. And there there’s real pressure. Like in two classes I’m gonna. We have three minutes to talk. This is something that you know is real. And then we’re getting them to now, you know, research and tap into their strengths.

[00:38:51] I’m more of someone who’s gonna do better. Winging it. I like to just be the cross examiner. I’m someone who really wants to write every word down. I need to read a script, you know? So, and getting them to kind of tap into their strengths that way. So, so that’s one example. Cuz I, I know you asked for examples, the, another example Yeah.

[00:39:08] Of, of strength based learning. And this is something that I think is key, and I hope this is a big takeaway for anyone listening, but another example for, for strength based learning can be done with executive functioning, right? So a lot of the times it’s like, okay, kid, you get an agenda book, write your work.

[00:39:22] You’re not doing it, what’s wrong with you? Right. But it could be that it’s this system. So what I try to do is I break task management into three key sections. And I say like, we have a class called Young and Thriving, which is all about creating a strength based system for getting tasks done. And so I say, if there’s three things you need to do, you need to record tasks, prioritize, and plan, and then execute, right?

[00:39:48] So it’s sort of like the capture. And then weekly plan, and then daily plan to do list. So if those are three non-negotiables, those are the three pillars of task management. How are you going to do that work? What’s your learning profile like? Are you the kind of person that would dictate into a voice recorder so you can remember later?

[00:40:06] Will really bright sticky notes work well for you. If you saw my desk, it looks like a highlighter threw up on it. would, would you benefit from a linear system that’s digital that allows you to intent, You know, and then all of a sudden we get really flexible and they’re reflecting, right? They’re thinking of what kind of learner they are and how they do best.

[00:40:25] And so we’re taking a strength based approach, even to something that doesn’t feel like learning a classical subject, right? It’s building a system, like you said, building a system, and they’re, they’re building a system based on their strength so that they can be strong in all areas, right? Or in other areas and so forth.

[00:40:38] So, so those are, I just wanted to make sure that I did give you a concrete example that’s in space and debate and in the executive function world, like, those are two courses that, uh, that we definitely believe in strength based approach, and it’s an easy tweak, uh, but it makes the world.

[00:40:53] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, I love that.

[00:40:54] Cause it’s so important to figure out the way that we learn and think because I like you. I’m a post-it note person. I have figured out if I can’t see it in terms of my tasks, then it, it doesn’t exist. The worst thing I can do is have a pile of things to do, which, If you could see my desk, I do, I have a pile of things to do next to another pile of things and they always get ignored cuz they’re in a pile and I can’t see them.

[00:41:23] And then I have my sticky notes of these are things I need to do today right in my face. So I can’t not see it. And, but it’s taken me a while to figure out why some things work for me and some don’t. And what a great thing to figure out as a kid or a teenager. You know, and take on into the world. Ah, actually no, that won’t work for me cause I won’t be able to see it.

[00:41:43] Or, or conversely, you know, actually I really like a list on an app where I can just look at it and tick it off. You know, whatever kind of ends up working for you and having that flexibility to, like you say, work around people’s strengths and weaknesses, but, but focusing on the ways that their, their individual brain works.

[00:42:05] So, no really great examples. Thank you.

[00:42:09] Sam Young: It’s omni presenting. My wife and I both have adhd, so like we always joke that like leftovers are dangerous because they get shuffled to the back of the refrigerator, right? And then like the new meal’s exciting and all of a sudden, like there’s a month worth of leftovers in the back.

[00:42:23] But because it wasn’t toward the front, we have to be careful. So we reshuffle the fridge at like scheduled intervals so that we’re using things and not being wasteful. And you’re right, like I, I often say this is like one of my favorite sayings that I kind. I think I maybe made up, but it’s that piles develop a group identity, right?

[00:42:42] Like a pile, a stack of things. Like I have a stack of mail right now that is, it is a month old to be honest with you, and it is now a stack. What happens? New mail goes on and it joins the stack. Those are no longer bills invoice. Like that’s probably really important stuff, but it has lost its identity and you have to be very careful when you know that about yourself.

[00:43:01] It’s a little easier. So I might just like scatter and reshuffle things and okay, now I have to deal with it. Put it somewhere, I’m gonna trip over it. But becoming more self aware and doing these kinds of things and then saying, Okay, how can I leverage my strengths? How can I tap into the things that I’m good at to like handle these things I’m not, mm-hmm.

[00:43:16] Or how can I advocate and get someone else right to help me do these things that I’m not as good at? I

[00:43:24] Sophia Elliott: absolutely love that. And if you could see our fridge , that’s totally our fridge and that is totally my desk. Just stacks of stuff. I love that identity idea. I haven’t heard that before. That is so true though.

[00:43:37] Cause when you have a pile of things, it becomes this overwhelming pile of things and it’s like, it’s like I never have time to deal with it because it looks like a lot and I, because I have no sense of time management at all. It’s kind of like it. Too much and too overwhelming, but, but if it’s one thing, oh well I can do that.

[00:43:58] I’ve got two minutes. Like, thank you. Thank you for that. I love it. That really

[00:44:03] Sam Young: helps. It’s just a way that I think about things. I dunno, but, you know, if that makes sense. But

[00:44:09] Sophia Elliott: yeah, no, it does. I, you know, I, hopefully in a few months I will be able to, uh, we we’re doing some moving around the house and I will, More of a dedicated space.

[00:44:20] And what I’m imagining is actually a wall where I get to pin the things, you know, instead of piling them up so that I can see them. There’s gonna be crazy wall business going on, but I’ve been thinking about the way my brain works and how I can set that up for success, you know, and and kind of get over some of these pitfalls.

[00:44:43] But, and, and that’s the journey, and I think it’s sort of like, It’s really nice to acknowledge, first of all, that. You know, we have these kind of quirks or our brain works in a particular way, but there are other people like us too, and , and it’s actually just about, it’s this little puzzle about thinking about, okay, well actually, what is it?

[00:45:06] Oh, it’s a visual thing, right? Well, how can we get creative and meet that? Do you know where it’s at? And problem solve that. And it becomes quite an exciting little adventure of, Right, okay, this isn’t working. What is it about it? Oh, I can’t see the leftovers. Right? Okay. How are we gonna solve that problem?

[00:45:23] And it’s you know, parents are kids. I think it’s the same for all of us. We’ve gotta think about. How it all works and breaks down and stuff. And, and

[00:45:35] Sam Young: that really brings, you know, that brings me to a really good point, which is that a lot of the times I think, you know, to kind of go full circle, when we think about like the deficit model and moving away from strengths, it’s, it’s that it’s, it’s, we say like a square peg in a round hole, right?

[00:45:48] Like, like mm-hmm. twice exceptional gifted or a divergent kids or square pegs in a round hole. And, and it’s a great metaphor, but we don’t want to round out our students to fit mm-hmm. , right? Because when you, when you say, Our students have such unique strengths and interests, the worst thing that we could do would be to shave those off, right?

[00:46:06] That’s what makes them them. So the problem, the number one, the number one problem without a doubt, with the deficit based model, is that it shaves off our students’ edges, interests, quirkiness, et cetera, and it makes them normal, right? And, and, and to quote Jonathan Moony, Normal sucks. You know, we shouldn’t converge to the.

[00:46:28] we need to stay off to the fringes. Our students have extreme interests, extreme talents, extreme curiosities, extreme creativity, and that is what will make them successful. Unless your goal is just to turn out a great student, which I beg you, please don’t do that because being a student doesn’t necessarily prepare one for success, then it’s important that we continue to move to the fringes and that we continue to develop the things that make us quirk, that make us tick, that let our fire and understand that that will better serve us in life beyond school.

[00:46:59] Becoming good at school. Cause that’s just one form of giftedness, schoolhouse, giftedness, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to the real

[00:47:04] Sophia Elliott: world. Absolutely. And that idea of a good student, uh, a friend of mine actually, we were talking about school reports one day and she actually said what she looks for in the school report is, you know, if her child’s getting an A, it’s kind of.

[00:47:27] Well, they need to move up. It’s, you know, it’s kind of like too easy. And what she wants is her child to be in like the b, c, you know, kind of space, because then that tells her that the child is working in a space where they’re having to put some in. But if that child’s getting all A’s, Well, then it’s just like, well, this is way too easy.

[00:47:49] We actually don’t want straight A students. We want them in a space where they’re actually having to put some effort in. And unfortunately for a lot of gifted kids, that means. Moving up and around in different levels and finding that space, which is more challenging and and doesn’t always fit in the mainstream system, but it’s kind of really challenging that idea that the ideal is a straight A student.

[00:48:11] And it’s kind of like, well, is it though? So, Yeah, exactly. So yeah.

[00:48:16] Sam Young: That’s a great perspective. Yeah. You know, my dad always said like, you never wanna be the smartest person in the room. Right. If you are, you need new friends, , you’re not being like, you’re not being stimulated. Right.

[00:48:28] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s the best thing when you’re in a group of people who can really like Yeah, really have you on the edge of your, of your seat, you know, with the.

[00:48:41] In a nice way, challenging and, and kind of getting that debate. I love that. But yeah, my, my friend with the report, it really made me look at school reports in a whole new way, uh, and reinforces that idea that.

[00:48:55] When it comes to gifted kids and twice exceptional kids, we’ve gotta be very cautious about applying these sort of mainstream mm-hmm. ideals that, you know, we should question anyway. But and it is just, yeah. Another thing as a parent of a gifted or twice exceptional kid that we kind of have to learn to shift our mindset around.

[00:49:16] Sam Young: Yeah. And, and there’s so many, right, Like failure, I mean grading inherently punishes failure. Hmm. Right. And like I, as an entrepreneur, if I don’t fail once a day, I’m not trying hard enough. Yeah. Like if I, I, my, my coach is like, You don’t fail enough. You’re so scared to try something new. It’s deeply rooted in me wanting to be a student and successful, but I could have shaved years off my growth if I would just try bigger, scarier things mm-hmm.

[00:49:46] and let them flop every so often because, Through that, I’m going to learn at a way more accelerated rate than I would by incrementally turning up, you know, the heat. And so it’s really important that like, again, these are lessons that apply to school, but they’re so much bigger than just school, but mm-hmm.

[00:50:04] Yeah. If you wanna truly move beyond grades, and again, grades have their place, it does give us good data and they can serve us well they can also be quite harmful. But it’s so important that we move to a place where students are really learning, really taking risks, and we’re, and we’re alleviating them.

[00:50:17] The freedom. Making mistakes. Like if you fail in my debate class, Bravo, you took a risk. You know? Yeah. If you’re not failing, then you’re probably kind of failing yourself because you’re not trying hard enough, You’re not taking on something that’s really big. Right. So it’s really important to sort of alleviate that anxiety and empower our students to take bigger risks.

[00:50:38] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:50:40] You know, as a reformed perfectionist. I hear ya, . I totally hear ya. Yeah, it, it’s knowing and, and such an important thing for our kids to learn how to get it wrong and being brave enough to get it wrong, you know, and if we’re too wound up on the, on the outcome, there’s no space for that. And so it’s really, it’s really better just to play it cool and provide that space to, oh, you gotta.

[00:51:10] Tell me about that. What’d we learn outta that? What happened there? You know, let’s be curious. What can we learn outta that? Mm-hmm. . Yeah, absolutely. Uh, so yeah, as we wrap up today, uh oh. There was something, Oh, okay. First of all, hang on, stop everything. You referred to a podcast. Tell us about that. You, you referred to doing interviews.

[00:51:37] Do you do interviews?

[00:51:38] Sam Young: Oh, yeah. So I, well, I’m, I have a once a month show that I do. It’s really just kind of for fun. Um mm-hmm. , it’s not, By any means on the level of which you’re doing, which is commendable, uh, I, it’s called Illuminating Interviews. You can find the videos on the Young Scholars Academy site, uh, young scholars academy.org.

[00:51:59] And it’s under, I, I kind of consider it like a blog passion project, but, uh, every other month I’ll interview either an expert or a student or a panel of students. And when I say students, these. Young adults now, but they’re former students of mine. Cause I think that’s something that a lot of our kiddos need is seeing older versions of themselves, as we said, but not as old as me.

[00:52:21] Right. . So someone who’s, someone who’s maybe, you know, 23 mm-hmm. , who’s just finished school and now they’re doing something and they’re twice exceptional or they’re gifted, or they’re NeuroD and, and giving them the space. Someone’s a little closer to them in age and talk about their struggles, their accomplishments, and everything in between.

[00:52:39] And then I’ll interview people. I think last time I saw you, Sophia, I had just interviewed that morning, Joseph Zuli, Dr. Joseph Zu. I can’t remember. Yeah, you mentioned that. I was like, I’m still coming off that high. So yeah, share that episode next week, I think. Yeah, I had like the shakes during that. So very excited about, about that too.

[00:52:56] So I’ll bring in different people, but the goal is really just to kind. Just pick different people’s brains and try to get little clips and snippets for people who want like a sort of a quick insight or a quick thought provoking like your one friend, right. Sometimes mm-hmm. , one person can say one thing and it can completely transform our lives.

[00:53:15] Yeah. And uh, so I’m just kind of conversing in, in the wilderness, I guess, with different people. trying to find. Provoking thoughts and so it’s awesome.

[00:53:26] Sophia Elliott: Thank you. So check that out on your website and I’m gonna check that out and I will start sharing those cuz they sound amazing. And so how can people get in touch with you?

[00:53:36] Sam Young: Yeah. So you can check out Young Scholars academy.org and if you hit the Contact me button, you, that’s me right there. Uh, also on Facebook at Ysa Enrichment, so that’s for Young Scholars Academy and then on Instagram at Young Underscore Scholars Underscore Academy. And anyone doesn’t know the underscore, it’s like the lower hyphen.

[00:53:58] I always say the hyphen on the

[00:54:00] Sophia Elliott: ground, you know? Yeah, I like that. Yep. And, and, and you, I mean, you’ve touched on sort. Very briefly, uh, some of the. Things you do, but important for everyone to know that you offer a whole range of classes on different topics and all sorts of things. So really check out the website for more detail on all of those

[00:54:21] Sam Young: things.

[00:54:22] Yes, please do. We have winter camps. Summer camps, and then we run courses every eight weeks and we’re usually running 20, 25 courses. Mm-hmm. , uh, at a time. So we have a tremendous amount. Opportunities and we try to do everything that no one else is doing. So crypto, you know, debate investing, virtual robotics, anything that you can think of.

[00:54:43] Book clubs, psychology, college level courses, things that fire.

[00:54:49] Sophia Elliott: That, that sounds amazing. So a great opportunity for young gifted kids to find their peers in a strength based environment. Sounds perfect. And you, like, just very quickly, you mentioned in the d and d podcast, uh, you were telling us a story about, uh, you know, the, the d and d group, but like they’re from all over the world getting together and playing this game on a regular basis, which, Just feels like a really beautiful thing to share.

[00:55:17] So a great opportunity to meet people potentially from all over the.

[00:55:22] Sam Young: Absolutely. And I don’t know if I shared this story with you. This is a 32nd story, but I had two students actually meet in a park. Did I tell you this one? It’s beautiful. Yeah. Tell and recognize one another. So like that just happened?

[00:55:34] Yeah, about a week or so before you and I connected, so yeah. Amazing. So yeah, there’s a virtual community and sometimes people trip across from real people too. . Yeah.

[00:55:43] Sophia Elliott: Uh, well thank you so much for making time to talk to us today. I feel like that was a really great convers conversation about strength based learning and a few other tangents in between.

[00:59:21] Sam Young: I’m always gonna be good for a tangent. This is great. Thank you so much. Me

[00:59:25] Sophia Elliott: too. Thank you. It’s been delightful to have you back, and hopefully you won’t be a stranger and we’ll, we’ll see you again on the podcast.

[00:59:33] Sam Young: Absolutely. Cheers. Thank you.

#070 Giftedness Right Now w/ Marc Smolowitz

#070 Giftedness Right Now w/ Marc Smolowitz

It’s our final BONUS episode for Gifted, Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week; and we’ve been Bringing Joy & Equity in Focus all week with seven podcasts!

As a proud partner of The G Word, Our Gifted Kids is delighted to raise awareness once again as we talk about #gifted joy & equity!

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Marc Smolowitz

Marc Smolowitz is a multi-award-winning director, producer, and executive producer who has been significantly involved in 50+ independent films. The combined footprint of his works has touched 250+ film festivals & markets on 5 continents, yielding substantial worldwide sales to theatrical, television, and VOD outlets, notable box office receipts, and numerous awards and nominations.

His credits include films that have screened at the world’s top-tier festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Tribeca, Locarno, Chicago, Palm Springs, SF FILM, AFI Docs, IDFA, DOC NYC, CPH: DOX, Tokyo, Melbourne, Viennale, Jerusalem, among others.

In 2009, Marc founded 13th Gen, a San Francisco-based boutique film and entertainment company (see: https://www.13thgenfilm.com/) that works with a dynamic range of independent film partners globally to oversee the financing, production, post-production, marketing, sales, and distribution efforts of a vibrant portfolio of films and filmmakers.

The company has successfully advanced Marc’s career-long focus on powerful social issue filmmaking across all genres. In 2016, he received one of the prestigious Gotham Media Fellowships to attend the Cannes Film Festival’s Producers Network marking him as one of the USA’s most influential independent film producers.

In 2022, Marc is currently in post-production on THE G WORD — a feature-length documentary that aims to be the most comprehensive film ever made on the topics of gifted, talented, and neurodiverse education across the United States. The film asks the urgent equity question — In the 21st century, who gets to be Gifted in America and Why?. Learn more at: https://www.thegwordfilm.com/

Hit play and let’s get started!


[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Hello and welcome to your bonus. Gifted, talented. This week episode.

[00:00:07] This is a cheeky little episode that I thought I would provide as a bonus because it’s was a little special part of the conversation I had with Marc Smolowitz last week. And the question I asked him was. And that he is, he’s been researching giftedness for, as he said, I think about eight years now.

[00:00:29] He’s now at the epicenter of this growing community and movement around giftedness. And he’s gathered people from all over the world, doing all this awesome stuff in our gifted community. And I wanted to know ’cause sometimes unlike I want to be a fly on the wall for Marc Smolowitz and just the people he mates.

[00:00:49] The stuff he’s doing. Is absolutely wonderful in the name of developing his film, The G Word. But I’m like mark, what has been the most surprising thing? The most interesting thing, like just. What has been that thing? You know, and so when he answered that question, I mean, I don’t know what I was expecting when I asked the question.

[00:01:14] Uh, sometimes you ask questions and you kind of know where people are gonna go. And sometimes you’re like, ah, And I throw that out there and I don’t know where it’s going to go. I didn’t really expect this response. And I love the honesty of it. And I thought that’s actually a bit special and I felt like there’s something.

[00:01:32] In this response. That really speaks to the heart naturally Of why we’re needing to have these conversations about giftedness.

[00:01:42] So I started this podcast because I felt very deeply in my heart. There was this massive misunderstanding about what giftedness is. And that was not okay. And it was not good enough. And with. Communication and bringing everyone to the table. There is enough information and research out there that we could.

[00:02:05] Learn better. We could do better. But it comes down to getting everyone at the table, talking. Understanding. And being willing to be open to learning. About ultimately what our kids need. Because the truth lies in the fact that every child. Is a gift. But it’s not gifted. But every child. He deserves to access an equitable education.

[00:02:34] Suddenly that provides what they need to shine. And we need to get beyond that misunderstanding that giftedness is somehow a privilege limited to certain demographics or choice. And we need to understand that giftedness.

[00:02:50] It’s about being neurodivergent.

[00:02:54] And.

[00:02:55] That is not. Just one demographic within society. Doesn’t matter what culture you are. What gender, what sexuality? Where you come from, how much money your family has got. You can be that neurodivergent gifted kid or adult. And so it’s incumbent upon us as the adults in the room to meet the needs of our children who are in our charge. And that is as an adult, not just my kids, like all the kids, right.

[00:03:27] We are the adults in the room. We have So that’s why we tell stories here. I’ll give to kids because as parents. We need decision makers to get the real impact. This has. On our lives every single On our kids’ lives every single day and not just our kids’ lives today, but into the future. So this is critical stuff. This is.

[00:03:55] Uh, demographic hugely misunderstood. And so Mark’s response to my question about what is the most surprising thing. Interesting thing. Speaks to this and I really want everyone to hear it. And so I thought this needs to be a little bonus podcast. It’s not long and it’s worth a listen. And it just speaks to that misunderstanding.

[00:04:17] That we’d so desperately need to fight against.

[00:04:21] Now, I know these things must be hitting a nerve because over gifted, talented neuro diversity awareness week over the last kind of week and a half. There have been over 9,000 listens of this podcast. Like. Personally that boggles my brain. Uh, because I’m just kind of doing the best that I can. It’s far from a smooth operation.

[00:04:43] But it says to me, there’s a lot of parents out there. Who needs this community? Made these conversations. Uh, and trying to make sense of their world for their kids.

[00:04:58] So we’ve been talking all week about how to get involved, how to be a part of that community, how to engage.

[00:05:07] And I wholeheartedly as a The proud partner of The G Word, encourage everyone to subscribe to The G Word website. And if you can, if you are able to support The G Word in getting across the line. Uh, financially. So that we can see this wonderful documentary that I know it will be, and I know will help.

[00:05:27] Our gifted movement.

[00:05:31] And if you can’t make a financial contribution, that’s okay. Not all of us can, but what you can do is share the story with others. And what you can do is be a part Even if it’s just following on social media. Subscribing being there being involved is taking action. And it’s helping us make that impact.

[00:05:56] Likewise at our gifted kids to continue our conversations and Work that we feel is really important. We could also use your support. So, if you have found the podcast helpful, Um, then maybe you would be prepared to help us as well. And likewise.

[00:06:15] You could share it with a friend, help us get the word out about the podcast.

[00:06:20] If you love an episode, leave a review on your podcast player because that helps other people find us as well. If you particularly loved an episode, you can always say, thanks with cake. There’s a button on our link tree. Uh, if you’re so inspired. Or for as little as a coffee per month, you can support us and get a little something back.

[00:06:42] So we have created three new options to support the podcast and get a little bit more involved. One equates to a puff coffee a month. One equates to a coffee per week. And one equates to two coffees per week. Yes, I have a coffee issue. It’s my Italian genes. It gets me through the day. I love coffee, the smell of coffee.

[00:07:06] The taste of coffee Creek. He like, I’m kind of like, Uh, you know, it’s getting me through the day at the moment. So what can I say? Nonetheless a little coffee offering from yourself could help out, give to kids. Also get through the

[00:07:23] So, let me tell you a little bit about what you

[00:07:27] So for a coffee a month. You can be a part of our community called dip your toes in. And it is just dipping your toes in. To the community, you get your own exclusive online portal. They can sign into and within that you get member only videos of the podcast. Every podcast now comes with a principle with those key messages because you know what it’s like, you listen

[00:07:50] COSI like, ah, good to remember that, that, and often you don’t. Well, that’s me anyway. So there’s a principle.

[00:07:58] On that online portal. You’ve got the podcast audio. You’ve got the videos. And you’ve also got bonus playlist, which we will rotate about different topics. So it’s all there at your fingertips to engage with. And it’s all totally searchable, which is actually the cool thing. Cause we’ve got like 70 podcasts now. And if you’re looking for a particular thing, you don’t want to have to sift through them all. So you can actually search it.

[00:08:22] That was the whole point of the software I chose. It’s great. So you’ve got it all there at your fingertips. And it’s all there. The whole point of our gifted kids is to make life easier for parents.

[00:08:35] Or for a coffee per week, we have an option called BCN and found. And in BC and found you get all the things associated with. Dipping your toes in. But you get a different portal. Uh, and it’s much bigger. It’s a whole library of resources that we’ve been building over the last year and a half. You also get a course, which is like a journey to a new normal, it’s kind of taking you through the parenting of gifted kids process. .

[00:09:07] You get a private Facebook group. And you get a bonus course called unpacking gifted, which goes through. Like everything about giftedness. In little bite-sized chunks, we break down what all the things mean. And there’s also components in there about giftedness in the classroom.

[00:09:26] There’s a whole bunch of extra resources. Like it’s pretty comprehensive. If you want to know anything about giftedness, then that’s. I’m very like that. We’ll cover it all. Let me tell you. So, if you feel more inspired, if you’re like, hang on, I am on a mission to thrive and I need actually not just to be a part of a community, but to really dive in.

[00:09:48] Well then for two coffees a week. We do have an option called mission to thrive. You get everything from the other two. Options, but you also get quarterly guest webinars, quarterly online gatherings. We’d like presentations and socializing. And a discovery call with myself to help you unpack where you’re at.

[00:10:09] And of course the bonus course and the parenting. Program as well. As the private Facebook group and stuff like that. So, what we’re trying to do here is provide something for everyone, no matter where you’re at. Whether it’s like, you know what? I just want to coffee a month, support the podcast. Awesome. Thank you. Or if you’re like, actually I may deep in this.

[00:10:32] I’m going to go all the way and there’s something for you too.

[00:10:36] It is. Frankly, excellent value because here at our gifted kids, we value inclusivity and we’ve tried to make it as accessible to everyone as we possibly can. You can cancel it any time. You are not tied into anything. We use Stripe. It’s all very secure. So door’s closed this Thursday, the 3rd of November at midnight, wherever you are.

[00:11:00] And supporting us helps us to grow and keep going and do more cool things for you and parents of gifted kids. And we have plans, believe me for lots more cool things. Um, but we need to get a little bit bigger before we can do those

[00:11:15] So listen to the podcast. Let me know what you think about Mark’s insights. Check Our gifted kids.com backslash hub. To learn more. About the different options we have, or you can go to our link tree for links.

[00:11:31] I hope you enjoyed the week. It’s been massive. How many episodes have we done? We’ve actually done seven episodes. Like I’ve lost count. It’s been huge. We’re also going live on Facebook as often as I can, because honestly, I’m a little bit method. And we’re on Instagram as well. And we also have a free Facebook group. Like I said, it’s all about being inclusive and there’s something for everyone.

[00:11:56] So, whether it’s sharing with your friends or getting more involved in that mission to thrive, there is something for you to stay quirky. We’ll see you soon. And as always, let me know what you think and how you going. Talk to you soon.

[00:12:43] But one question I wanna ask you is, given what in, so what I would be interested in being an absolute data nerd for all things gifted, and you’re a diverse mm-hmm. is like, uh, you know, given that network and the years you’ve spent kind of deep diving like.

[00:13:05] You’re at this epicenter of this rising, gifted community building in energy to really break down some of those old misconceptions about giftedness. What are some of the most interesting or surprising things you’ve encountered or learnt or seen? Coming outta that gifted community over the last few years.

[00:13:23] Have there been things that have really kind of like, didn’t expect that didn’t see that coming?

[00:13:30] Marc Smolowitz: Oh my God. So many things. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s the rich part of the job. That’s, that’s the gift that I get to experience every day. I mean, one of the things I talk about is the community that I’ve come to become very close with, that I’ve helped to cultivate around the movie and how, how impressed and touched and inspired I am every day by all of you.

[00:13:48] I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s the gift that I get every day as a filmmaker, right. Is, is all of you. But I do see and experience some pretty amazing things that I think I’m in a unique position as a storyteller to kind of notice and then kinda interpret in even through our impact work. And I think. You know, we are somehow, I mean, you know, I’m, you know, I’m a liberal left-leaning guy, that those are my politics, you know, And I think people know that about me.

[00:14:15] You look me up and you see that, Right. You know, I’m gay, you know, I’m, you know, live in San Francisco. You know, Do you know, do you know? Figure it out. Right? But, you know, one of the things about storytelling and, and of course there’s a perspective in storytelling, and I bring a lens to it, is that it can be fairly neutral and welcoming terrain for people.

[00:14:34] And so, one of the ways I describe the movie and the kind of, you know, efforts that we’ve created around it is I like this movie to feel like a room. And I want the room to be welcoming and warm. I want the door to be open. Open, come on in. I want the windows open light coming in. There’s no darkness. Like there is light.

[00:14:52] Right? And you are welcome. And this is a safe space. And we can have debate. We can have discourse. We can’t agree to disagree, right? And you know, there’s gonna be certain folks from certain political perspectives that are just not gonna get what I’m about. Right. They don’t like the term equity, They don’t lean into it in a way they’re even triggered by it and have a reaction to it.

[00:15:16] And I understand that and, and, you know, that is a part of the puzzle here that has been difficult and troubling at times. And so it’s, it’s made the journey imperfect as every journey is. Right. You know, you’re, when you make a movie about something that is, Implicitly or explicitly controversial to some, like, you’re gonna hit up against that controversy and it’s gonna be painful.

[00:15:37] Right. So we’ve experienced pushback as a movie because of our equity position and how we’re telling these stories and how we’re choosing to tell them. And the most kind of difficult. Piece of that is the transphobia that I’ve experienced. And that’s been extremely painful for me. And I think I maybe even talked to you about this in the past.

[00:15:55] I’m not sure. I don’t remember had that, have this conversation a lot. But, but long story short, one of the six stories in our movie is trans. And I am a big trans ally. A lot of my movies are with trans filmmakers and tell trans stories. It’s not all I do, It’s certainly not all The, G Word is about, but, but it’s in the room.

[00:16:10] And it’s interesting to me cuz there are so many trans and gender nonconforming teens and tweens who are gifted and are diverse. And so that was something I wanted to put in the movie that I decided to make, and I’m doing it that way, right? So I’ve experienced some of that, you know, kind of right wing transphobia or, you know, maybe people wouldn’t even call it right wing.

[00:16:28] It’s just gonna transphobia in general. So that’s been troubling, right? But, but the piece of the puzzle that is, that is more, I think broadly troubling that isn’t about necessarily like people having a transphobic response to the movie is. Is the way that gifted education has emerged again as a kind of political tool, both on the right and the left in America to kind of, you know, make it problematic again.

[00:16:55] So on the one hand you have people on the right of the political spectrum who kind of use it. It’s like, you know, it’s, it’s elitist, you know, it’s exclusionary from that perspective. These are very anti-intellectual people who don’t believe in investing in certain things that might, you know, kind of fall under the banner of gifted.

[00:17:14] or people on the right wing who’ve actually linked it with something called critical race theory. I’m not sure if that’s a concept in Australia you’ve been hearing much about, but there’s, there’s something called critical race theory, which has become like this bizarre blanket term for any, abil, any effort in the United States to, you know, kind of talk openly about race or racism in the education system.

[00:17:32] And it’s just a bunch of BS because that’s not actually what critical race theory is. It’s not taught in schools. It’s something at the university level, but it’s been co-opted by the right wing and, and it’s really politicized school boards and, you know, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s a sort of crazy making kind of thing.

[00:17:48] And it’s actually influenced some local elections, some governor governor’s elections and, and, and gifted education has actually been in that conversation with critical race theory in ways that are just bizarre and almost schizophrenic and, you know, like just, it’s just all fake news kind of stuff, right?

[00:18:02] Like just making up crap about gifted, like, you know, And because there might. You know, some interest in making gifted, you know, programs more diverse or more inclusive, and, and, and that somehow that’s like, you know, aligned with some weird, like, affirmative action narrative, this kind of craziness, you know?

[00:18:19] No, For me, like what it’s about is that they’re smart kids everywhere. They’re from every bra. Background and if they happen to be black, brown and poor, like think of the societal benefit. If you could actually find them, actually cultivate them and, and do great things with them and for them to help them meet their potential.

[00:18:36] Like that’s the narrative. Like there’s a social benefit there, right? Meet these great smart kids where they are, you know, like, let’s not have them end up in prison. Let’s have them turn their smarts into something positive for society. Like it’s not that, it’s not rocket science, right? So, So that’s the sort of, you know, right wing piece.

[00:18:51] Then the left wing, which is, you know, usually where I feel more at home. There’s this kind of eradication of gifted education narrative happening in the last few years that is really troubling, which is sort of says that gifted education is actually coming out of. Eurocentric white supremacy, patriarchal stuff, and therefore has to be eradicated, right?

[00:19:16] That it, and, and there is an argument there that I wanna honor that, you know, that IQ testing actually originates from some pretty bizarre assumptions about who is smart and who should be as, who should be assessed. Okay? And that’s actually even kind of in our movie, right? I mean, you can sort of look back to like the origin of the IQ test and actually kind of goes back to eugenics.

[00:19:39] So it’s pretty troubling stuff, okay? So I’m not saying that the left is a hundred percent whole cross wrong, right? But this idea, uh, this idea of turning gifted education into a kind of, you know, a debate and has to be eradicated because it’s racist, like it’s inherently racist and could never not be racist like that.

[00:20:00] Devalues the important and powerful work that our gifted scholars of color have been doing for more than 40 years in this field, right? And our movie is all about those folks and our movie profiles them, it bring, it centers them and the deep work they’ve been doing to make sure that black and brown kids actually are being discovered.

[00:20:20] And they’ve been going into school districts and trying to help these school districts figure out how to discover them, right? And so, if you talk to any of those folks, and they’re in our movie Joy Lawson Davis is one of the most noticeable ones in our movie. You know, these folks will go in and they’ll say, Do not eradicate these programs.

[00:20:38] Dismantling gifted will not make it easier to find smart kids who are living poor zip codes. Like, that’s just not gonna happen. Okay? Mm-hmm. . So, so when you ask me like, like the surprising stuff, like that’s, that’s the crazy stuff. Like I, I, and I have to actually operate as a story teller. In the middle of those two political polls, right of the right and the left.

[00:21:02] Having this kind of schizophrenic narrative around what is gifted education in the United States and, and you know, dare I be so bold, both sides are wrong. They don’t get it. And our movie, I hope, is gonna kind of course correct this and kind of lean into a different way of talking about the benefits of a gifted education program in general.

[00:21:24] Right. And no program is perfect. No school is perfect. No school district is perfect. No, nothing is perfect, Right? Implementation of any kind of program is always gonna have, it’s, you know, it’s hiccups, right? But we have to try, you know, we have to try and like, if we don’t, we’re never gonna find these kids, you know?

[00:21:44] And there’s so many of them out there. You know, in, there’s another narrative in the United States around what we call merit-based high schools. And you know how there’s an you know, an overrepresentation of Asian-American kids in merit-based high schools, right? And so there’s like this idea of like, eliminate the merit-based high schools because they’re racist and there’s only white Asian kids going there.

[00:22:07] And, you know, there’s no space for other, other folks who are, you know, from different backgrounds. You know, the Asian and white kids are families over here are saying, Well, but our kids are performing well. Like, why should they suffer? Right? So it, you know, what I’m getting at here is that, you know, everyone should feel like they’re being seen and heard, and no one group should have to suffer at the hands of another being given access to something.

[00:22:29] Right? What’s wrong with that is that we’re actually talking about it in the wrong way, right? And so I think eliminating merit based high schools probably isn’t the solution to what the problem of systemic racism is in this country, right? So we have to do deeper work at the level of the schools themselves and figure out, okay, how do we get those black and brown kids into those merit-based high schools, and what does that even look like?

[00:22:57] So this year in San Francisco where I live and work, we had this horrible recall election for our board of Education where three of our board members were recalled because of this kind of merit-based craziness. And they were all about, you know, eliminating these merit-based high schools in San Francisco, of which there are a couple of them.

[00:23:17] And. And it became quite toxic. And the pandemic dynamics of schools being closed and virtual, virtual learning really kind of separated, you know, people from each other and it just got more and more toxic. So there was this bitter, bitter recall election after the recall election happened. One of the groups that was really involved in trying to.

[00:23:36] Figure out the what and the why of that recall election. They reached out to me. I was really delighted because it’s right here in my own city and we’re following our movie and asked us if we could help do a webinar to connect them with some of those black scholars that I just was talking about so we could introduce the San Francisco Unified School district audience to this idea that black giftedness actually is a.

[00:24:00] It actually is a thing. Okay. There can be black gifted kids and it just, it just, it, it can happen. Okay. And so we put together a panel called Young Gifted and Black, bringing equity into focus for the San Francisco Unified School District. And we had two very top tier gift black gifted scholars who’ve been doing this deep work for years.

[00:24:20] Talk to two people in the, in the district and be in conversation together. And that has nothing directly to do with The, G Word, right. But we were the hosts. We did. It was our way of giving back to my local city, which I’m always delighted when I can do that. But also the larger community, because it was virtual, anyone could watch it anywhere.

[00:24:37] And that was an wildly popular webinar. We had incredible response on social media, so, So I know that when we can support those difficult discussions to kind of get people in the room to think out loud together, kind of strip away the kind of political craziness that for some reason schools and school boards and all this craziness kind of attracts like, like that piece is heartbreaking to me.

[00:25:01] Like, like there is a social contract here in the United States that says that every child should have access to a free and fair, appropriate education. And like if we’re not working on that, if that’s not a work in progress all the time, Like, what are we doing? Right? And what that means is that wherever a child goes to school, they should have, you know, ultimately the same access as the other children in their city or town.

[00:25:27] Right? And we know that that’s not how that works. There’s just, you know, there’s a lack of equity everywhere. So bringing equity into school conversations is gonna be a great thing because it gets people thinking on their feet about how to treat schools a different kind of phenomenon. It’s keep, remind them, it’s for everyone.

[00:25:44] These are public schools. It’s a social contract, right? It’s no wonder that parents, like, who can afford private schools throw up their hands because there’s so much craziness and, and politicizing, you know, of our public schools and, and unfairly so and so, Yeah. So the extremes are the troubling piece, right?

[00:26:02] And, but guess. That’s the, that’s the important work we need to do is to really work and push through those challenges. And along the way it’s the communities that, and the people that I get to interact with that inspire me, that keep every day to do this work and, and help me keep my chin up. And look at the world and all this craziness as through, through the sense of that the glass is half, is, is half full.

[00:26:27] Okay. The glass is not half empty, the glass is half full. I wake up every day. I remind myself of that because I have to, you know, and I mean, education is for everyone and it really has to be, otherwise it just doesn’t make sense. You know? And home and school are a system that has to serve the child.

[00:26:45] Right. And if, if that’s not what we’re all aiming for, regardless of who that child is, whether, whether he, she they are white, black, brown, yellow, green, queer or trans . Okay? They are, they should be welcome in school. They should be able to express themselves in school and be safe in school. Right? Absolutely.

[00:27:04] So, yeah, I mean, yeah, these are, you know, so you, I’m not sure if that was the answer you expected, but. But gifted education is a, is a prism into all kinds of issues that people don’t expect. And I experience it doing this work every day, every week.

[00:27:22] Sophia Elliott: That’s, yeah, that, I mean, that’s, yeah, that’s a very interesting response to that question, but like, listening to you tell that story, it’s kind of like at every key point, the issue there is diversity and inclusion, accepting others as they are, and people who are either afraid of that diversity, trying to, you know, you know, create diversity, but, but doing it in the wrong way because they’re really not understanding what giftedness is all about.

[00:27:54] And that’s a challenge, isn’t it? It’s like that true understanding of what giftedness is as a neuro divergent state of being, and that. Anyone, you know can be gifted, like you say, regardless of culture, race, sexuality, gender, uh, socioeconomic demo, like, it just doesn’t matter. Giftedness is everywhere and it’s just about bringing everyone to the table, isn’t it?

[00:28:22] Like,

[00:28:22] Marc Smolowitz: and this is why the movie is called The, G Word, because it’s such a problematic concept, right? It’s such a, it’s a rough, tough concept with all kinds of baggage. And, you know, The, G, Word, I was explaining The G. Word is the F word. You know, that’s the word. We can’t, it’s the word we can’t say out loud, right?

[00:28:36] Yeah. And, and so when you kind of, so, so folks who are advocates for the gifted and, and twice exceptional are job is to figure out other words to use to describe it. And guess what? Visual storytelling. Making a movie is a great way to describe it because it puts a different kind of lens and a face on what it looks like.

[00:28:59] And so that’s been the goal, right? Is to really use powerful storytelling to keep people in the conversation in a way that gets to think differently about this stuff. And, and, and that has been the interesting, most interesting part of, of these last seven years, is that I never expected to see a movement in motion the way that I have experienced it.

[00:29:21] You know, when I, when I first began this movie and I discovered what Twice Exceptionality is, and I met some families and started to research it, it was like this little nascent thing that was happening. And lo and behold, it’s a movement, right? Mm-hmm. , mm-hmm. . And it’s been a movement. It’s a movement that is created by parents who have self-organized, who have children, who are complex, who insist on their children being seen and rightly, Because they see a certain child at home that the school is not discovering or encouraging, right?

[00:29:58] Mm-hmm. . And so that mismatch comes out of a certain expectation that these parents have grown up in a society that tells ’em that their kids should get to go to school and feel safe and supported every day. And when that doesn’t happen, right? It’s heartbreaking. And so the parents feel trauma, right? And instead of sitting on their laurels and being stuck in trauma, the moms and the dads of the struggling two E kids who are also gifted kids, have started to self organize.

[00:30:25] And here we are years later, not that many years later, and it’s really like a movement in motion. And so I didn’t expect that. I didn’t know that. I was like, you know, walking into that. And that has been incredibly dynamic, extremely exciting, and a beautiful opportunity as a filmmaker and an activist to support those people because it’s important work.

[00:30:45] You know, when I first started the movie there were folks who said to me things like, there are probably 300,000 twice exceptional students in our schools who are undiscovered and, you know, being crushed and put into special ed programs. Now people have that, you know, that number could be, you know, much, much higher if we really look at it.

[00:31:04] Right? Yeah. You know, and I think it’s, you know, let’s say there’s a million students right across 50 states who are too e unidentified and struggling and have been put in special ed and are being crushed by that experience. Like, like what are we doing if we’re not trying to get those kids out of that room into a different room?

[00:31:24] Right now, special ed needs to be there for some students. Okay. We know that for sure. Yeah. Right? Yeah. That doesn’t mean that every kid who’s in there actually should be in there. Right? And we know, we know that this is a culture where misdiagnosis is so often in a through line of how things go down because of the conditions in which children are being assessed.

[00:31:46] So in our movie, assessments is a huge theme. Like assessments is almost every story. You know, testing, identification, assessments, you, you’ll see it in every story and how to do it differently, how to do it better, how to do it in ways that aren’t biased, that really discover kids and meet them where they.

[00:32:02] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Well, I look forward to hearing about that and what an important job you’re doing on highlighting the diversity within us all. So on that note, how can people support The, G, Word, and start to be a part of the movement and the conversation.

[00:32:21] Marc Smolowitz: Oh, well thank you. Well, first of all, go to The G Word Film dot com. That’s our website. And The G Word Film dot com is your hub for everything, right? So, so all the G chain awareness programming links will be there. You can register, you can sign up, you can connect. You should follow us on social. We’re at The G Word Film, and we’re on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook.

[00:32:41] We’re very active. I have an incredible co-producer named Danielle Hoke who does all of our social marketing, and she is right there. In real time monitoring all the important topics and sharing stories and, and you know, really, you know, lively and engaged with people you know, in real time. And we want you to be a part of our social media community.

[00:33:01] Yeah, there’s just, you know, that, that’s sort of, that’s, that’s the point of entry. And then if you are so moved and you like what you see you can make a donation of The G Word documentary. We, in the United States anyway, we operate as a 5 0 1 C3 nonprofit through, so we’re charity through a fiscal sponsor.

[00:33:19] So folks here in the US can get a tax deduction for their donation through the Center for in documentary. And that sometimes motivates people to wanna donate. I mean, we’ve had more than 700 donors make donations to this movie, so I’m, you know, take that very seriously. That’s a huge, you know, vote of confidence and trust in me as a filmmaker.

[00:33:38] And I’m really grateful for everyone’s, everyone’s donations. You know, we’ve had people donate from, you know, from. From $5 to $50,000. And so if you’re, you know, if you’re out there and you’re listening and you’re rich and you wanna be an executive producer on a movie, you know, send me an email and I’m happy to hear from you.

[00:33:54] We’ll, we’ll, we’ll talk deal, we’ll talk deal terms. But if you’re someone who just, you know, like, like we, we sell, you know, knowing that the culture of philanthropy is that, you know, people join organizations that they’re passionate about, you know, so I would be honored to have you and your listeners, you know, consider The G.

[00:34:10] Word be something that you would like to support this year among the many important causes that you probably support in your own life and in your own communities. We can’t do this alone. It takes a village to make a movie. It takes a village to support the movement around the movie. But go to our website, learn about our partners, 80 groups and many of them in your state or your town, or your, your country, doing great work where you can connect and learn more about what it means to be gifted.

[00:34:36] But yourself, your kids, your teachers, your, you know, all the stakeholders that are kind of in the room. Everybody touches our, our community. I mean, I’ll lead you with this today. Like no one movie can be all things to all people, and I would never pretend that, right. We’re gonna do our best job to make this as meaningful for as many people as we can.

[00:34:56] And it’s really the impact work around the movie that will sort of fill in the rest, right? The, G, Word doesn’t belong just to me and the people around me who are helping to make it. It belongs to everyone who has a connection to this, these themes, these stories, and these concepts, right? So when you see The, G, Word, you’re gonna see six stories that I’ve chosen that I think are powerful, but I hope it will hold up to you like a mirror and get you to think about this stuff in your own life and in your own way and in your own time.

[00:35:25] And if I’ve done my job and I’ve touched your heart, made you think maybe surprised and delighted you a little bit. You know when the lights come up in the movie theater or you look at each other, you know, at home when you know in the living room, when you’re done watching, like, you know, let me know what you think, you know, this is a virtuous act.

[00:35:42] We’re making art feedback is important. I don’t pretend to know everything. You know, I’m well studied and deeply researched, but I’m learning all the time. And The, G, Word Enterprise is exactly a reflection of that. Like, like, join us and be a part of the movement and we’d be glad to welcome you.

[00:35:59] Sophia Elliott: Well, I thoroughly look forward to the next chapter and getting across the line with that last bit.

[00:36:05] And like Mark said earlier, there’s a little bit more fundraising to do. We’re at the, what is it, The 24th mile in the marathon. So by all means, if you have the opportunity to support The, G, Word, Film, get across the line, that would be amazing. And in the meantime get involved in gifted talent in Neurodiversity Awareness Week.

[00:36:25] So much cool stuff. I’ll put all those links in the show notes so that you can find everything. And Mark, thank you for your time this evening. It’s been absolute delight to catch up again. I look forward to eventually coming back and you’re like, It’s out ,

[00:36:43] Marc Smolowitz: I can’t wait. And my dream of dreams is to join you down there in Australia.

[00:36:47] Screen the movie in person, we can celebrate together.

[00:36:51] Sophia Elliott: That is a wonderful dream. Let’s hold onto that cuz that’d be amazing. Will take care. Thank you for joining us this evening. I’m very excited about next week’s activities and all the exciting joy that we get to share

[00:37:04] Marc Smolowitz: next week. Hashtag gifted joy.

[00:37:07] Let’s do it. Hashtag Thanks so much, Sophia. Thank you.

#069 Why Dungeons & Dragons is Gifted Bliss w/ Sam Young

#069 Why Dungeons & Dragons is Gifted Bliss w/ Sam Young

It’s Gifted, Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week; and we’re Bringing Joy & Equity in Focus with this year’s theme.

As a proud partner of The G Word, Our Gifted Kids is delighted to raise awareness once again with a whole week of podcasts. Actually, 6 episodes! Where we talk about #gifted joy!

Podcast Line Up

  • Marc Smolowitz introduces the week with – #064 Gifted Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week does #giftedjoy
  • Monday
    • #065 Gifted Joy & Gifted Play; Why it’s Different w/ Kate Donohue
  • Tuesday
    • #066 Why Gifted Folk Need Board Games! w/ Justin Ratcliff
  • Wednesday
    • #067 How to Express Your Gifted Self with Digital Music & Art w/ Johannes Dreyer
  • Thursday
    • #068 A Higher Skate of Mind for Gifted Kids w/ Josh Smith
  • Friday
    • #069 Why Dungeons & Dragons is Gifted Bliss w/ Sam Young


Enjoyed the podcasts? Our online community is currently open until midnight Thursday 3 November! Find out more here!

Or subscribe, join our online community or get freebies, say thanks at ourgiftedkids.com

Please leave a review on your podcast player and help parents find us!


Our GTN Awareness Week Links



Sam Young

Samuel Young, MEd, is a growth-minded, two-time Fulbright Scholar and Director of Young Scholars Academy, a strength-based, talent-focused virtual enrichment center that supports twice-exceptional students and their families. Samuel is a neurodivergent educator who has ADHD. As an ADHD learner, he has a tremendous understanding of, experience in, and respect for all things related to neurodiverse education.

Before founding Young Scholars Academy, Samuel taught in a variety of capacities—including nearly a decade at Bridges Academy—at an array of programs in the US, Europe, and Asia. Travel and culture are near and dear to him. He has led 2e students to over 7 countries for immersive cultural and educational trips.

Samuel has been featured in the documentary 2e2: Teaching The Twice Exceptional, the textbook Understanding The Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Students, 2nd Ed., Variations Magazine, 2e News, and other publications.

Hit play and let’s get started!



[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Hello, and welcome back. It is gifted, talented in your diversity awareness week. And today we’re talking about Dungeons and dragons. Which is super exciting because this was something that came up in our original kind of brainstorming about this week. And I tried a few different things and I just, hadn’t kind of, you know, it hadn’t come together and I’m like, no, I really kind of want this on the list. And.

[00:00:23] Only, I think. Very recently, I was catching up with Sam young, from young scholars academy. And they do D and D and I was like, ah, Any chance it’s short notice, but any chance we could catch up and you’d share with us why, you know, why you do D and D and what’s so great about And so Sam very graciously fit me in and we caught up this week. Like I don’t usually record podcasts quite that late.

[00:00:54] I do try and get A bit early in that. So it was really exciting to get it all finished in time for today’s release. And it wasn’t all smooth sailing. We, it was. Thursday for him. It was Wednesday for me, except initially I was like, I got up on the Tuesday. And. This is just how podcasting goes sometimes. So I’m delighted that we, we got through all of that and I can bring you today a conversation about Dungeons and dragons.

[00:01:27] And why it’s so cool. And why it offers so many things to gifted kids and gifted grownups. And if you haven’t considered DMD before. Maybe after this episode, you will have another look at it because there’s so much creativity and problem solving. And it’s the diversity. You know, D and D is just all about diversity.

[00:01:53] So it was just this lovely, inclusive community. And if you listen to this as like a hardcore D and D player, I am sorry.

[00:02:03] And if you thinking. We’re just not going into enough detail. I am happy to do a pot to D and D with a hardcore D and D player. Uh, and we can kind of do that justice. Cause I know there is a lot of complexity in it. Uh, so like get in touch. I’m putting the offer out there. If you’re, if you want to do a part two D and D episode with me.

[00:02:25] I would be delighted to do that, but this is awesome for beginners. And also for parents, if they kind of like, what is this DND thing all about? And I realized I had picked up quite a lot about D and D on this journey. And so it was lovely to talk about all that stuff with Sam today.

[00:02:43] And of course. A lot of the content from gifted, talented and neurodiversity awareness week this week will still be available because even last year’s webinars and stuff are still available on the website at The G Word. And we are proud partners of The G Word, love their work. Super excited about. What they’re producing.

[00:03:05] And so you can check out their website, register, sign up access last year staff, and continue to access this year stuff because the caliber is very impressive. Like it’s the bees knees. Also here at our gifted kids, as you know, we’ve had a whole week of podcasts. We’ve currently got our three membership community options open.

[00:03:27] For as little as a coffee a month, you too can support the podcast. Help keep us going. And bringing more awesome podcasts to you about parenting gifted kids. You can find out more information in the show notes or@ourgiftedkids.com backslash hub. And I will see you again next week. Cause I have a little bonus episodes. So altogether it will be.

[00:03:52] Seven episodes for this year’s GTN awareness week. Uh, so stay tuned for that, but stay quirky, enjoy the D and D episode. And I will talk to you again very soon.

[00:04:36] Okay, so folks, it’s Friday of gifted talented Neurodiversity Awareness Week, and what a huge week. It has been , and I’m super excited here. Today we’re following our joy, our gifted joy, and. When I thought about all the things that gifted folk I know love to do and what brings them joy, I, I had to include Dungeons and Dragons on that list.

[00:05:01] And so I’m really excited today to be inviting Mr. Sam from the Young Scholars Academy to have a little chat with us about why they include it as a part of what they do. But first of all, Mr. Sam, welcome. Okay. And. Tell us a little bit about yourself, uh, as one of our new guests on the podcast. So I’m excited that you’re here,

[00:05:24] Sam Young: Sophia.

[00:05:25] Thanks for having me. And yeah, I’m super excited to be here. I, so a little bit about me. I’ll be really quick. Not as exciting as tensions and dragons. So, , uh, I am a neuro divergent educator myself, and I am the founder of a program called Young Scholars Academy, uh, which is a virtual enrichment program for.

[00:05:46] Gifted, uh, neuro divergent and twice exceptional students, the world over. So the idea is just that we have strength based, talent focused, interesting enrichment courses so that students can come together and just have, you know, even about an hour a week to be steeped in their interests and strength areas.

[00:06:04] Sophia Elliott: That sounds awesome. And because, as finding, finding your people, your peers, as a gifted kid, let alone our. Awesome, quirky, gifted kids can be really hard, so it’s great that you’re, you’re creating this environment where we can gather them together and we are gonna. Sam back on a, a future podcast and maybe I don’t, I’m not sure.

[00:06:30] Maybe we’ll talk about ADHD because it’s something we have in common and I’ll quickly share this story. Uh, so I was recently diagnosed with adhd and something I do struggle with is time blindness. So I will admit this is the second time I’m up in the morning to talk to Sam because I got the days wrong , and I am a shocker with time zones and.

[00:06:56] So. So we’re here. So I’m here and I have to admit, it’s not the first time I’ve done that. I went back, when I first started the podcast, I had to get up for like 1:00 AM to do this interview, which like I, I’m happily a nao, so that was cool. Uh, except I got the, I got the day wrong then as well, so I had to do it two days in a row.

[00:07:19] So I’m like, Oh my God, I gotta get better at this .

[00:07:22] Sam Young: It’s not easy, it’s not easy stuff. And, and then once you do figure it out, there’s all these curve balls, like, like, uh, time zones changing in some countries and not changing daylight savings. I mean, it’s just so confusing.

[00:07:34] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, it is. And because Adelaide is one of those places, it, it shifts around with daylight savings.

[00:07:41] And I’ll be honest, I can never keep track. So I use Calendly, uh, to try and solve those problems for myself. But every now and then, uh, one gets through so that , and we had to laugh because normally normally it’s my husband that kind of does things like that. So it was quite funny when he got home, he’s like, I’m ready to, manage the kids while you do the thing.

[00:08:06] Cuz he’d been at the gym and I was kind of like, Oh, I got the day wrong and he just laughed at me because it’s kind of like, ha ha, you did it. It’s usually me kinda

[00:08:16] Sam Young: thing. . That’s too funny. I know the struggle. Yeah,

[00:08:22] Sophia Elliott: exactly right. So anyways, we’re here today to talk about Dungeons and Dragons and I was just, when I saw it was something that you guys do, I was just kinda.

[00:08:32] Let’s have a chat about why it’s sort of one of those things that you’ve, found worthy of kind of offering. So tell us a little bit about that story. Yeah, you

[00:08:45] Sam Young: know, it’s one of those things where once you name something, It has great power and with great power. Sometimes there’s a lot of loaded projection and so forth, right?

[00:08:53] So when we think of what we want a lot of our students to do, it’s to have a space like you’re talking about. I say it’s the x and Y axis, right? The X is like, we want our students to have this space where they can be with neuro diversion peers. They can look over and say, Oh, they’re just like me. Like they like the same silly means and the same jokes.

[00:09:11] And we have the. Really radically asynchronous sense of humor. And then the, the why being that they can look up at like a mentor who’s someone who’s, you know, also neuro divergent and like, gets their little jokes and is maybe a generation or two older than them. And I think that, that, that’s like a really powerful.

[00:09:32] You know, formula for success for our students, because they often don’t get it right. They’re often in an environment where they might be like totally marooned or outcasted, or with people who only see their deficits. So we know that we want, you know, what do a lot of parents want? Well, they say they want.

[00:09:47] Socializing classes. They say they want their students to have these things, but our students don’t really often want that. So when we think of like really creative environments, if we get rid of the label, we get rid of the name, we say, what do we want students to do? We want them thinking critically. We want them socializing and we want them, you know, being creative.

[00:10:03] We want them connecting with peers. We want them having fun and, and loving and. We just happen to call that Dungeons and Dragons. It’s all of those things. If you put a kid in a socializing class, you say like, I want you to get better at taking cues and working as a team. It just feels like so deficit based.

[00:10:19] It’s like, you suck. You know you’re not doing this well when we fix it, you know? It’s like, ugh. Yeah. But if you’re like, Hey, do you wanna go on like a mythical quest? And you. Fight these skeletons and figure out how we can get into the castle. Yeah. Heck yeah. Like, sign me up. So yeah, I’ve found that, and again, I’m not a dungeons and drag.

[00:10:36] I didn’t, I grew up playing Magic the gathering, but I, not Dungeons and Dragons. But I’ve just found that there’s something so magical about it that allows our students to do all the things that we want to do, have a boatload of fun while they’re doing it, and come out the other end. You. Far better off with, with new friends and connections and so forth.

[00:10:58] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And you, you bang on there about it just ticking all of those boxes. It was, uh, a couple of years ago that our family kind of went on the Dungeons and Dag Dragons quest. We introduced it as parents because we were looking for a way to kind of segue our very factual. Fact oriented child into something a little bit more creative.

[00:11:27] Uh, just to bring out that creativity and almi, did it tick some boxes? Cause first of all, for anyone who is new to Dungeons and Dragons, there is a rule book that is like, like, Two centimeters thick. Like this is a stodgy, and it comes as a hard copy. Like this is, This is serious rules,

[00:11:51] Sam Young: Right, Right. Cover.

[00:11:53] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. And so immediately any of our gifted kids who are into rules, like it’s just, it’s like this massive, It’s complex and it just kind. Let our child up. That’s kind of like, oh my goodness. You know, already it’s amazing. Like just the rule book. And then we, we, so we do two things. And we haven’t done this for a little while and I’m kind of feeling like inspired that we should do it again at some point soon and we’d play kind of stripped down version at home cuz we had younger kids as well and our.

[00:12:33] Would go to the local library and play with a group there and not quite old enough to kind of be there by their self. But, so I, I’m, I’m happy to work, you know, nearby where they play and, and I usually have headphones in, but you can kind of hear the shenanigans going on and. Like you just can’t swing a cat for hitting a gifted person in that group.

[00:12:55] Like they’re all quirky, intelligent, creative, different ages, re the diversity, do you know? And it’s just kind of like, this is diversity in, it’s all it’s beauty. Mm-hmm. . And it’s really lovely. And what it strikes me is everyone. Get something different out of it because there’s so much going on at Dungeons and Dragons.

[00:13:22] And if you ask my, my child, they’re like, Love the math involved. Mm-hmm. in all of the, the dice and the. The, the moments in the game where you are battling, it’s kind of like, yeah, I’m in it for the battles. Right. But, but some of them are in it for the lovely story. Mm-hmm. , some of them are in it for the building characters.

[00:13:48] Right. Some love all the little figurine things. Mm-hmm. . So, and I had read some research around, uh, Dungeons and Dragons just being. You know, and like there’s a lot online about how great d d is, and, and this particular one was talking about its multidisciplinary nature. Like there’s so much going on within a game.

[00:14:16] And so, so how do you facilitate your games?

[00:14:20] Sam Young: You know, I wanna touch upon one of the things you said quickly, which I think is so, Yeah, yeah, please do. It’s really easy to gloss over. But one of the things that our students love about d and d is, There’s the opportunity for them to do two things in the, in the, in the character field, right?

[00:14:35] One is create an avatar which might have traits that they fantasize about or, or, or wish they might have or might even create just comically or creatively. But the other is, as you talk about with the rules, it’s understanding that they have certain responsibilities. I’m the healer, like I have a role to play and that for students who struggle to socialize, that’s very.

[00:14:57] My job is to help others. Yeah. It feels good. You know, And there might be someone who’s like, I’m the the bomb guy, you know? And there’s always gonna be someone who’s like, I do demolitions and you know, but our students get this. Like, they get this clarity and this confidence that comes around, you know, the role and understanding the role and being able to fulfill it and play it, and however quirky it may be.

[00:15:21] I think that’s really important. And I think unless a lot of comfort where they might not have that comfort in their own skin, they might have it in their character, in their avatar.

[00:15:28] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And on that note, like for example, our child, quite the risk averse child, started off being this sort of, uh, what’s it called?

[00:15:37] Like a stealth uh, I’ve lost the word. What’s the, uh, And Archer, but from a distance

[00:15:48] Sam Young: like a long bow yeah, like

[00:15:51] Sophia Elliott: a. I know what you mean. You know what I mean? You see them on TV and it’s always like that one guy with the big gun and they’re like 10 kilometers away cuz they’re so good. Yeah. I’ve lost the word like a, like a sniper, but, uh, yes.

[00:16:04] Thank you. Yes. Like a, a sniper but with a bow. Mm-hmm. and, uh, you know, keeping it real on the podcast. Can’t think of words. Uh, so, so they were this sniper and, and they would get involved in the battle from. Such a good character, they could be like five K’s away and still hit the target. Mm-hmm.

[00:16:24] because, you know, it’s all about numbers. Uh, and, and that’s how they started off. And then not so long ago, turned up to a game with a new character as a fighter. Who, which is, as you can imagine, is very much in the middle of the battle. Mm-hmm. . And it was really interesting that all the players kind of went, Oh, new character.

[00:16:47] Ooh, fighter. Wow. Yeah. Like really acknowledged that shift in risk and playing. Right. And it was just this beautiful moment of, do you know I’m gonna, I’m ready to be brave. I’m ready to be in amongst it and take more risk. Mm-hmm. , uh, and that evolution and what was so beautiful about that was the fellow players acknowledging and realizing that shift for that person and kind of celebrating that with them.

[00:17:21] It was a really beautiful thing.

[00:17:23] Sam Young: It’s so, it’s so, so important and, and as you said, you know, there are all these different, you know, you could be like a cleric or like a Yeah. Warlock, you know, there’s so many. Sort of casts or, or character categories. And again, it gives, it gives our students a sense of expression.

[00:17:40] And as you’re saying, like the community too. Like when you change a character, it affects a community and it may react strongly to it. I actually, our class, our d and d uh, campaign is in 30 minutes and I just, when you were talking Sophia, it made me think, I got an email from a mom, uh, a couple weeks back.

[00:17:57] We were just switching. The new semester. This is our fall semester too. And she sent me this really mixed email where she had some things that were going on that were really challenging for her. Her kiddo had a really difficult weekend and because something happened in school, but she said, You know, my son said the greatest thing of all today.

[00:18:16] He said, I wanna switch sections cuz my friends are in the other section. And she said, I’ve never heard him say the friends word before. And it brought her to tears and it almost brought me to tears. I mean, I could cry. That’s just beautiful. Yeah. I have goosebumps just telling you about it. And there’s just something where I’m like, Yep, we’re doing the right thing.

[00:18:31] You know, we’re doing the right thing here. We’re doing something special here. Because when you hear that I have full body goosebumps right now telling you. Yeah. Just that idea that like someone found something that they belong to, that they wanna keep coming back to week in and week out, and that when the students move, They’re gonna go with them because that’s more important than, you know, whatever else it may be.

[00:18:51] Sophia Elliott: It is such a beautiful thing and compose myself like that is so beautiful because it’s so hard to find those places that our kids can just feel like they’re making that connection and, and like, let’s face it, that can keep you going through the week if you’re having a rough time at school, knowing that Thursday night is.

[00:19:15] Game night and I get to hang out with my buddies. We all need those little sanctuaries in life and Oh, that’s so beautiful and it’s certainly something you see. And what I love about kind of being on the periphery and having the privilege to kind of witness the game in action is how some, you know, and everyone’s different, but some, uh, individuals get very.

[00:19:44] You know, love to act out the characters. And so they will kind of play the game in character, which allows for immense humor as they’re, you know, this, you know, large sort of. Older teenager is pretending to be a small elf or, you know, just, just whatever it might be. And, and as they interpret and present, you know, those quirks of their character, uh, there’s so many different things that it offers people in the game.

[00:20:19] And so, yeah, a really beautiful, creative thing. The other thing I referred to earlier was we would play a strip down version as a family. So d and D is like this hugely complex thing. There’s no kind of hiding that, which is what you know. No doubt people find really satisfying. So, but as a family, we would just kind of, my husband would be the dungeon master and he’d come up with a little story that would only take like half an hour to kind of work through.

[00:20:52] We would all have a sort of stripped back character and. You know, one of my children were an enchanted unicorn and you know, you could be whatever you wanna be like free reign on creativity. But what was really interesting about that, and I think where our gifted kids can really shine in this is. We were trying to solve this problem and as an adult, you know, not saying that we’re not creative, but with our lived experience, we’re probably more inclined to come up with the obvious mm-hmm.

[00:21:25] you know, solution to a problem and. And that’s, and that’s what we were kind of doing as adults. And my brother was visiting and he was playing as well, and one of my youngest kids just came up with this incredibly creative solution to this problem. And we all just kind of went, Wow. Yeah. And kind of looked at this kid like, That’s awesome.

[00:21:51] Where did that come from? And so it’s this wonderful opportunity. Everyone to shine with their creativity and problem solving and really show who they are. Because as a creative, a very creative game, you know, this doesn’t have to be those limits that we normally have. So just a great opportunity to put those strengths that we have as neuro divergent people.

[00:22:22] You know to the test. Yeah. Not be creative in so many ways. So,

[00:22:28] Sam Young: so it’s so, so important. And especially just, you know, from like a neurological standpoint, you’re getting all these, you know, neurons to fire, right? You’re creating these pathways which might not be tapped into in like a top down school, right?

[00:22:39] Where it’s like rote memorization and, you know, we’re not always tapping into these elements. And when we think about like, at least here in the United States, You know, I live in Los Angeles. Like when I look at people who are wildly successful around me, it’s, it’s quirky, creative writers, actors, you know, and it’s, or, or here, like the economy of the United States is largely driven by entrepreneurs.

[00:22:58] Right. Small businesses and what is entrepreneurship, but finding a small, like a small problem or a big problem. Mm-hmm. coming up with a creative solution. So, you know, the kind of thinking that your kiddo. Modeling is like exactly what we want to be encouraging our students to do. And yeah, games like Dungeons and Dragons and, and so many others do that.

[00:23:19] Before we had d and d we had a program that one of my, uh, I, we call all of our teachers, like our mentors. One of our mentors, Greg had, uh, created a course called Math Landia, which was like a Quest based math game. And it was really cool. And students who loved math loved it. Like we had, we gave a student an award cuz he never missed one in two years.

[00:23:38] Like he signed up for everyone. And we had a student in Switzerland, he would take the class at 1:00 AM in 2:00 AM in Switzerland and we’re, we’re based out of California. So, I mean, you do the math and he is. I think he’s like 12 when he started with us. So like, it was like this really tight cohort, but it was because they had the word math in it.

[00:23:56] It excited some and you know, Yeah. Alienated others, but, but there’s something about engines and dragons, like you said, that allows everyone to come in from different perspectives. You can be the math person, you can be the creative storyteller. You can be anyone on the spectrum of, of characters, of roles, of rules, and, and come in at.

[00:24:17] A way that like excites you and, and allows you to like kind of add value to the team and to the

[00:24:22] Sophia Elliott: quest and so forth. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s so true. And so anyone listening who has never played Dungeons and Dragons before, uh, a little bit about the game. So as we’ve said, it’s a role playing game, which means you literally roll dice.

[00:24:42] For things to happen. So an example of that might be, uh, here’s a big troll. We’ve all gotta work together to defeat the troll. Roll a dice and you might roll aice for, and I’m gonna get the terminology wrong, but to see what you can see, What was that called? That’s actually got a name. I’m doing a very bad job of this.

[00:25:05] Sam Young: You need a better job.

[00:25:08] Sophia Elliott: So you might roll it to see how much you can see of what’s going on. If you get a high score, then you can see a lot of what’s going on. And if you get a low score, they’re just kind of like, yeah, it’s pitch black, you can’t see anything. Do you know? So there are these mechanisms that impact the game.

[00:25:25] And then you might roll again to see whether or not you hit the troll with your sword or arrow. And the higher the number, you know, you’ve gotta get certain. So at, you know, over a certain point to do damage and that kind of thing. So there’s lots of dice rolling. There’s you, you’ll see the dice. There are like all different shapes and sizes and you roll different ones for different things.

[00:25:48] And so that can be very appealing to people. You all create, as we’ve talked about, a character. And the character has different traits and there’s numbers associated with all these traits that will determine. You know, if you’re a fighter, for example, how strong you are or if you’re a magical person, how magical you are, that kind of thing.

[00:26:12] And then you have someone that we’ve referred to the Dungeon Master, or I think sometime also the Game Master, perhaps DM or a gm, and that that’s the person who is like in charge of the adventure. So they’ve done their homework, they’ve prepared this sort of storyline. And what the quest is. And they kind of, they’re like the narrator in a movie and you know, they kind of narrate the way through this quest and they’re like, Oh, and you turn the corner and there’s a dragon and now you’ve gotta file actually, is it a friendly dragon or a bad, you know?

[00:26:51] So they kind of narrate the quest and, uh, come up with this storyline. And uh, and that in itself is this amazing. Opportunity for growth because when you start the game, you know, you’re, you’re gonna be one of the characters and the team, but over time, uh, you can share having a go at being the Dungeon Master and coming up with this story yourself, which is a whole kind of other set of skills and requires a lot of confidence, uh, to do that kind of role.

[00:27:25] And yeah, what I love about it is, How different people will play their characters differently and sometimes quite literally be very dramatic and other times just kind of like, Oh, I’m rolling the dice. But it’s the, it’s the, uh, it’s the laughter and the, you know, that bonding that happens while you play and solving this problem together that’s really beautiful and like you.

[00:27:57] This amazing opportunity to make friends, like, you know, and I, if you, if you go, if you are looking as a parent for places to, to play, so you can play online and I, you obviously do it online with your students and I’ll get you to tell us a little bit about that. But you can also do it in person, like we do it in person at the local library, but you know, people meet in different places.

[00:28:25] It really is just designed for gifted community because like our group has all sorts of ages. My child was actually the youngest there by far, and, and there were teenagers of various ages and then there were like adults, couple in their, looked like they’re in their twenties, a couple in their thirties, like proper range of people, but it’s just the most inclusive, welcoming, supportive.

[00:28:54] Bunch of folk all there over this common interest and they love it, you know? And I went and played once and I was kind of like, Oh my God, dear in the head like, like it was I’m like, okay. And I am, you know, I’m not great. Uh uh, Yeah. Like my kids also have certain social challenges and I was just kind of like, An introvert.

[00:29:25] Anyway, everyone’s so gracious and I’m kind of like, How do I do the math on the, And they’re like, Ooh, someone needs a character and everyone helps. And just so beautiful. So yeah, tell us a little bit.

[00:29:36] Sam Young: Yeah, it is so special. I totally agree. And it can be wildly intimidating. From the outside when you, when you see like, Oh, I’ve been playing Dungeons Dragons 20 years or 10 years or five, you know, and you’re thinking like, this kid’s only like 15, he’s playing seven years.

[00:29:53] Like that’s a long time. You know? Uh, and it can be a bit intimidating. And one of the things, uh, that, uh, my dungeon master Jason, our mentor in d and d’s done, we have two groups. We have our intermediate returners and then we have our newbies. And for the newbies, he’s actually. He’s created his own system, which is kind of like a quick character one sheet.

[00:30:13] Yeah. So kind of going beyond like the dense book, like the d and d beyond book and the character creation site, which are fantastic for students who want them. Yeah. And we almost, we almost had a coup on the first day, cause our returner class we’re like, All right, we’re gonna, you know, put the book aside and we’re gonna do the one sheet, but we’ll put it to a vote.

[00:30:30] And everyone’s like, No, we want the book. And we’re like, ok. So, Ready for the book, Let’s put it to a vote. You know, the returner class was really art. Like the we, we vehemently want the books. You guys got it for our newbies. We’re like, Okay, listen, this is a big world. There’s gonna be more complexity that comes later.

[00:30:46] For now, our goal is just to get you in. And so he’s created these, It doesn’t have every character role, but it’s like, you know, the three archetypes that are most common or four or five or, I can’t remember. Yeah. And it’s just a really quick kind of plug-in worksheet and it gets ’em. Early. That way they can kind of roll their sleeves up their WHI sleeves and uh, and start playing, you know, as early as possible.

[00:31:09] And then just learn. Well doing.

[00:31:11] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Which is excellent approach because, uh, I have seen my child spend like an hour creating a character. There’s, it’s not to be, this is not a lightheart to do, you know, Endeavor doing it with the book. So yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s, yeah. It’s great to get that plug and play initially just to kind of get a feel for it.

[00:31:31] But I can appreciate that they’re after the big experience once they’ve done

[00:31:35] Sam Young: it for a while. That’s right. Exactly. And then they crave the complexity, right? They don’t want the. They’re quick and quick and dirty. They want the complexity and they want the excitement. And one of the things that’s so cool too is that, you know, these students, like I’m thinking of the class that runs today.

[00:31:50] It’s four students from four different time zones. Yeah. You know, we have, you know, different places in the u well, three different time zones, sorry. All, all over the United States and, and, uh, we’ve had students join from Canada and it’s just so cool because. You know, some of them are homeschooled, some of them are in public school, some are in private, but most of them are missing that one thing, which is just that community.

[00:32:14] You know, they may not have a space where there is like, Like what you have sounds amazing. Like a d and d or local library. Like what a dream. Like you’re, you know, it’s gold in your backyard. Yeah. So lucky not everyone has that. So it’s just been kind of our vision to. Create a space where students can tap into that, you know?

[00:32:31] And our, our games are like an hour and a half and they build over six to eight weeks. So it’s an ongoing quest, you know, as you said, like they develop the characters and they start to go on the quest. And whenever, whenever the clock runs up, they’re like, they leave it there and they make notes. Yeah. And then we pick up the next week.

[00:32:46] And so kind of start with like a review of what happened and where did we leave off in the action. And you know, it’s one of those things like the kids don’t. They’re not like we’re no, we, It’s like, okay, those skeletons were repelling down and we had to figure out we could cross the draw bridge before the moat fill.

[00:33:00] You know? It’s like that’s the one thing where they’re not like, Hey son, what’d you learn at school today? And they’re like, I dunno. It’s like some stuff, right?

[00:33:09] Sophia Elliott: That’s,

[00:33:10] Sam Young: it’s exciting and it’s, it’s, yeah, it’s just

[00:33:14] Sophia Elliott: awesome. Yeah. And, and that sounds really great. And like I bet that hour and a half goes quickly.

[00:33:20] Uh, my child meets up and they, they’re there for like four hours. Yeah. Uh, yeah. Like, and. They don’t, they don’t always seem to get very far . They obviously enjoy it along the way. So that just sounds beautiful and what a great opportunity. Uh, and like for anyone out there who can’t find it in their backyard, like we have been incredibly fortunate to it’s great to have those connections online and then meeting people from all over, different places like that in itself is really beautiful.

[00:33:53] And what great opportunities to make friendships. Uh,

[00:33:57] Sam Young: so I have a, Can I tell you a 32nd story? Yeah. Oh, please, please do. From dd, But this is something that just popped up when you said backyard. Yeah. But I had a student, this, I can’t say their names obviously, but I had a student in certain part of the country who was in some of our courses.

[00:34:14] And this summer, Was at a park and recognized another student from taking our courses. Yeah. Ran up to them and was like, Are you and the student’s like, are you? And, and they like, are now friends. They’re mom’s talk like, and, and they were both just in, they lived in the same city they were. In, you know, Young Scholars Academy summer camp, which was that, the mens Landia one, the one that came before Dungeons Dragons and uh, now they hang out all the time and it’s like this really cool story of these two students who were like together virtually and then met in real life accidentally.

[00:34:49] Coincidentally. Yeah, you never, That’s beautiful. Who’s in your backyard, or, you know? Yeah,

[00:34:55] Sophia Elliott: yeah. Absolutely. It can be a great way of finding people and connecting. And, uh, do you know, like I just, I often feel very grateful for Zoom, uh, and how. Easy it is these days and what a given it is to talk to people as we are from all over the world, uh, US, Australia.

[00:35:17] It’s like, yeah, that’s cool. Let’s catch up. And it’s such a beautiful thing and, and very uh very amenable to, to doing things like d and d and stuff like that. So yeah. That’s really awesome. Thank you so much for very impromptuly taking the time to chat with us about d and d. I really appreciate it for GT and Awareness week this week.

[00:35:45] Sam Young: Thanks for having me. This was awesome and I, I’m looking forward to the next time I can come on and chat with you more.

[00:35:50] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. I’m really looking forward to our next chat and and we’re gonna hear a bit more about Young, Young Scholars Academy as well. But in the meantime, let people know how can folk find you and get in touch.

[00:36:03] Sam Young: Yeah, I think the easiest way, rather than giving you a bunch of information, if you just look us up, Young scholars academy.org. Mm-hmm. , uh, you can contact me you can get in touch with me and I take it from there. So just young scholars academy.org.

[00:36:16] Sophia Elliott: Awesome. And so you provide obviously, uh, different ways of getting together online.

[00:36:25] Tell us a little bit about some of the things that you do other than DM.

[00:36:29] Sam Young: So we have usually at any time we have like 15 to 20 different course offerings. So that could be like several sections of the same courses, but we have programs that range from, yeah, of course the IND speech and debate. We have ecology, climate change courses.

[00:36:46] We do advanced placement courses as well for students who we really know have this like high aptitude and like gifted abilities, but sometimes maybe struggle with the product. So we’ve kind of found like a, a creative program to help them get like college credit at a younger age. So we have, uh, like psychology, uh, US history, US government and then we have a myriad of other things from entrepreneur classes.

[00:37:14] Trying to think of what we have right now. Goodness, we.

[00:37:17] Oh, uh, Young and Thriving, which is an executive function course where it’s like strength-based programs that students like build their own executive function systems for like task managing and note taking. And I feel like I need that. A big thing too is that the gap between high school and like university, so it created programs to called adulting and thriving.

[00:37:36] It’s like a year. Interest exploration and executive function course where students kind of delve instead of saying like, What am I gonna do next year? Like, what am I like called to do? What am I compelled to do? And then they create a plan. And then we have a college version, which is like college companions, where they’re just, we’re checking in on them every other week or so, and they’re just, Making sure they’re getting the support that they need and doing like fun scavenger hunts.

[00:38:01] Like can you find a student accommodations office? Like get five leaflets from social events that you’ve checked out or things like that. So there’s so much different stuff that we do. I can’t even think of it All right now, .

[00:38:13] Sophia Elliott: That’s right. You do a great job for on the spot. And we’ll hear more about that next time we catch up.

[00:38:21] Thank you so much for joining us today. Hugely appreciate, uh, like I said, the last minute invite to talk about d and d and and finally, you know, catching up on take two of Sophia getting up in the morning. Thank you so much, Sam. I look forward to talking to you again soon.

[00:38:36] Sam Young: Thank you, Sophia. I appreciate it.

[00:38:38] Thanks for having me.

[00:38:39] Sophia Elliott: Cheers.

#068 A Higher Skate of Mind for Gifted Kids w/ Josh Smith

#068 A Higher Skate of Mind for Gifted Kids w/ Josh Smith

It’s Gifted, Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week; and we’re Bringing Joy & Equity in Focus with this year’s theme.

As a proud partner of The G Word, Our Gifted Kids is delighted to raise awareness once again with a whole week of podcasts. Actually, 6 episodes! Where we talk about #gifted joy!

Podcast Line Up

  • Marc Smolowitz introduces the week with – #064 Gifted Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week does #giftedjoy
  • Monday
    • #065 Gifted Joy & Gifted Play; Why it’s Different w/ Kate Donohue
  • Tuesday
    • #066 Why Gifted Folk Need Board Games! w/ Justin Ratcliff
  • Wednesday
    • #067 How to Express Your Gifted Self with Digital Music & Art w/ Johannes Dreyer
  • Thursday
    • #068 A Higher Skate of Mind for Gifted Kids w/ Josh Smith
  • Friday
    • #069 Why Dungeons & Dragons is Gifted Bliss w/ Sam Young


Enjoyed the podcasts? Our online community is currently open until midnight Thursday 3 November! Find out more here!

Or subscribe, join our online community or get freebies, say thanks at ourgiftedkids.com

Please leave a review on your podcast player and help parents find us!

Our GTN Awareness Week Links



Josh Smith

Free Mind Skate School was founded by Josh Smith, a local skateboarder who has been skating in Adelaide for 20+yrs. Josh has become well known in the skate community and to local councils over the years due to his constant involvement in the facilitation of skate-related events and competitions, as well as being a competition judge with the Australian Skateboard Federation. On top of that, for nearly half a decade Josh has been seen at skateparks across Adelaide coaching beginners to help boost the next generation of Adelaide skaters. What started as a part-time job while studying full-time all those years ago, has turned into a way of life.

As well as being an avid skater, Stigma Stall mentor Josh also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioural Science and has vast experience in youth mentoring/engagement. Using positive mentorship through skateboarding to build a trusting and informal relationship, this serves as the foundation that positive change can be built upon.

Skateboarders are incredibly resilient, which comes from years of mastering their craft. In life we must get back up when we fall, and although falling is inevitable at times, this does not have to mean failure. Through progression in their skating, clients see within themselves that positive change is possible in their life. This inherently promotes clients to willingly take responsibility for their own future, whilst continually building confidence and developing resilience.

Hit play and let’s get started!


[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Hello, and welcome to Thursday of gifted, talented and neurodiversity awareness week. We are getting through this week and it has been a wonderful excuse for us all to talk about some gifted joy. And so naturally when I look around at what brings us joy in this family, Skateboarding is a big part of that.

[00:00:20] And it’s actually a really awesome.

[00:00:23] Endeavor for gifted folk. And I’m not even just talking about gifted kids, gifted grownups as well, because as we’ve talked about a lot on this podcast, It can be very challenging to. Be comfortable in that space as a gifted person. Where you’re having to try and fail and get back up and try again and potentially fail again.

[00:00:49] Being in that place where things are hard and challenging. It’s a hard place to find as a gifted person. And it’s an even harder place to work through and develop that grit. And that growth mindset around it. And so skateboarding is like, literally. Falling down and getting back up again. When we hear our guest today, talking about in terms of skateboarding is literally like a resilience building machine. It makes sense. Right? So today I am delighted to talk to Josh Smith from Freeman skate school.

[00:01:26] Who is, and has been for a number of years now, mentor to our kids in skateboarding and many other gifted and twice exceptional kids. And I was excited to have Josh come along because you’re, I have certainly seen that myself. What a great.

[00:01:44] Haven’t you skateboarding is to learn this sort of grit and determination. And I think the reason it works is because it is also a whole lot of fun. And it’s all, it’s almost as hard as it is fun. Do you know? And so it’s a really great dynamic. So it was delighted today. Josh and I talk about. How inclusive the skateboarding community is.

[00:02:08] The incredible persistence, resilience and visualization that you need to conquer skateboarding. Skateboarding for girls and women these days. What expectations should we have as a parent going into skateboarding? This is a really important part of the conversation. And how we can help our kids set up for success in this area.

[00:02:29] And even mindfulness and skateboarding. A higher skate of mine, so to speak. Who would have thought, but as Josh says, you can’t be thinking about dinner while you’re skateboarding, because you’ll end up on the ground thinking about dinner. So it makes total sense. When you think about it. So I’m delighted to share this conversation with you and Josh.

[00:02:51] The way he is doing is just amazing with his coaches and the outcomes he’s getting in terms of building that confidence in soft skills. Is just truly fabulous. So I’m really excited to share this conversation with you. And we do have another podcast tomorrow and there is still plenty going on in GTM.

[00:03:14] Awareness week. So you can check out all the events at The G Word, and we’re a proud partner of The G Word. You can register there. And even late last year, all the content from GTN awareness week, last year is still online. There’s great staff. So check Also here at our gifted kids, we’re doing a podcast every day. We’re also opening our three new online communities. So if you would like to support the podcast, you can do it for as little as a coffee a month and help us to keep going and bringing awesome conversations to you. So check them out@ourgiftedkids.com backslash helps and all those things can be found in the show notes.

[00:03:56] So enjoy this conversation. And if you’re a skateboarder jump on social media or on Facebook and Instagram and let us know. Uh, we would love to hear who else out there in the gifted community is skateboarding. So stay quirky and I will talk to you again soon.

[00:04:44] I’m excited to Welcome to the podcast today, just Smith from FreeMind Skate School. Because we are talking about all things joyful this week, uh, for gifted, talented, and neurodiversity awareness week.

[00:04:59] And when I thought about joy and I thought about play, I naturally thought about skateboarding cuz it’s very, it’s a great source of joy and play in this household. And we’ve known Josh for a number of years as, as you’ve mentored our kids. So, welcome today, I’m really excited that you’re. Thanks

[00:05:19] Josh Smith: for having me.

[00:05:20] I’m excited to be here.

[00:05:22] Sophia Elliott: So first of all, maybe tell the listeners how, just tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you end up doing what you do now?

[00:05:31] Josh Smith: I guess what I do now is mm-hmm. , the mentoring program where essentially we, we look at stigma reduction through skateboarding.

[00:05:40] We work with any kids who. It’s not just neuro divergent by kids with trauma backgrounds or, you know, family issues or just any, any, any child that can essentially be stigmatized or feel the negative impacts of stigma in society. How I got to doing this kind of happens quite organically. I went to uni to, to do my philosophy degree, and I had to do it through a behavioral science.

[00:06:09] Yeah. Uh, student payment’s not too flash, so I needed to supplement my income and just started doing some part-time skateboard coaching and yeah, just over the years. Then really once we started digging into the social psychology kind of stuff, it became quite apparent that a lot of what makes me who I am just in terms of the re resilience and the ability to just overcome and keep pushing forward, it’s a lot of that was kind of forged.

[00:06:35] In the years I spent learning to skateboard in my early teens. So I, I kind of wanted to try and offer that. Skateboard is a, it’s, it’s always been a bit of a skateboarding’s, kind of a fringe activity. It’s not something that’s traditionally been accepted by mainstream society, which is obviously very relatable to a lot of parents with neuro divergent kids, it’s, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of stigma attached to anything that’s other than the status quo.

[00:07:03] Skateboarding’s not football or cricket. So where I grew up, skateboarding was considered quite weird, quite different. And you know, if you’re good at football and cricket, what, what are you doing on your skateboard kind of thing. So skateboarding I always loved more so the community more than anything else.

[00:07:18] And skateboarding is really accepting. There’s no age or gender or race or anything like that. If you rock up at the park with a skateboard, you’re a skateboarder and that’s all people see. And I really wanted. To try and offer that to, to kids who are feeling like I was feeling as a young skateboarder.

[00:07:38] Feeling like I didn’t really fit into society, over the journey at uni, there started to kind of be some sort of scientific backing for a lot of these processes that were a big part of my life. So I just thought, if we.

[00:07:51] I can just take some kids and bring ’em out to the skate park. Everyone’s super welcoming. These, these kids might not be, you know, accepted in ball sports or they might be into things that a lot of the other kids at school aren’t into, and they might, you know, skateboarding is a real obsession.

[00:08:06] I just thought, you know, being able to channel, channel that attention, channel, that energy it was just starting to make a little bit of sense in my head. So I kind of just drafted a, drafted a mentoring program, had a look at what we could work on.

[00:08:23] Skateboarding just seemed to tick every box for building resilience and building confidence. And I thought that’s really what, it’s really what these kids need is come out and have some fun, you know, develop a little bit of resilience on the way. But the, the confidence is the massive thing that we’re really trying to give these kids just so they can go out there and just feel like they are accepted in society, feel empowered to go out and just have, you know, try new things.

[00:08:51] And the big thing about skateboarding is it’s perfectly okay to fail. You probably spend 90% of your time failing, 5% of your time wishing you weren’t failing, and then the very small percentages left over for actually succeeding and, and having that sense of accomplishment.

[00:09:06] Skateboarding is a mindset more so than a skill set. And I wanted to be able to try and share that mindset. So yeah, it started with a few clients. It was working quite well, obviously, feedback from, from parents along the way. It’s been massively inspiring and yeah, it was started to become less of a crazy idea and much more of a concrete reality that this is.

[00:09:30] Even with the five or six clients, I thought this is already impacting lives and parents wanting to, you know, go from one session a fortnight to two sessions a week. This is kind of became apparent real quick that this is making more of an impact than I ever kind of hoped it could have. And you know, got to the end of my degree and have the chance to go and do my my postgraduate study.

[00:09:53] I just could not bear the thought of turning away, you know, kids like yours. If I was doing my postgraduate study right now, I wouldn’t be doing mentoring with these kids, and I could, I couldn’t really handle that thought. And these kids have got faces, they got stories. I know their names and their background, and I don’t know, just the university’s not going anywhere.

[00:10:10] I can always go back and study later. So right now felt like I was sitting on something pretty special and thought I’d see what would happen if. Gave it my full-time commitment now that I wasn’t studying full time. And yeah, in a, in a very short space of time, we’ve gone from, you know, seven or eight kids to seeing well in excess of a hundred kids a week across our program.

[00:10:32] So it’s gone pretty crazy pretty quickly to quite surreal. And I feel very, very lucky to be able to share something that’s so, you know, something that’s so near and dear to my heart and my struggles and my journey to get where I am to to be. Pass that on and share that with other kids that are just like, I was at that age here, I divergent, and parents that are just like, How can we contain this madness?

[00:10:57] Like there’s just so much energy, so much, so much hype at all times. And yeah, that skateboarding was, was like the, the elixia of life for me that just gave me everything I needed.

[00:11:09] But I think the skateboarding community itself is also what makes the program so successful is just, just the nature of the skateboarding community itself.

[00:11:18] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. I have to say I was surprised. It was probably, I’m trying to think how long it was, probably more than three years ago. One of my kids asked for a skateboard for Christmas, came outta nowhere. I’m not even sure how we ended up in that place, but then found you and your colleagues and Like when I was growing up, skateboarding wasn’t really for girls.

[00:11:44] There were lots of things that girls didn’t do. Skateboarding was one of them. So I didn’t have any kind of life experience myself with skateboarding. And I can honestly say I was surprised at how inclusive and welcoming the skateboarding community is. And it’s pretty much any skate park we’ve been to, no matter how rough the area is, cuz argu.

[00:12:09] You could say our area’s a little, a bit rough in places. And we have the, a new skate park, locally this last year, which has been quite amazing. And I didn’t know what to expect. And I have to say I was surprised at how welcoming and inclusive and anywhere you go, if there’s a skateboarder.

[00:12:33] My, my daughter or my sons, you know, it’s friendly. They’ll happily give you a couple of tips on something you’re doing. It’s encouraging. Yeah. I, I guess I was surprised by that, but it’s actually a really beautiful place and that’s obviously your experience.

[00:12:53] Josh Smith: Yeah, and those are, those are the things that I’ll, that I hold, you know, really dear to me about skateboarding and.

[00:13:00] A lot of the driving force behind what the mentoring program is, is so much of, you know, so much of what, what we covered over the behavior of science degree, talking about stigmatization and how you can mitigate the negative impacts of, of stigma in society. It’s, it’s all about inclusion and just, just normalizing things and skateboarding does that, it’s.

[00:13:26] Like you said, it’s, it’s almost shocking, but a lot, your response is actually a really common response. I’d say nine outta 10 parents have the exact same reaction. Kid wants a skateboard or, uh, if it’s just gate coaching, the kid wants a skateboard and the parents like, I don’t know. That’s a bit rough. And there is, there is still to this day that that negative stigma attached to skateboarding in the skateboarding community, and it’s not until you see it for.

[00:13:53] What it really is and how beautiful it can actually be and how accepting it can be. And that’s, , even support workers with kids in our mentoring program as well. You know, someone, , another support worker told us about this. We were really skeptical, you know, we had a conversation with Josh about it and we thought, , we’ll just give it a go.

[00:14:12] And, , three weeks later, all the kids requested to go to two sessions a week. Now that that’s all they talk about every day. , you know, it comes to the end of the session and kids like, Oh, do we have to leave? We wanna sleep here.

[00:14:23] And you know, just, just like when we opened indoor facility, seeing your kids come through there and it’s like, I don’t even, I didn’t even care this escape like this is, you’re like, Oh, my, the kid’s in, It’s not a lot of skating. Like, I’m, I’m like, It’s good, it’s fine. Like it’s a new space. They’re happy.

[00:14:39] This is exactly what it’s all about. There just being kids. There’s no judging lies. There’s. This, they could do no wrong right there. As long as they’re not hurting themselves. As long as they’re being safe, just let them, let them run free. And that’s what’s really beautiful about skateboarding is it’s not like kicking a ball.

[00:14:59] It’s not like a sport where there’s a certain technique you have to do to try and score the points. It’s do your own way. Do what works for. Some, some kids just like they think it’s the greatest thing in the world when they can just roll on a straight line. They got no interest in going down the ramps.

[00:15:16] Other kids are just like, I don’t wanna skate out on the flat, I wanna go down the biggest ramp possible. And particularly with the mentoring program, it’s so much about fun. I know with one of your kids, when we started, there was so much, so much of it was and holding for so long. If it. If that was one of my, my private skate coaches with one of their participants, they’d be like, All right, they’ve hit that step time to get rid of their hands.

[00:15:40] You know, it’s push ’em a bit further. It’s more like coaching, but with the mentoring program, it’s like, I don’t care how long we hold hands, we’ll hold hands until the participants like starts pulling away because it’s, it’s just about giving them that fun, that adrenaline rush is kind of priceless. A lot of these kids who’ve never felt that adrenaline rush before.

[00:16:00] It’s not, I’m not even gonna try and put that into words. It’s you know, just, just the look on your kids’ face when they achieve something new. So you can’t, words on that, it’s just something, something special in that moment. And I’m trying to create that moment for as many kids as possible. Cuz that could be, it’s, it’s so empowering, having, having something that joyful happiness is, it’s one of the most therapeutic things.

[00:16:27] Sophia Elliott: So some of the things I’ve certainly noticed at the skate park is, like you say, first of all, it’s that sense of community.

[00:16:34] It’s like you’re not just there to skate and learn a trick. That’s part of it. But there are days, you know, we turn up and our kids are just feeling a bit tired. It’s the end of term, and so they’ll be a bit. Socializing on those days, or instead of going down ramps, you’re practicing how to fall or you know, just doing, uh, like skate games.

[00:17:01] You, you have games that you play with them. Yeah. And so I love how responsive you are to where they’re at on that particular day, and that it’s about more than just learning a trick. It’s about. That sense of community and socializing at the skate park, which is really great. And, and like you say, kind of opens up their world a bit a bit more.

[00:17:26] And I do, I really love it when, you know, someone will do a trick and anyone who notices will give a bit of a whoop. It’s really not. Yeah, that’s right. No

[00:17:38] Josh Smith: more not. They just see skateboarding and go, I liked.

[00:17:41] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, totally. And it’s sort of like any anyone’s fair game for, Hey, how do you do this? Or, you know, offering a bit of advice or asking and, and people are always really friendly and yeah, happy to, to respond.

[00:17:58] I think one thing that you really touched on there is the resilience and the confidence. And I think, you know, I know that you have a lot of gifted and twice exceptional. Students or skate buddies, . And and I think one, you know, one of the things we’ve certainly seen is it’s like you say 90% of the time it’s falling on your butt or, you know, practicing the trick.

[00:18:25] So it’s that resilience and persistence in and keep going. And we talk about that a lot with gifted kids because so often things come easily to them. It can be hard to find. That place where something is challenging and they have to learn how to be resilient and persistent. And I think skateboarding is particularly, particularly good for that because even if you have some natural talent, and I remember we, we brought along a friend from school who was with us for the day and, and they were, had quite a bit of natural talent cuz they were a bit of a gymnast, but nonetheless had to.

[00:19:05] You know had to have a go and had to persist, uh, in, in learning how to do it. So I think those things in particular, I think make it really great for, for gifted kids. Uh, and, and like you said before, it’s, it’s a, a wonderful thing to hyper focus. And really get obsessive about, uh, for those neuro divergent kids who have a tendency to, uh, have things, you know, that they obsess about or hyper focus on those special interests because it provides so much.

[00:19:42] Yeah, the resilience, the confidence, the community, the socializing. I know we certainly, the kids will skateboard around the house. You know, until I, until I’m like, Right, take it outside, and that kind of thing, and it’s just, uh, yeah, it just becomes a part of their feet. But tell us about how skateboarding has changed for girls over the last couple of decades.

[00:20:07] Where are we at now with girls? Because yeah, I see a lot more over, especially over the last three years. Or, or girls at skate

[00:20:17] Josh Smith: parks. It is growing rapidly, like women’s skateboarding is, without a doubt, the fastest growing sport in the world and has been for quite a few years now. Like I mentioned earlier about, you know, skateboarding, there’s no, you know, there’s no race or background or gender.

[00:20:35] It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, as long as you rock up with a, a reasonable attitude and you’re happy to say hello to people, you’re gonna be welcomed with open. So there has always been that social pressure. Obviously it is still a male dominated sport, uh, but it’s not through lack of inclusion, it’s just, just the general stereotypes of society or women don’t skate or women don’t play Aussie rules footy or women don’t play rugby or what, whatever it is.

[00:21:06] But down at the cold face, the woman rocks up with this gay bullet where hyped like sick. Women think they can’t skate and you’ve rocked up with a skateboard. We got all the time in the world to offer you these tips and, and so on. But yeah, quite, quite a few years ago, I think maybe six or six or seven years ago, the highest level skateboarding competition started putting up equal prize money for first place in skateboarding competitions.

[00:21:39] Seven years ago, I probably could have competed in the highest level of women’s skateboarding. And that’s, that’s not big noting myself, but either I’m, I’m well over the hill with my skateboarding myself. But the level just wasn’t very, very high at all. There was a small handful of professional female skateboarders around the world, and they almost, it was almost an inlet only event.

[00:22:00] Like they’ll try and muster up eight women to make a final. The competition wasn’t very good at all. Yeah, The following year they announced equal prize money, I think it was $200,000 or something that they would pay men’s for first place and they went, let’s, we’re doing that for women as well. Regardless of the level and.

[00:22:27] That cha that changed the game. That’s like, that’s the model for what we could be doing in other sports is Yeah. That’s

[00:22:33] Sophia Elliott: amazing.

[00:22:35] Josh Smith: To make it to that top level. Like people talk about women’s Aussie rules football and they’re like, Oh, the level’s nowhere near as good as the men’s. I’m like, Yeah, the men are working full-time jobs and then going to training afterwards.

[00:22:46] Like the women don’t get paid adequately to, to be at that. They have to work. That’s, this is more of a hobby than their full-time job. Yeah. So when, when the Street League skateboarding started offering equal prize money over the next couple of years, even just that you could watch the level of skateboarding increased dramatically.

[00:23:10] And it went from the same skaters at every single competition to now they broadcast the prelims and there’ll be a hundred women rock. I wouldn’t even be in the top 200 women skateboarders in the, in the world now. Whereas, you know, only half a decade ago I probably could have competed quite well. So just I feel like that fast level of progression, they’ve always been there.

[00:23:35] There’s always been these women who are keen and willing to skate and now it’s right from the highest level. The men have gone, like, we’re open. This is for everyone. And now women, women and young girls are just gravitating to it because, you know, like we spoke about before, there’s no end time to it. You can do it all Saturday long.

[00:23:56] And there’s young girls that are doing the same thing now. Because there’s big prize money up for grabs. They broadcast the women’s finals now. There’s big name sponsors are putting up this money, so they want their value for their money that they’re putting up, which is good, but it’s quite corporate.

[00:24:15] There’s a lot of core skateboarders like, Oh my god, skateboarding. So corporate, I don’t care. Skateboarders don’t have money. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be like, we want big prize money and everyone to love skateboarding, but we don’t want corporate entities in skateboarding, you can’t have it both ways.

[00:24:31] To, to create top level competitors. There need, there needs to be funding available, there needs to be, you know, infrastructure surrounding that competition series. So a lot of money has come into skateboarding and it’s providing a lot of opportunities for, for women that were never there before because the skateboarding never really had a lot of money in it.

[00:24:50] You’d have, even men skaters were paying their own ticket fairs when they’d go to competitions. Now, companies like Nike and New Balance are pumping crazy amounts of money into skateboarding, treating their top level skateboarders like athletes. And there’s that trickle down effect now where, you know, even one of our young coaches, Jack, it’s like, I need to get my diet, my sleep sorted.

[00:25:15] Like I’m gonna make it in skateboarding at the top level competitor. I’ve gotta start looking after my body and whatnot. And I, it’s a. Skateboarding’s a lot tidier than it used to be. That team. But essentially, skateboarding’s become a lot more mainstream, a lot more people know about skateboarding. And then skateboarding, obviously being in the Olympics recently is, I think the entire podium is under the age of 18.

[00:25:45] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, I, we wa we obviously watch the Olympics cuz we have a big interest in it. I, you know, that’s gotta change the scene a bit and like you said, more money coming into it. And I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but there seems to be more skate parks popping up around Adelaide, which is obviously great.

[00:26:06] Yeah. So it sort of has really elevated the sport. But yeah, I noticed that as well. Very, very young competitors in the Olympics.

[00:26:16] Josh Smith: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Like. I went over and judged the, the national championships recently for street skateboarding, and we have an under nines division now, nine and under. I didn’t start skateboarding until I was 11, and some of these kids that are under nine years old would just, they just did better than me.

[00:26:37] I don’t know how, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what the hell’s in the water up there in Queensland where they’re feeding these kids. Just that, that level of investment into skateboarding. 15, 20 years ago, Queensland didn’t really have much of a skateboarding scene, and over the last decade it’s become more accepted that building a lot more parks.

[00:26:58] I think the Brisbane cbd, like the Brisbane Council has 40 skate parks just within their council accounts, which is unbelievable. Yeah, and it shows, like, it absolutely shows when you go over there and see the level of skateboarding. They have these, these massive facilities everywhere and you know, we’ve just got the new Adelaide City skate park built that I was on the advisory committee for, and we’ve got this massive world class bowl for people to skate in So many Adelaide skaters.

[00:27:29] Like what a waste of money. That thing’s huge. I can’t even skate. It’s not for. It’s for the next generation, the kids that are starting at the bottom and eventually they’ll start getting closer and closer and closer to the top and it’s, it’s gotta start somewhere. Someone’s just gotta build a massive hole in the ground and go, Good luck,

[00:27:46] I don’t mind, Yep. They wish the skate park was a certain way. Like I’m, like I said, I’ve had my time in skateboarding. I’m just grateful to be rolling around. Most of my time and energy is into the next generation and trying to kind of create those opportunities that kids in, kids in, in the states.

[00:28:04] When I was growing up, I used to look over to the United States and like, Oh, I wish we had indoor skate parks and I wish we had competition series. And you know, we do have it in Australia now, but it’s really over on the east coast. And I go over there every year to the national championships and I just see where Australian skateboarding is at.

[00:28:21] I come back to Adelaide, Hungary than ever. We need to do more, like, we need to be investing in, in local infrastructure, little competition series, Nothing to do with the prizes and winning, just to bring the community together. Have everyone at the skate park on the one day with music playing and or just a social event, and creating an even bigger and better community than we’ve voted them on.

[00:28:44] Mm-hmm. And even more people will gravitate towards it. It’s can only, can only be good. For kids in Adelaide, especially neuro diverging kids that have got some of them, hell of a lot of energy that needs burning off. Yeah, the more, more skate parks we’ve got, the more safe spaces we’ve got for families to take their kids and be accepted and obviously have a lot of fun.

[00:29:12] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. I one of my favorite memories is of my daughter at a skate competition, skating around with other girls, and she’s like cruising along in her pink helmet in her tutu. Yeah. Just kind of doing it her own way and I just thought it was a really beautiful thing. So, what do parents need to know about skateboarding?

[00:29:32] Obviously you need a skateboard and. Uh, you know, any sort of tips for parents who, whose child come home and says, I wanna skateboard, or maybe things, actually, maybe my, my, my kid would be into this. How do we kind of, how do we access it?

[00:29:52] Josh Smith: Well first, first thing is obviously getting a skateboard like you actually, or you wanna decide if you want to just let them skateboard or if you wanna obviously get some assistance.

[00:30:06] Obviously we do the mentoring program, uh, hire quite a few coaches as well and a lot of, a lot of parents when they buy, you know, it’s coming up to Christmas time, I’m sure as parents are buying their kids first skateboard, they’ll be ringing us to buy one skate lesson as well. Like, here’s your skateboard and your skate lesson.

[00:30:25] And a lot of, a lot of parents just try and get their kids started. And I guess the biggest thing for parents to, to realize the biggest thing. I guess that we come up against is the expectations that parents have. A way of skateboarding is really, really difficult, which is why it’s so good for building resilience.

[00:30:50] But number one cause of a disappointment is expectation. So if you set the, So if you set your standards too high, or if you think, Alright, I’m just gonna get skateboard, and my kid will just go in the driveway. Have fun with it. They’re, you’re probably gonna hear them screaming out for mom 10 minutes later.

[00:31:08] Like, it’s concrete is hard. Concrete hurts when you fall on it. Yeah. It’s not something you go little Jimmy, here’s your skateboard. Go have fun because that’s skateboarding’s. No joke. So it’s something the kids need to be guided through something. They need assistance. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to have a professional skate coach.

[00:31:31] It just means that parents need to be willing to embrace skateboarding as well. If you can’t just buy a kid, a skateboard and go, Cool, now they’ll learn to skate. Like it’s especially not now, maybe 20 years ago when kids couldn’t just be like, Oh, this is hard. I’m just gonna go jump on my. Or the kids are so used to that, you know, quick satisfaction and instant gratification.

[00:31:58] They’ll go and try and push on a skateboard, be absolutely hopeless at it, and they’ll be like, That sucks Skateboarding’s not for me. That is,

[00:32:07] Sophia Elliott: that’s so, it’s that whole set them up for success from the get go. Cause you’re right. It is really hard. Yes. And what I’m, I’ve learned is that if you’re going to do it, it is worth getting a decent skateboard.

[00:32:23] Yes. Pads, obviously helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and stuff. And so, Set them up for success, maybe see if there is, uh, I mean anyone in Adelaide or South Australia, you can get in touch with you guys, but if you’re elsewhere in the world see what the local offerings are in terms of maybe, like you said, here’s your board, here’s your lesson, you know, to kinda get you going.

[00:32:49] Yeah. Get those first tips just so that you. First experience is a successful experience.

[00:32:56] Josh Smith: Yeah. And we have, we have people in choir about lessons and I, I, I appreciate, like I grew up quite poor, so I appreciate that. Not everyone can afford private coaching. So we’ll have people in choir like I’m just go you to skateboard.

[00:33:13] How much lessons, We’ll give them the price. Sorry, we can’t afford it. We’re like, That’s fine. Still take ’em out skateboarding, and I’ll even just offer a couple of little tips. It’ll be like, make sure you support them. You know, we can, we can still offer help even if people can’t afford to book in their own private lessons.

[00:33:34] And it is that, that, you know, free help will offer is just normalizing the learning process. Like, just don’t expect your kid to go out there. Be amazing right from the get go. Mm-hmm. , you’re probably gonna go out to the skate park with your kid and they will be the worst skateboarder at the skate park.

[00:33:52] And your job as a parent in that moment is not to try and create a good skateboarder, it’s just to be their support network. Just as we would do as mentors in our mentoring program. Learn, you know, kids learning how to push. It’s frustrating. Like I think learning how to push is the. Part of skateboarding.

[00:34:11] I remember with one of your kids, it was so long where I’d be like, Just get your feet on the board. Take my hands. And it was just about building confidence and Yep, basically flying to do that with kids, you’ve gotta give them that joy, almost give them that little sense of, even if it’s just a micro dose of adrenaline, where they’re rolling down the driveway with mom or dad holding their hands, that can, that can be enough to get them.

[00:34:37] And they’ll want to learn, and they’ll want to go through that struggle and they’ll go, All right, well, this is really, really difficult learning how to push, but once I learn how to push, I can roll down the driveway without mom holding my hands. And they’re already kind of chasing that freedom. It’s even at 10 or 11 kids are, they’re really trying to mentally, they’re really breaking out and looking for freedom already, as, as you know, as, as we all know as.

[00:35:03] Kids are pretty keen on freedom in whatever capacity they can get it. Uh, they like being free to do their own thing. They like being proud of doing stuff on their own. And it’s only when things are really difficult or it seems hopeless that they’ll become quite dependent on that assistance. So skateboarding is, is a mindset more than anything.

[00:35:27] And as a parent of a child wanting to skateboard, It’s no different. It’s a mindset. It’s understanding that my child is about to embark on a process that’s actually quite difficult and there’s a 99% chance that they’re gonna fail the first time they try this. My job is not to be like, Oh, alright, well teach them how to be good.

[00:35:47] Your job is to just like, literally have time to catch them when they fall, but, but be there as a support network. Just a big part of what we do as coaches with beginners is normalize the process of failure. It’s what you’re doing is right. I remember when I was learning how to push like that. Oh my god, I haven’t, I forgot that.

[00:36:09] I used to do that when I was first learning how to skate. Like all these little things that we say kid will fail and in that moment I’ll look up almost shattered that they’ve stepped off their board and even when they hit the ground and fall, like I’m sure you’ve seen at times, Your kids hit the ground.

[00:36:27] I’m sure I was. I might be the first person that’s ever cheered when your child’s hit the ground. It’s a very odd thing for people who experience and you know, as, as a skateboarder of 25 years, I’ve seen a lot of kids hit the ground. I’ve seen a lot of people hit the ground. I kind of, you know, when it’s a bad one Yeah.

[00:36:50] Fall down or they’ve stepped off their border if they’ve hit a rock and tripped over, like. I’ll laugh, I’ll, in a positive way. Like we take, we take the power out, the pain and go, Oh, that sucks. But you know, I remember. Or, Oh no, you hit a stick. Like that’s the worst. I remember I was on a footpath one day and I had my hot chips and gravy in my hand, and I hit a stick and I draw my chips everywhere and kids laugh and forget that they.

[00:37:17] They just smacked their knee on the ground a minute ago because, and it’s just, just snapping that, Oh my God, I’ve hurt myself. I’m, I’m scared. This is where’s, where’s mom? Like, we just instantly snap the attention away from it. If you can get a positive reaction just to a failure, they’re gonna try again.

[00:37:34] And it’s trying to encourage these positive reactions to, to negative outcomes is, that’s the core of the mentoring program, right? But it’s nothing special about the mentoring program. That’s just skateboarding. That’s why I find the program so easy to run. So I pinch myself at times. I’m like, I’m really just, I went to uni and I felt like all they did was just remind me.

[00:37:59] I knew stuff that I was already there and oh, well, I can use this to help others. That’s amazing, fantastic. And that’s why it’s so fluent for myself and our other mentors is because it’s, it’s, it’s just what we do. It’s what we do every. You know, all our sessions, we make sure the kids leave and we’ll go through that same process ourself for the next two hours.

[00:38:19] And more than happy, like I, I don’t know how many times you’ve rocked up for your sessions and one of our coaches, Jack, is just throwing himself down the stairs and he’ll laugh, Get back up, go again. And it’s just, it’s just what we do, It’s natural to us. So I appreciate that. That’s not gonna be natural to a lot of.

[00:38:41] but failure is everything in skateboarding. The better you get at skateboarding, the more time you spend on the ground cause you’re pushing yourself further and further and further. So yeah, as a parent with a child wanting to learn skateboarding don’t be scared of failure. I know a lot of parents, kids in our mentoring program were really hesitant because their kids don’t handle failure and they know skateboarding’s.

[00:39:11] And they’re just absolutely blown away by our response to their kids’ failures. And more than that, they’re blown away that their kid wants to come back for another dose of failure next week. It’s, it’s crazy. It’s it’s a bit of a paradigm shift for a lot of parents where they’re just so used to trying to avoid the failures and avoid things that are gonna cause a negative reaction in their child.

[00:39:34] And, you know, That’s why the mentoring program’s so good. We’re not trying to provoke these negative reactions. We just skate with them. We try skateboarding. If it’s really difficult, we’ll take a break from it. We’ll go and do something else. There’s always something else we can do. But yeah, skateboarding’s really difficult.

[00:39:59] So just be there to support your kid. Be more than happy to hold their hands like. Don’t place expectations on them that kills kids’. Enthusiasm in skateboarding, nothing breaks my heart more than when I was doing a lot of private coaching, you know, we’d hit a milestone we’d roll down a ramp. The first time kids ever rolled down a ramp without me holding their hand.

[00:40:23] And like, I wanna show dad, I wanna show dad. I’m like, All right, cool. Dad, what’s this? And they roll down the ramp and the dad just goes, Oh, cool. Now do it down the big one. Oh, . Oh

[00:40:33] Sophia Elliott: no. Thanks for the hype. Yeah. That take the wind

[00:40:36] Josh Smith: out. Oh, way. Stay in the car.

[00:40:39] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. , stay in the car.

[00:40:42] Josh Smith: Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s praise, praise everything.

[00:40:46] Because that’s what’s gonna get the wanting to push. And the smallest little win. Yeah. As a parent, a kid might like, look, I’m standing on it and you’re at the skate park and there’s people whizzing around, going down ramps, doing tricks. And new kids just there like, Rolling. They’ve got their hands in their air looking like a scarecrow.

[00:41:05] They’re fully stiff, lagged and barely rolling, but they’re excited about it. Yeah, never, never be embarrassed for where your kid is at in their level of skateboarding. Always praise them for anything that they seem even slightly excited about cuz that’s, that’s skateboarding like we do. As you know, more experienced skateboarders.

[00:41:25] Get excited when you know you do adult beginner lessons. I’ll cheer just the same, just the same as if Jack was jumping down the stair set. We’ve got, you know, a 40 year old beginner that does lessons and he’s just learning how to roll down ramps and, you know, we cheer for him, he’ll roll down and he’ll look around and he’ll just like, like he’s just won the grand final.

[00:41:48] He’s got his arms up in the air looking around. He’s like, he’s like, You just never imagined that he’d be a part of something where people were cheering for him. That’s really beautiful. Cause he would think that he would get judged for being older and not being very good at skateboarding and mm-hmm.

[00:42:03] you know, he had his first actual lesson there with us and it’s like, I can’t believe I’ve never came here before. And that’s really beautiful. So we really don’t be scared to get your kids out to the skate park, but just be, be well aware that they’re gonna be, It’s hard, They’re gonna be drawn to not like it’s just gonna.

[00:42:24] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. So it’s praising the effort, praising the persistence and the resilience and just every little baby step and achievement. Yeah, absolutely. I, I have hopped on a skateboard recently myself, I think only like three times, so I can attest to how hard it is. And the first time I jumped on, I would, and it’s just like getting on the skateboard and getting the skateboard to move.

[00:42:52] Like it’s really hard. Yeah. And I had three kids coming up going, Oh, do this, do that. And Oh, this is how you do a kick turn. I’m like, uh, I’m Mommy is just practicing getting on and off the skateboard, like chill a when and if I get to kick turns, I will come and get some tips. But, so it is, it’s, it’s a very challenging sport.

[00:43:16] A lot of fun, and I know that you guys also do group sessions, which can be, uh, you know, cheaper than one on one sessions, and you do group sessions for folk who are homeschooling, competition support, mentoring you girls. Boys, any gender identity is absolutely welcome at the skate park. And also like little kids, old kids, adults.

[00:43:42] So a really beautiful kind of inclusive community and full of possibilities.

[00:43:48] Josh Smith: So yeah. Yeah, we got a kid, we got a kid who’s two and a half years old in our program, and then we got a lady who’s 54 years old in our program. So age really is absolutely irrelevant. Obviously, It can change your mentality.

[00:44:06] Adults have obviously got liabilities, so for you got, you got family members dependent on you. It’s obviously much more severe if you lose your income due to injury or something like that. But, but as far as the actual getting out there and giving it a go, there’s, there’s no, there’s no barriers to it. It really is.

[00:44:24] It really is. All mental people tell themselves that they’re too old then. And they’re too old. But the reality is, if you think you’re young enough to do a, get out there and do it it’s a pretty common saying in skateboarding. You didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old.

[00:44:41] You got old because you quit skateboarding. That’s, I like that. That’s kind the story of my life. As you see, like some of the kids, I’m more than happy to go play on the playground, lay on my back, and roll down heels on the skateboard. That’s all life’s for. Life is for play, and it’s kind of perfect. The thing thing at the moment, the joy, it’s, that’s all I’m trying to do is just feel that myself and then share it with as many people as possible.

[00:45:08] So it’s very welcoming. Yeah, as you can attest to, It’s a lot more welcoming than you, you think it’s gonna be, despite the fact that it is, it can be quite intimidating when you get to the skate park for the first time. Cause it’s confronting. You’ll see people falling. Especially at Jack’s down there, you’ll just go, My gosh, that’s, that’s really intense.

[00:45:35] But it’s everyone’s welcome. People care more about your attitude and your mindset towards skateboarding than they do about your skateboarding skill. You know, the local group of skaters at our local skate park, the skill level is so divergent. Like there’s, it’s a big variance from the best gator.

[00:45:54] But you know, someone who’s only just starting out and we’ll all hang out together as if it doesn’t matter. Like we’re a skateboarders, something else matters. If nothing, really, nothing else matters. Bring, bring a good attitude. Be happy to say, just say hello to everyone and the skate park will pretty quickly become one of your favorite places to take the kids.

[00:46:13] I. Hmm.

[00:46:15] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, it is, it’s great. And you know, you’re outside. It’s a great outdoors thing to do. And just before we finish up, I also kind of wanted to say, uh, you guys have a program which is actually about mindfulness and skateboarding. Yep. Which I thought was really cool. Uh, and I totally get how skateboarding can be a very, uh, mindful activity.

[00:46:38] So I think it just sort of highlights the. You know, the breadth that skateboarding has to offer in terms of the benefits? Yeah,

[00:46:47] Josh Smith: really good. The mindfulness program is obviously we do our stigma store mentoring program, which is for the kids of various backgrounds. It’s predominantly used by participants that have got N D I S funding.

[00:47:02] It’s, we predominantly work with kids. The highest state of mind that that mindfulness program. That’s more about trying to share some of the elements of that mentoring program with with adults. You know, skateboarding for you, for example, would not, if it doesn’t have, you’re not trying to compete, you’re not trying to get really good at it.

[00:47:23] Yeah. But as you would’ve found, stepping on the board is quite difficult. If you are trying to skateboard, think and think about what’s for dinner that night, you will end up laying on the ground thinking about what’s for dinner that night. Like you’d have to be fully present. Because you can go from standing to falling so quickly that you can’t really be anywhere else mentally.

[00:47:45] And skateboarding is all about visualization. You know, I’ll say to kids when we’re at the top of the ramp, and I don’t think, stop thinking about going over the edge of the ramp. Imagine yourself rolling away once you’ve gone off the bottom of the round, like, like literally close your eyes and see yourself doing it and.

[00:48:06] It becomes real, like it already feels good. Now just do it for real. Like, yeah, it’s obviously harder. But yeah, that the mindfulness program is really, it’s, it’s like a really slowed down version of skate coaching where we pretty much go through the process of learning to skate, but along the way, you know, the facilitator of that program, You have four people lined up there, and he’ll just be focusing on the pushing technique and he’ll just be like, Stop.

[00:48:41] Who’s thinking about anything other than skateboarding right now who came in here stressed and just bringing conscious awareness to the fact that you walked in the room with all these things on your mind and you’ve been trying to get on your board for 10 minutes. It’s gone and bringing that to people’s attention, you know, you have the power to turn that off.

[00:49:03] Those thoughts, that gnarly stuff that we deal with all day, every day. Have a skateboard in your car. Stop off at the skate park for 20 minutes after work and it’s gonna give you that separation from your stressful day. And you can go into your home life, you know, feeling a lot more present in your own life.

[00:49:21] You know, you realize that you’re. It’s so common for people to take stress home from work and put it onto their family or their loved ones. And we have a lot of people with the, that have done the mindfulness program. That’s probably the biggest bit of feedback we get from the people that have done the mindfulness program is like we are not even trying to like be good at skateboarding.

[00:49:42] We’re just happy to go to the skate park for 20 minutes a few times a week. Really is their meditation. You’re fully present on your skateboard. You’re outdoors in the fresh air one. It’s, and then you’re surrounded by good people that are happy to see you succeed. Like it’s, it’s like once you’ve bought your skateboard, uh, it’s all free as well.

[00:50:05] So it’s, it’s kind of too good to be true. And the mindfulness program just brings that to people’s attention. Like, go to the local skate store, get yourself aboard, and then you’ve got this crazy, like really unbelievably effective mindfulness meditation you can do, and it’s skateboarding.

[00:50:26] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, I love that.

[00:50:27] That’s

[00:50:27] Josh Smith: brilliant. It’s crazy. It’s too good to be true, but it’s,

[00:50:30] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, and it’s also, like you say, a little bit of investment up front, but then it’s all. You know aside from the adolescent here or there, uh, so worth, worth the initial investment, uh, to, to access all those good things. Well, yeah, thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:50:46] I really appreciate your time. No worries at all. And having a really good chat about skateboarding. I’m learning so much about it. It’s, uh, yeah. It’s a really great thing. So thank you so much. That’s all

[00:50:57] Josh Smith: right. It’s good to come and talk about.

[00:51:00] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. It really is. Yeah. So have an awesome day.

[00:51:03] We’ll see you soon at Skate Park. .

[00:51:05] Josh Smith: Yes, I’m sure. Thank you so much for having

[00:51:07] Sophia Elliott: me on. Oh, always, always welcome. And, uh, if anyone’s looking for Josh, it’s Free Mind Skate school. I’ll put the links in the show notes and, uh, check out the website and see all the awesome things they do. If you’re not in South Australia or Adelaide, uh, just check out what you’ve got locally and, uh, you know, like Josh says, just head down to the skate park.

[00:51:29] Set your expectations in place, but go and have fun.

[00:51:33] Josh Smith: Perfect. Nailed it. .

[00:51:35] Sophia Elliott: Awesome. See you Josh. Thanks. So bye.

#067 How to Express Your Gifted Self with Digital Music & Art w/ Johannes Dreyer

#067 How to Express Your Gifted Self with Digital Music & Art w/ Johannes Dreyer

It’s Gifted, Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week; and we’re Bringing Joy & Equity in Focus with this year’s theme.

As a proud partner of The G Word, Our Gifted Kids is delighted to raise awareness once again with a whole week of podcasts. Actually, 6 episodes! Where we talk about #gifted joy!

Podcast Line Up

  • Marc Smolowitz introduces the week with – #064 Gifted Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week does #giftedjoy
  • Monday
    • #065 Gifted Joy & Gifted Play; Why it’s Different w/ Kate Donohue
  • Tuesday
    • #066 Why Gifted Folk Need Board Games! w/ Justin Ratcliff
  • Wednesday
    • #067 How to Express Your Gifted Self with Digital Music & Art w/ Johannes Dreyer
  • Thursday
    • #068 A Higher Skate of Mind for Gifted Kids w/ Josh Smith
  • Friday
    • #069 Why Dungeons & Dragons is Gifted Bliss w/ Sam Young


Enjoyed the podcasts? Our online community is currently open until midnight Thursday 3 November! Find out more here!

Or subscribe, join our online community or get freebies, say thanks at ourgiftedkids.com

Please leave a review on your podcast player and help parents find us!

Our GTN Awareness Week Links



Johannes Dreyer

Johann Dreyer is a South African-born music producer, educator and expressive therapist. Johann’s ethos can be defined as: “Ask not what the pen does to the paper, instead ask what the paper does for the pen.”

Johann’s diverse experience and formal qualifications provide a broad perspective when working with clients, creating an interactive and personalised experience. Johann has a great passion for working with neurodiverse people, assisting with creative expression and emotional well-being.

For the past six years, Johann has provided a person-centered approach utilizing modern technology to facilitate music production or digital art sessions. Client outcomes have included public performances, art exhibitions and the formal release of music on public platforms.

He has been involved in the music industry for the past 15 years and teaching for the last eight years. He actively creates music and art and amongst his qualifications has completed a Master of Creative Industries and a Bachelor of Audio Production.

Hit play and let’s get started!


[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Hello and welcome to today’s podcast. It is Wednesday of gifted, talented, and your diversity awareness week. We have private partners of The G Word Film, and we’re excited to be celebrating gifted joy this week on the, our give to kids podcast.

[00:00:17] In today’s episode, we’re looking at creative expression. Specifically. Digital art and digital music. And I have the great privilege to bring to you on the podcast, people from all over the world. People from my backyard here in Australia. And also people quite literally from my dining room table. And Johanns Draya is one of those dining room table people.

[00:00:46] Uh, someone we found to mentor our kids. Through digital art and digital music, and he does such a fabulous job. And what they create is so awesome. That, when it came to doggy about gifted joy this week, I naturally wanted to share.

[00:01:06] The creative expression that your hands brings into our world with everyone and encourage parents to consider. What kind of toolbox you have and your children have when it comes to. Expressing those big emotions creatively. And there’s so many different ways to do this, whether it’s poetry, songwriting, I mean, we all wrote angsty poetry as teenagers, right? Was it just Uh, paintings, you know, drawing art, digital

[00:01:39] Music, listening to music, creating music. It doesn’t matter what the creative expression is. Or when it looks like there is no wrong when it comes to creating and being creative. The important thing is the journey. It’s the expression. And when you’ve got a few things to draw on. When you wanting to express some big emotions or process and work through a bigger event, it just means you’ve got more things in your toolbox to.

[00:02:12] Possibly use to process those things. And for me as a parent, I want my kids to have options in their toolbox. So that they can process those big emotions when they need to both as children, as teenagers and later in life as adults, because we continue to have big emotions and need to process things as grown ups as well.

[00:02:36] So this conversation with your hands is certainly about digital art and digital music, but it’s also more broadly about that creative process and creative expression. And I do hope that having listened to it, you’re feeling a bit inspired to. Dabble a bit yourself and with your kids. So if you’re thinking it’s Wednesday and you’ve already missed heaps in gifted, talented, and your diversity awareness week, do not fear.

[00:03:04] You can still register at The G Word and last year, everything. Like stayed online afterwards and you can actually even tap into. Last year’s GTN awareness week. Uh, content at The G Word. So it’s not too late. You can still tune in. There’s lots of great stuff going on and you can register

[00:03:25] And our gifted kids podcasts always available. We’ve got two more this week and a bonus next week. So there’s plenty to listen to. And if you’re wanting a bit more out of the gifted community, Our online communities are open until the 3rd of November. And what does that look like? You may ask? Well, I have created three different options for

[00:03:50] So there’s something for everyone. There is dip your toes in which is quite literally dipping your toes into supporting the podcast in a really easy way, but getting something back for that, you’ve got your exclusive online portal, exclusive member, only videos of the podcast. And principals for each podcast. So it’s a nice way of supporting the podcast and we really appreciate your support. Keeps us going.

[00:04:17] And then we have two more options be seen and found, and our mission to thrive, which access a different online portal, full of resources. They come with a bonus journey to a new normal parenting course, private Facebook group. Bonus unpacking gifted course and all sorts of things. You can check that all out@ourgiftedkids.com backslash hub.

[00:04:42] And there are links in the show notes.

[00:04:46] And today instead of playing our usual intro. Let’s get everyone to thrive, jingle that we play. I’m actually going to ease you into this podcast with a little tune that one of my children created with Johanns shared with permission by the artist. In this podcast. And enjoy stay quirky and I will see you again tomorrow.

[00:06:12] The theme for this year’s Gifted, Talented and Neurodiversity Awareness Week is gifted joy, which is a super exciting excuse to talk about the things that we love doing.

[00:06:23] And our Gifted Kids podcast, we thought we would focus on play as a part of our joy. So this week we’re exploring those things that bring us joy through. How delightful . Sometimes as a parent of a gifted kid, it can be hard to navigate what supporting our kids look like and navigating those kind of treacherous waters of pushing our kids into things they don’t really wanna do.

[00:06:48] So in our family, whenever we’re considering a new kind of, Adventure or extracurricular activity, we always have a very conscious conversation about why are we doing it? Because with like three kids, two parents and a dog in the household, you know, if everyone does one thing, that’s a very busy week already.

[00:07:09] So we’re always trying to be very conscious of what we are doing and the things that we do are very deliberate and, and a big question for us is, Are we doing it for us as the parent, Or actually, does our child really wanna do this? Will it bring them joy? Uh, and are they motivated? And I have to be conscious about that as much as anyone because I have always been a very creative person, all sorts of things.

[00:07:42] and I feel like it’s super important for my kids to have some kind of creative outlet just because, you know, whether it’s traversing those teenage years and some very heartfelt poetry or thrash metal, you know, whatever it is, we need to lean on that creativity at some point in our lives to process big emotions.

[00:08:07] And so I want my children to have a toolbox of things that they can lean into, but I have to be very wary that I’m not wanting to put things in the toolbox for my own sake, and they get to choose what goes in the toolbox, if that makes sense. So like, I would love my kids to play an instrument, but at this point in time that motivation isn’t entirely there.

[00:08:35] So, I was delighted nonetheless, or one of my kids discovered an interest in digital music and another in digital art, and today I’m incredibly excited to talk about why music and art are so awesome with Johan Dryer from Beat Frequency Mentoring. Welcome, Johan. I’m absolutely desired to have you here for this conversation.

[00:08:59] Thanks

[00:08:59] Johannes Dreyer: so much, Sophia. I’m really happy to be here

[00:09:03] Sophia Elliott: Now, full disclosure, Johan. Is someone that we found to meet this need for our children, . And I was actually thinking today that on this podcast, I have the great privilege of talking to people all over the world and in my backyard, and often people who are a part of our lives as well.

[00:09:25] And so, Johan’s, totally seen our messy house and our busy family, and has been a part of that picture and brought great joy. To our children with digital music and digital art. So I’m very excited to to have you here and share you with the world. .

[00:09:45] Johannes Dreyer: Thank you so much. It’s a very big privilege for me to be able to come into your house and share that experience with your kids and the family.

[00:09:54] I’m super lucky to be doing what I’m doing. It

[00:09:58] Sophia Elliott: is, it’s a really fabulous thing and I, you know, I often like will cook dinner or something while you guys are there and I just. I love the joy to know that it obviously brings the kids and. It’s just really beautiful. So first of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up doing beat Frequency mentoring.

[00:10:17] I feel like there’s a story behind this.

[00:10:19] Johannes Dreyer: Oh, there’s a very long story and I probably won’t bore you all with the, the whole story. Funny enough, a friend of mine did a podcast about creativity and what the messy process is and I was on his podcast talking about my life journey. So I might share the link.

[00:10:34] Yes, please do. Yes, . Cause it is actually quite a funny story. But I’m gonna kind of skip through a bit of that. So I guess, you know, growing up in South Africa I was very lucky to be exposed to a lot of really cool music. My dad was into some really heavy metal stuff, so listening to Black Sabbath and, you know, Uriah Heap and Jethro Toll and all sorts of stuff like that.

[00:10:57] And they were very open to sharing music. So from a very young age, I was already making mix tapes back in the day when we were making, you know, tape mix tapes and recording off the radio. So I’ve always had a love for music. In that way. Then, oh yeah, I went through high school, studied marketing, did some retail stuff that wasn’t really very fulfilling and first forward, we’ll skip to 2008 when I came to Australia to formally study music production and audio engineering.

[00:11:26] So I knew I needed this to be a part of my life. I did my bachelor’s degree in Byron Bay as you do.

[00:11:34] Sophia Elliott: And you do that sounds like a great place to do a batch, learn anything.

[00:11:37] Johannes Dreyer: Exactly. So ended up, started to work at this private uni ended up teaching and interesting enough as when I was teaching, I got approached by a mom who had a young son who had cerebral palsy and I had just received some funding for him to.

[00:11:59] To learn to dj and I jumped at the opportunity. I was like, I wanna hang out and I wanna do this with this young man. This sounds amazing. So it was really cool. We had funding for, I think it was about 12 weeks of catch ups every week. And then we were, had some money to put on a little event at the end so he can actually showcase his skills.

[00:12:21] And I guess that was kind of the start of beach frequency. It didn’t, wasn’t quite branded quite yet. But then from that moment on, I just kept on meeting people. It was just like people found me. Then in 2016 I moved to Adelaide. And because I was working for this uni, you know, you’d often have people come through the door who were really excited about music.

[00:12:48] They wanna partake, they wanna get involved, but the formal education, System doesn’t necessarily allow for neuro diverse or people with living with some sort of a disability and me being me, that that doesn’t fly. So , I ended up like collecting about, I think three or four clients that I would stay late at night after I finished the day of work would bring them into the studios and we’d start, you know, I’d kind of just do mentoring or teaching them, tutoring them and doing all sorts of stuff.

[00:13:23] And then I just realized that this is really a big passion of mine and I wanted to kind of get to know how it all works and really get my head around, especially working with Neurodiverse people. Because I found my personal lived experiences. I’ve got a daughter who’s a stepdaughter, who’s on the spectrum.

[00:13:44] And so that fascinated me. So for my masters, I did a masters of creative industry. I wanted to create a online musical making tool to help kids with emotional regulation. Because I found her every morning kind of just, you know, struggling with the, the sound of the blender or, you know, kind of loud noises and stuff like that.

[00:14:06] So I was really fascinated about sound and how it affected people living with autism specifically. So I ended up making this, this music making tool, and then I spoke to someone who was like, You need to get into counseling and kind of formalize that, that framework that you’re working with. And by that stage I had collected enough clients to really quit my full-time job and, you know, start giving two days a week to, to beat frequency and, and yeah, it’s just grown from there to where we are now And yes,

[00:14:44] Sophia Elliott: how beautiful and what, how beautiful, what a lovely thing to do, like you said.

[00:14:51] It’s great to feel very lucky. You know, getting up each day and doing the things that you do. So what does the mentoring look like? What are some of the creative tools that you

[00:15:01] Johannes Dreyer: use? So, yeah, like you mentioned before, I kind of focus on music production and digital art. So those are kind of my, my passion.

[00:15:10] So I. Luckily the way that the music industry has evolved, digital music making is very accessible at the moment. So I use some of the industry standard software and kind of mid controllers so the, you know, little midy pianos and launch pads and things that people might be familiar with cuz their kids are watching people on YouTube playing with them.

[00:15:34] So I use Ableton and I use an Ableton push to do the music product. And then in terms of digital art, I’ve got a iPad Pro and I use a program called procreate. Yeah. And so that’s kind of the, the main tools that I use at the moment

[00:15:51] Sophia Elliott: when, you know, certainly of my generation, growing up, you know, we didn’t even have the internet.

[00:15:58] I often tell my kids, you know, when I was a kid we only had two TV channels. . Yes. But so, and I just kind of say that, Some parents listening might, it might feel very inaccessible, but the reality is these days it’s so incredibly accessible to do digital art or digital music. There’s so many different resources and it really is, you know, just completely different to what was available for our generation.

[00:16:34] So it doesn’t need to be this a big, expensive thing either, does it?

[00:16:38] Johannes Dreyer: No, no, Definitely not. And that, yeah, that’s the thing. So you know, the software can range from Yeah. Being free software that you get, like garage band Yeah, there’s a couple of others, but up to, you know, the professional. Software that then does cost a bit of money.

[00:16:54] And then the controllers, again, like the, the gear that I use is pretty expensive because it’s a very professional piece of gear. It’s made to be taken on the road to go perform, live with and so on. But for $120 you can get a controller that the kids can, can kind of play with. And I guess this is one of my approaches is that creative expression.

[00:17:14] So the software is really cool in the way. We don’t have to think about music theory straight away. Yeah. We don’t necessarily have to play, you know, in time as much as this is definitely one of the skills we wanna develop first off. But kids and adults, I work with some adults as well. We just get the opportunity to.

[00:17:34] To literally just express ourselves and just smash some buttons. And then from there we kind of start the process of going, Okay, how do we start fleshing this out? How do we start focusing on rhythm? Because, you know, even just drumming or kind of ticking along, it’s already a way to kind of regulate our ourselves.

[00:17:53] Mm-hmm. , you know, we start feeling like we kind of I’m gonna use the word vibing cuz you’re vibing. You know? And like, I think that’s a lot of what this kind of interactive music stuff does. It’s about connection, you know? So yes, I have all these other kind of formal frameworks lying underneath that we wanna look at.

[00:18:11] But ultimately what I’ve noticed, the most important thing is just that connection. Just someone who’s, you know, willing to sit down. A person and go, Hey, let’s do something creative. Let’s make some music. And because this software is so like the formal music teachers almost get really upset because it’s almost like cheating.

[00:18:34] You know? Like we could literally, I’ve built a full song in a two hour session, like literally ready to release onto Spotify. And so, and that’s what I like about it. I like the fact that we can, we can get results straight away. So we start building that momentum. We’re not sitting there getting frustrated, trying to learn music theory, not understanding, why do I need to know music theory?

[00:18:57] So we’re kind of doing this like pool strategy where we get to make music first, and then when kids start getting bored with what they’re making or they hear other stuff and they’re like, Oh, why doesn’t mine sound. X, Y, Z, we can go, ah, that’s because they are using, you know, augmented scales. They’re using not just C Major the whole time.

[00:19:18] We can go into diminished things, we can do this, we can do that. And so then there’s an interest and then we can go. And I think this is where the gifted kids particularly kind of excel at because they get to that point a lot quicker. And because there’s so many different ways we can go with music, you know, and then, You can do challenges where you just walk in, they might like lesser house music, and then one day you walk in, you go, Alright.

[00:19:43] Today we’re doing drum and bass. And then it’s like, oh, okay, you know, we’ve got a challenge now using reference tracks and you just go, Okay, this is the sound we are going for today. Yeah, you might give them a couple of tools. So there’s a lot of ways to engage a very active and, you know, kind of extraordinary mind as well as at the same time people who are, you know, on the other side of the spectrum, we’re struggling to understand basic concepts.

[00:20:08] We can have them also interact and have.

[00:20:12] Sophia Elliott: I think it’s that lovely, uh, instant gratification within that creative process, you know, which I think has really been lovely and, and what I’ve seen as you’ve been there with my kids in particular, it’s like at the end of every session there is something, you know, that has been created or whether it’s music or art, and it’s really beautiful and I think.

[00:20:38] Being, you know, a creative person and experiencing that kind of journey where one thing leaps to another, to another. Uh, I think I just, I think I want to say to parents listening as well to never underrate or undervalue the starting point. And I think especially with gifted kids, We talk a lot about that kind of vertical acceleration, but also that kind of horizontal kind of expanding them horizontally.

[00:21:15] And so for an example of that would be, uh, you know, with my children, for example, for us, we started off with a very big focus of science, very factual science. And then, Kind of went horizontally to particular video games where you could build rockets, but very hardcore detailed, like grown up type. I say game, but it’s like pretty full on, which then kind of opened doors into, uh, creativity like Dungeons and Dragons with that multidisciplinary approach.

[00:21:56] But then that kind of led to. Digital music, do you know? It’s just kind of that very abstract. One thing leading to another thing, leading to another thing. And it kind of doesn’t matter where your child starts in terms of that creative process. The the juice is in the journey, isn’t it? You know, it’s kinda like value wherever the starting point is, because you never know what it’s going to lead to.

[00:22:22] Yeah. And yeah, and it, and what I see and what I just. Love about the digital music and art is what a beautiful sort of leap it is for kids who are into, I mean, every kid’s into screens, you know, every parent’s got a phone and we’re all doing it. We’re all doing it. You know, like Exactly. But it’s that beautiful leap from the screen to this creative outlet, which I think is really nice and.

[00:22:56] Yeah, and I just sort of, I think sometimes parents can be a bit shy of the fact that it’s digital. It’s not like a real instrument or a real painting. But actually it really is, isn’t it? Like

[00:23:07] Johannes Dreyer: it totally is, and that’s exactly how we should look at it. Like you just said, it’s the starting point. We kind of, you know, feeling it out going, how interested are they in this?

[00:23:17] How you know, do they really love it? And then from there you kind of build on that. So for example, with some of my kids that I work with who are really good at art, I’ll actually, after a couple of sessions, we’ll put the digital stuff away and we’ll actually get pen and paper out and go, All right, cool.

[00:23:33] Now we’re gonna do still life drawing because we really need to, If you really good and you wanna get better at art, we have to get really good at that. And that’s interesting that you say like this kind of horizontal expansion, one of my clients, it’s been the most classic case. When I started working with him, it was to do music.

[00:23:53] Because he, he wanted, he was starting to play piano from memory, and then he, he kind of, I got involved and he was like, Oh, I wanna make beats. Then we started doing stock motion. And we ended up doing stop motion videos for about six months, and then we kind of got back into drawing and now we’ve kind of come back to music and, and the beautiful thing is that yes, we can tie all those things together.

[00:24:18] So again, the software, it makes it so accessible and easy, so appropriate. For example, we can actually draw animations. So we can animate anything that we want. Then at the same time, we can make music that we can put to our animations. We can obviously use our iPads to do stock motion again, do sound effects, you know, for that.

[00:24:38] So using a phone, we go out. So again, we don’t need expensive stuff. We’ve got all the stuff we need. We just going out and, and I think another important thing for me about that sometimes, especially when we’re working with Neurodiverse our kids in general, really is to be very adaptable on the day. Mm.

[00:24:57] Like I’ve caught myself so many times driving to a client thinking, Oh, what did we do last week? Oh, cool. We should probably work on that song again. Or, you know, I wanna show them some cool thing that I saw on the internet. And then I walk in there and they’re already on a mission. Yeah, but they’ve got something else that they wanna do.

[00:25:14] Yeah. And then I have to just kind of take, and it’s like, and that’s I guess my approach is that person-centered approach about Yeah, I let them lead. Exactly. So on a day they might not feeling be feeling great. And that’s okay. You know, and, and a lot of times I’ve had sessions where we haven’t done anything but just talk.

[00:25:32] So, Yeah. You know, sometimes people just need a bit of a, a chat and, and that’s great too. So.

[00:25:39] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, that’s really great. I mean, I remember being a kid, I was just always very creative and I just, I did a lot of craft as like a, you know, in those primary years. I remember being in a high school and I just, I, I saw this black and white picture of an eagle in a book, and I don’t know why I’m like, I could draw that.

[00:26:00] I picked up a pencil and I drew it, and then I was about 14, and then suddenly I became known. As an art person, and I went on, did a degree in visual arts. Yeah. But it was, and then ironically went into politics, . But it, but I always, you know, my success in politics came from my creativity very much so.

[00:26:26] And exactly. Because with creativity I always look at it as it’s a series of problem solving, you know, and going with the flow, isn’t it? That creative flow. And so it was always like going with the flow. And so, which ultimately led me to working with vulnerable teenagers in Scotland where we would use arts to build confidence and self-esteem.

[00:26:54] Get them outta bed because these were kids with generational dysfunction, you know, really tough lives. And we used to use, we would anything, music, fashion, any kind of art because it’s such a beautiful, affirming, expressive. There is nothing wrong, you know, you can’t do anything wrong. Absolutely. Kind of medium and so, I just think it’s one of those things that has so much to give and, but don’t box it as a parent.

[00:27:32] Don’t kind of go, Well, it has to look like this or it has to look like that. Yeah. And I think that’s what you do really beautifully with the kids as well. And I love those particular days when you’re very gracious and the kids are like, pressing buttons and like, No, try it this way. And, uh, you know, and I don’t know, one day they were there and they managed to get.

[00:27:56] Two screens linked or something. .

[00:27:59] Johannes Dreyer: Yes. That was fantastic. They got, yeah, they got my iPad. They got the mouse from the computer to go into the iPad, which is something I had managed to do myself. But .

[00:28:13] Sophia Elliott: So I guess in your experience of that creative process and the mentoring, and if we’re talking about gifted joy or just joy, You know, and, and what it brings to our lives.

[00:28:26] Uh, any kind of words of advice there for parents in. Mm.

[00:28:34] Johannes Dreyer: I think it’s exactly like you said,

[00:28:35] Let’s not box it.

[00:28:36] You know,

[00:28:37] creativity isn’t necessarily someone who can draw an absolutely fantastic still life, or someone who can paint beautiful abstract stuff. Creativity is so much more than that.

[00:28:49] It is that,

[00:28:49] it’s that process of self-reflecting and

[00:28:52] kind of

[00:28:53] building confidence and then

[00:28:54] kind of

[00:28:54] problem solving as you do all of that.

[00:28:57] So yeah, I think that’s the first thing. It’s just, except that that’s, that’s part of our lives. We are, we’re all creative in some way,

[00:29:05] you know, even business people who are always like, Oh, I’m not, I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but they can negotiate big deals, which is creative. So, Yeah. I guess in terms of other, Things like parents shouldn’t be scared to kind of get down on their, you know, knees next to the kids.

[00:29:25] And I found something like particularly coloring. Is a really, especially with younger kids, although I do it with a lot of older people as well, for like more mindfulness stuff, but, And kind of like using gel pens and stuff like that. Yeah. But get involved to kind of lead by example. Kids love that interaction.

[00:29:44] And you’ll be surprised actually at how relaxing it is and how, and then that’s when that process starts. It’s as simple as coloring in a mandala. Yeah. Then you go, Oh wow, you know, that’s, You feel great. Especially when you can kind of detach from that, Oh, it has to look perfect, or it has to look like something.

[00:30:03] I always joke about this the way of the budha. There’s this detachment, like you just, you’re doing it for that time, that moment. You enjoy that process, and then you don’t worry about. Like, you don’t, you don’t worry about putting it out on the internet. Which is funny cuz that was one of my big issues when I was kind of really in the music industry because I didn’t have that drive to always wanna have my stuff out there.

[00:30:28] I’d just be like, Oh no, I’m, I’m happy to just have a, a folder with 6,000 songs. That’s okay. , you know, as, as you do. But yeah, so kind of just, just give it a go, you know, get involved. Have a play. I know, especially with a lot of parents around devices and apps and stuff, they wanna have a go themselves first.

[00:30:50] Yeah. So yeah. You know, just have a play. You, you might be surprised at how, how much fun you can have because it is so accessible. It really is, you know, easy and then researching, you know, if you dunno how to do something, get onto YouTube. So then again, we’re building life skills with the kids. Mm-hmm.

[00:31:07] like how do we actually research.

[00:31:09] Sophia Elliott: So, and as much as YouTube is the bane of my existence with my kids, it is a just a wonderful resource in terms of how do I do this? How do I do that? Like, it’s the best thing ever. Yeah. Absolutely. And I think you hear the nail on the head there when you mention perfectionism, especially with this audience,

[00:31:27] Yes. And, and that creative process is a great cure for perfectionism because it’s, you know, it’s, you have to kind of. Be a bit messy in the creative process. I think

[00:31:41] Johannes Dreyer: it is. It’s absolutely messy. And I think, and I always preach this when it comes to the music, like especially the, the music production and the electronic type music, the radio stations, and I’m not gonna name and shame them on here, , but you know, they always have this This vision of, or this thing that they portray of the people, you know, Oh, Susie has just picked up a piano and she was just like smashing some buttons and all of a sudden she’s got this hip song.

[00:32:06] But no, actually she’s been playing piano since she was three. She’s got like great whatever in, you know, classical piano, but that’s not. You know, Pardon, sexy. You know, it’s, it’s this thing of like, Oh, this person’s just burst out of the, you know, wherever and here they are. Oh no, they’ve actually been making music for a very long time and it’s as soon as we can change that thing.

[00:32:27] Cuz that’s exactly where this, so young people are seeing this, they’re getting those messages going, Oh wow. These people that I look up to manage to do it. You know, This is the second song they’ve ever written. No, it’s not. It’s really not. And that’s the, that way of just making stuff. The more you make, the better you’re going to get.

[00:32:48] And then yeah, just kind of, you know, really having, having fun with the process I think is very

[00:32:54] Sophia Elliott: important. Yeah, yeah. Definitely. Going with the process, that lovely creative process of, I, uh, always remember a, a weekend painting thing I did, and I was probably about 20. And the artist there who was, who’s taking us would say, Throw away your darlings.

[00:33:12] You know, in reference to those bits of the painting, whatever it is, the painting, the music, whatever, that you kind of love, but you’re afraid to touch because you’re like, I might mess it up. And it was kinda like, we’ll mess it up. You know, Don’t be afraid of making that mess and seeing where else it can go.

[00:33:31] And I always sort of, that always stuck in my head, just like, Mess it up. It’s okay. We’ll see where this goes. Yeah, which is my entire philosophy of this podcast, I have to

[00:33:41] Johannes Dreyer: say, . That’s perfect. It’s absolutely perfect.

[00:33:46] Sophia Elliott: Well, Johan, thank you so much for joining us for Gifted, Talented and Neurodiversity Awareness Week and talking about Gifted Joy.

[00:33:56] It brings me great joy to see my kids, uh, you know, creating that digital music and digital art with you. I might ask them if they’re happy to lend a little tune that we can put in this podcast as a bit of a segue here and there, which would be really lovely. But before we go, how can people find you?

[00:34:21] Who do you is. You’re here in Adelaide?

[00:34:25] Johannes Dreyer: I am in Adelaide, yes. So most of my clients I see face to face. I do have a couple that I see over Zoom and stuff, but yeah, I guess beat frequency.com au. It’s my website so you can reach me on there or my email is johan beat frequency.com au. If you wanna reach out, even if you have questions about software and gear to buy, I’m always happy to help people there.

[00:34:52] Yeah, it’s probably the best way to reach me. Awesome.

[00:34:56] Sophia Elliott: I’ll put all those links in the show notes. Everyone can find you. And just thank you once again for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure.

[00:35:03] Johannes Dreyer: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been awesome. .