Talent Igniter and Educational Options Websites Are Going Offline as of November 2, 2017

It is with a tinge of both sadness and exhilaration that I announce some endings and some new beginnings. Both of my websites will totally go offline in November. The Shopping Cart will shut down on Talent Igniter tomorrow, November 1, 2017. The Ruf Estimates, the Self-Esteem Tests for Children and Teens, and the Keys to Parenting PDF-book will not be available after that from this site or anywhere for the foreseeable future.

I am also closing down my Educational Options website because I will no longer accept and work with individual families going forward. My final client will be here this week on Thursday, one client more than I'd promised myself earlier in October.

This does not mean I am done writing, speaking, and contributing to the fields involved with meeting the needs of highly intelligent children and youth (and adults). I simply want more time to do the writing that will have a lasting benefit for readers even when I say my final good-bye. I have become extra interested in the social and emotional factors, especially the influences of parents and environment, on how we all end up doing in life. I've come to know way down to my bones that how emotionally healthy and stable our parents are makes a profound difference on how we'll be as adults and how we will do our own parenting. That's what I want to write and share about.

I will set up a blog site at some point and I'd love to find a way to make the Ruf Estimates available somehow going forward. I have no marketing skills (or interest) and no real way to set all that needs to be set up done, so if there's anyone reading this who'd like to look into how to make it happen, let me know!

Until then, I hope to see you all soon and over time.

Warmest regards and love,


Is Your Grandchild Maybe Gifted? How Can You Tell? - by Deborah Ruf, PhD

My own two grandchildren are now 7 and 4-1/2 years old. When I visit them, I am overwhelmed with curiosity and awe as I watch them soak up the world! As a high intelligence specialist who deals especially with unusually high levels of abilities, I am very aware that when I'm with just my grandchildren, I have very little idea of how they compare to other children their ages. I wrote this blog piece to help other grandparents (and aunties and uncles and parents, too, of course) to discover just where their own precious little ones fit in.

Many grandparents start to wonder if their grandchildren are unusually smart and if there's any way they can support the parents' nurture and handling of the blossoming child. It's likely that if both parents are pretty darned smart, their children will be, too. There is a strong genetic influence, after all! But, sitting down and doing school work before you start school, doesn't necessarily point to a future genius. But, figuring out what kinds of schooling and talent support a young child needs can go a long way toward facilitating the child's growth into all he or she can be. And grandparents can play a significant role in enabling that to happen.

First, any "signs" of intelligence must be viewed only as possible indicators that the child is unusually intelligent. They are not PROOF. Some children are highly intelligent and show fewer of these signs while they are still young. Some kids show many of these signs while young and are bright, but not unusually bright in every area. Being intellectually gifted doesn't necessarily mean or guarantee all kinds of achievement, high grades, success in school, or high paying jobs.

Here are some common signs or early indicators that you can look for and consider:

Alertness: Probably the leading indicator of giftedness in infants, toddlers and preschool aged children is their alertness. It is hard to assess or describe. Gifted children tend to stare intently at what people are saying or doing, they seem to be wise beyond their years even before they speak. They almost always understand what adults are talking about long before they actually start speaking themselves. This alertness leads to them soaking up everything around them whether you are directly trying to teach them or not.

Language development/high interest in language: This early development and ability generally indicates verbal giftedness, but since it is generally associated, as well, with the brain development of little girls being ahead of and different from little boys in the verbal domain, sometimes girls will be perceived as brighter than equally bright boys in the early years. The frequently more precocious verbal development of girls can confuse many adults about "how gifted" a girl is while leading to underestimates of "how gifted" a young boy is. When a little boy is very verbally advanced, though, it is a more reliable sign that he will ultimately prove to be intellectually, verbally gifted. The content of the child's vocabulary, the words they correctly use, the way they string together words to form complex meaning and sentences, is more an indicator of intellectual giftedness than is simply early or a lot of talking.

Motor skills development: Gifted babies and toddlers are more purposeful in their motor activities, perhaps, but it is a physical skill that makes them dextrous or really good at it at an early age. When a child sits up or begins to walk unassisted is not really all that related to intellectual level. Purposeful means that they, as infants, don't just "bat" at something held before them, but stare and actually try to reach for and grasp it. They "play" with objects, investigate them, turn them over and over, and taste them. In my own experience, gifted infants and babies learn very early not to taste things or "mouth" things that adults tell them not to put in their mouths. Some gifted kids become perfectionistic early on and won't try their motor skills (for an audience) before they feel they are quite good at it. This is another reason why not to get hung up on the demonstrations of motor skills as an indicator of intellectual precocity!

Perception (they're particularly perceptive): Gifted babies and toddlers are often described as being like little sponges. They soak up everything around them. They also remember what they've seen or heard or smelled and bring it up or connect to it later -- in the right context -- much to the surprise of the adults around them. All of this perception tends to be related to their particular talent areas, too, what they will eventually prove to have an enduring ability or interest in. This is all related to "engagement." Gifted kids are paying attention. (This rarely transfers to their school behavior, however, because for gifted kids, there is often very little to learn in the same-aged classroom with material and other kids who are simply "doing" and "being" something very different.)

Memory (a good memory): Fantastic memories for what falls within their interest and ability domains. They remember what you said and how you said it. They soak up what is read to them. They notice the routes you take and how to get places. They start "reading" store and street signs because they've put what they've already learned by paying attention and remembering into action. Gifted children's brains are ready to soak up material in their environment while they are younger than other children. This is why they are so advanced of others when they start school. This is why school is frustrating and boring unless the school is set up for children like them.

Good problem solving: Usually good at this, but it depends on the topic, especially for boys. Boys tend to be specialists and more single-minded than girls. This ability is why parents and teachers need to also be smart and stay one step ahead of gifted youngsters so as not to be outsmarted by them too often. You need to be prepared to be surprised. A child who quickly figures out how to put something together or make something work is showing dexterity, and often spatial reasoning, cause and effect reasoning, effective use of trial and error, and memory for what's worked before skills. A child who picks up vocabulary and tries it out on a regular basis is also showing problem-solving skills. This shows in the discussions and arguments about why they think they should be allowed to do this or that when they want to, for example.

All of these signs can occur earlier in exceptionally and profoundly gifted kids. Let me just say this, the more highly intelligent an infant is, the less likely you can leave him or her in a bouncy seat without interacting with him or her and expect him or her to be happy. Very bright infants demand attention and interaction, some call it stimulation but that's not a clear enough term in my opinion. If caregivers take the child on a walk and talk to adults or on their phone instead of interacting with their infant, they're making a huge mistake! The child isn't happy; the child is insulted; the child feels unimportant, and you're missing the chance to lead the child forward into the big, wonderful world of learning and engaging with others.

For more specifics about all of this, please read the article "How Smart Is My Child? Using the Ruf Estimates™ of Levels of Gifted", the first article under the Resources tab.

Tips for Homeschooling Abroad by Cassie Phillips, Guest Contributor 2016

Tips for Homeschooling Abroad

If you tend to travel often or have even decided to move abroad, homeschooling can be a great option for your family. It removes the burden from your children of frequently becoming “the new kid” in school and can allow you to have time to bond with your children while they get an education. It can also sometimes decrease the risk of your children becoming the targets of bullying, as you will be able to control the environment more than if they were attending public school. The downside of homeschooling is that there are often legal requirements that can make it a bit more difficult for you to get started right away. In some regions you may even be required to have a teaching certificate of some sort.

There are also a few other things to think about before and while you’re homeschooling your kids. Don’t let those dissuade you from doing so! Homeschooling can be a rewarding venture for both you and your children as long as you do your research before you begin putting your plan into motion. Here are some tips for homeschooling abroad that should be of great assistance to you on your journey:

How to Partial Home School: Quick Overview by Deborah Ruf, PhD ©2009

What is Partial Home Schooling?

Partial home schooling—which we can also describe as “emanating from the home schooling” or “the parent’s role as educational manager”—involves keeping the child in the regular school for part of the day and in some alternative educational situation the other part of the school day. While home schooling is currently legal in every state, the law does not generally anticipate partial home schooling, although it, too, is legal most states. In Minnesota, for example, is a law called “120B.20, Parental Curriculum Review,” which basically permits parents to provide what the school has not. The school’s permission is not required. Public tax support is still available to the school when a child is partial home schooled. Private schools do not generally reduce their fees if the child still attends part of the day, and the school’s permission is needed. The reason I recommend partial home schooling is to enable the family to provide learning experiences at the child’s own level and pace, and to keep the school aware that the school has not done so. If a family totally removes their child, the school system cannot experience that the child needed more than was being provided. Even if a parent is not “qualified” to teach, the child who still attends school part time will take regular standardized achievement tests and thereby prove that his achievement has been enhanced rather than damaged by the partial home schooling.

What Is An Intelligent Woman?

I wrote this article in 2008 and it was originally published in The Eleusis, the Alumna magazine for Chi Omega Sorority.

What is an intelligent woman? The answer depends on whom you ask and at what time in her life. I had many assumptions about my future when I was a Chi Omega at Ohio Wesleyan: become an elementary school teacher, marry, have children, and be a school principal while raising my family. My plans started well, but unexpected circumstances made my path less direct. Life is a journey and sometimes you change your mind about what you really want to do as you experience more of it. For intelligent women, as for anyone really, life is more satisfying when we get to follow our passions and use our abilities to their best. Whatever our intellectual profile, we are at our smartest when we do what we were designed to do.

Amanda Ripley's "The Smartest Kids in the World and how they got that way" - what do I think of it?

I recently read Amanda Ripley's "The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way" and was glad someone did this work. Yes, I knew that advocates for gifted children or advocates for teachers' unions would get their hackles up over many of the points that Ripley made. They might say that clearly she doesn't "understand" the needs of gifted children, blah-blah-blah. Clearly she doesn't understand how "unfair" it would be to keep "normal" people (i.e., those who weren't the best students themselves) out of teaching with her observation that schools must have the smartest and best trained teachers from the population if their students are to do well, become smart (i.e., live and learn up to their potential).

Is Your Grandchild Maybe Gifted? How Can You Tell?

Many grandparents start to wonder if their grandchildren are unusually smart and if there's any way they can support the parents' nurture and handling of the blossoming child. It's likely that if both parents are pretty darned smart, their children will be, too. There is a strong genetic influence, after all! But, sitting down and doing school work before you start school, doesn't necessarily point to a future genius. But, figuring out what kinds of schooling and talent support a young child needs can go a long way toward facilitating the child's growth into all he or she can be. And grandparents can play a significant role in enabling that to happen.

How to Get Your Child into Acting

Why would any intelligent, self-respecting parent consider acting as a reasonable way to go for their child? After all the horrible stories about how child actors were taken advantage of by their parents and the show business industry, children such as Judy Garland, Natalie Wood, Mickey Rooney, and Shirley Temple, many parents decline to consider acting as a viable talent area for their children. I wanted to sing on stage and movies and my parents decided together that this was not the way to go for their children. I called my dad just now to confirm this, and he admitted that he thought the whole family could have “made it” in show business but that the life of an actor would be too hard.

But, as my own children started school, I soon learned that they didn't “fit” very well. They already knew most of what was being presented during each school day, and it was especially upsetting and frustrating to one of them in particular. He asked if he couldn't give acting a try. As he said (at age 8 after watching a show being filmed in Los Angeles), “I could do this, Mom. Look into it.” So, his dad and I agreed that we would indeed look into it.

This was years ago, and none of my children is now a professional actor (that was never our goal), but I still tell some of my client families to try acting as a way to get their advanced learners into something more stimulating than elementary school. It did work quite well for my children (and one was actually a major character in 7 feature films) and they seemed to have “turned out” okay, too! And some acting jobs have the added benefit of earning the child money that can go toward other activities or college savings, too.

Why am I writing about this now? One client family recently emailed me and asked, “How do we do it?” So, as long as I was writing to them, I decided to share this information with you, too. Their child is a boy, so I’m using masculine pronouns here.

We live in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota. The primary talent agency we used was Moore Creative Talent: It’s still there and I not only recommend it, I suggest that people who live elsewhere use its website and description as somewhat of a template for what to look for in our own area. We didn't move to Hollywood and yet my kids did projects that took them to many locations around the country. It was good to be able to come home to “normal” in between. Besides, there are many levels of what you can do to make this a great experience. As you get started, see how it goes!

Here is how to go about exploring acting possibilities while keeping your mind on how to still be a good parent, not a stage parent and not a parent who wishes to live through your child’s successes. Don't spend a lot of money on this and unless you think a class offered by the talent agency is something your child would enjoy, don't waste your time. It doesn't improve his chances of being used or discovered. If the class is taught by a major person in the agency, it might help a little if he does a class and "shows" well while in it. If he shows bad attitude, boredom, or otherwise poor behavior, though, it will seal his fate in the wrong direction.

He needs to “sparkle” when someone talks to him while remaining natural and polite enough. Being on task and cooperative is a huge factor when working with kids. Being very smart helps add the sparkle. Being smart also makes the child more enjoyable for the adults he will work with and being smart makes him already crave interaction with adults more than with age mates.

When the agency asks for "headshots" you can go to a professional or do it yourself. I got some wonderful photos of my kids over the years when I went to a professional, but that really isn't necessary unless your child is already getting sent out for auditions on a regular basis. It won't help to get him his first audition. Browse the Moore Creative site to see how the kids look. This will help you to know how to photograph your child for this.

People needing an actor browse the site and if they like the look of someone, they ask to see more. The truth is, though, that from what I can tell, very few booking and casting people browse the online photos; they ask directly of the agency, "Who do you recommend for this?" Then they describe what they are looking for and expect the agency to send the right kids for auditions. So, can you see that your child needs to get on their radar as cooperative, having that "certain something", and also fitting the description the caster is looking for?

The order of what you can earn starting with lowest is print, and "background" actors, also referred to as "extras." They can do "doubles" work, walk on and stand-in work, too, which is somewhat boring, no glory, no respect, and no free access to snacks compared with the actual actors on a set. Some people do enjoy this kind of work, just being there, but it isn't for everyone.

Voice work is easiest for most gifted kids and pays surprisingly well. This is an especially good fit for young, early readers. You do it near home, all you do is read the script out loud, and the naturally young, and often imperfect, way a young child speaks makes it adorable. My youngest son didn't want to travel for acting (he saw how often his brother was out of town and didn't want that for himself), so when he got a role, he'd ask, “What do I have to do?” And when I told him he just had to read, that was perfect in his mind. “Voice” is for voice-overs in radio and television ads. If your child is good at it, he’ll be called back without even having to audition. My youngest got a great deal of voice work and even did a number of “national” ads without leaving town. Half an hour of actual work can pay well over $20K if it goes national, and several hundred to a thousand dollars for local. You’ll know ahead of time which kind of voice work you’re being offered.

Then, at the top, there is actual acting. Locally they use actors for training films, called "industrials," which can be good exposure and experience within the industry but not any fame or outside recognition. Commercials, either local (cheaper pay) or national (big pay, often ongoing) lead to more exposure and familiarity within the talent agency (lots of kids to choose from!) and can lead to being sent to auditions for more commercials and even major films.

I would not risk staying out of the union to make yourself seem more affordable and attractive to casting people. It lowers your cache and some people will simply take advantage of you. Acting unions really are there for a reason. People who want to get into show business would sell their souls for the opportunity were it not for the rules and laws the unions have set up to protect them from being exploited. It’s a good deal; sign up the first time your child lands a job.

Finally, don't force this. If your child really doesn't seem to be "into" it, it won't work. No one wants to see a child who is too contrived, always looking at the camera, etc. As an example of bad child acting, I think of “Gone with the Wind” and how little Bonnie Blue practically destroyed the movie all by herself. I find it hard to believe they couldn't come up with someone better.

Theater, especially community theater, is a great place for bright children to try their acting chops and interact with other bright and talented people of different ages. Very enjoyable. You don't usually get paid but you do get the fun of an audience applauding. It's a different kind of acting than film, more "out there." It takes real talent to be able to do both film and stage. It is a wonderful venue for a gifted child to be among adults who are professional and kind and appropriate. Locally, here in the Twin Cities, I recommend auditioning for a child’s role at Children's theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, and so on. When you do any of these things, you will meet other parents who will tell you about even other options and opportunities.

Some schools have wonderful theater programs, too. All of these are great ways for bright children to get out of a school situation that really isn't working for him or her (because it's at grade level rather than at your child's level), and our state laws in Minnesota would call missing school for acting as falling under MN statute "Parental Curriculum Review", and qualify as a form of partial home schooling. Bright kids have no trouble making up missed school work until things finally get challenging by the high school years. Film acting requires that a school-aged child must have three hours of tutoring a day, and tutoring is always at the child’s level and pace --- not based on age or grade (which anyone who knows me knows that I'm all for teaching the child what he or she is ready for).

My kids did a lot of acting in their school programs all the way through college and loved it. But they made money on voice and commercials and films. There are many kids whose parents would never get their kids involved or push them into this sort of work, so the field of available child talent isn't as deep with talent as casters would like. If your child manages to catch their eye ... it could be a lot of fun. If he doesn't catch their eye (and casting and talent agents do have good eyes for talent), take it as a good hint that it probably isn't a good course of action for your family. Talent agents and casting agents will not artificially flatter; they don't have to. They don't want to get the hopes up of all these people who really aren't all that good.

I hope this is helpful. I do have several past clients who got into theater but if any one got truly far in voice or film, they didn't get back to me yet.

I think it's worth exploring.

Have fun!

A Little Background on Deborah Ruf, Author of the Ruf Estimates Kids IQ Test

Why did I think it a good idea to develop an online assessment to determine "how gifted" young children are? Why does that matter? And, what kind of person is trying to give parents this kind of guidance? Personally, I would want to know where a person is coming from before I took their advice. My YouTube video ( explains it, but what do I really think and believe?

I'm often asked, "What first got you involved in working with gifted children?"

I got involved working with gifted children in much the same way a lot of us specialists did: I became a parent. I originally trained as an elementary school teacher, but until I had children of my own I really didn’t know what the needs of gifted children were. As my children started school, I learned that they each had different needs, different ways of coping with what they encountered in school, and they each required different kinds of attention and support both at home and at school. So I decided to get a doctorate in educational psychology so that I could learn more about what intelligence is, where it comes from, and how it affects people. I only started working with gifted children professionally when my own children were leaving the nest.

I am no longer accepting new clients. I want more time for writing, working on public policy changes in education, and product development that will help families and educators recognize and meet the needs of highly intelligent individuals.

I am also often asked this question: "What do you feel is primary: the social, emotional, or cognitive needs of the gifted?"

When my own children started school, I was primarily concerned about their cognitive needs related to academics. I wanted them to be challenged in school and to learn to their capacity, not limited by grade-level expectations. I realize now that these three attributes you mention are equally important. Social and emotional needs cannot be met if we ignore academic and cognitive needs. When we support the gifted child with appropriate intellectual stimulation and academic pacing, the child often finds him- or herself among true peers and their social and emotional needs are more likely to be met. It is when we do not fit in with the group with whom we spend the majority of our time that we can feel awkward, lonely, and generally out of sorts.

I have a way to explain what I mean by ‘‘true peers’’: One thing I tell parents is that, if we were to stretch out the IQ continuum to its original 200+ points (as on the old Stanford– Binet, Form L–M scale), we find that the average IQ distance between two people who marry each other or become soul-mate best friends is only 12 points on that 200-point scale. Beyond that distance in intellectual capacity, people don’t often get each other’s jokes or find themselves on the same ‘‘wave-length.’’ They feel lonely and misunderstood. In the typical classroom that is based on age rather than readiness to learn, there is usually an IQ range (using that old ‘‘mental age’’ compared with chronological age of the 200 IQ point range) of more than 100 points. The children in the average range (where the majority lie) find it fairly easy to find true peer friendships, people who get their jokes and share their interests. For children who are in the very high or low ranges of thinking and problem-solving ability, there are fewer children like them, fewer children who share their humor or their interests. It’s harder to find someone else who is like you if you are too unusual in your own capacity or talent.

I also tell parents that, when they select summer classes from various university programs for young gifted students, not only is the range of ability narrowed, but choice of project narrows the peer-group further. When we choose something based on our own interests and readiness for a topic, we find that the other kids who signed up did the same thing!

Often, children aren’t identified as gifted until they’re in their teens. This leads to many problems, in my opinion. Sadly, a great deal of emotional, social, and academic damage has already been done if a gifted child is identified late. For example, many of these kids have learned to underachieve—they learn to accept the slower, easier work and pace and learn less than they could have and should have—and have a very distorted view of themselves and their abilities. The common quote ‘‘Even though he’s smart, he hasn’t amounted to anything’’ is always about someone whose needs weren’t met. And yet we blame the individual instead of the system that let him or her down. A lot of very sad adults contact me about their own ‘‘wasted’’ or ‘‘confused’’ experiences and lives. I highly recommend Douglas Eby’s websites on adult giftedness and the issues surrounding wasted talent:

So, my hope is to write a follow-up book, a sort of "Where are they now?" for my 5 Levels of Gifted book (, wherein I revisit the 78 children profiled throughout the high ability range to see how things are going for them after ten years. These were all children whose families had worked with me, so their parents knew the children were gifted and what they needed in order to thrive. Let's see what happened.

I also want very much to write a book about gifted adults. Too many adults weren't ever definitively identified during their school years and struggled mightily to understand who they were. Am I smart? Am I not smart? Is there something wrong with me? If I'm so smart, why isn't my life going better?

What Is the Best IQ Test to Test "How High" an Adult's IQ is?

I am a high intelligence specialist and I have a background in test & measurement and am currently working on normative sampling for updated IQ tests here in the US.

Here's my opinion on why it is very difficult - if not impossible - to develop an IQ test for the smartest adults: Once people are adults, experience, exposure (opportunity), education, and ability to focus on mastering something become inextricably intertwined with pure intellectual factors and comparisons become less about relative intelligence and more about who wishes to study for or "game" a test.

My own work has focused on discerning levels and profiles of intelligence in the very young, children six and under, because interests and developmental milestones are still largely un-tampered with (relatively speaking) and as most parents know, it is difficult to teach something to a very young child if the child isn't interested;-) What we discover by looking at these early interests and developmental milestones is that we can indeed estimate where a child will eventually test on the intellectual continuum (IQ range) and what this child is likely to need at school, at home, and in social and emotional relationships and interactions in order to thrive, be emotionally healthy, and end up being nicely productive and happy.

This early "diagnosis" of high intelligence doesn't necessarily translate into adult success or degrees or credentials, but the underlying factors remain and most people who know such an adult realize the person is phenomenally smart even though (perhaps) unsuccessful or a failure in common terms. Early diagnoses that don't result in proper support (at home, at school, within social circles) can still doom a highly intelligent child to a very unsatisfying and unproductive life despite any innate intelligence he or she might possess.

So, the perfect high IQ test for high ability adults? I don't think there is or can be such a thing until we simply can connect electrodes or fMRIs to somehow assess purely how one brain functions compared to another. And, I ask, why is this so important really? If the diagnosis isn't to help with better understanding what a person is capable of learning, how a person manages social adjustment, finding friends, etc., then why is it an important thing to measure? I'm open to hearing good answers that I may not have considered.

Since it does run in families, you can do what so many of us in this field have done: find out how smart your own biological children or grandchildren are (get them tested or fill out the online Ruf Estimates Kids IQ Test on this website) and make a good estimate from that. If you have a phenomenally intelligent child, you're likely to be at least moderately gifted and probably highly gifted yourself. If you do look at my 5 Levels of Giftedness materials, you can pretty much assume that you are within one level higher or lower than your children or the average of your children. One family can have a range of about three levels and still be completely normal. But it simply isn't likely that you could have a Level Four child and not be at least a Level 2 intellect yourself. So interesting.

Personally, I think the most important reason to know any of this is to find out if you are too different or unusual for some of the people you're trying to please, work with, get along with. If they don't get your jokes, it may not be because something is wrong with you;-)

Teaching Social Skills to Young Gifted Children: Why & How

By Deborah L. Ruf, PhD

Children, even very bright children, don’t automatically know what socially acceptable behavior is. We need to teach them. How do we do this without crushing their spirits or forcing them to conform to a system that doesn’t seem to fit them? These are questions I hope to answer in this article.
As an educational consultant, I work with many families who have young gifted children. Beyond needing “proof” that their child is gifted, many parents often simply want to know: “Is my child unusual?” “Is my child okay?” “Is my child odd or weird?”
Because the vast majority of the children with whom I work are in the moderately to profoundly gifted range intellectually, my experience and exposure to a large number of such children makes it easier for me to tell whether or not a child really does need some help in becoming more socialized and more able to interact effectively with others. It is important to prepare our children for navigating social waters before they start preschool or kindergarten. If your child is to have a good experience in group settings, social behaviors are best learned first at home. Such experience and instruction should not be left to groups of children and teachers in the school setting. And, no, having a lot of curiosity or a very active brain is still no excuse for bad behavior. But, what’s bad or worrisome behavior and what’s normal, developmental and okay?

What Are Social Skills?
Whether gifted or not, a well-behaved child is nice to be around.
According to Pearson Education, Inc. in a description of its Social Skills Improvement System (Elliott, 2007), examples of social skills are included within the broad categories of communication and engagement, cooperation, self-control, responsibility and empathy.
Generally speaking, when we talk about social skills, we usually mean skills that enable children to get along with others, especially children in their own age group. But, in reality, a five-year-old child doesn’t learn good social skills from other five-year-olds. Children learn social skills from people who already have social skills: adults. Social skills include things like saying please and thank you, taking turns, being quiet when someone else is speaking, not making odd or distracting noises, and showing respect by paying attention when someone is talking to the group or to us.

How It All Starts – the Early Years
When it’s our own child, sometimes we aren’t sure that the expectations of others are “right” for our child. After all, our child talks a lot, interrupts adults, and is bubbling over with curiosity and enthusiasm because he (or she) is gifted! Maybe no one has actually said yet that our child is gifted, but parents usually know if their child is advanced of others the same age. And many people have complimented us, and expressed amazement, for these very qualities in our child. But as our child has gotten older, many of us have also noticed that some people seem annoyed or competitive with our child.
What’s going on here? How do we know what’s normal for most children their age and what’s more normal – and perhaps a little different – for gifted children? Where do some of these normal things—behaviors and traits—overlap? Does the child’s behavior fall within a socially acceptable range despite his or her advanced cognitive and verbal skills? The truth is that, at the very least, a gifted child needs to be taught how to share, take turns, and not touch things that don’t belong to him or her without asking first, no matter how curious the child. Others aren’t likely to give a child a “pass” just because he or she is gifted and this is normal behavior for gifted children.

How does it happen that some parents get lulled into believing their child is okay while others see their child as “full of himself” or “a show-off” or “spoiled”? Early, adult-like speaking abilities, curiosity and memory – sponge-like learning, many parents say – are common among young gifted children. Quite naturally and understandably, this precocity is often a source of great pride, interest, and delight for the parents. The children become very accustomed to our attention and delight, and in many cases, gifted children pick up on just what it is we like about their behaviors. We like how quickly they learn. We like when they use big words, start to recognize words in books and on store fronts, are good with puzzles or music or numbers. We like when they show us their excellent memories for details and events. Many of us can’t help but exclaim enthusiastically, “Good job!” whenever they do something well or pleasantly unexpected. Children repeat what works well for them.

But other people have children, too. They are also delighted with their own children. Few of them wish to hear endlessly from you or your child about what he can do or what she knows. Many a bright child starts to “show off” by repeating behaviors that have consistently brought praise in the past. Even grandparents can begin to show disdain for what they perceive as “spoiling” behaviors on the parents’ part. Can it be that all of these people just don’t understand?
Social Skills Can Make a Big Difference from the Very Beginning
As with all children, when gifted toddlers grow into gifted preschoolers, their behavior more and more affects how others react to them. And sometimes we don’t know what to do to help them navigate these tricky social waters. We don’t want to discourage their curiosity or their delight in sharing their abilities, but we need to teach them how to take turns, get along with others, follow the group rules, and gain an awareness of the needs and expectations of others.
What happens if we don’t teach these skills to young gifted children before they even start school? Preschool and primary grade teachers work with many children at once. They haven’t the time in these group settings to direct individual children in general group cooperation and behaviors; indeed, they hope that parents have already done the primary job of socializing their children prior to school entrance.
How can we help these children maintain their growing confidence and skills while at the same time discourage any sense on their part that they will and must be the center of attention?

Early speech – especially verbally precocious speech – can quickly become problematic for others. When a young child is so curious that he or she prefers to wander around a new space touching and picking things up rather than sitting quietly in a circle for group story time, that, too, can become an issue for others.
Talking Too Much, Interrupting, Needing to be the Center of Attention
When our babies are born, they are strangers to us at first. But not for long! We talk to them, focus on them, imitate their sounds, and stare at them—right into their beautiful eyes. We delight in their first words. It’s a rare parent who is too busy to pay attention to their toddler at this stage of development. But somewhere along the line we get busy and expect them to entertain themselves and learn independence. How parents handle that “busy” part can have a great influence on whether or not children can take their turn in a conversation, not interrupt, and get better and better at summarizing what they have to say. They can even learn—without having their self-esteem wounded—how to save what they have to say or ask until a better time. They can learn, too, that not every thought requires a vocalization. The following stories show a number of ways that children’s precocious speech can go from charming to annoying.

What Does It Look Like?
A former gifted child, Mary Ellen, now watching her own grandchildren grow and develop, remembered this story from childhood:
“On a car ride home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I regaled my parents with a re-telling of the movie we had seen while there, “The Shaggy Dog.” The trip from Sandusky to Warrensville Heights was about 80 miles and we still didn’t have freeways. I finished my ‘retelling’ by the time we got home. My being gifted with an amazing memory shouldn’t have led to my being allowed to monopolize the car trip for the whole family that way, but I think my parents weren’t sure what to do! Should they stop me and possibly hurt my feelings? Were they so amazed and proud of their bright daughter that it didn’t occur to them to stop me? How must my two younger brothers have felt as they got no chance at all to speak on the whole trip?”

It wasn’t much better at the dinner table each night. Dad apparently thought I was adorable, which is good in some ways, but Mom knew my brothers needed a chance to hold Center Stage from time to time, as well. She didn’t prevail very often. This didn’t serve me—or my brothers—well at all going forward. I didn’t always talk too much, but often enough throughout my life that it took quite a bit of work on my part to learn differently.”
Another family had a middle child, Stephen, who—from a very early age—not quite three—loved to keep score at different sporting events like basketball or bowling. His father became so enthralled with this son’s ability that he loved nothing better than to take him to games and let others hear his brilliant son add up the scores, know what each move meant, and generally learn to “perform” for others as a way of getting positive attention for himself and his father. Before too long, his brothers refused to go along for any of these outings because they felt—and were—over-shadowed by their brother. Eventually, the brothers opted not to play most family games, either, because their efforts were seldom noticed as all-that-great.

A third family has only one child so far, Stephanie, who is not quite four years old. Several of their friends are also parents now and the couples wish to get together to see each other and to give their children time to get to know each other and play together. Stephanie doesn’t want to be with the other children for long because she finds the adult conversation more interesting. She actually is a very good talker and her parents notice right away that their child is advanced in this regard from their friends’ children. They’re torn between forcing their daughter to go back to the other children and letting her show off her skills to the adult friends.
Another familiar scenario is that of a parent trying to talk undisturbed on the phone. Elizabeth, like most children, often jumps up from whatever she is doing in order to ask her mother for attention. The adult conversation becomes impossible to conduct. The person on the other end of the phone has to wait while mother corrects or distracts or bribes Elizabeth to let her finish her conversation. Or, even worse, mother often allows Elizabeth to talk on the phone, too, and expects the adult friend to play along.

There are many more examples, of course, of how verbally precocious young children apparently see nothing wrong with talking too much or at the wrong times.
Gifted children usually like to talk a lot once they know how. Admiring, excited (proud) parents are often unwilling to thwart their precocious, adorable youngsters. Many have told me that their friends just don’t understand that their child is advanced and curious and actually needs to be with older children or adults to have a good time. They’re bored with children their own age. Parents tell me that some of their friends seem to be jealous and competitive and their relatives think their child is spoiled. In other words, these other adults just don’t seem to understand and say—or imply—their child needs to learn to get along with others his or her own age.
Is the behavior in these stories normal? Yes. Is it okay? No, but it won’t disappear or get better on its own. You need to teach and demonstrate appropriate social skills. You also need to monitor when your child simply is not ready for some social situations yet.

What Can Parents and Care-takers Do?
Parents must diligently and consistently work on explaining how to take turns, how to wait until another has finished talking, how to find something else to do so as not to intrude on adult conversation, and demonstrate a willingness on their own part to do the same. Good parenting requires attention to the child.
This comes down to how to teach children about “delay of gratification.” Watch this more recent video of what I mean: The Marshmallow Experiment. Although the original study from 1960 concluded that children who can delay gratification and wait patiently for a promised reward, is related to later performance on SATs, I believe it has as much to do with how parents “prime” the child as it does about the child’s intellectual abilities. When a parent tells the child, “I will have time to listen to you in 15 minutes,” the child will learn to wait until the timing is better. The key is to be consistent and truthful. This is a contract with the child and how the adult performs makes a huge difference. This is not distraction. You cannot distract a gifted child from going after what he or she wants!

My favorite recommendation for my clients is the 1964 parenting book by Rudolf Dreikurs, Children the Challenge. In it he gives many examples of how to establish expectations and behaviors with children that are consistent and non-punitive. The primary difference between parenting gifted children compared to more typical children is one of degree. For gifted children, they are ready for explanations and discussions about things sooner than most age peers. Their self-esteem benefits, too, when their parents and other adults treat them as though they are deserving and worthy of some reasons behind any rules or expectations. I don’t mean they can question everything every time but that they’ll more easily become part of any solutions when they understand why it’s a good idea for one and all.
Gifted children absolutely need their parents to be authority figures, the ones in charge. This makes children feel safe and secure. It is very normal, however, for children to test their limits and try many ways to gain control themselves. The truth, though, is that no matter how smart a child, he or she is still a child. Gifted children don’t have wisdom or perspective. Parents should never assume that if the child is so smart, he or she should be able to figure things out on his or her own. It simply doesn’t happen! For more information on this topic, I recommend A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children (2007). In it, the authors describe parenting types and why an authoritative approach to parenting is the best approach.

What about teaching your very young child how to get along with others his or her own age? Before age five, hardly any child is developmentally ready to peacefully and cooperatively play with others who are the same age. Adult supervision and guidance are needed. Sometimes the other children don’t share overlapping skills or interests and your child isn’t mature enough yet to work it out. Parallel playing is typical for most children before age three. This means that they may occupy the same space but aren’t really playing with each other. A gifted child is likely to have ideas about how the playing should go and when another child won’t listen, show interest, or cooperate with your child’s plan, pre-planning by parents is helpful. It may be a better solution to make sure there are enough interesting toys or play-things available, things that will draw the attention of your child and seem special to him or her. Such a strategy enables him or her how to spend time alone in the group while the other children play at something else.

Prepare your child for mixed-age groups ahead of time. “We’re going to visit Mommy and Daddy’s friends, Martha and Paul, and little Naomi. Remember her? While the grown-ups talk to each other and visit, you kids can either play something together or you can each play something alone that you like, but this will be a time that children and parents won’t talk together until it’s dinnertime.” Then make sure you’ve planned ahead with the other parents about what the children might like to do that will keep them busy, happy, and not leave them feeling they aren’t welcome or important to this social event.

Furthermore, until you’ve seen that your child is comfortable and enjoys the company of your friends’ children, don’t leave them to their own devices to figure out what to do, how to share, and how to keep themselves busy without bothering the adults. After age two, it’s a wonderful plan to select something – a children’s movie or television show—the children will enjoy watching for 30 minutes or so as part of the special thing that is just for them on this occasion.
If there is a beach or sandbox or playground, keep in mind that you will need to be more interactive and attentive with the children than if you are all inside. It’s not fair or appropriate to expect your young child not to interrupt you or ask for help or attention at the playground while you talk to the other adults. As your child matures and is able to be safely more independent—over five years old might be a reasonable starting point for that—then you can discuss ahead of time whether or not you’re going so the two or three of you can spend time together or you’re going so you can talk to other adults while your child plays.

You cannot teach your child how to delay gratification—wait for a better moment to talk to you and expect a positive response—if you’re inconsistent. Don’t have the first time he hears, “Can’t you see I’m talking to Margaret? Don’t interrupt!” as the first step in your instruction. From a very early age you should set up opportunities to practice what you want your child to know about social situations and when it’s okay to talk.

Many people have seen the scenario where the child has been told to say, “Excuse me,” and then barges ahead into the conversation as though the “excuse me” were enough. If you tell your child to say “Excuse me,” when he interrupts, you’ve basically told him it’s still okay to interrupt. It generally isn’t! It’s annoying at the very least, and ends up being confusing to the child when the adult reaction ultimately becomes one of irritation. You have to tell the child how to navigate these tricky waters. Then you have to do your part.

Demonstrate what you mean. Here’s an example of what a father might say to his daughter.
“Mandy, you know how when Momma talks on the phone to Grandma it can take a long, long time? Sometimes I need to ask her something or tell her something but I don’t want to interrupt her. Maybe I need to go outside to turn off the water in the garden but I want her to know that she needs to watch you and your brother while I’m gone. That’s a good reason to interrupt. I’ll say, “Excuse me. May I tell you something quickly?” And then I’ll wait for her to tell Grandma to wait a moment, and I’ll tell Momma what I need to tell her.”

Okay, so far so good. Sometimes, what we or our children want to say isn’t really important; we just want someone to listen to us, or we want to share a thought. You can actually work with a gifted child as young as three years old by using reasoning and examples in a natural way over many months. Here’s another time Dad is talking to Mandy:
“Mandy, when is it okay to interrupt someone?”
“When you want to tell them something and you say excuse me.”
“Well, sometimes you might want to tell them something but you could wait and tell them later. Let’s play a game about when it’s okay to interrupt and when it’s better to wait.” Then give your child familiar examples and show pleasure and approval as she learns which things warrant an interruption. One example of ‘not okay to interrupt’ is, “I finished two puzzles.” An example of ‘okay to interrupt’ is, “I can’t turn the water off and it’s coming over the sides of the sink!”
Be sure you give your children enough attention and feedback that they know you’ll eventually pay direct attention to them. If you’re in the middle of a phone conversation, or you have three children with you at the dinner table, or you’re trying to talk to the clerk in the grocery store, tell your child, “Not right this minute, Sammy, but when I’m through paying for the groceries I’ll be ready to listen to you.” Then, just in case the interruption had something to do with what’s going on in the store, try to address Sammy’s verbal – and perhaps emotional – needs before you leave the building!

If there are several children vying for your attention at the same time, carefully observe giving turns and attention. I often recommend to parents that they split up their children for errands so each one gets more opportunities for adult attention without sibling interruption. Parents often worry if their children don’t seem to all get along well together that something is wrong. If that truly is the case—and it’s certainly not unusual or anyone’s fault—don’t force them into situations that clearly bring out the worst in their interactions. Eating dinner together is the best approach for setting ground-rules on talking and listening, table manners, and patience while another has his or her turn talking because both parents are there supervising and making sure things go as they should. In most families, that may indeed be enough. As the children mature (and this may not occur until they’re practically grown up!) they will at least know how to be civil to one another if you’ve set these behaviors into practice from a very early age.

Another issue is sensitivities. Some children are very sensitive to what may sound to them like criticism. This won’t be a problem, though, once you have consistently taken the time to teach your children that there are times when we need to wait to talk, but we will all get our turn at attention.
Keep in mind that how you talk to your gifted young child can greatly affect their self-concept, confidence and trust. Some statements are shaming; they make the child feel guilty and wrong and blamed. For example, “You know better than that!” is not the same as saying, “Now, Jamie. You know that when I am speaking with another adult, you need to use what we talked about to decide if you should wait or politely interrupt by saying excuse me.” Or, “Jamie, you’ll get your turn to tell your story about what you did today after your sister has finished her turn.” These are gentle reminders rather than criticisms or rebukes. Then, if your child persists or whines or starts to throw a fit, excuse yourself from the conversation you were in, remove your child to another room or area, have the conversation about waiting, do not listen to their own story at this time, give the child a hug and kiss, and go back to your own conversation. Keep in mind that this will rarely happen if you’ve been setting up the expectations consistently along the way.

In the case of rapid or advanced learners, however, their parents are often unaware of what their children will encounter once they begin school, so they might not realize what skills their children will need once they start their official schooling. It is important to be liked by others and welcomed into their groups. It’s obvious that it is important to the child’s self-concept and self-esteem, but recent research underscores additional value of popularity for a person’s lifetime, not just the present.
If they haven’t been prepared ahead of time, and the parents haven’t found a school setting where the child is fairly typical rather than one of the most advanced learners in the classroom, the gifted child will take a social “hit” very quickly. Why is this so?

The School Setting
School is somewhat of an artificial setting in that it is the only period in our lives where we are expected to spend most of our time with people in our precise age range. Prior to the 20th century, education wasn’t set up that way. Most children were either in a one-room schoolhouse type of setting or were tutored at home or by itinerant teachers. For gifted children, being grouped with others of the same age who are mostly of widely differing academic skills and abilities, it is extra challenging to figure out how to “get along” with the other children and “go along” with instruction and pacing that is quite often well below what they are ready to do.
David Lohman, author of the Cognitive Abilities Test, tells us that in the typical American mixed-ability 1st grade classroom, there are already 12 grade equivalencies of achievement within the group of children in the class. This is before official academic instruction has begun. As amazing is the research and compilation of research done by Francois Gagne stating unequivocally that there is an achievement gap related to ability that actually “fans” out – gets larger – over the time students are in school.

Although many people assume it is primarily the quality of the home environment or excellence of some preschool programs, there is more to this range of achievements than differing early childhood exposure. As work with my Developmental Milestones and eventual correlation with actual tested IQ results have shown, gifted learning capacity and behavior simply begin earlier in the brains of gifted children. They start absorbing from their environment, and continue to build upon their early learning, sooner than children whose brains develop later. [For more on this, see chapter 3 of my book, 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options (2005) (formerly titled Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind) and be sure to read the Endnote #5 from Chapter 4 about the effects of Sesame Street, as an example].

Children’s brains absorb from their surroundings as their brains are ready to absorb; you can’t make it happen significantly sooner through pushing experiences upon children before they are ready. As I tell my clients, premature introduction of information is like so much “white noise” to a young child whose brain is simply not ready to hear it and understand it. If all the children in the typical first grade classroom began school together as two or three-year-olds, this would not meaningfully change the ultimate range of learning abilities within the group.

All of these thinking and learning differences have significant social implications, as well. People who are in the same intellectual range as we are tend to share more interests with us and also tend to get our jokes. When children are too intellectually different from their classmates, they can find it difficult to find good friends or social acceptance. This is one of the reasons so many gifted children gravitate more toward their teachers than to classmates. The teacher’s maturity level makes it more likely he or she will “get” the child’s humor and understand the child’s observations and advanced speech.

Advanced sense of humor is a common descriptor of gifted learners. Classmates simply may not be there yet, not intellectually mature enough yet, to understand the gifted child’s humor. The gifted child will say something in class that she thinks is funny, and it will fall flat. As I gave this example to a couple during a follow-up consultation, the mother said, “Oh, my! I remember a time when I was in 6th grade and a classmate took me aside and told me, ‘Alice, I know you think you’re funny, but you’re not.’ I was alarmed, shamed. Here I thought I was funny and she was telling me no one else thought so. How embarrassing. Now it makes some sense.”

Other classroom adjustment issues crop up, including the gifted child bragging or showing off, being dismissive of classmates who are slow to catch on, knowing when and where competition is appropriate, gaining awareness of other people’s needs and viewpoints, and developing methods for meeting one’s own needs based on circumstances.

Again, the most valuable book I have found that gives specifics on many of these issues is the very old Children the Challenge, by Rudolf Dreikurs. Although there are many other books and articles that tell you what gifted children are like, I haven’t discovered any that get this specific about scenarios and how to react and act that are this helpful.

If your child is fortunate enough to fit the social group in his or her classroom, as in a gifted magnet school or any school where families have a great deal in common, then little advocacy for “more” or “different” will be necessary. But if the child is so intellectually different and advanced that neither the school work nor classmates can meet the academic, intellectual and social-emotional needs of your child, you’ll need to advocate for different opportunities for your child.
Remember what I said at the beginning?

“Whether gifted or not, a well-behaved child is nice to be around.” People won’t generally give annoying or poor behavior “a pass” just because the child is so special, so gifted.

If parents haven’t effectively taught their children social skills like the ones discussed in this article, teachers have a hard time discerning whether or not the child is simply spoiled, pampered, and self-centered or truly needs changes to be made on his or her behalf. Primary grade teachers focus on social skills and social adjustment. If the gifted child hasn’t learned ahead of time to wait turns, share, find something to do alone, be kind to those who take more time to catch on, and so on, the teacher is unlikely to see this bad behavior as being caused by boredom or lack of interesting learning.

A gifted child who already has fairly good social skills upon arriving in the early grade classroom will engender far more positive interest and cooperation from school personnel when parents go in for that first conference on what the child needs in order to thrive. And, as it turns out, your child will already know how to be patient and work with you on any solutions.

Dreikurs, R. (1964). Children the challenge: the classic work on improving parent-child relations—intelligent, humane, and eminently practical. Hawthorne Books. Now Plume. Check how to do this.
Elliott, S. N. (2007). Social Skills Improvement System. Pearson Education, Inc.
Galeotti, A., Mueller, G., & Stephen Pudney. (2012). Popularity, working paper 18475 at
Lohman, D. F. (1999). Minding our p’s and q’s: On finding relationships between learning and intelligence. In Ackerman, P. L., Kyllonen, P. C., & Roberts, R. D. (Eds.), Learning and individual differences: Process, trait, and content determinants (pp. 55–76). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Ruf, D. L. (2005, 2009). 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
Ruf, D. L. (2001, 2009) Developmental Milestones. Intake form for clients of Educational Options.
Ruf, D. L., & Kuusisto, L. A. (2010). Keys to successfully parenting the gifted child ebook. Minneapolis:
Webb, J. T., Gore, J. L., Amend, E. R., & DeVries, A. R. (2007). A parent’s guide to gifted children. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.

Founder and Director of Educational Options in Minneapolis, MN, and President of the online gifted entity, Deborah Ruf holds a PhD in Educational Psychology. She authored the book 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options (2009) (formerly titled Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind, 2010), and created the online Ruf Estimates of Levels of Gifted Online Assessment©, a tool that gives parents a head start on what their children will need in school. Winner of Mensa Research Foundation’s Intellectual Benefits Award, Dr. Ruf works professionally as a specialist in gifted assessment and individualized interpretations and guidance for gifted children and adults.

How can we group flexibly and not just by age?

Someone responded thoughtfully to my question about grouping children by age: Is that best educational practice? Here's what she wrote:

"In a perfect world, every child would be taught individually, with a focus on meeting his/her needs in all areas, whether challenge or support is needed. However, school is also a socializing agency, and socialization is an important area of development. Your question brought to mind gifted children being grouped for socialization skills with much younger children, as well as 11 and 12 year old LD children being taught with 5 year old average students and 2-3 year old gifted students.

Although grouping by age is not "best practice," I think we need to take into account how each student learns in each area. A gifted 3rd grader may start out one year at the same level in a subject as the average 8th grader, but the gifted child will likely learn the material more quickly and easily than the average 8th grade student, creating a gap again. Multi-age grouping was a huge trend 20-25 years ago and could be promising in this respect; but even then, we would run into the same issues. Differentiation still needs to occur within any educational setting because no two children -gifted, average, or learning disabled- are the exactly the same.

I'm not sure what the answer is; Research has shown that homogeneous grouping for lower and average abilities is not best practice. However, research has also recommended it for gifted children.

I currently have a classroom of 22 students; I have 2-3 gifted students, as well as 2-3 students who are LD or developmentally delayed. One of the gifted students is at the same social development level as one of the disabled students.Would it be easier for me to teach if all the students were the same? Yes. Would I prefer it that way? No. Part of the joy of teaching, to me, is getting to know each student as an individual; part of the challenge of my job is trying to meet each student's needs.

In answer to your question, age-grouping is not best practice, but which alternative(s) are better?"

Here are my additional thoughts in response:

Thanks for your response, Maria. I appreciate it and I'm sure others will, too. Yes, I taught under similar circumstances at one time. The simplistic answer, sort of a vision of mine, is that we'd have one big interactive campus for any school district's area. All the experts and all the subjects K -12 are being taught there. We set it up so that children get to go to what they are ready to learn is already being taught. There would be people responsible for moving children to the right places at the right times and keeping them safe and on track, as well. We'd have flexible grouping of the same sort for games, sports, arts, lunch time, play ground, and different interests. This would meet the social and emotional skill levels as well as the academic and intellectual levels. We'd have people from the community putting in a certain amount of their time, too, and serving as mentors, tutors, guides, and someone to talk to. *sigh* We can dream, eh? There was a highly gifted program system in the Seattle area at one time that did a lot of this but it was still confined to gifted level children. I agree with you that we need a broader spectrum of learners interacting with one another in natural ways that center around their interests and what needs to get done.

Part 2: Brief Review of the Literature on Self-actualization and Moral Development

Self-actualization basically means living up to one’s potential. Although this research began with the view that “living up to one’s potential” means that persons have achieved intellectual and career success while also achieving inner satisfaction and emotional well-being, it became apparent that some achieve inner satisfaction and a sense of emotional well-being without achieving overt career or financial success. Some attain career, intellectual, or financial success but never find a sense of inner satisfaction and emotional well-being. Self-actualization is “high levels of responsibility, authenticity, reflective judgment, empathy for others, autonomy of thought and action, and self-awareness” (Nelson 1989, p. 8). Here, a distinction is made between two types:
1. Identity formation without going through a developmental crisis. “Successful” people – those who fulfill the role of good, law-abiding, and socially responsible members of their society – meet the traditional description of self-actualized individuals (Peck and Havighurst 1960; Piechowski 1989).
2. Those people who experience inner transformation after undergoing one or more developmental crises, “personal growth guided by powerful ideals . . . moral questioning, existential concerns . . . process by which a person finds an inner direction to his or her life and deliberately takes up the work of inner transformation” (Piechowski 1989, p. 89). They may or may not appear to be “successful” in a career or monetary sense.

Self-Actualization and Morality of the Gifted: Environmental, Familial, and Personal Factors by Deborah Ruf, PhD

I begin here to share a series of blog entries related to a chapter I wrote about 5 years ago for a book published in 2009 by Springer and edited by Ambrose & Cross. The genesis of this work, my full doctoral dissertation, began with my own pursuit of understanding myself better. I strongly believe that gifted children are generally poorly served by the popular school system approach of grouping children by age rather than readiness to learn. It leads to confusion about who we are and where we fit, issues that revisit and confuse us for much of our lives unless we get effective help or get lucky.

The chronic stress of poverty can affect lower cognitive performance - but so can a lot of other kinds of chronic stress

Results of new research in the journal Science (341, 976 (2013) "Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function by Anandi Mani et. al. makes a persuasive case as to how cognitive ability is suppressed by about 16 points on the IQ scale by the stressors of poverty. See also this opinion piece on the topic:

Ability to comment directly to this blog has been suspended temporarily due to relentless spammers, by you may contact us at with ideas that I will sort through and post to add value to the conversation.

Obviously we can all relate to the reality of how being stressed makes our organizational, thoughts, and performance skills much worse than usual. So, any kinds of chronic stress would likely have the same impact on cognitive abilities, say domestic violence, for example. Chronic illness. The untreated mental illness of a child or parent in the home. I turn all this information and ideas around and around in my mind as I try to affect educational policy changes that are effective, not just hopeful. Please let me know what you think!

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