Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Dr. Deborah Ruf, respected high intelligence specialist and principal consultant with Educational Options, incorporates almost 30 years of research and experience with highly intelligent young people, their families, and those who work with them into a remarkable book, Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind. This book provides a comprehensive overview of what parents and educators can do to better understand what highly intelligent children are really like in the world and how different levels of giftedness impact young people’s experiences and their environments.
Parents and educators are likely to gain insight and understanding as they read vignettes included throughout the book that chronicle the experiences of several of the families with whom Dr. Ruf interacted in the context of her four-year study with 50 families and their 78 highly intelligent children. These vignettes create a window into the lives of these children, as well as provide material to assist readers in considering what giftedness means, related issues that arise and what parents and educators can do to better understand and nurture gifted young people so that they may optimally develop their talents and abilities.
Anyone who has spent time with young people knows that individual differences among children can be quite profound. Dr. Ruf provides readers with an educated and compassionate overview of individual differences in the context of understanding levels of giftedness. Obviously, no child’s intellectual abilities can be fully described by scores achieved on intelligence tests or other standardized measures. The Ruf Estimates of Levels of Giftedness described in this book are the result of Dr. Ruf’s ongoing commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of gifted young people.
Dr. Ruf presents her findings as levels of giftedness estimated using a combination of standardized test information, relative frequency of such students in the classroom or school, intellectual milestones and behaviors in early childhood, degree of intrinsic motivation and general personality traits. It is noted that individual differences within and across the five levels are expected. The Ruf Estimates of Levels of Giftedness range from Level One, which includes children typically described as moderately gifted with IQ scores of approximately 120-129, through Level Five, which includes children described as exceptionally or profoundly gifted with scores at approximately the 99th percentile on standardized tests (pp. 50-51). Following this initial definition and orientation, several chapters then address the characteristics of children at each of these levels, including information on behaviors and abilities throughout the developmental trajectory from birth to nine years of age and older.
In addition to addressing issues of identification and fostering a general understanding of level of giftedness, Losing Our Minds includes extensive information on the educational needs at each of the five levels. Educational options that work for gifted students are described and then considered in the context of the appropriate levels of giftedness. Dr. Ruf also addresses the other important variables that impact goodness of fit in educational settings, such as how gifted young people tend to spend their time, degrees of compliance and cooperation, how emotions and feelings are demonstrated, and aspects of social interactions. Given that rigid schooling arrangements tend to be problematic for gifted students, Dr. Ruf describes potential problem areas for these students, as well as research-based recommendations for change.
Clearly, Losing Our Minds is a welcome addition to the literature on understanding and supporting bright young people who are too often overlooked and therefore not provided with opportunities for appropriate learning environments. In addition to the compelling narrative punctuated with case studies, the book is appealing due to the focus on solutions to identified problems. Gifted young people, as well as their families and educators, certainly stand to benefit from the application of the tools and strategies Dr. Ruf describes in this exceptional book.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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