What Gives Me #GiftedJoy – Denise Yates

Global Gifted,Talented and Neurodiverse (GTN) Awareness Week 2022.

What Gives Me #GiftedJoy


By Denise Yates, Trustee of The Potential Trust.


What gives me #GiftedJoy is when I use my stubbornness and annoyance with injustice as a force for trying to change the world. How best can I relay what I mean? Writing this blog made me think of those moments I remember; the time when I was about eight and I sold most of my (admittedly small) vinyl collection (!) to raise money for charity, the time when I was fifteen and  I argued with my mother as she wouldn’t let me volunteer in a homeless shelter, and the work I’ve done in my professional life to change the world for those with SEND, High Learning Potential or facing other barriers in their life.


If I had to choose one moment in time, I felt my greatest #GiftedJoy  in my first job when I left university. I worked for a year in a centre providing alternative education for children who had been excluded from school. I organised activities and participated in them, supporting the children and young people. I am particularly proud of my work with a group of boys who had all been excluded from school for violence, both physical and verbal. Our centre ran activities with them ranging from abseiling to caving and camping. It was hard at first; but as I worked with the boys I saw underneath their veneer of bravado and heard their stories. How one struggled at school because they couldn’t read and write. How one was adopted by middle class professional parents who didn’t want him because he didn’t meet their ‘expectations’(his words not mine) and how one had learnt his violence from the abuse dished out to him at home.


The weekend I left the job, we went camping. These 15 year olds knocked on my tent door. They were dressed smartly in shirts and ties and took me out to thank me. Not a swear word in sight!


Why have I picked this moment? I really felt for that year that I made a difference. I don’t know if that difference remained or what happened to these lads. However, for that moment they showed me their potential and what they could be. It made me realise that I could look for that potential everywhere. I learnt more that year than in most of my years in work since. They gave me an insight into who I was that quite literally shaped my life and I am grateful.


One incident I clearly remember is going caving ( I am more comfortable with a book than outdoor pursuits!). One of the caves was waterlogged and I was frightened of going under the water especially when I couldn’t see the exit. These lads helped me overcome my fears, supported me to the surface and laughed with me when I finally emerged looking like a swamp monster!


I still feel very humbled by this. It was the first time in my life I felt accepted not for my brains or intellect or how many qualifications I had but simply for who I was.  That was a very powerful lesson.

I hope I gave them something in return if only listening without judging and seeing their potential and what they could do rather than where they were seen to have fallen short.


Throughout my life, it is moments such as this which have given me the greatest #GiftedJoy and, along with the joy I feel through the love of my family and friends, I would like people to remember me as the person who tried to make a difference.


What gives you #GiftedJoy? Young or old, big or small, email us us at potentialtrust@gmail.com and let us know! We’ll put some of your responses on our website.


About Denise Yates


Denise Yates has worked in education and training for almost forty years to enable all individuals to maximise their potential. Over the years, this has included working with ex-offenders and young people at risk of offending, children with moderate learning difficulties, adults with numeracy and literacy problems and with children who have High Learning Potential and Dual and Multiple Exceptionality.


For ten years, Denise was Chief Executive of the national charity, Potential Plus UK (https://potentialplusuk.org ) (formerly The National Association for Gifted Children). In 2017, Denise left to pursue her passion which could be summarised as ‘hidden potential’; children and young people with Dual and Multiple Exceptionalities, those with mental health problems and those who have been failed by the system, for whatever reason.


A Cambridge economist, Denise is currently, amongst other things:

  • a Trustee of The Potential Trust ( https://www.thepotentialtrust.org.uk), a charitable trust which supports more children with High Learning Potential and DME from low-income backgrounds
  • a non-executive Director of Nisai Education Trust (https://www.nisai.com/nisaieducationtrust2/ ), whose mission is to develop everyone’s understanding of effective ‘online’ education and to promote research in this area that will support teachers, students and families globally, and
  • a non-executive Director of Potential in Me (https://potentialin.me/) a community interest company which seeks to create bright futures for young people and the adults in their lives through programmes of workshops and coaching.


Denise is a Fellow of the RSA, a consultant on issues related to inclusion and also a trained Adviser with Citizens Advice Northumberland and spends time practically supporting individuals and families in her community.


In 2020, with Adam Boddison, she wrote ‘The School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality’ (https://www.routledge.com/The-School-Handbook-for-Dual-and-Multiple-Exceptionality-High-Learning/Yates-Boddison/p/book/9780367369583?gclid=CjwKCAjws–ZBhAXEiwAv-RNLycQANaK4JFyuMqPRpI0NlFpWtws4UH9nNalVirL6UAn5aEbBPs9jhoCfTYQAvD_BwE )    and in 2022, she published her second book, “Parenting Dual Exceptional Children” (https://www.hachette.co.uk/titles/denise-yates/parenting-dual-exceptional-children/9781787758100/ ).


In  2020 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to children and young people.




About The Potential Trust


The Potential Trust (https://www.thepotentialtrust.org.uk) is a small educational charity set up in 1984 to provide, promote and encourage whatever makes education more interesting and exciting for children of high learning potential – especially those with considerably more than the average share of curiosity, perception and persistence – and to enable them to access events and experiences that facilitate their personal and social development and their creative, artistic and practical skills as well as their intellectual abilities.


To this end, The Potential Trust now has four main areas of work to achieve our mission


Questor Bursaries –  The Trust offers small bursaries to children and young people up to the age of 18  from low or lower- income families who have the potential for high attainment in academic or other subjects but who are not achieving at that level and cannot afford to take part in activities that:

  • enable them to learn new things and try new challenges
  • enable them to explore existing interests in greater depth or gain mastery of a subject
  • encourage them to make new friends and improve their confidence and well-being.

Potential Conferences – The Potential Trust runs an annual programme of Potential Conferences on a variety of different subjects relating to learning and high learning potential. A Potential Conference is a professional retreat for a group of up to about 20 people interested in discussing something they are passionate about in this area and that resonates with the aim of the Trust.

Potential Collaborations – As a small charity, The Potential Trust strongly believes in working in partnership with other like- minded organisations who can help it in its mission to make education exciting for children and young people with high learning potential.


Potential Change – in the long term, The Potential Trust seeks to ensure the needs of children and young people with high learning potential in education and in society as a whole are recognised and met and the barriers they face addressed to ensure they receive equity of challenge, experience and inclusion to maximise their potential. This aspect of The Trust’s work includes such as:

  • conducting research into different aspects of high learning potential
  • raising awareness of high learning potential
  • lobbying for equity and inclusion of children with high learning potential in education.


About The G-Word and Global Gifted,Talented and Neurodiverse Awareness Week 2022


Defying popular myths that assume most gifted people are wealthy, white, and will do fine on their own, THE G WORD is a film currently in production that reveals the economic, cultural, and gender diversity of gifted and talented population in the USA at every stage of life, highlighting their educational challenges, social isolation, deep emotional sensitivities, and complex, neurodiverse brains. It puts a face to the physical threats experienced by many in schools and society-at-large, while also revealing a large and lively community of people working hard to meet their needs while challenging the prejudice and trauma that comes with being labeled “smart” in the 21st century.


To find out more about THE G WORD and explore excerpts from the film, click on this link https://www.thegwordfilm.com/home#synopsis


As a result of working in partnership with those in the gifted, talented and neurodiverse community, in 2021 the team behind The G Word launched Global Gifted,Talented and Neurodiverse (GTN) Awareness Week to raise awareness around the world of the rich diversity of this communityh. In 2022, the theme for GTN Awareness Week is Bringing JOY and EQUITY Into Focus. During 24-28th October a programme of webinars, podcasts and discussions will be held on a series of topics related to this year’s theme. For more information and to register click on this link https://www.thegwordfilm.com/gtn-awareness-week