Lecture Notes - Continued

For the first part of my lecture notes, click here.

After discussing the external pressures on gifted kids, Linda shifted to present the balance of her content to discuss internal pressures and overexcitabilities (OEs).

Internal Struggles of Gifted Kids:

1.   Frustrations from Asynchrony

Why do gifted kids struggle so often emotionally?  Many reasons, but one major factor is their own asynchrony.  Linda provided the following example:

A four year-old child operates cognitively at a seven year-old level. She observes a horse in a pasture and wants to draw a picture of it to capture the memory. Unfortunately, she is still physically four years old and lacks the basic motor skills of a seven year-old. Her horse comes out looking like what any other four year-old would draw—much lower than her understanding of the horse. If that isn’t enough, mom and dad coo over her disappointing, sub-expectation work, which seems to exacerbate her feels of failure.

Struggles like these become a constant for many gifted kids, keeping them perpetually stressed and thus prone to outbursts and/or breakdowns.

2.   Perfectionism in a World that Values Speed

Because gifted kids tend to be perfectionists, putting them at odds with tight schedules and "draft-quality" delivery. Perfectionism, however, is not the problem.  Per Linda:

“It’s sad that we, as a society, have demolished perfectionists. Perfectionism has been denigrated by a society that loves mediocrity.”

Another fascinating tidbit that Linda shared was that gifted learners are not fast.  They are methodical and will produce exceptional quality material, but they are often slower to do so than their age peers.

3.   Twice-Exceptionality (2E)

Roughly one sixth of gifted kids also have some form of learning inhibitor, whether it’s ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, or something along those lines.

Twice-exceptionalities are different from Overexcitabilities (OEs). The two should not be confused.

This slide (above) contains as-of-yet unpublished data from the WISC-V assessments. In their analyses, Linda's team found that gifted, highly gifted, and even profoundly gifted individuals had a cognitive area where not only were they exactly the same as typical learners, but scored even slightly below: Processing speed (PSI).

4.   Overexcitabilities

This was the core of what Linda focused on.  Her summary statement:

“Anything worth feeling is worth feeling intensely.”

One of the most astonishing things she pointed out, though, was that a gifted person’s overexcitabilities are inextricable from their gifts!

“Taking away their overexcitabilities also takes away their genius or creativity.”

Types of Overexcitabilities

  1. Psychomotor (physical): Psychomotor refers to the abundance of physical energy. People with psychomotor OEs may seem hyperactive when triggered. They’re constantly on the move. These children are often misdiagnosed with ADHD, but they are fully capable of focusing their thoughts on something that engages them and is mentally stimulating.
  2. Sensual (sensory):  Heightened responses to sensory inputs and aesthetic beauty. They might react very strongly to a beautiful painting (or a bad smell!). They can’t stand having scratchy tags in their shirts and twisted-around socks!
  3. Imaginational:  To heck with real life—let’s create our own, original idea! These people get extremely excited about imaginative ideas and often include authors, inventors, and entrepreneurs.A word of caution here: People with this OE have been known to lie inadvertently, as they’re off in their own little world.
  4. Intellectual: Intellectual OEs are the people who are extremely curious and are thrilled by the acquisition of new knowledge.  When they come alive, they may not show it outwardly as much, but their minds kick into overdrive and begin synthesizing information at an astonishing rate. They always want to learn something new and novel.
  5. Emotional: I actually took a picture of this slide, as I felt like it applied to very much to one of my kids especially. Meaning this one comes in bullet points.

    1. Intensified, complex feelings and emotions.
    2. Strong somatic expressions (e.g. tense stomach, blushing, sweaty palms, etc.)
    3. Powerful emotional expressions (enthusiasm, ecstasy, affective memory, anxiety, guilt, depressive and suicidal moods).
    4. Capacity for deep attachments and relationships (difficult adjusting to newness)
    5. Compassion and empathy


Mental Health Connection

At this point I asked Linda if it's possible to sort out an OE from a mental health issue. Her response was that if you don't see the positive aspects of an OE and if the person's trajectory is toward incapacity or self-harm, an intervention is probably needed.

OEs and mental health are not mutually exclusive, nor are they linked.

Final thought:

“When children can truly believe that parents and teachers are on their side, they will be less frequently blocked in using their real abilities.”
Dr. Annemarie Roeper

Check out Linda's organization here for a ton of great resources!