One of the things I’ve heard consistently over the years of working with parents in workshops is what a benefit (and often a relief) it is to sit and talk with others who have similar experiences. It’s good not to feel alone. If you are comfortable, please share what brought you here.
If you take only one thing away from the presentation today, I hope that it is an understanding that many of the behaviors and qualities that are considered very normal for bright and gifted individuals are often misunderstood as problems. The very qualities that can create challenge also contribute to great potential in these individuals.
However, I hope you will also gain…
There are many definitions for giftedness, but this is one of my favorites. In particular, because it recognizes that it is not solely the cognitive needs and experiences that comprise one’s giftedness. Rather, there is a whole affective component that must be considered. Though it is certainly my intent to help parents of gifted children understand that these qualities are often part of the gifted make-up, you will also find that two of the authors/researchers whose work I draw on for the presentation (Dabrowski and Aron) do not consider sensitivity or emotional intensity to be soleya gifted phenomena.
Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist from the 19th century, developed the theory of positive disintegration. Though he was not researching and writing about gifted individuals specifically, he did note that when overexcitabilites and higher intelligence are present, there is a greater likelihood of overexcitabilities being present. Understanding overexcitabliities will give you a context for understanding sensitivity and emotional intensity.
Though there are 5 different areas of overexcitability, emotional and sensual intensity being only two, we’ll do a quick overview of all of them to give you some context and because you will inevitably see some overlap. As you’re looking at these next slides, you might do a mental inventory of which of them seem to describe your child. This will also help with your understanding that these characteristics are normal in the gifted population. Often individuals have a combination of overexcitabilities
Sensual intensity is most closely related to the characteristic of sensitivity.
Take a couple of minutes on your own to jot down thoughts about what is positive about sensitivity and emotional intensity, what is challenging and what questions you have.Continue to jot down thoughts as we look more closely at highly sensitive and emotionally intense children.
In the face of what seems like so many potential challenges, let’s take a minute to brainstorm the wonderful manifestations of these characteristics in your child.
Reflect on what you’ve tried so far that doesn’t work.
Individuals need to understand that there are skills they can learn to help them move more comfortably and successfully through the world.
As we go through this list, check any items that you think you would like to try.
A word of caution, if you feel you need the help of a professional, be aware that, according to James Webb, et. al., very few in the helping professions ( including doctors, therapists and educators) are educated about gifted characteristics and their various manifestations. If you feel you do need to seek professional help, Supporting the Emotional Needs of Our Gifted (SENG) has a pamphlet to guide you in choosing a counselor (see resource list for web link).
Navigating turbulent waters
Navigating the Sometimes TurbulentWaters of Highly Sensitive andEmotionally Intense KidsKim Bielmannn CabotajeInternal LuminosityJanuary 28, 2012
How did you find your way here?What need, curiosity or quandary has brought you to this place right now?
“Gifted individuals have qualities to be managed, notproblems to be fixed.”~Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D
At the End of Our Time Together, I Hope You Will: Know how to recognize behaviors of emotional intensity and sensitivity Understand that these characteristics are normal and can be very desirable Be able to implement some strategies that will help your child
Photo Kim Bielmann Cabotaje, 2011 “Being gifted means having aqualitatively different experience of the world.” ~Michael Piechowski, Ph.D.
Kazimierz Dabrowski Theory of Positive Disintegrationfrom a self-centered focus andtoward altruism and moral development though higher intelligence is not essential, innate ability with overexcitability makes it more likely
Overexcitabilities:innate tendencies that manifestin a heightened reaction tostimuli.
PSYCHOMOTOR IntensityRestlessnessDrivenessMovement Photo Kim Bielmann Cabotaje, 2011Compulsive talkImpulsive actionEnthusiasm
INTELLECTUAL Intensity Need to understand Search for the TruthTendency toward analysisRequire logic and fairness Voracious reader
IMAGINATIONAL Intensity Rich imagination Use of imagery and metaphor Blur lines between fact and fiction Vivid dreams Daydream
The Highly Sensitive Child• 15-20% of children• Inherited trait of a more developed central nervous system—reach overstimulation sooner• Depending on parenting, school and life experiences, can lead to challenges like anxiety and fear• Studied in infants and children for over 50 years as shyness, introversion and inhibitedness• 70% are introverts and 30% extraverts• Pause to check system greater than “go-for-it” system• Though one need not be gifted to be highly sensitive, a significant number of sensitive individuals are also very intelligent Adapted from The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.
The Emotionally Intense Child• Vacillates between extreme happiness and anger or sadness• May have explosive outbursts, bouts of crying or debilitating anxiety• Extreme guilt, critical self-talk and self-doubt• Physical manifestations may include heart palpitations, sensory sensitivity, nausea and headaches• Strong affective memory—ability to relive feelings of an event throughout lifetime• Intense relationships• Can be overwhelmed by rigid classroom expectations and sensory overload of the school experience Adapted from Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope With Explosive Feelings by Christine Fonseca
What’s Great about Parenting aSensitive or Emotionally Intense Child?
The Joys of Raising Highly Sensitive and Emotionally Intense Children• Able to connect deeply with others• Capable of deep feeling and thought• Notice, experience and appreciate beauty in others and the world• Empathize with the plight of others• Raise your awareness of the world around you and cause you to ponder questions you had not previously considered• Have the passion to create a fulfilling life• When supported, have the potential to make great contributions in the areas of law, invention, healing, history, art science, education, counseling and spiritual leadership—the consultants to the warriors and rulers Adapted from Aron and Fonseca
Telling your child to lighten up or toughen up, calling her a drama queen, proclaiming that boys don’t cry, feeding into the meltdown, excusing negative behavior, issuing strong disciplinary action and failing to recognize your ownpotential overexcitabilities does not work!
“Gifted students areinherently different from their peers on many fronts. Learning how to effectively live as a high ability student can require strategies and social skill development.” ~Tracy Cross
Help Your child Manage These characteristics• Learn everything you can about sensitivity and emotional intensity• Let your child know that you understand and accept his experiences and needs• Help your child to understand how others may experience things differently• Make sure your child eats a healthy diet without excess carbs and sugar and gets plenty of sleep• Help your child to recognize when he needs to pull in and recharge and when he can step out in the world• Provide opportunities for your child to take safe risks and build confidence Adapted from Aron and Fonseca
• Strive to create comfortable transitions during times of change• Try to provide structure and routine to reduce stress in your home• Create a household that has clear boundaries, expectations and consequences for behaviors• Understand the impact of shame• Punishment should not be excessive—consequences should be short, mild and related to the behavior• Consequences should be positive, not punitive—rather than take things away, give the opportunity to earn or not earn• Avoid meltdowns by teaching relaxation and recognizing the signs• Following a meltdown, take time later when everyone is calm to discuss what has happened • Adapted from Aron and Fonseca
• Consider the interaction of your own personality with your child’s might help or hinder her• Help your child set reasonable goals and support them in working towards them in manageable chunks• Don’t allow your child to use their characteristics to manipulate others• Consider using bibliotherapy to help your child find characters to relate to and learn from (e.g. A Wrinkle in Time)• When working with teachers, focus on the child’s strengths first, identify areas of concern and create a plan that is consistent between home and school, has measurable goals and is simple• Celebrate with your child everything wonderful about being sensitive and intense! • Adapted from Aron and Fonseca
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by James Webb, et. al. There is an epidemic ofmisdiagnosis of the gifted basedon common characteristics being mistaken for one or more disorders.
What one thing can you take away today that you will try to implement immediately?What questions do you still have?
Only the Beginning: Additional Resources to Help You• Anxiety-Free Kids: An Interactive Guide for Parets and Children by Bonnie Zucker (Prufrock Press, 2009)• Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings by Christine Fonseca (Prufrock Press, 2011)• Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults by James Webb, Ph.D., et. al. (Great Potential Press, 2005)• Selecting a Mental Health Professional for Your Gifted Child http://www.sengifted.org/resources/SelectingAMentalHealthProffesion al.pdf• Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills: Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare (Guilford Press, 2009)• The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. (Broadway Books, 2002)• What to Do When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough: The Real Deal on Perfectionism: A Guide for Kids by Thomas S. Greenspon (Free Spirit, 2007).
Internal LuminosityYour companion on paths lesstravelledhttp://internal-luminosity.blogspot.com