Most of my young clients who are twice-exceptional have neuropsychological assessment scores that highlight a variety of slow processing speeds. That asynchrony between their intellectual abilities and their processing issues leads some parents and teachers to label these kids as lazy, willful, or inattentive.
Although these are common issues for kids who are twice-exceptional, few parents or teachers have the necessary training to recognize and then accommodate for these processing speed variations.
I was fortunate to find the book Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up by Ellen Braaten, h.D. and Brian Willoughby, Ph.D. Braaten is the Director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Willoughby is a staff Psychologist at the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.
As the authors say, “In general, though, processing speed involves one or more of the following functions: the amount of time it takes to perceive information (this can be through any of the senses, but usually through the visual and auditory channels), process information, and/or formulate or enact a response. Another way to define processing speed is to say it’s the time required to perform an intellectual task or the amount of work that can be completed with a certain period of time. Even more simply, processing speed could be defined as how long it takes to get stuff done.”
The authors break processing speeds into three categories: visual processing (“how quickly our eyes perceive information and relay it to the brain”), verbal processing (“how quickly we hear a stimulus and react to it”), and motor speed (“fine motor agility, such as how fast we can copy something or put pegs in a board, rather than to how fast someone can run, for example”).
Processing speed issues are often an indication of other learning challenges including:
- Nonverbal learning disabilities
- Language-based learning disabilities
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Psychosocial stressors
Most kids who have slow processing speed may share some of these common issues:
- Slow reading
- Slow writing
- Slow responses to questions
- Slow responses to requests
- Poor memory recall
- Slow completion of work
- Appear unmotivated or apathetic
- Appear to be fidgety
For lots of detailed information on processing speed in the classroom and at home, this book is a wonderful resource.
It has been more than four years (and two grandchildren) since I last wrote a post for this site. In that time, I have continued working with amazing gifted and twice-exceptional clients, and I have read dozens of great books. So where to begin, that’s easy: Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth by Paula Prober. I wrote a previous post about Prober in March 2102, entitled Giftedness and the Rainforest Mind: Our Endangered Students. Her blog posts continue to be insightful, humorous, and important.
Your Rainforest Mind is THE book for those people beginning their exploration of gifted issues as well as those (like me) who have been in gifted education for decades. I own dozens of book on giftedness (and I have read many more), and this book rises to the top for its holistic approach to understanding gifted people.
As a professor of gifted education, I was always looking for the best resources to expand my students’ hearts and minds about gifted people. I certainly would have required this book for my courses on “Introduction to Gifted Education” and “Social and Psychological Foundations of Gifted Children.”
What makes Prober’s work seminal is that it includes the stories and voices of her clients, it provides a wealth of valuable resources, and it has the potential of having a significant impact on gifted adults, and on the parents of gifted children.
The stories of Prober’s clients are so compelling, I am grateful to be able to learn from them, and I know many readers will now hope to find a therapist who connects so deeply with their rainforest minds.
Jacqueline Binkert and Ann Clancy, two of the authors of Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change, are also authors of an online article called “A Coaching Journey from Resilience and Well-being to Flourishing.” That article emphasizes that humans have the capacity to thrive and flourish rather than settling for mere resilience and well-being. The authors describe flourishing as “a state in which a person feels persistent positive emotions and experiences excellent physical, mental and interpersonal health.”
The Appreciative Coaching approach comes from the work of David Cooperrider and others who created the Appreciative Inquiry movement. Their work comes from the field of business management and has since been adapted by counselors and life coaches. I am currently adapting it to my work with student teachers as well as educators in their first three years of teaching. After reading many books and articles about Appreciative Inquiry and Appreciative Coaching, I have come to believe that this approach would be beneficial to those who live and work with gifted children.
So, what is meant by the Appreciative Approach? It is a focus on solutions rather than problems. It is a focus on what is positive with life in general, and situations in the specific, rather than a focus on what is negative. It is a focus on our hopes and dreams rather than our dreads and fears. This focus and dialogue about a gifted child’s strengths, successes, lessons learned, and hopes and dreams has the potential to help that child flourish emotionally, socially, and intellectually.
- Gifted children are not problems to be fixed; they are possibilities to be appreciated and nourished.
- What we pay attention to will grow. Pay attention to what you perceive to be your child’s weaknesses, and you will fertilize those negative aspects. Pay attention to your child’s strengths, and you will see a change in your attitude toward your child. Look to what you hope for rather than to what is lacking.
- Use language that is life-enhancing.
- Although your child is young and has limited life experiences, listen to your child’s life story and be willing to share yours.
- Model gratitude. The focus on the positives and successes in our lives provides us with the energy for thriving and flourishing in our lives rather than merely surviving.
- Ask questions that focus on strengths, successes, lessons learned, and hopes and dreams. The following examples are taken from Positive Family Dynamics: Appreciative Inquiry Question to Bring Out the Best in Families by Dawn Cooperrider Dole, Jen Hetzel Silbert, Ada Jo Mann & Diana Whitney.
- What was your favorite part about today? Tell me the story. How did it make you feel?
- What one thing did you do today that made you feel especially proud of yourself?
- What did you learn today that excited you (in school, with friends, at home)?
- What are you going to dream about in your sleep?
- What wishes do you have for an even more exciting day tomorrow? What wishes do you have for your siblings, parents, grandparents, classmates, teachers? (choose one or two)
Life-Long Learning: The Joy of Learning:
1. Think back to a time when you were really excited about something you were learning. A time when learning came alive for you. A time when what you learned became an integral part of who you are today. Tell me about that time. What was happening? Who was involved? What did you do? What did the others do? What was it about you in the experience that brought about a profound sense of learning and growth?
2. What did you value most about that experience, yourself and the people involved?
3. Imagine now that you, as a parent, are excelling in creating strength-based and positive learning environments and opportunities for your children. Your children love learning new things when you are a part of that experience. What are you doing? What is happening that is leading to this love of learning? Tell me about it. What is happening in them? Who is involved? What are they doing? What is the outcome?
4. When you think about structured learning environments (school, church/synagogue, community settings), what can we do to create environments that encourage the type of learning you just described? Share with me at least three things that you can start doing today to help foster a joy and love of learning for the children in your life?
Binkert, J. & Clancy, A. (2009). “A Coaching Journey from Resilience and Well-being to Flourishing.” http://www.appreciativecoaching.com/Coaching_Journey_to_Flourishing_Binkert&Clancy_2009.pdf
Cooperrider, D., Whitney, D. & Stavros, J. (2003). Appreciate Inquiry Handbook. San Francisco: Berett-Koehler.
Dole, D., Silber, J., Mann, A. & Whitney, D. (2008). Positive Family Dynamics: AppreciativeQuestions to Bring Out the Best in Families. Chagrin Falls, Ohio: Taos Institute Publications.
Orem, S., Binkert, J. & Clancy, A. (2007). Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Has your child ever been overwhelmed by perfectionism, sensitivity, intensity, or other innate aspects of their giftedness? In her book, Emotional Freedom, Judith Orloff, M.D., energy psychiatrist and best selling author suggests ways we can bring peace and calm to our lives. Recently finding myself in physical and emotional chaos after what may have been the flu, I decided to take another look at Dr. Orloff’s book. It occurred to me that gifted children often have such an amplified awareness, parents are usually their constant model of how to interact with the world and deal with emotional disequilibrium. I know there were times when my own sensitivity and intensity caused chaos for my family. On the other hand, I know there were times when my own sensitivity and intensity brought greater awareness for other members of my family.
So what did I learn from Dr. Orloff about emotional freedom and parenting a gifted child?
* Dr. Orloff defines emotional freedom as “Increasing your ability to love by cultivating positive emotions and being able to compassionately witness and transform negative ones, whether they’re yours or another’s.”
* We need to make sure our children aren’t being ruled by negative emotion.
* “The power of love is the champion of emotional freedom. We must respect the voice within that says, ‘Honey, be kind to yourself. You are enough. You are beautiful.’ Compassion is in each of us: it is the ultimate answer.” Dr. Orloff believes that spirit of compassion will help all of us to become strong and joyful. What parents wouldn’t want that for themselves and their children?
* Dr. Orloff recounts a Native American story about what we “feed” will grow stronger. She suggests that we set our “intention to feed what is best and most beautiful within” ourselves in order to gain emotional freedom.
* Our bodies are depleted by emotional stress and our bodies are revived by calm. Dr. Orloff describes many ways to bring calm to our bodies.
As someone who has experienced the emotional stress brought on by my sensitivity and intensity, I would recommend Dr. Orloff’s book. She weaves together practical suggestions with stories from her life as well as those of her patients. One of my favorite parts of this book is when Dr. Orloff suggests that we let ourselves “feel the sensuality of inhaling and exhaling as air passes through your nostrils and chest like a cool breeze. Take pleasure in the breath’s hypnotic rhythm….With each slow, deep breath, feel yourself inhaling calm, sweet as the scent of summer jasmine… Emotional Freedom reminds me to not take the power of my breath for granted. How lovely it would be if highly sensitive and intense children could be taught ways to gain their own emotional freedom!
For those of us with overwhelming intrinsic perfectionism, or for those who are raising a gifted child who exhibits destructive perfectionism, Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your Life is a must read. Taro Gold shares the wisdom passed down to him during a visit with his Japanese grandmother.
“The simple wisdom of living Wabi Sabi shows us that our hearts already hold everything we need to be happy. It celebrates the perfectly imperfect uniqueness of you and me and everything, revealing the joy, creativity, and empowerment of imperfection through an ancient way of looking at life: the way of Wabi Sabi.” These words, written on the back cover of the book, illustrate the power of this book for parents of a gifted child. While perfectionism is an innate aspect of many gifted people, learning to live Wabi Sabi allows us to celebrate our uniqueness and appreciate our imperfections.
Here an article that appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of “Talent” published by Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development.
Amplified and Misunderstood:Positive Gifted Identity Development and the Role of Parents
by Paula Wilkes, Ph.D. & Mark Szymanski Ph.D.
Positive gifted identity development is a dynamic process that is both nourished and diminished by interactions with family, peers, school, and culture. All of those interactions impact self-perception and ultimately the child’s identity. By understanding a gifted child’s innate personality traits, and by teaching them to use good habits of mind, parents can nurture a positive identity development process that can lead to the child becoming an emotionally healthy lifelong learner who is an information seeker, a problem solver, and a creative producer. These are all skills and dispositions our children will need to be successful in the 21st century.
CTD: Why have you chosen to focus on sensitivity, perfectionism, introversion/extroversion, and curiosity, the four amplified ways of being?
Gifted children often possess amplified ways of being that have the potential to impact both their work in school and sense of self. We focus on those amplified and innate ways of being because they are often misunderstood by others. From a very young age, many gifted children hear negative comments such as: “You’re too sensitive!” “Why are you so shy?” “Can’t you sit still for more than a minute?” “Don’t be such a perfectionist!” “Stop asking so many questions!” Those comments can inhibit the development of a positive gifted identity. Parents who do not understand their gifted child’s amplified ways of being may unknowingly respond in ways that have a negative impact on a child’s self-perception. Helping gifted kids understand, modulate, and make effective use of their amplified ways of being will enhance their academic growth and social development, and will become the foundation of a positive gifted identity. A positive gifted identity will increase the chances that existential depression and other emotional crises often faced by gifted children can be dealt with in a healthy manner.
CTD: Can you explain what you mean by sensitivity?
Many gifted children are highly sensitive and intense. That sensitivity may include a strong sense of justice as well as empathy for people and animals. Kazimierz Dabrowski outlined five specific areas in which a gifted child could exhibit “overexcitability” (what we are referring to as “amplified ways of being”) as a natural, organic trait of his or her giftedness.
o Psychomotor –This includes a heightened surplus of physical energy or rapid speech and movement. It can often be misinterpreted as ADHD.
o Sensual – What is “normal” to the average person can be seen or felt as an assault to the nervous system of a child with amplified senses. This can include amplified reactions to sights, sounds, smells, and touch (such as scratchy labels). On the other hand, children with amplified senses may be quite moved by sensual beauty.
o Emotional – Some gifted children may be seen as “drama queens and kings” because of their amplified reactions to experiences that are either highly enjoyable or unpleasant. While often seen as over-reactions, these responses are often within the “normal” range for emotionally sensitive children.
o Imaginational – Vivid imaginations taken to an extreme can cause these gifted kids to seem like perpetual daydreamers. At times they may seem like they have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy.
o Intellectual – Getting wound up about new ideas and experiences is a common amplification experienced by gifted children. They love to try new and exciting puzzles and challenges in their areas of expertise.
CTD: How might amplified introversion or extroversion be misunderstood by parents and teachers?
Gifted children frequently display amplified introversion or extroversion. In both cases, this way of being is their preferred way of processing information. Extroverts are energized when they are engaged with others. They process their ideas through interaction; as a result, they are often seen as too talkative and unable to wait their turn during a discussion. They may also be mislabeled as having ADHD. Introverts, on the other hand, are energized when they are alone. They process their ideas internally; as a result, they don’t have a great need to share their ideas with others. Gifted introverts may go unnoticed by teachers who see them as shy or slow thinking and withdrawn. Although most people are extroverts, the higher the IQ of a gifted child, the greater chance the child is an introvert.
CTD: What impact does perfectionism have on gifted development?
There are actually two different types of perfectionism, intrinsic and extrinsic. Gifted children are often cautioned about their perfectionism, however, intrinsic perfectionism is a positive trait when it challenges children to extend their understanding and skills. It is a negative trait when it interferes with the learning process, leads to debilitating procrastination, or results in social and emotional difficulties.
Extrinsic perfectionism is not an organic trait. It is inappropriately created and nourished by parents and teachers. Young gifted children are eager to please the adults in their lives. When they are praised for their perfect papers, praised for their large vocabularies, and praised for their ability to read chapter books at a young age, they believe that they are “worthy” when they are perfect and capable of doing extraordinary things. This can cause gifted kids to be embarrassed, angry, and/or fearful when they aren’t able to get 100% on a test or when they are faced with a challenge that doesn’t allow them to demonstrate perfection. Extrinsic perfectionism can be debilitating because it can put gifted kids in a box of competence that doesn’t allow them to take the risks necessary for healthy intellectual and emotional development.
CTD: If curiosity killed the cat, what does it do for gifted kids?
Curiosity helps gifted kids discover their passions and stumble upon new discoveries. This amplified way of being can manifest itself in a variety of ways including asking lots of questions and needing to touch and explore things of interest. While curiosity may have killed the cat, it gives life to the lives of gifted kids. This amplified desire to seek information should be nurtured by parents and teachers in order to support and encourage behaviors that lead to life-long learning.
CTD: What first steps can parents take to support the positive identity development of their gifted children?
Let your children know you love and understand them. Help them learn to modulate and make effective use of their amplified ways of being. Be an advocate! Share this information with other people. Gifted children deserve to be amplified AND understood.
Positive Gifted Identity Development Resources
Habits of Mind website (www.habits-of-mind.net/)
MindWare Games (www.MindWare.com) (Flow Experiences)
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