Posts filed under ‘Gifted Children’

When Being AWKWARD Can Have Its Benefits

I have some clients, young and old, who have  social skills that might be considered “awkward.” They do not have autism, but others often mislabel them because of their awkwardness. I was so happy to read the book Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome because it helps illuminate the reason for the awkwardness, and the benefits of this brain style.

You see, people who are awkward have a cognitive style that does not have their social brain engaged 24/7, as is the case with the “neurotypical” person. The awkward person has to realize they are in a situation requiring the use of their social brain, and that is why they might seem so awkward when they enter a room or attempt to join in on a conversation. Some of my clients are brutally honest, and I know it is due to not using a social filter, and it is not because they are being rude.

The really awesome part of the awkward brain is that “they are a passionate bunch who tend to be obsessive about the things that interest them. Their obsessive interest to learn everything they can about a topic mirrors the ‘rage to master’ that researchers observe in high-achieving people.” (xvi) Whereas socially-aware people see the big social picture, awkward people have a spotlighted view of the world that isn’t focused on social norms. “Awkward people’s minds tend to make them natural scientists because they are good at seeing details, picking up on patterns in those details, and taking a systematic approach to problems.” (xvii)

Awkward is divided into three parts: PART I: So This is Awkward, PART II: This is Getting Awkward, and PART III: How the Awkward Become Awesome. PART III includes information about the relationship between giftedness and awkwardness, as well as groundbreaking innovations and the awkward brain.

For a great introduction to this book, read the author’s article, “Being Socially Awkward is Actually Awesome, According to Science, by therapist, Ty Tashiro, a self-described awkward person.



September 1, 2017 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

When Processing Speed Slows You Down

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:

  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Nonverbal learning disabilities
  • Language-based learning disabilities
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • 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.

September 14, 2016 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

Appreciative Coaching with Gifted Kids: Strategies for Parents and Teachers

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.


End-of-the-Day Reflections:

  1. What was your favorite part about today?  Tell me the story.  How did it make you feel?
  2. What one thing did you do today that made you feel especially proud of yourself?
  3. What did you learn today that excited you (in school, with friends, at home)?
  4. What are you going to dream about in your sleep?
  5. 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.”

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.

May 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

Helping Your Gifted Child Gain Emotional Freedom

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!

April 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

Living Wabi Sabi: Celebrating the Perfectly Imperfect Uniqueness of You and Me

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.

April 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Amplified and Misunderstood: Positive Gifted Identity Development and the Role of the Parent

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 (
  • MindWare Games ( (Flow Experiences)
  • Aron, Elaine. (2002). The highly sensitive child. New York: Broadway Books.
  • Aron, Elaine. (1996). The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. Bridgewater, New Jersey: Replica Books.
  • Belknap, Martha. (2006). Stress relief for kids: Taming your dragons. Duluth, MN:
    Whole Person Associates.
  • Biel, Lindsey and Nancy Peske. (2005). Raising a sensory smart child. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Brooks, Robert and Sam Goldstein. (2003). Nurturing resilience in our children. New York: Contemporary Books.
  • Brooks, Robert and Sam Goldstein. (2001). Raising resilient children. New York: Contemporary Books.
  • Buckingham, Marcus and Donald Clifton. (2001). Now, discover your strengths. New
    York: Free Press.
  • Chopra, Deepak. (1997). The seven spiritual laws for parents: Guiding your children to success & fulfillment. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
  • Costa, Art and Kallik. (2009). Leading and learning with habits of mind: Sixteen
    essential characteristics for success. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Desetta, Al, (editor). (2005). The courage to be yourself: True stories by teens about
    cliques, conflicts, and overcoming peer pressure. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit
  • Halsted, Judith. (1994). Some of my best friends are books. Dayton, OH: Ohio
    Psychology Press. (Bibliotherapy; annotated bibliography)
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat. (2008). Mindful movements: Ten exercises for well-being. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
  • Heller, Sharon. (2002). Too loud, too bright, too fast, too tight. New York: Broadway HarperCollins Publishers.
  • Laney, Marti Olsen. (2005). The hidden gifts of the introverted child. New York: Workman Publishing.
  • Lerner, Stephanie. (2005). Kids who think outside the box: Helping your unique child
    thrive in a cookie-cutter world. New York: AMACOM.
  • Piechowski, Michael. (2006). “Mellow out,” they say. If I only could. Intensities
    and sensitivities of the young and bright. Madison, WI: Yunasa Books.
  • Welsh, David. (1997). The boy who burned too brightly. Fort Worth, Texas: Alisam Press.
  • Zeff, Ted. (2004). The highly sensitive person’s survival guide. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

April 1, 2012 at 12:19 am Leave a comment

Giftedness and the Rainforest Mind: Our Endangered Students

Bright, sensitive, intense, are descriptions I hear from many parents of gifted children. While most people think of gifted kids as those with high IQ’s or with high SAT scores, parents of gifted kids know that their children are more than their IQ scores.

Paula Prober (a licensed counselor who works with gifted adults, teens, and families) has put forth a metaphor that quite clearly describes these wonderful people: rainforest minds. As Paula says, “Like the rainforest, gifted individuals are often complex, multi-layered, intense, highly sensitive, colorful, creative, overwhelming, fragile and misunderstood.” I encourage you to click on the link I have created to find out more about her ideas about the rainforest mind.

So why is it that gifted kids are so endangered. Perhaps it is because No Child Left Behind has shifted public attention to students who are unable to meet basic standards, and perhaps it is because there is a general feeling that gifted kids can make it on their own. As a public teacher for more than 25 year, a university professor for another nine, and now as a gifted consultant, I know that gifted children deserve to receive a respectful and appropriate education.

The next time you go for surgery, you need to ask yourself if you want a gifted surgeon, or will you be willing to take one who barely met the standards? The next time you need an attorney, you need to ask yourself if you want a gifted attorney, or will you be willing to take one who barely met the standards? The next time you enroll your child in school, you need to ask yourself if you hope your child is in a classroom with a gifted educator, or are you willing to have your child taught by an educator who barely met the standards? I believe that we need to nurture and nourish all of our children, even those who seem to have great potential. In order to successfully solve the problems we will face in the future, we need citizens who have been encouraged to reach their fullest potential. It is time we cared enough about our gifted students to adequately fund their public school education!

March 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm 1 comment

Gifted Kids as Tall Poppies: Let’s Find Them and Nurture Them

Tall poppies. According to Wikipeda, “the term originates from accounts in Aristotle’s Politics (Book 5, Chapter 10) and Livy’s History of Rome, Book I. Aristotle wrote: ‘Periander advised Thrasybulus by cutting the tops of the tallest ears of corn, meaning that he must always put out of the way the citizens who overtop the rest.’ In Livy’s account, the tyrannical Roman King, Tarquin the Proud, received a messenger from his son Sextus Tarquinius asking what he should do next in Gabii, since he had become all-powerful there. Rather than answering the messenger verbally, Tarquinius went into his garden, took a stick, and symbolically swept it across his garden thus cutting off the heads of the tallest poppies that were growing there….Sextus realized that his father wished him to put to death all of the most eminent people of Gabii, which he then did.”

In modern times, the tall poppies are the people who receive criticism for accomplishments that put them above their peers. I remember the first time I heard about the tall poppy syndrome. It was nearly ten years ago, and Miraca Gross (an expert on gifted education from Australia) was presenting to a group of parents and educators about gifted children. (See her article on exceptionally and profoundly gifted children.) I was deeply moved by her description of how intellectually gifted children are tall poppies who are regularly cut down to size so that they won’t continue to stand out among their peers. A gifted child might experience the following name calling: “overachiever,” “geek,” “nerd,” “brainiac,” “you’re too big for your britches,” “how about giving someone else a chance to shine?” etc.

I find it fascinating that we don’t see all gifts in the same way. Many people fear that by telling intellectually and academically gifted children they are “gifted,” these children might become arrogant and self-absorbed. We don’t seem to have the same fear about the gifted musician we place in the “first chair” when they rise above their peers, nor do we have the same fear when the gifted athlete wins a trophy. The truth is, when academically or intellectually gifted children learn about their “giftedness” there is often a sense of relief. They have known all along that there is a difference in the way they process information and in the speed at which they take in new information. In addition, for those who are bright, sensitive, and intense, they already know that they have a quality of life that is different (not better) than their peers. These tall poppies deserve to understand why they don’t always “fit” academic or socially, and they deserve to be nurtured so that they stand proudly with their petals held high. When you look at the world around us, it is clear that our society cannot afford to lose its tall poppies. I’m wondering how much of your school district’s budget is allocated for gifted education…..(See state by state resources.) To find them and nurture them, it takes a will and it takes money. Be a tall poppy yourself, let your voice stand out above the crowd, and speak up for these children.

March 28, 2012 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

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