Posts tagged ‘misunderstood’

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

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

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