The definition most accepted by gifted professionals today is: "Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally." (The Columbus Group, 1991)
Aren't All Children Gifted? All children are special and have unique gifts to offer the world, but not all children are gifted. Gifted children are born with a unique makeup that reaches far beyond an IQ score or specific talent. Inherent and heightened mental and emotional intensities and sensitivities envelope the whole gifted child, often resulting in a need for special approaches to parenting, education, and counseling. Gifted children experience the world in a unique and highly sensitive way, they have an "over-awareness" of everything, including world and sociological issues at a very young age, but do not posses the emotional maturity to deal with these realities - asynchrony - as a result they many times struggle with early, and often life long, issues of anxiety and existential depression. They see, feel, and act in the world differently than other children and are usually aware of this, often resulting in added social implications. They experience high sensitivity and sensory perception and can display subsequent behavioral intensities which are often mislabeled as disobedience, ADHD, and other behavioral, learning and psychological disorders. Asynchronous development - the disconnect between mental and emotional maturity in the gifted child - can be frustrating or at least confusing to parents, teachers, and onlookers, and is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Most gifted children are divergent thinkers, this trait that may be valued in an adult who's "out of the box" thinking leads to a new invention, is often seen as disobedience, defiance, or non-conformism in the gifted child.
Highly Sensitive It has been said that all gifted people are highly sensitive people (HSP's), but not all highly sensitive people are gifted. In any case, gifted children are affected every day by the way their high sensitivity affects the way they see, feel, and act in the world. High emotional sensitivity and sensory perception in gifted and many highly creative children is inherent. It is not something that can be "fixed" or will change over time. However, with proper identification, understanding and support - parenting techniques, coping skills, and sensory aids, the physical and emotional distress caused by heightened sensitivity can be greatly reduced. Although living life as a gifted and highly sensitive person can at times be challenging, it is important to note that high sensitivity is also part of their gift. High sensitivity allows the gifted person to feel, reflect and appreciate things more deeply, they are highly conscientious, empathetic, intuitive, and compassionate, and are said to be some of the most loyal and caring people on earth.
Twice Exceptional The term twice-exceptional or 2e, refers to individuals who are gifted and also have a learning, behavioral or psychological disorder. The term twice-exceptional is used because they are seen as exceptional for their intellectual, academic, or creative abilities or potential, but also are at the low end in their deficit area. This asynchrony, or uneven development, often causes frustration and anxiety, and can result in subsequent behavioral issues.
Creatively Gifted Intellectually gifted children have unique-needs that need to be understood and supported in order for the child to reach their highest potential, but creatively gifted children can have even additional needs to these. It has been said that the highly creative child that is not given the space to just be....daydream, imagine, and not only create, but be inspired, will feel unsettled, unfulfilled, and incomplete. Highly creative children have an intense need to feel they are accepted for who they are, and that they, as well as what is important to them, are valued and understood. Many highly creative children are intensely interested in art forms that are considered "time-wasters" by some adults; drawing, fashion, music, videos, fandoms, video games, and the like - because they are able to see the artistic or creative side of these interests and activities; the depth, endless possibilities for exploration, invention and change, and the provision of autonomy and mental solitude captivates as well as soothes the highly creative mind. Intense or unusual interests in gifted and highly creative children are common and may vary or come and go as to importance or priority in the child's life. It is important to understand this aspect of gifted and creative children and where possible allow adequate time for what is presently important to the child.
"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create - so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating." ~ Pearl S. Buck ~
Do All Gifted Children Excel And Succeed? Many are surprised to learn that not all gifted children do well in school. When gifted children struggle in school, many times it is because they are not being taught through their modality, or specific learning style. Issues related to inherently gifted characteristics and traits can also interfere with learning; asynchronous development, high emotional sensitivity and intensity, heightened sensory perception, heightened creative and kinesthetic energy, divergent thinking, perfectionism, concern with morality and fairness, the need for order, organization, autonomy, friends who are intellectual peers or those with similar interests, and more. All of these things can affect a gifted child's experience and feelings about school. All children do best when taught through their specific learning style, but this is especially true for gifted and highly creative children. They also, most often learn best when taught through interest-driven, project and group based learning. Environments where the child's own interests, views and opinions are heard and valued, their creativity supported, and where learning is student paced, are best. You can often identify your child's learning style, and also the environment in which they learn best, just by watching them do what they love to do. The internet is also a great place to find information about identifying learning styles. A Proactive Parenting Coach can also be used for a thorough assessment of modality, communication and learning styles, strengths, sensitivities and comfort zones. Having this important information is step one in creating a homeschooling curriculum for your child, or advocating for their needs at school.
"It is both a blessing and a curse, to feel everything so deeply" ~ Unknown ~
Although gifted children's inherent intellectual "over-awareness" and heightened emotional and sensory sensitivities can lead to challenges for them emotionally, socially and educationally, it is important to note that it is these same three characteristics - that also give them their gift. Heightened intellectual awareness gives the child increased focus, potential or ability in a specific area, and high emotional and sensory sensitivities gives them incredible insight and intuition, creating some of the most passionate and compassionate people on earth.
Misdiagnosis Of The Gifted An additional, and most unfair burden for the gifted to bare, is the fact that most medical professionals are not well trained in gifted identification. Gifted traits, sensitivities and intensities can result in behaviors that mimic behavioral, learning and psychological disorders. This has lead to rampant misdiagnosis of gifted children. With inherent traits that can already be difficult to manage, the last thing a gifted child needs is a misdiagnosis. Learning about the unique makeup, characteristics and traits of gifted children is paramount when advocating for your child's needs at home, school, the doctors office, and beyond. To help with the misdiagnosis of gifted children is the article “Misdiagnosis and Dual-Diagnosis of Gifted Children.”
Parenting Gifted Children Parents who are struggling to understand their gifted or highly creative child's behaviors, emotional sensitivities and intensities, can gain much by learning about their child's unique makeup and needs. A Proactive Parenting Coach can help you to identify your child's communication, modality, and learning style (Digital, Visual, Kinesthetic or Auditory), to know how to present information to them in a way they will understand and enjoy. They can also help you to learn and better understand the unique characteristics of gifted and highly creative children, and how these affect your child's behaviors, emotions and needs. Learning to parent gifted children in a positive and proactive way will promote cooperation and family peace and your child's positive awareness of their own uniquely gifted traits, which will help to grow the self-esteem and confidence they will need to go out in to the world to pursue their own gifts, passions and dreams!
Hugs and Happy Parenting!
Julie L Gibson-Vasquez The Proactive Parenting Coach