How being gifted means being different

Over the last couple of years I have spent time off and on doing research into giftedness and living with unusually high intelligence.  It has been far more interesting and enlightening than I expected.  So I figured I would share some of what I have learned with y’all.  Today I will focus on some of the differences which tend to be characteristic of those with unusually high intellegence.  Tomorrow, I’ll get into why so many gifted people have a hard time recognizing themselves as gifted and why it is so important for them to understand their giftedness and teach their children to do the same.

First, the differences.  I always figured that high intelligence was just about how a person learns new information and skills.  What I have found out, however, is that high intelligence entails not just being able to learn new things quickly and easily, but affects a person’s entire experience of life.  People with unusually high intelligence take in and aquire information differently, process that information differently.  They frequently experience emotions and physical stimuli more intensely than others.  They have motivations and drives which others often find odd or bizarre.  In short, being unusually intelligent tends to create a whole life experience which is markedly more complicated and intense than what most people experience.

Psychologists who deal with highly intelligent people label these areas of high instensity and complexity “Overexcitabilities” or OEs.  They are generally divided into 5 catagories: Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional.  (This article has a pretty good basic examination of OEs.)  While not every highly intelligent person will have an area of OE, most will have at least one or more areas of OE.  These OEs are areas in which the highly intelligent person has unusually strong, frequent or deep reactions and experiences.  For example, a person with intellectual OE may be unable to stop thinking about the things which interest him or her.  They can get lost in figuring out some theoretical problem and spend a lot of time seeking out information and ideas related to the issue.  While this is just the sort of person you want to sic on a complicated problem, a person with intellectual OE can find the pace and intensity of their thinking exhausting.  They can also be impatient with others who aren’t able to intellectually keep up with them or highly critical of others and their ideas because they themselves are able to quickly and easily assess ideas for problems and flaws.  A person with this OE is not just aquiring information more quickly than those around them.  They are dealing with an interacting with that information in ways which are fundamentally different than others.

One of the real challenges that people with high intelligence face is learning how to deal with these OEs in ways that are healthy for themselves and others.  Even more so than for most people, the things which are their greatest strengths can also be very destructive for an unusually intelligent person.  This is why it is very important that kids who are gifted are taught about their giftedness, how it affects them differently than other people and how to manage those areas of OE that they have.  Because they are dealing with an unusual level of intensity and complexity, a gifted child may take longer to get his or her areas of OE under control than a normal child dealing with similar issues of self-control.  For example, it is not at all uncommon for a gifted child to be prone to inappropriate emotional outbursts well past the age that most kids have stopped throwing fits.  While we often attribute this to a lack of maturity, perhaps due to focusing so much mental energy on intellectual development, the reality is that this struggle probably has its root in an emotional OE.  When a person experiences emotions much more frequently, intensely and easily than other people, it only makes sense that it is going to take more time for them to learn to tame and manage them.  We can probably compare it to the difference between saddle training a wild mustang and saddle training a horse bred on a horse farm.  While the mustang may end up being the more magnificent animal, it is also to be expected that it will take more time to bring the wild animal under control than it will the domesticated one.

In addition to dealing with OEs, one of the problems which a lot of kids and adults with unusually high intelligence have is that they do not understand the ways in which they are different from most of the people around them.  They may realize that they learn things more quickly and easily than others, but may be wholly unaware that others don’t share their endless curiosity and may not have the strong feelings about things that they do.  Highly intelligent people may also find themselves odd man out because it is in their nature to think and work outside of the box.  They may know that they are doing this, but may not realize how threatening and disconcerting this often is to others.  They can be blindsided by the negative reactions they receive for doing things which they see as positive.

This fundamental different-ness combined with a lack of insight into the reality of the how other people’s minds work underlies a lot of the social difficulties which highly intelligent people often experience.  Unfortunately, the social problems that unusually intelligent people, particularly kids, commonly experience are usually pinned on some failure on their own part.  However, a good part of the social problems highly intelligent people experience are rooted in a lack of tolerance for their differences.  Take a child who uses vocabulary that his peers aren’t familiar with and responds to being shown a frog with an explanation of the life cycle of frogs and the similarities and differences between frogs and toads.   The other kids don’t usually think, “wow, he’s really smart.  I wonder what else he knows.  I bet he’d be an exciting person to get to know.”  They just think, “what a weirdo.”  How is the child suppose to handle himself to solve this problem?  Should he somehow figure out how to change his very nature so that he doesn’t care about the things he sees around him?  Should he not educate himself about the things which interest him?  Should he magically know which of the words that he effortlessly picks up his peers won’t notice and learn for many years to come so he can refrain from using them?  Should he cynically assume that other people suffer from what to him is an appalling lack of curiosity and not share what he knows (after all, he really likes it when people tell him new things)?  Obviously, pinning the “weirdo” reaction on the gifted child and expecting him to become more “socially adept” in order to avoid triggering it is wrong and ridiculous.  Far better to teach greater tolerance for these differences to the other children.  It would cost the gifted child a huge part of himself to “fix” this social interaction, while expecting greater tolerance from more normal kids would be a benefit to themselves as well as the gifted child.

OTOH, it is entirely likely that the gifted child will prattle on about frogs and toads far past the time available and without regard for the fact that others may have things they would like to contribute to the conversation.  So gifted kids do need to be taught to manage their tendencies in order to be respectful to others and capable of engaging in reciprocal conversations and relationships.  However, many gifted kids and adults struggle with figuring out what they are doing “wrong” in social situations.  They have taken the time to master the art of listening, asking questions, making small talk, providing positive feedback, making jokes, being intentionally kind and thoughtful, modulating emotions and reactions so as not to startle or discomfort other people.  And yet they can still find themselves isolated without knowing why.  The simple fact is that we can (and should) encourage gifted kids to develop good social skills, but if we insist on blaming them for all of their social problems, we are being very unfair.

I personally began to get an inkling of the idea that I might be different from other people in ways that I hadn’t previously realized a couple of years ago.  A woman from my bible study who I was trying to get to know (and who was being rather unresponsive) commented in a discussion, “I always think I’m so unique and different, but the more I get to know other people, the more I realize that they are interested in and looking for the same things as I am.”  It really hit me that my experience of life was just the opposite;  I always thought of myself as normal.  Yet the more I got to know people, the more I realized that other people are pretty much nothing like me.  What is so funny is that other people saw me and interacted with me and seemed to know immediately that I was different.  Yet I, the one who is supposed to be so smart, was frequently oblivious to this.  Actually, I wasn’t so much oblivious to it as I was oblivious to the effect that this difference has on the way people respond (or don’t respond) to me.  Once I started looking into giftedness, things started to make more sense to me.  While it is a little discouraging to realize that there is really nothing I can do to change some of the negative ways people respond to me, it is also freeing to realize that this doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong.

I have found that especially being a mom, when you are very different, it can be hard to find others who “get” you.  Unlike fields like medicine or engineering where gifted people are the norm, motherhood pulls in people from across the range of the intelligence scale.  One of the things which I appreciate about the internet and this blog is that it is much easier to find people who share my interests and probably a few of my OEs online than it is in real life.  So, especially to my regular readers and commentors, thanks so much for joining in here.  It’s nice to have an outlet where you are appreciated rather than just labeled “weirdo”.  :)

64 thoughts on “How being gifted means being different

  1. Greetings from a fellow “gifted” mom. My outlet is writing and attending seminary. Imagine my surprise when I made an A in my first course, taught by the college founder! There was great satisfaction in realizing I am still lucid after being a stay at home mom for 12 years. Keep blogging!

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  2. Very interesting. I can relate to many of those OEs, especially imaginational. I created very elaborate fantasy worlds as a child. I always did well in school, but I was also extremely shy and introverted, so I think any giftedness I had went unnoticed for the most part. I also think the things I’m good at, like creative writing, aren’t appreciated in our society. I’m very right-brained and we live in a very left-brained society where logical and practical thinking is valued above being creative.

    Have you ever read the book “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron? It’s about people whose nervous systems are more sensitive to subtleties. Here’s the website for the book: http://www.hsperson.com/. It really helped me to understand a lot of things about myself and explained why I’m the way I am. I think there’s a lot of overlap between high sensitivity and giftedness.

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  3. Thank you for submitting this post and “Who Me, Gifted?” to the Carnival of Homeschooling hosted at The Homeschool Cafe.

    I am only now sitting down to fully enjoy your posts, and I must tell you that you’ve given me something to think about. I have a 16 yo daughter with social anxiety and “learning disabilities” whose most favorite outlet is language: dissecting words, finding their origins, learning all alternate definitions and pronounciations, etc.

    She will correct a complete stranger’s syntax. Letting the error just hang in the air is distressing to her, but she now understands that doing something that might be rude is disrespectful to the other person.

    I always thought her language ability was a manifestation of her anxiety. It never occurred to me that it could be the other way around until now.

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  4. I am not sure what to write here. My son is having some really tough issues. I am not even sure what they are. He found this site as he believes he is gifted. I have read, if I read right, that you can be gifted and have learning disabilities. Is this true. How do I go about getting my son help. He has never been tested accept as a young boy. He was born fetal alcohol and put in foster care. I am the adopted mom needing much help. He never goes outside. Says he cant get his thoughts out . Like wanting to say something and what comes out is totally different. his mind races all the time. He is going into senior year and I am really frightened for him. has no social life at all. what do i do.

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    • I am a highly gifted person with learning disabilities. I can jump high, run fast, compose songs, write stories, solve math problems fast, solve all types of puzzle, draw and paint pictures, learn fast, cook and many more. My mind cannot stop processing even when I am sleep. I can hear more on the sounds outside the house rather than hearing the one talking to me. i can sense every changes in my environment. i can absorb other people skills by just watching at them

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  5. Loralee,
    I’m so sorry that your son is having such a hard time. To answer some of your concerns:

    yes, it is not only possible, but fairly common for someone to have a learning disability and be gifted. It seems to be related to the fact that high intelligence often represents unusually brain activity which can sometimes slip out of the realm productive gifted patterns and into counter-productive disabilities. In gifted education circles, they call this “twice gifted”.

    Your son sounds like he may be a visual-spatial learner. This kids can be extremely bright, but have a harder time than most with verbal expression. Ask him if he ever thinks in pictures, shapes or colors. Many people who are visual spatial learners think this way. For obvious reasons, it can be hard for them to translate these images into words properly.

    As for resources, my first thought, which you are probably already doing, would be to find any information you can about kids with fetal alcohol syndrome. From what I know of this problem, it tends to manifest most strongly in problems with attention issues, impulse control and medium to long range planning. From what you’re saying, this doesn’t sound like your son’s main issue, but knowledge is always helpful.

    As far as gifted and “twice gifted” issues, I highly recommend the Hoagies’s Gifted link I provide at the end of the post above. They have tons and tons of information, including on twice gifted kids, special circumstances, how to get testing, visual-spatial learners, etc.

    OTOH, there is SO much information on Hoagie’s that it can be a little intimidating. For information in easier to swallow chunks, there’s a sight called The Homeschool Diner. I have a link to it on my blogroll in the sidebar. It is specifically geared towards homeschoolers, but she has some fantastic information on giftedness, “twice gifted” and visual-spatial learners. The woman who runs it is actually a friend of mine. She too is an adoptive mom of a teenaged boy who is a visual spatial learner. I believe that he is twice-gifted in some way as well.

    One other resource I would recommend is anything by a man name Dr. Mel Levine. In particular his book “A Mind At a Time” is helpful for parents working with a child with learning differences or disabilities. He advocates for figuring out exactly where the breakdown(s) in a child’s learning or output is/are and then working to re-train, accommodate or re-route these problem areas to minimize the difficulties they cause. He’s also big on good work habits which can be hard for both kids with disabilities and the gifted. Here’s the link to the amazon listing for “A Mind at a Time”:

    I hope this helps!

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    • Wait, wait…I know this was posted years ago, but I just ran across it. Your third paragraph stopped me in my tracks. Im 34 years old and this is the first I’ve heard of anything but thinking in pictures; I thought everyone’s thought process was picture/color/shape. Finding out its not has just blown my mind.. how do others think then? Is it an unconscious dialog that goes unnoticed, is it words? I seriously can’t wrap my brain around it, can’t grasp the idea of non-picture thought. So I’m sitting here unusually confused but intrigued.

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      • From what I understand, most people just don’t think.
        Haha, I kid. Kind of. But really, my understanding is that visual spatial thinkers are a minority, but a fairly significant minority. Most people do think in words and dialogue. Often, there’s probably short hand involved – sort of like taking notes in biology class. One of the challenges of being a visual spatial thinker is that everything needs to be translated from pictures into words, which some people struggle with.
        Learn something new everyday, huh?

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  7. I think you threw in a curveball in the end, mentioning that you’re a mother. I don’t find this article to be about mother’s or children necessarily; I find it to be about gifted PEOPLE, rather. In that case, I (fully believing that I am gifted) have felt the pain and difficulty of social relationships due to a lack of understanding between myself and others. I often find myself shying away from people as they become close–usually because I feel they have a lack of understanding of who I am, where I”ve come from, and where I want to go. Thank you for these refreshing words, they’ve opened up my eyes a little wider to things I may have already glanced at. By the way, in my own opinion, giftedness can come about at any age in life…it doesn’t necessarily come about in childhood.

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  8. I don’t think the “mother surprise” at the end of this article was a curveball at all — some folks can relate to the whole article, and mothers can especially relate to this very important final paragraph.

    I am mother going into grad school for English literature — while I know there are mothers in grad school (I can’t wait to get there!), those are not the ones I meet on the playground, at birthday parties, etc. I honestly am terrified of these situations because I have been an intellectual outsider since high school, and I cannot relate to conversations about carseats, minivans, and other such small talk. I have to pretend to be someone I’m not, or I just remain silent and awkward.

    It’s not that I can’t be a “normal” person. I have plenty of friends and family who I get along with fine who are not necessarily gifted. But they know me, and they know to expect some nerdiness. :)

    Anyhow, I totally feel what you’re saying about mothers coming from all walks of life and levels of intelligence, and I agree that it is very hard to find a circle of understanding, gifted mothers who have much more on their minds than child rearing.

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  9. I do not know if I would consider myself gifted but your article has clarified one trait of mine that I have always had but never quite put my finger on that was different than most other people. The trait I have noticed is an intense curiosity that drives a critical thought process that wants to understand the underlying reasons for what is taught instead of just taking what is said for granted. This critical thought process is combined with a strong distaste for rote learning or any teaching where I had to take facts for granted without understanding the underlying logic or basis of how and why the teaching worked and exactly what it was explaining. I find it frustrating that so many people accept so many things as fact without applying even a cursory amount of critical thinking to question “facts” instead just taking what they have been taught or learned for granted.

    I was wondering if you have noticed or read anything that would indicate that people with higher intelligence have a higher tendency to employ critical thinking?

    To me it seems that critical thinking and learning would be a learning style that is much better suited to gifted children since it would work together nicely with the stronger curiosity of gifted children and their desire to know what where when why and how instead of the more common learning rote methodology where curiosity is unneeded and what is taught is taken for granted.

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  10. Interesting post, thanks. I think it’s easy though to build walls, harder to build bridges (I’m referring to a quote by Isaac Newton). Now how about writing on how to communicate with other people, in this case the vast majority of the population? Would be nice. Very many gifted people get along with others just fine, more should be written about that. You know what I’m saying? A bit of originality please. Best regards.

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  11. Hi..
    I’ve been going through a tough last couple weeks, concerning finding out who I am (or how others perceive me and what I need to do to develop into someone more ‘socially acceptable’). However, none of that concerns me more than being unable to communicate with my mom properly. I believe, after reading your blog (which I really like, btw), that my mom and I are somewhat “gifted”, as you say. But that still doesn’t fix the main issue of communication between me and my mom.

    oh, I’m about to run off on a tangent, I can tell, so I’ll just conclude by saying thanks for putting yourself out there with your blog because it has helped boost my self-confidence during a rough patch in my life. I’m just looking for guidance as I’m ever so confused about everything and anything right now, but maybe it’s best I am able to rely a little more on myself, rather than seeking answers from elsewhere :p :)

    what I’d rather let you know, about what I think, (even though this doesn’t matter much since you definitely have more of a grip on important matters relative to myself), is that I believe you are going to be one of the greatest mothers out there. And your children are most definitely going to grow into epic human beings, haha, and I’m excited for you! Power to You! Don’t ever be embarrassed about anything you do, because, while everyone makes mistakes, you seem as close to perfect as a person could get :)

    Cheers,
    Aaron

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  12. Hmm how strange, gifted adult at bible study. I guess it’s possible that you never questioned any of the fallacies and contradictions or maybe you have never read the bible. Maybe your lying. I’m trying to figure out if I’m gifted because I’m very different than other people. I recently wondered if I had something like schizophrenia or autism. Now, though, I am starting to believe gifted because most of my current problems fit the definition of gifted. I am 19 and I have never studied for anything. I used to easily get straight As but in 8th grade it went downhill. I think I am so conditioned to a lazy academic lifestyle now that I am struggling. I still do not study and I’m in college. I don’t always do the homework. I almost never have taken notes in my life but now I need to but it’s so overwhelming. I have heard this happens to gifted if they are not recognized and challenged. In middle school I became very socially isolated, too. I was the only one caring about interesting things. I was looking up information on black holes and theories of the universe and physics. Now in my life I have a strong understanding of the nature of this world. Although it isn’t solved yet. I understand where we stand in humanity and what this world is. In middle school I used to make up theories about physics. Only based on what I knew at the time. I later found some to be true and lots false. Now it is sad for me because I really don’t know anyone on the same page as me. They all care about ignorant things. I do believe ignorance is bliss and sometimes wish I could have not been this way but I also love my intellectuality at the same time. My problem now, though, is I am incredibly unmotivated and lazy with school. So far I have failed one class in college because I basically didn’t take part in it. The teacher didn’t teach and let us do open book tests but I just thought it was ridiculous. Another problem is I try to use inference to solve test problems and I do not study. I get overwhelmed by work and I don’t know what to do. Any ideas? Are there others that feel this way here too?

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    • Clark if you “have an intense curiosity that drives a critical thought process that wants to understand the underlying reasons for what is taught instead of just taking what is said for granted” as I wrote above, then that is likely the cause of your problems in school. If you are taking physics, especially Quantum mechanics, then you will probably have a very hard time because it cannot be conceptualized and is most likely an approximation of reality, obviously a very useful one. If that is the case then I have no idea what to suggest except learn to become good at rote memorization because that is the only way you will do well. If you are taking other courses I would suggest reading the classics to get a good underpinning on modern thought and where it has evolved from. A suggestion for you if you like physics is “The Grand Unified Theory of Classical Physics” by Randell Mills. It is a theory of the universe that can be understood conceptually and if one keeps an open mind it offers a distinctly new viewpoint that expands ones ability to understand the universe we live in. Hope it works out for you and good luck.

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    • Clark ~ I would advise you to follow what you are passionate about. The state of academia these days is pretty awful. You could spend all that time, effort, money, etc., only to end up with a meaningless degree and no job or future. Besides, it is well known that not everyone is cut out for college ~ especially if you are ALREADY a critical thinker. You can self-educate. Plus there are other alternatives, such as learning a skill or trade that you lo

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  13. Clark, my first suggestion would be to refrain from being arrogant and rude. Even someone who is smart can be a fool and your snarky comments about the bible make you look foolish and immature rather than superior. Being smart isn’t a substitute for acting like a decent human being. As to your concerns, intelligent people do have to learn to be disciplined in order to be successful in life. Often it is helpful to have interests outside of school. I usually do a lot of reading and research on my own during college. Then my actual school work was just something I needed to do in order to get by. Once it wasn’t the main focus, I found it easier to be disciplined enough to get the work done.

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    • I’m having flashbacks to my former career as an educational therapist! All their kids mentioned by these parents were my clients…sigh. But I have let that expertise go…to a degree. FYI, for all those parents:E T’ s are who you want working with your kids that are gifted and have LD/ADHD etc. We have unique training.

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  14. i am somewhat shock, i feel the same way as you do. i always thought i was normal, but yet people treat me differently. i’ve study facial expression, still no luck in socializing. reading your blog made me realize, that, well, true to fact i am not pathetic like i think i am. but rather in the special track? its still hard to accept, but i think i will get through with it gradually.
    so…the point is to gain self-awareness? i never found people similar to me, so i have no clue at all. i’ve been back and forth numerous psychologist but none of them seems to help. i’m trap in the habit of giving because i think i’ve had more then enough. even though my family is very supportive, accepting my giftedness as it is, i still have to figure out things on my own. its a bit sad knowing you are very different from most people, and i have to look down on them.but it make sense. i have mix feelings about this.
    i always thought that me and other people is like a race track, where i’m seeing their backs as they run very far in front of me. and i was running very slow.
    and before because of my curiosity and my inquisitiveness, people labeled me as ‘confuse’.
    i hope with this knowledge, i will get my socal life into perspective. i am a very eccentric loner, i hate being in the midst of crowd and rather be alone with my laptop. i really want that to change though, being ‘alive’ is my goal this year.

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    • Amy, I was really hung up on the idea that I thought (or seemed to think) I was better than others if I owned being as smart as I am. But the reality is that being smart is just one way a person can have an advantage. Some people are much better at being happy than I am. Some people can make friendships more easily than I can. Some people don’t have to think everything to death and can just enjoy them more than I can. Being smart is one sort of advantage, but it can be much harder to live with than most people know. Besides, I can’t really be anyone other than who I am.
      You might want to read the post I wrote today titled “I’m a byword for neurosis”. In it I talk about learning to appreciate the advantage that being a little clueless can be in life.

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  15. Thank you for writing this. During a time in my life where I struggle with isolation because of my being “exceptionally gifted”, and not understanding what people are seeing in me that makes them leave me entirely alone, it was comforting to see someone else out there is going through the exact same emotions.

    Also, what you said about the Intellectual OE overwhelming themselves, that’s exactly me! Thank you for that insight.

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  17. Thank you for sharing your experiences Rebecca. The link to the article about OE would not work for me – would it be possible for you to provide more details so that I can try sourcing it myself?

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  19. Hi there everyone. My name is Adam. I would like to share how comforting it is to find other people that are open minded. Why cant all people see the big picture instead of thinking they are the center of the universe? Or how can some people believe we are the only intelligent life thas has or will ever exist? One last question, why dont people value what is truly important?

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  20. Oh my, Rebecca…. I haven’t seen this post before, and now I know why. You will not believe this (but I know you will), I really needed to read it, not at any other time, but tonight. Without getting too much into it for now, it’s been a rough night with my 14 year old with autism/Asperger’s/whatever the **** he has… For now, just thank you, simply thank you (:’-)…

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    • Well, I’m glad you found it when you needed it. 14 is hard to begin with. 14 with differences multiplies it. 14 with differences AND high intelligence? I think there’s a special place in heaven for parents who have to deal with all that! My two boys (13 and 17) are exhausting. My husband keeps saying we need to get the 13 year old tested because he’s got to be on the spectrum somewhere. I don’t think he is, but he thinks so differently than other people that he genuinely has a hard time understanding what things look like from another person’s perspective. And he seems to have my knack for bringing out the dysfunctional in people. Anyhow, I don’t know if you saw it, but I had a post a while ago about my experience sending them to school after homeschooling them for 8 years (it wasn’t good!). You might be able to appreciate it:

      http://theupsidedownworld.com/2012/06/06/smart-kids-being-dumb/

      I keep meaning to get a “gifted” page up under hot topics. Ah well – not tonight!

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  21. Two points:

    1/. the cartoon sums up how as an intellectually gifted person Im always being told, subtly, that really I’m actually quite dumb. Its a levelling activity society engages in. In fact your article almost does the same – see below.

    2/. your article highlights how other people dont “get” people who are smarter then they are and although I kmow you dont mean it, it has a subtle tone of “smart person doing something dumb” like babbling on about the lifecycle of frogs. My point is however, you havent considered it from the smart persons point of view – have you any idea how exhausting I find it dealing with people who are not as smart as me? I think not.

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    • Actually Jane, I began looking into giftedness in good part because I was continually confused and exhausted by having to figure out what I was saying or doing that was causing people to react strangely to me. And it is exhausting to try and be a mind reader. That’s why in this post
      I make a point of saying that it’s unfair for people who are unusually smart to have to shoulder the entire burden of the sort of social problem they sometimes face.

      I picked the cartoon because I thought it was funny and apt for what it is often like for people who are unusually smart. There is this attitude that smart people can’t make mistakes and are supposed to be good at everything and of course neither are true. For example, if you read through my blog you will quickly realize that I’m in dire need of an editor. Grammar and proof-reading are not my things. So I get what it’s like to be pushing on the pull door of the gifted school.

      I am now pretty open about my own giftedness as a way of letting other people know that yes, I am weird and yes, I know it and no it’s not a bad thing. I have found that by dealing with it with good humor, people are fine with it. Really I’m rarely telling them something they kind of already didn’t know. By giving people a little peak into what it’s like to be me, it makes it easier for them to be tolerant and maybe even enjoy when I randomly spout off about kione Greek or some such. So yeah – I’ve considered it a lot from the smart person’s point of view. It’s my own, after all.

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  22. As I turned to my co-worker to comment on how cool it is to understand I’m different and gifted and that’s ok and in fact a beautiful thing, I remembered he’d probably take it as me “bragging.” I keep quiet often because nobody wants to know that I understand or know the answer. It’s like the 3rd grade all over again, lol.
    Thank you for posting this. I’ve recently come to understand that I am gifted, as is my Dad. He never really did anything with his giftedness. He’s still working in the middle management job he hates 30+ years later.
    He knew we were different, but he had no concept how to help me to embrace and channel that giftedness. He’d done nothing with his own, so it stands to reason he had not idea of how to help me channel mine. Plus, my areas of giftedness clash with some of his long held beliefs. I was told that reincarnation isn’t real when I identified with and understood it at age 4.
    I’m learning to embrace my giftedness and not so much care what others think. My comfort level with being a “weirdo” gives other people permission to also be “weirdos,” it seems.
    I’m glad to find resources, such as this blog, to better understand my giftedness and also to direct my 2-year-old who can already count to 15. It allows me to break a pattern my family has held to for too long.

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  23. Is it possible to be gifted and and also have ADD/ADHD? Like, if you were gifted and had inattentive ADD. I wonder why there isn’t much research on this, or even if it’s possible. And how do you help a child feel “normal” and accepted (for the most part) so that their emotional – mental health is not affected? I wasn’t able to find any studies/experts, unless I was just Googling the wrong thing.

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    • I would strongly recommend going to hoagiesgifted.org. They have wonderful materials on all things gifted. Such as kids with 2e – twice exceptional – who are both gifted and have some sort of learning or processing disorder or something like ADD. They also have great resources on helping kids with emotional needs. It’s absolutely the best jumping off point for anyone needing more information or resources on giftedness.

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  24. I stumbled on this post yesterday. I had never heard of OEs before, but now having read about them, my childhood makes so much more sense to me. When I was little, I basically lived inside of my head. I could sit for hours hardly moving, speaking or acknowledging anyone just playing with my thoughts. I even had trouble sleeping because of my over-active imagination. Watching TV was an especially intense experience. My favorite shows fed my imagination; if something particularly exciting happened in a show, I’d nearly jump off the couch shrieking. I was both a highly avid reader and a writer. I wrote my first (three-page) poem at 5 years old. And I couldn’t sit through a church service without pens and paper for drawing. I often illustrated my father’s sermons in a little notebook.

    Seriously, I think I exhibited every sign of giftedness: perfectionism (to the point of OCD), creativity, strong morals, physical sensitivity, photographic/auditory memory, vivid dreams, loquaciousness, large vocabulary…the list may very well go on.

    I often wondered why I connected better with adults than with people my own age, why people nearly always seemed standoffish or intimidated by me, or how I seemed to acquire skills after only one or two tries. My own mother called me eccentric and we could never seem to get on the same page. Now I think I understand and can do some work to find my niche and improve my relationships. Thanks for this!

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    • April, learning about giftedness made such a huge difference in my life. Like everything about me and my experiences made soooooo much more sense once I started learning about it. I always thought I was doing something wrong up until that point.

      Like

  25. thank-you for the wonderful article! My 10 yr old is gifted, and my 8 year old is taking the cogAT at school to see of he will be in gifted programing too, since he did so well on his schoolwide test nwea. They both have adhd. I am now looking into if that is also the case with me, I was diagnosed as a teen with ADD, but now researching about my boys, I seem to fit all of the emotional aspects, and characteristics of giftedness, except probably a gifted IQ!! LOL! I have been seeing a psychologist for 2 years, due to anxiety, and confusion about life and people, and spirituality, and where I’ve been, and where I’m going, questioning things, etc. next month she is going to give me IQ tests. I had high average iq in jr high, and untreated add when I took the test. I hope my problems are due to giftedness–otherwise i will have to go back to just being plain old neurotic!

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  26. Wow. I’m gifted (tested in elementary school), and completely left-brained. School, sports, whatever I tried (except art, unless I used math and a ruler) were always a breeze for me, but I have always had trouble making friends who aren’t also “weirdos” and very smart. No one else “gets” me, which can be very difficult. I’m very imaginative and my mind is always racing.

    At eight years old, I began have intense panic attacks because I cannot stop thinking about whatever it is causing my anxiety until I faint. It’s like my body can’t take it anymore and has to reboot. Not only was I just plain bored in high school, I started drinking and using drugs to help slow myself down… I almost didn’t graduate, even with good grades because my attendance was so terrible.

    Eventually, in college, I became agoraphobic (diagnosed). I thought I had OCD because of the racing thoughts and non-random panic attacks. Finally, after several years of counseling with no positive result, I went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me: Panic disorder with agoraphobia and Social Phobia, the combination of which was causing depression (gee, wonder why?). I take medication for these with some benefit. Every time I see the psychiatrist, he tests my memory, and he always says it is very good (and it really is, I can remember most everything so clearly, it is part of the reason I learn so quickly). So, about a month ago, I asked him why, if my memory is so great, I can’t remember to eat breakfast, or shut the lights off on my car (battery dies about 2-3 times a month, frustrating!), or take the keys out of the ignition before I lock and close the doors… I am always intensely focused on something, but I can never seem to finish anything — my intense focus will flit from subject to subject. I really do view myself as a “Mad Scientist” and I have always had to have things “just so” and have always had to have a person in my life that makes sure I eat or go outside once in a while which, for such a highly intelligent person, just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    After hearing all this, he asked me a series of questions and diagnosed me with ADHD. This does make sense, because I have all those symptoms. However, after reading this post and gathering information from several other sources across the internet, I’m starting to wonder if maybe my anxiety/emotion regulation problems and my attention deficit and impulsive problems may just be several OEs.

    Sorry about the length… I also have problems with being too thorough. Rambling…

    Anyway, thanks in advance for any input you might have. I’m 24, almost a college dropout, and extremely intelligent and I’m trying to stop this ship from sinking before it’s too late.

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    • For what is worth (I am no psychologist). You may want to try written lists and committ to follow them as appropriate. Even for things as common as taking a shower… It actually helps my son, “1. Right armpit. 2. Left armpit”.. You get the picture. Lists help me too, although I can totally relate to racing thoughts and feelings like “I will not have time to do everything I want to do” so I freeze…. Good luck and hang in there!!!!! (:-)

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    • I am “completly” right brained….
      I like to work with the conceiver rather than the perceiver.
      Wich makes me creative…

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  27. Great post! I found out I was gifted when I realized my son was about three years ago (having a son that could speak fluently and discuss the cosmos at 14 months old was reason to question things). It surprises me now, that nobody ever realized I was but I guess it was because I was so quiet and….weird. Mostly, so that I felt like I was an observer of the world not actually a part of it. Nevertheless, I always thought everyone thought like me…a million thoughts a moment which came out as random tangents or totally bizarre observations because I had taken so many leaps and bounds before actually managing to stutter some words out into the world. Accomplishments come super easy for me and I feel like I do more in a week than others do in a year yet until I realized the gift, I felt like I was never smart enough, nothing was ever done well enough, fast enough, or young enough. I feel so grateful for my son, who is now only four, but who is someone I can connect to and talk to. Moreover, that he will be able to understand his giftedness from the get-go rather than being labelled as “weird”. I already had to pull him out of daycare when he was 2 because he could speak fluently and thought the kids hated him. Plus, the daycare workers actually did start resenting him because he would tell me all their gossip throughout the day! Ha ha. Careful, what your kids might be hearing!!

    I have also recently met a new man who is clearly gifted as well, we get along better than anyone I’ve ever met. When we are together, it is like we are in another dimension from everyone else in the room. We think we are absolutely hilarious when everyone else thinks we’re nuts. Our intensities and intellect are finally matched which is, unbelievably refreshing. He didn’t know he was gifted either and had diagnosed himself to be OCD. It is an interesting experience to go through this self-discovery with someone else, but we are also running into troubles at times. One, is that we both work in the same field, so we could easily spend hours upon hours tackling a problem (which is fine and fun, but we’re not getting paid for it!) and we both react with high emotions to many issues which often takes us quite awhile to calm down. I’m also hoping that we don’t get bored of each other like we have done in all of our relationships in the past!! However, I think the more we learn about our relationship curse the better we will be able to handle ours, my son, and hopefully our future children!

    On another note, for anyone reading this. One thing I’ve found to help me calm down is to meditate and find myself in the present. Also to realize that perfection is required in all realms: mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional so that now I focus on finding balance.

    Now to stop procrastinating and start writing this book chapter that is due in 5 days! Sigh.

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  28. it was exactly me, i’m 23 and I have just realized the difference recently, I am an MSc student in human genetics I really really have problems with people around me, this year in the first yea of my MSc I personally established 13 Genetics and stem cell projects which is more than the projects of every one the research center i work in altogether. no one understands meeeeeeee
    thank you for the information
    i have felt it sentence by sentence

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  29. Pingback: despre melci | t.blog

  30. I enjoyed reading your article. I have also found it helpful to read some of the research. For most gifted people, it is normal within the family because the whole family is….thanks for sharing.

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  31. I came across this while researching how giftedness affects adults, and I wanted to thank you for posting it. I was considered a gifted child in school, but I always thought that simply meant that I learned faster and therefore took slightly more advanced classes. I’m 27 now and just started working towards my MBA, and I have been struggling with why I don’t seem to quite fit in with everyone (this has been an ongoing problem in my life, particularly at school). I’m not very shy, I make efforts to be a good listener, and I try to be social with my classmates, but something doesn’t click. I often feel isolated and think that there must be something I’m doing wrong.
    Reading this post and the comments following it has been a great lift for me today because I realize that I’m not the only one feeling this way, and that being different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong. Thank you.

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  32. This was not written too late, but it’s published about 63 years later than I would have wished. My parents needed to read this. They too were very smart, but they were raised to not let that light shine. So my parents tried to raise me to be “normal,” even discouraging me from thinking I was special. They knew that fitting in would be a problem, but they didn’t know what to do with that information. And schools way back when had little to offer gifted students that wasn’t regular stuff for extra credit.

    In many circumstances, I was told (verbally or by example) that being smart/gifted/whatever was not a disability, but almost a fault. Especially, I could end up prideful or feeling special, which in a good Calvinist milieu was a very bad thing. All my parents could tell me when I was left out or ridiculed was that the other kids were just jealous. They too were very smart, but they were raised to not let that light shine.

    Though I have sensed much of this and understood part of it for years, you wrapped it up in a neat package.

    It will even help me understand a very painful relationship breakdown with someone who has the gifts you recognize but can’t handle that truth and has retreated into the conformity that was pressed onto her instead of blooming.

    I see better why people react to me the way they do and why I act and react in ways they cannot understand. Thank you for taking off a set of my imperfectly ground life-lenses.

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  33. Reblogged this on Growing Courageous Kids and commented:
    Blogging on this site is generally on hold for now, but I came across this and wanted to save…the plight of gifted kids that do not also have gifted social intelligence. Good summary of salient points. I especially resonate due to the fact that I teach social & emotional intelligence to kids as a counselor/coach. Also a topic near and dear to my heart…as Kermit says, “It’s not easy being green!” (Different) even when you’ve become adept, due to EQ/SQ, at hiding it.

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  34. Pingback: Chronicles of a Gifted Individual | Kalondu's Reflections

  35. Thank you so much for this post, Rebecca. As many have said, I wish I had had this information when I was growing up. Or when I was parenting my young children. But now it can help me as a grandmother.

    Toward the beginning of this post you wrote, “Tomorrow, I’ll get into why so many gifted people have a hard time recognizing themselves as gifted and why it is so important for them to understand their giftedness and teach their children to do the same.” Where may I find that follow-up post?

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  36. This and all of this. Welcome to my life.

    One of my biggest frustrations in learning in group settings (ie: school/college) is the “laggers”… the people who have to have information repeated multiple times in redundant ways to grasp a concept. It’s like, It’s Not That Complicated! And then I have to slow down and remember that “normal” people really DO think it is that complicated. I remember being accused of plagiarism because I used the term “nasal pharynx” in a paper about snow leopards. The teacher didn’t think I knew what that was in 8th grade. When I was able to draw a picture of it, explain it, and say what was so bloody special about the snow leopards’ noses, she reluctantly gave me the A. I was told I was a show-off for choosing to write a book report on a 600+ page book (the first in a series of 7)… in 9th grade… when the requirement was for a 100+ page book. It only took me two days to read. I (very briefly) dated a guy who asked me to keep my vocabulary to 7 letters-or-less (should be FEWER, moron)! They put me into special “socialization” class in 3rd grade to teach me how to have friends… who I didn’t acquire until about 9th grade… after another student stabbed me in the hand with a pencil for being a “freak”. I got detention for challenging a teacher’s “no candy in class” policy when I caught her eating candy during class.

    I did actually get spontaneous applause once from the whole band because I had obsessively practiced a horn solo before our first play-through in class and absolutely nailed it. This was senior year and the first public acknowledgement that I had anything exceptional going on by my classmates. I think people were kinda shocked. Proudest moment in the classroom in my first 18 years. Ran into one of those bandmates about 5 years later and that was what he remembered about me- that solo.

    Being “gifted and talented” is awesome in all these ways and more. It’s awkward, isolating, frustrating, maddening, and altogether worth it in the end when you get to be that moron’s boss. (satisfied chuckle)

    Now I’m going to be a mom for the first time to a child of my DNA (already a step-mom to two awesome kids), and I am already thinking about the ways this child could experience the same sorts of things I went through. My pals from my G/T classes in high school and college have all gone on to have G/T children of their own, with various challenges. Just testing a child into accelerated learning programs seems to be a real pain! Homeschooling is certainly an option, but I worry that it would be a transferred avoidance and not the best thing for my individual of a child. I’m not due until March 2014, so plenty of time before I have to worry about it! Nice to know I’m not alone out there in the great big world of “what am I doing and isn’t anyone else dealing with this too?” :)

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  37. Thank you for your blog. I’m a physician and during my years in training, I have always had difficulty dealing with my peers. I get impatient when they don’t immediately understand something seemingly so simple to me. I have obsessive-compulsive traits and always feel the need to prove that I am right with well-researched facts. I am very critical of other’s people work and feel the need to correct their mistakes. I always win in an argument, but I find myself losing friends after. But I have no inherent desire to make many friends. I prefer to be alone and find it exhausting to be in a crowd or around noisy places. I find great joy in spending time alone with myself, reading a book or browsing the internet for whatever interests me. I used to be a blogger like you. I had a lot of readers and fans, but I had different opinions regarding religion, politics, etc and would often get into arguments with other people. So I just stopped writing.

    My superiors during training loved me and depended on my efficiency and assigned more tasks to me. This earned me the jealousy of my other colleagues, my female colleagues. I have no real desire to interact with other people and this is often misconstrued to be as arrogance.

    I’ve always wondered if there was something wrong with me. One friend suggested that I seek psychological help. That I might have obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Reading this blog, and knowing my IQ score, makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I’m normal after all.

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  38. Thank you for this. I get frustrated in social situations because I often have to put on this “normal” front so I can not be perceived as a weirdo. It’s exhausting. I’m constantly pretending not to know or like things that I actually do. Despite of all of that, it’s not even working; most people can still tell that I’m different. I feel like I say the wrong things all of the time. Don’t even let me get started on dates!
    My friends and family tell me “Just be yourself! You’re awesome just the way you are.” It’s hard to receive that because they don’t understand how isolating it is.
    I hope it gets easier somehow. I try to find gifted friends, but that’s difficult, too. Any ideas on how to do that?

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    • There are a couple of things you can try. One is joining Mensa. I joined a few years back and they have monthly meetings which are usually just social time. They also have various groups arranged around shared interests or needs. So that’s one thing. If you have kids or have an interest in supporting and mentoring gifted kids, you can also get involved in local organizations which support and advocate for gifted kids and their needs.

      Another tact is to get involved with organizations or institutions which will tend to attract gifted people. A local science or art museum, amature musical groups or an engineering club would be places to start. You can also search for groups on meetup.com which are organized around subjects which are likely to attract giften people.

      Finally, I would recommend learning to engage in some radical self-acceptance. It took me a long time, but I reached a point where I decided that I wasn’t going to allow the most judgmental, narrow-minded, mean people I ran met to set the standard by which I would be judged. Now, when I start to beat myself up for saying the “wrong” things or inadvertantly making someone uncomfortable, I stop and ask myself, “if someone else had said what I said in my presence, would I be offended/think poorly of them?” Nearly always the answer is no. Which means that, by my own high standards, the other person is the problem, not me. I have just as much right to be the person God made me as any other human being. And so do you.

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      • Excellent advice in the last paragraph. I’ve read about self-love for a long time, and it did not make a lot of sense to me (partly because it’s been a long time since I hated myself). But someone else put it in perspective for me just today in a blog. She said, if you wouldn’t allow someone else to disrespect you that way, why would you allow yourself to do it?

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  39. They have taken the time to master the art of listening, asking questions, making small talk, providing positive feedback, making jokes, being intentionally kind and thoughtful, modulating emotions and reactions so as not to startle or discomfort other people. And yet they can still find themselves isolated without knowing why.

    This is so true to me. I don’t think I’m gifted person but I faced all the problems you mentioned in your article.

    Thank you for this article which help me to understand myself a little better.

    Like

  40. I’m so happy you ppl exist lol. I’m 20 years old and i live in the hood w/ a bunch of ppl who are like so stupid you couldn’t even believe it. I don’t like calling ppl stupid but when i see a lot of people do the things they do and say and their explanations, there seems to be no other explanation but that they’re stupid and it seems almost to be a choice to me because they don’t want to learn anything. I’m not a hard ass who goes around trying to change ppl and putting them down by the way but, i just feel ppl settle way too quickly on closing their minds to anything that makes them the least bit uncomfortable. Of course no one else around me feels that way and im the odd one out though. Not to mention that my dad is an alcoholic w/ a superiority complex which i never noticed until he brought it up one day while drunk. Also we had problems between us and he claimed he couldn’t speak to me and i told him that he never does he just gives up. All he has to do is say something back that makes sense and i’ll gladly listen. Im curious and listening anyway and i will gladly be wrong as long as you have a reason why. I’m willing to learn from anyone because im fully aware that no one knows everything and that its possible to learn something from anyone. I started thinking about some of the bad times from when i was a little kid and i started to realize that there were other reasons why i was depressed(for like 6 years) aside from the the main obvious things that come to mind such as death in the family. Its like every one made me feel wrong for being me and i was always trying to change more and more and more but nothing was ever good enough. But i couldn’t understand why it wasn’t good enough and that’s usually what im good at. understanding things and figuring them out quickly. I never really wanted to be mr popular or anything but it seemed ridiculous that ppl seemed to be so apposed to me what i was sayin. Especially since anything important i chose to say was so logical and well planned out. Most ppl don’t even listen though lol.

    a few weeks ago i completely decided to own the fact that im just different and i can’t expect ppl to think like me and also that i can expect them the think that i will think like them. I was always aware that i was smart but, i had no idea until recently that i was thinking in a way that was so different from most ppl. I actually started thinking i was just crazy or something for a little while though because the only other explanation is that im crazy since no one understands.

    So yeah.. thanks for existing @the ppl in the comments lol. And thanks for writing this article @ the author. Nice to know im not a lone in the world.

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