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Intensity and Sensitivity of the Gifted Child. Teresa Argo Boatman For GRASP – Oct 21, 2013. Living with Intensity, Daniels and Piechowski. Intensity/Overexcitabilities. Overexcitabilities

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Intensity and sensitivity of the gifted child

Intensity and Sensitivity of the Gifted Child

Teresa Argo Boatman

For GRASP – Oct 21, 2013

Intensity overexcitabilities

  • Overexcitabilities

    • An intense interaction with the world in five different areas – Psychomotor, Intellectual, Sensual, Imaginational, Emotional

    • Impact intake of information from the world and what is given back to differing situations

Psychomotor intensity
Psychomotor Intensity

  • Organic surplus of energy

  • Augmented capacity for being active and energetic, love of movement

  • Heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system, expressed as movement

  • Restlessness and nervous habits (tics, nail biting)

  • Compulsive talking and chattering

  • Pressure for action

  • Rapid speech

Psychomotor oe responses
Psychomotor OE Responses

  • Allow for movement during activities, dinner, family time

  • Movement can be really important for many kids during homework time – exercise balls, pacing

  • Development of space in house that works to ‘stretch out the kinks’

  • Do not remove recess for any reason – work with teacher

  • Encourage exercise at home before coming to school for the day

  • Fidgets and chewing allowed

  • What is your tolerance for movement in your house?

Intellectual intensity
Intellectual Intensity

  • Avid search for truth and knowledge

  • Discovery, questioning, and always asking probing questions

  • Love of ideas and theoretical analysis, moral thinking, intuitive integration of ideas

  • Capacity for sustained intellectual effort

  • Intense concentration and curiosity

  • Highly introspective

Intellectual oe responses
Intellectual OE Responses

  • Some opportunity for extended work time on independent projects each week – allow for diving deep

  • Warning system of transitions from activity to activity – touch may need to be part of it

  • Understanding of absentminded professor syndrome

  • System for communicating “deep questions” that can be used so does not disrupt your needs for sleep, new activity, etc.

Sensual intensity
Sensual Intensity

  • Heightened sensory pleasure and over responsiveness: Seeing, Smelling, Tasting, Touching, Hearing

  • Enhanced aliveness of sensual experiences

  • Expression of emotional tension through: overeating, sensory seeking, wanting to be in limelight

  • Aesthetic pleasures

Sensual oe responses
Sensual OE Responses

  • Lighting addressed in room and spaces

  • Sound issues identified and addressed as necessary – allow child to use earplugs during work time or dampen sounds for maximum work efficiency

  • Provide teachers information about OE so they can understand food and clothing issues, heightened responsiveness

  • Work on personal space and boundary issues as necessary

  • Look at reactivity to situations for the possible sensory stimulus

  • Find activities that can “be on stage”

Imaginational intensity
Imaginational Intensity

  • Frequent use of image and metaphor

  • Vividness of imagery and richness of association

  • Liking for the unusual

  • Facility for dreams, fantasies, and inventions

  • Mixing truth and fiction due to fantasy life

  • Spontaneous imagery and expression

  • Detailed visual recall

Imaginational oe responses
Imaginational OE Responses

  • Be prepared for anxiety response to those situations which can be imagined to be scary

  • Be sensitive to movies which depict evil

  • Alternate indoor recess option if a movie is shown in your school

  • Feed Imagination through art, poetry, and opportunity for fictional work through assignments

  • Defining difference between real and imaginary world

  • Help them see the worst, best and most likely in those imaginary/scary situations

Emotional intensity
Emotional Intensity

  • Intensity of emotional life, intense positive and negative feelings

  • Somatic expression of emotions (tense stomach, blushing, pounding heart)

  • Strong emotional ties and attachments

  • Compassion and empathy for others feelings

  • Heightened sense of responsibility

  • Scrupulous self-examination and self-judgment

  • Fears and anxieties / Feelings of guilt

Emotional oe responses
Emotional OE Responses

  • Prepare teacher for emotional responsiveness of your child

  • Environment which supports sensitivity rather than makes it a negative (especially highly sensitive boys)

  • Opportunity for children to communicate emotional intensity without your need to solve the problem

  • Teach and use stress management techniques

  • Teach ways to step out of emotionally charged situations

  • Allow for relaxation time during the day


  • Distinguish between excellence and perfection within your child’s work

  • Reward work effort rather than outcome as much as possible

  • Teach choices of 100% and 90% goals and what leads to 50% outcomes

  • Help child understand the difference between what they see in their head as a possible outcome and what their body and time can actually do

  • Teach them to be comfortable with starting (writing, new projects, new sports) without a clear path to follow

Idealism fairness

  • Work toward the gray in ideas, concepts, and rules

  • Distinguish tattling from telling

  • Discussion on absolute truth – where do we find something that is absolutely true

  • Identify needs of others – Do people need to know when they have made a mistake and are wrong?

  • How do we correct others gently and with respect

  • Smartyrdom – The ability to let someone else win an argument even when you know you're correct

Friendship development
Friendship Development

  • Acceptance of intensity of others within the their friendship sphere

  • Acceptance of one or two friends as adequate and reasonable

  • Identification of different friends for different reasons

  • Find at least one other kid who thinks your kid is awesome

  • Look toward interests and maybe classes in strength area

Definition of fun
Definition of Fun

  • Gifted students may define fun in a wide variety of ways – political debates not uncommon, competitiveness can be difficult to control, idea development is particularly fun

  • Encourage students to take risks in areas of fun – sometimes anxiety gets in the way of trying new things

  • Encourage trying other areas even if not highly skilled

  • Introverted perfectionists probably gravitate toward individual sports

Changing expectations
Changing expectations

  • Gifted children have not always been in situation where their perception is that they are accepted or connected or their particular skills are valued

  • May feel the need to “sell” others on their skill sets and what they know because they feel like an imposter in the group

  • Reassure acceptance of strengths and weaknesses and that different types of skills and strengths are the norm

Parenting plan
Parenting Plan

  • Parenting is not for wimps

  • Look at this whole process as a marathon, not a sprint

  • Control your own intensity and anxiety as much as possible

  • Allow for failure and sometimes set your child up for those frustration experiences

  • Don’t let the “gifted” get in the way of the “child”

  • Remember, there are many do overs in parenting and life