Posted by: ACFE Inc | July 18, 2011

On the first day of NPGCW: Living with Intensity

Happy National Parenting Gifted Children Week! As I promised, I will be featuring a different resource for working with and raising gifted children each day.

My first feature is a book: Living with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults, edited by Susan Daniels, Ph.D., and Michael Piechowski, Ph.D.

This book is a necessity for anyone who is raising or supporting gifted kids–or who was one themselves. It is centered around Kazimierz Dabrowski’s theory of Overexcitabilities, the idea that there are 5 areas in which gifted children (and adults) have stronger reactions, that last longer than other people’s, to less stimuli than others would react to. Dabrowski thinks that these are not just psychological reactions but directly connected to the central nervous system. These reactions may appear different in different people, and not all gifted people will react with the same intensity in all areas; overexcitabilities also do not only appear in gifted people, although there is a much higher level of them in the gifted population. Dabrowski argues that understanding and appreciating these sensitivities–and supporting children in their experience and expression of them–is crucial to helping these children reach the higher-level personal development that they are capable of.

Briefly, the five overexcitabilities are:

  • Psychomotor: a need for movement that can translate into a need for physical activity or even difficulty quieting the mind in order to sleep.
  • Sensory: an extreme like or dislike for certain textures, smells, tastes, and sounds; may be expressed through extreme discomfort with clothing, bright lights, harsh sounds, etc.
  • Imaginational: visual thinkers and dreamers; dreams are vivid and children may remember them and be affected by them more than typical children; their thought process leads itself to metaphorical speech
  • Intellectual: logical thinking; a love of tasks requiring linear thought, puzzles, problem-solving; enjoys figuring things out, academics, new information
  • Emotional: Dabrowski feels this is the central overexcitability, and is demonstrated by a broad range of intense emotions; a need to establish deep connections with those around them, including people and animals; and empathy and compassion.
Living with Intensity is nicely laid out and easy to read, but it also resonates deeply based on my experience with gifted children. After reading it I not only felt like I had a greater insight into their previously unexplained and unexpected sensitivities, but I also had a better understanding of how I could respond in order to support these deeply felt reactions and help the child experiencing them understand them better, too.

Read an excerpt.

Buy the book on Amazon.

Visit the National Parenting Gifted Children Week Blog Tour.

Come back tomorrow for day 2 of National Parenting Gifted Children Week!


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