Gifted childrens' thinking is more intellectually complex than
others. Intellectual complexity is the ability to perceive multitudinous
relationships in all things in life. For gifted children, nothing
is as simple as it seems. They see clearly that the answer depends
on the context - they see endless shades of grey, not black and
Intellectual depth is the ability to see many layers of meaning
in each life situation. Intellectual depth enables gifted children
quickly to pick up mixed messages in social situations and this
can leave them very confused. It can also inhibit social conversation
as gifted children want to explore every issue in depth and at length
and others quickly tire of this.
Intellectual complexity results in curiosity and a demand for accuracy,
exactness, precision of thought and expression. This can lead gifted
children to be argumentative which is a social liability. Also lack
of information and understanding of the nature and significance
of these intellectual differences can result in gifted children
being seen as "odd" or "crazy" by others and sometimes by themselves.
Giftedness has an emotional as well as an intellectual component:
gifted children not only think differently from their peers, they
also feel differently. This difference in feeling is emotional intensity;
a positive force for the gifted that feeds, enriches, empowers and
Emotional intensity is positively correlated with intelligence
and so the higher the intellectual level, the more emotionally intense
a gifted person will be. Emotional intensity is expressed by the
gifted through a wide range of feelings, attachments, compassion,
heightened sense of responsibility and scrupulous self-examination.
While these are normal for the gifted and appear very early in their
life, they are often mistaken for emotional immaturity rather than
as evidence of a rich inner life.
Gifted children need to understand that it is natural for them
to feel deeply and intensely and to experience a wide range of emotions.
If emotional intensity is understood and valued along with the intellect,
gifted children will be empowered to express their unique selves
in the world and use their gifts and talents with confidence and
Overexcitability is heightened sensitivity of the nervous system,
an expanded awareness of and capacity to respond to stimuli such
as noise, light etc. The term 'overexcitability' conveys the idea
that this stimulation of the nervous system is well beyond the usual
or average in intensity and duration. The overexcitabilities can
be thought of as an abundance of physical, sensual, creative, intellectual
and emotional energy. Overexcitabilities can result in creative
endeavours as well as advanced emotional and ethical development
in adulthood. Because of this, overexcitabilities are a positive
force for the gifted, as they feed, enrich, empower and amplify
Overexcitabilities are assumed to be innate and appear in five
- Psychomotor - Surplus of energy, restless, curious ·
- Sensual - Sensory and aesthetic pleasure ·
- Intellectual - Strong signs of analysis and synthesis,
theoretical thinking, probing questions, learning, problem solving
- Imaginational - Vivid fantasy life, spontaneous imagery,
sensitive to imaginary realities ·
- Emotional - Intensity of feeling:, complex emotions and
feelings, extremes of emotion, identification with the feelings
of others, difficulty adjusting to change.
Idealism & Perfectionism
Idealism in the gifted is linked to their exceptional conceptual
reasoning ability. Idealism is an abstract intellectual concept;
a vision of what is possible, what could be. It is a positive quality
- the driving energy that propels gifted children forward towards
achievement. Problems arise when idealism becomes perfectionism:
when what could be becomes what should be - an imperative!
Idealism can also be applied to the self so that gifted children
impose unrealistically high standards on themselves and berate themselves
when they fall short of these standards. Gifted children often have
unrealistic expectations for their performance all the time in everything.
It is important that gifted children learn to value and explore
the process of learning and not focus only on the outcome and achievement.
Advanced Moral Development
Moral concern in gifted children is an expression of intellectual
complexity. When combined with sensitivity and empathy, which are
expressions of emotional intensity, it is transformed into moral
Gifted children feel deeply for others and will often become distressed
when they cannot alleviate the problems of others. They will frequently
ask questions and express concern about world problems - poverty,
war, environmental devastation. This empathy for the suffering of
others makes gifted children particularly vulnerable to the many
forms of insensitivity they see on television and in the world around
them. Often gifted children feel powerless to act and this sense
of helplessness can lead them to despair and being critical of themselves
as they feel a responsibility for these situations.
Introversion & Extraversion
It is important to appreciate personality differences and understand
that they lead to differences in points of view, differences in
expression of giftedness and differences in behaviour. Both introversion
and extraversion are normal and neither needs "curing".
In order to understand and value their giftedness, gifted children
need to realise that not all children think and feel as they do
and that difference does not mean that they are better or worse
people. It also helps to be told that, in our society, conformity
tends to be more valued than difference. Understanding giftedness
through discussion is essential so that gifted children can recognise
and accept their own personal strengths and weaknesses without judgement.
Initial discussion of gifted differences can sometimes be difficult
for parents, especially when they are also coming to terms with
their own giftedness. Therefore it can be helpful to have an knowledgable
professional to give information and support to gifted children
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