and have low frustration tolerance.
Anyone who lives with highly, exceptionally, or profoundly gifted children has at least a passing familiarity with Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities. Regardless of whether they have ever heard of Dabrowski, they know that their children are frequently more intense, more sensitive, and more prone to meltdowns than other kids.
There are five documented forms of overexcitabilities in gifted children: psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. Various books from Living with Intensity to A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children have covered these intensities in detail. Not all children will have all of these but the more gifted a child is, the more likely it is that she or he will have energy, sensations, thoughts, and emotions that are just more than the average child. The intensities of the gifted child are part of his or her natural wiring. It is not something they grow out of as they grow older. We probably shouldn’t even call them overexcitabilities because that implies that gifted children are more excitable than they should be. Extra-excitability even superior-excitability would be a less derogatory way of labeling these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Gifted children need to learn to manage and thrive with their intensities. As parents and educators we need to help them on this journey.
Even when gifted children reach an age where they have the self-control to avoid a public scene, they still have the internal stress of their high energy, strong passions, and intense emotions. Add in some perfectionism, sibling annoyances, and lack of sleep and this stress can bubble over in the safety of home, creating crying fits, screaming matches, and hurt feelings. Because young gifted children do not realize that they are naturally more sensitive and more intense, they may have a tendency to blame others for their distress. If they are not blaming others, they may turn the negativity inward which can be even more destructive.
We need to help gifted children recognize their intensities. Unless they are reading up on raising gifted kids, behind our backs, they probably do not realize that they may be experiencing more than their friends and classmates. They also may not know that being tired, hungry, or emotionally exhausted makes their usual intensities more challenging. By understanding what it feels like when they are almost overwhelmed, they can learn to proactively engage in self care. While the world may not rearrange itself to cater to their sensitivities, gifted children can, on their own, take actions before things spiral out of control. They may need more sleep, better quality and more frequent snacks, and more regular exercise than the average child. They may also need to have quiet downtime when they can relax and reflect on their worlds. When adults recognize and validate this, gifted children can address their needs in a positive manner. Knowing that you are tired and crabby and can do something about it, is empowering.