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Posts Tagged ‘overexcitabilities’

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what M.’s “thing” was.  C. has politics and her crafting and Nancy Drew and Sylvia Plath and…and…and….  Well, there’s always something and I always have seemed to know exactly what’s grabbing her at any given point in time.  But M…..  I’ve just found it harder.  Maybe because my passions haven’t been her passions.  Maybe because she just isn’t as overexcitable and dramatically vocal about what interests her.

Until now.  Some background first though.  Back in February, when I was on the cusp of deciding whether to withdraw her from that school, I had coffee with the friend for whom she babysits and shared my difficulty in figuring out M’s passion.  Fencing, my friend had deduced from conversations with M., was not “it”, and sure enough in the following weeks we reluctantly, at M.’s insistence, let her private lesson drop even though she has tremendous talent and aptitude for it.  As someone on a listserv said vis a vis a different issue, “They have to want it more than you do.”  Ugh. True.  Though it killed Husband Dear and me to see her “throw it away,” we realized we had to back off and let the weekly group lesson that she enjoys mostly for the social aspect, suffice.

Okay, so not fencing.  But what?  At that point in time, M. was lobbying hard for us to be bold and move overseas (Hello Maya Frost!).  That’s “it” my friend said.  You want to know what her passion is?  It’s traveling and experiencing other cultures. When she talks to me about Europe, she talks and talks and talks.  “Really?” I said.   I guess that’s such a given in our family that I didn’t really take it for a “thing.”  But then again, this is the kid with the Union Jack hanging over her bed, the one who has informed me, “Mom, when I’m 18 I’m moving to London.”

Shortly after that conversation with my friend, we resumed homeschooling, with that requisite what-the-heck-are-we-going-to-do? period.  And it slowly dawned on me that what’s been gelling on her part, an outgrowth of things European, has been a very serious interest in archeology, more specifically ancient Greece and Rome.  This is the kid who seemingly has watched every documentary on the History Channel.  Who loved her homeschool forensic science class last year.  Whose all time favorite Smithsonian exhibit has been  Written in Bone.  For whom the highlight of our trip to Italy last year was an excursion to Pompeii, something that C. and I skipped completely.  The one whose stated goal is to study at Oxford and get her PhD in archeology.

Okay, so I’m a bit slow, but I’ve gone with it.  I subscribed her to Archeology magazine.  I paid for her membership in the Archeology Society of Maryland.  I found out about ASM activities in our county and lo, there’s quite an active chapter here.  Through them I discovered that the Parks Department has an archeology camp this summer.  An archeology camp with the department’s archeologist!  It’s not ancient Greece, but still how cool is that?  And for teens there is a week-long counselor-in-training session, with the chance to volunteer for an additional session for younger kids.  Signed her up.  Through a listserv I’m on I learned about the Lukeion Project, which offers four-session online webinar workshops led by a working archeologist.  I enrolled her in Intro to Archeology and that was such a hit that she’ll do more workshops over the summer.   Extending that, I asked her, what skills do archeologists need?  For one thing, the ability to document and map one’s finds accurately.  M. has been doing a lot of sketching on her own; how about a drawing class?  Some hunting on the Internet and I found a local two-day drawing and sketching “boot camp.”  Next weekend Roman re-enactors will been meeting up not a half an hour away from us.  Roman re-enactors?  Seriously, who knew?  But we’ll be there.

Finally, one of the Lukeion workshops that interested her was about bizarre ancient languages and alphabets. Hmm…what about Greek and Latin? As it happens Husband Dear, a proud graduate of St. Johns College, had in the past offered to teach her ancient Greek.  Time to put money where his mouth has been.

We ordered materials for both languages and I am pleased to say that every evening for the past week or so the two of them have sat at the dining room table and have begun learning (or relearning, for my husband) ancient Greek.  I don’t know what they’re saying, but it’s very cool to eavesdrop, as other attempts at dad learning (ahem, math) have not always gone smoothly.  In this case she is the one asking to work on it together with him every evening.  Which is how it should be.

P.S. Through a local homeschooling list I found out about the opportunity to order some real Roman coins.  We ordered 5 and M. has been bugging me nonstop about when they are going to arrive.

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Finally!  I’ve been meaning to put up a blog post about the the New York Times magazine article, Understanding the Anxious Mind, since the day it was posted to their website.  Especially in light of a recent comment by reader Kirsten, who wrote:

The other thing that stands out in this post is C.’s high level of executive function. The combination of organization and determination that she has is rare.

Exactly.  I have always believed that to a large extent she–and other PG kids like her–came wired that way.  It’s one thing for Malcolm Gladwell et al to say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice and anyone can be “gifted.”  But it doesn’t explain where the dedication, the drive, the executive function to actually do that 10,000 hours comes from.  I say it’s wiring.

I first heard about Dabrowski’s Theory of Overexcitability was when the CTY psychologist went over C.’s test results.  It was a big “aha” for us.  Here’s how Ann Rinn describes overexcitabilies in the Fall 2009 Duke University Gifted Letter.

Overexcitabilities are extreme intensities or sensitivities that affect the ways in which an individual experiences the world. The Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902-1980) identified overexcitabilities as part of a larger theory of development. Although most of us may have extra energy at times or have strong reactions to various stimuli on occasion, those with overexcitabilities experience these distinguishing behaviors regularly. Most researchers believe overexcitabilities are innate and will be present in some form throughout one’s life. It is important to note that not all gifted children have overexcitabilities, but they do seem to be found to a greater degree in gifted and/or creative children than in average-ability children. (emphasis added).

It’s something I certainly noticed in C. early on–heck, it’s why this blog has the name it does.  She still is highly sensitive to smells, has acute hearing, dislikes crowds and noisy environments in general, is afraid of dogs and tends to brood and worry. Which is why I found this article on anxiety sooo interesting. I think it really ties in with Dabrowski and giftedness.

Harvard psychology researcher Jerome Kagan, like many people, was initially resistant to the idea of “wiring”:

Kagan studiously ignored this finding; it didn’t fit with his left-leaning politics, which saw all individuals as born inherently the same — blank slates, to use the old terminology — and capable of achieving anything if afforded the right social, economic and educational opportunities. “I was so resistant to awarding biology much influence, I didn’t follow up on the inhibited temperaments I was seeing,” he told me. It took another 20 years of listening to arguments about nature versus nurture for Kagan finally to entertain the possibility that some behavior might be attributed to genes.

But research revealed that

in people born with a particular brain circuitry, the kind seen in Kagan’s high-reactive study subjects, the amygdala is hyperreactive, prickly as a haywire motion-detector light that turns on when nothing’s moving but the rain.

I think it’s that edge of anxiety that could be the driver of C.’s drive, which in turn feeds into achievement.  In the article Susan Engel, a developmental psychologist at Williams College, says,

“The way we deal with [anxiety] is that we both get everything done in lots of time. We can’t stand the anxiety of a looming deadline; we’re so worried about being late that we do it five days early.” This is one way to alleviate anxiety, she said. “There are other things we could do. We could drink, we could procrastinate, we could pretend we don’t have the deadline. I guess we both happen to be lucky that our method is adaptive.”

The article continues,

”This kind of adapting might have something to do with intelligence, says Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard and author of “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.” He says he believes, based on pure conjecture, that people with higher intelligence are better at overcoming their anxious temperament and more likely to “see their own worry list as a problem to be solved, minimizing unnecessary anxiety while still being anxious enough to get things done.”

This certainly squares with what I’ve observed.

In the modern world, the anxious temperament does offer certain benefits: caution, introspection, the capacity to work alone. These can be adaptive qualities. Kagan has observed that the high-reactives in his sample tend to avoid the traditional hazards of adolescence. Because they are more restrained than their wilder peers, he says, high-reactive kids are less likely to experiment with drugs, to get pregnant or to drive recklessly. They grow up to be the Felix Ungers of the world, he says, clearing a safe, neat path for the Oscar Madisons.

People with a high-reactive temperament — as long as it doesn’t show itself as a clinical disorder — are generally conscientious and almost obsessively well-prepared. Worriers are likely to be the most thorough workers and the most attentive friends. Someone who worries about being late will plan to get to places early. Someone anxious about giving a public lecture will work harder to prepare for it. Test-taking anxiety can lead to better studying; fear of traveling can lead to careful mapping of transit routes.

Now watch her read this and do something crazy just to prove me wrong ;-).

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Two weeks ago, when I learned about the unfolding drama surrounding Kumar Singam’s efforts to enroll his 9 year old daughter in an MCPS middle school (posts here and here), I wrote him an email:

… I wanted to let you know that I really, really empathize with you. Just last night my 15 year old who will be a sophomore at [deleted] was sobbing about how she didn’t want to go back to school because she feels like she is “spinning her wheels”….  MCPS refusal to accelerate students who need it–especially those who are verbally gifted–is a travesty….

The Singam case, and the resistance by MCPS officials to grade skipping, gave me a feeling of deja vu.  My daughter was never whole grade or radically subject accelerated.  Instead over the years we bought hook, line and sinker into every MCPS-touted GT program there was, with promises that “next year” it would “get better.” Nonetheless, by the time C. was in middle school, she was asking school officials for acceleration–or some kind of  intervention–ironically first in “GT” science class, but really in other classes as well. She self-advocated, as GT kids are often urged to do. And was brushed off–which is when things took a serious turn for the worse, to the point where we felt we had to withdraw, and were left no option but to homeschool. We were told by the magnet coordinator, “If she’s not happy in the magnet, she’s welcome to return to her home middle school.” Snort…As if. I had naively believed that the magnets were part of that “continuum of services” MCPS likes to talk about, where people would appreciate and “get” kids like mine and where we would work together to find a way to meet their needs. But clearly I was wrong. The magnet, I was told by the then-coordinator, was a “privilege.”

Fine. We withdrew C. The next month she took the SAT as part of the CTY Talent Search and got a freaking amazing score for a 12 year old.  (No, as it turns out, they probably didn’t “have many students who fit her profile.”)  What to do?  More to the point, what would MCPS do for this kid/with this kid if we wanted to re-enroll her for 8th grade?  Because she–we–could not return to the one program supposedly tailor-made for kids like her.  That relationship was shattered.  After countless phone calls and conversations with indifferent or clueless school system officials, I finally connected with someone in the Office of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction (since retired) who got it.  I mean, by that time I had met with so much resistance and hostility that I actually cried while on the phone with her.

Much like Mr. Singam, we met with someone from the Community Superintendent’s office.  We too believed that based on testing, our daughter needed to be placed beyond the norm for her age, namely high school.  MCPS didn’t want to go there; it was not even open for discussion.  Our fall back was that at minimum she needed access to high school English and social studies courses:  just as they arrange for very advanced math or foreign language middle school students to take classes at high school (and for which there is ample precedent) they should do the same for our child. Again, we could get no commitment from MCPS.  The best we could get was an offer of possible placement into the middle school housing the math/science/computer science magnet. (Not the magnet itself mind you, but just to be in building with other really bright age peers.  And they made that sound like a huge concession.).  Once there, we were told, this MCPS individual, the principal and someone from AEI would meet with us and personally build our child’s schedule.  However there was no assurance that she would receive high school level instruction, and by this point we were just too gun shy to take a risk–yet again–on an MCPS promise.  So we homeschooled another year, returning C. to an MCPS high school program that is the unspoken “service” at that level.

All should be great, no?  Well, actually no.  I mean, it’s a really great program and she’s getting vastly more than is available to most kids her age.  But she still has felt underchallenged in her strength areas.  For example she essentially had to repeat government last year (after sucessfully completing an equivalent college course).  To the credit of the coordinator there however, this year C. has been able to get permission to take an AP history class typically reserved for seniors. It’s her favorite class, the one where she feels she “belongs” intellectually and socially.  Clearly, this is a student who could have been radically subjected accelerated years earlier in her area of strength, the humanities, if allowed.  And no, I’m not pushing her.  She’s the one who is yearning for more challenge, for true intellectual engagement and risk taking, for the chance to get to college sooner in the hopes it will be there.

Recently we met a young man from elsewhere in the country who has grade skipped, someone C.’s age who will graduate this academic year–and she is angry that she never had that opportunity. To her, it feels as if MCPS has held her back every step of the way, and she has asked me “Why with MCPS is everything always a fight?”  I wish I had the answer.  All I know is that children like mine–and potentially Mr. Singam’s until he fought back–are being harmed–yes, that’s right, harmed–by MCPS’s refusal to deal with the realities of giftedness at the individual student level, to fully and truly meet their academic needs.  What kind of a toll does it take to be given the message year after year that it’s not okay to be who you are, that you must stifle and dampen your curiosity and passion to learn?

It’s because of these experiences that I have been following, and will continue to follow, the Singam case so closely.  By very vocally and fearlessly pushing MPCS to do the right thing by his daughter, Mr. Singam has forced truths about the system into the light that go against the happy feel good message they put out.  (It should be noted that many GT advocates have more than one child in the system and that the fear of retaliation is often what mutes their advocacy efforts.)   The Singam case reveals the lengths to which MCPS will go to put the institutional status quo above the needs of a student.  It reveals MCPS attitudes towards the legitimacy of homeschooling.  And it shows that the Centers, and middle school magnets are essentially mechanisms to hold the the brightest kids in MCPS from advancing too quickly.  Meanwhile in “regular” school there is no GT there “there.”

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On my way into work this morning I read a great piece in the latest New Yorker titled “Don’t!  The Secret of Self Control.”  Talk about “food for thought!”  Fascinating stuff, especially in the context of giftedness.  For parents and educators, lots to chew on (lame pun, I know.).

The article revisits the famous “marshmallow” experiment done at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School in the late 1960s to identify the mental processes involved in delaying gratification.  A child would be placed in a small room with a plate of treats.  A researcher told the child she could “either eat one marshmallow right away or, if she was willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, she could have two marshmallows when he returned.  He said that if she rang a bell on the desk while he was away he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow but would forfeit the second.”  Some kids could wait out the 15 minutes.  Others could barely wait until the researcher was out the door.

The marshmallow task, it turns out, is a “powerfully predictive test.”

Mischel began to notice a link between the children’s academic performance as teen-agers and their ability to wait for the second marshmallow. He asked his daughters to assess their friends academically on a scale of zero to five. Comparing these ratings with the original data set, he saw a correlation. “That’s when I realized I had to do this seriously,” he says. Starting in 1981, Mischel sent out a questionnaire to all the reachable parents, teachers, and academic advisers of the six hundred and fifty-three subjects who had participated in the marshmallow task, who were by then in high school. He asked about every trait he could think of, from their capacity to plan and think ahead to their ability to “cope well with problems” and get along with their peers. He also requested their S.A.T. scores.

Once Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.

[Prediction:  Parents around the country are at this very moment conducting their own "marshmallow tests."   "Emily, we're going to play a little game...."   C'mon, you know it's true!]

Researchers are now taking this further and exploring the idea that there is a connection between the ability to delay gratification as a child and success in later life.

For decades, psychologists have focused on raw intelligence as the most important variable when it comes to predicting success in life. Mischel argues that intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework. “What we’re really measuring with the marshmallows isn’t will power or self-control,” Mischel says. “It’s much more important than that. This task forces kids to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the second marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.”

The next step is to study the actual brain structure and function using MRI scans. A team is also studying school children in several cities to see if self-control can be taught, with all sorts of potentially interesting implications for education.

Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is leading the program. She first grew interested in the subject after working as a high-school math teacher. “For the most part, it was an incredibly frustrating experience,” she says. “I gradually became convinced that trying to teach a teen-ager algebra when they don’t have self-control is a pretty futile exercise.” And so, at the age of thirty-two, Duckworth decided to become a psychologist. One of her main research projects looked at the relationship between self-control and grade-point average. She found that the ability to delay gratification—eighth graders were given a choice between a dollar right away or two dollars the following week—was a far better predictor of academic performance than I.Q. She said that her study shows that “intelligence is really important, but it’s still not as important as self-control.”

Yes, reading this story, one can’t help but immediately think of one’s own children–and do a mental assessment of how they would do if faced with the marshmallow test or similar temptations.  Both of my girls are pretty good at delaying gratification, but in the case of, say, motivation to do homework and to apply oneself intellectually, there is a difference. It’s not that M. isn’t motivated or able to delay gratification. It’s that C. is just compelled to do so to that nth degree more than is typical. That focus, that drive.

I come back again to the lame concept of “wiring.”  Gifted kids–and particularly exceptionally/profoundly gifted kids–are just wired differently.  IQ?  Yes.  But to connect it to Gladwell…it might not just be that they are innately more “talented” (the whole “poked by God” thing from that video I posted recently), but that from somewhere they have the internal drive, the compulsion, the whatever, to focus and to want to practice whatever it is they have a talent for–for 10,000 hours.  Which undercuts the “it’s just lots of practice” folks who want to use Gladwell to dispute the idea of giftedness and prodigy and promulgate the idea that it’s only about hard work, and therefore attainable by all.  Yes, it’s the repetition, experimentation and honing–but it’s the desire and compulsion to do the work (which to these individuals probably isn’t even “work”) coupled with innate talent, that distinguishes them.

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Take a look at this post from Hacker News –and the responses–to a kid who plaintively asks, “Why don’t I love school?”  It’s an excellent exchange that captures oh so well the the high school experience of many smart kids.  The range of advice is fascinating.  [Note: the site's coding is wonky...paste this into the URL to fix the text wrap: javascript: document.body.innerHTML=document.body.innerHTML+"<style>pre { white-space: pre-wrap; }</style>";)]

Here’s an excerpt:

I try and get through every school day and have decent grades and all, but each day is so monotonous and so many of the things we do are such wastes of time that it just drives me insane. Going home to work on something  I feel is more important that I actually enjoy and am challenged with, while obviously provides enjoyment, in another sense make this feeling even worse because it diminishes school even more. I do ‘real work’, but I want to real work at school too….

I was just wondering if you guys had any experiences or suggestions to share about school. If anyone else has gone through this could or could give me some advice or just show how I’m wrong I would really appreciate it. I know it doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of things, but I really don’t want to waste the next two years of high school.

Change 10th grade to 9th, remove the references to computer coding and a few other details… Hmm…this could be Ms. C. of late.  “I just want it to be hard,” she’s told me. “The other kids will say that they ‘like,’ say, English, but they don’t really care the way I do.”  She’s restless and feels like she is spinning her wheels, that she could be doing so much more.  In many ways, probably no different than most almost 15 year olds… and yet….

She’s started researching boarding schools again–many of the same powerhouse ones that I recommended a year and a half ago and she pooh-poohed.  Don’t know that that would be the answer, but I’ve given my blessing for her to at least to explore the option, knowing that at minimum it would be contingent on lots and lots of financial aid. There are a few other options–including full on early college, using college courses to finish out high school early and then applying as a freshman (although how that would work with MCPS’s  interpretation of homeschooling is not clear), and of course just keep powering through what remains of high school and graduate on track.  Each alternative has drawbacks–some potentially more significant than others  There is no perfect answer, just–as Mrs. Hoagies says–“least worst.” At minimum it’s comforting that choices do exist, and empowering to weigh them.

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I love the internet.  Why?  Because of the serendipity of e-mails like the following.  Last week I was quickly checking e-mail while getting ready for work–when this popped into my inbox (posted here with permission).

Dear Switched On Mom,

I feel as though it is a little bizarre for me to contact you like this, I just came across your blog and I was wanting to ask you for advice.  I really hope you don’t mind me approaching you like this! I’m at my wits’ end and need the advice of another mother.

This is about my three-year-old son.  I cannot say that he is gifted but he is most definitely something and with every week that passes I am getting more and more frustrated and clueless as to how to deal with him.  I feel as though he needs so much more from me – but I have no idea what! I feel as though if only I knew how best to deal with him, we would all be so much happier.

He’s had some serious medical problems due to complications at birth, which is why his physical development hasn’t been at all advanced.  We were told by doctors that he would be behind so his “normal” progress has been such a blessing.  The trouble is, the older he gets, the more I have to admit that no, he isn’t normal but not in any way I can define.  He is not a great sleeper, so none of us get much sleep, even though we’re so strict about routine.  He is a non-stop talker, from the moment his eyes are open, that mouth is going – it’s like a compulsive thing and he’s been like this since even before he could talk.  Mind you, what he is saying makes sense and he has a big vocabulary, he is like a little old man with it.  He doesn’t play with his toys in a normal way, he lines them up or makes towers out of them or wacky inventions, aeroships, and we’re not allowed to touch them.  He also has a whole host of imaginary friends with strange names and he updates me on their strange activities from moment to moment.  The friends have been around since he was just over two and a half.  He also refuses to watch TV, which I find strange and I worry about it, but nobody takes me seriously about this.

[Mentally, I am going "check, check, check..."]

What I’m finding the hardest is the questions.  Everything is “why?” “why not?” “what?” “how?” in an incessant barrage.  If I don’t answer clearly or I fob him off with “I don’t know,” he will just repeat himself until I give him an answer he’s satisfied with.  He challenges absolutely everything, often, seemingly, for the sake of challenge.  He often deliberately doesn’t do as he is told to test how we will react, or he will repeatedly ask a question he knows the answer to, which I also think is a kind of test.  He is such a perfectionist and wants everything just right, if it is the “wrong” spoon or bowl he won’t eat from it, if the chair has a speck of dirt, he won’t sit on it, he has to have his bed cover his way or he won’t lie down on his bed etc etc.  Recently, I’ve managed to direct his questions and his “little ways” more constructively by reading to him as often as I can throughout the day but it seems that the more input he gets, the more he wants.  As a by-product of this, he’s started recognising some letters and can read “porridge” (!) and his name.  Apart from that, which is probably pretty common for this age (3 and 4 months), I wouldn’t really have said he was gifted because he isn’t much of a memoriser.  He has known his numbers, colours and shapes for ages but he doesn’t fit the typically gifted checklist.  But I’m coming to see that not all children are as intense, demanding and high maintenance as he is, and I really want to get a handle on what he is so that I can deal with him better!

["Check, check, check..."]

I’ve asked his paediatrician and he has outright said to me that he definitely doesn’t have autism because he is so sociable and verbally engaging (he is very tuned in to other people’s emotions and can really play them), and also that he doesn’t have behavioural problems.  He was quite dismissive in a nice way when I suggested taking my son to a psychologist, which is why I gave up the idea.  I know he doesn’t have ADHD – he is hyperactive but in an attention surfeit way – if only we could have a bit of attention deficit on some days!

He has one day a week at nursery/preschool but they put him in with a class of really little kids and oh dear.  Every time I went to pick him up, the staff would complain to me about his bossy, rigid and controlling behaviour – all the characteristics that come out when he is bored.  Now they will be moving him to a more appropriate class, but he will still be one of the oldest kids.  He doesn’t like the big kids because he’s not the top dog, oh dear.  I’d like to send him to preschool on more days but we’re very restricted by his bad asthma.  I’d need to go out to work to afford to put him in more days, and because he is ill an almost weekly basis, I’d get the sack within a week! This also curtails our other activities, sometimes he will deign to do craft at the library but we haven’t got there in weeks because he’s been ill.  He never did what he was meant to do at playgroups so I gave up on those.  We just meet up with other kids he’s friends with because that is flexible but I can see he’s becoming very, very bored.

Do you think I should take him to a psychologist? When I talked to a friend about having his intelligence tested, she said at this age the test is almost valueless and probably wouldn’t give me much to go on.  I read an article online about “overexcitabilities” and he checked every point in two of the categories.  I’m really not sure where to start with this though.  Can he be overexcitable without being gifted? I’m really sorry to bother you with all these questions and take up your time like this, I just feel as though I’m so much in the dark.  We live in Australia, by the way.  I have checked out the Gifted and Talented website of [acronym] but they seem scary and don’t seem to have a section on where to go for help.

Thank you, and again I’m sorry about the length of this.

All the best…

Yes, this mom on the other side of the globe had somehow stumbled onto my blog.  I quickly switched from phone to keyboard and banged out a reply.  I told her that based on all she had written, he sounded potentially very gifted.  The temperament, the talking and vocabulary, the questions (more a sign of giftedness, in my opinion than memorizing), the sleep issue, the imaginary friends, rigidity, etc. etc.  He sounded “typical.”

Trust your instincts.  Over and over it’s been shown that parents know in their gut that something is going on.  I would absolutely say disregard the pediatrician and find a psychologist who works with gifted kids….  Miraca Gross is in Australia.  Here are some resources I just pulled off of HoagiesGifted.org

I hooked her up with some contacts in her country, parent listservs, a book recommendation…

For books, I really like Losing Our Minds which speaks of levels of giftedness and describes in detail what kids are like at young ages (It’s linked in my sidebar).  In the meantime, you’re going to have to “feed the beast.”  Give him what he needs intellectually–even if it is years beyond what people say he “should” have access to.  Give him books to look at … ones far beyond his years, books on tape when you get exhausted of reading aloud.  Give him lots of materials to experiment and play with.  I’m not sure where you are, but could you find a empathetic college student who is interested in child development who could spend some time playing with him and answering questions and give you a break?

Those are my thoughts on the fly. I really need to hop in the shower now.  But thank you for trusting me and do keep my updated and let me know if any of these resources are helpful to you.

Best wishes….

I have to say I went to work that morning with a smile on my face, thinking that in a matter of minutes I might have been able to help a mom–in Australia!   I loved her e-mail because it so clearly captures what it’s like to be a mom of a young “more child.”   (I would bet dollars to donuts that her son is exceptionally gifted just based on her description.)  It underscores the point I’ve been trying to make all along on this blog:  that there are kids who just come into the world “that way”–more.  He’s three.  His mom has not been reading the encyclopedia to him or “hot housing” him.  She’s not “making” him this way.  She’s not “bragging” or being pushy.  To the contrary, to me she sounded kind of exhausted and alone and probably would love for him to be a little bit more like other kids.

Next post…her reply.

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Husband Dear has been out of town for the past week–and will be gone again next week–so last night I thought it would be a nice treat for the four of us to have dinner out and then catch a movie. We had all seen the previews of the sprawing new movie Australia and agreed it would be one to see on the Big Screen rather than on our computers via Netflix. I’ve loved the over-the-top, highly theatrical directorial work of Baz Luhrmann since his Strictly Ballroom days, enjoyed Moulin Rouge and as for Nicole Kidman’s outfits…well, C. just loves that 1940s style.

In the theater I was sandwiched between C. and M. Australia is a schmaltzy, cheesy, entirely predictable, epic-wannabee of a movie set in northern Australia before World War II. At close to three hours you get your entertainment dollar’s worth. There are dust storms, murder, a drowning, cattle stampedes, a swanky benefit dance, Japanese bombings, and mean men looking to snatch the cutest child on the planet.

C. spent half the movie with her head between her knees or buried in my shoulder. When the cattle stampede got under way (CGI all the way) she said she had to leave and asked for my iPhone. She needed to find out how the movie ended. I whispered assurances that *of course* it would have a happy ending, but she insisted she had to know what was going to happen. So I gave her the phone, she retreated to the lobby where I guess she got all the major plot points via the Internet, and then returned….to spend most of the rest of the movie with her head between her knees. Her younger sister? Completely unfazed.

“That’s why I only like comedies,” C. said on the way out. That and political films, like All The President’s Men. She thinks the preview for Frost / Nixon looks good.

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