Posted on

RLL #102: A Conversation about Connection with Shawna Wingert

rll 102 a conversation about connection with shawna wingert


Today, we begin featuring a new type of podcast episode at Raising Lifelong Learners with Colleen Kessler, what we’re calling “A Conversation About.”  Colleen will be meeting with Shawna Wingert of Different By Design Learning at least monthly to discuss topics, common struggles and questions that come up often with our quirky and “outside-the-box” kiddos and families.  This week’s conversation centers around connection: how important it is to foster connection with your kids, encourage the relationships between siblings, and build a culture of connection as a family and as part of your community.

RLL #102: A Conversation about Connection with Shawna Wingert

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:

         

Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!


 

Posted on

Overexcitabilities and Why They Matter for Gifted Kids

overexcitabilities and why they matter for gifted kids

The mornings we need to be out of the house at a certain time look something like this – a child is complaining about the seams in his socks, while another is having an animated sing along with her stuffed animals, completely oblivious to the fact that she has her shirt on backwards and her shoes on the wrong feet. Another is anxious, and trying to make sure everyone has what they need to get out the door so she doesn’t have to walk into her class late and upset her co-op teacher.

Can you relate?

Overexcitabilities and Why They Matter for Gifted Kids

Our family is full of what Polish psychologist/psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski called overexcitabilities. As I’ve written before, gifted children are highly likely to be more intense than their typical peers. This increased awareness, sensitivity, and intensity can present challenges that make them difficult children to parent.

One of the most difficult challenges to overcome, though, is the belief that Dabrowski’s five overexcitabilities need to be cured. Experiencing the world with such intensity can be very frustrating for a child {and a parent}, but it can also be very rewarding. They can lead to great successes, innovations, and wonderful creativity.

The positive aspects of overexcitabilities need to be celebrated. The frustrations and negative aspects need to be channeled into positive path to help gifted and intense kids grown into and reach their potentials.

What are the five overexcitabilities?

Dabrowski identified five different areas of overexcitabilities when he developed his Theory of Positive Disintegration. Not all gifted kids exhibit overexcitabilities, but they are more prevalent among the gifted population than any other. Gifted children {and adults} may possess one or more of these, and according to Dabrowski, those who exhibit more than one see reality differently. They tend to experience the world in a stronger and more multi-faceted way than others.

The five overexcitabilities, as defined by Dabrowski, are psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational. I describe each below, but will spend time examining them each in-depth with suggestions for helping your little one make the most of those characteristics they possess in individual posts. They are linked below.

Overexcitabilities and Why They Matter for Gifted Kids

Psychomotor

This is marked by a constant need to move and expend intense physical energy. Kids with psychomotor overexcitability have drive, they are impulsive, and often show a physical manifestation of their emotions. They may have nervous habits or tics, and may have trouble sleeping.

Sensual

Does your little one need every tag cut out of every shirt? Those with sensual overexcitability have a heightened awareness of all five senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. These kids might not be able to eat certain foods because of their texture or taste. They might need more cuddles than others, or not want to be touched at all.

Overexcitabilities

 

Emotional

Children with a high emotional overexcitability suffer from extreme emotions, anxiety, guilt, sadness, happiness, and often have difficulty adjusting to change. These kids can be prone to depression, suffer physically from their emotions {stomach aches due to anxiety}, and seek more security from their parents.

Intellectual

This overexcitability is characterized by activities of the mind, thought, and metacognition. It’s the most common overexcitability thought of in relation to gifted children. These children have a deep curiosity, love of problem-solving, and always seem to be thinking.

Imaginational

These children can let their imaginations go to amazing places – and sometimes those imaginations can get away from them, making them fear worst-case scenarios. They tend to have imaginary friends, vivid dreams, and a love of music and drama.

Overexcitabilities and Why They Matter for Gifted Kids

 

What can parents do about their children’s overexcitabilities?

First, you should consider each overexcitability and figure out which characteristics best fits your child. Compare your child’s behavior with the characteristics of each type of overexcitability, remembering that kids can have more than one, but one is usually more dominant. Understanding the neurology behind your child’s behavior will better equip you to understand – and help your child understand – those behaviors, helping you help them channel their overexcitabilities for good.

Are you looking forward to reading more about overexcitabilities, how to identify them in your kids, and how to help them channel those intensities for good? Make sure you take a minute to sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss a post. And, take a minute to tell me about your kiddos in the comments. What overexcitabilities do they show? How do you deal with them?

A Perfect Option For Your Gifted Child

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children who are gifted and twice exceptional. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

words.png copy

For more information on parenting gifted kids, check out:

         

Overexcitabilities and Why They Matter for Gifted Kids

default avatar
Latest posts by Colleen Kessler (see all)
Posted on

RLL #101: Project-Based Learning with Cindy West

rll 101 project based learning with cindy west


Over the years, I have seen many parents of often quirky, definitely “out of the box” thinkers struggle to get their kiddos invested in their own learning.  One way to engage our gifted and twice exceptional kiddos at their own level is through project-based learning.  Project-based learning helps students to gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to genuinely engaging and complex topics. It can give our gifted or 2e kids opportunities to pursue those “deep dives” into subject matter they love and afford them more flexibility and accountability in how they show their understanding and mastery.

Listen today as we speak with our friend Cindy West of Our Journey Westward (and No Sweat Nature Study Live) about how she has used project-based learning to interest and excite in her homeschool, and her recommendations on how to get started on the path to this form of learning in your own home.

RLL #101: Project-Based Learning with Cindy West

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:

            

Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!


 

Posted on

Delight Directed Homeschooling and Your Gifted Child

delight directed homeschooling and your gifted child

I love sharing stories of other parents parenting and homeschooling gifted kids. This is Heather’s…

Billy is gifted. He is 5 and knows how to add, subtract and is really learning how to read and write well (when he feels like it). He loves technology (he could work the iPhone at age 2) and likes video games. He is very self-motivated and loves to be busy working on something; if he is laying on the couch, he is sick. He likes to ask and answer trivia questions. He loves figuring out new things.

Delight Directed Homeschooling and Your Gifted Child

I’ve never officially had him tested for giftedness; and I probably never will. We’ll just take it a day at a time. I’m not trying to ignore his giftedness or deprive him by any means. In fact I intend to do just the opposite.

This is why we became delight directed homeschoolers. My goal for Billy’s education, first and foremost, is to train him up with a love for and trust in God; building for him a strong spiritual foundation on the Rock.

Second, I want to see him develop a desire to learn for the rest of his life.

I believe that God has given all of us our own special gifts. When we can learn to recognize those gifts in our children and encourage them to develop mastery in the subjects which they find delight in – not just momentary fun, but a true lasting delight – I believe God can use them in amazing ways.

The delight directed learning method is an excellent way for us as parents and teachers to discover our children’s talents and passions, and work at a pace that works for them.

Delight Directed Homeschooling and Your Gifted Child

Why Delight Directed Homeschooling Works So Well For Gifted Children

Children are naturally curious. The delight directed learning method is the perfect way to encourage that curiosity. In addition, this method can offer the gifted child the opportunity to – instead of simply working on increasingly difficult material – actually create part or all of their own learning.

Each time our student desires to know about a topic, we have the opportunity as teachers and learning facilitators to show them how to learn and how to make connections with other areas of life. As your child grows this learning can become more student-driven. In this way we train them to become independent lifelong learners.

Another cool thing? There is no “right” way to be a delight directed homeschooler! You can use a box curriculum as a starting point and adapt it to suit your child’s interests or you could gather resources from the internet and the library to truly individualize all aspects of your curriculum; or anything in between!

If your child is gifted in math, work ahead, no problem! I am a fan of unit studies in our delight directed homeschool. The idea of taking one topic and looking at it from various subject areas makes a lot of sense to me. Lately I’ve been using holidays and celebrations as the starting point for our lessons. Here is an idea of what that looks like for us: Let’s say your student is getting excited about the 4th of July, for example. At an elementary level you could:

  • Research and discuss the history of America or the history of the holiday itself (social studies)
  • Sing patriotic songs or play them on an instrument (music)
  • Make holiday-inspired crafts (art)
  • Read books that take place during that time period (English/literature)
  • Study the history and construction of fireworks (science)
  • Go on a field trip to a historical site

Delight Directed Homeschooling and Your Gifted Child

Delight Directed Homeschooling and Your Gifted Child

And this is just the beginning! You and your child’s imaginations are your only limitations! You could create your own unit study like I have above or, if you prefer, you can purchase a pre-made unit study from any number of retailers.

A “gifted” label isn’t what matters. “The more important question is what are you doing to challenge the child,” says Arlene DeVries, co-author of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children. (Source: Scholastic.com)

I hope that you consider the delight-directed learning approach and see how it can make teaching your gifted child even more memorable and fun!

 

A Perfect Option For Homeschooling Your Gifted Child

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children who are gifted and twice exceptional. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

words.png copy

 

For more information on Gifted Kids, Check Out:

         

default avatar
Latest posts by Colleen Kessler (see all)
Posted on

RLL #100: A Celebration of 100 Episodes!

rll 100 a celebration of 100 episodes


It hardly seems possible we could be at our 100th Episode so quickly but here we are! These last few years have been a blast and we’ve had so much fun learning about our gifted / 2e / quirky, out-of-the-box kiddos while recording these episodes. We thought it would be fun to take a look back and listen to a few snippets from our favorite conversations, talks with parents, bloggers, authors, experts, and even some of the topics big and small we face in the day-to-day. Won’t you listen with us? You might find you want to go back and listen again to a favorite episode (or listen to one you might’ve missed!)  We also hope it inspires you to look forward to all the great conversations and episodes we have planned for the coming New Year.

RLL #100: A Celebration of 100 Episodes

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:

            

d

end

Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!


 
Posted on

10 Things I Love About Homeschooling: A Gifted Kid’s Perspective

10 things i love about homeschooling a gifted kids perspective

Since I began homeschooling so many years ago, I’ve uncovered some unexpected surprises  and benefits to this lifestyle. Some of the most beneficial unexpected perks may be similar to yours, too… staying up late and sleeping in, rolling with the ins and outs of being a family, not punching an outside time clock, family relationship building, etc.

I’ve written about those things before, and I’m sure you’ve read them on many blogs. I decided that it was time to hear what the kids think about homeschooling.

10 Things I love about homeschooling

So I asked Trevor.

After all, he’s the original reason we’re walking this road in the first place. And, he has the experience of having tried public school first, so I thought he’d be able to offer a unique perspective.

I asked him to tell me the top 10 things he likes best about homeschooling. Here’s what he said:

Homeschooling: A Gifted Child’s Perspective

There are no time limits or restrictions on my work anymore.

Trevor is a twice-exceptional kid. That means that he is gifted, but has additional special needs. He also struggles with ADHD, executive functioning difficulties, and sensory processing disorder. Sitting in a classroom and focusing on an assignment is next to impossible for kids like him. There are so many distractions, and it doesn’t matter if the work is too easy or too hard, getting it done in the timeframe needed is tough. At home he doesn’t need to go with the flow of 20-some other kids. He can work at his own pace.

I get way more time to play with my toys.

Often, when we lived in our old home across the street from his favorite friend, Trevor would wait until his buddy got off the bus. He’d run outside to meet him, only to find that they couldn’t play together because his friend had too much homework to do. When we talked about it I reminded him that when he went to school, he too would get off the bus with projects that needed finished before he could play with friends or toys. One of the things he truly cherishes is the fact that he can play with his things off and on throughout the day.

10 Things I Love About Homeschooling - a Gifted Kid's Perspective

 

I can sleep in or choose to get up and get an early start on my school work.

He is definitely my kid! I love that we can make our own schedule. There was a period of time when Trevor would get up, grab a granola bar, and get his independent work done before 11:00 am each day. {Not anymore, unfortunately…but that’s another post.} Now he’s more likely to stay up late watching Star Trek on Netflix with Brian and then sleep in a bit. I love that we have the flexibility to give him that choice.

There are some really cool co-op classes, museum classes, and field trips to try out.

I remember dreading field trips when I taught. In theory they’re valuable, but in reality… I think they’re a waste of time for students and classroom teachers alike. Teachers need to manage a crowd of kids in an unfamiliar place, and kids see it as a day off of school, not as the rich educational experience it should be. What a blessing that I only have my own kids to focus on when we go places. Because of that, we can make an outing to the grocery store into a learning experience if we want to. But, because the homeschooling community is so rich and vibrant in our area, we don’t have to. There are always wonderful options to choose from in the area. Next fall, Trevor is taking a beginning entrepreneur class at our co-op. How cool is that?

10 Things I Love About Homeschooling - a Gifted Kid's Perspective

 

We get to take lots of impromptu trips.

This is something I’ve tried really hard to be intentional about this year, and it’s paying off. We don’t have the resources right now to spend money on expensive vacations, so we’ve tried to take advantage of opportunities that arise. The kids and Brian came along with me to a conference to enjoy the hotel and surrounding area. We’ve tagged along to Columbus with Brian a few times for meetings and have gone to COSI and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. We’ll be heading to Kalahari twice this year, once with a fun group of homeschooling friends and the other for a conference Brian needs to attend. The kids love these mini trips and I like having the flexibility to bring them along when Brian or I have to be out of town for any reason.

I get to spend a lot of time playing with my siblings.

It completely melted me that Trevor chose to include this on his list because I think it’s one of those things all homeschool moms want to hear, but doubt they will. I know that my kids won’t always get along, and that being in each other’s pockets all day will give rise to more frequent quarrels, but what a relief and a blessing that at the end of the day they truly appreciate and love each other. I asked him to expound and he said, Well, Molly is fun to play LEGOs with because she has a great imagination. I love the cool accessories that go with her American Doll, too. It’s neat to play with that and see the detail in those. She’s pretty fun. Logan can be annoying, but she’s still little. And she really likes Hero Factory and the Netflix videos I put on for her. She looks up to me. It’s nice to be liked. And I just love Isaac. I would hate to miss him all day if I went to school.

10 Things I Love About Homeschooling - a Gifted Kid's Perspective

 

I get to learn what I want to know about.

We have an eclectic approach to homeschooling that is based on my kids’ interests. Math is math to me…and linear, so they follow a set program for that, but everything else is based off of a topic they’re interested in. We recently acquired a trio or turtle friends – super cute and personable {really!} red-eared sliders – that live in the family room. Trevor wanted to know more so we bought a lapbook from Currclick and he learned all about chelonians – covering science, geography, reading, summarizing, vocabulary, spelling, handwriting, writing, grammar, and usage. I love the integrated approach.

If I work ahead I can take days off when there is something going on.

Our longest break of the year begins in mid-November and ends in mid-January. We’ve tried to work through this time, but it really doesn’t fit our family. In that time period we have Thanksgiving, my goddaughter’s birthday, Trevor’s birthday, my birthday, my mom’s birthday, my dad’s birthday, Advent, Christmas, New Years, and a variety of holiday parties. There is just no way to get holiday crafting, decorating, baking, shopping, and worshipping all done in there if we don’t let something go. Since all of those things are important, we choose to embrace the chaos and live fully in those moments. We work throughout the summer and on some weekends to make up for it.

10 Things I Love About Homeschooling - a Gifted Kid's Perspective

 

My birthday is a holiday.

Molly, Logan, and now Isaac all celebrate their birthdays when Brian is off of school. The girls have summer birthdays and Isaac was born on January 2nd, and Brian is usually still on winter break. We decided awhile ago to stop having big parties for the kids. It seemed that we were spending a lot of money to have family and friends over that we didn’t spend much time with otherwise.

The kids would get hyped up on sugar and attention {and get in trouble} and collect a bunch of toys they didn’t need anyway. Instead, we now make each child’s birthday a family celebration day. The day belongs to them – they choose the memories we make. Starting with gifts and breakfast of their choice, we focus on making memories together instead of collecting gifts. Since Trevor’s day falls during the school year, Brian takes a personal day, so Trevor equates it to a holiday and loves the fact that his daddy takes the day off for him.

 

I can move around – physically and academically – whenever and however I need to.

I loved this look into Trevor’s mind. I ask him to clarify this statement for me because I thought it insightful, and I wasn’t disappointed: In school, I had to sit still. I got in trouble for breaking my pencils and chewing on the erasers. I had to sit by my teacher’s desk so he could put his hand on my shoulder to remind me not to wiggle in my seat. It was embarrassing. You gave me gum to chew and let me play with my action figures while I work. At our old house you put a mini trampoline in the foyer so I could jump when I needed a break. Now you let me ride my bike when I need a break.

10 Things I Love About Homeschooling - a Gifted Kid's Perspective

I do some work at the kitchen table, but I also do some on my bed, on the floor in the family room, or with the guinea pig in my lap. I’d never be able to work like that in a school. And in school I had to do what the rest of the kids were doing. If I got distracted and didn’t finish my work I had to do it during recess. If I finished early I had to work on a packet of extra problems, so I messed around and finished it just in time. You let me stop a topic when I prove I know it. I can move on and learn something new. That’s cool.

A few years ago when I liked astronomy, you let me study it the whole year. I never would have known so much in a classroom because the rest of the kids wouldn’t have been interested. And I know I’m behind in writing because I hate it and complain to you about it all the time, and I know that I’ll have to catch up at some point, but you have been able to let me keep going ahead in math and science. I can always take a break from those later to catch up my writing if I have to.

And that last statement completely embodies why I love homeschooling my gifted kids – we can embrace their asynchronous learning and enjoy the journey.

Have you ever asked your kids what they love about homeschooling?

More support is now available for your child, and for you!

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children who are gifted and twice exceptional. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

The Learner's Lab

For more information on parenting gifted kids, check out:

         

default avatar
Latest posts by Colleen Kessler (see all)
Posted on

Toxic Positivity When Raising Gifted Kids

toxic positivity when raising gifted kids

If only I had a dollar for every time someone found out about my children’s giftedness and scoffed, “Wow, that must be nice.” I’d be quite the wealthy woman. Comments about how easy we must have it when raising such smart kiddos, dismissals of our struggles because our kids must have it so easy, the (false) belief that if our kids are bringing home A’s on all of their tests, there’s nothing really to worry about.

I’ll pause while all you parents of gifted kids finish laughing hysterically. 

The truth is that raising gifted kids is often an entirely different experience than sitcoms and stereotypes would have you believe. Because gifted kids are, statistically, so few and far between, parents can find themselves incredibly isolated, misunderstood, and unheard. Even when our friends and family mean well, their words can sometimes make things worse, drive the wedge deeper. We love our kiddos and are enthralled by their uniqueness and abilities, but we still feel the sting of separation when the realities of our experience are dismissed by toxic positivity. 

  

toxic positivity gifted kids

Toxic positivity has made the rounds of late, calling attention to the damage that can be caused by being so insistently positive that real experiences are ignored. Waving off fears or tears with the urging to only think positive thoughts, to only entertain good vibes. Entire storms are ignored while others insist you should be searching for the silver lining among the clouds. 

And while having a positive mental attitude is helpful in tackling life’s mountains and valleys, it’s not the only way to make it through. In fact, it’s a pretty ineffective toolbox that relies solely on happy thoughts to fix every problem.

I’ve written a few posts before about the difficulties of raising gifted kids, and have been accused in a handful of comments of complaining about them, some even questioning if I like my gifted kids at all. I absolutely like my kids. I love them. I’m amazed by them. They’re my favorite people and as hard as they are, I’m willing to do whatever they need to be supported and enriched. I love my gifted kids. But I will not pretend that they are always easy. 

Toxic positivity and a sometimes overly-affirming culture tell us that they’re not hard, they’re unique, that we shouldn’t be so vocal about our struggles because we’re blessed to have them at all. The outcries are so insistent that we smile and celebrate through every struggle that many are denied the therapeutic and cathartic opportunity to vent, to acknowledge the difficulty, to be reminded that they are not alone and they are not getting the whole parenting thing wrong. 

Related: 100 Things to Never Say to the Parent of a Gifted Kid, 2E Or Not 2E? That is the Question

mental health

Toxic positivity can come from teachers. I’ve had more than one educator dismiss very valid concerns because my child was doing well in their class, academically. I bring up concerns about possible ADHD and am met with enthusiastic praises about academic performance. I ask about trouble during transition times and am answered with anecdotes about. My worries about emotional intensity and regulation are waved off while prattling on about a wonderfully creative story that was written last week.

I want to know about areas I know to be very real struggles, and am instead fed more compliments, platitudes, comforts I didn’t ask for. Sure, all parents love a good report, and it never stinks to hear someone wax poetic about how wonderful my kids are. But when there are very real concerns at stake, I don’t need teachers to be positive, I need them to be realistic. 

Toxic positivity can come from family. Well-meaning grandparents who insist that Einstein didn’t talk for the first few years of his life, so we shouldn’t worry. Aunts who remark that your child couldn’t possibly be dyslexic if they’re gifted. In-laws who wave off tantrums and meltdowns as “phases”, certain that there’s no need to pursue any kind of testing or therapy because they’re sure to grow out of it. 

Toxic positivity can come from ourselves. 

When we fear that we’re betraying our motherly duties by not gushing over how brilliant our babes are. When we think that our kiddos are so smart that any obstacles that may face will be easily overcome – they’re smart enough to figure it out, after all. When we’re caught up in the romance of quirkiness and unwilling to investigate twice-exceptionalities. When we’re so in over our heads and so at odds with what we thought parenting would be like that we simply smile through it all and push ahead, hoping it’ll eventually get easier. When we tell other parents to be thankful, grateful, instead of vocal with their difficulties and doubts. 

Related: Safe Place Fatigue | The Wear and Tear of Being Your Child’s Person, Finding Community | Building a Support System Online and In Person

toxic positivity gifted kids

Toxic positivity is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the poisonous apple that seems to healthy upon presentation but ends up causing unforeseen damage. None of us want to be Debbie Downer, and we certainly don’t want to be the Negative Nancy anytime our friends are baring their souls and sharing their struggles. But it is entirely possible to be too positive when comforting a worn and weary friend.

Encourage one another, yes. Empower one another with honestly, not ideals. But when a friend is revealing the scared and scarred parts of her heart, don’t gloss over them in an attempt to make her forget them. She’ll go to bed that night with the same fears, and one less person who she feels understands. Don’t insist that everything is okay. Don’t point out the positive to change the subject and distract from the difficult. Let struggling parents speak, and keep in mind that you don’t always have to respond. 

Having a support group in place is invaluable when dealing with the struggles of raising gifted and twice-exceptional children. The difficulties are unique and real, and sometimes we need some genuine empathy, not a pep rally. We know how awesome our kids are, they blow us away daily. But we also know how different they are and how often those differences translate into difficulties. And sometimes, just sometimes, we need to be heard – not encouraged, not glossed over, not scolded for leaving behind our happy vibes. Toxic positivity is as real as giftedness, as hard as twice-exceptionalities, and as prevalent as the spectacled math genius stereotype.

Raising these kids is hard, and pretending it’s not won’t make it any easier. But just as true is the fact that these kids bring magic, beauty, wisdom and grace into the messiness of our lives everyday.

Please hear me, the antidote to this toxic positivity is not focusing on what isn’t working. It’s acknowledging the reality and then finding the true positives. It’s not and should never be either or – good or bad, difficult or easy, gifted or not. 

As parents of gifted kiddos, our lives are a beautiful blend of all of the above. 

toxic positivity gifted kids

default avatar
Latest posts by Jennifer Vail (see all)
Posted on

Great Gifts for Children with Anxiety

great gifts for children with

All children combat anxiety from time to time. Watching a scary movie, overhearing a frightening news segment, or hearing a ghost story from a friend. The shadows in our basement used to freak me out when I was a kid and I could feel the fear rise up in my throat when I had to go down into the laundry room alone. This kind of childhood anxiety is normal.

Do you have children with anxiety? I do, and like to plan gift-giving to support each of their needs and wants. Here are some things that have worked... #Anxiety #parenting #giftguide

But, if you’re a parent of children with anxiety – true anxiety that affects every aspect of their life – you know that it’s a struggle. I had one of my kiddos come out the other night as I stayed up late working. She just needed to make sure I was still home. She’d woken from a dream, and remembered that she’d missed me the last time I went away for the weekend, and she was scared.

Because I have cognitively gifted, asynchronous, and creative children, two of whom struggle with twice-exceptionalities and overexcitabilites – anxiety being one of those 2e challenges, I try to think carefully about the gifts I give all year long.

Here are some of the best things I’ve found for children with anxiety:

Functional Gifts for Children with Anxiety

I tend to put practical, but still fun, gifts in my kids’ stockings at Christmas, and add in some functional gifts at birthdays too. These fun things will help soothe your kiddo’s anxiety, and be cool to use, too.

Functional Gifts for Children with Anxiety

I received Tangle Toys to try out with my kids and share with you. I was compensated for my time, but all opinions are mine. In fact, we’ve owned several Tangle toys throughout the years and were eager to have a few more.

Litecup – My daughter’s anxiety hits the roof around bedtime. We have a nightlight in the room, and usually my husband sits in there on the recliner catching up on email and reading until she falls asleep. But, if she wakes in the middle of the night…forget it. She gets herself all worked up because everyone’s asleep and she wanders in the dark fearing that she’s been left alone. The Litecup has saved many nocturnal meltdowns. She has water – which is occasionally all she needs to fall back asleep – and she has a nightlight that she can take with her into my room down the dark hallway. She absolutely loves it, and we plan to buy one for each of the kids.

Chewigem – I’d actually planned to stuff a few of these into each of my children’s stockings this year to have them on hand as both fidgets and something other than their clothes or fingers to chew on. We have a Raindrop Pendant, and my kids love them. Right now, I have my 6 year old using it, and plan to get a Dog Tag Pendant for our son, a Miller Heart Pendant for our daughter, and a Skull Pendant for the teething toddler who loves pirates.

Sound Machine – We have had numerous sound machines and white noise makers in our bedrooms, and the kids’ rooms, forever. And we’ve gone through a few different brands – until we bought a Marpac DOHM-DS for each bedroom. They’ve lasted through two moves, and lots of drops. Having the same sound whooshing in the background of my children’s rooms really helps soothe them at night.

Night Light – I mentioned that we keep nightlights in our kids’ rooms. We actually give them a few options. One of those is a cuddly light up stuffed animal. There are so many fun options, that it’s hard not to find one your kids will each like.

Essential Oil Diffuser – We keep an essential oil diffuser in the kids’ rooms, and bought this one for them last year because it was affordable, got good reviews, and the nightlight can be kept on all night – even after the oils are done diffusing. Our favorites to diffuse at night are lavender, cedarwood, and sometimes Roman chamomile.

Fun Gifts for Children with Anxiety

Sometimes all it takes to soothe an anxious kiddo is something that bring him comfort or is fun to play with away from, or at, home. Consider some of these suggestions…

Fun Gifts for Children with Anxiety

Weighted Blanket or Weighted Toy – My daughter loves the secure feeling she gets when she’s covered in something that has weight. Often, sensory issues go hand in hand with anxiety, and meeting those needs can calm the anxious feelings. Consider gifting a special little person with a weighted friend, sleeping blanket, or lap pad for on-the-go.

Bed Tent – We bought our two anxious kids each a super-inexpensive bed tent last year, and it was a huge hit with each of them. They have a comforting spot to go at night and hideaway when they’re feeling overwhelmed. They each have a clip-on book light inside so they can read and relax when they need to.

Hammock Swing – This is a cozy hideaway, swing, and reading nook all in one. I don’t have this one, but it’s been on our wishlist for awhile.

Pocket Friends – Both of my children with anxiety carry small toys with them everywhere they go. One of them has an Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure that stays in his pocket and comes out for adventures wherever we are. Though now he’s moving to keeping a speedcube in his pocket as it’s a great conversation sparker when he starts flying through solutions. He also loves his new shape-shifting X-Cube for the incredulous looks he gets wherever we go. My daughter loves small animals and this dimple doll. She brings them everywhere with her.

Zuru Tangle — These are the ultimate calming puzzles. They’re quiet, come in a variety of styles (classic, metallic, crazy, or sparkle), and can be connected to one another for endless fidgeting fun. The colors, texture, and shapes help relieve stress and anxiety as well as help those who need to move their bodies focus. I have a few that I’ve owned for awhile in my purse for those moments we find ourselves waiting unexpectedly, but I’m putting the new ones we received — and that you can find at Toys “R” Us or Walmart for under $5 — in each of the kids’ stocking this year.

Great Gifts for Kids with Anxiety

 

Books for Children with Anxiety

Books are a part of every gift-giving situation for us. Birthdays, holidays, whatever… we love sharing good books with friends and family alike.

Books to Give Children with Anxiety

What to do When You Worry Too Much – This is an interactive self-help book designed to guide 6-12 year olds and their parents through the cognitive-behavioral techniques most often used in the treatment of generalized anxiety. Engaging, encouraging, and easy to follow, this book educates, motivates, and empowers children to work towards change. It includes a note to parents by psychologist and author Dawn Huebner, PhD.

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine – This fun and humorous book addresses the problem of anxiety in a way that relates to children of all ages. It offers creative strategies for parents and teachers to use that can lessen the severity of anxiety. The goal of the book is to give children the tools needed to feel more in control of their anxiety. For those worries that are not in anyone’s control (i.e. the weather,) a worry hat is introduced. A fun read for Wilmas of all ages!

What to do When You’re Scared and Worried – From a dread of spiders to panic attacks, kids have worries and fears, just like adults. This is a book kids can turn to when they need advice, reassurance, and ideas. They’ll find out where fears and worries come from, practice Fear Chasers and Worry Erasers, and learn to seek help for hard-to-handle fears they can’t manage on their own.

The Outsmart Your Worry Tool Kit for Kids – Worry and anxiety are big problems facing children today. Kids worry about doing well in school, making friends, peer pressure, family conflicts, performance in sports, or moving. They worry about real dangers like kidnapping, illness, and terrorism, as well as imagined dangers such as monsters or the dark. The Outsmart Your Worry Tool Kit for Kids (more of a game than a book) is an innovative skill- building approach to help children take charge of worry. The Tool Kit teaches children to become stronger and smarter than their worry, think in strong and accurate ways, stop the What-Ifs, and relax their minds and bodies.

IMG_3210

David and the Worry Beast – David could not stop thinking about the basket he had missed at the end of the big game. He was worried that he might do it again. He was worried that his team mates would be angry with him. He was worried that his parents would not be proud of him. He was also worried about an upcoming math test. In fact, David was worried a lot. “Should I quit the team?” he asked himself. “Should I be sick tomorrow and miss the math test?” Luckily, David finally confided in his parents and school nurse, both of whom gave him support and techniques for controlling the “worry beast” within him.

Worry! Worry! Go Away! – Children should not have to worry, but these Elfin characters will help your child overcome any worry that he or she is experiencing.

Nervous Nellie — What if? What if? What if? Nellie worries about everything- getting on a train, a plane, making friends in school, and more. With the help of Dr. Nofear, Nellie embarks on a journey to overcome her anxiety.

From Worrier to Warrior – There are two versions of this book: one for kids to read and one for their concerned adults. Both are fantastic, and so worth your time and money. Dr. Dan Peters gets worried kids, and knows how to help them be strong.

There are so many great resources out there to help our anxious kiddos, but we need to be mindful of their needs and give gifts that serve more than one purpose. Do you have other great gift ideas for the little worriers in your life? I’d love to hear them.

You Might Also Like:

      

&

 From Other Great Sites:

Best Gifts for the Autism Mom | This Outnumbered Mama

115+ Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Kids with Hyperlexia | And Next Comes L

Gift Giving & Autism: The One Golden Rule | My Home Truths

Self-Care Gifts for Special Needs Parents| Life Over C’s

Nutcracker Themed Gift Ideas for Kids | Every Star is Different

Gifts for Gifted Kids - Gifts for Children with Anxiety FB

Bramble Box
 
 

default avatar
Latest posts by Colleen Kessler (see all)
Posted on

Your Gifted Kid Might Break You

your gifted kid might break you

“Oh, NO!” I sobbed, hot tears of desperation streaming down my face. “I can’t take another one!”  My two-year-old had just glanced up at the clock and announced what time it was. The clock used only Roman numerals, and she was right. 

Her older brother, my middle child, had been identified as profoundly gifted just a year earlier, though the struggles had been going on for much longer. I’d thrown myself into researching giftedness, intensity, overexcitabilities, teaching methods, parenting styles, and hyper-specialized therapists. We love him dearly, but know the difficulties that often accompany parenting a gifted child, and at that point he was taking everything I had. My oldest was an agreeable, ideal gifted child, my youngest had, to that point, been a bright and bubbly toddler, but the middle kiddo… let’s just say I cried every day. The thought of raising another child that needed as much work and patience and understanding and intervention – well, it was overwhelming. It’s not an experience I would ever trade, but it’s also not one I would ever envy, because raising a gifted kid just might break you.

   gifted kid might break you

So often, the label of giftedness is looked upon as elitist or exclusionary. Gifted programs are viewed as clubs to get into, not services children are in need of. Parents of the gifted kid aren’t met with much sympathy when their child is reading light years ahead of their grade level peers because, really, how bad can it be that your kid is so smart?

Well, to be honest, it can get pretty rough

From infancy, my middle child never slept. As a toddler his curious nature sent him adventuring around the house at all hours of the night. His sense of humor was so advanced that adults often thought he was being rude or disrespectful. As he got older, his sensory issues and overexcitabilities made many situations difficult for him, or even unbearable. He was misunderstood by most and offered little sympathy. 

Because he did so well in school, his teachers assumed he was a problem, not that he was having a problem. 

The asynchronous way he was developing meant that his thoughts and feelings were leaps ahead while his ability to make sense of them or control them was noticeably behind. He struggled to make friends, and I struggled to make it through a day without receiving a phone call from the school. He was having an incredibly difficult time, and as his parent and greatest advocate I was having a difficult time, too. 

So when it appeared that his little sister might be following in his footsteps, I was not thrilled by her abilities, but terrified of her realities. 

Related: Safe Place Fatigue | The Wear and Tear of Being Your Child’s Person, Help Your Intense Child Regulate Emotions Easilysmart child might break you

Gifted children are gifts, don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this in an attempt to drag gifted people through the mud or complain about parenting such amazing kids. I’m writing this because parenting a gifted kid is hard, and too often parents think that it’s so hard because we’re doing something wrong. We’re not – they’re just hard

Their intense emotions often find themselves directed towards us when they have no idea what else to do with them, and that’s hard

Their lack of sleep keeps them up with existential dread, incessant questions, tears of boredom, or grumpy moods the next day, and that’s hard

Their unique needs mean we advocate in ways we never imagined we could, throwing niceties out the window and being willing to be annoying so our child can be served, and that’s hard

Their therapies, hobbies, enrichment activities, and school supplements can get expensive and time-consuming, and that’s hard

The tears and screams and fears and obsessions – they’re hard to manage, and after a while, day in and day out, when there’s no stop, no break, no rest, it might break you. 

Related: Finding Community: Building a Support System Online and In-Person, You Cannot Do It Allgifted child might break you

Being the emotional punching bag or the emotional support for someone you love so dearly, it just might break you. 

Worrying and second-guessing that every parenting decision you’re making and form of discipline you’re using is wrong, it just might break you. 

Staying up all night with terrified kiddos who worry about plagues and the afterlife and just how we’ll ever clean up the oceans, then researching how best to help them and compare their quirks to disorders and worry yourself about missed diagnoses and unclear symptoms… it just might break you. 

Several years later that little girl of mine has proven herself to be exactly like her brother, just as I’d worried. She’s brilliant and hilarious and intense and exhausting. She’s everything he is, with a pinch extra, and to be honest, some days it breaks me. Not every day, not anymore. But there are definitely days when we’re both so exhausted from her deep emotions and incessant worries that we end up collapsed in bed, both of us wishing there were more answers and wondering why it has to be this way. 

I don’t want my daughter to be different, I only want her life to be easier. I don’t want to change her, I only wish to change myself, to make myself stronger, to make myself less breakable. 

For all I’ve lost in my supposed weakness, however, I wouldn’t want any of it back in exchange for what I’ve gained in my brokenness. For every night I’ve gone to bed broken, I’ve awoken the next morning a little softer where I needed to bend. For every meeting and appointment I’ve had to fight for, I’ve grown stronger as an advocate and parent. Everything that’s broken in me has gone into strengthening my gifted kid, and if there’s anything I’m here to do, it’s build my child into the strongest and best version of themselves they can be. Even if it breaks me. 

default avatar
Latest posts by Jennifer Vail (see all)
Posted on

Mislabeled Behavior And Undiagnosed Giftedness

mislabeled behavior and undiagnosed giftedness

“But… what’s wrong with him?”

I was sitting across from the counselor we’d been seeing every week for six months, desperation leaking from my eyes and filling the small room with a heaviness we both felt. On the walls were graduate degrees and charts that identified emotions with childrens’ faces, the bookshelves were brimming with diagnostic manuals and parenting helps and countless books about understanding difficult people. None of them helped.

“I don’t know.”

Mislabeled Behavior And Undiagnosed Giftedness

This was the response, the honest, earnest response I heard from a man who was professionally trained and licensed to be able to know. I wasn’t angry, I didn’t hold it against him, because I didn’t know, either. My own counseling degree was proving as helpful as his, and the bookmarks hanging out of my DSM like tassels were just more road signs to nowhere.

“It doesn’t make sense, kids with these issues normally have a diagnosis.”

Yet mine didn’t. At this point he was 6 years old and had undergone a few evaluations, ruling out autism and ADHD. Researching behavioral disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder only confused me further – he fit some of the criteria, but not enough for it to make sense. He was so angry, for seemingly no reason.

“I don’t know why he’s presenting these behavior issues. Statistically we see kids acting this way when they come from a chaotic home environment, but you guys are doing everything right.”

We’d tried everything. Elimination diets, essential oils, any and every parenting technique we stumbled across. We were firm, we were lenient. We gave him space and held him close. We tailored our parenting to birth order, to gender… I even looked up tips for parenting according to zodiac signs out of desperation.

Nothing helped.

Nothing gave us any insight into our boy, why he’d become increasingly angry, why it felt like we were losing him to outbursts, aggression, impulsivity. At this point we’d tried counseling for half a year and welcomed any label, truly any, so we could at least understand what was happening and have a plan for how to help. Yet after 6 months of weekly therapy, we saw no improvement and had no answers. None. Nothing. We were as clueless as we were when we’d begun and our boy still had no control over his anger or the words to give us an explanation for it.

Life at home was hard. Slammed doors, screams, crying siblings. We loved our boy and wanted to help him, but we didn’t know how. His brother and sister walked on eggshells, not knowing when or why he’d fly into a rage. School was a nightmare. He argued with his teacher, hid in his locker or under tables, fought with other students. He was a disruption who was becoming a danger, and we were terrified.

Related: What is an Intense Child?

mislabeled behavior undiagnosed giftedness

Worse, we were utterly clueless as to how to help him.

I remember seeing the school’s phone number on my caller ID. I sighed, braced myself. I knew that number, knew it was about him, knew I wouldn’t have an explanation for whatever I was about to hear he’d done. I’m sure I already had tears brimming as I answered. The counselor, only having known him for 6 months, knew to start the call with the reassurance, “Everyone’s okay….” She’d dialed my number often enough to know how to preface what she was about to tell me, but she’d never made this call before.

“Some papers will be coming home today and I wanted to talk to you about them. We administered the WASI and I had to check the scores four times to be sure. His scores were in the 99th percentile, I’ve never seen anything like it. It looks like he’s a genius.”

Not a sociopath. Not a menace. Not an enigma. A profoundly gifted little boy whose brain was light years ahead of his developmental abilities and who couldn’t marry the two.

He underwent further, more formal testing over the years, evaluating him for more possible disorders and taking more IQ tests. Each of the five (yes, five) times he’s been evaluated for autism the professional has been convinced going in he was on the spectrum, and each of the five (really, five) times they’ve shaken their heads at the fact that he is not. Psychologists (plural) have come out in the middle of evaluations to ask if they can “check” for other things – ODD again, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disoder, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, autism again.

Each time he falls short.

He’s quirky, different, has a hair trigger, feels misunderstood, doesn’t relate to kids his own age and definitely does not like being treated like a kid. After all of the testing, all the possibilities, all the years of searching and reading and trying and crying, we were left with only one label – gifted.

Indpendence in kids his age looks like defiance. Boredom in kids his age can look like inattention. Anger in kids his age, it turns out, often isn’t actually about being angry. Giftedness, we learned, often comes with intense emotions, quirks, anxiety that manifests as anger, intelligence that can read as argumentative, and sensitivity to stimuli that can mimic processing disorders.

Related: Asynchronous Development in Gifted Children

mislabeled behavior undiagnosed giftedness

This was why we couldn’t get a diagnosis. This was why we couldn’t find a label that fit. His brain being so profoundly different from the majority of society meant he behaved differently from the majority of society, but his age being so much younger than the majority of society meant that he didn’t know how to handle it.

He looked like a duck, he often quacked like a duck, but try as we might we could not get him to swim like a duck… because he wasn’t a duck.

He wasn’t a bad kid and we weren’t bad parents.

He was a small boy struggling with something we never even knew to look for.

His abnormal behavior was an attempt at communicating his abnormal intelligence, and none of the professionals he saw up until then (and few after) were qualified to interpret it. It wasn’t until we spoke with the gifted specialist at his school, spoke with other parents of gifted kids, that we began to really understand that not only did giftedness explain everything we’d been experiencing with him, but the outbursts and arguments were common among other gifted kids.

We learned that while there are a number of twice-exceptional kids who struggle with both the weight of their giftedness and a comorbid disorder, there are also a LOT – a lot – of gifted kids who have been misdiagnosed or labeled incorrectly in an attempt to explain their baffling behavior. We found that as well-meaning or educated as a therapist or doctor may be, many professionals have not studied giftedness or how it affects children, let alone what it looks like. We were humbled to realize that as well as we knew our boy, we missed such a huge part of him.

Related: Parenting and Teaching a Twice-Exceptional Child

mislabeled behavior 5

Giftedness doesn’t look like what you’d think and often looks like plenty of other things, so it is vital that we, the parents and caretakers of gifted children, advocate for them. Their behavior is telling us something their words can’t, and we have to be as loud as they are when it comes to getting them what they need.

While teachers or friends or well-meaning relatives are suggesting this label or that, we have to stay firm, loud, and educated. We have to speak up and ask – sometimes over and over again – for another opinion, another test, another possibility other than the ill-fitting diagnosis we’ve just been handed. We can’t allow all quacks to be dismissed as ducks.

More than anything, above all, we can’t fall into the trap of blaming ourselves for the aberrant behavior of our gifted, struggling, hurting kids.

They’re not angry because we’re bad parents, they’re frustrated and don’t realize it.

They don’t struggle with friendships because we’ve done something wrong, there are just very few people they can truly relate to.

They’re different from the other kids because, well, they’re different from the other kids.

Life hasn’t become a dream since we pinpointed the cause of our son’s anger and outbursts. Having a label, an explanation, didn’t magically transport us to the other side. He still struggles, still gets angry, still has bad days because his brain still works differently. Only now we know why. We know what his behavior is trying to tell us, know what will work and what won’t. We know he’s not lacking something from us and know he isn’t a rage monster. Just knowing doesn’t fix it, but it does help. We’re constantly learning together, with our son, about what he’s needing and what he’s feeling.

We’re working with a net now, have a foundation, we’re not flying blind… all the metaphors you can think of that give you hope that the long journey you’re embarking on isn’t a sightless wandering.

There’s nothing wrong with our son, he’s just gifted

More support is now available for your child, and for you!

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children with intensities and help you as you build social and emotional skills and resiliency. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them copy and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

default avatar
Latest posts by Jennifer Vail (see all)