What is gifted or twice exceptional anyway?

What is gifted or twice exceptional anyway?


As parents, we adore our children. In the beginning, we think everything they do is amazing! and wonderful! and exceptional! This doesn’t change much as time goes on, mind you, but there does come a point when you wonder:


Is this actually exceptional? Is my kid really gifted?


When you’re alone with your child or children, it can be tough to gauge what’s normal for development. You’ve got your own experience, plus advice and expertise from parenting books you’ve likely never finished reading.


Even if your child IS gifted, what does that mean?


In one word, I’d describe giftedness as INTENSITY. That intensity could be channeled into many areas of life. Contrary to popular belief, gifted kiddos are not the perfectly well-behaved, good-graded children we all imagine we’ll create. They may be destined to win the Nobel prize in Physics or barely survive traditional high school with self confidence in tact.


How things play out, fortunately or unfortunately, depends a large part on your parenting skills AND your ability to advocate for their individual needs.


But I digress. Here are the generally accepted characteristics of gifted kiddos. I encourage you to also consider yourself,  your spouse, and any other children as you read through this list. It might be that you have one particularly challenging, precocious child, but it’s likely that others are gifted as well. Maybe in an entirely different way.


From A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, by Webb et al., gifted characteristics include:


  • Unusual alertness as early as infancy
  • Rapid learner; able to put thoughts together quickly
  • Retains much information; very good memory
  • Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
  • Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors, and abstract ideas
  • Enjoys solving problems that involve numbers and puzzles
  • Largely self taught reading and writing skills as a preschooler
  • Unusual emotional depth; intense feelings and reactions; highly sensitive
  • Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
  • Idealism and sense of justice appear at an early age
  • Concern with social and political issues and injustices
  • Longer attention span, persistence, and intense concentration
  • Preoccupied with own thoughts; daydreaming
  • Impatient with self or others’ inabilities or slowness
  • Ability to learn basic skills more quickly with less practice
  • Asks probing questions; goes beyond what is being taught
  • Wide range of interests (though sometimes extreme interest in only one area)
  • Highly developed curiosity; limitless questions
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Tendency to put ideas or things together in ways that are unusual or not obvious (divergent thinking)
  • Keen and sometimes unusual sense of humor, particularly with puns
  • Desire to organize things and people through complex games or others schemas
  • Imaginary playmates (preschool age children); vivid imaginations


If you’re saying yes to many aspects of this list, the gifted journey is likely in your future. It’s a good idea to have an open, observant mind that looks for creative parenting strategies and highlights strengths in both yourself and your child/children.


When you don’t fit the typical mold and you don’t behave according to social expectations, life can get difficult. (Elementary school can get very difficult.) Recognizing giftedness, and possible learning challenges that can occur in conjunction with giftedness, can feel like a sea of unknowns because it’s often tough to find a definitive answer.


Giftedness coupled with learning challenges, such as ADHD, autism, or dyslexia, is often called “twice exceptional” or “2e”.



Often characteristics, symptoms, and behaviors overlap, so it becomes difficult to uncover the root cause of any particular challenge. Is it giftedness? something else? or a combination of the two? or more?


And when you’ve clearly got a smart cookie, you don’t always get a lot of help or sympathy from others. Reassurances that ‘things will be fine’ or ‘they’ll grow out of it’ or ‘everyone deals with that’ don’t help you.


You really what to figure out what’s really going on with your child, validate your experience, and find next steps.


If your child is gifted, you’re going to need creative strategies for parenting and life. The traditional models may not work for you all the time. Or ever. (That was our experience with one child. Never did a traditional model work with any consistency. Thanks Obama. wink)


Knowing your options and having a plan of action early on can save LOADS of frustration later. (And maybe even loads of laundry. Probably not, but maybe.)


If you relate to this gifted/twice exceptional journey, I’m here to support you through the process and craft strategies that work for your family.


I also want to see YOU thrive too.



You love your children, but you’ve got your own goals and dreams too. Gifted children take a lot of energy, so finding support makes a big difference. I wish I had it, and that’s why I do what I do!



5 Ways to Make Sense of Behavior

5 Ways to Make Sense of Behavior

Having a child that doesn’t fit the system can be extremely challenging. The “system” typically means schools and education when you’re young, but it can also be the web of social expectations we encounter in any situation.


Over the last ten years, I’ve devoured countless resources on gifted children, gifted education, emotional development, and learning disabilities in effort to figure out the puzzle that is my son.


There are so many times I’ve thought: I wish I’d known that earlier!


If they’re smart, they are expected to excel in all areas from behavior to reading to putting together your Ikea furniture. While your child may bust out a perfectly executed Billy bookcase with no trouble, there may be (many) other areas of life that cause frustration, anger, and possibly low self esteem.


While every experience is unique, I offer you a few patterns I wish I’d known about from the beginning.



Asynchronous Development.


This is one of the first topics you’ll stumble upon when researching gifted and twice exceptional children. (Twice exceptional, often noted ‘2e’ refers to being highly capable while having some kind of learning disability as well. Such as Gifted/ADHD, or Gifted/Autism.) Asynchronous development means that while your child is exceptionally bright in some areas, there are other areas that will not have developed at the same rate.


What does this mean for you?


Watch out for when your child doesn’t act according to expectations, or doesn’t follow seemingly simple directions. Instead of getting upset that they’re not responding appropriately, take a step back and survey the situation.


Is there any skill or development mark that might be challenging your child?



For example, your lovely kiddo may not have the executive skills – such as short term memory, task initiation, and follow through – to do all the grown up like tasks you (and the rest of the world) expect them to do. As a perfectionistic mom of said child, this is supremely frustrating for everyone. 


The best response is to focus on skill building instead of harping on your child for something they really can’t do yet.


Frustration Tolerance.


This was a biggie for us. Often, going along with asynchronous development, children have strengths and weaknesses. Gifted kids tend to get things really quickly, but watch out if they don’t! They may not have the emotional awareness or skill to sit with things that take a little longer, or where they don’t immediately excel.


For example, my son loves math, but when asked to do timed math facts he’d lose it. At school, at home. Didn’t matter. Turns out his processing speed didn’t allow for the fast pace. He knew the material, but the timed aspect led to a blow out. Every time.




A key characteristic of gifted individuals is their intensity, which can show up in many ways. The theory of overexcitabilities, from Polish psychiatrist K. Dabrowski, attempts to explain how that intensity manifests in daily life through “heightened response to stimuli” (Webb, et. al,  A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children).

There are five overexcitabilities:

  1. Intellectual. 
  2. Imaginational.
  3. Emotional
  4. Sensual
  5. Psychomotor


I’ll go over the specifics in another post, but for now know that the intensity of your child in any of these areas could likely be attributed to the way they are wired. It’s very easy to see these overexcitabilities as annoying, frustrating, or plain odd. As much as you can, try to teach skills while honoring your child’s unique outlook on life.


Social Awareness.


More than skills, social awareness involves understanding the system of unwritten rules that most people learn by osmosis (or socialization). There are broadly two kinds of kids: some who perceive how others see them, and some who don’t. Our son wasn’t worried at all about what other people thought. He was completely happy to be his own person, just outside the norm. (He’d also acknowledge it’d be great if the world would bend to his wishes.) 


For kids who don’t perceive the social world well, it’s our job to teach them social thinking. Typically, these children end up in social skills classes that talk about friendships and relationship building. Sometimes this helps, sometimes not. What these kids really need is an understanding of the layers of social relationships along with the myriad hidden rules we all follow. 


On the flip side, you might have a child who is hypersensitive to what other people think. This can lead to anxiety, self doubt, and any number of things. Having conversations about individuality, difference, and self worth can be tough, but necessary for these kids.


Strengths Focus.


Often our gifted/2e children assume the role of ‘disruptive’ kid in the classroom. Their needs aren’t being met or they’ve checked out for any number of reasons. 


As parents, it’s our job to reinforce our child’s strengths, so they have confidence in their own capabilities. This is particularly important since their strengths may not shine in a traditional school setting. 

For example, my older son was fascinated by electronics – like circuitry and diodes and such – when he was in first grade. Since that’s not a topic covered in early years of elementary, we tried to find places where he could talk to other people who were into the same things.

Likewise, if your child’s strengths are, say, independence or negotiation, this will likely be seen in a negative light at school. It’s challenging, but awesome, to give your child positive ways to foster their independence and persuasion skills. It requires some creativity on your part, but can be extremely rewarding for your child and their confidence. 


When you think about your child, or children, which of these aspects jumps out at you? Why?


Leave a comment below and let me know! Also, if you have questions about anything in particular, share them! You’re probably not the only one with that question, so your speaking up helps everyone! We’ll get into more specifics soon enough. It helps me to know what questions come up for you.


Till next time, take deep breaths, love on your kiddos, and know we’re all doing our best. 


Not an End, but a Beginning

You made it to the end of the purposeful action challenge. No matter if you accomplished every action this month, or only a couple, I hope our time together nudges you toward taking a more active role in realizing your positive vision for the world.


On a personal, micro level and a societal, macro level as well.


I’ve renewed my automatic donations, contacted organizations I’d like to work with, and connected with more new people personally than I have in a long time. Use this challenge as a springboard to keep taking action and working toward making the difference you want to see in the world. 

Purposeful Action: Give me feedback! 

If you’d share your thoughts (questions below) via Facebook or replying to this email, it helps me immensely in revising this challenge and making it better. (You’re helping others too!)


Take a moment and let me know:
  1. What did you love about this challenge?
  2. What were you hoping to get, but didn’t?
  3. How was the balance of outward action and internal action? (Would you like more of one or the other?)
  4. Anything else you’d like to share?


Thank you SO much for being a part of this journey and taking action to make the world (and your world) a more purposeful, positive place. 

As a thank you, I’ll be donating a $25/month to Kiva.org in honor of my first 25 participants. (I encourage you to check it out and consider donating as well.) It’s a highly-rated organization that provides loans to help people create opportunities around the world. As the loans get repaid, they go out to build more opportunities!


Please take a moment to give me feedback on the challenge!
I appreciate it more than you know!

Thank you again, World Changer!


Big Hugs,

Finding Inspiration

Have you ever thought: How am I supposed to keep this up? Throughout the twists and turns of daily life, you’re bound to get off track here and there. Living purposefully, and actually taking action, involves A LOT of effort. And it can be a lot of responsibility. Not to mention life getting over scheduled, hectic, and sometimes downright hard.



How do you commit to purposeful action when everything vies for your attention?



How do you stay motivated toward your goal, your core issue, and your values?



First, accept that life unfolds in a way that challenges your commitments and convictions. We don’t like that, but it’s unfortunately true. The good thing is, in some ways, things get easier as you stay committed.



Second, much of the action you’d like to take has become habit (or is on it’s way to being so). You’ve either automated  or set up systems that steer you in the direction you want to go.



But what if you still veer off? Or you want new ideas and insights to further your work?



That’s when it’s handy to have inspirational resources at hand. I always surround myself with books, podcasts, and other input that inspires me to keep going.



Purposeful Action: Explore sources of inspiration until you find something of interest. Search for keywords that relate to your core issue or theme. Online, at your library, in iTunes, etc.



If you already have a few favorites, keep them, AND explore new, tangential topics that seem interesting. I thought I’d share my favorites.



The Art of Taking Action, by Gregg Krech
This book was a great resource for this challenge, and I recommend picking it up at the library!

The Art of Possibility, by Benjamin and Rosalind Zaner
One of my all time favorites for seeing different perspectives on challenges and motivation.

Braving the Wilderness, by Brene Brown
Her latest book (they’re all great!) that talks about belonging, self worth, and taking action toward what matters most to you. (So good that my dog tried to eat my copy. Tasty too, I guess!)



Unmistakable Creative – A focus on creativity in every aspect of life. Interesting people and great conversations. I always learn something new.

 – This one has thought-provoking guests, though it looks like it’s taken a break or no longer running new shows. Worth a look at the existing ones.

Joyful Courage – Focused on positive parenting, this is always insightful, real, and helpful. Even when the subject is difficult.

The Brendon Show – Brendon Burchard, a high performance coach, is eternally motivating and talks a lot about habits. His books are worth reading too.

Ted Talks – Hopefully you watch these already! Not really a podcast, but an app, wealth of inspiration and interest in literally every field. (And they’re usually less than 20 minutes!)

There’s much more, I’m sure, but these are my favorites. I haven’t ventured too much into the realm of “apps” as I try (and try and try) to stay off my phone as much as possible.

Warning: Do not use all your time consuming information and inspiration instead of taking action! It is eternally tempting to feel like you need more *whatever* to start. You don’t.


Use the inspiration for the times when you have mindless activities, when you’re dipping in energy or motivation, or when you’re craving a new perspective on the same topic.


Staying inspired can become a full time job if you let it. Be mindful about the best balance of action and input that works for you!

Who Are You, Really?

We’ve all had the thoughts: Who am I to be so bold? Who am I to expect this? Who am I to think that I can…?


At some point, you have to decide for yourself.


I am someone who: ________________________



How you view yourself, how you talk about yourself, and what you believe to be true all make an enormous impact on your behavior.


You have to believe you can do the thing you want to do. Believe you can be the change. 


Purposeful Action: Write out who you are at your best. Who are you to… see your positive vision to fruition? Write it out in detail. Why you? Why now? Keep it positive. 😉


Remember that every single person on the planet doubts their abilities in some respect. (Unless you’re a psychopath, but I’m hoping that’s not the case.) I’ve also heard that the more you know, the more you doubt. Simply because you see how many different factors impact what you’re doing.

Today I want you to own WHO YOU ARE to be doing what you’re doing. There’s no better person.


I have a personal philosophy in life: If somebody else can do something that I’m doing, they should do it. And what I want to do is find things that would represent a unique contribution to the world – the contribution that only I, and my portfolio of talents, can make happen. Those are my priorities in life.

– Neil deGrasse Tyson


Who are you? The old you? The new you? What threads are the same and where are you ready to adopt a different picture of yourself? As a creative, an artist, and activist, a scholar? A comedian, a writer, a leader?


It’s up to you. Completely.