Gifted child? …..Overexcitability not ADHD

Overexcitability not ADHD

Mindfulness has been a powerful door that has opened up a whole new world of understating for me .  This mind blowing experience of truly causing and noticing our thoughts combined with the understanding that there are neurological reasons for our actions- has given me the ability to see that space between stimulus and response….

Mindful awareness helps us to slow down and see why we do what we do…and to be aware of the knee jerk reactions we have to stimulus….a must for all and a very beneficial tool for Gifted children and adults!


In this next post I will share some really powerful  insights on the Gifted…I hope you will find this as interesting as I do!


Kazimierez Dabrowski first created the term Overexcitability (OE) in 1972 to describe to passionate intensities of emotions that Gifted people experience.   Later in 1999 Piechowski added that “the difference in intensity and sensitivity is not only greater than normal, it is also a difference in the very quality of experiencing for the gifted.”

According to Susan Lind, in her article Overexcitability and the Gifted, Overexcitabilities are inborn intensities indicating a heightened ability to respond to stimuli.”

So, if mindful awareness is that state of being aware of our thoughts and tools of mindfulness help us to find that space between stimulus and response…..and proceed- not react…..  imagine the power of mindful awareness  for all OEs!  (Well, of course I do feel it is a must for all humans 🙂 )

In her lecture for week two of  my UCI class “GATE:Meeting Social and Emotional Needs” Professor Suzanne Montgomery explains that OE’s are born intense.  “OE’s are inborn intensities indicating a heightened ability to respond to stimuli.” She goes on to explain that the Gifted are naturally sensitive, aware, and more passionate than the average person.


There is researched facts here that all educators (and I think parents) need to be educated on….  Studies and research tell us that Gifted children experience the world intensely and are often misdiagnosed with ADHD.


Gifted Behaviors of  overexcitable are behaviors that, if you take a moment to unwrap, you can clearly see that it is a by-product of thinking, feeling, or even sensing very deeply and intensely.

Gifted children may appear to have a poor attention span but in truth it can be attributed to their deep thinking and explorations about something they find more interesting.

Also, their attention span might be poor in some specific situations but will not be something seen across all aspects of life.  The gifted will want to work at length and in depth on things they enjoy…but may have low tolerance for mundane tasks as they appear to them, irrelevant.  They may be seen as impulsive.   It is also well known that many gifted children, although beyond their years in intellect, are quite immature in other areas of social, physical, and emotional growth.


In a truly ADHD child impulsivity is attributed to poor delay of gratification.  In the gifted, children may be defiant or question teachers or parents.  But, it is now that they don’t know HOW to follow directions,  they just question the intentions or rationale behind the rules.

ADHD children are active and restless….but the gifted are highly intense due to constant brain activity.


It seems clear that the difference is that a gifted child may be all over the place but again, if we unwrap it, we can see it is due to curiosity, exploration, and searching for meaning.


Reading through the different, research based, categories of overexcitability it was so easy for me to see the faces of different children I knew that displayed some of these tendencies.

What is vital is that we as parents and educators are aware of these emotional highs and lows our Gifted children experience.

For a child, not having the awareness of what they are feeling and why can be intimidating, confusing, and stressful.

Mindful awareness for OEs means educating the person with OE.  To know that their brain is doing what it is supposed to do.  It is thinking, solving, planning and exploring.  It is a gift.

A person with OE will be able to say, “Oh, there I go exploring!”  “There is questioning!” “I am noticing I want to correct that person!”  Eventually with mindful practice an OE can learn to pause, as mentioned in a prior blog post, and proceed rather than habitually react.

As teachers we need to be mindfully aware of our Gifted students unique needs.  Just like with all students.  If we are able to turn towards children and validate and or help them understand what they are feeling we can better support and nurture their development.   I read in an article somewhere on the Book of Joy site that we should always turn towards people….as we as humans have an innate need to connect.

I think it is so rewarding to notice when a child is wanting to connect with you as a teacher or as a parent.  It’s so easy sometimes to not notice.

I think gifted kids, like all kids, need to have someone attune to them.  First we have to have the tools to attune to ourselves…knowing what to expect is an important part of working with all children.  It’s like musicians they were tune their instrument then they attune to the rest of the orchestra.  Like my professor says, it all matters.  Our tone, our body language, and of course our words.

I invite you to further explore this topic it is fascinating!

I have attached a checklist for excitability from Gifted and Creative Service Australia.  It was provided to me through my class.

Please share your aha moments and let’s create a discussion!