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Support for our brightest minds and their families

Parenting the profoundly gifted child comes with its own unique opportunities and challenges. We hope to offer families support, insight and resources. We hope, with this website, to help you find resources to identify whether or not your child is profoundly gifted; provide a group of parents for support if your child is profoundly gifted and help you find the resources available for profoundly gifted children. We have both an online and in person support network.

We're glad that you're here. Know that you are not alone and there are resources available for families of profoundly gifted children.

The Challenges of Asynchronism

We know that it is really hard to find people that understand what we are going through to satisfy our kids' intellectual and social needs. Please see this really good link that captures in 3 minutes the essence of the challenges that profoundly gifted children and families face:
Click here to see the 3 minute video


Very good article from the Guardian:

Boris Johnson missed the point on IQ – gifted children are failed by the system

From politicians to psychologists, too many people fail to understand how high intelligence can isolate people, especially children. In all the furore surrounding Boris Johnson' s comments on IQ, one of the many respects in which he was utterly wrong has been barely mentioned. In fairness, this isn't entirely Johnson' s fault. It is an endemic misunderstanding, the assumption that people with IQs over 130 are likely to sail through life, effortlessly achieving "success" .

It's been good to see neuroscience getting a popular airing this week. One can certainly complain that a study from the University of Pennsylvania into mental illness in children and young adults, widely reported as having demonstrated brain differences between males and females, has been "reduced to pop psychology" . But, in truth, neuroscience does not penetrate our general culture nearly enough.

Even experienced psychologists, let alone "pop" ones, often fail to understand how high intelligence can isolate people, especially children. Yet, neuroscience tells us the difference between "normal" and "gifted" brains is significant. A 2006 study from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, found that more intelligent children "demonstrate a particularly plastic cortex, with an initial accelerated and prolonged phase of cortical increase, which yields to equally vigorous cortical thinning by early adolescence" . The study also demonstrated that maximum cortical thickness came at around five-and-a-half for its "average" group, eight-and-a- half for its "high" group and just past 11 for its "superior" ; group. The more intelligent a child is, the later their cortex will start thinning and the later it will become fully "sculpted" ;, as researcher Jay Giedd puts it. This all fits with previous psychological theories. Gifted children, it is accepted, exhibit "asynchronous development" , as described by the Columbus Group in 1991. This causes them all kinds of problems, not least because an 11-year-old can be one minute regaling captivated adults with their thoughts on the banking crisis, and the next throwing a tantrum because everyone else in the class can tie their shoelaces, while they can't.

This theory incorporates an older theory, the Theory of Positive Disintegration, posited by the Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, Kazimierz Dabrowski, who suggested that gifted kids are prone to one or more of five "overexcitabilities" : psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual and imaginational.

Time and research has certainly borne him out on the first two. Gifted children are prone to learning disabilities – dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, all those conditions that cynics are prone to insist are manifestations of little Tarquin' s parents' inability to accept that he isn't as clever as they want him to be. But lot of the time little Tarquin' s parents are not deluded, not at all.

Gifted children tend to have particular problems with sensory processing, sensory modulation and dyspraxia. [pdf download] They are also more likely to be overwhelmed by their over- and sometimes underdeveloped senses, with their brain failing accurately to "read" what their bodies are telling them about their environment. This is not surprising, since they have so many neural pathways to choose from, in their big, messy cortices, and so much sculpting to do.

Sometimes these symptoms are merely a consequence of asynchronicity, and will sort themselves out. Dyslexia, for example, sometimes just disappears. But sometimes a gifted child with these deficits will become a gifted adult with these deficits. The cliches – absent-minded professor, computer genius who can't drive a car, artistic giant with explosive temperament – chime with what neuroscience tells us.

Asynchronous development can also mean a child's intellect is way ahead of his executive functions, the parts of the brain that manage cognitive processes. This will make him disorganised, unable to grasp spoken instructions or challenged by mental arithmetic. Even if his brain is generating ideas thick and fast, he may struggle to put them on paper.

In the US, it's more common for a child to be recognised as being gifted and also learning-disabled. They call it being "twice exceptional" or "2e" . In Britain, however, virtually the only organisation that is really up on what they call "dual or multiple exceptionality" ; is the charity Potential Plus UK.

What all this means, contrary to Johnson' s banal non-observations, is that children with IQs of more than 130 can be very vulnerable. The selective private sector education system that blessed us with Johnson and his colleagues, and also the grammar school system he lauds, are not the infallible machines for attracting the finest minds he thinks they are. On the contrary, they test children before the smartest have even stopped growing, let alone started sculpting their neural pathways, and when their mental abilities may still be highly asynchronous. Someone who is good at maths and English will pass their 11-plus, while someone who is highly able at one but – as yet – terrible at the other, perhaps due to a passing learning disability caused by asyncronicity, will fail. Selective education identifies the children who are good at everything already, not the children with the greatest learning potential.

In the state system, these children do not always thrive either. They are often bored in class, especially if they have an unrecognised learning disability. Even if it's recognised, a child may not qualify for extra help if that disability is not driving their academic performance below a bureaucratically fixed point. Which is like saying that a child doesn't need a prosthetic leg because he hops quite fast. If a child has sensory processing issues, too, then just the stimulation of large classrooms will drive them to distraction, or "sensory overload" , causing an "emotional meltdown" .

Even for a clever child without such difficulties, school has essentially been designed to encourage them to become independent learners. A gifted child is an independent learner already, but is still expected to sit in class for 15 years being coaxed into thinking for herself. The writer, Jenn Ashworth, has described what torture all this was, without quite realising what she was describing. But Ashworth was one of the lucky ones. She found her own way, pretty much avoiding school altogether from 11 to 15, then gritting her teeth to get the exams that would take her to Cambridge.

Many gifted children are at risk of underachievement, or even of leaving education, entirely unaware that their problem is not that they are stupid, but that they're clever. Potential Plus UK warns that vulnerable groups of students include, among others, those in low socio-economic groups, black and minority groups, and those with English as an additional language.

Yet, even the Tarquins of this world are hard to advocate for. The US psychologist James T Webb warns that gifted children are often misdiagnosed as having behavioural, emotional or mental disorders. Even when they do have such disorders, the chances are that the disorder will be attended to, but not the underlying ultra-brightness. They will be pathologised, rather than understood and supported.

There is indeed a male-female brain difference relevant to this matter. Female brains have larger basal ganglia, which help the frontal lobe with executive functioning. As Giedd says: "Almost everything is more common in boys – autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD, Tourette' s … girls, by having larger basal ganglia, may be afforded some protection from these illnesses."

So, as Britain' s politicians ponder the reasons why the UK is so far down the PISA mathematics list, they might want to consider funding some research from some paediatric neuropsychologists. Their endless arguments over whether it's all the fault of the left or the right are unproductive. The answers lie in the brains of children, not of politicians.


An excerpt from:

I am...INTENSE * ASYNCHRONOUS *

MISUNDERSTOOD

found on the website of the GiftedHomeschoolersForum.org

The article below was written to educate healthcare providers about our children. It addresses the myraid of challenges found with profoundly gifted children.

I am . . .intense.



Intensity defines me. Children who are highly, exceptionally, or profoundly gifted develop differently from those who are mildly or moderately gifted. The further along the IQ spectrum I am, the more intense I am likely to be. This intensity is often classified using psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski’s “overexcitabilities” framework.

My fears may be fueled by my extremely complex interpretation of what you say or leave unsaid. I may be embarrassed at the personal nature of healthcare. I may feel angry if you seem condescending.

I may follow logic to extreme conclusions. My thirst for intellectual stimulation and understanding is all-consuming, and my knowledge of health and human anatomy may be advanced. I am very likely to be perfectionistic, causing me intense anxiety.

I am likely to be extraordinarily sensitive, but may also be sensory-seeking. A minor bruise may feel like a broken bone to me, or I may hardly feel a serious injury. Like many gifted children, I may have allergies, and if I am still nursing, I can be acutely sensitive even to what Mom eats. I may be unusually sensitive to medications.

What you can do: Look out for stress-related health complaints typically seen only in adults, such as ulcers, existential depression, and even suicidal thoughts, even if I am very, very young. Understand that I don’t choose my sensitivities, but you can help me learn to cope with them. Explain what you are doing, and ask me before entering my “space,” including to shake hands or make eye contact. Adjust dosages and formulations to reflect sensitivities and allergies.



I am . . .asynchronous.



I am many ages at once: 8 years old chronologically, but 15 when I read or do math; 10 socially, but only 6 when I write. My asynchrony may work in my favor in one situation, but not in another.

Even though my intellectual understanding is advanced, my emotional coping skills may not be as strong.

I may hit developmental markers early, but start speaking late. I may hit puberty earlier (or later) than my age-mates.

Even at surprisingly young ages, I am acutely aware of how different I am from my age-mates. I can see that others treat me as if there is something “wrong” with me. But asynchrony isn’t an indicator of a problem in itself; it is part of who I am.

What you can do: Discuss my asynchrony openly with me, but without fanfare.

Address me as you would an older child, or even an adult. I will ask if I don’t understand you. Ask my parent or me if you are unsure.

Judge my educational achievement in the framework of my intellectual age, not my chronological age, and note any large achievement gap. I may be compensating for a learning disability, even if I am achieving above grade-age level.

Encourage my family to investigate, remediate, and support my weaknesses and disabilities, so that I can reach my full potential. This is crucial to my well-being.

I am an outlier, and “normal” may not apply, even in physical brain development stages.

My family likely needs intense support. I wear them out! Ask my parents if they are taking care of their own needs as well.



I am . . .misunderstood.



You may never have met anyone like me before (see table [in article]). I have astounding educational, social, and emotional needs stemming from my intensity and asynchrony.

Beyond moderate giftedness, the higher my IQ, the less likely I am to perform well in school. I deeply crave high-level concepts and the acquisition of vast quantities of information. My need to learn drives me, every waking moment.

I will not “level out” with typical children in third grade; I may refuse to perform or try to hide who I am, especially if I am a girl. But I will remain this gifted my entire life.

I may act out because my needs are not being met; this is the case even if I am extremely young. Sometimes I may “shut down” altogether. I will not show my teacher what I am capable of. I may be slow to answer questions as I mull over the many possible answers, or I may require movement in order to channel my energy while I learn. I may refuse to endure practicing rote materials I’ve known for years. I almost certainly will question authority and reject illogical or unjust rules.

I will refuse to socialize with children with whom I have nothing in common other than a birth year. I likely get along better with much older children, or even adults, and contrary to popular beliefs, will benefit socially from acceleration, especially if the older class is given advance preparation for my arrival.

In the correct educational setting, matched to my intellectual age and pace, with true intellectual peers, nearly all of my challenging behaviors vanish.

My family may homeschool me out of necessity to meet my needs. Much of that time will likely be spent seeking suitable resources, mentors and classes, as well as friends who are asynchronous like me.

I do not wish to show off my abilities to you, especially if doing so has drawn unwelcome attention in the past. My giftedness, even if profound, is not the result of my working hard (but my family and educators can and should help me learn to do so).

For more of this article, please visit this website.