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TAG Lunch and Learn

Mrs. LeClair-Ash
Fall, 2014

1. As you read this article, highlight or underline the characteristics or behaviors that you can identify in

2. How can learning about Dabrowskis super-sensitivities help you begin to manage your stress?

Dabrowskis Five Over-excitabilities/Super-sensitivities in Gifted Children

Does your child complain about the seams in his socks? Put her hands over her ears when the movie starts in the
movie theater? Have trouble sitting still? Get moved almost to tears by a piece of music or work of art? These
are signs of some of the different types of intensities that can be seen in gifted children.

Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five of these intensities, which he called "ove-
rexcitabilities", hyper-sensitivities or "super-sensitivities": Psychomotor, Sensual, Emotional, Intellectual, and
Imaginational. Gifted children tend to have more than one of these intensities, although one is usually dominant.

The primary sign of this intensity is a surplus of energy. Children with a dominant psychomotor over-
excitability are often misdiagnosed with ADHD since characteristics are similar. Children with this OE also
may be misdiagnosed as ADHD. While they can be active, they are quite capable of focused concentration
unless they are insufficiently mentally stimulated. The lack of mental stimulation can be a problem for these
children in school. They are constantly on the move and exhibit high levels of energy. Even as infants, they
need less sleep than other children, and as adults, they are able to work long hours without tiring.
Rapid speech
Impulsive behavior
Compulsive talking
Compulsive organizing
Nervous habits and tics
Preference for fast action and sports
Physical expression of emotions

The primary sign of this intensity is a heightened awareness of all five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and
hearing. Children with a dominant sensual overexcitability can get sick from the smell of certain foods or as
toddlers will hate to walk on grass in their bare feet. The pleasure they get from the tastes and textures of some
foods may cause them to overeat.
Appreciation of beauty, whether in writing, music, art or nature. Includes love of objects like jewelry
Sensitive to smells, tastes, or textures of foods
Sensitivity to pollution
Tactile sensitivity (Bothered by feel of some materials on the skin, clothing tags)
Craving for pleasure
Need or desire for comfort

More about the Sensual hyper-sensitivity/over-excitability

It is also marked by heightened sensuality, sexuality, astheticism, and craving for physical admiration.
Children with this over-excitability may have either negative or positive responses to stimulation to their senses.
They may find pleasure in the smell of paint -- or it could make them physically sick. They may love the touch
of the silky material, but be driven to distraction by the feel of wool. Some parents have to cut tags out of
clothing because the feel of the tags bother their children so much.

These children might also avoid loud sounds, for example, putting their hands over their ears in the movie
theater. They may also refuse to eat certain foods because of the texture, or they may love other foods for the
same reason. In addition, they can be incredibly sensitive to minute differences in the chemical composition of
foods, being able to tell the difference in even small changes in a recipe.

Children with the sensual over-excitability can also be moved sometimes to tears by the beauty of a sunset or by
a poem, or piece or music or art. They may love gems and jewelry or other objects of beauty. They may also
crave being in the limelight.

As infants and, these children may cry immediately after their diapers get wet. They may have colic or allergic
reactions as a result of intense sensitivity to foods. As toddlers, they may avoid walking on the grass in their
bare feet because they hate the way the grass feels.

This intensity is the one most recognized in gifted children. It is characterized by activities of the mind, thought
and thinking about thinking. Children who lead with this intensity seem to be thinking all the time and want
answers to deep thoughts. Sometimes their need for answers will get them in trouble in school when their
questioning of the teacher can look like disrespectful challenging.
Deep curiosity
Love of knowledge and learning
Love of problem solving
Avid reading
Asking of probing questions
Theoretical thinking
Analytical thinking
Independent thinking
Concentration, ability to maintain intellectual effort

More about the Intellectual hyper-sensitivity/over-excitability

The intellectual over-excitability is one of Dabrowski's super-sensitivities common in gifted children. Although this
over-excitability is characterized by an intense and accelerated mental activity, it is not concerned with academic
achievement. Instead, it is concerned with a love of truth and quest for understanding.

Signs of this over-excitability are a high level of curiosity, deep concentration, the capacity for sustained
intellectual effort, and a wide variety of interests. Children with this over-excitability tend to be avid readers in their
quest for knowledge. They are also excellent problem solvers and love to strategize.

These children also ask deep and probing questions, questions about God, death, and the meaning of life, for
example. They are theoretical and introspective and can be preoccupied with certain problems, often those
involving moral issues. People often believe that intellectual over-excitability is the same as high intelligence, but
it's not. Children with intellectual over-excitability tend to be interested in cultural events, social issues, and
learning new theories. Children without this over-excitability or with a lesser degree of it, tend not to have such
interests and may instead excel in practical intelligence.
The primary sign of this intensity is the free play of the imagination. Their vivid imaginations can cause them to
visualize the worst possibility in any situation. It can keep them from taking chances or getting involved in new
Vivid dreams
Fear of the unknown
Good sense of humor
Magical thinking
Love of poetry, music and drama
Love of fantasy
Imaginary friends
Detailed visualization

More about the Imaginational hyper-sensitivity/over-excitability
The imaginational over-excitability is one of Dabrowski's super-sensitivities common in gifted children. It is
characterized by a rich, vivid, and active imagination. Children who have this over-excitability have unusual
visualization abilities. They may have elaborate dreams, which are often in color. Their vivid imaginations can
often lead to vivid nightmares

It can be difficult for those children with the imaginational over-excitability to express their thoughts verbally
because they often think in images, and when they do express their thoughts, they do so in so much detail that
their point is often lost. In fact, it may seem as though they don't have a point, but are simply describing what
they see and think for the sake of describing it. These children enjoy poetry and drama, not just reading and
watching it, but also writing and participating in it.

Young children display this over-excitability with their creation of imaginary playmates. Gifted children are
more likely than other children to have imaginary playmates and they tend to have more of them. Rather than
one playmate, they may create whole families of imaginary people.

The emotional over-excitability is probably the most significant of the five over-excitabilities. It is most easily
recognized by parents of gifted children because these children display heightened and intense emotions and
emotional responses to events and experiences. The primary sign of this intensity is exceptional emotional
sensitivity. Children with a strong emotional over-excitability are sometimes mistakenly believed to have
bipolar disorder or other emotional problems and disorders. They are often the children about whom people will
say, "He's too sensitive for his own good."

Extremes of emotion
Feelings of guilt and sense of responsibility
Feelings of inadequacy and inferiority
Timidity and shyness
Concern for others
Heightened sense right and wrong, of injustice and hypocrisy
Strong memory for feelings
Problems adjusting to change
Need for security
Physical response to emotions (stomach aches caused by anxiety, for example)

More about the Emotional hyper-sensitivity/over-excitability
Parents can get a better understanding of their gifted children by matching their child's behavior with the
characteristics of each of these intensities. Telling an emotionally intense child to ignore teasing or not let the
teasing bother him is impossible advice for the child to follow. Understanding what lies behind a gifted child's
behavior will help parents better respond to that behavior.
Children with this OE have the capacity for great emotional depth. They develop strong attachments to people,
places, and things. Because of their emotional intensity, they are often accused of over-reacting or being
melodramatic. However, the emotions they feel are real. The molehills to them are truly mountains.

The emotional OE is also manifested in a deep concern for others, as well as self-criticism and anxiety. Even
gifted toddlers high in this OE can show concern over a baby's cries or over the distress of a fellow toddler who
has been hurt or become upset. As sympathetic as they are to others, they seem unable to feel sympathy for
themselves. Instead, they tend to be highly self-critical. They can also feel a deep sense of responsibility, which
can lead to feelings of failure and guilt.

Not only do these children empathize with others, but they feel a connection to animals as well. These children
may become vegetarians at a young age because they cannot bear to eat what was once a living creature.

While their compassion and sense of responsibility can lead those with emotional over-excitability to help
others, it can also create problems for them. The levels of anxiety they experience can interfere with simple
tasks like home chores or even completing homework. They can also develop psychosomatic symptoms like
stomach aches or suffer from depression.

The depression that those with emotional OE often experience is existential depression, which means that they
become depressed over issues concerning the basic questions of life: death, poverty, war, and disease, for
example. Bouts of existential depression can be caused be some specific experience, but they are just as likely
to arise spontaneously.

Children with the emotional OE also have a hard time adjusting to change and can experience high levels of
anxiety when they are put in new situations or unfamiliar surroundings. They may also be shy and slow to
participate in social activities.

Children do not grow out of this sensitivity. A child with intense emotional feelings will experience the same
depth of emotion as an adult.

Bainbridge, Carol. Dabrowskis Over-excitabilities or super-sensitivities in Gifted Children. September 2, 2014.