No matter how prepared you think you are as a parent, life has a way of throwing curve balls to prevent you from becoming too confident. I got one of those pitches last week at a child psychologist’s office.
For more than a year now (pre-pandemic, btw), our third grader has been fearful of being in any room of the house by herself. We’re also on our third semester of high stress while doing homework; particularly math, but even writing, despite the fact that she’s incredibly articulate for her age.
When we relocated five months ago, she spiraled further. By the second week of being in our new town, she was agitated both before and after school. Soon after, her new teacher reported challenges, like difficulty remembering things and often seeming to be “in a totally different world.”
Alarm bells began going off in my head.
Building on what I know
Her brother, who is two years older, is twice exceptional (2e). Therefore, I’ve already educated myself on many of the traits and challenges of “giftedness” as well as how anxiety can plague kids like him. So, going into that eval results meeting last week, I was pretty certain our daughter’s psychologist would say she has an anxiety disorder and probably that she has ADHD and/or areas of “giftedness” too. The psychologist confirmed all three of those and, to my surprise, said our daughter also has mild depression.
In other words, our daughter is a twice-exceptional (2e) kiddo, too. She’s advanced for her age, in some ways; however, she also has disorders that impact many facets of her life.
This combination of factors, including “giftedness,” has even started to impact her friendships.
Part of this due to our relocation five months ago. (Even though my daughter and I are close, it’s been harder on her than I realized.)
School has become increasingly unbearable (mostly because of the ADHD and anxiety). To add to this, however, her psychologist says that because of her high intellect and an advanced emotional viewpoint, she sees other kids’ likeability (and overall character) through the lens of an adolescent!
I know that’s “gifted” children take in and interpret all types of input and experiences in advanced ways. However, I always thought about that in regard to areas of intellectual interest, unusually high creativity, comprehending complex global issues and such, but friendships and social interactions? That possibility never occurred to me. (Maybe because my son has the opposite challenge when it comes to social competencies.)
The psychologist said my daughter doesn’t realize that other girls are simply acting their age (7-9 years old, in most cases). When you combine this with the fact that she’s more emotionally sensitive than most of her age peers, it creates a recipe for disaster.
This quote from my daughter’s psychoeducational report says it all:
“The weather is dreary, but there’s a slight string of happiness in me,” she told the psychologist during the projective rosebush activity, pictured above. “I don’t belong here. I don’t know why. The older I get, the more I feel it.”
Awareness must increase
This advanced lens of friendship is one of many reasons that we need to shatter myths about giftedness. And that all pediatricians, educators and mental health professionals need to be trained on basic, universal traits, like asynchronous development and overexcitabilities. Many are caring for “gifted” and 2e kids and adults – and don’t even realize it.
In her book Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students, author and former school psychologist Christine Fonseca says many gifted children (or, as I call them, kite kids) have deep emotions about themselves as well as the world around them.
“Characterized by intense highs and lows, gifted children who experience this level of sensitivity are frequently emotionally hurt by others,” she says. “They are typically self-critical and will become overwhelmed if they believe they have emotionally hurt another.”
All of this applies my daughter.
One of the psychologist’s recommendations is art-related therapy to help our creative and emotionally-intense daydreamer. Through it, she’ll explore her feelings, and learn how to manage her anxiety and depression. The therapist also will weave in opportunities to address her ADHD-related stressors, like strengthening executive-function deficits.
It’s a lot to take in, and I’ve been on my own emotional roller coaster since last week’s appointment; however, at least we now have answers backed by data.
We must both nurture our daughter’s natural talents and help her develop skills to manage her challenge areas. Not only will she gain essential school and life competencies through that process; her talents will shine even more brightly. And don’t we all want to be seen for our strengths?
It reminds me of a great quote by executive function and 2e coach Seth Perler. “Twice-exceptional kids are truly the most interesting people I know,” he says. “They tend to be intellectually deep, incredibly creative, emotionally intense and quirky. And when they get their educational needs met, they do really cool things as adults.”
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