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Like many aspects of “giftedness,” the imaginational intensity is a curious phenomenon. A child who has this type of overexcitability (OE) can have vivid visualizations and imaginary experiences.
No virtual-reality software is necessary; the capability to slip into another world happens via their own “brain wiring.”
The good and the bad
In many instances, these fantasies and out-of-body explorations can be wonderful and fulfilling. At other times, they may feel like Armageddon.
And either way, these fantastical musings can lead to challenges. For example, some kite kids (my term for “gifted”) can really struggle to tell what’s real and what isn’t. They genuinely believe what they’re saying is true, and adults may think they’re trying to be deceitful.
In addition, the imaginational OE can lead to frequent fears about worst-case scenarios, or even social isolation (sometimes self-imposed; sometimes not).
Finding balance socially
When a kite kid’s imaginational intensity activates, it can be fascinating to observe. On the other hand, like anything in life, there’s a time and place for make-believe – even when you’re a kid.
So how do you honor the detailed visualizations and experiences of kite kids who have the imaginational OE?
First, set aside time for imaginative play, just like you would any extracurricular activity. This will satisfy the needs of some kite kids.
What energizes them
If the child’s fantastical ruminations still are so frequent that he seems to prioritize them over friendships, consider whether the child is an introvert or extrovert. Social interaction energizes extroverts; however, the opposite is true for introverts. Being around people for long periods of time feels exhausting to introverts, especially when they’re in large groups. They become mentally – and even physically – recharged by spending time alone.
Another consideration is the child’s age. For neurotypical kids, “parallel play” is normal until about age three; however, kite kids are neurodiverse. Because their brains develop differently, they also process – and react to – various types of input in atypical ways. In addition, they tend to act younger than their age peers when it comes to social-emotional competencies.
When kite kids are twice-exceptional or multi-exceptional, the degree of uneven development can become even greater.
As explained in A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, the size of the child’s development gaps typically relate to how far his I.Q. is off from the norm. In other words, the higher the child’s I.Q., the more uneven his development.
How can this asynchronous development impact a child with imaginational intensity? From an intellectual perspective, a kite kid may use Fantasy Land for mental stimulation if he isn’t getting it elsewhere (whether that’s socially or academically). In addition, from a social development standpoint, he’s probably younger than his chronological age, so perhaps he doesn’t feel a strong need for age-typical friendships yet.
Determining the sweet spot
Needless to say, there’s a lot to consider. Trial and error is almost a certainty. And as the child grows (physically, intellectually, emotionally, etc.), there will probably need to be adjustments.
To start the process, here are tips from Aileen Kelleher, LCSW. She owns Bloom Child and Teen Therapy in Chicago, and was a kite kid herself.
- Join in. “If social impact is a concern, try joining in with your child’s imaginary play,” says Kelleher. “It may help your child to see that interpersonal connection can coexist with imaginary play. This can set the foundation for other children to join in in the future.” She says another benefit of joining in is that kids love to see their parents support them. “It creates a sense of security and connection that other relationships are based on.”
- Make real-world connections. It also may be helpful to explore how one aspect of your child’s imaginary play connects to the real world. “If superheroes tend to be part of his imaginary play, your child may enjoy a comics-making class so he can draw an imaginary world, or a sewing class where she can create the outfit of her favorite imaginary character,” explains Kelleher. “This tactic helps kids still engage their interests while moving more into the outside world.”
- Ensure there are other forms of mental stimulation. Sometimes kite kids prefer the imaginary world because they’re bored with the real one, says Kelleher. “In my experience, gifted children tend to prefer interaction with other gifted kids.” When they’re around other children with similar talents and interests, the frequency of these trips to Dream Land may change.
- Keep things in perspective. Kelleher also adds that our culture sometimes hyper-focuses on the social lives of children and how many friends they have, how many play dates they participate in, etc. “We forget that it’s okay for children to learn how to be happy and engaged while alone. In fact, it’s a critical skill that more adults could benefit from learning.”
This all sounds like great advice to me. To learn more about Kelleher and her Chicago-based practice, visit http://www.aileenkelleher.com