Dabrowski is known for coming up with 5 areas children will exhibit intense behaviors and labeled them as “overexcitabilities”. It’s important to note that these are not limited to just gifted students, and can be experienced by all children and even adults. The other important thing to note is overexcitabilities (OE) are not used for clinical diagnosis purposes, but rather are used to help children understand and manage their OE’s in a positive way.
The 5 areas of OE’s are:
- Child has so much energy, never sits still for long
- Child fidgets, has rapid speech, some sort of constant movement
- Child avoids certain stimuli
- Child has an extreme reaction to sound and/or touch (tags in clothes, texture of paper, loud sounds, different pitches of sound)
- Child likes to experiment a lot
- Child has unending curiosity
- Child will sometimes worry about fairness and injustice
- Child wants to learn everything and anything about their passions
- Child has many imaginary friends or worlds that are real to them
- Child will daydream a lot and has difficulty “tuning in” to lessons
- Child has deep sensitivities and acutely aware of their feelings
- Child may internalize experiences
- Child may overreact because they hold in school stress until they reach a safe place to be able to vent
Now most children will tend to exhibit one of these OE’s versus having all of these at once. Some children will exhibit one OE more than the others, but can show some small signs of another OE.
Even just having to help your child navigate through one OE is time consuming and overwhelming for you and the child. So what are the benefits of your child having an OE?
- Improved learning once OE is known
- Psychomotor- allowing extra movement or fidgets while in class can help improve child’s ability to maintain attention.
- Sensory- seating away from distractions, providing a calm place to refocus allows the student to experience learning in a healthy way.
- Prevention of misdiagnosis
- OE’s can look like ADHD, autism, SPD, etc- if we are able to identify an OE it allows you to avoid a misdiagnosis that can be cause more harm with unnecessary medicine or testing.
- Improved student/teacher/parent relationships
- OE’s help everyone working with the child understand the reason behind behaviors
- Allows the child’s OE to be handled with empathy and compassion thus allowing them to learn how to cope and celebrate their sensitivities as strengths.
- Mental health assistance
- Knowing a child has OE’s helps increase the success of counseling gifted children.
- Lessens the risk for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression because it allows parents to help them with coping techniques for their OE.
- Gifted identification
- OE’s can increase with level of giftedness which allows parents and teachers assess a deeper level understand the students needs. (OE’s might be used to help identify students someday rather than current testing.)
So now what? We know what OE’s are, what they look like, and their benefits, but we should always be working on increasing our own understanding of things happening with our gifted students. Here are a few ideas:
- Parent/Advocacy groups
- SENG– Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted has support groups as well as articles and courses on OE’s
- Connect with other parents who have children with OE’s
- Facebook groups, local district or state groups
- Include trainings for teachers and staff on OE’s for gifted students. Educate your staff on how to help students cope and feel successful in the classroom if they have OE’s.
- Teachers and Parents
- Seek out additional resources to help you work with OE’s in a positive way. See the book list below and handout.
Book and Article Recommendations:
- Living with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults
- Overexcitability and the Gifted
- Gifted Children Especially Vulnerable to Effects of Bullying
- The Impact of Giftedness on Psychological Well-Being
- Giftedness and High School Dropouts: Personal, Family, and School-related Factors
- Overexcitabilities and the Gifted Child
- Giftedness 101
- Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of GIfted Child and Adults
Check the quick do’s and don’ts when it comes to helping your child with their OE’s in a healthy way. Click here for a FREE download.