Tag Archives: OEs

The Surprising Secret to Managing Overexcitabilities

Daffodils - The Surprising Secret to Managing Overexcitabilities - Laugh Love Learn

Have you ever felt happiness so intense, you just had to move your body? Or whoop with joy?

Most people only feel that good when they win the lottery or their favourite team beats their arch-rivals. But when you have overexcitabilities, you don’t need a big win to feel on top of the world.

Depending on your combination of OEs, everyday experiences like listening to music, skimming stones on a lake, or engrossing yourself in a story or hobby can all trigger euphoric states.

For me yesterday, it was walking my dogs on a beautiful spring day as hundreds of daffodils danced joyfully beside me in the breeze.

When you feel so good you have to skip

I’m not exaggerating when I say that my body was filled with such intense joy, I wanted to skip, dance, sing, and shout.

I smiled as I imagined what my fellow pedestrians would think if I followed my impulses. I contented myself with little bursts of jogging: ‘They’ll probably just think I’m in a hurry.’ 😉

Later, I got to thinking how children with OEs might feel:

The 11-year-old who’s so buzzing with excitement about a topic he’s researching that he can’t stop talking about it.

The 4-year-old who’s created a whole imaginary world with her toys.

The 7-year-old who wants to jump and sing and spin.

Learning to tone ourselves down

I thought about what it’s like to be a child. How would I have felt on my joyful walk if someone had suddenly demanded that I stop and sit down quietly?

I’d have struggled to comply. The energy inside me was so intense, I just had to move. If I had tried to stop, I’d have been acting against powerful inner guidance.  Maybe I shouldn’t trust my feelings? But they felt so good… Perhaps I shouldn’t trust the person telling me to suppress them? Over time, I might end up mistrusting both myself and the people telling me to tone myself down.

Managing OEs takes willpower and practice

When OEs are part of your wiring, they’re not something you can easily switch off or turn down –  at least not without a lot of internal stress.

No wonder these children ‘over’-react. When you’re using enormous amounts of willpower to contain your OEs, you don’t have much left to deal with the little upsets other children take in their stride.

As an adult, I know when it’s appropriate to tone down my intensity. And I have years of experience in doing so.

On my joyful walk, I knew to save my skipping for when I’d left the suburban street and was walking in the woods, with only my dogs to regard me quizzically as I danced and sang.

Straight afterwards, I had to take my car to the garage.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus while I was giddy with spring excitement, so to calm myself I switched off my music and focused on my breathing for a few minutes.

How can we help our kids learn these kind of skills?

Why children need to enjoy their OEs before they can manage them

My intense experience gave me fresh insight into how we can help children modulate their intensities:

1. Create opportunities for them to enjoy their intensity

We need to help children recognise and appreciate the joy their overexcitabilities can bring.

Kids with intense OEs get so much negative feedback about their behaviour, they can end up feeling as if they have to suppress their intensity all the time.

But when they have the chance to enjoy their OEs, they can begin to embrace their authentic natures. This is the first step towards calibrating  and managing their overexcitabilities.

We can support them by building into our children’s schedules plenty of opportunities for them to experience the joy their OEs can bring. And we can provide (physically and emotionally) safe spaces for the  expressions  intensity inspires.

2. Grow willpower, but reduce the need for it

Managing OEs costs willpower. We can minimise the drain on our children’s reserves by:

  • giving them as much autonomy and control over their schedules and their environments as possible, and
  • when they need to be calm, helping reduce the (internal and external) sensory stimulation that cranks up their intensities.

To prepare them for times when they have to use willpower to control their OEs, we can encourage children to identify and do things that increase their window of stress tolerance.

Finally, we can teach strategies for modulating their intensities, such as breathing techniques or engaging their rational brains to calm their emotions.

* * *

Bringing up children with OEs is hard work. We want our kids to become well-adjusted adults who can lead ’normal’ lives, so it’s not surprising that we focus on getting them to tone down their extremes.

But intense is these children’s normal.

So let’s help them appreciate the joy their intense natures can bring. Doing so might just be the quickest way for them to harness their awesome power – and use it to serve themselves and the world.

The Purpose of your life is joy - managing overexcitabilities - Laugh Love Learn

Do you ever skip in the woods?

How do your children enjoy their OEs?

I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

Main photo credit: LoggaWiggler,

3 Reasons Homeschooling Kids With Overexcitabilities Can Stop Being Fun – And How to Fix It

Homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities

When I saw the subject of today’s GHF blog hop, ‘When homeschooling your gifted child becomes a drag – Your top tips’, my first reaction was, ’A drag? Homeschooling’s never a drag – I love homeschooling!’

Does that mean I’m some kind of saint with infinite patience who jumped at the chance to put my career on hold while I teach my kids arithmetic and grammar?

Ha ha. I think not.

No. For me,

Homeschooling’s like flying a plane – a constant exercise in course-correction.

About 2% of the time we’re smoothly headed towards our destination (happy, educated kids). The other 98% of the time I’m looking at where we’re at and thinking how I can change things to get us back on track.

When homeschooling starts becoming a drag, it’s usually for one of three reasons: anxiety,  boredom, or a clash in learning styles.

1. ‘He’s not learning enough!’

Every homeschooling mum worries that she’s failing her kids in some way.

And when you’re a rainforest-minded mum of highly able children, this anxiety sometimes goes into overdrive.

Our kids’ education is our job, and just as with any project we undertake, we want to do it to the best of our ability. How do we know we’re doing a job well? We see results.

But how do you measure results when you’re homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities? This tendency to measure our self-worth in this way can put intense pressure on our kids and on us.

When we hear about someone else’s son reading 500 books in a year and our 9-year-old can barely read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, we feel like a failure.

We see a friend’s daughter crocheting hats for her own Etsy shop, and we wonder why our kids aren’t crafting entrepreneurs.

When someone on a forum mentions that her 8 year old is studying trigonometry, we despair that our 10-year-old will ever master long multiplication.

Tips for getting over homeschooling anxiety

1. Remember: we can’t measure learning by physical output. Our kids aren’t machines. They’re living, breathing young people, busy forming neural pathways they’ll use to contribute to the world in their own unique ways.

2. Trust that your child is learning everything he needs to right now. We can’t force learning to happen. If we try, our efforts are bound to backfire. Our job is to offer our children the opportunity to learn.

3. Don’t compare your child to others. Focus on his strengths. So what if your dysgraphic 11-year-old’s handwriting is worse than his 6-year-old cousin’s? Focus on his fantastic maths. All-rounders are overrated.

4. Don’t let any subject become a battlefield. Put it on hold it for a while or encourage your child to do the minimum he can tolerate. If he feels the need to learn it later, he will.

I know one mum who gave up teaching her 11-year-old daughter maths because the arguments over it were ruining their relationship. Four years later her daughter decided she wanted to pass maths GCSE (the exams English schoolchildren sit at 16). After a few months’ intense study, she passed the exam comfortably.

5. My biggest tip for soothing anxiety about your child’s learning is to have your own interests. Take up an instrument, learn a language or craft, or write a blog – anything you have more direct control over than your child’s learning.

Don’t equate your success as a human being with your child’s academic progress.

2. ‘This is so BORING!’

Gifted and 2e kids often have a high need for stimulation and a low boredom threshold. And if they’re anything like my kids, they won’t hold back from telling you when something isn’t working for them.

Tips for keeping homeschooling interesting

1. Ditch the curriculum. My kids’ need for variety is one reason we’ve never followed a curriculum. Fortunately I love researching fun new ways for my kids to learn. (See resources below for links to my homeschooling posts on how we learn maths and science without curricula.)

2. Take regular time off. Our term time routine is based around my daughter’s activities, but we never do the same thing for more than a few weeks at a time. This is partly because I plan regular breaks during school terms, especially in winter.

Last week, for instance, we spent four days at a forest holiday village. We spent our days sliding down rapids and traversing treetop courses. Our evenings were spent sitting around the log fire playing cards or watching movies together.

homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities - luggage to go on vacation
We may be the only family that takes 2 guitars and an amp to CenterParcs

And in March we’re headed to Spain where my daughter’s doing  an intensive Spanish course and my son and I will absorb the Spanish sunshine and culture.

Before we go away I sometimes feel anxious about my kids missing out on academic work. But when we get back relaxed and energised, I know it was worth it. Plus, of course, they’ve learned heaps while we’re away.

Even if you can’t go on vacation, you can still benefit from this tip by declaring a games, projects, cooking, literature, art & craft, or nature week – whatever appeals to your family.

3. Be sure to include plenty of variety and fun as part of your regular routine.  Our favourite way of doing this is by playing writing games (usually over tea and cake) and doing plenty of hands-on activities.

4. Allow time for tangents. Another reason we don’t follow curricula is my kids’ tendency to go off on tangents. No curriculum means no pressure to get through a bunch of material. This leaves plenty of time for the kind of learning that’s going to stick with my children long after the books are closed – the kind that follows from their own curiosity and imagination.

3. ‘Why can’t he just keep still and focus? It’s driving me mad!’

‘Straight after lunch he sat down at the table and worked quietly until he’d finished’…  said no parent of a kid with psychomotor OE ever.

So why did it take me so long to realise that I was the one who was going to have to change?

Even six years into homeschooling, I still occasionally find myself on autopilot putting maths books on the table. Then I remember that maths happens on the floor, where my son has space to jump, roll and tickle the dogs as he works.

Tip for dealing with different learning styles

I have just one tip here, but it’s an important one:

Be willing to adapt your learning style, rather than expecting your child to do things your way.

Life’s just so much easier when we accept our kids’ quirks and stop trying to make them fit our mould.

I still struggle to concentrate when my son’s fidgeting around me, but things have been much more peaceful since I accepted that it’s even more difficult for him to focus when he’s still, than it is for me to concentrate when he’s fidgeting.

Lately we’ve been negotiating over lighting. On a dark winter’s afternoon, I can’t read without having the lights on, while my son finds overhead lights overstimulating. I may have to invest in a head torch!

My extroverted daughter, meanwhile, needs to verbalise every maths problem she tackles. I can’t hear myself think when someone else is talking, let alone follow their reasoning. This is especially true when they’re following a different mental process from mine.  I’ve learned to nod quietly along until she reaches a conclusion, then together we write out what she did in a way that my visual learning style can follow.

Of course we want our children to be able to sit still and concentrate by the time they reach adulthood.  But right now they’re using so much energy  learning to manage their OEs,  sitting still and keeping quiet is too much to ask.

So let’s grant them the grace that homeschooling affords, and let them get there in their own asynchronous way.

What are your best tips for homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities when it becomes a drag?

I’d love to hear from you!

Resources

Posts from my homeschooling blog

What do you have to show for your child’s learning? (and what to do if you think they’re not ‘producing’ enough)

25 hands-on science experiments we’ve done, with full instructions and photos

How to make sure science gets done when you’re not using a curriculum

How we do maths without a curriculum

When every day is maths playtime

5 Days of Maths Playtime

5 Writing Games Your Kids Will Love

Books

Free to Learn (Peter Gray)

Let’s Play Math (Denise Gaskins)

Living With Intensity (Daniels, Piechowski et al)

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults  (James T Webb et al)

Loads more tips!

To read what other homeschooling mums do when homeschooling becomes a drag, visit these great GHF bloggers.

homeschooling kids with overexcitabilities

Do your children have overexcitabilities? I’d love you to join me on my journey learning how to bring out the best in our awesome sensitive and intense kiddoes. Just write your email address in the box below to receive my weekly posts direct to your inbox. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.

How Do I Know If My Child Is Highly Sensitive, Has SPD, Is Gifted or Has OEs?

Toy sheep - highly sensitive, spd, gifted OEs - Laugh Love Learn

 

I started this blog to connect with other parents raising quirky kids, so I’m always pleased to hear from you. A kindred spirit recently asked this great question:

 ‘How do I know if my child 1) is highly sensitive, or 2) has a sensory processing disorder, or 3) is gifted, or 4) has some of the OEs? How do we as parents determine when intervention is needed? I have had to work through a lot of issues with my child(ren). Sometimes want to completely throw in the towel because it’s exhausting and difficult even while we have some extra-special times too. The problem is I know public school would not do better for them than what I can currently provide. I am also a sensitive mama and get really overwhelmed or akin to triggered by some of the meltdowns that can happen. How do I determine which of these different ways of thinking applies to my child? I can glean ways of interacting with and support them, but I do know there is occupational therapy and other supports available for 2e kids or those with SPD. What would you recommend? Thank you so much. I appreciate your time and whatever advice you can give.’

Let me start out by saying I’m not a professional in child development, just a mum of two differently-wired children. I hope that by sharing my experience I can help you navigate the sometimes confusing abundance of information out there.

(1) Highly sensitive

I read Elaine Aron’s Highly Sensitive Persons when my children were about 6 and 7. While much of it resonated, we had a lot going on that high sensitivity didn’t explain.  HSP didn’t address the intense energy, incessant questions, intense drive and the (sometimes aggressive) competitiveness we were dealing with, for instance.

(2) Sensory processing disorder

When my son was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder at age 8 I felt so relieved to finally have an explanation for what was going on. At last I had a way to explain his unusual behaviour to friends, family and teachers (or so I thought)!

However, after a year of occupational therapy there was no change in my son’s behaviour. During a football course run by the OTs I noticed how different Jasper was from all the other kids who had sensory issues.  I realised that there must be something else going on besides SPD.

(3) Overexcitabilities (OEs)

A couple of years later the words, ‘Intense? Sensitive? Easily overwhelmed? Reacts out of proportion?’ jumped out at me from a flyer. They led me  to a PowerWood workshop, where I learned about the innate personality traits known as  overexcitabilities.

As I listened to the characteristics and challenges of emotional, imaginational, sensual, intellectual and psychomotor OE, I wept with relief. Finally someone understood. THIS was what was going on with my son! And not just him, but also my daughter and myself, too.

(4) Giftedness

At the OEs workshop I discovered that there’s a lot of overlap between OEs and giftedness.  Not everyone with OEs has a high IQ, and not everyone with a high IQ has OEs. But the high degree of co-morbidity means the gifted community provides invaluable resources to support families dealing with OEs.

How do we as parents determine when intervention is needed?’

I’m guessing from your question that you’ve read about high sensitivity and that it didn’t  provide all the answers.

Take the OEs questionnaire

My next step would be to take the overexcitabilities questionnaire and read the excellent description of OEs in the PowerWood OEs flyer. If you discover that your child has OEs, remember they’re not a disorder. They’re personality traits that can bring many benefits as well as challenges. Individuals with OEs often experience above-average creativity, energy and enjoyment of life, for instance.

Parenting coaching

Consider having an introductory chat with a parenting coach who specialises in OEs to find out more about how they apply to your family. Skype coaching with OEs expert Simone de Hoogh helped us enormously.

Identify your specific concerns

Shift your focus away from puzzling over what theory applies and ask yourself,  ‘What challenges does my child needs help with?’ Are you worried about her inability to focus on learning? Her social behaviour? Anxiety? Identifying your specific concerns will help guide you towards solutions and the people who can provide them.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy can be a great support to some families. Read about sensory processing issues. If you think OT might help, consider consulting a therapist. My son enjoyed his OT sessions but they were expensive and when we’d seen no behavioural changes after a year we stopped them (by which time Jasper was getting bored anyway).

Educational psychologist assessment

Read the Columbus Group definition of giftedness. How (if at all) might having your child assessed by an educational psychologist help? The answer will depend on your location and circumstances.

We homeschool in the UK, and an assessment with an ed psych helped us identify asynchronies and twice-exceptionality.

The psychologist identified issues like (relatively) slow processing speed and working memory, mild dyslexia, and dysgraphia.

The information and resources the psychologist recommended has helped me meet my children’s needs better. It also got us into the system for accommodations (such as the ability to use a keyboard in exams) later down the line.

‘Sometimes I want to throw in the towel because it’s exhausting and difficult. I am also a sensitive mama and get triggered by some of the meltdowns’

I hear you! Raising these amazing kids can be super-tiring. Intensity and sensitivity are hereditary traits, so it’s not surprising we get triggered by our children.  Let me give you a virtual hug and reassure you that you’re probably doing much better than you’re giving yourself credit for.
I’m glad you recognise that, ‘public school would not do better for them than what I can currently provide.’  You’re an intelligent, loving mum who understands her children better than anyone else does. Appreciate yourself for the great job you’re doing. Forgive yourself when you don’t always live up to your high standards.  Prioritise meeting your own needs. When you do, you’ll have more energy to be the kind of parent you want to be. Have realistic expectations of everyone (including yourself). Appreciate small victories, and take one day at a time.
Tilt Creed - How do i know if my child is highly sensitive, has SPD, is gifted or has OEs
The TiLt Parenting Creed – click to visit the TiLt website

* * *

What are your favourite resources for raising differently wired kids?

What professional support has been most helpful to you?

Do you have a question of your own?

I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Resources

High Sensitivity

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you by Elaine Aron (book)

Happy Sensitive Kids (blog)

Sensory Issues

Understanding Sensory Issues  10 informative articles about sensory issues in children

Sensory STUFF My Little Poppies (blog)

Sensual OE

OEs

OE questionnaire (a great starting point – highly recommended)

OE info (PowerWood flyer all about OEs – highly recommended)

Living With Intensity (book) by Susan Daniels & Michael Piechowski

Giftedness and twice-exceptionality

GHF (Gifted Homeschoolers Forum)

SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)

Your Rainforest Mind by Paula Prober (book)

General support

TiLt Parenting Inspiring website for parents of differently-wired kids, including weekly podcast and blog (recommended)

Understood.org Resources about all kinds of learning and attention issues with useful tips for getting professional support (US website)

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults (book) by James T Webb et al

Self-care

Why our intense children trigger our suppressed pain

5 Keys to staying sane as a mum to sensitive, spirited kids

Why raising our personal baseline is they key to parenting our intense and sensitive children

A surprisingly powerful tool to raise your energy and resilience (downloadable MP3 meditation recording)

* * *

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Header image by Alexa Fotos

5 Reasons I’m Glad My Sensitive, Intense Kids Aren’t Going Back to School Next Week

5 Reasons to homeschool sensitive intense kids

This photo appeared on my Instagram feed last week, captioned it “Back to school hell.”  I imagined the noise, the jostling and the hot, stuffy atmosphere as frazzled parents waited to have their kids’ feet measured.

When your child has overexcitabilities (OEs) a simple shopping trip can be a full-on sensory assault, even without the crowds. Life is a lot easier if you can visit stores when everyone else is in school.

Of course, avoiding busy shops isn’t the only reason I home-educate my intense and sensitive children. Here are a few other reasons I’m glad my kids won’t be going back to school next week:

1. I don’t have to explain my children’s complex needs to new teachers

Overexcitabilities are unheard of in most schools. I’d never heard of them either when my kids were at school, but I knew that each time my son and daughter changed classes we were in for a bumpy ride as we waited for new teachers to get them.

It started on my 4-year-old’s first day in reception. Cordie came home distraught, which surprised me as she’d always enjoyed nursery.

“Miss Bellamy made me stand in the corner because I wouldn’t put away the Barbies at tidy-up time. But I didn’t play with the Barbies. I hate Barbies! She should’ve let me tidy the dressing-up clothes.”

That night my little girl had a nightmare.

“I dreamed the Wicked Witch of the West cut off my legs and made me stand in the corner,” she sobbed.

Off I went to the school to try to explain my daughter’s profound sense of justice to a well-meaning but skeptical teacher.

My twice-exceptional son had an even bumpier ride.

After a  relatively smooth start, his teacher went on maternity leave. She was replaced by substitute teachers whose job-sharing arrangement prevented either of them from getting to know my son as anything other than a nuisance.

My kids have been homeschooled for six years now. While I still have to advocate for them, I’m deeply grateful for the freedom we have to choose coaches and tutors who understand and appreciate their intensity, and to walk away from those who don’t.

2. My kids are free to learn what, how and when they want

One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that non-average children don’t have to work at grade level for all their subjects.

Once they’ve mastered material, they needn’t waste time going over it until their classmates catch up. Equally, there’s no shame working on a skill they’re struggling with even if other kids their age have already mastered it. And delays in one area don’t have to impact learning elsewhere.

So instead of being held back by his difficulties with the mechanics of handwriting, my dysgraphic son can record his thoughts quickly by typing or dictating to me.

And his mild dyslexia is an opportunity for me to read aloud while my kids engage their psychomotor energies crafting, drawing or playing with magnetix. Yes, there are interruptions, usually in the form of spirited discussions about what we’re reading – or something utterly tangential –  and that’s a good thing.

3. They can play outdoors whenever they want

Everyone knows that exercise and fresh air are good for us, so I was stunned when my son was punished at school by being made to stand by the fence during playtimes. Did his teachers really think that was going to make him behave better?

Another afternoon he was told he wasn’t allowed to play in the class garden for the following three days because he refused to come inside the moment the teachers told him to.

At home my kids benefit from being able to play outside whenever they like. I admit I’ve been known to feel irritated when my son runs off to the trampoline in the middle of a maths problem. But when I look back I usually realise he’s done us both a favour.

Time out gives everyone a chance to clear their heads and return better able to focus on their learning goals.

4. Learning is flexible, quick and efficient

When my daughter gave up school to make time for her extracurricular interests she didn’t, of course, give up academic learning. In fact she probably learns more at home. Being able to work at her own pace plus not wasting time shuffling between classes means homeschooling is very time-efficient.

And if your child throws herself into her passions with the intensity of an Olympic athlete, you’ll probably both appreciate her being able to take some unscheduled downtime now and then. When you’ve spent the weekend hiking with Scouts, a lazy Monday paves the way for a much more productive week than having to get up at the crack of dawn for school.

5. We can accommodate and engage overexcitabilities

It’s difficult to learn when you’re constantly being triggered by uncomfortable sensations.

Little things like hunger, thirst or needing to use the bathroom all deplete the willpower kids need to manage their OEs.  Scratchy school clothes, the chatter of other students and the flickering of lights can all contribute to a state of overwhelm and hyper-reactivity that’s unconducive to learning.

At home, kids can wear comfy clothes and go barefoot. They can work in silence, or with the dog in their lap, or while listening to relaxing music. In this calming environment my children can channel all the good things OEs bring – intense curiosity, energy and imagination, for instance – towards their learning goals.

5 Reasons to homeschool sensitive intense kids

My friend’s photo reminded me of this picture I took shoe shopping with my kids three years ago, just after the school term started. Back then I knew nothing about OEs or why my kids were so sensitive and intense.

What I did know was that homeschooling was the right choice for us.

* * *

Do you homeschool your children?

What are the biggest advantages for your family?

I recognise that homeschooling isn’t an option for every family. If your kids do go to school, do you have any tips about how to support them?

I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

* * *

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Extracurricular Activities for Children Who Want to Do Everything

Extracurricular Activities for children who want to do everything

“Why do you make your daughter do so many extracurricular activities?”

I nearly choked on my tea. “Is it because you feel guilty for taking her out of school?” A woman asked me this at a kids’ birthday party when my daughter was 6.

Make my daughter do extra-curricular activities? She couldn’t have got it more wrong.

My daughter had gone to a school that ran dozens of extracurricular clubs. She signed up for as many as 5-year-olds were allowed. Out of school, she wanted to do rugby, football, judo, singing, dance and drama.

If I dragged my heels finding an activity she wanted to do, my daughter would google local classes and hand me the phone. “I really want to try it, Mummy. Pleeease?”

She loved every one of her activities. But she was becoming exhausted.

It’s not that our schedule was abnormal. Several of her friends had the same busy lives. The difference was that those kids didn’t throw themselves into everything with the same intensity as my daughter.

The result? I never got to see my sweet, fun-loving girl. All her family got was the grumpy, worn out child that was left at the end of each day.

“We can’t go on like this, sweetie.” I said. “What would you like to give up?”

Cordie looked at her brother, who’d been homeschooled for a term. “Maybe I could give up school?”

Passionate about everything

From martial arts to gymnastics, through art classes, scouts, climbing, wake-boarding and ice skating, my daughter’s problem has always been fitting in everything she wants to do.

Having an introverted brother with OEs has brought even more activities along the way: my daughter goes along to keep her brother company. Then a few weeks later he drops out (or is dropped), by which time Cordie’s an enthusiastic participant in her own right!

Multi-potential and extroverted, at 12 my daughter’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Do you have a child who wants to do everything, too?

If you do, you’ll know it brings many benefits – and a few challenges, too.

The benefits of being into everything

  • I adore my daughter’s zest for life.
  • I love how her life is enriched by the enormous range of people she mixes with.
  • I’m in awe of her extraordinary physical fitness.
  • I love that she’s learning leadership and team skills.
  • And I adore that she’s spending her childhood discovering what she loves to do.

I guess I just never anticipated there’d be quite so many things she’d love to do!

The challenges of being into everything

When you have a child who wants to try – and excel at – everything, you have to:

  • Help her manage her energy.
  • Remind her she needs downtime: to cuddle pets, to read, to doodle.
  • Encourage her to leave space for spontaneous pleasures.
  • Be the (sometimes unwelcome) voice of reason, suggesting now and again that something has to give.
  • Appreciate her drive for excellence, while letting her know that it’s okay to do some things just for fun.
  • Remind her to make time to work towards her academic goals.
  • Support her as she manages her relationships. Children with emotional OE crave depth in friendships, which may be difficult to satisfy when you only see friends and acquaintances once or twice a week.
  • Balance siblings’ needs. Keep them happy if they have to go everywhere with you. Even when they’re old enough to stay home alone, you need enough time and energy to meet their needs.
  • Manage your own energy. All that chauffering can be exhausting! If you’re an introvert, try listening to audiobooks in the car together. Maintaining your personal baseline is vital when you’re parenting kids with OEs.

Supporting our children’s unique needs

If my kids weren’t so very different from one another, I might worry that I’d done something wrong to create such extreme characters.

I might have wondered if I really was ‘forcing’ my daughter to do extracurricular activities. Or I might have worried that I wasn’t exposing my son to enough opportunities.

But with just 16 months between them and an identical upbringing, my kids’ choices are plainly their own.

So wherever your kids are on the extracurricular spectrum – trust that you’re not getting it wrong.

Our children each have their own paths to forge in this world. Our job is to love unconditionally, to support when needed, and to help each child flourish as the unique individual he or she was born to be.

Extracurricular activities for children who want to do everything

Related Posts

Choosing Extracurricular Activities for Children with Overexcitabilities Finding extracurricular activities for an introverted child with intense OEs.

What’s it like being a tween with overexcitabilities? Video (and written) interview with my 12-year-old daughter in which, among other things, she talks about how much she loves her activities.

Homeschooling and Extracurricular Activities – How Much Is Too Much? A post from my homeschooling blog when my children were 8 and 9.

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Does your child want to do everything?

How do you help them find balance?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page. 🙂

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Like this post? Please share it on Facebook! And don’t forget to leave your email address in the Follow by Email box below to get my weekly posts about life in a quirky family delivered straight to your inbox.

 

 

I’m appreciatively linking up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap-Up.

How Overexcitabilities Can Help You Learn – And How They Can Hold Children Back in the Classroom

How Overexcitabilities Can Help Us Learn

Can the intensities and sensitivities that often come along with high ability help us to learn? Or do they get in the way of learning?

Earlier this year I co-wrote an article about overexcitabilities and education for a MENSA newsletter. My fellow author Simone de Hoogh* had lots of interesting insights about how each of the OEs might affect a child’s experience of classroom learning. You can read our article below.

Shortly after I wrote the piece, I had my own eye-opening experience of being back in the classroom, when I took a week’s intensive Spanish course. (Let’s just say I have renewed empathy when my children occasionally grumble about their classes.)

I’ve written about these first-hand insights in a separate post, which I’ll share next week.

How overexcitabilities can help you learn – and how they can hold children back in the classroom

Too many bright children aren’t recognised as gifted and talented because the overexcitabilities (OEs) that may come with their high intelligence prevent them from achieving in a school environment.  This is not only harmful for the young people concerned – it’s also a waste for society.

According to Kazimierz Dabrowski, the more OEs a person has, the greater their development potential and their drive to improve not only their own life but also the world around them.

Dabrowski viewed overexcitabilities as innate personality traits. He identified five  types of OE, each one of which can be a double-edged sword. When supported, OEs can contribute positively to a child’s ability to learn, but in the wrong learning environment these OEs can severely impact a child’s development.

People with overexcitabilities experience life differently from those who do not have the traits. They are often intense, hyper-sensitive and react strongly to stimuli that others don’t even notice. OEs can also bring above-average energy, pleasure, creativity, interests and empathy.

Here are some of the ways OEs can affect a child’s experience of learning:

Psychomotor OE

Psychomotor OE brings abundant energy, drive and zest for life. But when a person with this OE is stressed, their urge to express their psychomotor energy grows stronger.

Imagine what happens when a well-meaning teacher who doesn’t know about OEs (and often doesn’t realise how bright her pupil is) tries to keep a child from being ‘disruptive’ by occupying him with busywork.

As the child gets more stressed (because he finds the work boring), he finds it impossible to contain his energy and becomes more and more fidgety. Being required to keep still increases his stress levels further. He’s caught in a vicious circle.

Children with psychomotor OE can find themselves in a catch-22 situation: they can’t focus on under-stimulating work, which means they don’t achieve enough to be identified as gifted and therefore offered work more suitable to their level of intelligence.

Intellectual OE

Children with intellectual OE are deeply curious and can focus for extended periods on complex issues that interest them. However their deep thirst for knowledge can give rise to incessant questioning and an inability to accept ‘because I say so’ as an answer.

These young people also have a strong sense of justice and an inability to tolerate unfairness of any sort. In adult life this drive to understand and deep sense of justice will serve them well, but at school their tendency to argue and question authority can be seen as disrespectful and challenging.

Imaginational OE

Imaginational OE, meanwhile, can bring great creativity.  But in the classroom a creative child’s tendency to go off on tangents is not usually welcomed by a teacher who needs to get through the curriculum.

Children with imaginational OE are often seen as distracted and showing a lack of respect, which means they learn to repress rather than appreciate the creativity which could later be channelled towards new inventions and future solutions to world problems.

Sensual OE

Individuals with sensual OE are capable of deeply appreciating art, nature, music and other sensory experiences.

But their acute sensitivity to stimuli can make the noise, lights, smells and general hubbub of the average classroom unbearably overstimulating, rendering children with sensual OE incapable of doing their best work.

Emotional OE

Dabrowski saw emotional OE as one of the most powerful traits contributing to personal development. Children with this OE are often deeply empathic and sensitive to others’ needs.

But at school these young people’s strong emotional reactions and their need for depth in relationships can leave them vulnerable to bullying.

Children with emotional OE can also be deeply affected by news topics discussed at school, and may struggle with the mature themes in books they are assigned if their reading level is more advanced than their chronological age.

Similarly, they may struggle to contain and process their emotions after being shown films that may be age-appropriate but which affect them much more intensely than others.

Unfortunately many teachers aren’t aware of the social and emotional challenges OEs can bring, and even those who are informed struggle to accommodate the needs of these twice-exceptional learners within the confines of the school system.

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This is a big topic which I know I’ve only touched on here. I’d love to hear from you and then maybe write in more depth about aspects of OEs and learning that you find interesting.

How do your children’s OEs affect their experience of learning?

How do you support them?

Do you have any other questions or comments about OEs and education?

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* Simone de Hoogh,  Parenting Consultant and ECHA Specialist in Gifted Education, was inspired by her experiences raising her two (now adult) children to set up PowerWood, the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisation committed to raising awareness and supporting the emotional wellbeing of families dealing with the intensity, hyper-sensitivity and super-reactivity (OEs) that often accompany high ability.

If you’d like support dealing with OEs, join me, Simone and other kindred spirits at the friendly PowerWood FaceBook group.

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I hope you’ll come back next Monday to read about my week as a student. In that post I’ll be sharing a few ideas my time in the classroom gave me about how we can support our intense children’s learning. To be sure you don’t miss it, just leave your email address in the box below or above left and you’ll receive my weekly posts straight to your inbox. 🙂

 

Hat tip: Thank you to Devon Goodwin, editor of the British MENSA Education Special Interest Group newsletter for coming up with the title of this post!

Help Twice-Exceptional Children by Supporting Their Parents

Help 2e Children by Helping Their Parents

I was pleased to see that the Huffington Post recently commissioned a new series, Young Minds Matter, which is:

“… designed to lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood.”

The Duchess of Cambridge launched the series with her excellent post, Let’s Make a Difference for an Entire Generation of Young Children.

When the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum suggested I write an article for the series, I turned to my friend and mentor Simone de Hoogh, who I knew would have plenty of wisdom to share. Simone didn’t let me down, and our co-authored piece was published in the Huffington Post today.  You can also read it below.

Please feel free to share on FaceBook, Twitter etc. 😉

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Help Twice-Exceptional Children by Supporting Their Parents

By the time my son was six, other boys his age had outgrown tantrums but Jacob still had meltdowns apparently out of the blue. He couldn’t tolerate play dates for longer than 20 minutes. And surely it wasn’t normal to take 15 minutes to put on socks?

To help our son my husband and I sought professional advice. Several experts later we received an answer: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Our son’s meltdowns were the result of his brain struggling to receive and respond to the messages his senses were sending. Armed with our diagnosis, we enrolled Jacob for occupational therapy.

After a year of therapy, during which we saw little change in our son’s behaviour, we signed him up for a football course run by the practice. Although Jacob was happy to join the other children, he never lasted more than 20 minutes before storming off in angry tears. I asked the head therapist why the other kids with SPD could cope, but not Jacob? She suggested that he might have ADHD and advised us to consider medication. After all, we didn’t “want to miss the narrow window in which he can learn socialisation skills.”

I felt desperate to help my child but without a clue how to start. We were faced with numerous possible diagnoses—SPD, ADHD, ASD—none which really fit. Was I creating the problem by protecting my son from overwhelming situations? Should we instil more discipline? I knew my child, how desperately unhappy he often felt. I knew that if Jacob were capable of behaving like other children, he would behave like other children.

It would take another two years to discover the truth. Why so long? Jacob isn’t gifted within the UK definition of the highest-achieving ten per cent of school children; he is ‘twice-exceptional’ (2e). Children who are 2e combine a neurological diagnosis of giftedness with an additional special need, such as dyslexia, ADHD or other learning challenge. Jacob has a set of innate personality traits often found in the gifted known as Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities (OEs). People with OEs are intense. They may have excessive energy or love to touch things, or the buzzing of  overhead lights may drive them nuts. As children struggle to manage their strong reactions and emotions, they often display socially unacceptable behaviours.

I first learned about OEs at PowerWood, a UK community which supports 2e children and their families. Founder Simone de Hoogh, a qualified ECHA Specialist in Gifted Education, explains that “the further you get from the middle of the population bell curve, the less reliable the criteria for diagnosis become, because the sample size is so small.”

So how do we go about understanding what 2e children need? How do we teach them to meet their needs so they can develop into emotionally resilient adults? Human behaviour is strongly influenced by our environment, so one of the fastest ways to effect change is to change the environment. Most children have a family member as their primary caregiver, so if we want to help 2e children learn to manage and channel their intense natures, we need to empower their families by:

Reframing ‘normal’

For 2e children, ‘anti-social’ behaviour may be a normal response to a challenging situation. If we focus less on diagnosis and more on understanding the behaviour, we can help parents see challenges as opportunities for growth.

Informing parents and teachers

We can empower caregivers by providing them with information and tools to support 2e children, but first we need to relieve parents of the burden of self-doubt. Only then are parents ready for the strategies and knowledge that will help their kids.

Creating supportive communities

If we want 2e children to accept and appreciate themselves, we need to foster supportive communities for their families, where parents feel safe and respected rather than judged and blamed.

Our 2e son still has meltdowns, struggles in groups and has to move his body to focus on maths. But now we realize that Jacob’s intensity and sensitivity are the reasons for his behaviour, we’ve stopped worrying about what’s wrong with him and can instead focus on the child in front of us, educating him about the positive side of his twice-exceptionality and teaching him ways to manage his OEs.

We’ve found tremendous support from PowerWood, the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisation committed to raising awareness and supporting intense and sensitive 2e children, and from GHF, an abundant source of information and encouragement. With these communities at my side I’m optimistic I can help my son find his place in the world.

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{Thank you, too, to the GHF team for all your support and fabulous editing.}

To receive my weekly posts about life in an intense and sensitive family direct to your inbox, don’t forget to leave me you email address in the box below or top right. 🙂 

10 Things That Happen On Birthdays In Overexcitable Families

birthdays-in-an-overexcitable-family-1

What are birthdays like in your house? Are they peaceful, happy occasions, when children play nicely all day long while their smiling parents celebrate another successful year in their child-rearing career? Or are they more like this …

(1) The pressure starts to rise months in advance as the birthday child begins tortuous deliberations over what present to choose. A week before the big day he’s narrowed it down to two options. You misguidedly try to help by offering to get both, whereupon your son bursts into tears, wailing, “But that would be so selfish!”

(2) By the eve of his birthday the pressure has mounted to meltdown levels. When you go in to kiss him goodnight, you naively ask if he’s looking forward to his birthday and are dismayed to be told, “No, it’s going to be awful! Just like last year.”

As you cast your mind back to the fun he seemed to be having at the theme park you visited on his last birthday, your son continues, “And just like Christmas. Why did we have to be at their house! Why couldn’t we have stayed at home?”

You grope for a way to stem the tide of vitriol and turn the mood to pleasant birthday anticipation. “You’re looking forward to your presents, aren’t you?” But it’s too late. “No! It’s awful having to pretend I like my presents when really I hate them! Like that rubber octopus that the eyes broke off within a week!” (Referring to a stocking-filler squidgy toy he played with 24/7 until not only its octopussy eyes but most of its tentacles were worn away.)

You eventually calm your distraught son by reassuring him (fingers crossed) that in the morning when he opens his presents from his immediate family he can be completely honest in his reactions to his presents.

(3) The big day dawns and birthday boy wakes, smiling and refreshed. He glances happily at the little pile of wrapped gifts and opens the card his sister hands him. Each card then has to be opened before any presents are unwrapped, “because I’ve opened one card now. It would be unethical to ignore the rest.”

(4) You’re delighted when your son asks to go to the climbing wall as his birthday treat. All that exercise will help use up some of his psychomotor energy in preparation for the sugar rush that is birthday cake.

(5) Less auspiciously, he wants to follow up with ten-pin bowling. Despite your best efforts to end up in last place yourself, your heart sinks as birthday boy’s final ball barrels into the gully, an enormous zero flashes onto the scoreboard, and the inevitable meltdown ensues. You drive home in silence.

(6)  Your daughter, whose latest passion is watching cake-decorating videos, has decided to decorate her brother’s birthday cake with his favourite video game character. She’s planned it all out in her imagination but despite your gentle suggestions that she practise, she’s never actually made icing, drawn the design or used a piping bag before she attempts the project on the big day.

Temmie birthday cake - overexcitabilities and birthdaysYou’re thrilled at the result of her efforts, but your daughter  is tearfully crestfallen at the apparent chasm between the cake she designed in her imagination and the one she’s managed to create.

Many hugs and the birthday boy’s exclamations of delight later, big sister is consoled, and you all sing Happy Birthday.

(7) Birthday boy helps himself to an enormous slice of chocolate cake and you brace yourself for the sugar roller coaster.  All goes well as the kids run straight out to the trampoline, though when they contort arms and legs into monster limbs using one of their dad’s sweaters, you suggest they move the game onto a less bouncy surface.

(8) Disaster. Wagamamas doesn’t have a side table available for dinner. The four of you squeeze onto a bench in between a dad with his two daughters and a twenty-something couple. You smile apologetically as birthday boy expresses his feelings about having to share a table. Times like this you really want to explain that your son is not Veruca Salt, he’s just incredibly sensitive to noise, light and touch (on the best of days, let alone at the end of an overwhelming, sugar-fuelled birthday).

(9) Back home from the restaurant, your daughter finally cracks from the pressure of being nice to her brother all day. You spend fifteen minutes cuddling, wiping tears and appreciating her for being such a lovely sister.

(10) 10:30PM. Birthday boy comes to show you he’s solved the 3D wooden puzzle Grandma gave him and to describe the life cycle of a star he’s just learned about in his new space encyclopedia. He hugs you tightly and tells you he’s had the best birthday ever. You collapse into bed smiling, exhausted and relieved.

(How many days until the next birthday..?)

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What are birthdays like in your house?

What are your top  tips for maximising the fun and minimising the meltdowns?

I’d love to hear from you, in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page!

 

Don’t forget to write your email address in the box below or at the top left to receive my weekly posts about life in an overexcitable family straight to your inbox. 🙂 

10 Things that Happen to OE Families on Vacation (that probably don’t happen to other families)

10 Things that Happen to OE Families on Vacation

1. When getting ready to pack (a week in advance), you pull up your ‘Holiday list – winter’ document from your computer and save a new ‘2016’ version, colour-coded according to the location of items. You then spend half an hour meandering through lists from bygone years, growing teary-eyed as you cast your eyes over things like sippy-cups, toy cars and bedtime song cassettes.

You later arrive in the mountains to discover you haven’t brought your daughter’s ski gloves, while your non-OE friend who packed without the assistance of a list hasn’t forgotten a thing. How do they do that?!

2.  The middle-aged couples on two separate nearby tables ask to be reseated in the hotel restaurant because your exuberant son doesn’t understand the idea of an inside voice, let alone a polite restaurant voice.

3. You find yourself explaining Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration to your daughter who wants to go skiing but is feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of getting into all her gear. ‘So if you use your wonderful imagination to envisage all the fun you’re going to have out on the mountains, and if your brain could break down the process of getting ready into bite-sized chunks, what would you do first?’

4.  You’re not the least surprised when your son, who’s been leaping around at breakfast shouting, ‘C’mon! Let’s hit the slopes!’ announces, exhausted, at bedtime, ‘I never want to go skiing again!’ In fact, you could have written the script.

5.  You run your hands through your freshly-washed hair in the hotel elevator, then turn around and are shocked to see your daughter on the verge of tears. ‘I’m sorry! I just can’t take the smell of your hair combined with Jasper’s humming in this small space!’

6.  Your husband asks, ‘Do you mind if I eat pistachio nuts?’ as you enjoy a pre-dinner drink together in your hotel room. ‘Sure,’ you say, reaching for your headphones and white noise app.

7.  Your 10-year-old wears the same T-shirt for seven days straight because he doesn’t like the colour of any of the other six you pulled out of his wardrobe when you packed the suitcases.

8.  Your daughter’s thrilled to discover there are 15 sequels to the book she’s reading at the start of your holiday. She finishes the series on the flight home.

9.  At breakfast on your last day, while contemplating the eight hour journey home, you have a lively family discussion about teleportation, time travel, worm holes and the nature of consciousness – subjects no one ever tires of.

10.  You experience the blissful sensation of ASMR as you drive home past glassy Italian lakes and  breathtakingly vast snow-capped Alps.

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Every single one of these things truly happened to us last week. So come on, tell me – is it just me?

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What’s your favourite family vacation story?

Anyone else get blissed-out on scenery?

How do you deal with the overwhelming task of packing?

How Many People Have Overexcitabilities? & Other FAQs

overexcitabilities FAQ

Do you ever wish you could press the pause button on your life? Slip away with a pile of books for a long weekend at a luxury spa hotel, perhaps?  Then return, refreshed and ready to swing back into the groove?

I’ve found myself dreaming about that pause button over the last few weeks.

So instead of starting a new story, today I decided to dig deeper into the subject of overexcitabilities by having a little Q&A session with myself.  Getting things clear in my mind feels soothing. (Is that an OE thing? 😉)

What are overexcitabilities?

Overexcitabilities (OEs) are innate personality traits. You’re either born with them, or you’re not. They’re with you for life, and with any luck you get more practised at managing them as you get older.

The nervous systems of people with OEs are both more sensitive, and more responsive, to stimuli. Individuals with OEs have a greater awareness of things, inside and outside of them, than most other people.

When were overexcitabilities first identified?

Overexcitabilities are a part of the personality theory developed by Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902-1980). Dabrowski’s  Theory of Positive Disintegration is now credited to be the leading personality theory of the twenty-first century. Weirdly, not many people have heard of it (including me until a year ago), but I’m trying to do my little bit to spread the word.

Dabrowski identified five types of overexcitability: psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, intellectual and emotional.

How many people have overexcitabilities?

Psychologists estimate that about one in five people have OEs. Between two and four percent of people experience OEs in a way that brings challenges to daily life.

According to the latest research, OEs mostly occur in individuals with an IQ of over 110.

OEs are usually more intense in high-able individuals, but not every person with a high IQ has OEs.

Are there any risks associated with overexcitabilities?

People with the increased sensitivity, awareness and intensity that OEs bring experience the world very differently from other people. This means they behave differently.

Unfortunately we live in a society which, whatever people might say about valuing creativity and innovation,  rewards conformity, especially in children.

Children who behave differently – especially when they ‘over’-react, are ’too’ sensitive, can’t stop asking questions or aren’t able to sit still – face disapproval.

One of the biggest risks to a child who has OEs is that they grow up with a negative view of themselves. Many become extremely unhappy or depressed. Some even express suicidal thoughts.

IMG_0353

People with OEs also often experience asynchronous development, twice-exceptionality (high-ability combined with a learning difficulty like dyslexia), or sensory processing and anxiety-related issues.

Is there a positive side to having overexcitabilities?

Individuals with OEs experience life – including the good bits – more intensely.

Depending on the particular combination of OEs you have, beautiful art can be intensely moving, fine food can taste exquisite, small acts of kindness can instil deep appreciation, heavenly worlds can be imagined, passions can be pursued to their joyful fullest, and sports can be enjoyed with ferocious intensity.

Overexcitabilities - Frequently Asked Questions

According to Dabrowski, OEs are one of three factors that are necessary for advanced personal development. Innate ability is also required, and the third pre-requisite is the capacity for self-directed emotional growth.

It is this third factor, in particular – self-directed emotional growth – that we can nurture. If we allow our children to grow in tune with their authentic passions and confident of their ability to attain their goals, we can give them a huge boost along the way towards creating their happiest possible lives and contributing to the world around them.

How can we help children value their overexcitabilities?

There are many things we can do to help our sensitive, intense children appreciate who they are and find their place in the world.

We can advocate for them in a society that doesn’t always understand their needs. We can stop holding them to standards they struggle in vain to meet.  We can help them stay in touch with their intrinsic motivations. And we can show them ways to manage their intensity.

But perhaps the most important place to start is with ourselves.

OE character traits are genetic – if your children have overexcitabilities, the chances are that you have them too. For me, learning to understand and appreciate my own OEs is an important first step towards helping my children manage and value theirs.

I’ve found that improving my energy levels and resilience is the best way for me to manage my own OEs. I’ll share more next time about how and why I do this.

Do you have any questions about OEs?

How do you help your children appreciate their quirkiness?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page.

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*Simone de Hoogh is one of the founding directors of PowerWood, the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisation which supports people dealing with OEs. Much of the information in this post comes from the PowerWood General Information About OEs flyer. You can find a copy of the flyer here. If you’d like extra copies of the flyer to distribute in schools, health practices etc, leave a comment or email simone@powerwood.org.uk.

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