Gifted Parents, Parenting Gifted: Self-Care

There continues to be quite a bit written about the need for self-care when parenting – for good reason.

Speaking from personal experience, I know how easy it is to focus the majority of your energy on keeping your kids healthy and thriving, which can easily edge into little-to-no time left for your own needs and wants.

To a certain extent, this makes sense. When my kids were infants and toddlers, for instance, their needs from me were (appropriately) all-consuming. I got as much help as I could from others, and tried to expand my childcare “village” to a reasonable  extent (actually a necessity, since I was keeping my career going at the same time) – but I still always needed to be ready and available for them, which meant cutting out nearly all “non-essentials”.

(Notice I said nearly all; I decided to keep my film review site going, for instance, as a sanity-saver.) 

Over the years, as my kids have grown older, the question for me has become: how and when can I start easing back into more of the activities I used to enjoy before having kids? To be clear, I wouldn’t choose to go back to that era for anything; I was someone who knew I wanted kids from an early age, and was waiting eagerly to meet the right person and get started on a family. But eventually there were things I started to miss about my pre-kids life, back when I had a ton more time and energy to focus on taking care of my own needs.

In this post, I’ll talk about what it’s like to be a gifted adult practicing self-care while parenting gifted kids. It’s part of a tagged series I’m starting entitled “Gifted Parents, Parenting Gifted” (yes, I love palindromes and all kinds of word play; and yes, I know this isn’t exactly a palindrome, but, close enough).

To define self-care, I’ll use a phrase from the Very Well Family article linked above:

Taking care of your spiritual, physical, psychological, and social needs will help you feel your best so you can be the best parent you can be.

So – I’ll define “self-care” as “spiritual, physical, psychological, and social needs”, which seems to cover a pretty broad range. Also, just to clarify: when I use the term gifted parent, I am referring to a gifted adult who happens to be parenting – not simply a “parent of a gifted kid” (though there’s obviously huge overlap).

As I noted in my introduction, there is a LOT out there on the internet about self-care, and plenty on self-care specifically geared towards parents (with even more emerging during the pandemic). But, what are the unique self-care considerations for gifted adults who are parenting?

Of course, much if not all of the existing self-care advice – i.e., meditating, spending time in nature, listening to music, etc. – are good ideas for everyone to consider as part of their self-care menu. But I would posit there are a few additional needs for gifted parents to keep in mind as well. Below are my initial thoughts on the topic, which I’ll continue to reflect on and refine over time.

  1. In Searching for Meaning (2015), Jim Webb notes our need as gifted adults to make meaning in and of the world, and leave a lasting impact. He specifically suggests the following strategies (described in greater detail in his book, which I recommend): creating your own life script, becoming involved in causes, using bibliotherapy and journaling, maintaining a sense of humor, touching and feeling connected, developing authentic relationships, compartmentalizing, letting go, living in the present moment, learning optimism and resiliency, focusing on the continuity of generations, mentoring and teaching, and “rippling”. Several of these strategies actually relate very directly to parenting – i.e., “developing authentic relationships” (with our kids), “living in the present moment” (an invaluable parenting strategy), and “focusing on the continuity of generations” (definitely doing that by parenting!). Naming and acknowledging these strategies as inherent to our parenting can help to alleviate some of the existential angst felt by gifted parents, who may otherwise tend to relentlessly question if they’re “doing enough”.
  2. In Bright Adults (2015), Ellen Fiedler describes the following “significant needs and issues throughout the lifespan” of gifted adults: acceptance; meaningful connections; living with intensity (either intellectual, sensory, imaginational, and/or emotional); access to resources; relevant challenges; and finding meaning. Fiedler’s list reminds us that even as adults, we continue to live with various intensities of our own (while also dealing with those of our kids), and need access to resources and relevant challenges. Obviously, parenting itself could be viewed as the ultimate “relevant challenge”, and I know of many gifted adults who address it in exactly that way – i.e., it’s not just exhausting work (though it is that, too!) but also a fun project to dive into and learn from. The many podcasts and blogs out there on parenting (including this one!) are a testament to how fulfilling it can be to reflect on our parenting journey, share ideas with others, and maintain a stance of lifelong learning.
  3. Gifted parents, like gifted kids, benefit from finding like-minded peers to engage with. Joining a SENG parent group (which I now co-facilitate) was when I first made this a ha connection for myself. I was suddenly able to relate to other parents in a way that had eluded me for years; I could talk openly about the unique challenges I was seeing in my own kids, while never feeling the need to “dumb down” my thoughts or ideas. And, I found a few good friends! If a support group isn’t available near you, there are a number of private Facebook groups related specifically to parenting gifted kids, and/or you can sign up to hear about parenting seminars hosted by organizations such as SENG, NAGC, IEA, John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and local gifted organizations in your area.
  4. Allow yourself to join in with your gifted kids’ interests and hobbies. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play an instrument, speak a language, or take art classes, now is an ideal chance to be inspired – by your kid! For instance, when my son first started learning the violin, it was literally painful for me to sit there watching and listening during his lesson while not joining in myself; so, I invested in an adult-sized violin and went to town. I ended up not having the time or stamina to continue for very long (I do have a rambling rainforest mind, after all . . . ), but it was extremely satisfying to at least scratch that lifelong itch and experience what violin playing was all about.
  5. Finally, an idea specifically mentioned in the linked article above on self-care strategies is to join a book club, which I would argue may be especially important for gifted parents. I plan to write a separate post about this in more detail, but for now I will share that in recent months I’ve joined two different book clubs (both online for the moment) and found them to be an awesome supplement to my “self-care regime”.  They are very much for me – a great excuse to carve out time for enjoyable reading but/and they also help me talk openly with my kids about the joys of prioritizing books and getting together with other people to discuss them. Win-win all around.

I’m excited to begin this exploration of what it means for gifted parents to be mindful of their self-care needs while engaging in the most (in)valuable long-term “project” of their lives: raising their kids.

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Second Booster: SENG Spring Mini-Conference Take-Aways (Part 2)

A true benefit of pandemic times, for me, has been the ability to attend conferences I otherwise wouldn’t have the time or energy for, given how exhausting it is to travel. (Traveling is amazing and wondrous, but also exhausting; that’s most definitely a topic for another blog post.) 

Not only have pretty much all conferences and presentations been virtual this year, but the majority have been recorded and thus available for viewing at a later time. It couldn’t get more convenient than that for busy working parents.

With that said, I’m here to share my take-aways from the remaining SENG Spring Mini-Conference sessions I attended after-the-fact – i.e., by accessing the recordings. As I mentioned in my last post, SENG tends to pull together some truly amazing speakers, and is a non-profit well worth joining and supporting.

The sessions I’ll be reporting on here are:

  • Dr. Ross Greene on “Collaborative & Proactive Solutions: Moving From Power and Control to Collaboration and Problem-Solving”
  • Julie Skolnick on “Managing Social Emotional Engagement, Effective Communication and Emotion Regulation During the Pandemic”
  • Debbie Reber on “Fostering Self-Knowledge and Personal Strengths in Your 2e Child”
  • Dr. Richard Cash on “Getting Out of the Quagmire: A Roadmap for Redirecting Underachievers and Selective Producers”
  • Dr. Susan Baum on “Gifts Come in Different Packages: It’s All About Style”

Whew. This is a lot, and each topic deserves its own post, but for now I will simply share key ideas and take-aways.

Dr. Ross Greene has been writing about and presenting on so-called “explosive” kids for decades; his books are all well worth reading.

Dr. Greene urges parents, educators, and others working with high-intensity kids to be open to the following paradigm shift: kids “act out” when they lack the skills to engage in what’s being asked of them, either by adults or themselves. If you can identify both what kids are being asked to do (i.e., the unsolved problem), and the skills they are lacking in order to do this (i.e., the lagging skills), then you can prioritize and target skills instruction.

Dr. Greene posits that he has never, ever in his lengthy career met a kid who genuinely prefers to not do well; rather, they’re simply lacking the skills to do so.

Skill areas that kids tend to be lagging in include the following:

  • executive functioning skills
  • language/communication skills
  • emotion regulation skills
  • cognitive flexibility skills
  • social skills

Dr. Greene recommends that caretakers begin by completing an ALSUP questionnaire (Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems) for a child, then prioritize the child’s problems based on safety, frequency, and gravity. (We can’t work on everything at once.)

At this point, we must consider which of the following plans to use:

Plan A is to simply to solve a problem unilaterally – i.e., use your adult hand to force the issue. If a child is putting herself or others in immediate danger, this is the obvious “plan” to choose.

Plan C is based on the idea that sometimes we have to set certain problems aside and acknowledge they’re not a top priority right now, which might mean coming up with an interim plan for these problems (i.e., temporarily suspending certain expectations for the child).

Dr. Greene’s Plan B for solving high-priority problems collaboratively consists of the following steps:

  1. Empathy: Gather information from the child in terms of what’s hard for them about meeting expectations. We need to shift away from making assumptions, and instead talk with our kids to hear their perspectives.
  2. Define Adult Concerns: Adults must identify the concerning behaviors they’re seeing in kids. Since the problems children face tend to be predictable, once we look for the patterns, we can be proactive rather than reactive.
  3. Invitation: Collaborate on a solution that is realistic and mutually satisfactory. Both these two conditions are critical for long-term success, given that if the child doesn’t agree, then you are looking at temporary “compliance” at best.

This process is obviously much easier said than done – however, Dr. Greene’s work is invaluable in terms of offering a sequential approach to solving situations with kids who are unable to thrive in mainstream spaces without adult intervention and support. It was good to hear from him “live”.

Julie Skolnick runs the website, where she offers guidance to 2E kids and adults.

In her presentation for SENG on coping strategies during the pandemic, she began by pointing out the “great irony” of the fact that 2E kids often have a deep desire to connect, but also present with intensities that can be “too much” for many, leading to internal messaging that somehow their authentic selves are wrong.

Common struggles for 2E kids (do these sound familiar?)  include the need to be right; being too goal oriented; challenges with executive functioning; (dis)trust; being easily distractible; and living with one or more of Dabrowski’s “over-excitabilities” (psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional).

Julie presented the “Skolnick Formula for Emotional Disregulation”™, in which she posited that:

  1. the giftedness characteristics of intellectual interests, existential considerations, asynchronous development, perfectionism, and overexcitabilities tend to lead to
  2.  anxiety, stress, frustration, and misunderstanding,  which then lead to
  3.  emotional dysregulation (manifesting as challenging behaviors), which elicits
  4.  reactions and responses from those around them . . .

. . . which then fuels the child’s anxiety, stress, and frustration. It can be a vicious cycle. Just as in Dr. Greene’s approach described above, Julie argues that we should learn to anticipate trigger moments for our kids and intervene proactively rather than reactively.

Julie reminded us that environment for 2E kids is critical – and yet the “triple P” environment we’ve been living with throughout the last year – pandemic, politics, and protests – has brought a heightened sense of discord, dystopia, and dismay for many 2E kids. Communication with teachers remains critically important, yet has also been more challenging than ever given the inherent limitations of learning through screens, such as tech issues; teacher distractions; household distractions (for the student); and the inability for teachers to manage or defuse issues one-on-one.

Julie’s number one message for audience members was to remember the importance of connection. Strategies she listed for enhancing connection include: being honest; leading with empathy; giving kids the benefit of the doubt; giving up the need to be ‘right’; giving kids a ‘piece of the pie’; shifting priorities; taking care of yourself; doing something for someone else; keeping a ‘gratitude attitude’; and starting each day anew.

The most tangible take-away for me from Julie’s talk was the metaphor of “letting go of a rope”: she asked everyone in the audience to pretend that we were tugging on a rope – tugging, tugging, tugging, tugging – and then . . .  we were asked to simply let go of the rope.  This, she explained, can be a useful way to approach communication challenges with our kids. Every now and then, we should simply let it go. Breathe. Pause. Give it a moment. Let go of the rope. We can return to it later.

Debbie Reber is a beloved staple of my parenting repertoire. After attending a SENG parent support group a couple of years ago, I binge-listened to Debbie’s TILT Parenting podcast series, and it was a game-changer in terms of getting me quickly up to speed on major players and concepts in the 2E world. Debbie’s son Asher (now 16) fits a similar profile to my son D., so her personal reflections feel especially pertinent.

In this talk for SENG, Debbie focused on promoting self-knowledge and personal strengths in our 2E kids, with the ultimate goal of raising kids who are curious and open to feedback. She began by discussing ways to (and whether or not to) bring up a child’s diagnoses with them, reminding us that if/when we do so, we should: begin with strengths; be honest; consider this part of an ongoing conversation with our kids; and ask questions.

Other hints in her talk included:

  • We should be mindful about using language that supports rather than shames our kids, and that validates and empathizes with their challenges.
  • We need to give our kids space, and remember that it’s perfectly fine (and usually preferable!) to debrief a challenge after the storm has passed.
  • When reflecting back on particularly “low” moments, we should get curious, connect, repair, and then forge ahead.

Finally, Debbie emphasized the need for us to develop our kids’ sense of agency, control, motivation, and self-direction. She is a huge fan of William Stixrud and Ned Johnson’s book The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives (2018), which I will eventually be reporting on for this blog.

In closing, Debbie reminded us to make self-discovery a priority as parents, too. Here’s to that!

Dr. Rick Cash’s presentation was geared towards helping teachers differentiate their instruction and personalize their connections with students in order to address issues of underachievement.

He discussed the difference between non-producers (students who refuse to do any work, though they often perform well on summative assessments) and selective producers (students who engage in work they feel personally motivated by). He reminded us that affect, behavior, and cognition all play a part in students’ performance, and offered the following roadmap for teachers to follow (comparable to a Gradual Release of Responsibility pedagogical approach):

  1. modeling while students observe (“I do, you watch”)
  2. asking students to “copy and do” (“I do, you help”)
  3. engaging students in guided practice (“You do, I help”)
  4. promoting independence and application in students (“You do, I watch”)

He further discussed different “learner orientations”, distinguishing between students with:

  • a mastery approach (kids who work hard to achieve their personal best)
  • mastery avoidance (kids who are comfortable with being “good enough”)
  • a performance approach (kids who compete to be better than others)
  • performance avoidance (kids who avoid “performing” at all)

Finally, Dr. Cash presented what he refers to as the RIC essentials: Reliable Relationships, Individual Importance, and Community Connections.

These are solid guidelines to follow in all walks of life, and especially essential in school.

Dr. Susan Baum’s presentation was a lovely end to a jam-packed conference. Dr. Baum is the Director of The 2e Center for Research and Professional Development at Bridges Academy in Southern California, and she brings infectious enthusiasm to the work she does.

She shared about four different “personality profiles” she’s developed, which help us to better understand ourselves and our kids. The profiles are:

  • practical managers
  • learned experts
  • creative problem solvers
  • people persons

She pointed out that we all have components of each of these in ourselves – and, critically, we are able to call up elements of them when/as needed. For instance, even those of us who are decidedly not “people persons” at heart can learn tools to manage being in groups on occasion, especially when necessary (i.e., for work). Meanwhile, those who normally function as “creative problem solvers” or “learned experts” can tap into practical management skills every now and then (albeit sometimes with necessary coaching and support).

Dr. Baum raced breezily through her slideshow (there was so much to share!), describing common characteristics of each of these personality profiles, what a “good day” looks like for someone fitting that profile, common needs and issues that come up, and keys to negotiation (focusing specifically on school age kids). She ended each “type” with an example of a photo of a real-life famous adult and their actual desk or workspace. Here’s a brief overview of the four types:

  • Practical managers are time keepers and organizers who operate in a concrete sequential fashion. They like to check things off of lists, and prefer days when life is predictable and there’s an agenda available. They thrive on structure, but may struggle with lack of flexibility, pessimism, and perfectionism. The ideal activities for these kids include tasks with specific directions that allow them to “show what they know” through charts, graphs, and fact sheets. Bill Gates fits this profile, and apparently has an exceptionally neat, uncluttered desk.
  • Learned experts are thinkers and logicians who operate in an abstract sequential fashion. They love to strategize, debate, discuss, read, and solve puzzles, and prefer days when life is somewhat predictable but there is plenty of time for diving deep into a topic. They thrive on intellectual stimulation with smart people, but may struggle with arrogance, sarcasm, and/or an overly argumentative nature. The ideal activities for these kids include research projects and being able to present their ideas through reports, editorials, debates, or political cartoons. Al Gore fits this profile, and apparently has a sprawling, jam-packed workspace with numerous paper piles and devices all over the place.
  • Creative problem solvers are inventors, adventurers, and risk takers. They likes to do things their own way, and a good day consists of having fun and not being constrained. They thrive on competition, risk, challenge, and choice, but may struggle with lack of ability to follow directions, not paying sufficient attention to details, overly high energy, and/or too much focus on thrill seeking. The ideal activities for these kids involve designing and creating something to show their knowledge in an open-ended way, often through multi-media platforms. They can and do work anywhere (including on the floor), and need to be able to to shift positions, take breaks, and move around. Steve Jobs was an example of a creative problem solver combined with a learned expert.
  • People persons are sensitive, emotional, and creative ambassadors and artists whose best days involve being appreciated, loved, and feeling special. They may get lonely, overly sensitive, and dramatic, work too hard to fit in, and have a tendency to be scattered and lose things. However, they make awesome leaders given how much they care about, understand, and can connect with others. The ideal activities for these kids are creative and artistic, feel personally relevant, and allow for small group or partner work. Their ideal work space is unique to them, while allowing them to be in earshot of family members. Bill Clinton is an example of a people person.

Wow – these personality profiles are an incredibly useful way to think about the strengths and differences among us. I consider myself primarily a “learned expert” (this blog probably gives ample evidence of that!) but I’m also a “people person” given that I love teaching, coaching, and getting to know interesting new people. Thankfully, I can also easily slip into being a “practical manager” as needed, though I find it exceedingly annoying that I’m the only one in my household who seems to have facility with this, since it’s tiring to manage everything – especially when I’d rather be off learning something new or making connections with others.

My husband and 12-year-old daughter C. are primarily “creative problem solvers” who routinely get lost in fantasy and exploration and don’t care if they’re surrounded by clutter; both are also “people persons” who care a lot about making connections in between their creative problem solving. My 11-year-old son D. is primarily a “learned expert” who LOVES lists, facts, and predictability, but he has plenty of “creative problem solver” in him as well. My 8-year-old daughter I. is primarily a “people person” with a passion for art, big emotions, a strong desire to connect, and a preference for working with others whenever possible, but also exhibits plenty of “creative problem solver” in her need to have flexibility and express her unique flair.

So – we’re a mixed household with diverse needs and preferences.

This blog post is beyond long enough, so I’ll end it here. I’m grateful to have so much new and interesting information to chew on (the learned expert in me is in heaven) – and I hope you’ve gained some new areas for exploration, too.

Happy learning!

Copyright © 2021 by Please feel free to share with attribution.  

Boost in the Arm: SENG Spring Mini-Conference Take-Aways (Part 1)

During this period of spring bloom, mass vaccinations, and glimmers of hope for a more healthful year ahead, it was refreshing to take time to attend five of SENG’s Spring Mini Conference sessions last weekend.

SENG always gathers an exciting and impressive roster of experts across diverse fields related to gifted and 2E learners. Here are the sessions I managed to watch live (I will catch up on and report on the others once recordings are available):

  1. “Culturally Responsive Teaching in Gifted Education: Building Cultural Competence and Serving Diverse Populations” (Matthew Fugate, Wendy Behrens, Joy Lawson Davis, and Cecilia Boswell)
  2. “Being Bright, Talented, and Black in Today’s Schools” (Joy Lawson Davis, Adrienne Paul, and Theresa Newsom)
  3. “Where Do I Belong? A Tale of Identity and Reality” (Alonso Kelly)
  4. “Perfectionism: How to Stop Moving the Goalpost” (Matt Zakreski)
  5. “Exhausted: Energy and Wellness for the Twice-Exceptional Learner” (Marlo Payne Thurman)

The first two sessions listed above relate to the pressing issue of ensuring that gifted programs and services are equitably serving students across diverse cultural populations. To that end, Dr. Fugate and his colleagues have edited a much-needed book on culturally responsive teaching for gifted students (with the same title as their presentation), to be published by Prufrock Press in June. I’ll be reading this and reporting back with a Book Reflection blog post once it’s released. 

Meanwhile, the gifted community has been fortunate to tap into the extensive expertise of Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, one of the leading names in research on gifted education for diverse student populations, and a recent (2019) recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from SENG. Davis is the author of Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners (2010) and Gifted Children of Color Around the World: Diverse Needs, Exemplary Practices and Directions for the Future (2016). At this spring’s mini-conference, Dr. Davis presented with her daughter Adrienne Paul (a K-12 educator) and colleague Dr.  Theresa Newsom on supporting students who are bright, talented, and Black (BTB).  Topics covered in their session included the following:

  • Systemic issues impacting BTB students’ success in school: Black students are under-represented in gifted programs, over-represented in Special Education, and disproportionately impacted by biased disciplinary practices and policies in school. They are still most likely to be taught by white females, thus perpetuating a “cultural mismatch”.
  • The unique psychosocial challenges of being BTB: BTB students often face numerous additional challenges in school, which include overcoming damaging stereotypes, having their abilities repeatedly underestimated, and being considered defiant for engaging in self-advocacy (which may include needing to find teachers who they can trust to nurture their gifts).
  • Meeting BTB students’ curriculum and instruction needs: In addition to considering elements of culturally responsive teaching more broadly, the panelists discussed A.W. Boykin’s (1992) 9 Dimensions of an Afro-Cultural ethos,  which all teachers of BTB students should be familiar with: spirituality, harmony, movement, verve, affect, communication, expressive individualism, oral traditions, and a social time perspective.
  • Nurturing the math talent of BTB students: Some specific strategies named in this section include ensuring teachers know and understand Black students’ previous experiences with and thoughts on math; using a problem-based curriculum; highlighting Black mathematicians (past and current); and allowing individual verbal sense-making for validation.
  • Improving relationships with BTB students: These ideas include engaging with extended family and community members; having students share their cultural autobiographies; and providing safe affinity discussion spaces for sensitive conversations.

Related to the topic of BTB, Alonso Kelly – a SENG Board Member and a Strategic Leadership Partner and Executive Coach – gave a presentation entitled “Where Do I Belong? A Tale of Identity and Reality” which offered a welcome dive into his life as a gifted Black male in America. Alonso gave audience members an opportunity to reflect on the following scenarios (among others), emphasizing our need to expand our empathy and understanding for where others are coming from:

  • How would it feel to play Monopoly hundreds of times and never earn money or be able to buy property – then be asked what you think of the game?
  • If a public park posts a sign saying that no trash cans are provided and all trash must be personally carried out, whose fault is it when/if the ground is littered with trash? Does your perspective shift if you reflect on families who don’t read English, and/or those who didn’t arrive at the park in a personal vehicle?

Alonso highlighted key components of nurturing a psychologically safe space for challenging conversations (through accountability, courage, humility, and empowerment) and talked about thriving at the intersection of lived experience, learned experience, formal education, and emotional intelligence. By repeatedly referring to the SENG community as his “family”, he reminded us that connecting with others who “get” our giftedness can be an essential grounding tool as we navigate our way through the often complicated and challenging landscape of finding our path in life.

Dr. Matt Zakreski – who discussed nurturing creativity at last fall’s SENG mini-conference – gave a presentation entitled “Perfectionism: How to Stop Moving the Goalpost,” about the pitfalls of perfectionism and how to manage this oft-present characteristic of gifted individuals.  He proposed a distinction (actually a continuum) between healthy perfectionism – in which individuals challenge themselves and learn from failure – and maladaptive perfectionism (in which individuals set unrealistic goals, become obsessed, and/or avoid activities altogether).

One of his key take-aways was that “people who avoid failure also avoid success” – so, we need to support gifted kids in learning that failing is inevitable, and that to F.A.I.L. is to engage in “frequent attempts in learning”. The remainder of Matt’s presentation focused on specific therapeutic strategies to help kids address their maladaptive perfectionism, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, as well as specific things parents can do to support their kids, such as:

  • understanding that perfectionism isn’t rational and therefore is not easy to “just stop”;
  • being proactive and helping your kids plan ahead;
  • modeling emotion-focused language;
  • encouraging breaks;
  • encouraging empathy-based perspective taking;
  • not trying to “solve the problem” for your child; and
  • communicating with a child’s teacher and school.

[Speaking of perfectionism, at some point I will be sharing my thoughts on Lisa Van Gemert‘s book Perfectionism: A Practical Guide to Managing ‘Never Good Enough’ (2018), which offers additional invaluable guidance on this topic.]

Finally, Dr. Marlo Payne Thurman‘s presentation – entitled “Exhausted: Energy and Wellness for the Twice-Exceptional Learner” – was a no-brainer must-watch for me (and I didn’t think twice about the fact that I was starting to feel a little fatigued while watching it!). Marlo candidly discussed a traumatic brain injury she experienced years ago which kicked her own twice-exceptionality into gear, and made frequent connections between her own attempts to understand how her brain had changed to strategies we can use to help our kids “triage” their limited energy.

Marlo defined energy as finite slices of a pie, comprised of cognitive, emotional, and physical energy as well as a “reserve”, and pointed out that we can’t simply borrow from one source to fuel another. She reminded us that “the amount of cognitive capacity an individual has dictates the amount of sensory information that they can effectively take in,” and that “gifted individuals take in more sensory information and use more energy to process sensory input.” This simple equation was potent validation that there’s a reason (actually, many reasons) why gifted folks so often feel exhausted – including sheer sensory overwhelm (and/or under-aroused sensory seeking).

Marlo talked us through how fatigue can lead to “adrenal” activation – which leads to heightened sensory sensitivity, which leads to increased energy consumption and thus increased fatigue. BAM. There you have it. The vicious cycle of fatigue is real.

In her firehose of a presentation, Marlo presented much more information on her topic – including how to activate our reserve energy, the role our gut plays in health, and the downward spiral of stress leading from seemingly innocuous feelings like boredom and pessimism, to fear, depression, insecurity, and feelings of unworthiness and powerlessness.

The question is, what to do about all this? Marlo recommended getting a comprehensive assessment for our twice-exceptional kids – not just academically, but in terms of ocular and visual-motor skills, auditory processing, learning styles and strengths, language and communication skills, memory and sequencing, executive functioning, sensory preferences, and overall wellness, social skills, and behavior.

Whew! Listening to Marlo speak on these topics reminded me of my own first dive into the world of twice-exceptionality, when my to-do list for trying to understand the complexities of my three diverse kids (not to mention myself) felt endless.

Marlo ended her presentation with a series of “best tips” for parents:

  • Assess the level of stress
  • Teach breath control
  • Monitor and track sleep
  • Support nutritional needs
  • Find a bio-medical physician
  • Establish a sensory diet
  • Get a good assessment

Again, this is a lot – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my journey into the vast world of giftedness and twice-exceptionality, it’s that patience is required.

As I’ve noted before, parenting is a marathon, not a sprint – so it’s critical for parents to honor that reality, pace ourselves, and celebrate small steps forward. However imperfect and incremental our interventions may be, we can gradually build individualized support systems for our kids that will allow them each to thrive in their own way. And yes, it’s fatiguing work – but well worth it.

Copyright © 2021 by Please feel free to share with attribution.