Understanding Psychomotor Overexcitabilities in the Gifted Child

As I dropped off my two older daughters at school today, I gazed at my middle daughter in the rear-view mirror and contemplated her for a moment. She was chattering about something and looked over at me and smiled. I thought at that moment she looked absolutely radiant. Perfectly HER. I thought about how hard it is to preserve her unique self as a parent. She’s my child that is highly energetic, constantly chattering, always moving. It’s hard to parent a child with so much energy. I can’t keep up with her most times.  She makes me nervous, except I’m almost certain I was like her in many ways as a child.

This morning, as I was putting some lotion on some dry skin on her body, I saw how slender she is. I slightly felt guilty because she looks like she doesn’t eat enough. Whereas her sisters have that little tummy pooch and their legs are chunking up from being stuck indoors most of the time…her body does not have much body fat. I worry about that…but I know she eats a lot compared to her sisters. She just is CONSTANTLY moving and wiggling and talking and her brain is constantly active.

It’s ironic, because this is the child who was once selectively mute in preschool for a year and a quarter, not talking at all to her teacher and classmates and holding her body rigid and tense. I always thought the high energy she displayed had something to do with her giftedness, and suspected that the constant stream of chatter and noises emanating from her was a part of her gifted wiring. Now I have my suspicions confirmed.

Somehow I missed this article by Sharon Lind over at the SENG Website

Overexcitability in the Gifted. I’m highlighting the section on psychomotor overexcitabilities.

Psychomotor OE is a heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system. This Psychomotor intensity includes a “capacity for being active and energetic” (Piechowski, 1991, p. 287), love of movement for its own sake, surplus of energy demonstrated by rapid speech, zealous enthusiasm, intense physical activity, and a need for action (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). When feeling emotionally tense, individuals strong in Psychomotor OE may talk compulsively, act impulsively, misbehave and act out, display nervous habits, show intense drive (tending towards “workaholism”), compulsively organize, or become quite competitive. They derive great joy from their boundless physical and verbal enthusiasm and activity, but others may find them overwhelming. At home and at school, these children seem never to be still. They may talk constantly. Adults and peers want to tell them to sit down and be quiet! The Psychomotor OE child has the potential of being misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


  • Allow time for physical or verbal activity, before, during, and after normal daily and school activities-these individuals love to “do” and need to “do.” Build activity and movement into their lives.
  • Be sure the physical or verbal activities are acceptable and not distracting to those around them. This may take some work, but it can be a fun project and beneficial to all.
  • Provide time for spontaneity and open-ended, freewheeling activities. These tend to favor the needs of a person high in Psychomotor OE.

I know my daughter is NOT ADHD, because within the classroom, she’s a totally different child than outside the classroom. While she is more relaxed within the classroom, completely verbal this year, and yet still quiet and respectful at the appropriate times. So I know her psychomotor OE’s are within her control – well at least for the 2.5 hours she’s at kindergarten. Well see how she does in a 6 hour day next fall.

I think that it’s time to re-enroll her in ballet classes.  We stopped for a while during the winter months because of the bad weather and the holidays, but I think it’s time to start up again.   And we got away from doing some of the sensory therapy activities…because we “solved” her selective mutism, but I think we need to keep doing some of those activities to get her movement needs met.

Do you have a gifted child who has a high level of psychomotor OE?  What strategies do YOU employ to help channel that energy into something constructive and respectful of others’ needs?

This entry was posted in emotion coaching, gifted adults, gifted children, gifted support, highly sensitive child, highly sensitive mom, Intensity, overexcitabilities, raising smart girls, selective mutism, spreading joy. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Understanding Psychomotor Overexcitabilities in the Gifted Child

  1. Chrystal says:

    I just found your blog and am so relieved! I just finished reading The Highly Sensitive child by Elaine Aron as well as The Highly Sensitive Person. I enjoyed reading bout high levels of psychomotor OE because my eldest daughter (age 5, in kindergarten) definitely overwhelms me and my husband. The best coping approaches I’ve come up with so far have been to give her chances to just dance her heart out (i.e. she loves to dress up and I’ll put on dancing music and tell her to dance for me). I DO use earplugs and it has saved my sanity. I can sit in the same room with her exuberance much easier with my earplugs. Other times, she will sit and play pbskids.org by herself and I get some downtime. She is in a dance class but that is only once a week. So we try to invite a friend over at least once a week because she really enjoys chatting and it seems little girls her age are not overwhelmed by it. I’d love to talk more about all of this but I better go read your other posts before I ask questions you’ve already answered. Keep posting – you’re a God-send!

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thanks Chrystal…I appreciate your thoughts, and it’s so good to know there are other mothers with highly energetic kiddos.

    I’m not sure if the answers you seek are on the blog already, but if you do have questions you want to ask, I might be able to point you to the posts that might already address them, OR I’ll answer the questions.

    I have to go for now…to pick up my oldest from school, but I wanted to briefly comment and say thanks.

  3. Lisa says:

    One of the things I love about this post is that it is about a girl. So many of the examples of psychomotor OE are about boys, and I wonder if we are sometimes more accepting of high levels of physical and personal energy in boys. We might be more likely to give them chances to “run off steam” or are more tolerant of their squirms and wiggles, especially after a certain age, when the stereotype of the young smart girl is that of sitting patiently and reading studiously. In any case, the radiance you describe in your daughter’s face is delightful!

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thank you, Lisa, it was a delight to see!

    What I find interesting is that she can get through 2.5 hours of kindergarten sitting patiently and quietly, but she can’t get through a 30 minute meal without being wiggly ,getting up and down, and being chatty!

  5. Pingback: Intensity as Personal Energy « Everyday Intensity

  6. ecemom says:

    I loved your post as well. I have a 2 year old daughter who should be the poster girl for psychomotor. I became familiar with dabrowksi while trying to figure out my son (yes – I have 2 OE children). One mentally exhausts me while the other, my daughter, physically exhausts me.

    My husband and I will sit and watch her and he would say “what if she were a boy.” My husband and I are both teachers and have come across many children in our profession – but these children amaze me and deplete me at the same time.

    I recently started early childhood yoga with her and my son. She loves it and it is something physical I can easily transition her into when she’s moving a bit too much for my liking. Gymnastics and sports has been another outlet. We too dance. I can play a CD and she will move non-stop for 45 minutes straight. If we could bottle their energy – we’d have a weight loss cure! My little lady too, a good eater, but at age 2 (in Feb) is still in 18 month pants.

  7. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thank you ecemom!

    Yes, I wish we could bottle that energy!

    Yoga is another good technique. There is a 2 disc set at Amazon.com and also at Target of YogaKids Fun Collection: Yogakids: From Silly to Calm and YogaKids ABC’s. It’s on sale right now at Amazon for $14.99


    We do this one at home. Saves me a few pennies doing it ourselves rather than paying for a class.

  8. ecemom says:

    Love yoga kids – actually just wrote a grant and had a yoga kids instructor in my classroom (preschool) for 3 sessions. We did the silly to calm. I too am part of a blog on a similar topic with a close friend – also on wordpress.
    “soovereverything” – feel free to give me advise on there as well.

  9. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Ecemom –

    I have to say, I’ve just read a few posts on your blog. I’m in tears.

    Hardly anyone reveals their own vulnerabilities when it comes to raising overexcitable kids (and husbands!) when you have your own OE’s to deal with.

    I have emotional OE’s and they flare up all too often. I will definitely be reading and commenting on your blog.

    You are so lucky to have a friend to share your trials and joys with. There is no one in my life I can really turn to in order to talk openly about these things.

    Thanks so much for sharing your blog with me. I just might have to do a post or two about your blog.

  10. Pingback: Wow…there ARE others struggling with their kids’ overexcitablities « Raising Smart Girls

  11. Jmh says:

    I have known about OE’s for a little while now as I came across the information while looking for help with a gifted toddler. I found this blog because I keep looking for coping strategies. My daughter’s OEs of imaginational and especially psychomotor really clash with mine – emotional and intellectual. I love to read and think but since my daughter started to crawl, walk, and talk I haven’t had a moment’s peace it seems! I was tearing up reading about the mum who posted that she uses earplugs. My hubby and I have started using the iPod to drown out some of the chatter but I have felt pretty guilty about it. I guess seeing that someone else is plugging their ears has made me realize that maybe it’s not our intolerance but actually a “fair” measure to take to keep sane. She’s nearly three. Any other coping strategies would be great to hear!

  12. Pingback: Day Nine: Psychomotor Readiness « Everyday Intensity

  13. kshuffle says:

    We have found family counseling (to reduce general tension in the home, and who can’t use that) and some supplements recommended by our developmental pediatrician to be of immense help. Valerian Root seems to work wonders in combination with Cal/Mag at night. But our son is also great in school, but similar energy outside of the classroom. And of course physical activity such as swimming and any playground time are fantastic. The other thing that might be overlooked is that they need some (but certainly not all) peers of the same energy to interact with.

  14. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thanks Kshuffle.

    Is your valerian root and cal/mag supplements in chewable form for your son? If so, what brand?

    I’m not sure, that even at 7 she’ll be able to swallow capsules, but it would be a great idea to get her some.

  15. tigerlilymermaid says:

    Golly, what a relief it is to find others with similar problems! I have only just discovered OEs through an Ed. Psych. diagnosing me with dsypraxia a fortnight ago – and it was him who led me to Dabrowski (apparently I scored highly on all five OEs).

    More to the point, it really explains so much about my G&T daughter (aged 12 in a fortnight’s time). She was always one of those children ‘on the go’ but it has got much worse of late (she skips up and down the lounge 24/7 – or would if I didn’t have to stop her; we live in a flat and the man downstairs periodically writes letters of complaint about the constant noise). I’m sure the main reason for my daughter’s *hyper* hyperactivity is lack of attention from me: I’m studying for my PGCE (teacher training), and the course is incredibly intensive. As a lone parent, this means my daughter is currently left to her own devices for much of the time.

    Forgive me if the answer to my question is already logged on this site (I’ve only just come across it and it will take me a month of Sundays to read all the various blogs; at least until this course is over): are your children conversely really exhausted when they’re not on the go? It’s been one of the ongoing problems for mine. I have no doubt she is dyspraxic too (we tend to break crockery once a fortnight between us; she had massive problems learning to skip, use scissors and tie shoelaces when younger – and would be in tears in the sack race – plus has a raft of other dyspraxic traits). Whereas some of you suggest physical and/or sporting activity for your gifted OE daughters, this tends to give us more problems, rather than solve them. Any suggestions would be gratefully received. (And apologies for the length of this post!)

    Many thanks :o)

  16. raisingsmartgirls says:

    In the warmer months, I would get her outside as MUCH as possible.

    Could you do studying while outdoors?

    Are there any natural settings around you, like a wooded area where you could go for a walk with her? The thing about Nature is that it is probably one of the biggest natural CALMERS of energy. It’s probably because the mind and senses are fully engaged with the elements of Nature. The effect of one hour in the woods lasts a VERY long time.

    There are other things that can be done for energetic ones…a mini trampoline is nice…she can jump on that instead of running.

    A dance class like ballet? Uses the full body and has a calming effect.

    I’ve already said yoga, so what about Tai Chi? You could get videos from Amazon about Tai Chi. Both of those are very quiet, slow moving activities. Would also help with self-regulation and self-soothing.

    Teach her or find someone to teach her embroidery, knitting, or crocheting. That stuff takes a LOT of mental energy and the hands are constantly moving instead of the whole body. Knitting and crocheting in particular has a rhythmic pace once you get into it. Tends to keep the mind busy but calms it down because once you get skilled at it, you fall into a calm state.

    If I can think up others, I’ll come back and post.

  17. Lynn Wegner says:

    HELP!!! My son is 9 and in 4th grade. Extremely bright (was in talented and gifted class last year at school). He has always had way too much energy. We had him tested for AD/HD and he has absolutely no attention issues. He does well academically in school (although could do even better if he applied himself). We just had his parent-teacher donference which completely focused on the fact that he likes to wander the classroom and talks too much (this has been an ongoing problem in school forever). His teacher this year is known as being “strict” and it could be a really long year. I came home frustrated and googled “fidgety boys” and lo and behold, I learned about Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities. Any suggestions out there to parenting a child who has the psychomotor traits and is extremely extroverted?

  18. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Lynn – I have a couple of ideas.

    First of all, gifted with psychomotor ovexcitabiliites can mimic AD/HD. It can also coexist with it.

    There is a great article about this very thing in the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum –


    AD/HD and Giftedness

    The question of misdiagnosis of the gifted has come to the forefront because of the disconcerting numbers of gifted children who have been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). Though many hypotheses have been offered, the reason for the high number of gifted children labeled AD/HD remains a mystery. Gifted children may exhibit AD/HD-like symptoms without actually having this disorder. Roedell (1988) refers to these children as “gifted but wiggly” (p. 9). The gifted absorb more information, process rapidly on many levels, have unusual energy, and often can do many things at once. Attention focused elsewhere—exploring the effects of a sunbeam or a mathematical relation or a fantasy world—may appear as inattention in an unchallenging classroom. The DSM-IV indicates that “inattention in the classroom may also occur when children with high intelligence are placed in academically understimulating environments” (p. 83, emphasis in original).

    Some children are highly active, extroverted, exuberant learners who talk rapidly and are always on the go, but their behaviors do not interfere with learning or social interaction. Acceptance of these traits is in part culturally determined. Behavior that might brand a child as AD/HD in Billings, Montana, could be the norm in Brooklyn.

    I have a few ideas –

    1. Instead of talking…can he write his ideas out? That way he won’t disrupt the class, but when he gets a great idea, he can share it when it’s appropriate? Maybe show him how scientists like DaVinci kept notebooks.

    2. Can he do any independent study? Whatever his latest passion is, can he somehow do work on it in class?

    3. You might try mindfulness meditation practices (The Mindful Child is a great resource), or Martial Arts, or Yoga. I think these things teach high energy kids positive ways to switch gears. I have a post I want to write about regarding using Mindfulness Meditation in children. Gifted people especially benefit from mindfulness techniques. It’s not so much about empyting one’s mind as much as it is mind-training. Paying attention to your breath and taking a 5-10 minute break from constantly being “ON”. Rather than attending to each and every thought one has (and sharing it), you can actually train yourself to sit quietly and not chase after each and every thought.

    4. Are there any acting courses he could take? Maybe if he’s got the gift of gab, he should have an opportunity to use his gift.

    5. Find mentors for him who’ll talk to him. He probably needs the synergy from speaking with others. If he doesn’t get his cup filled, he’s going to find it whereever he can.

    6. Volunteering gives kids a chance to learn things and talk to people who usually have a LOT of time on their hands (which is why they are volunteering). Next Spring the girls will be planting things in a community garden with a Master Gardener.

    7. Don’t laugh…let him teach himself how to zentangle. These are really, really intricate doodles.


    I know teachers dislike doodling and not paying attention, but this stuff is really engrossing, quiet, and requires a LOT of focus. Maybe when he has downtime and feels like talking, he can Zentangle instead.

    I can be quite chatty, unless I’m doing art. Zentangles are easy to learn, require few supplies (a very fine tipped pen, like Micon 0.1 and paper) and a LOT of focus.

    Okay, those are my ideas. They may not be great ones…but I know that I’ve used some of these practices to help me. I am an ambivert (I am introvert who likes to talk). I like to talk to people, I just don’t get many opportunities to since I’m a SAHM. I’ve had to find alternate ways to stimulate my mind so I wouldn’t go stir-crazy and start talking to myself. 🙂

    • Lynn Wegner says:

      Thanks for the suggestions. I was sooo happy to have you suggest the independent study. I have been suggesting that to teachers for 3 years and no one has taken me up on it. This year, I am pressing the issue. His teacher this year likes to plan a lot of work time into the students days so that they don’t have a ton of homework. However, what might take some kids 20 minutes, takes him 5 so he gets up and wanders around and visits (and then gets into trouble). I think giving him a project that he is excited about to work on after his regular work is complete could solve the problem. When he is interested in a topic, he will come home and read every book that he brought home from the library on the topic, etc. I think boredom and psychomotor overexcitabilities are a bad combination. I will keep you posted and thanks for the info!!!

      • raisingsmartgirls says:

        I think boredom and psychomotor overexcitabilities are a bad combination.

        Make sure you don’t use the “B” word with the teacher. They tend to not like that (even if it is true).

        What does your son think about it? Does he like the idea of independent study? My kids prefer to do things that are THEIR idea, rather than mine (even if I think it’s a pretty decent idea).

        Here’s some other ideas – for gifted kids in the regular classroom (I don’t know if your son is still in a GT class….you just said he was last year) with pros and cons…


        Here is what is said about Independent Study Projects

        Work on an Independent Study Project

        This option is recommended as a supplement to the regular curriculum, but it is not meant to be a substitute for curriculum compacting and proper pacing. Students can use their time to investigate a topic on their own with the teacher’s guidance, or perhaps that of a community mentor.

        Has your son done any above age testing like the EXPLORE test? My daughter’s gifted teacher recommended that the students take the exam to find out more accurately where they are. It’s a test designed for 8th graders going into high school, but it’s ALSO used to differentiate curriculum in GT classes.

        It could be that your son really is working at a much higher level than the teacher thinks.

        Good luck.

  19. Lynn Wegner says:

    I have hit a stumbling block with the classroom teacher on the independent assignment. My son really wanted to do a study about something related to football. OK so not my first choice academically, but I am of the belief that you can take any topic and channel it appropriately to make it more educational. Football is his passion these days. I checked out a book about Aaron Rodgers from the kids section of the library and he read the entire thing in about 20 minutes (the minute it was in his hands he didn’t put it down). Anyway, I suggested to him that we pick 3 of his favorite players and then take notes about their values, character traits, etc (not just football stats) and then do a comparison/contrast project on what makes these players successful (which by the way is also a valuable lesson for any child to learn). The talented and gifted teacher followed up with me about the project and was completely on board with it. She loved how I expanded the topic into something that was of more value than stats and also had the language arts exercise woven into it. So today I get the email from his classroom teacher saying, “He can learn about football on his own time at home. I really want his project to be an extension of whatever theme we are studying at the time”. I was really irritated. First of all, the problems we are having are twofold: 1. During worktime (not lecture time), he wanders around because it might take him 5 minutes to do his sheet but the teacher has given the students 20 minutes. 2. He talks during work time and interrupts other students while he is walking around. His teacher had no plan or suggestions at his conferences at how we could remedy this situation. She kept telling us that she wanted J to be part of the solution and wanted to know what we suggested to get this behavior issue turned around. Now she is basically shooting down my suggestion without even trying it because she sees no value in it (even though the TAG teacher did because of the way I structured it). Also, I outlined to her that this project would involve NO work on her part. I was willing to do all the leg work with him (get the library books, help him search the web, make a note taking outline so he would investigate things of value, etc.) When the other kids in the class finish their homework sheets, they pick out a book of their choice and read, etc. All I am asking is that he be allowed to do an educational activity on a topic of HIS choosing and she shoots it down before we even try it? I chose NOT to respond today because I want some time to really think through how best to handle this with the classroom teacher (and I was far too annoyed to respond in a productive way to her). I also have a few good teacher friends both at J’s school and in the district that I feel I can discuss this with and ask them for guidance in how to respond to her (without alienating her and making things worse). I talked to my cousin tonight who has been a teacher for about 25 years and she completely understood my frustration with this situation. I understand that my son is probably a handful in the classroom because he is also a handful at home too. I have also come to recognize that some of the traits that make him a difficult child are also valuable traits to have as an adult (and are common in highly successful adults). I think I will need to say the Serenity Prayer before I speak with her!

  20. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Lynn –

    That does seem very frustrating. With an attitude like that, the teacher will crush your son’s desire to go above and beyond in the future. It sounds like your teacher is being a bit controlling. It seems really absurd to me that he’s using his downtime constructively and she’s complaining about it? In my humble opinion, if he’s done in 5 minutes and he’s got 15 minutes left, that should be HIS time to do with as he chooses as long as its not disruptive to the classroom, not hers. But I tend to be a non-conformist.

    Then again, if I were to play devil’s advocate, aren’t you doing the same thing? Shooting down HER idea before your son even tries it?

    That’s something to think about. I do understand her point of view.

    Be glad she isn’t just handing him more worksheets to do. What about taking whatever topic at hand and working on a diorama, a model, a book report, designing a book jacket (I did that in 6th grade once, it was fun) on the material she wants him to go deeper on? There’s got to be something fun he could do.

    Here’s some ideas from Prufock Press about Modifying Curriculum in the Regular Classroom


    here’s a link with other links to help with extending lessons

    Byrseed Gifted:


    Sounds like another conference might be in order.

  21. Lynn says:

    I had a great chat with a teacher tonight from my son’s school. Her son is also in my son’s class and the boys are friends (she is also experiencing some frustration with what she sees in that classroom from a teacher’s perspective: i.e. LOTS of worksheets (versus hands-on activities) coupled with really strict discipline standards. She gave me some good tips and totally got where I was coming from. I WILL be requesting her next year! In the meantime, I am going to suggest to the teacher that perhaps we try both approaches: an extension of the classroom topic AND then a round of his ideas. I think that it is fair to see if one of the ideas has better results than the other. If she objects to that, well then I have a feeling I will really be questioning whether she has my son’s (and other students) best interests in mind. By the way, I happened to speak with a mother of a girl in that same classroom. This girl has “the gift of gab”. The mom shared with me that she felt like crying at the teacher’s conference. Not all teacher’s are created equal but neither are bosses, etc. Such is life! Sometimes the lesson to be learned is how to make the best of a difficult situation.

  22. Sounds fantastic!

    Oh, and made me think…dealing with difficult people is an important skill to learn

    Here’s some articles you might be able to adapt.



    And old adage comes to mind: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Building rapport with difficult people, is difficult, but NOT impossible. I make a habit out of befriending the most difficult people…for the challenge of it. And I have been pleasantly rewarded with some really deep friendships.

  23. Soraya Sus says:

    We do. She is 5 about to be in November and since she was an infant she has been restless and seeking constant attention. She is very smart, speaks fluently 2 languages and a bit of a third. She understands a lot of everything, asks very interesting question but she is always defiant, pushing our buttons, fights going to bed, she argues and negotiates everything we tell her to do. It is extremely interesting, amusing, loving but I CANNOT keep up with her demands!!! and we have 2 girls, not just one. SI am so happy to read your blog and this post. AT least to know there is nothing abnormal about her and to give me ideas on where to look for ways of dealing with her. My instinct has save me many times from making the wrong choices for her. Now she will be in a Charter Public School that focuses on Arts. We do a lot of drawing/painting at home and they do enjoy this, from there many things have derive…tons of stories and pretend play…and endless imaginations that allows them both to be whatever they want to be. I am certainly looking forward to read you more and learn from your experiences with bright minds.

  24. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Soraya, thanks for your comment. It’s nice to to find some commonalities with our children like this. It makes parenting a child like this less lonesome.

    I’ve been a bit lax about posting lately. I will have some new posts hopefully soon. School just started and my second daughter made it into the advanced program at school. In third grade, it’s a gifted cluster in a regular class, not a self-contained class like the 4th grade gifted class.

    I’m sure I’ll have some discussions about the differences in instruction there.

  25. Amanda says:

    Being gifted, the best way I can explain it is this; everything, I mean absolutely everything, is extrmely intense. Sound, touch, emotion, smell. You name it. I still to this day can’t study in most of the rooms in my house- the AC is too loud. It makes me all panicked. I can’t stand the texture of lima beans- but I love how they taste. I have to hold my breath around smokers. That’s equally as true with energy, to both extremes. Being in high school, I wake up at 5 am on weekdays. I usually end up going to bed around 2 or so. Natrually, that leaves me exhausted beyond reason. Solution? Go to bed earlier? Tell me, have you ever attempted to get 8 hours of sleep starting at 10 in the morning? That’s what it’s like for me. I very rarely sleep late, either. Meaning, I bounce between exhaustion and hyperactivity two or three times a day, at the most inconvienent points in it. Stress? Absolutely. Too much. Taking all advanced courses is a combination of simple and impossible. Hence, my next point: duality. It’s very hard for gifted children to hold steadfast opinions, due to a flood of empathy. But then, we also can be very close-minded. We tend to think we’re right. A lot. So when you kids start doing crazy things that have SEEMINGLY logical answers, remember to try to think like a very stubborn toddler. That’s usually about how overwhelmed we are. We often act mature, so fits seem out of character, but we DO feel very deeply about most things. So, fits? Normal. We’ll cool off in a while. Just let us do it OUR way. To us, your way is strange, ineffective at best.

  26. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Hi, Amanda,

    Many gifted individuals turn to things like mindfulness meditation and/or Yoga for this reason, or alternately, to Nature. Something about Nature being so much bigger, even with overexcitabilities, it still seems to be calming.

    I take my girls out in Nature as much as I can. And we’ve done a little yoga. We’ve also tried some guided meditations, but with mixed results (for now, my middle daughter’s is only 10). We’ll keep trying, though. It definitely has helped me a great deal. =)

  27. Bernadette Littlewood says:

    I loved reading your post, and i too was in tears. I have three boys 8, 5 and 3. All have physical OE and the eldest definitely has intellectual OE. The youngest we are yet to discover ( although he is already reading three letter words and sounding out) but my middle boy, I think, has physical, intellectual, emotional and sensory OE. I have spent his Kindy year arguing against the idea that he has Aspergers, which he doesn’t. He is over empathetic and sensitive and has a very advanced social awareness, which doesn’t translate to his behaviour in school, which is shy, awkward and a little quirky. He too controls his behaviour (largely) in school which is currently part time but at home, if you didn’t know better you would think he had ADHD or some similar difficulty. The other thing I have taken from your post is the reference to impulsiveness because it is the one part of his behaviour I have been told doesn’t fit with OE. His impulsiveness is always a result of sensory over stimulation (noise, someone being too physical and touchy) or emotional (someone being unkind or him accidentally hurting someone. ). I look forward to reading some more of your posts and especially how people cope with sensory and emotional OE. These cause us most problems because of the impulsive behaviour they lead to, and the fact that I have two other children. It can make life very hectic and stressful. Having said that love the fact that our walk to school usually involves some kind of discussion about world affairs or environmental issues, politics, or Science, some kind of discussion about a theoretical situation and what would happen (if a polar bear met a tiger, or a king met a pirate-Mr 5) and some kind of bizarre game where we find our way by echo location!!

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Thank you, I’m glad my post resonated with you.

      Yeah, I’m not sure who you are talking to who says impulsiveness has nothing to do with giftedness/OE. If you look up “impulsivity and overexcitabilities”, they are always linked under psychomotor OE’s. There is this powerpoint that distinguishes the traits of distractibility and impulsivity/distractibility of giftedness versus those traits in ADHD. There’s differences in cause and how much it interferes with functioning.

      Click to access Misdiagnosis_UBH.pdf

      Specifically pages 8 and 9.

      If your son has sensory issues, that would definitely contribute to problems. And yes, having three girls, my middle child who had the sensory issues and selective mutism also has OTHER traits of giftedness, like rigidtity, perfectionism, and a strong sense of right and wrong and fairness that has challenged us along the way.

      Your son sounds wonderful…

      About the Asperger’s versus Giftedness…you can look at this checklist to see if either one fits him better

      Click to access %CB%86x-Giftedness-Asp.Dis_.Checklist.pdf

      I think gifted + sensory issues can look like Apserger’s, but it doesn’t mean it IS Asperger’s. There are distinguishing characteristics.

      I hope this helps…


  28. Bernadette Littlewood says:

    Yes the lady we spoke to is a very highly thought of child psych but she does specialise in ADHD and Autism. We were trying to prove to school that he doesn’t have either and she does actually agree. Thank you for the links, i will look them up. All evidence necessary to avoid an incorrect label is useful, and it is so nice to read about other people who have the same issues as us. It is so good as I have been beating myself up about his behaviour but really cannot see what I am doing wrong, no one is perfect but I am not a bad Mum. Even though I know this I still struggle with the disapproving looks when he has a “moment”. I now have some of your recommended books on the way to me and am hopeful that we can find some strategies to help calm our house and make it easier for me to take all three out in the holidays without the stress. Since reading this I am seeing more and more sensitivity in my youngest too. He over reacts to bumps, is very touchy and has to have his whole body against me when he cuddles, doesn’t like crowds and strangers and is very particular. if something isn’t to his liking in the process of say, a nappy change he will get up and start the whole process all over again. I have three boys who are all exceptionally bright and all have amazing gifts, each is different in their over excitabilities and sensitivities which makes our home a challenging place for me, but also we are on an awesome ride of discovery. One of our favourite lines is “Quirky is a side affect of awesome!” I think I may have to have it put up somewhere in our house as it sums up my kids to a tee.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Have you heard Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on Changing Education Paradigms? He also talks about how ADHD is being overdiagnosed these days.

      There is a book out there called The Myth of the ADD child – 50 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. You don’t have to buy the book, there’s a powerpoint presentation here:

      Click to access 50%20Strategies.pdf

      I can say that my daughters had a hard time when other kids misbehaved around them. They didn’t act up at school, but when they came home, they certainly acted up or melted down at home. My daughters are kind and compassionate, but when other kids were bothering them, it affected them deeply.

      You also have to remember that your children are still young yet. My youngest is just 8, the middle daughter (the one who had selective mutism) is 10, my oldest, 12. Middlest daughter’s behavior is very different now at 10, then it was at 5, or 3.

      Don’t let the school label your child if you have evidence from an outside professional to counter it.

      I will tell you, from being a substitute in the schools, my ADHD kids, underneath their “labels” are some of the most creative, most interesting of my students. Are they challenging? Yes, and no. They are a challenge to engage, but ONLY because no one has ever tried to meet them where they are at and they get little understanding. I think a lot of times, teachers make things worse for these kids instead of trying to make their lessons engaging. By the time these poor kids are in the middle grades, after years of being punished or ignored a lot, they often get more oppositional, not less so. But I’ve found, a lot of these are starving for positive attention and recognition of their strengths. So when i have a child like this in the class, I make it a point to give them some positive attention or responsibility. I’ll let them tell a few jokes, or do a little dance (gosh, my ADHD kids in middle school LOVE to dance) for me. When I take them seriously, and treat them with genuine interest, they seem to want to behave for me. I had this one kid who I’d made sure I gave him positive attention even when I saw him in the hallways. I wanted him to know I genuinely LIKED his spirit and his energy.

      So, yes, it’s so important that we don’t see these kids as a collection of labels, but as whole children, with strengths as well as weaknesses. And then focus more on the strengths. Too many times we focus too much on what’s going wrong, and not on what’s going right with these kids.

      I know my middle daughter still has her moments, but it’s better than it used to be, when she’d meltdown 3-4 times a day. She gets overwhelmed from time to time still, but I make sure the basics are covered. Is she hungry? angry? lonely? tired? Any of those things could still cause a problem, but then again, it causes a problem for me, too. Is she overstimulated? Bored? These, too, will cause a problem. and they’d cause a problem for any child, or adult.

      I wrote a post called hyperfocused, yet scatterbrained you might like to read. This was in reference to ME, not my kids.


      And I think, from that same article in the post above

      “One who manifests several forms of overexcitability, sees reality in a different, stronger and more multi-sided manner” (Dabrowski, 1972, p. 7). Experiencing the world in this unique way carries with it great joys and sometimes great frustrations. The joys and positives of being overexcitable need to be celebrated. Any frustrations or negatives can be positively dealt with and used to help facilitate the child’s growth.”

      And that’s the key – dealing with the frustrations or negatives in a way that promotes connection, not breaks it, and helps them grow and manage their intensity.

      • Bernadette Littlewood says:

        Thank you so much. This has been quite a week for me! There has been so much useful information, the answer to several years of searching. I have printed out the links you sent about the difference between Aspergers, OCD, ADHD etc and over excitabilities and am going to have them ready highlighted for the new school year next week. Thanks to them I now feel sure I am on the right track. I have discovered that I can see a lot of this in myself too and it is helping me to recognise when I am getting over whelmed and need to take a breath before we start to get into a downward spiral of behaviour. It is also making me more aware of the need for patience with my little ones hatred of dirty hands and my middle boys obsession with socks and the slightest thread or grass seed on them. This morning we had the beginnings of a meltdown at the pool. I realised something was building and took them home. Once in the aircon it all settled like flicking a switch. He was over heating. I have also glanced quickly through the other link you sent this morning about changing behaviour and tips for helping them calm themselves. So many excellent ideas. He is already dairy, soy, and gluten free therefore we make everything ourselves and have a basically additive and sugar free diet. I am really looking forward to trying visualisation and self talk with him. I have already tried a little visualisation and he is very receptive to it. He requests it. Also some children’ s tai chi or yoga or similar. I will remember to introduce them one at a time. Again I have to watch that trait in myself to over do it. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing to excess is completely me.
        It has been amazing to me to read about other people who are having the same issues and so comforting. I am now ready to start the new school year with a refreshed sense of purpose, and to lay to rest the incorrect labels that are floating around, even more important as I know the school have already looked at my three year old and noticed the same traits as Mr 5. Thank you for reminding me of the awesomeness of my family and that we have the gift of seeing the world and experiencing it in a way many people never will and that that is not a syndrome or disorder, but as my husband says gifts with side effects.

      • raisingsmartgirls says:


        I’m so glad I can be of help to you in this way. I was searching for the same information for my daughter, myself and a friend of mine a while back,

        I definitely agree with the Tai Chi or Yoga. We have one DVD set at home, but I’m thinking of getting another set because the one I have is for kids ages 3-6.

        There’s also meditations for kids – books and audio CDs/MP3s. That would not be a bad thing to incorporate at some point in time (later, though, you have a lot of good ideas already). Some of those use a lot of visualizations…and they can listen to it themselves.

        I started different kinds of meditation myself since I can get quite overwhelmed too. I’ve had a lot of my own issues to deal with, too, that have nothing to do with my daughters, but how I was raised (I grew up with an father and step-father who had alcoholism, and my mother who was a narcissist). It’s been very helpful for me to use meditations to help me heal my own childhood stuff alongside helping my kids. I’ve used some of the same tools they’ve used. =)

        And oh, yeah, we had the dirty hands issue for a while. For the longest time, she refused to wipe herself because, you know, it’s icky. She does it just fine now…but it took a long while. About the obsession with socks. Do you mean he likes socks, or do you mean the seam of the socks bothers him? You can buy seamless socks, but I’m not sure where. You could google it. There are times when the seams of socks bothers me too (only when they are REALLY annoying thick), so I totally get that.

        These are some of the things we’d used at home for dd.


        oh, and also, since your sons as they grow might get interested in science experiments, we’ve done some fun things you might check out at my science blog
        The Exploration Station.

      • Bernadette Littlewood says:

        They are massively into science already so I will check out the link. The eldest is fascinated by formulas, like he one for photosynthesis, and has a massive knowledge of animals, particularly Marine Biology. Even my middle boy knows a lot. We were continuing a discussion from the eldests extension group at school about what would happen if it rained carrots. We did all the usual, no plants would grow, it would be hard to walk on etc. Then we got into the realms of the silly for a bit with tin hats for birds and metal umbrellas. Mr 5 had been listening up until then and very quietly said ” that would be no good because you often get lightning with rain and a metal umbrella would conduct electricity!!” We were all astounded. Then we got onto fish and whales and whether they would need a hat and the effect of water on the pull of gravity. I love our walks home from school. Just thought I would share one of my favourite anecdotes. Thanks again.

      • raisingsmartgirls says:

        It sounds like you guys are a lot of fun and very imaginative. It’s way fun when the kidlets come up with great ideas, isn’t it?

        The girls and I go on nature walks all the time. It started out with nature walks around the neighborhood, but I ended up getting a family membership at a local arboretum and we go 3-4 times a year. Once a year we go to a state park that has small canyons in it and walk around. it’s a lot of fun for all of us.

        There was one time when the girls and I went outside after a hail storm and picked up some pretty good sized chunks of hail. I really need to post pictures on my science blog of that. It was really interesting the different types of hail we collected. We even put some in our freezer to keep for a while….

        We’re hip deep in science fair projects. Two of the girls have them due by Wednesday. One is almost done, the other, is so NOT done.

  29. Becky says:

    Love reading your post, I have a 13 year old who is the epitome of what you describe, diagnosed with ADHD and treated with various meds over the past five years. None seem to actually help, they either blur her out, intensify her energy or nothing at all. She has lost so much weight due to these meds. I often feel quite guilty bc my brain just can’t keep up with hers and I simply just have to say be quiet. Patience is not a virtue I was gifted with, lol. My girly has big dreams, of being an oncologist and finding a cure for cancer, has a giant heart and loves intensely. Her little mind seems to be on overload all the time and I think about cartoon characters when smoke comes from their ears. Psychomotor over excitability sounds just like her, I will definetly be following to see how we both can learn to cope.

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