A gifted individual is a quick and clever thinker, who is able to deal with complex matters. Autonomous, curious and passionate. A sensitive and emotionally rich person, living intensely. He or she enjoys being creative. -definition of giftedness written by the Netherlands Study on Giftedness in Adults

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's Not All About Intellect... Or Is It?

This is the fifth and last in my series about Dabrowski's over-excitabilities - Intellectual OE. 

This is probably the most notable and most identifiable in a gifted learner - the quest for knowledge. It goes beyond being smart - it is a thirst that is never quenched, an all-consuming effort that takes up more than brain power, it takes whole-being power. The gifted person has to learn. They will shrivel up if they stop. Too frequently, that is what happens at school when a child is not given the appropriate learning environment (for whatever reason - maybe not having been identified as gifted, possibly focus on another difference such as a 2e diagnosis, or perhaps a child needs more radical differentiation that isn't available). 

I've seen it happen - the shriveling. The kidlet's school decided that he was "smart enough" that he didn't need to be taught. "He'll learn it on his own," was the refrain I heard over and over again from his teachers. He went to that school for three years, and I saw him progressively shrivel. With each passing month of not being stretched, he become less flexible with his interests, and less willing to try something new (not that trying new things has ever been a strength of his - he has always needed to KNOW he could do it before he "performed" for someone else). He hasn't learned academic resilience - having not been challenged to push himself beyond what he already knew. As he become more resistant, the school tightened their grip. It was the wrong way to go. His behavior progressively worsened, and school turned into playtime with his friends - not a place to learn. The past three months that he was in school, my husband and I joked that this was really expensive babysitting (it was a private school) - until we finally pulled him out and decided to homeschool - at least for long enough to undo some of the poor work habits he picked up along the way. 

It's just like in your body - if you stretch yourself regularly, your muscles loosen and can move in so many directions with strength and agility. But if you don't use them, muscles tighten, become rigid and inflexible. Even the lightest workout will hurt. Because you're out of practice - and that's what the "brain muscle" needs, too! It needs to be stretched, pushed lightly and then with more rigor... it needs MOVEMENT!! 

I've seen it so many times with him - if his intellect is not stimulated, the behavior goes downhill quickly. But engage him in something interesting, and you will see all of those characteristics - you know, the ones that people love to put labels on - dissipate and almost disappear. So, in that sense I do think it's all about intellect. The other four over-excitabilities described by Dabrowski certainly make their mark on the gifted learner - in different ways and to different results. But it's the intellectual intensity that serves as the task-master, the internal drive that governs the rest of the person. This is what makes the gifted learner so distinguishable from their high-performing peers. 

At least, this has been our experience. 

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