Gifted Overexcitabilities: Intellectual Intensity


Deeply curious, avid reader, loves problem solving, insatiable desire for knowledge, ability to concentrate for extended periods of time on one task, not satisfied with surface-level answers to questions, analytical, able to synthesize information readily, asks a seemingly infinite amount of questions.

Sound familiar? Then perhaps you've met a gifted child with Intellectual Intensity.

This is the fifth and final part of my overexcitabilities series. You can read an overview here, and you can find out more about the other four intensities (sensual, emotional, imaginational, and psychomotor) in earlier blog posts as well.

If you consider the intellectual intensity, you may think that this OE is fairly obvious, right? If a child has been identified as cognitively gifted, it would make sense that they have intellectual needs beyond their typically developing peers. As with the other overexcitabilites, though, this intellectual intensity is a marked departure from a child who is bright or gifted without this particular OE taking the spotlight. 

A child with the intellectual OE has a mind that is constantly working. They not only enjoy thinking and learning, but they also love thinking about their thinking (metacognition). They also spend a lot of time thinking about moral and ethical issues, which is why it's not uncommon for children with this intensity to be the justice-seekers in your classroom. It can be truly amazing to observe these minds in action.

It can be difficult to keep with the intellectual needs of a child with this OE. They can absorb new information faster than you can get it in their hands. They can test your patience as a teacher with the sheer volume of questions they have. They will question choices you make in your classroom or home if they feel you've made a decision that doesn't align with their own moral compass. They can also be critical of people who can't keep up with their rapid thinking. (Ahem...sorry mom and dad!)

There are some important things you can (and should) do in your classroom or home to help these children thrive.
  • Show them that you understand! Acknowledge their intensity--validate this very real thirst for knowledge, and help them focus on the positive aspects of this OE
  • Help them answer their own questions when you can't. Teach intellectual OE kids how to research, and then provide time for them to do it. In the classroom, it can be as simple as setting aside 10 minutes of time (especially when you're introducing something new) to allow the child access to a computer or book on the topic. 
  • Help them use their precepts to make a difference! In my classroom, we did a variation of the popular 20% time that Google had once offered it's employees. Children were provided time in class each week to work on a project of their choice. I looped with my students, so in the second year of doing this in my classroom, I changed it slightly--kids could still work on a passion project, sometimes referred to as "Genius Hour" (I didn't call it that because of my feelings on growth mindset and praise--to be covered in a future post!), but this time they had to learn something that could have a positive impact on someone. Maybe it was just one person, maybe it was our gifted classroom, perhaps it would be something to impact the entire school, community, or the world. The projects were wildly engaging, motivating, and awesome, if I don't say so myself! I used Kid President's videos as motivation to launch our projects. Here are a couple:


  • Help kids to monitor and filter their reactions towards other people when they find others' ideas frustrating or silly. 
  • Help the child set up a system of setting and tracking progress toward learning goals. I did this in my classroom on a small scale, by graphing pre- and post- assessment data with students. They really loved seeing their progress in a visual representation. 
Here are some great resources for further viewing:
Please check out my other posts, linked above, for more information and resources about the gifted child and Dabrowski's Overexcitabilities. 

Here is a handout I created to give to parents or other teachers--a cheatsheet with info from all my posts on Gifted OEs. Click on the image to download your free copy!



Thanks so much for reading! 
~Jen


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