Gifted Overexcitabilities: Psychomotor Intensity

You've seen these kids before. Children with psychomotor intensity have a an overabundance of energy--constant movement, anxiety, difficulty with impulse control, high energy, rapid speech. They need action.

They can become workaholics. They can be competitive. They can have nervous tics, even trouble sleeping. It seems like they have an internal motor that is constantly running. On high. All. the. time. Chances are, if you have had a child like this in your classroom, you've also seen them labeled "ADHD." And while there are some children who most definitely have attention problems, there is this other group of people with the psychomotor OE who have been misdiagnosed. It's important to understand the differences and seek out which of these is most fitting for the child in your life with psychomotor intensity.

The ramifications of having a child with psychomotor intensity in the classroom can be quite challenging, as you can imagine. After all, a typical classroom with 20, 30, even 40 students in it relies on kids' ability to be quiet, sit still, and listen. Having a child with psychomotor OE can prove disruptive, distracting, and downright frustrating at times. Conversely, it important that we remember that having an intensity like the psychomotor overexcitability can also be a good thing! These people have drive. They have a competitive spirit. They have so much energy that can be channeled into GREAT things!

There are many children in my teaching experiences who most certainly fit these descriptions. They were my wiggle worms, my passionately outspoken, energetic worker bees! They expressed their emotions with their bodies--literally jumping for joy! Positive or negative--there wasn't much guessing needing to be done when they were experiencing their feelings! Having children with psychomotor intensities in the classroom can test even the most tolerant teacher's patience at times.  However, once some simple modifications are made in the classroom working space to accommodate childrens' needs for movement and expression, these children can be happy, productive members of any classroom community!

Here are some things to consider implementing:

  • Let them fidget with something. Let's face it, they're probably going to be doing it anyways, so why not acknowledge their needs, and give them permission to do it? 
  • Allow them to stand and work. In my classroom, I had a rule that anyone could stand, as long as they weren't blocking another student from seeing. This applied for our group instruction time, independent work time, you name it.  The benefit of allowing all of the students to do it meant removing any stigma that could be attached to these kiddos who need more movement. Plus, don't all of our students need a little more movement in their daily school lives?
  • Provide opportunities for breaks and serious movement, if needed. was my go-to website for "Brain Breaks."*  I was also fortunate enough to work in a school that had a kind of par course set up at different intervals around the school. So if I had a child who needed more action than what a classroom brain break would provide, I would send him or her out to do a lap or two through the course. 
  • Consider allowing students to chew gum. We had school rules against gum chewing, but there were some students with whom I made special arrangements (I got permission first, of course). There was a culture of fairness in my classroom (in the truest meaning of the word--my students understood deeply that different learners need different things in order to make them successful), so I never had issues with jealousy regarding using the gum chewing as a tool, or any other intervention for that matter.  
  • Try to build in some time for spontaneity in your classroom. This is something that will not only benefit your psychomotor OE kid, but the rest of the students in your classroom as well.
*If you haven't checked that website out yet, I urge you--DO IT! It's great for energizing activities, but it also has activities meant to calm kids down as well. My students loved it. They loved it so much that we had to come up with a strategy for determining which students could be the "DJ" each day. I'll have to write about that on another day.

Thanks for reading~


1 comment

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