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Understanding Intense Children (and Adults)

Updated on June 30, 2018

One Form of Intensity: Long-Distance Running!

Unfortunately, Intensity Scares "Normal" People

What is Wrong with Me?

Gifted children are often described as "too (fill in the blank)" by teachers and the other adults who interact with them. At last, some researchers and educators have delved into the phenomenon of the intense child and found that intensity often accompanies unusual cognitive gifts. To the gifted individual, intensity is a normal state of mind they need to learn to manage, not something to be "cured."

Why is My Child So...Intense?

Children with cognitive gifts may see, hear, or otherwise perceive things that others around them either don't perceive or habitually ignore. Their inability to filter all that extra information may sometimes overwhelm them and cause them to react in ways "normal" children would not. They are not trying to be difficult; rather, they are overloaded with information and have a passion to process it all.

Over time, parents can help children develop coping strategies for times when their senses overwhelm them. For example, a white noise device may block some of the sounds that make a child unable to sleep or think clearly. A child with touch sensitivity might find a particular brand of shirt that is not "too scratchy" or "too soft." It can be like Goldilocks and the Three Bears until you get things "just right" but the effort will reap rewards as the child is better able to stay on task without distractions.

Benefits of Intensity

Intensity can be a positive thing. Einstein was intense, as were Beethoven, Martin Luther, Patrick Henry, J.S. Bach and many others in fields as diverse as music, physics, religion, and politics. Intensity needs to be nurtured and focused with the help of sympathetic adults who care enough to learn how the gifted mind works. This excellent book is a good start!

Note: By "normal" I mean "neurotypical" as in thinking like most people think.

From "Living with Intensity"

"The gifted...expect society to think in complex ways, as they do." page 79

Recent Research into Autism, Intensity, and Empathy

Henry and Kamila Markhram of the Swiiss Federal Institute of Technology have theorized that children with Aspergers or other autism spectrum disorders may not, as has been thought, lack empathy. Rather, they may experience emotions so intensely that they shut down because they cannot cope with the intensity. Their study sounds plausible to many parents and teachers who have experience with such children.

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