You may wonder what giftedness could have in common with sensory processing issues. You may also roll your eyes when you hear the term “gifted,” as it is an imperfect term to describe someone with heightened cognitive ability. However, despite the sometimes negative associations people have with the term “gifted,” many are surprised to learn about the many struggles that often go hand in hand with giftedness. One of the most accepted definitions of giftedness for those who work with the population was developed by the Columbus Group in the 1980s:

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (The Columbus Group, 1991)

One main point in the definition is “asynchronous development” which describes children whose social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development do not always match up with their age. For example, a 10-year old may seem several years older intellectually, age-appropriate socially, but much younger emotionally and physically. The second main point focuses on heightened intensity that creates inner experiences and awareness that are different from the norm. These intensities were described by Kazimierz Dabrowski, (1902-1980), a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, as “overexcitabilities.” Overexcitabilities are innate intensities resulting in a heightened sensitivity to stimuli. Dabrowski identified five areas of intensity: Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional. A person may possess one or more of these. You can read a good description of all five areas of intensity here, but the one most relevant to Ovis and sensory processing issues is the sensory overexcitability. Children that experience this have a stronger reaction to input from all five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. This can result in a child who can’t stand tags in clothing or buzzing lights. The child may have very strong negative reactions to smells (she may notice that the milk is about to spoil before everyone else does), or the taste of food (like Ovis)!

If you suspect your child might be gifted, a great place to learn about giftedness traits is here. This way, in addition to helping your child with her sensory sensitivities, you can learn if there are other interventions that will be needed to help her develop optimally.

Good luck!

—Christine Tuccille Merry

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