Quirks of the Gifted Brain

June 1, 2016

by Nicole LaChance, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

The gifted brain is a unique place. In fact, it is so unique that many of the complexities of giftedness are still not fully understood. Still, there are some common quirks that have been identified as being associated with the gifted brain.


Dambrowski identified five overexcitabilities that he believes are strongly connected to giftedness: intellectual, psychomotor, imaginative, sensual, and emotional. These overexcitabilities give gifted individuals some of their unique traits, but can also make it hard to function within a traditional classroom environment.

Psychologist Carrie Lynn Bailey noted in Overexcitabilities and Sensitivities: Implications of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration for Counseling the Gifted:

A challenge for gifted individuals is that they can often be viewed negatively, or pathologically, particularly in educational settings.”

So how do you deal with a gifted child with overexcitabilities? An article from the California Association of the Gifted suggests a combination of teaching stress management techniques, ensuring clear verbal and nonverbal communication skills and creating a comforting environment can help gifted children manage their overxcitabilites.

Social and Emotional Vulnerabilities

Many gifted children are very emotionally sensitive. A passing comment that may seem harmless to you can be crushing to a gifted child, who could internalize and overanalyze it. Because of their high-sensitivity, gifted children often perceive others to have a lower view of them than they actually do, leading to social issues, such as interacting and bonding with their peers and teachers.

The article “The dark side of being the ‘gifted’ kid”  highlights the extremes of gifted social and emotional issues. It notes that many gifted kids live in a world that doesn’t fully understand them, leading them to feel isolated and lonely. The author suggests gifted students should learn in environments that focus not just on their brains, but also the “fragility of their hearts”.

(Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page has a plethora of resources on the social and emotional lives of the gifted for further reading.)


Twice-exceptional children demonstrate both giftedness and a learning or emotional disability, making them the most under-identified group in today’s schools, according to the National Education Association. These students are often forced between choosing programs that serve their giftedness or their disability. Consequently, they are often underserved.

This “quirk” of the gifted is often difficult to diagnose even by professionals. SENG notes that even those in the gifted community have trouble imagining a gifted child with a learning disability. Luckily there is a growing awareness of 2e and, as a result, more resources available on serving these children.

If your child has been diagnosed as twice-exceptional or you expect they may be, the 2e Newsletter has some helpful tips for serving 2e students.

Although we still don’t understand everything about the gifted brain, identifying the quirks and giving students, parents and teachers the tools to deal with them is a win-win for everyone.

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Nicole LaChance graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Journalism before moving West in pursuit of milder winters. Prior to joining the IEA team, she spent time working in marketing for an architecture firm and completed two years of national service in the AmeriCorps program. Over the past few years she has worked with nonprofits to communicate their message and impact to the world around them, work she is excited to continue at IEA. When not at the office, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling wherever she can and making bad puns.

This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop Mysteries of the Brain. Please click the image below to keep on hopping!

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