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The Story Is Only The Beginning

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. —Ursula K. Le Guin

The approach of summer traditionally means many things, such as more leisure time to read, watch films, and spend time with family.

We’ve all read books or watched films and television programs that profoundly spoke to us. The power of story offers intangible gifts that go far beyond setting, characters and plot. Story importantly acts as a mirror to our own selves, selves that are sometimes readily recognized, sometimes not. Through our imaginations, we are transported to other worlds on paper or screen where we become more than simple spectators, and more aligned and emotionally invested with the actual struggles, hopes, and outcome of the story arc.

The development of self-identity is tied into shared personal life experiences, and some of those shared experiences come also from the experience of well-made stories. We have all read picture books to our young children that depict values we support. We all encourage our older children to read more complex books and watch films that express ideals in which we believe. Children too seek out their own stories and films and television programs for both entertainment and self-validation and self-identity. Gifted children, already keenly aware of many of their own feelings, empathic to the feelings of others, and frequently exquisitely emotionally sensitive as a result of Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities, cautiously traverse a sometimes difficult landscape in seeking out stories that resonate in their hearts and minds.

The difficulties are complex. Many gifted children read at a very early age, and even if some do not, gifted children early on may fully comprehend the nuances of language and context, while loving the beauty in the written and spoken word at a level well beyond their age-peers. Finding age- and sensitivity-appropriate books and films and programs is an ongoing struggle for parents who themselves are also likely to have similar sensitivities.

Parents and teachers may both feel confused when a gifted child either refuses to read (or watch) a particular book (or program) that age-peers rave about. Perhaps unrecognized by adults is that the gifted child may experience fear, sadness, or horror at events that occur in the story, and as a result may be less likely to read (or watch) anything for a time after that. These events underscore to a gifted child their self-belief that they are different or somehow flawed.

Yet the importance of books and film for gifted children (and adults) cannot be emphasized enough. Through the use of appropriate books and film, gifted individuals satisfy a hunger for language and human connections that they may not experience in regular intervals in real life. Gifted individuals often feel the loneliness of being different and finding inner strength through the themes of story that may have characters similar to themselves validates that it’s okay to be gifted, and in fact that it’s way cool to be gifted, despite contradictory feelings they may sense from society.

Stories don’t just entertain. Stories empower. Story is a crucial component in serving the social and emotional needs of gifted individuals. At the end of this article are important links to further reading on this subject, as well as links to Web sites that offer synopses of books and film for parents to use when choosing appropriate materials for their highly sensitive gifted children.

This topic is especially important to me as I continue my ongoing journey of parenting a gifted and creative child–now a teen–who remains deeply sensitive to story. Besides reading a variety of wonderful books together, viewing the series Star Trek is but one of our cherished shared family activities. The science is a definite draw, but as I now re-watch Star Trek The Next Generation, I’m continually impressed by what I see as character traits and conflicts that are also the same as those experienced in depth by gifted individuals. Picard’s leadership yet humbleness and willingness to let others lead, Data’s android logic yet deep humanity, Worf’s adherence to justice, honor and tradition yet difficulty with controlling anger and intense feelings, Wesley’s precocious knowledge yet developing maturity (and sometimes immaturity), Riker’s ambition and self-assuredness yet deep fear of moving his career forward, and Deanna’s empathy for others to the point of physical pain while sometimes being blind to her own needs. What too of La Forge who, while limited by his visual apparatus to not see the world exactly as others do, sees that which ordinary people cannot ever hope to see. And then there’s troublesome Q, the Borg, poignantly lonely Tin Man (Gomtuu), and so many others. Problem solving, risk-taking, ethical behavior, teamwork, high ideals, intelligence, curiosity, progress, and the acceptance of diversity all shape not just the series, but also our best-loved books and films.

Characters and story that help gifted individuals recognize and accept self, and develop coping skills while learning to conquer fears, serve not just the gifted individuals but also all of humanity. Read to your gifted children of all ages. Watch film and programs with your gifted children. Let them choose their books and films with your assistance until they can choose them themselves. Try to understand and acknowledge that the experience of story is not just entertainment, but a life-saving transfusion of hope, self-awareness, and human connectedness. Be available when gifted children wish to share in these activities and discuss how books and film affect their lives. Our gifted children can then build the scaffolding of their own unique real-life story atop a firm and safe foundation of powerful universal stories.

In the memorable words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard: “Make it so…ENGAGE.”


Nurturing Social and Emotional Development in Gifted Teenagers Through Young Adult Literature (Hebert & Kent)

Fostering the Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children Through Guided Viewing of Film (Hebert & Speirs Neumeister)

Using Books to Meet the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Children (Halsted, author of Some of My Best Friends are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers):

Halsted, J. (2009). Some of My Best Friends are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers. 3rd ed. Scottsdale: Great Potential Press.

Using Bibliotherapy With Gifted Children (Tamara Fisher)

Bibliotherapy Revisited (Tamara Fisher)

Kids-In-Mind Film Synopses

Commonsense Media Reviews of Film, TV, Books, and more

—-Reprinted with permission: SENG [May 2013]—-

The First Duty Of Love Is To Listen

“The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich

Confession…I’ve made mistakes as a parent. But who hasn’t? Maybe I was naïve to think that when my son turned five and we enrolled him in kindergarten, all would be filled as I always imagined with lovely memories of school buses and in-class parties and warmth and friendship.

OK. It didn’t exactly go that way.

My son was so excited about school. We’d spoken about all the things he’d learn and do. He had been a voracious reader for quite some time, and was looking forward to meeting the children and his teacher. He loved drawing pictures of himself, his image smiling with the precious, awkward pencil strokes of a young child. One eye slightly larger than the other, large hands and thick fingers spread out to catch life with full force. Oversized clothing with irregular pant lengths. Feet turned in all directions, heading out at top speed to see everything the world had to offer. That’s my son. An intense and awesome presence. He was never one for naps, and would sleep so deeply at night that a fire alarm could go off unheard. His hunger for learning was like a human Pac-Man, devouring everything in his path. When he was hungry for food nourishment, the shovels needed to come out or else a meltdown was soon to occur.

How could a school understand all of my son’s needs?

We began kindergarten that crisp day in September, my son eagerly running for the classroom and leaving me unbearably alone to face my separation anxiety. He’ll be just fine, I thought, better than me. But he wasn’t fine. In the weeks that followed, I was told that he didn’t sit for circle time, wouldn’t follow bathroom line-ups (once even suggesting that the teacher not block the middle of the hallway, and instead stand along the edges like the children), and he was said to interrupt the teacher when she was reading her morning list from the white board (this I witnessed myself, as my son proudly wanted to read aloud the teacher’s list for the entire class). “Sit down”, he was told. No kindly pat-on-the-back at break-time for reading a magazine about foxes to his classmate who had a disability.

My son’s demeanor was changing. At home he began to look anxious, and wanted to practice sitting in a circle with me, perhaps thinking he could gain the love of his teacher if only he tried hard enough. He no longer ran so fast to the classroom in the mornings.

“Have you thought about attention problems? ADHD?” the teacher would ask me repeatedly. By then, my son was a regular in the principal’s office, and was often tapped with the job of classroom cleanup. My son wanted to learn something. Anything. My district offered nothing. No gifted pull-outs, no acceleration, no funding, and no identification. I advocated with my every breath. “Be happy that your child can relax and not need to learn anything this year,” we were told.

This was not what my son envisioned. His in-school behavior worsened. His at-home behavior changed. It was then when I made my mistake. I became angry – not at the school, but at my child. “Why can’t you behave?” I said, over and over. One could, in retrospect, see him grow visibly smaller and smaller. I didn’t yet know my options. I felt helpless. I felt I was letting my child down.

Then the answer suddenly spoke. The voice was at first hushed, peeking out from an unexpected place, so I strained to hear. Remember when I said my son loved to draw self-portraits, all free and alive and ready to pounce out of the paper? Those drawings continued. But now they changed. Why didn’t I see it before? His lovely self-portraits still had the endearing misshapen eyes, the haphazard feet, the odd garment arrangements, but now something so heartbreaking was apparent – my son no longer had any arms. Nothing past the shoulders.

How could I miss this? His drawings blared as if I had a megaphone to my ear. They shouted, “I do not have any control over my life. I can’t do anything.“

Listening, I immediately had the answer. I took him home. His arms returned to his drawings. We are now in our eighth year of homeschooling. It wasn’t my child that was a misfit; his particular school situation was a misfit. It wasn’t ADHD; it was educational misplacement.

While homeschooling worked for us, homeschooling isn’t a cure-all. Many schools and passionate teachers do indeed beautifully accommodate the intense needs of gifted children.

Being open to all possibilities works positively in the child’s interests. Being a strong advocate for your child is essential. Pediatric clinicians are under-utilized resources to help parents advocate. Meanwhile, it is crucial for both parents and pediatric clinicians to be knowledgeable about giftedness and twice-exceptionalities.

Does my child have any other concerns I need to address? At this point, I cannot say, but I’ll listen closely if and when they happen, and together we’ll deal with whatever comes along.

If I have any regret, it is that I did not listen to my child sooner.

—-Reprinted with permission: SENG [July 2012]—-

Where Does A Pediatric Doctor Fit In The Care Of Gifted Children?

I wear two hats: One—as a pediatrician. The other—as a parent of a gifted child. To be honest, there are days when neither hat fits comfortably, if at all. There are days when my medical knowledge just isn’t enough to understand my child, and other days when being a parent hasn’t always provided all the answers.

Can there be a synergy of these two roles?

Gifted kids do not suddenly become gifted on the first day of Kindergarten, nor are they gifted only during school hours. Most, if not all, parents may admit they felt hunches about their child’s abilities well before school age. Some parents may have even had concerns or questions about their child’s giftedness during these early years, yet they didn’t always know to whom to turn. Raising a gifted child can at times be a lonely and demanding journey for parents, and growing up as a gifted child is frequently fraught with challenges. Reaching out for an understanding voice may be difficult. Thus, many parents seek out organizations like SENG, as well as close friends and family members who can offer advice and support.

A sometimes overlooked individual who is ideally positioned to offer parents advice and support is the child’s medical doctor. These doctors may be pediatricians, family practitioners, naturopaths, or other allied health professionals. Many happy parents already find great comfort and advice from their children’s doctors, though others, for a variety of reasons, do not. Some parents may never have broached the subject of giftedness with their child’s doctor, considering giftedness not a medical issue, or feeling that discussing giftedness is marked with elitism. Doctors may feel likewise, and avoid the topic altogether. Some parents may also recall uncomfortable conversations with their child’s doctor or a previous doctor when giftedness was bought up, then quickly dismissed, and that made them hesitate to ever again discuss the subject. Some doctors, upon hearing about a child’s giftedness, may simply respond with “That’s wonderful. You must be lucky to have such an easy child to raise.” Argh.

By the time a child is five years of age, a child has typically seen his or her pediatric doctor a dozen times for healthy visits. With an average physical exam lasting twenty minutes, this amounts to four hours of face-to-face contact in those first five years, then one visit per year thereafter. Each visit is an opportunity – or missed opportunity – to address social, emotional, and developmental issues.

But is it important that pediatric doctors understand and address giftedness?

Medical doctors diagnose and treat a wide variety of acute and chronic medical conditions. Most are highly trained to do their job. Lectures and study about giftedness are not routinely part of the curriculum in medical training programs, yet giftedness can often play a significant role in the health and emotional well being of a gifted child. Reports indicate that doctors usually perform developmental assessments only 50% of the time, and these assessments primarily look at children not meeting the minimum standard developmental milestones. Many parents may be equally unaware that there is no specific pediatric medical record code (ICD or DSM) for “gifted.” Most doctors are compensated by the codes they indicate in the medical record. Having no specific medical code, many doctors, already overworked and pressed for time, have little incentive to discuss giftedness further.

When a child’s gifted needs are not served, the result can be expressed in a physical or emotional symptom. Many gifted children may experience bodily complaints as a result of a mismatch in their educational situation, or due to an unfulfilled emotional or social need. Stomachaches and headaches are common school avoidance symptoms. Eating disorders can be a result of poor self-esteem. Depression and suicidal attempts may result from feeling different or isolated or even bullied. Sensory intensities and the asynchrony of gifted children may be exhibited in extreme ways, sometimes making diagnoses difficult for those without knowledge of giftedness, and resulting in incorrect labeling of the gifted child. In other cases, a medical condition or learning disorder may almost completely hide one’s giftedness, as is seen in many twice-exceptional gifted children.

When worrisome health issues present at a pediatric doctor office, and if the doctor has a strong background knowledge of giftedness, he or she will be better positioned to understand and differentiate the symptoms from signs of giftedness, thus resulting in fewer misdiagnoses and fewer inappropriate medical treatments. If a doctor remains unsure of a presenting diagnosis, strong background knowledge of giftedness will still make it far easier to appropriately make any needed referrals, thus finding quicker answers for the parents and child.

Pediatric doctors are drawn into their careers by the thrill of working with children. They are among the most beloved of medical practitioners, and they do not take the privilege of caring for the youngest among us for granted. Many doctors are also gifted, and may understand the developmental paths of their gifted patients. They can be lifesavers for many parents who are anxious and exhausted by the enormous responsibility of raising these intense and complex children.

At the same time, many parents do not feel a need to discuss giftedness with their child’s doctor. Some parents feel able to be their own strong supportive advocates for their gifted children, and may also be gifted. Their children may have many friends who are gifted, and the stages of growing up are less bumpy, and more balanced. The personal need to discuss giftedness with one’s pediatric doctor in these situations may diminish.

But can parents do something to help make their good interactions better, or to improve their unsatisfying interactions, or even to help other more needy gifted families?

If parents of gifted children want or require more from their child’s doctor, they do not need to let the status quo remain. They may open an active dialogue about giftedness if they are aware that a doctor’s time is limited. Parents can slowly begin a conversation by staying focused on exactly what is needed at each particular visit, and to concisely articulate any specific questions.

Other suggestions for both parents who are already satisfied with the support they receive, and also for parents seeking greater support, include:

· Do your homework ahead of time when asking about topics such as testing, evaluation for a learning disability, consulting for depression, or other specific situation or information need.

· Consider asking your child’s doctor if he or she would be willing to allow an informational sheet or brochure to be posted in the office waiting room for other parents. SENG has several brochures, including one made in collaboration with NAGC called “Is My Child Gifted?”

· If needed, gently offer to educate your doctor about giftedness by putting together a brief typed listing of gifted resources such as SENG, NAGC, Davidson Institute, Hoagies Gifted, online parent forums such as GT-Families, TAGFAM (and its associated subgroups), and your state gifted association. If your doctor approves, you may offer to post the list on the waiting room bulletin board.

· If you have a supportive doctor, consider asking your doctor if he or she would be willing to run a local community support group for parents of gifted children. Possibly even suggest having the doctor train with SENG through the SMPG program.

· If you are or become quite comfortable with giftedness, you, too, may consider training as a parent facilitator through SENG and the SMPG program, and then offering your services for other parents of gifted children within your local area.

· Again…start slowly. Very slowly. Consider not just the needs of your child, but also the needs of other families like yours in your community. Some parents may not even be aware of organizations like SENG, and may be highly appreciative of any and all information and support. Start a grassroots gifted revolution!

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”- Mahatma Gandhi

Cultivating a satisfying relationship with your pediatric doctor in ways that fulfill the unique needs of you and your gifted child can be a warm ray of light upon everyone involved. No other professional has the potential to participate in the developmental course of a child for a longer time period. While many pediatric doctors already serve a vital role in the support of the gifted child, there is much more that can be done so all gifted families have similar support. If a professional such as a doctor truly appreciates, understands, and is available to offer advice when the road to adulthood becomes challenging, it can be life changing for a gifted child. By taking an active role in the cultivation of this relationship, every parent has the potential to play an important role in improving the lives of not just their own children, but all gifted families. Start a grassroots gifted revolution!


Amend, E.R., & Clouse, R.M. (2007). The Role of Physicians in the Lives of Gifted Children. Parenting for High Potential, September, 6-9.

Goerss, J., Clouse, R., & Webb, J. T. (2008). Health Care Providers Know Little about Gifted Children. National Psychologist. 16(2),12.

Hayden, T. (1985). Reaching out to the gifted child: Roles for health-care professions. New York: American Association for Gifted Children.

Liu, .Y.H, & Lien, J. (2005). Discovering Gifted Children in Pediatric Practice. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 26, 366-369.

Robinson, N. M., & Olszewski-Kubilius, P. M. (1996) Gifted and talented children: Issues for pediatricians. Pediatrics in Review, 17(12), 427-434.

Webb, J.T., Amend, E.R., Webb, N.E., Goerss, J. Beljan, & Olenchak, F.R., (2005). Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.

—-Reprinted with permission: SENG [Jan 2012]—-

This Holiday Season Consider The Hospital Experience of Gifted Elders

As we in the gifted field – parents, educators, clinicians – work to improve medical professionals’ support and understanding of gifted children, we must be sure not to overlook the needs of our gifted elders.

Gifted children become gifted adults. Gifted adults, in turn, become the gifted elderly. One thing is certain: the gifted do not outgrow their giftedness. But who are the gifted elderly? Earlier this year, the incomparable Annemarie Roeper reflected upon her own life as an octogenarian in “Growing Old Gifted.” You can read other articles on the experiences of gifted adults by Deirdre Lovecky, Stephanie Tolan, Helen Prince, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

The U.S. population is aging, and the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that currently one in every eight citizens is age 65 and older. In the next decade the number of elderly is projected to increase by almost 40 percent. Today most elderly live independently, and, on average, one-third live alone. With increasing life expectancies through the benefits of lifestyle changes and medical progress, many elders (gifted and otherwise) will remain active and vital all their lives. As family matriarchs and patriarchs, they will dispense valued wisdom and tradition to their families. The influence of family elders is brought prominently to the forefront for many people during this end-of-year holiday season.

Not all elderly enjoy a smooth life journey. Due to a variety of health factors, the elderly comprise upwards of one-third of all hospitalizations. If percentages of gifted are equivalent across the lifespan, three to five percent of these hospitalized elderly are gifted, accounting for close to three-quarters of a million hospital stays for gifted elderly per year. While very reasonably equipped to address the specific issues surrounding medical care of the elderly, physicians do not typically have any body of knowledge that addresses the gifted elderly’s unique needs.

The elderly – as a whole – are frequently far more sensitive to medications, drug interactions, and the risk of hospital complications. With a lessening sense of smell due to aging, many elderly also have reduced appetites and resulting weight loss, placing them at further risk. Hearing and vision impairment may make communication of needs far more difficult. Some elderly are also the primary caregivers for spouses with complex health conditions, and therefore are themselves at high risk for stress-induced health issues. Mental impairment, as a normal result of aging or a progressive condition like dementia, can make a variety of cognitive issues even more challenging. For gifted elders, their giftedness can be a two-edged sword, presenting them with a greater long-view of life and interconnectedness, while also leading for some to increased anxiety and frustration at the changes which come with aging and ill health.

What unique needs and/or strengths can medical professionals in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities look for in the gifted elderly?

· Self-Awareness: The gifted typically have a deep sense of self-awareness and sensitivity that may assist them in the normal process of aging and their journey of life. Gifted elders may fully comprehend and accept the idea of their own mortality, but if not surrounded by loving friends and family, they may be at risk for existential depression. Dr. James T. Webb has written an excellent article about this issue.

· Spirituality: Many gifted individuals have a strong sense of spirituality originating in childhood. This may stem from the sense of being interconnected to all people, and sometimes to all living things, in a timeless universal journey. A wonderful article by Joy Navan addresses this topic. While some gifted individuals remain spiritual their entire lives, others return deeply to the spirituality of their youth only once they are elders or have experienced a significant turning point in their lives.

· Overexcitabilities (OEs): The intensities of gifted children, while sometimes managed to some degree during the adult years, may return again in full force in the elder years as a result of a variety of issues that may affect their mental and emotional states. They may be easily and quickly frustrated. These OEs can lead to strong conflicts in healthcare settings where they are not properly supported or understood. Some gifted elders never fully control their OEs and may have life-long struggles adapting. Try to understand conflicts you yourself may have with your own gifted elders, and ask yourself whether OEs may play a significant role in misunderstandings on both sides.

· Independence: Many of today’s elders lived their formative years during the period of World War II. They grew up in an era when education, careers and job security, and home ownership were common goals. The gifted elders often were persistent and determined in reaching any and all of the goals they set out to achieve. Some of these elders, as a continuation of their childhood desire to be autonomous and in control, may have a particularly difficult time dealing with health issues that require hospitalization and/or skilled nursing home placement. Gifted elderly may insist on independence even when it is medically contraindicated. They may question medical authority, striving to become experts in the knowledge of their health status and prognosis in a desire to maintain control.

· Motivation: This can be a strongly positive and powerful trait, if it encourages a gifted elder to follow recommended medical advice in order to recuperate quickly. However, one can imagine this same trait to be a detriment if the goal the gifted elder sets differs from the medically recommended goal. In situations where there is no quick or easy cure nor even a positive prognosis, the gifted elders may need to look deep within themselves for strength and courage. The Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) may play an important role in helping gifted elders to adapt to these life-altering emotionally painful times. Learn more about TPD by reading this article by Sal Mengalio.

· Curiosity: Gifted elders frequently continue learning throughout their lives. In healthcare settings, supporting this hunger for learning may be limited. Gifted elders who lack intellectual peers or are required to stay in a hospital room – sometimes alone for many hours – may experience deep loneliness. Hospitals and nursing homes are beginning to become more aware of the need to encourage brain and emotional health in the elderly through a variety of means, including physical activity and creative outlets. Healthy emotional states can assist in bringing out the child-like, exuberant personalities of many gifted elders, and allow their sophisticated sense of humor to shine.

What can families do to help gifted elders in hospitals and nursing homes?

· Support the gifted elder’s health conditions that may be misunderstood. Alert the medical staff to the non-obvious weaknesses of the hospitalized elder. A gifted elder who can self-advocate can be an enormous benefit. Some of the weaknesses may include hearing and vision deficits that are not always readily recognized, especially in patients who are admitted for a mental disorder such as dementia. Lack of normal patient-staff communication may mistakenly be thought to be a result of dementia, not the failure of the medical staff to properly address the hearing and/or vision deficits.

· Support the gifted elder’s need for mental stimulation. Do not hesitate to bring copies of favorite books and newspapers and DVDs to the hospital or nursing home. Often the choices given to patients are not the stimulating material the elder prefers. Make sure the medical staff is aware of the need for mental stimulation, as well as periodic one-on-one conversations and physical activity whenever possible when family cannot be present. Large-sized crossword puzzles and other mental-stimulating games as well as art supplies are enjoyed and cherished by many elders.

· Support the gifted elder’s unique food and allergy needs. Discuss food and environmental allergies with the medical staff, and ask if food can be brought in from home whenever possible. The gifted population suffers from a higher degree of allergies than the general population, and this may contribute to a greater number of in-hospital drug-related sensitivities as well. When a hospitalized patient becomes agitated or anxious, the tendency is to treat with pharmaceuticals, even though the drug risks may be increased in gifted elders. Treating the source of anxiety and depression may better support these gifted elders before pharmaceuticals are considered. Family has a right to insist that any non-emergency drug changes and additions be discussed with the family before initiating treatment.

· Support the gifted elder’s spiritual needs. If a gifted elder practices a form of spirituality or religion which is not commonly supported in the healthcare setting, request that a practitioner in that realm be able to visit with the gifted elder whenever possible. Meanwhile, be aware that hospitals do offer daily visiting clergy and often have in-hospital chapels.

· Support the gifted elder’s overexcitabilities. Discuss with the hospital healthcare provider the issue of OEs in the gifted elder. Request that lights be turned down or off at night if possible, that soft blankets from home be brought in if acceptable, that night-time checks with complete vital signs be kept to a bare minimum, and that elders be permitted to wear some of their own clothes whenever possible. The effects of hospital-induced psychosis frequently persist even after hospital discharge, so maintaining a light-dark 24-hour cycle is important.

· Support the gifted elder’s cultural background. Seek out hospital volunteers and staff who share specific cultural backgrounds with in-patient elders who are being treated for mental or emotional disorders. Relating to “same” can be enriching to these gifted elders.

· Support the gifted elder’s risk of hypoglycemia – reactive and otherwise. Some gifted elders, in part due to loss of weight and muscle mass, may again experience issues of hypoglycemia. This may lead to falls and mental status changes. Alerting medical professionals to the gifted elder’s need to maintain glucose levels through frequent meals and snacks can make the difference between a stable and an unstable patient. In my own gifted elder father, I have seen remarkable stabilization of dementia symptoms if he consumes high-energy food at a regular schedule. Hospitals serve food at set times, and patients may miss meals or refuse meals at those specific times. Insisting on some flexibility with meal times, and the addition of snacks when medically permissible, can avert any low glucose issues. Furthermore, inadequate food intake can worsen adverse drug reactions. Protein foods may be limited in elders due to diminishing kidney function, so maintaining stable glucose levels to enhance brain functioning can become a challenge.

· Support the gifted elder’s desire to share in the bigger outside world. Many hospitalized gifted elders prefer to hear about the goings on of the world, family, and friends rather than to stay focused on their own ill health. In a hospital setting, one can become too caught up in the issues of illness. The OEs of gifted elders may lead to further introspection and possibly anxiety if all the attention surrounds their own health. Come to the medical facility with stories and experiences to share, apart from their own issues, to help guide these elders back into the outside world.

· Support gifted elders by being there for them. Hospitals are increasingly over-crowded and medical staff over-worked. Being able to play an active role in personally assisting the hospitalized gifted elder does wonders to increase recovery and speed discharge home. Nursing homes are likewise over-crowded, and the staff is not always readily available to assist nursing home residents in appropriate ways. Sometimes there is no option outside of nursing homes, though frequently home health visits can provide more meaningful and supportive care in an environment where the gifted elder feels more in control and productive. If nursing homes are inevitable in the future of a gifted elder, thoroughly interview the facility beforehand to understand how the unique needs of your gifted family member will be supported.

This is the December holiday season. Let this time of year be joyful and let us extend the feelings the entire year round. Share your hearts and time with not just your own gifted elders and family members, but also consider spending time at local nursing homes. Consider donating gifts of books, DVDs, art supplies, and challenging games to the geriatric wards of your local hospitals. If your gifted elders are fortunate to live at home, make a point to spend as much quality time with them as you can. Uncover family history to pass on to future generations. Share traditions of the season. Push aside misunderstandings and conflicts. Come to the realization that we all are deeply interconnected, that time is both a precious commodity and a remarkable gift, and that we all have crucially important roles to help each other through this most mysterious journey that is LIFE.

Happy Holidays to all of you and may your families bring you peace, joy, and a lifetime of happiness.

Additional Readings

1) Life in the Balance: A Physician’s Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia by Thomas Graboys, M.D. (Union Square Press, 2009)

2) The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Ph.D. (Hyperion, 2008)

—-Reprinted with permission: SENG [December 2012]—-

The Anxiety Pandemic

All around us our country and world are in turmoil. A deadly viral pandemic. A widespread lockdown. An economic downturn. Growing unemployment. Police brutality. Racism. Protests. Violent riots. Divisive politics. Ongoing war.

The media focuses on these crises, playing up the turmoil to the boiling point.

Behind the scenes, getting far less attention, are children and youth who are living in poverty, or in dysfunctional families and neighborhoods, or suffering abuse and neglect, witnessing death and violence, many struggling and fearful in dangerous schools, or living under extremes of pressure to succeed, while growing up anxious and without hope or understanding.

Gifted Education International [GEI], a SAGE peer-reviewed journal, recently published an article of mine entitled, “Anxiety in today’s children and young adults.”

From the abstract:

“This paper addresses the growing crisis of anxiety in today’s children and young adults. It further elucidates specifics associated with gifted children and youth. It describes the issues surrounding anxiety, the risk factors, the complications, and known treatment modalities, while offering further treatment and coping suggestions that may be useful in our increasingly stress-filled world.”

Our children and youth need our focus. Their mental health is at stake. Their sense of stability is shaken. We must be a light and a helper in these uncertain times. Adults also need to assess and attend to their own level of stress. No one is immune to this anxiety pandemic.

Information may provide useful tools to help protect ourselves and our loved ones, lower anxiety, and increase hope and understanding in our uncertain world.

You may link to my GEI article at:

For more information regarding anything contained within my article, please write to me at this CONTACT ME link or via the link the top-right corner of this page.

You may also download an unformatted copy of the article – for PERSONAL use only – HERE: Unformatted_GEI_Anxietyarticle_Kuzujanakis.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”Frederick Douglass

Words That Inspire 19

This week begins Children’s Book Week. While that’s a fantastic thing, it begs the question:

Why doesn’t EVERY DAY celebrate books and children?

Stories are what carry us through our lives. The stories we are told, the stories we tell. Stories passed on through families, generation after generation. Stories we hear and see and read that resonate with what it is to be human. What it is to be a part of a greater whole. What helps us cope and thrive and give back to others.

For those who know me, either in person, online, or via my blog, know that I’m a strong advocate for children, for children’s books, and for reading aloud to children. No matter how busy life becomes, parents must NEVER forget the crucial role books and reading aloud play in laying a firm foundation for young children.

And since no two people are identical, no two people have the same preferences for books. The same is true of children. Try out as many books as possible with young children to see what they love and want to re-read over and over. Seeing more diversity in today’s children’s books also helps to engage more and more readers. Plus don’t forget the classics, they are classics for a reason.

Read wide and deep with young children of ALL AGES. Read myths, fables, and fairy tales. Read stories that rhyme, stories that don’t, stories without words, and long stories that takes days and days to finish. Watch films that visually tell stories.

But more than anything, spend time with your children…EVERY DAY. Tell your children your own stories. Then embrace the HEART of why you tell stories when your growing children tell you theirs.

Common Sense Media [great place to find book and film recommendations]

NYPL 100 Children’s Books/ 100 Years

ALA’s List of Caldecott Winners

ALA’s List of Newbery Winners

Words That Inspire 18

And as National Poetry Month heads to a close in the upcoming week, a question still remains…What Is Poetry?

Academics and practicing poets for generations teach about form, syntax, alliteration, consonance, meter, rhyme, and stanza (to name a few). But terminology often renders objects from the viewpoint of being clinical and isolated. But poetry is anything BUT.

Poets and artists of all persuasions have tried to define poetry, often to much difficulty. Like scientists trying to define biological life or religion trying to define spirituality, the definition of poetry is in the eyes (and soul) of the beholder.

Carl Sandburg: “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”
Pablo Neruda: “Poetry is an act of peace.”
Leonard Cohen: “Poetry is just the evidence of life.”
Vincent Van Gogh: “One can speak poetry just by arranging colors well, just as one can say comforting things in music.”

The truth may be that poetry, in all its power, transcends words on paper. As someone who experiences synesthesia (see my post entitled “Number Six Burns Like An Orange Flame”), colors and numbers and letters and musical notes seem to cross paths with one another. No poem therefore can be simply made of words on paper, nor a painting simply pigment on canvas, nor even a symphony the auditory input received by the inner ear.

BBC’s Doctor Who program (a favorite show of mine), wrote an episode on Vincent Van Gogh, where it expresses how this artist saw the world in a much more complex way than most. A deeply and emotionally poetic way, I dare say. Here is the section that speaks to me most:

Perhaps poetry more than anything else is a state of emotion, whether it is obtained through reading the written word, hearing a concerto by Bach, engrossed in the music of a favorite singer-songwriter, or mesmerized by paintings that seem to transport the viewer to another dimension.

Yet can we further apply the word POETRY to describe historic architecture? A gorgeous sunset? A mathematical equation? An act of kindness? Some have described these things precisely in terms of poetry.

Where do we draw the line between poetry and beauty? Especially when both terms are in themselves difficult to define. Do we need to draw a line? Perhaps we can be more like Emily Dickinson and define poetry by saying, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”

I vote in favor of broadening the definition of poetry. Let poetry, however you define it, feed your soul. Celebrate ALL the poetry in your life!

Words That Inspire 17

Boredom. We abhor it as if it were the flu. Or try to swat it away like we may a house fly. An unwelcome guest. A burden….But is it?

To be in a semi-inactive mental state while at the same time physically or emotionally restless describes somewhat how it feels to be bored. In today’s phone/internet/social media connected times, one would think boredom was an infrequent guest. But too much sensory input often poses as much (if not more) of a risk as too little input.

Taken objectively, boredom is simply a message. While there are many actual types of boredom (see my older post entitled “Boredom: Is Resistance Futile”), all types of boredom are reaching out to tap you on the shoulder to say “Hey, LISTEN!”

Boredom also has a fascinating history, as this wonderful Smithsonian article “The History Of Boredom” explains.

There are real benefits to our thinking and state of mind if we pay attention to boredom. The answer is not to solve boredom by removing it, but to just listen to what the boredom is trying to tell us. Perhaps we need a new goal, or a creative outlet, or an outside inspiration from nature or from someone else’s own life experiences. What we definitely don’t need (and take notice, parents)….is someone to tell us exactly how to solve our boredom. The solutions must come from within.

Too often students today are over-scheduled with homework and extra-curricular activities. A significant price is paid by the loss of pure downtime for the brain, the time needed to recharge and allow the brain to intuitively engage in creative thought. And not just creative thought, but also the process of making meaning of one’s life. The deep work of philosophy in the search for life’s meaning.

Of course too much downtime can be equally negative, and a significant risk factor in destructive behaviors and potentially resulting apathy. We forget that everything in life can be interesting and important to the the person who finds it so. We are made richer as a peoples by fully welcoming in our community both diversity of thought and diversity of interests.

So the answer to boredom may be a simple one. One we’ve been inadvertently denying many young children and students. The idea of autonomy. Everyone wants (and needs) the ability to freely follow their own interests. As a parent who homeschooled my child from kindergarten to college, I had the privilege of seeing first-hand how autonomy in even the youngest of children can unleash the positive power of boredom into the growth of a wide range of passions and interests, and ultimately happiness and life-long learning.

Simplifying life through the process of embracing boredom in the proper doses sure has a sneaky way of enriching life. So as a first step, consider undergoing a digital detox after reading my older post entitled “Disconnect To Reconnect” and be sure to welcome boredom into your life.

Words That Inspire 16

We are not all that different from trees.

Carbon-based. In need of light and nourishment. Mostly living in communities and communicating in our own languages. Battling the elements as we attempt to develop resilience. Yes, we are much like trees.

Yet perhaps the most important factor is…RESILIENCE. What is resilience and how can we develop it? Resilience is the ability to adapt to adversity, trauma, tragedy, and threats. Through resilience, we grow stronger, and more able to handle future stressors.

Such is it with trees. We see their wounds, gnarls, and scars, and admire their ability to strive towards sunlight and drink of the earth. They endure bitter cold, and blistering heat. They gift us with gorgeous shades of green and brown, some offer blossoms and fruit, and some shower us in rainbow colors in fall.

Many people are just like the trees. They suffer, they bounce back, and they give generously of themselves. In many, we can’t even see their scars. Their scars are on the inside. They are living human trees. We can learn a lot from them.

What makes a person – or a tree – grow resilient? What are the dangers that may prevent resilience?

Much study has been done and continues to be done in the field of resilience, as well as the effects of toxic stress and acute childhood events (ACEs) on children. To learn more about ACEs, I highly recommend The Resilience Project of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Childhood is the best time to instill the skillsets necessary for developing resilience. One easy to remember theory that I like is that by Kenneth Ginsburg, MD in his book BUILDING RESILIENCE IN CHILDREN AND TEENS: GIVING KIDS ROOTS AND WINGS.

In his book, Dr. Ginsburg describes in depth the SEVEN-C’s of Resilience.

  1. COMPETENCE: Building on children’s strengths, individuality, self-empowerment
  2. CONFIDENCE: Honest praise, growth mindset
  3. CONNECTION: Safety, security, healthy relationships
  4. CHARACTER: Development of morals, values, sense of unity with the human family
  5. CONTRIBUTION: Purpose, contribution to the whole of society, generosity
  6. COPING: Learning to deal with failure, stress
  7. CONTROL: Teaching that most outcomes are largely a result of good vs. bad choices

Now imagine again the tree. Striving for light and nourishment. How it seeks to survive in a complex world. How it copes. How it empowers itself to draw from the Earth. How it learns from failure, sometimes shifting its roots and branches in other more promising directions.

Like the trees, our children need enough room to grow, enough room to “spread their wings”. But most importantly, our children (like the trees) need sturdy roots. For without roots, no nourishment can be obtained. Parents are important components of these roots. We need to feed our children and grow their roots with unconditional love (light) and constant encouragement (nourishment).

Each and everyday.

Then…Watch them grow as fulfilled individuals in strength and in resilience.

ALSO: For more on how to help children cope with differing situations, consider these older blogs of mine here:

“Helping Parents Help Children In Traumatic Times” [on gun and other related violence]

“Right Here With You” [on death]

“Once Upon A Bedtime” [the roots we build by reading bedtime books with children]

Words That Inspire 15

Tick Tock…Tick Tock…

It’s less than TWO HOURS from the release of the Mueller Report. All eyes are on the outcome. Half the country believes the President is innocent of collusion and obstruction. Half the country wants him tarred and feathered.

How did we get here? How did this country become so divided? Why is the expectation that should the Mueller Report fully vindicate the President, there will be riots in the street and a continued disbelief in the report?

As a life-long liberal, and advocate for peace, I can no longer abide by the hate of the Democratic Party. The use by their members of symbolism to claim their moral superiority is tainted and wrong. In the not too distant past, there was outrage (and most rightfully so) to immediately associate a hoodie and a black individual with nefarious behavior. Now, it’s become a given to associate a Trump red hat with white supremacy. It’s become a given to associate the US flag with racism and all that is wrong in the country. It’s become a given to associate half the country (those who support the opposing GOP party) as lesser humans. Bigots. Sexists. Racists. Uneducated.

We now sit at a precipice where half the country (those opposing the President) will be strangely aggrieved and outraged if the President is found innocent. Who could possibly even want one’s national leader to be found guilty? This doesn’t bode well for our democracy nor our future.

These acts of moral indignation against the President and the GOP political party did not just come from nothing. They were fomented by big money and political power. And these acts are not just intermittent. The hate has been continuous since election day 2016. Protests (many violent), attacks against administration members, and attacks against citizens. Friendships have dissolved, as have marriages. Feuds between family members are a common occurrence. Jobs have been lost.

I come back to the question…How did we get here? And more importantly, will the US survive such divisiveness? How much could Congress and the Administration have accomplished in these nearly three years if they worked together for the American people instead of locking horns?

If the President is vindicated, will Congress now work together with the President to accomplish legislation? Or will they, as they’ve already indicated, continue their search for a person (that is, the President) to fit a crime?

Whatever the outcome of today’s Mueller Report…the losers are undoubtedly the American people. Hate is an acid that destroys. There may be no turning back. The damage is done.

Consider reading my post about the 2016 Election entitled “A November To Remember”