What is your definition of gifted?

A primo starter question and the most FA’ed of the FAQs. After 24 years as a therapist, with 7 of those being entirely devoted to gifted adolescents, adults, and families, my definition continues to evolve as my understanding deepens.

  • Intensity and complexity in one or more of the following dimensions of consciousness: Intellect, Emotion, Imagination, Sensuality, Physicality, Existential. I most often work with people who possess giftedness in Intellect and in at least one additional dimension.
  • Asynchrony: the gap between the most intense and complex of these areas and the least intense and complex. The Columbus Group definition of gifted informs this: 

“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.”

  • Asynchrony can also be observed within an area of giftedness (e.g. Complex verbal skills and below average processing speed; Intense affective/somatic empathy and below average cognitive empathy). 
  • While I don’t pin my definition to the following, I often utilize its particularly hyperfocused perspective in helping to understand some aspects of giftedness
  • Medical-model thinking pegs giftedness to formal IQ testing by a doctoral level professional. A full scale IQ of 130 or higher is labeled ‘gifted’. For those with high-support-need neurodivergence beyond giftedness (ADHD, Autism, learning difference, sensory processing differences, etc.), other measures, like the General Ability Index or Naglieri, may provide a much more accurate reflection of intellectual ability. 
  • The same systems that center medical model thinking are most often ensconced in characteristics of unacknowledged White Supremacy Culture.

Giftedness is an intensity and complexity of consciousness that is at least three standard deviations from the norm. For Highly, Profoundly, and Exceptionally Gifted (HPEG) people, estimated to be fewer than .1% of the global population, that gap grows to the fourth SD and beyond. Moderately gifted and HPEG folks frequently find themselves far afield of neuromajority cultural norms and understanding. That degree of distance and difference requires adaptations of thought, behavior, and environment for every gifted person if they are to live their lives in their fullest expression.

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