Emotional Needs

of emotional aspects 
of the gifted/sensitive student
© 2003 Shulamit Widawsky


  • The “too wide mouth” taking in life (“Funnel and Cylinder Theory”)—taking in more than they can process, creating asynchronous development

    Receiving more information

    Encountering more emotional stimulation

    Making more connections

    Seeing more options

  • Feeling different, being told they are different—not fitting in

    Trouble finding same age peers

    When young, not accepted by children as a child / not accepted by adults as an adult

    Teased or shunned for “being smart” or for being “a know-it-all”

    Can come from other kids, or adults, including teachers…from peers or authority figures

    Finding lack of awareness in the general public disheartening, or even frightening

  • Mismatched expectations

    Teacher may expect speed or switching gears on command when student is slowing down due to deep/broad interest/investigation into present subject

    Parents may expect consistent “A’s” and no academic complaints

    All (teachers, parents, and students) may expect the student to figure everything out for themselves, counting on raw intelligence to get them through

    Experience may be lacking

    Each may have different outcome expectations

  • Subjected to prejudice

    Simply because of labeled or exhibited intelligence/ability—called egotistical, teased for vocabulary, etc.

    If the student needs special services

    If the student rocks the boat

    If the student’s understanding in a situation exceeds that of parents or teachers (or co-workers)

  • Overwhelmed with potential

    Perfectionism, due to high ability to imagine any work significantly better than what it is

    Feeling overly responsible / taking on too many responsibilities, since they understand

    Suffering from lack of satisfaction, due to always seeing all the rest of the projects they could do

  • The potential for giftedness to cause emotional problems over time

    The larger the “funnel”, the more likely are emotional issues

    Emotional concerns can show up at any age

    Every child’s different: “smooth sailing” at one age doesn’t preclude problems at another

    Problems can begin as young as one, or as old as adulthood

    Most common in toddlerhood and middle school

    Problems from giftedness more likely when other at-risk issues exist concomitantly

    Examples of at-risk issues: LD’s, family difficulties, health trouble, etc.

    Emotional concerns are best addressed early, but certainly can be successfully addressed at any time

    Discussing these issues will not create them (contrary to common myth)

    Self-understanding is the best inoculation against future emotional strain

    If these issues haven’t been addressed previously, and student is showing signs of depression, frustration, general angst—individual or group counseling directed specifically at the issues connected to being gifted may be effective, and is recommended

    Gifted students need direction, support, and advocacy—working in isolation is not the most effective way to do this emotional work

    It’s best if the parent understands and help their kids through these issues, sometimes teachers need to educate the parents about their gifted kids’ special needs

    For teachers of the gifted to be most efficacious, they need to understand these issues; sometimes parents need to educate the teachers of their gifted children

    Gifted people often have no idea their giftedness is causing them problems

    Gifted people need a safe environment in which they can fully be themselves, in order to realize how they aren’t being themselves in other situations

    Gifted kids (and adults!) need time alone with gifted peers in order to know themselves better

    Gifted students need a chance to learn what giftedness means to the people around them, and what it means to themselves  


Shulamit Widawsky
Educational Therapist
Serving the Gifted

Annandale, VA


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This page was last updated on 12/31/04.

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