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How to Find a Mentor For Your Sensitive and Intense Child

How to Find a Mentor For Your Child

In this post I share 10 practical considerations about how to find a mentor for your child. And I tell the story of how I found mentors for my twice-exceptional son and gifted daughter.

Why find a mentor?

Making friends is difficult when you experience the world differently from almost everyone you meet.  That’s my experience as an adult, so imagine how much  difficult it is for children to find kindred spirits!

And if a child can only socialise for short periods at a time because he’s still learning to manage intense overexcitabilities, then the job of finding friends becomes positively Sisyphean.

The no.1 predictor of lifelong creativity

Leading creativity psychologist E Paul Torrance found that the number one predictor of lifelong creativity and personal fulfilment is the extent to which children fall in love with a future vision of themselves.

But when a child is constantly being told he’s too much (talkative, sensitive, fidgety – whatever) and can’t even connect with his peers, how can we expect him relate to successful adults who appear (to him) to handle life effortlessly, let alone imagine himself as one?

Mentors can bridge the gap

We can help our kids bridge that gap – to begin to see themselves as the happy and successful adults we want them to become – by connecting them with relatable adults who remember being just like them.

Adults who once faced the same challenges our children face now. People who can share with our kids what they learned on their journey to overcome those challenges and leverage their strengths.

Mentors, to act as role models – beacons of hope, even – for our children.

How to find a mentor for your child

Finding a mentor may seem like a tall order, but once you start looking you might surprise yourself with your resourcefulness and who you notice crossing your path.

How we found a mentor for my 2e son

My introverted 11-year-old son has intense OEs. Like many kids with sensory issues, he endures haircuts with a tense grimace punctuated by shrieks of pain as the comb brushes too hard over his scalp or a speck of hair torturously prickles his neck.

Fortunately when my son was just three-years-old we found a hairdresser who not only snipped as quickly and carefully as she could, but who reassured me that her son (14 years older than mine) had been exactly the same when he was younger.

Throughout our many salon meetings over the last eight years I’ve enjoyed hearing how our friend’s son has, to his mother’s amazement and delight, matured into an intelligent and charming young man. Elliott gained a first class psychology degree, has a long-term girlfriend, and is now running a coaching company teaching kids how to use their emotional intelligence to become happy, successful adults.

Even though he’s busy growing his business, Elliott was eager to meet my son and engage him in fun activities through which they can get to know one another.

Elliott doesn’t flinch when my son throws his racket across the tennis court when he misses a point, and he has infinitely more patience than me when it comes to Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon.

Although they’ve only met a few times, I know Elliott is there when my son needs an understanding friend. And because he has eavesdropped on the many conversations I’ve had with Elliott’s mum over the years, my son truly believes that Elliott once faced very similar challenges to those he now struggles with, and that he overcame them to become the happy, successful adult he is today.

How we found my daughter’s mentor

My extroverted 12-year-old also has OEs, but she doesn’t struggle with regulating her emotions to the same degree my son does. My daughter’s biggest challenge is finding other people with whom she can share her intense passions, like her love of linguistics.

As with my son, my daughter’s mentor is the (adult) child of a family friend, a lady who runs book groups for homeschooled kids. When we first met, Kate remarked that Cordie reminded her of her eldest daughter who was home-educated until she was 16 and who now studies languages at Cambridge.

Around the time Jasper began working with his mentor, it occurred to me that Cordie might benefit from a similar relationship with Kate’s daughter, M. M works hard  to pay her way as a student and she had to travel a distance to meet us, so I offered to compensate her for her time.

On their first mentoring meeting I left the girls chatting away in a coffee shop. When I returned an hour later, my daughter was beaming and eager to share all she’d talked about with her older friend.

As a bonus, M followed up with a lovely email to me in which she listed all the resources she’d recommended to my daughter.  M is back at university now, but I know that the girls will meet again and I’m sure that M will be an inspiration and role-model for my daughter as she forges her own path into adulthood.

Mentoring – 10 Practical considerations

How to find a mentor

1. What is your child’s biggest challenge? Look for a mentor who has overcome similar obstacles.

2. Who do you know? Even if you’re an introvert like me, you probably have a wider network than you realise. Ask trusted friends if they can think of anyone who fits your wish list.

Before the first mentoring meeting

3. Prepare your child. Even if they already know the person, explain why you think the mentoring relationship will be useful. Be willing to let the person go if the chemistry doesn’t work. No matter how perfect the relationship looks on paper, if your child doesn’t trust him, mentoring can’t happen.

Mentor: a trusted counsellor or guide.”


4. Prepare the mentor. Explain what you hope your child will gain from the relationship. Help establish rapport by sharing a little about what your child enjoys doing and what he’s interested in.

5. Clarify any payment or bartering arrangements. I’m upfront with my kids this. Just as we pay for them to be taught piano and guitar by more experienced musicians, there’s no shame in showing that we value the time and experience of the young people who’ve kindly agreed to act as their mentors.

The first meeting

5. Where will the first mentoring meeting happen? Ideally find somewhere your child and her mentor can talk without being overheard or interrupted. If your child energetic, do they need access to outdoor space? My son and his mentor chatted for ages on our trampoline!

6. Do you need any supplies? Would your child like to play a game or do a craft with her mentor as they chat? Would snacks help?

After the meeting

7. Discuss the meeting with your child and his mentor, separately. If appropriate, ask the mentor to jot down for you any resources she thinks might benefit your child.

8. Respect the mentoring relationship. Don’t require your child to tell you more than he’s comfortable sharing about the meeting, and don’t ask the mentor to undermine your child’s confidences. Even if you’re paying, the success of the relationship depends on mutual trust between your child and his mentor.

9. If the first meeting goes well, either set a date for another meeting or agree to stay in touch and meet again in a few months.

10. Last but definitely not least, appreciate yourself for being a great parent to your sensitive and intense child. Even if your first attempt at finding a mentor didn’t work out, you’re doing your best – and that’s good enough. 🙂

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Does your child have a mentor?

How did you find him or her?

How do they add value to your child’s life?

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Are you navigating the highs and lows of raising sensitive and intense children? I’d love you to hear from you in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page. And don’t forget to leave your email address in the box at the top or bottom of this page to receive my regular posts direct to your inbox.

Finally, if you found this post useful, please consider sharing it on Facebook. 🙂

how to find a mentor for your child

This post is part of a Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop. Click for more inspiring articles about gifted children and the role of mentors.

How Not to Feel Anxious (Even When You’re About to Jump out of a Plane)

How not to be anxious

The air rushed past my face as I sat in the open doorway of the plane, 15,000 feet above the English countryside. A moment later I’d be freefalling towards the ground at 125 mph. Surely I should be feeling at least a bit anxious?

Here are a few of the anxiety-reducing techniques I’d been doing beforehand…

How not to feel anxious

1. Reframing physical sensations

You know that ‘butterflies in the tummy’ sensation you get when you think about something that makes you feel anxious? Physiologically, it’s the same as the feeling we get when we’re excited.

But, unlike William Shakespeare’s rose, the name we give to that feeling can make all the difference.

If we label the butterflies sensation nerves or anxiety,  the feeling will probably grow stronger and more negative. But if we call the feeling excitement, we’re likely to feel a final fleeting frisson as we acknowledge the trigger, before our nervous system returns to normal.

In the week before my skydive I got butterflies every time someone mentioned my jump. But whenever anyone asked if I was nervous I didn’t answer ‘Absolutely terrified!’ Instead I truthfully replied, ‘A bit. But mainly I’m really excited!’

Reframing is one of the simplest yet most powerful techniques I learned when I trained to be a cognitive hypnotherapist.

I encourage my kids to reframe, but I’m also careful to acknowledge authentic emotions. None of these techniques is about slapping a happy face sticker over an empty fuel gauge, but rather transforming negative emotions into more positive ones.

In the case of my skydive, joyfully living life to the full is one of my core values. So transforming my nervousness into excitement was congruent with my authentic self.

2. Power Posing

If I told you that standing like Wonder Woman for two minutes would make you feel more confident and decrease stress, you might be sceptical. But if you’d heard of Amy Cuddy’s research into how our physiology affects our mental state you’d probably give it a try, and you might be surprised at the results.

I tried out power posing last week after listening to Cuddy’s audiobook, Presence. I was amazed how a few minor adjustments in the way I hold my body had such an uplifting effect.

One afternoon Cordie was feeling a bit out of sorts so I invited her to power pose with me. “Two whole minutes?!” she grumbled. I suggested we time ourselves by playing a song on her phone. So there we stood, two wonder women in front of the mirror, jiggling our hips to Enrique Iglesias and giggling our heads off.

How not to feel anxious - Power Posing
Power posing before my skydive

Watch Cuddy’s TED talk, read her book or see James Clear’s excellent article about power posing to find out more.

3. The Escudero Method

Once upon a time, in another life, I used to attend board meetings with the heads of UK music companies.  I noticed in those meetings that whenever a junior employee spoke, they always took a sip of water straight afterwards.

When I later trained as a cognitive hypnotherapist, I discovered why: anxiety gives us a dry mouth.

During my training I also learned a weird hack which, like power-posing, works because of the way the body affects the mind.

The Escudero method was originally developed as a pain control technique by a surgeon who successfully performed dozens of operations without any anaesthesia. It also works wonders when you need a confidence boost.

Luckily I was skydiving with my lovely hypnotherapy tutor, who reminded me of the Escudero method when he noticed me sipping from my water bottle as we waited to be called to our plane. To feel more confident, all you need to do is gather saliva in your mouth. Just as smiling’s been proven to make us feel happier, it’s hard to feel anxious with a well-moistened mouth. Slightly gross, I know, but – hey – if it works…

4. 4-7-8 Breathing

I became a believer in the power of breathing techniques when I (a self-confessed wuss who used to pop a paracetamol at the first hint of a headache) comfortably gave birth to my son at home, without even so much as a whiff of gas and air.

4-7-8 breathing generates a ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen that relaxes our parasympathetic nervous system and promotes a state of calm. All you do is inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold for 7, and exhale through your mouth for 8. Rest the tip of your tongue between your palate and your top front teeth as you breathe.

I’ve been using 4-7-8 breathing a lot since I learned it from Simone de Hoogh. It came in very handy as our plane slowly climbed to the 15,000 feet from which I was to freefall.

Do these techniques really stop you feeling anxious?

So did I feel nervous in the moments before I jumped out of a plane and hurtled toward the ground at 125mph for 60 seconds before parachuting down to earth?

Amazingly – I didn’t!

Thanks to these techniques I felt incredibly calm from the second I boarded our plane until the moment I parachuted gently down to earth.  See for yourself in this (1 min 25 sec) video. I knew you wouldn’t be able to hear me shout, ‘I love this!’ during freefall, so as you can see from the thumbnail, I used sign language.?

(You can see the full video (5 mins 53 secs) here.)

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever gone out of your way to do?

How do you deal with anxiety?

Have you ever tried any of these techniques?

I’d love to hear from you!

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Maths in a Quirky Family

Child 1423510 1280

I’m just popping in here today to share a little story about maths and to let you know I’m taking the rest of July off from Laugh, Love, Learn to enjoy some sunshine.

While I’m away, you might be interested in having a look at my most recent post over on my homeschooling blog, Navigating By Joy. From an early age my fabulously independent, strong-willed children resisted all attempts to impose a maths curriculum on them. As with many things, in retrospect it turned out they knew best, and we’ve spent the last four years exploring maths together in all sorts of interesting and creative ways.

In my post How to Make Your Kids Love Maths I reflect on the elements of our curriculum-free approach to maths that have been most successful. I don’t discuss my kids’ OEs as such, but if you have bright, intense children you might find yourself nodding in agreement when I say things like “I did suggest that my kids learn their times tables, but they were having none of it,” or “In maths, as in life, they don’t accept anything unless they know why.”

While I’m on the subject, here’s a little behind-the-scenes example of what maths in our house is like…

Quirky maths

Jasper’s been multiplying and dividing numbers competently for years, but for some reason when we were dividing negative numbers last week he decided to take issue with the order of the numbers.

Jasper: “But why does the 12 come before the 6? Are you sure?”

Me: “I’m sure. Remember when we talked about how how multiplication is commutative – like washing your face and cleaning your teeth, whereas division – like putting on your socks and shoes on – isn’t?”

Jasper: “Yes I understand the order’s important, but why can’t the 6 come first?”

Me: “Well. Imagine you had 12 sweets and you wanted to divide them fairly between 6 children…”

Jasper: “But what if said sweets were mints? Or if there were things inside the sweets – some children might not like that. Or they might not like particular flavours of sweets. Plus, there might be allergies.

So a better metaphor would be 12 boards of wood and 6 carpenters. That way we would definitely know that the carpenters wouldn’t be allergic to the boards of wood, because otherwise they wouldn’t be carpenters.”

Me: “Quite. But either way, the 12 boards come before the 6 children, or carpenters or whatever, yes?”

Jasper: “Okay.”

I asked Jasper if I might share this story with you and he kindly agreed. I like to think that my jotting it down in the middle of our maths session showed him how much I appreciate his quirky take on life. 🙂

I’ll be back in August with more stories from a family that embraces its quirkiness. Until then, I wish all my friends in the northern hemisphere a summer filled with golden sunshine, refreshing breezes and the sounds of gently lapping water, and my southern hemisphere friends crisp blue-skied winter days and cosy, snuggly evenings.

How’s maths in your house?

Do you go off on tangents in the middle of teaching your children, too?

I’d love to hear from you, in the comments on on the Laugh, Love, Learn FaceBook page. 🙂

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Image by Pezibear

Laugh Love Learn Start Here Page and a Poll

Laugh, Love, Learn

I’ve been blogging about life in an intense and sensitive family for six months now, which means I have quite a few posts in the Laugh, Love, Learn archive.

I thought it might be helpful to organise them into a ‘Start here’ page.

If you’ve been with me since the beginning (thank you!) you might find the page a handy reference. And if you’ve joined me along my journey you may want to hop over and have a browse.

The more I learn about myself and my quirky family, the more I realise how many of us quirky types are out there, and the more passionate I become about connecting with you.

Would you mind clicking on one of the options below to give me an idea what you’d be most interested in reading about? Thank you in advance! 🙂

[Juna_IT_Poll id=”1″]


Help Twice-Exceptional Children by Supporting Their Parents

Help 2e Children by Helping Their Parents

I was pleased to see that the Huffington Post recently commissioned a new series, Young Minds Matter, which is:

“… designed to lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood.”

The Duchess of Cambridge launched the series with her excellent post, Let’s Make a Difference for an Entire Generation of Young Children.

When the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum suggested I write an article for the series, I turned to my friend and mentor Simone de Hoogh, who I knew would have plenty of wisdom to share. Simone didn’t let me down, and our co-authored piece was published in the Huffington Post today.  You can also read it below.

Please feel free to share on FaceBook, Twitter etc. 😉

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Help Twice-Exceptional Children by Supporting Their Parents

By the time my son was six, other boys his age had outgrown tantrums but Jacob still had meltdowns apparently out of the blue. He couldn’t tolerate play dates for longer than 20 minutes. And surely it wasn’t normal to take 15 minutes to put on socks?

To help our son my husband and I sought professional advice. Several experts later we received an answer: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Our son’s meltdowns were the result of his brain struggling to receive and respond to the messages his senses were sending. Armed with our diagnosis, we enrolled Jacob for occupational therapy.

After a year of therapy, during which we saw little change in our son’s behaviour, we signed him up for a football course run by the practice. Although Jacob was happy to join the other children, he never lasted more than 20 minutes before storming off in angry tears. I asked the head therapist why the other kids with SPD could cope, but not Jacob? She suggested that he might have ADHD and advised us to consider medication. After all, we didn’t “want to miss the narrow window in which he can learn socialisation skills.”

I felt desperate to help my child but without a clue how to start. We were faced with numerous possible diagnoses—SPD, ADHD, ASD—none which really fit. Was I creating the problem by protecting my son from overwhelming situations? Should we instil more discipline? I knew my child, how desperately unhappy he often felt. I knew that if Jacob were capable of behaving like other children, he would behave like other children.

It would take another two years to discover the truth. Why so long? Jacob isn’t gifted within the UK definition of the highest-achieving ten per cent of school children; he is ‘twice-exceptional’ (2e). Children who are 2e combine a neurological diagnosis of giftedness with an additional special need, such as dyslexia, ADHD or other learning challenge. Jacob has a set of innate personality traits often found in the gifted known as Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities (OEs). People with OEs are intense. They may have excessive energy or love to touch things, or the buzzing of  overhead lights may drive them nuts. As children struggle to manage their strong reactions and emotions, they often display socially unacceptable behaviours.

I first learned about OEs at PowerWood, a UK community which supports 2e children and their families. Founder Simone de Hoogh, a qualified ECHA Specialist in Gifted Education, explains that “the further you get from the middle of the population bell curve, the less reliable the criteria for diagnosis become, because the sample size is so small.”

So how do we go about understanding what 2e children need? How do we teach them to meet their needs so they can develop into emotionally resilient adults? Human behaviour is strongly influenced by our environment, so one of the fastest ways to effect change is to change the environment. Most children have a family member as their primary caregiver, so if we want to help 2e children learn to manage and channel their intense natures, we need to empower their families by:

Reframing ‘normal’

For 2e children, ‘anti-social’ behaviour may be a normal response to a challenging situation. If we focus less on diagnosis and more on understanding the behaviour, we can help parents see challenges as opportunities for growth.

Informing parents and teachers

We can empower caregivers by providing them with information and tools to support 2e children, but first we need to relieve parents of the burden of self-doubt. Only then are parents ready for the strategies and knowledge that will help their kids.

Creating supportive communities

If we want 2e children to accept and appreciate themselves, we need to foster supportive communities for their families, where parents feel safe and respected rather than judged and blamed.

Our 2e son still has meltdowns, struggles in groups and has to move his body to focus on maths. But now we realize that Jacob’s intensity and sensitivity are the reasons for his behaviour, we’ve stopped worrying about what’s wrong with him and can instead focus on the child in front of us, educating him about the positive side of his twice-exceptionality and teaching him ways to manage his OEs.

We’ve found tremendous support from PowerWood, the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisation committed to raising awareness and supporting intense and sensitive 2e children, and from GHF, an abundant source of information and encouragement. With these communities at my side I’m optimistic I can help my son find his place in the world.

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{Thank you, too, to the GHF team for all your support and fabulous editing.}

To receive my weekly posts about life in an intense and sensitive family direct to your inbox, don’t forget to leave me you email address in the box below or top right. 🙂 

Why Being British Stopped Me Finding Help For My Twice-Exceptional Child

british and twice-exceptional

Back when I was still trying to figure out why my intense son was so different from other kids I did a lot of research online. (Read ‘Spent hours googling Why does my child have so many meltdowns? How to parent my explosive child without losing my sanity,’ etc.)

One of the terms I came across on US websites was ‘twice-exceptional’ (sometimes shortened to ‘2e’).  The GHF defines twice-exceptional as referring to a child who ‘is both gifted and has identified learning differences or other emotional or mental health disorders’.

Although my intuition told me that my sensitive, intense, intelligent son fell within the definition of ’twice-exceptional’,  I felt very uncomfortable using the term, even in my own mind. The dictionary defines exceptional as:

Exceptional: 1. unusual; not typical / 1.1 unusually good.

Who was I to go around describing my son with a word that others might construe as meaning ‘unusually good’, let alone doubly so?

I also disliked the word ‘gifted’. I knew my son was bright, but aren’t all kids gifted in their own ways? Besides which, Jasper’s intense emotions often felt more like a burden than a gift.

If it weren’t for the use of these words and my cultural prejudice against them, I might have found answers and support a lot sooner.  I suspect that many British parents of kids with overexcitabilities have a similar experience.

The Dutch lady who tried to ask British parents about giftedness

Simone de Hoogh’s experiences with her own bright, sensitive, intense children inspired her to found PowerWood to support children with OEs.

When Simone, an ECHA Specialist in Gifted Education, moved to the UK from her native Netherlands she was shocked by how giftedness is perceived here.

Simone’s first surprise was her discovery that in Britain hardly anyone uses the word ‘gifted’. The UK government defines the term to include the top 10% of children who achieve consistently high academic results, so as to warrant their inclusion in the school’s Gifted and Talented Register. When, as part of her research, Simone began asking parents about giftedness, their reaction was actively hostile. Most Brits, Simone discovered, perceive giftedness as elitist and as conferring even more benefits on already overly-advantaged white, middle-class children.

Children who fall through the cracks

It became apparent to Simone that the official UK definition of ‘gifted’ excludes many high-able children, like (i) those who aren’t achieving due to socio-economic factors (like a lack of time or space to do homework), (ii) kids with unrecognised learning disabilities (like dyslexia or sensory processing issues), and (iii) those with a high level of overexcitabilities.

Simone could see that out of all these groups of youngsters whose high ability was not being recognised (and who were therefore under-stimulated and often unhappy at school), kids with overexcitabilities were the worst served by existing institutions. She set up PowerWood to fill this gap and support children and families dealing with OEs.

Simone’s challenge was how to connect with her target group in a country in which the concept of ‘overexcitability’ was practically unheard of. In the US, OEs are rarely mentioned except in the context of giftedness. In the UK, however, Simone found that it was only by avoiding any mention of giftedness that she could reach the people she was trying to help.

(Incidentally, the latest research suggests that OEs are not only found in the highly able. Nor do all highly able individual have OEs. But where OEs are present, they are usually more intense in the highly able, which Simone suggests is one reason they’ve been considered an aspect of giftedness for so long. The other reason is that the highly able are more likely to go searching for, and find, answers about themselves and their children.)

What twice-exceptionality looks like in our family

Both my children have overexcitabilities, but my son’s are more extreme. Cordie and Jasper have been home-educated since they were 6 and 5 respectively.  I suspect that if they’d stayed in school, Cordie would have been identified as gifted but Jasper would not.

Jasper’s every bit as able as his sister – more so, in some areas – but already after two terms of school I could see that his intense, hyper-reactive behaviour and in particular his need to constantly be in motion was beginning to get him labelled as a naughty trouble-maker.

The teachers were obsessed with Jasper’s handwriting – I once spent an entire 10-minute parents-evening session being shown the ‘snappy-snap crocodile’ pencil grip which I was supposed to make my 4-year-old practise daily.

Jasper has sensory issues which cause him to feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of a typical classroom. And he has mild dyslexia, which probably wouldn’t have been identified or supported at school because, like many high-able kids, he was able to compensate for it and therefore ‘keep up,’ which is often the only thing teachers have time to be concerned with.

Is twice-exceptionality recognised in the UK?

The UK equivalent of twice-exceptionality is DME – ‘dual or multiple exceptionality’. DME refers to a child who is not only exceptionally able but also has one or more special need or disabilities. I’d never heard of the term until I began researching this blog post, which shows how often it’s used.

Unfortunately there are no real advantages to being identified as having DME, unless a child is lucky enough to have a teacher with the means and inclination to support him or her. Children on the Gifted and Talented Register are given enrichment opportunities of an academic nature (though funding for such activities is negligible) but the kind of practical and emotional support twice-exceptional children need is pretty much non-existent.

Homeschooling a twice-exceptional child

I’m so thankful that I’m able to home-educate my twice-exceptional son. At home Jasper can leap around the room as he solves maths problems, take trampoline breaks whenever he needs to, and read quietly on his own when he’s over-stimulated.

He can dictate to me or use a keyboard to write his stories. He can ask the incessant questions his intellectual overexcitability stirs up in him without being seen as disrespectful or a know-it-all. And when Jasper starts describing his new invention in the middle of a fractions problem I can listen and even help him take notes, knowing that the maths question can wait, while my son’s intense imagination needs to be nurtured and appreciated right now.

Gifted, twice-exceptional or DME – how we feel about these words doesn’t matter. In the US they’ll probably help you find community and support. Here in the UK they may not. What matters is that we embrace the incredible neurodiversity that nature has created, and ensure that every child is loved, appreciated and supported as the precious individual that he or she is.


Websites (UK)

PowerWood – An Introduction to High Ability in Children

Special Educational Needs Magazine – Young, Gifted and Special

Support for families dealing with overexcitabilities – PowerWood Facebook Group

Websites (US)

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum – Resources: Twice-Exceptional (2e)


Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by James T Webb

Living With Intensity by Daniels & Piechowski

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Do you use the word ‘gifted’?

How do you accommodate your twice-exceptional child’s special needs?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments on at the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page!

GHF Blog Hop - British & Twice-exceptional

To read more about what makes high-able 2e kids twice-exceptional, visit the other blogs in the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop.

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Laugh, Love, Learn posts to March 2016


I’m having a break from writing this week so I thought I’d take this opportunity to link to all the posts I’ve written so far, in case you missed anything.


A light-hearted look at what OEs look like in our family:

You know your family has overexcitabilities when

Psychomotor OE:

7 Signs your child has psychomotor overexcitability

Sensual OE:

What is sensual overexcitability?

Imaginational OE:

The ups and downs of imaginational overexcitability

Intellectual OE:

6 Things you need if your child has intellectual overexcitability

Emotional OE:

15 Things your child with emotional overexcitability might say

Our story

How I first learned about OEs:

How I discovered the secret key to understanding my intense and sensitive family

How I discovered that OEs aren’t something that needs fixing

Why OEs are a starting point, not a diagnosis or a label:

My child has overexcitabilities. Now what?

My relief at meeting other parents for whom traditional parenting methods didn’t work either:

How I finally found my tribe

I’ll be back next week answering some frequently asked questions about overexcitabilities, then after that I’ll be exploring how we can be the best and happiest parents to our intense and sensitive children.

Fill in your email address in the ‘Follow by Email’ box at the top or bottom of this page to get posts straight to your inbox.

Comments? Questions? Cool stuff to share? Please leave me a comment below or like the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page. 🙂

Love Laugh Learn posts

You Know Your Family Has Overexcitabilities When…

You know your family has overexcitabilities when...

1. You let your son leave the table and roll around the floor with the dogs in the middle of dinner because you know he has to get the wiggles out if he’s going to eat his meal.

2. Everyone has their own peculiar relationship with socks. When you’re going for a winter walk you allow an extra 15 minutes for your son to arrange his seams so they don’t rub. You ask your daughter if she’s been wearing odd socks after you find a couple of mismatched ones in the dryer. She’s aghast. “How could anyone cope with uneven pressure on their feet all day?” Meanwhile you stock up on slippers in winter because you can’t go barefoot indoors except on spotless floors in high summer.

3. Your daughter is ecstatic on Friday because she’s found a video that teaches you how to do the splits in a week. After two days’ incessant practice she’s just a few centimetres from the floor. On Monday she’s weeping because  “I’m never going to get it! Why can everyone do the splits except me?”

4. At parties you have to stop yourself blurting out during short silences in the smalltalk, “I always wonder, what do normal people say when there’s a gap in the conversation like this?”

5. Your daughter comes down wearing a slightly-too-small T-shirt you haven’t seen for a while. She explains she felt bad for neglecting it. You understand perfectly – it reminds you of the time you cried as you turned your back on a broken but much-loved suitcase at the rubbish tip.

6. You all love board games but you’ve never managed to finish one as a family.

7. You have conversations like this:

“Jasper, it’s 25 degrees still, do you really need to wear your teddy-bear onesie in bed?”

“I like it because it makes me feel like a computer glitch.”


“Yes. Sometimes when you spawn into a video game it glitches and you get to see the hair from the inside. That’s what it’s like having my onesie hood up.”


8. Empty parks and stretches of beach are an invitation to skip (and you’re in your 40s).

9. You can’t watch reality TV shows because they’re too stressful.  Or the news. Or soap operas.  When you watch TV with your partner you keep earplugs handy, ready to stick in your ears in case someone on screen is mean. (For some reason your husband objects to you pressing the mute button in the middle of a program.)

10. You accidentally put cinnamon in your Hungarian goulash instead of paprika after your 10-year-old decides to alphabetise the spice drawer.  You’d  have noticed your mistake sooner if you hadn’t been engrossed in an audiobook while you cooked.

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Can you relate to any of our overexcitabilities? I’d love to hear your favourite OE stories, if you’d like to leave a comment below or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page.

Find out if you have OEs

To find out if you or someone in your family has OEs, take the free online OE questionnaire at the PowerWood website. (Results come back by return email.)

What Are Overexcitabiilties?

Overexcitability means 1

Have you ever wondered why you’re sensitive to things that other people just don’t notice? Or why your child has strong reactions to things that other kids seem to take in their stride? Maybe people have always described you as ‘intense’ or told you to ‘toughen up’, or warned you to stop pandering to your child?

If you can relate to any of these questions, you probably have experience of what psychologists call overexcitabilities.

‘Overexcitability’ is a translation of a Polish word meaning ‘superstimulability.’ Leading twentieth century psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski first used the term to describe a tendency to react more easily and in a stronger and more lasting way to stimuli.

Dabrowski suggested that there are five forms of overexcitability (OE): psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational and emotional.

Overexcitability is an

Find out if you have overexcitabilities by taking the free online OE questionnaire on the PowerWood website, where you can also find information about the different forms of OE and read stories by individuals and parents who experience with them.

If you’d like to join me on my journey into finding out more about OEs, just put your email address in the box below or above to receive posts straight to your inbox.

How I found the Secret Key to Understanding My Sensitive and Intense Family

sensitive and intense family - boy upside down on the beach

Do you feel different from other people? Maybe more intense, sensitive, or just a bit weird?

When I was a little girl I knew I was different. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Why else did  adults so often tell me to stop being so sensitive, or ask me, ‘Why are you so intense?’

I  learned to squash my eccentricities, revealing my true self to only a few trusted friends. I did this so well I ended up in a job I hated, which everyone said I’d be mad to give up because I’d trained for so long to get there.

My sensitive and intense family

Then I had children. Two distinct personalities, parented quite differently from how I’d been brought up, and they were different from other children, too.

One wanted to join in every group activity and try every craft project she came across. The other couldn’t be in a group for more than fifteen minutes without having a meltdown. He  was happiest playing in his own imaginary worlds from morning until night.

My firstborn was intense but extroverted. Except for the occasional outburst, she fitted with the way our society says kids should be. By contrast, we spent years trailing my second child around ‘experts,’ trying to figure out what was going on with him and how we could help him fit into society better.

Those explorations eventually led me to a workshop in which all was revealed, not just about him but about my daughter and myself, too.

What was this well-kept secret?

My children and I  have nervous systems that are more sensitive than average. We have strong reactions to things other people don’t even notice. We’re easily overwhelmed by our emotions. And we generally experience life at a more intense level.

Psychologists call this combination of innate personality traits ‘overexcitability’ (OE for short).

Over the last nine months I’ve thrown myself into finding out as much about overexcitability as I can. What I’ve discovered has helped me understand not only my children but also myself on a whole new level. The sense peace this has given me is profound.

Since that first OE workshop I’ve worked as a volunteer with PowerWood, a not-for-profit social venture which supports families living with OE, founded and led by my heroine Simone de Hoogh. I’ve also written about OE in parenting magazines, and of course I share stories about how to live positively with intensity and sensitivity here on this blog.

All this has left little time for my home-education blog, Navigating By Joy.  I love being part of the blogging community, but I’ve often wanted to share more personal stories that I hoped would touch and encourage other people.

Join me

If you’d like to share experiences, information and tips about life in a sensitive and intense family, I’d love you to subscribe to receive e-mail updates of my blog – just leave your email address in the box at the bottom of the page.

You might also want to like my Laugh Love Learn Facebook page where I’ll be sharing interesting and  helpful ideas and resources.

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