Tag Archives: Psychomotor OE

Is Your Sensitive Child Also a Thrill-Seeker?

sensitive child thrill-seeker - girl jumping on skis - Laugh Love Learn

My sister couldn’t believe my son wanted to spend his birthday at Disneyland.

‘Isn’t that his idea of hell?’  Well, no – and yes.

It’s true, my sensitive and intense child hates crowds, loud noise and bright artificial lights. But he also loves thrilling rollercoasters and magical imaginary worlds.

Highly Sensitive?

Back when I was searching for answers about my unusual family, I read the book, The Highly Sensitive Person. While many HSP traits rang true for us, my children had an energy – an intensity – that Elaine Aron’s book didn’t mention.

Universal Islands of Adventure Dragon Challenge Coaster - sensitive child thrill-seeker

The (brilliant) blog Happy Sensitive Kids recently posted a list of ways highly sensitive kids feel different. I was nodding along until I came to, ‘HSCs stand out because they are cautious about going down the slide in the playground and watch hesitantly as other children hurtle down with glee.’

Er – not my sensitive kids! They’d be the ones running to the front of the queue in their haste to shoot down the slide head first!

Like their parents, my children are thrill-seeking adrenaline-junkies. The higher, the faster, the more intense – the better.

Staff at Orlando’s Universal Studios once approached me, convinced I must be doing something heinous to my son to cause such a massive meltdown. They backed off when they heard what he thought of the park’s policy of not allowing 42-inch 6-year-olds to ride the upside-down Dragon Challenge rollercoaster! (How unreasonable.)

You know you’re blessed with a sensitive, sensation-seeking child when…

*  You request a booth in restaurants because your son can’t bear the noise of the other diners, or waiters clearing tables … but his own voice can be heard in the car park. To occupy himself while ‘Hunger gnaws at my belly!’  he clangs his knife and fork together in imaginary battle.

* The man sitting behind your daughter in the cinema receives the death-stare if he dares to cross his legs … while she spends the movie shuffling, stretching, rocking and kicking the seat in front.

* You’re requested (politely but sharply) to sip your tea ‘silently, please!’ A minute later the dog wakes up, startled, as your son slurps the last of his smoothie through what must surely be an industrial straw attached to a megaphone.

* He begs to go on a sleepover with his best friend. They play games and tell stories until dawn, then he doesn’t want to see the friend for another month. Meanwhile you’re left explaining to the other mum, ‘He really did have a lovely time, he’s just a bit – er –  tired this week.’

* Your daughter has a meltdown when her sister practises violin before lunch (‘Make it STOP!’). Then at 10pm the walls shake as she ‘plays’ the piano in a manner that would wake Beethoven. (‘But I have to practise!’)

Of course, OEs look different in everyone, and children with strong emotional OE and highly-developed empathy may not often exhibit these extremes.  And not all sensation-seeking, sensitive kids with OEs like rollercoasters.  Yes – overexcitabilities – and the people who have them – are complex!

If you recognise your child in any of the above scenarios, you might want to do some research into overexcitabilities before you start down the path of an ADHD diagnosis. 😉

You’re also welcome to join us at the friendly PowerWood FaceBook group where OE families share ideas and encouragement.

child playing with fidget cube - sensitive child thrill-seeker - laugh love learn
Headphones and a fidget cube: How to survive Disneyland queues when you’re a sensitive thrill-seeker


This blog is all about overexcitabilities – see my Start Here page to begin exploring.

If your child is energetic and/or talkative, you might want to read 7 Signs Your Child Has Psychomotor Overexcitability

To find out if you or your child have OEs, take the free OE questionnaire at the fabulous PowerWood site, where you’ll also find dozens of personal stories illustrating the many and varied ways overexcitability can affect family life.

Highly Sensitive or Highly Excitable? An interesting post from Aurora Remember exploring the overlap between high-sensitivity and (over)excitability.

The Sensation-Seeking Highly Sensitive Person Well-researched article on a blog all about sensation-seeking HSPs.

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Do you have a love-hate relationship with theme parks?

Does your loud, fidgety child hate it when anyone else moves or makes a noise?

Are you a sensitive thrill-seeker?

I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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If you’d like to receive my regular emails about life in an overexcitable family, leave your email in the Follow By Email box below. You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.

Choosing Extracurricular Activities for Children with Overexcitabilities


Choosing Extracurricular Activities for Children with Overexcitabililties

When your child has overexcitabilities (OEs), meeting his extracurricular needs isn’t as simple as finding a class.

This post is about

  • the challenges we face finding outlets for our children’s intense energy and
  • strategies for when extracurricular activities don’t go the way we planned.

When children have OEs…

  • They may have heaps of energy, but not be able to cope with organised sports
  • They might have dozens of interests but struggle to fit them into the 168 hours in their week
  • They may be driven and competitive, but melt down when they lose
  • They may not get the concept of doing something just for fun – they have to be the best at everything
  • They might be passionate about learning new things, but their asynchronous development makes group classes difficult

Finding extracurricular activities for your intense and sensitive child

My homeschooled son is sensitive, hyper-reactive and introverted. He has all five overexcitabilities including intense psychomotor OE.

Finding outlets for his asynchronous physical, social and creative energies has always been a challenge.

Challenge #1: Other kids

Most group activities involve waiting for your turn. And when kids are bored, winding up the ‘weird’ kid provides a welcome distraction.

Their behaviour isn’t malicious. Boys fidget as they wait in line. They bump into each other. And when the sensitive child gets jostled, he reacts. He’s already starting to feel overwhelmed by the noise, bright light and waiting, so it doesn’t take much.

‘What will happen if I ‘accidentally’ touch him with my foot again?’ wonders the bored kid.

So begins a cycle which ends in the sensitive child getting thrown out of the class. He is the one who has ‘over’-reacted – the others were just being ‘normal little boys’.

Parenting coaching helped me see the positive intention in my son’s behaviour in situations like this.

The ‘death-stare’ he gives other kids when he’s feeling overwhelmed is an adaptive (constructive) behaviour, designed to get the other kids to back away.

Walking out of an ice-skating class after 5 minutes and shutting himself in the toilets is better than kicking off at the girl who accidentally skated into him.

When we understand what’s going on, we’re much better equipped to support and advocate for our children.

Challenge #2: Other adults

Dealing with others’ judgments is one of the toughest challenges when you’re raising children with OEs.

As a child I was mortified if I ever got in trouble, so I learned to be a good girl. Then – because the Universe likes us to grow – I was blessed with a son who, through no fault of his own, regularly behaved ‘inappropriately’ according to societal norms.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve found tears stinging my eyes as someone’s berated me about my son’s behaviour.

Parenting coaching  with someone who understands OEs has also helped me deal with other adults. (See When extracurricular activities don’t go as planned, below, for more about this.)

Challenge #3: Coaches and teachers: To mention your child’s OEs or not?

What do teachers do when a child ‘misbehaves’ in class? They pull him aside, stand up close and demand an immediate apology. All of which is guaranteed to send an already-triggered child completely off at the deep end!

Should you try to avoid that scenario by telling the teacher about your child’s OEs? Or is it best not to anticipate  trouble and hope for the best?

I once naively assumed that the teacher of a Lego robotics class for gifted kids would know about OEs. I privately told him of my son’s sensitivities and asked the teacher to give him time and space if he became overwhelmed.

My son later complained that the teacher loudly told him to, “Stop getting so overexcited!” whenever he was waiting for the other kids to catch up, which embarrassed and upset him.

Other extracurricular teachers, however, have been very supportive. My son’s karate teacher gave him time and space to calm down, helped him avoid over-stimulation, and – most importantly – didn’t make a big deal out of incidents.

Karate didn’t last because my son couldn’t keep still long enough to watch the higher grades (an important part of learning martial arts). But leaving on his terms after a period of self-reflection was much better than being thrown out.

Challenge #4: Competitiveness

Lots of children dislike losing at games and sports, but kids with OEs can be intensely competitive. If they also get overwhelmed in noisy groups, losing can trigger epic meltdowns.

What I’ve learned here is to have realistic expectations.

Although my son is naturally athletic, team sports don’t work for him. We stick to non-competitive sports and give him plenty of practice losing at games at home, where intense reactions can be safely supported.

When extracurricular activities don’t go as planned

Here are a few things I’ve learned, through experience and coaching:

1. Keep your baseline high

Try to schedule difficult conversations – whether with a teacher, another parent, your child or your partner – for a time when you’re calm and well rested. Build up emotional credit with your child before discussing any issue likely to trigger him.

Use these 4 tools to reduce your own anxiety.

2. Look for the positive intention in your child’s behaviour

Remember – he doesn’t want to behave this way. Let him know you understand his difficulties and acknowledge him for adaptive behaviours, however small.

Create a foundation on which he can learn strategies for handling situations better in future.

3. Don’t worry about what others are thinking

In conversations with teachers and other parents, remind yourself that they probably aren’t as triggered by what’s happened as you (especially if you have OEs of your own). Chances are, they’ll soon forget all about the incident, so try to distract yourself from ruminating about their reaction.

4. Prioritise your relationship with your child

Don’t pressure your child to continue an activity that isn’t working for him. Encourage him to get past his initial reaction and give it a chance but if he still hates it, let him quit. He might choose to come back when he’s better able to cope.

More than once I’ve been guilty of making both my son and I miserable trying to force an activity to work. The relief we feel when I finally let go is enormous. I’m rewarded with a happier child and a better relationship with him.

Meeting your child’s extracurricular needs in other ways

Kids with OEs are bright, creative, and here to forge their own paths in the world. They won’t be scarred for life just because they can’t join Cub Scouts or a soccer team.

Whenever I’ve had a panicky moment about extracurricular activities, I ask myself, ‘What am I worried about my son missing out on?‘ Then I think about other ways we can meet those needs.


My son has strong psychomotor OE so this has always been a big challenge for us. Here are a few of the outlets we’ve found for his abundant energy:

  • trampolining in the garden
  • jumping on oversized beanbags and cushions
  • skipping (jumping rope)
  • swimming (we found a special needs swimming class at our local leisure centre so I could exercise while my son swam)
  • scooting / biking / hiking as a family. Walks in the woods also offer tree-climbing
  • ice-skating – Many UK ice rinks offer concessionary entry for homeschoolers on Friday afternoons, so your child can skate alongside other kids without having to interact with them (unless he chooses to)
  • play equipment outside at home. Monkey-bars are a favourite in our family
  • soft-play centres – we spent many rainy afternoons in our local soft play centre when my kids were younger
  • gym – our local gym allows kids of 11 and older to work out at dedicated times. My son loves being able to watch videos on his iPad while he works up a sweat on the elliptical-trainer. (I work out on a nearby machine. It’s mind-boggling what an 11-year-old with psychomotor OE can get up to on a cross-trainer.)
  • climbing – at the local climbing wall. Great for using up energy and increasing emotional and physical stamina

Skills and hobbies

In today’s climate of abundant online courses this is perhaps the easiest of the extra-curricular needs to meet. Websites like DIY.org are full of ideas and resources.

If you opt for private tuition (for music, for instance) remember you may need to try out several teachers before you find the right match for your child.


The advantages of group activities are well-documented, so how do you help your child make friends and become a team player if he can’t join in?

The most encouraging research I’ve heard of on this subject was an American study which showed that the students who were socially best-adjusted at university were homeschooled children who had only socialised within their immediate families. (I’ll edit when I find the reference.)

My son’s never lasted long in any organised group, but somehow along the way he’s met a few good friends he regularly chats with online and occasionally meets up with. He gets on well with his four cousins, regular experiences losing games within the family, and has plenty of negotiating and diplomacy practice with his sister!

Another option is to find a mentor for your child (an understanding older teen or young adult, maybe). We have a  friend in his 20s who’s harnessed his own OEs with great success. My son loves hanging out with him, on the trampoline or playing his favourite role-playing card game.

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What about multi-potentialite extroverts?

I’ve focused here on the challenges of finding extracurricular activities for my introverted son.

Your child may be more like my daughter – an intense, multi-potentialite  extrovert who wants to excel at every activity she hears about. See Extracurricular Activities for Children Who Want to Do Everything.

Don’t forget to leave your email address in the Follow by Email box below to get weekly inspiration about enjoying life in a quirky family delivered straight to your inbox. 🙂



PowerWood coaching for families dealing with OEs

DIY.org – Ideas


The Gifted Teen Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith and Jim Delisle

Living with Intensity by Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski

Your Rainforest Mind by Paula Prober

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What are your biggest challenges finding extracurricular activities for your child?

How do you meet your child’s physical, creative and social needs?

I’d love to hear from you!

Choosing extracurricular actvities for children with overexcitabilities blog hop

This post is part of a GHF blog hop. To read how other GHF bloggers handle the challenge of finding extracurricular activities, click here.


Photo credit

Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate so if you buy something from Amazon after clicking on my links I will receive a few pennies to go towards hosting this blog. Thank you! 🙂 

7 Signs Your Child Has Psychomotor Overexcitability

7 Signs Your Child has Psychomotor overexcitability

When my son was born we treated ourselves to a lovely new play arch. I had fond visions of my baby contentedly engaging with the arch as I played with his sister nearby. But my newborn son had other ideas.

Within weeks Jasper had rolled onto his tummy and was trying to air-swim his way across the room. He literally turned his back on the toy I’d provided, in search of what he wanted to explore. He hasn’t stopped moving since.

When he was two, Jasper’s ‘afternoon nap’ meant lying on his bed, legs kicking against the wall, happily chattering and singing to himself for an hour.  I didn’t mind as long as I had time to recharge, ready for another afternoon with my busy little boy.

Jasper has psychomotor overexcitability – an abundance of energy (or an inability to keep still, depending how you look at it. We prefer the former ;-)).

Here are 7 signs your child might have psychomotor overexcitability. Remember that even if your child only has one of these behaviours, he might still have psychomotor OE – it’s more a case of degree than number.

1. He’s always in motion

Whether he’s gesticulating wildly as he tells you about his latest Minecraft creation, standing up at the table as he eats his dinner or rebounding against your bed when he comes into your room at 10:30pm to share an idea that can’t wait until morning – this child is never still.

Jasper, now ten, has two bins in his bedroom.  It’s not that he makes a lot of rubbish, it’s just that he can’t keep his feet still and I got tired of picking pencil sharpenings out of the carpet. Now as he sits at his desk Jasper kicks an empty bin around to his heart’s content, and throws his trash in a second bin a few feet away. The wall under his desk is a bit scuffed, but that’s the kind of compromise you get used to when you have a child with psychomotor overexcitability.

7 Signs Your Child has Psychomotor overexcitability
At least my pretty arch got some use …

2. She talks quickly and all the time

And when she gets excited or overwhelmed, both speed and volume increase even more.  Everyone in our family speaks quickly. When Cordie and I get together with my aunt and her daughters I find it miraculous how we seem to all speak at once yet everyone  follows what everyone else is saying perfectly. To us it doesn’t feel like we speak quickly, but that other people speak slowly. Thank goodness for the triple speed button on Audible.

3.He’s always singing, often his own made-up tunes

I love overhearing Jasper’s joyful voice when he’s in the bath or playing with his dinosaurs. If he’s had a meltdown, I smile with relief when I hear him humming to himself a little while later – a sure sign he’s refound his equilibrium.

4. She’s a prolific art and crafter

When she was at pre-school, Cordie would bring home so many paintings that I used to wonder how the nursery could afford the paper. Then one day a teacher mentioned that for every painting the other children made, Cordie would make ten. Now twelve-years-old, Cordie still paints, draws, makes popsicle stick houses and spray painted T-shirts and – her latest passion – intricately paints her nails with a different design every day.

7 Signs Your Child has Psychomotor overexcitability

5. He’s extremely competitive

In my post You Know Your Family Has Overexcitabilities When… I mentioned that although everyone in my family loves board games, we rarely manage to finish one.

I’ve always encouraged my kids to value participation and enjoyment over beating other people, so before I learned about OEs I used to wonder how on earth I’d created such a competitive child.  I was almost relieved to discover that competitiveness is a common aspect of psychomotor OE. Now, instead of blaming myself, I can focus my energy on helping Jasper manage his reactions.

One of the great OE ironies is that kids with psychomotor overexcitability find it so difficult to take part in group sports. It takes a lot of parental commitment and creativity to find outlets for all that energy!

6. You know he’s very bright, but his teachers may not agree

According to psychologist and OE expert Susan Daniels, psychomotor OE is significantly correlated with high intelligence. Unfortunately, a child who’s not challenged in school and can’t keep still or quiet when he’s bored is more likely to be seen as disruptive and annoying than to be placed in the gifted class. So instead of being given more appropriate projects and the freedom to approach them in whatever way inspires him, this child is at best sidelined and at worst misdiagnosed, which brings me onto  …

7. Someone’s suggested he has ADHD

When you put a bright child with heaps of energy in an under-stimulating environment he’ll often fidget, interrupt and fail to do tasks. Even when he’s highly engaged, a child with overexcitabilities might not be able to stop himself blurting out questions and answers. While it is of course possible to have both psychomotor OEs and ADHD, experts suspect that the latter is widely misdiagnosed in children with OEs.

When Jasper was eight a senior occupational therapist, observing his meltdowns on the football field, suggested that we put him on ADHD medication so we didn’t “miss the narrow window when he can learn social skills”. But I’d seen my son focus for hours building giant Lego structures or playing with his toy dragons, and I knew how calm and polite he could be in the right environment. None of those behaviours were consistent with what I knew about ADHD.

Of course it’s my long term goal to help Jasper manage his emotions in any environment he finds himself in, but drugging him with medication developed to treat a disorder he doesn’t have probably won’t help us achieve it.

Psychomotor Overexcitability – Further Resources

Although I’m a qualified therapist and coach, my knowledge of overexcitabilities comes mainly from personal experience i.e. observing my own family and speaking with other families I’ve met through PowerWood (the UK’s largest organisation supporting families dealing with OE.)

Here are a few places where you can find more information about psychomotor OE and the other overexcitabilities:


PowerWood – Psychomotor OEs

Jade Ann Rivera – How to Identify and Cope with Overexcitabilities, Part 4 of 5: Psychomotor Overexcitability


Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults (Daniels and Piechowski)

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults (James T Webb)

Over to you

  • Can you think of anything I’ve missed?
  • What does psychomotor overexcitability look like in your family?
  • Can you recommend any other resources?
  • What else would you like to know about psychomotor OE?  Here are some ideas I’ve had for future posts:
    • What do you do when your child has psychomotor OE and can’t do group sports?
    • How to help your child learn when he can’t keep still.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on Facebook, or feel free to drop me an email.

My aim in writing this series on the five types of overexcitability is to help you recognise whether overexcitabilities are present in your family. I spent years doubting myself as I searched for the best way to parent my two non-average children, all the while completely in the dark about what I was dealing with.  Discovering OEs was like being handed the missing instruction manual.

If you recognise OEs in yourself or your child, I hope you’ll stick around to share my journey of discovery into how to enjoy the many positives OEs can bring while learning to manage the accompanying challenges.

Next in this series I’ll be looking at sensual OE.

See also my other posts in the series:

6 Things you need if your child has intellectual overexcitability

The ups and downs of imaginational OE

15 Things your child with emotional overexcitability might say


I’m appreciatively linking up at #coolmumclub.



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