Our next guest blogger is Dr. Jessica Stone who dives into the world of working with gifted children.


     I have quite a few gifted clients.  I am unsure how they find me; is it word of mouth within the community? Is it my listing on the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, https://www.hoagiesgifted.org/ ?  May be the presentations I have given on gifted children? Is it the advocation I provide for gifted students in my school district?  I am really not certain.  What I do know is that I am immensely interested in helping gifted individuals and I have personal and professional experience in this arena.  

     There are a lot of different topics to cover when speaking about gifted people.  The wonderful thing about a blog is that information can be imparted in a quick, informal manner which will hopefully spark thought, share important information, and provide avenues to pursue further explorations.  A limitation is that a blog is short with around 1,000 words.  Apparently, I am quite verbose, because I could really go on, and on, and on…  What I will do to make sure we cover a few topics adequately is to break it up into a series.  If you have topics you would like to be covered, please leave a comment and I will work to include it in a future blog.  

A little about my belief system

     Fundamentally, philosophically, and theoretically I believe strongly in using a client’s language and interests in our therapeutic sessions.  This language can include the actual spoken language, vernacular, cadence, etc., but can also include their interests such as music, books, games, and toys.  Historically I have spoken with therapists about using songs and Pokémon cards/characters in therapeutic ways.  More currently, I speak with therapists about using board games and digital tool interests in therapeutic ways.  The language of children is somewhat fluid.  It is important that we as play therapists “go with the flow” of the fluidity.  When a client has particular types of needs, it is important for therapists to incorporate them into the therapy whether they are strengths or areas which need assistance.   

How did I become interested in working with and understanding gifted clients?

     Working with gifted clients fits for me in multiple ways.  I was designated as gifted as a child.  Even writing that makes me cringe a little bit.  What did I just divulge?  How will it be interpreted? What will people now expect of me? Do they think I am bragging? I went through stages as a child where I was proud of myself, where I was ashamed; stages where I didn’t want to be different, and where I was happy to be different… There are pros and cons associated with being gifted.  Ultimately, I have landed in a place where I both like and dislike some aspects of this thing called gifted, but it is who and how I am.  The bigger question now is, “how can I help children who might struggle with this gifted ‘thing’?”

When one of my children was about 16 months old I was cooking dinner at the stove and he was building with Duplo Legos behind me.  He had one of those buckets of the blocks so there were plenty to choose from.  We were chatting periodically while I cooked and he built.  Suddenly he said, “look mommy”.  When I turned around I almost fell over.  He had built a structure which reminded me of the Eiffel Tower and it was perfectly symmetrical in shape and in color.  I took pictures.  I was fascinated, proud, and frightened… very, very frightened.  I thought: “What on earth am I going to do with him?  How will I know what his needs will be and how will I assist him in getting them met?”  Since then I have had multiple children identified in my family, and each of them are quite different in personality, abilities, and needs.  

The older my children became, the more I began to understand the variability, stigmas, and challenges associated with being gifted.  I started to think that if I am struggling with this – a person who was classified as gifted, a psychologist, and a mom – then others must be also struggling.  How could I use my experience and knowledge to be helpful?  I began to research, observe, and listen to people of gifted families.  I began to work with gifted children therapeutically.  In some ways, it was the same process as with other children.  In some ways, it was different.  I believe those differences are important for the therapist to understand.  

What does it mean to be gifted?: A beginning

It is fascinating that the very word “gifted” sparks a flurry of emotions. Quite a few people in gifted families feel as though they will be negatively judged if the term is used in conjunction with a family member or themselves.  Using the term can seem like a person is bragging or that they feel their child is superior in some way.  Perhaps this is true in rare circumstances, but overall families are using it to indicate that their child has particular needs.  

It is my very strong belief that if we picture the normal bell curve (below) and look at the portions to the left of the -1 and to the right of the 1 standard deviation (SD) delineations, we can see that these are two very important ends of the spectrum.  The portion to the left of the -1 SD indicates the portion of the population who have special needs associated with a lower intelligence quotient. The further left you move, the more significantly the difficulties effects the person and support system.  I believe the 1SD portion to the 3SD portion to the right of the curve, the gifted population, also indicates those who have special needs and the further one moves to right, the more significantly the IQ level effects the person and the support system.  It is simply the other end of the spectrum.  The needs are significant and addressing them effects multiple aspects of their academic, emotional, and social development.

I will let you chew on all this for a bit while I write up the next installment… to be continued.

Resources

https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/what-giftedness

https://www.hoagiesgifted.org/gifted_101.htm

 https://sengifted.org/about-seng/


 

Dr. Jessica Stone

Dr. Stone is a Licensed Psychologist and RPT-S who works in a private practice in Fruita, CO. She has been providing psychological services to children, teens, adults, families, and prospective parents since 1994.  Dr. Stone has been involved with the Association for Play Therapy in numerous capacities since 1993, including serving as CALAPT Branch President. She has presented nationally and internationally, and has been published in the fields of psychology and play therapy. She is the co-founder of the Virtual Sandtray App and VR programs.www.jessicastonephd.com www.sandtrayplay.com  

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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