Emotional Issues and Giftedness
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Q: I have this friend that was diagnosed
with a mild intellectual disability; she was put in special classes.
When she was a kid she used to go to a French school and she did
exceptionally great there but when she came to an English school she did
poorly in all subjects comparing to when she was in a French school
because she couldn't understand the language. But when she got into high
school she did really well she even got a prestigious English award in
Once she was frustrated on how she bored in classes (even told
the teacher that she didn't want to do her work because she was bored)
she even thought of dropping out of school because she couldn't handle
all the boredom in her classes (even English she was bored but still got
an A in that class), she got a good mark on this English testing (she
got 300 of 400). When she was in her special class as a kid she took the
multiple intelligence test, it turned out that she was linguistic smart.
She speaks French fluently and is learning Japanese. She an avid reader
and loves creating her own stories (which are exceptionally good her
English teacher even said that she has potential to become a great
author), she has a great passion for science and even was asked to tutor
someone. She also got recommended to a great leadership program.
I noticed that when she's really curious about something she does really
well in it, my hypotheses is that when she's interested in something
that's when she go to her full potential. Her guidance counselor said
that she found some of her courses to easy because if the course was too
easy for her she won't put any effort at all. The guidance counselor
also said that she had a natural gift for English.
She's a huge a perfectionist (if she fail a test or quiz she get very emotional about
she even fell under depression). She's also hurting emotionally; she's
socially inept and she not good with others. She prefers hanging out
with people that are older than her or below her age. She always gets
depressed when she doesn't do well on a certain tasks. She's
highly sensitive and always hates her self for being different. In the
future she wants to be a psychologist in gifted children. She is vastly
interested in the general subject of gifted children. I'm
really worried about her because she's falling apart especially in
Science because she said that the course was too easy for her and she's
not putting the right amount of effort in that course. I want to
know if she's gifted and also have a disability. And if she's gifted
could she have this disability? And can you be gifted and also fail
courses too. Please answer my question because I want to help my friend
so bad. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Your friend certainly needs help and I believe that she may not be
getting the necessary help she needs for sometime now. It is not clear
about the mild intellectual disability that you mentioned, as it does
not appear that she has cognitive disabilities. Or perhaps misdiagnosed
due to a learning disability that she may have had that went
From what you described, she is definitely linguistically gifted. Hence,
she may be way ahead in language and thus boredom kicks in when her
intellectual capacity is not met with in the classroom. Everyone, and
more so gifted people would be motivated to work on interests areas.
Especially for gifted individuals, they need to find their work
meaningful. Curiosity is a distinct trait of gifted individuals.
From your description, she appears highly sensitive and as you mentioned
a perfectionist. These traits are common amongst gifted people; some
handle it well and some are not able to. Perhaps her environment did not
allow her to come up with coping skills to manage her emotions and this
may have gone on for years. After some time, it is no surprise that
these individuals would sink into a depressive mode. Being an avid
reader is excellent, but on one extreme, some gifted individuals may
find all their answers and feed their curiosity by reading; so much so
that they forget the real world. This is also because their peers may
not be able to understand them and eventually it becomes much easier to
relate to books. This is a vicious cycle as one gradually starts living
in the world of books and has fewer friends. Socializing is a skill that
needs to be nurtured and without proper nurturance, these individuals
lack the social skills required to cope in the real world. Again,
emotional imbalances may set in and the person may be clinically
depressed. She also needs specialized education to challenge her
cognitively. If her intellectual needs are not met, she would be bored
and eventually burn out.
A gifted person does not necessarily mean a straight 'A' student. There
are gifted people who are not doing well academically. So, it is not
surprising for a gifted individual with a high IQ to fail a course and
there can be many reasons for this. Additionally, a person can be gifted
and at the same time have a disability; a condition we term as twice
exceptional. You may want to read up a little more on this. What I
believe should be done now is to get her properly assessed as I think
she may need some kind of therapy to help her cope with her
perfectionism, sensitivity and depression. She also needs to be
diagnosed for any learning disability. It is hard to tell from your
brief description, she may have any condition from Asperger's syndrome
to just being highly gifted.
Whatever the problem is, I believe she is a very special girl whose
needs have not been met; hence the growing challenges. I believe with
the right guidance from a reputable psychologist, she would be able to
cope much better and focus on the strengths (i.e. being an author). As a
friend, you may also want to encourage her growth and be there for her.
For now, see a professional who can advise her further based on a
detailed assessment. I wish her and you the best of luck and I really
hope she would get better soon.