The Profoundly Gifted Adult
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Years after raising three gifted children, I am still
puzzling over our middle kid, who is distinct from his sibs
and many of his peers. He has been diagnosed at different
times with OCD and anxiety disorder, and others have raised
the question as to whether or note he has Asperger's
syndrome. I do not believe that the latter is the case and
that his characteristics are the result of his rather unique
He was tested at age 5 only because he was quite different.
In fact a private kindergarten later refused to re-enroll
him in first grade unless he went to see one of "their"
psychologists, because he would not "connect" with other
children. He used that year to study hawks outside the
classroom and to build his own things. School was a haven
from an oppressive older brother.
His IQ test at age five resulted in an IQ of 150. The ed
psych said his creativity test was the "highest score" she
had ever seen. Today as an adult he is most interested in
pursuing his creative ideas. He can teach himself languages,
such as Hawaiian and adapt to other cultures. He can create
music and lyrics, perform, has created a TV show idea which
he is marketing. He is a natural artist, and created a
cartoon strip at age 8. He is also a good writer. In fact,
his cognitive skills are equal to his creative ones, and he
is autodidactic. He published an article on coconut palm
trees (he loves tropical ecology) in an international
journal and was the only non-PhD. in the table of contents.
That said, he cannot lead a conventional life and still
pursues his interests irregardless of their practicality.
All through school he completed only what he wanted to and
his teachers complained to me often. He left high school to
be an exchange student in Brazil, but got honors at entrance
to UCSB after taking the high school equivalency test.
My other children have professions and we all just let "Eric
be Eric," but he is barely getting by financially at age 38.
He's a lovely person, but he needs some informed guidance to
be able to convert his talents into what I call
Any thoughts or recommendations? I have counseled a lot of
young people as a scholar/college teacher, but he is unlike
any other kid I have come across.
A: As you have dealt with three
gifted children of your own, you are probably in a very good
position to understand your son. However, there is a fine
difference between children with different levels of
giftedness. And that is the intensity of their gifts which
leads them to cope and manifest their gifts differently.
Some common characteristics of highly gifted individuals
An extremely curious mind – which calls for the need for
constant mental stimulation.
Strong need to explore subjects in surprising depth that
leads to the ability to focus intently on a subject of
Ability to learn and process complex information quickly.
Inability to concentrate or complete a task that is not
meaningful or intellectually challenging.
A tendency toward underachievement.
A need for precision in thinking and expression.
All characteristics of gifted children continues into
adulthood, create a different experience of life for the
gifted adult, just as they do for the gifted child. So the
issue of whether they are being recognized or whether or not
the individual understands and accepts her/his differences
will still remain. Gifted children who are nurtured
accordingly usually cope well and being different can be a
positive life experience. However, it can sometimes be
painful or even destructive.
You have probably used the same
strategies to help your son as you did with the other kids
and it should have worked. But the intensity of your son's
giftedness made it hard for anyone to understand his needs.
Unfortunately, as all gifted children need differentiation
in education, the more one's IQ deviates from the norms; the
more difficult it is to “fit in”. A special individualized
curriculum would have been helpful in this case. This is
possible today with the many gifted and talented programs
across the country; however, it may not have been available
when your son was growing.
The cognitive differences in adults can lead to high levels
of career success in many fields, as you may have noticed in
your other children. These are the specific abilities that
often produce the “recognised gifted adult” – which may be
the ground-breaking physicist, the great philosopher, or the
successful entrepreneur. However, research have indicated
that for the gifted adult whose life circumstances do not
readily provide an arena for the positive use of these
abilities, the result may be a feeling of frustration, lack
of fulfillment, a nagging sense of being tied down, and
imprisoned. The worst scenario is that they are unable to
understand their dissatisfaction with life. This may be
happening in your son's case.
At this stage, it may be hard to make him do anything you
want him to, including profession as he has his set mind.
What I believe you need to do now is consult a professional
in this area (make sure someone who is an expert in
giftedness) and seek some advise. He may not understand or
wants to understand what is happening and may need some help
here (Have you seen the movie “Good Will Hunting”? –
interesting!). It may be hard to get him to see someone so
perhaps you may need to see how you can help him. A
professional career counselor can be a great help as well.
Another thing that can be done is to get in touch with one
of the experts in giftedness in the universities who may be
able to refer you to an expert in adult giftedness. Also get
in touch with the gifted association in your area. Although
they appear to be more for younger children, you may be
referred to someone who can help.
You may want to check out these sites and contact the person
If you feel nothing is working, and you have exhausted all
your resources for help, just help him be himself (this is
especially since it can be very exhausting and may take a
toll on your wellbeing). Show him that you and his siblings
are there to support him and allow him to flow naturally.
Sometimes, just being accepted for what you are makes a
whole lot of difference. But for now, don't give up – you
have a very special son and you can help him contribute to
the world. My very best wishes to you and your son.