An Interview with Patricia Gatto-Walden

Recently, #gtchat had the opportunity to interview Dr. Patricia Gatto-Walden (via email); the upcoming Keynote Speaker at this year’s Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas, November 28th to 30th.

Dr. Gatto-Walden is a nationally recognized licensed  psychologist who has worked with gifted and profoundly gifted children, adolescents and adults. Her work includes holistic health and well-being, staff and program development, educational consulting as well as a private practice in Colorado and Florida.

#gtchat Q1) What is your background in gifted education?

P G-W A1) I received my PhD from the University of Illinois in Counseling, Educational Psychology.  While a doctoral student, I was asked to become the Director of Guidance and Counseling for University High School.  This school is for the profoundly gifted adolescent and is affiliated with the College of Education.  It is  very academically advanced and a nationally recognized school.  I entered the school during my visit and “fell in love” the very first day with the kids.  Although they were brighter than me, we could relate immediately on a very deep, emotional level.  I accepted the position in 1977 and worked with faculty, parents and students as an administrator and counselor.  I absolutely loved my work with this population, and I have never looked back.  Those three years defined my career path and I have been working with highly and profoundly gifted children, adolescents and adults every year since.

#gtchat Q2) Can you share your philosophy of integrating various aspects of giftedness?

P G-W A2) I have been holistically oriented as a person my entire life, and as a professional since the mid-70s, long before it became popular.  There were many things I learned my first three years working with profoundly gifted youth, but at the foundation, it became very clear that giftedness did not just mean heightened academic ability.  Giftedness is innate and affects all five domains of a person: one’s mind, emotions, body, spirit/ethics/morals and social self.  An individual is born gifted and dies gifted; the educational system does not determine one’s giftedness.  My entire career I have focused on the complexity within the gifted person, one’s sensitivity and perceptivity, and the advanced morals, ethics and commitment to personal meaning and goals that guides gifted individual’s lives.  I  noted the various ages within the person (asynchronous development) decades before it was named in the literature.  And when “overexcitabilities” were finally delineated, it was the missing puzzle pieces to fully understanding a gifted individuals inner nature.

#gtchat Q3) What are your responsibilities at the NAGC?

P G-W A3) I have been chair of the Global Awareness Division for two terms, several years each term.  I was a co-chair with my dear friend, Betty Meckstroth from 1999-2001 and then again, a solo-chair 2010-2012.  Just this fall, I passed the rod to my successor and although I have loved expanding the Network; I am delighted with my new-found freedom.  I have been a member of NAGC since 1977.

#gtchat Q4) As a Senior Fellow for the Institute of Educational Advancement in Los Angeles, you are involved with Yunasa. Can you tell us about this camp?

P G-W A4)

Oh, this is one of my professional “babies”.  Thirteen years ago the Institute picked ten people in the gifted field to go on a retreat and talk about the possibility of creating a special camp for highly and profoundly gifted kids.  This time, instead of focusing on academic subjects, they wanted to sponsor a camp that would include spirituality.  Out of the ten guests, they picked three of us: Stephanie Tolan, Michael Piechowski and myself.  We met with the leadership of IEA for two years, creating and defining a holistic camp for gifted kids. We became the Senior Fellows at the Institute, and Betty Meckstroth joined us in the second year of preparation. Our intention was to develop a camp that would focus on the growth of the inner self and help these kids learn what it means and feels like to attain a sense of personal balance and meaning. We picked the name Yunasa, because in Lacota Sioux it means balance, and that is our goal for every camper and adult throughout the week. Last year was our tenth year of camp,  Each day we focus on and learn to respect our mind, heart, body, spirit and social self.  The camp has affected these campers lives way beyond what we ever imagined.  Yunasa kids come back year after year after year.  They have found a true home, a place of safety, stability and security, where they can genuinely be who they are, with kids their age of intellectual likeness.  It is revolutionary in their lives.  Parents are so shocked by the impact of Yunasa, hundreds have asked us, “What did you do?  He/she is not the same kid I brought to camp.  He is happy and grateful and contented.”  And then nearly all parents ask, “Can I come to camp too?”, acknowledging that they need so desperately the very same things their children have received.  There are so many special things about the camp it would take me too long to delineate them.  We have established traditions that the kids love and count on.  We are a “tribe” of elders (the Senior Fellows), IEA staff, (age in their 30s), Camp Counselors (in their 20s, in college and mostly all Yunasa camp and leadership camper graduates).  I cannot truly describe the magic that occurs at camp, for the kids and for us.  We simply dearly love each other, and we enfold new campers in our supportive circle.  Kids from different countries now come to camp.  We limit the number to 65 campers, which includes our leadership program (of emerging leaders and counselors in training).  This past summer we launched a second Yunasa camp in the Rockies, called Yunasa West.  It was a huge success, so now there are two options of attending Yunasa—midwest in Michigan, or west in the Rockies.

#gtchat Q5) At TAGT ’12, you will be the Keynote Speaker at both the Annual Conference and the Annual Parent Conference as well as speaking at a break-out session. Could you touch on the highlights of your presentations?

P G-W A5)

The Heart of the Matter: As educators, focusing on enhancing gifted kids’ talent development through academic enrichment is a noble goal, but are we providing what these children need to thrive? Specifically, how can we support who gifted children are, as well as what they can produce? Dr. Gatto-Walden incorporates over thirty years of responding to gifted children and adolescents’ needs, wants, and concerns — come listen to what they say inspires and motivates them at school. Learn what is at “the heart of the matter” to help our gifted children thrive.

Listening Within – The Call to Meaning and Service: Some intellectually gifted children have equally compassionate gifted hearts. Their intensity and sensitivity bring the outer world into their inner landscape. Within the complex matrix of the world, they may have the ability to simplify what is essential and what is truly needed. This session will define characteristics of their extraordinary consciousness, enumerate ways to activate their inner wisdom for direction, and facilitate answering their questions, “What do I have to offer?” and “How can I be of service?”

What Gifted Children Want You to Know:

1) My life is difficult for me.

2) I am not like everyone else. I am different.

3) Listen to me, even if you do not agree with me.

4) Think about what you are saying to me.

5) You are the most important person in my life.

Thank you Dr. Gatto-Walden for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. We look forward to connecting with you in Dallas!

Posted on November 18, 2012, in Emotional intensity, family, parenting, Psychology, Social Emotional and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I love the camp focus and the wish for balance! This is my wish for my son! I find it so sad when educators try to prove that my son isn’t gifted by reminding us of his struggles. The list of things that gifted kids want us to know was an important reminder! Thank you!!

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