Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students with Guest, Christine Fonseca


On the eve of this year’s Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented’s Next Level 2016 Annual Conference, our guest was Christine Fonseca. Christine is the author of Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students; this year’s winner of TAGT’s Legacy Award in the Parent category.

The term ’emotional intensity’ has often been used to describe gifted children. Christine likes Dabrowski’s definition – “an inborn (extreme) sensitivity to life.” It is expressed in the highs and lows of emotional responses  which are ever present in the life of these kids. Emotions can be so intense – even at a young age – that adults may misinterpret the cause and respond inappropriately. Jeffery Farley, a Special Programs Coordinator for Beaumont ISD in Texas explained, “[It is a] passionate reaction to things that others might find mundane.”

Far too often adults attempt to pathologize gifted students’ behaviors. However, Christine told us, “When we pathologize ‘normal’ behavior–and Emotional Intensity is normal in GT children – we convey the message that they are ‘broken’. In truth, GT children are just seeing the world differently. Our definition of “normal” doesn’t apply – it’s inadequate. Once we stop pathologizing, we can focus on the development of coping strategies to manage the unhealthy aspects on EI. I think it is important to support and recognize the GT FIRST and then see if there is something additional to work on.”

How can parents help their gifted children? Christine said, “First, view it as normal. Emphasize the emotional strengths of GT children – high performance standards, empathy, and resiliency. Focus on developing social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies like self awareness and self management. It’s about developing strategies – coping skills – the child can habituate into his or her life. Here’s the thing, many of our GT kids feel BAD for their intensities! We have to help them redefine ‘normal’.” Also, parents should serve as their child’s advocate with the goal of nurturing self-advocacy as they mature.

Teachers, too, can make modifications to enrich classroom experiences for gifted students. When teachers take the time to understand the nature of gifted kids, the child’s experience in the classroom often flourishes. They need to advocate for the necessity of modifications and then consider their ‘student’s voices’ when considering enrichment. Christine suggested teachers, “embed SEL (social-emotional learning) into the curriculum and classroom environment, as well as stress management strategies. Specifically teach ways to manage the unhealthy aspects of perfectionism.” Corin Goodwin, Executive Director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum added, “Lead by example. Compassion, understanding and treating all kids with respect goes a long way.”

What strategies can be used to deal with explosive feelings of gifted children in their daily life? Be prepared! Parents should consider likely scenarios before they happen and plan what to do before tensions rise. Parents and teachers should talk honestly with the child about known explosive feelings and coping strategies.

“Embrace Emotional Intensity! It is the passion we really need on the planet right now! Honor the many strengths of the social – emotional development of GT kids – empathy, resiliency, self-actualization.” ~ Christine Fonseca

The time may come when parents feel compelled to turn to a mental health professional for help. First and foremost, try to find someone who is experienced in working with gifted individuals. A parent should meet with the MH professional first; they should feel comfortable with them or look elsewhere. For more comments from this chat, a transcript may be found at Storify.

Thank you to Christine for providing a copy of her book for a lucky gtchat participant. Our winner was Corin Goodwin. Congrats to Corin!

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at 14.00 NZST/12.00 AEST/1.00 UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com


Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings (Amazon 2nd ed.)

101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids (Amazon)

Living With Intensity (Amazon)

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults (Amazon)

Smart Teens’ Guide to Living with Intensity: How to Get More Out of Life & Learning (Amazon)

Calming the Family Storm: Anger Management for Moms, Dads & All the Kids (Amazon)

Intense Gifted Children

The Mislabeled Child: Looking Beyond Behavior (Amazon)

TAGT Legacy Book Awards 2016 

An Intense Life (Christine’s Blog)

Understanding Emotional Complexity of a Gifted Child 

The Strong-Willed Gifted Child

Where’s the Off Switch

Helping Gifted Children Cope with Intense Emotions 

Sprite’s Site: Stories of the OEs 

Why Problem Finders Are More Creative Than Problem Solvers 

Cybraryman’s Social-Emotional Learning Page 

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum: Living with Gifted Children 

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum: Writing Your Own Script: A Parent’s Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Posted on December 9, 2016, in gifted and talented. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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