Blog Archives

Rethinking Underachievement and Potential


What constitutes underachievement and who determines when a child is underachieving? Does the definition change over time based on what society values? A simple definition of underachievement is ‘performing below expectations.’ This begs the question … who determines what is expected? In education, it may mean meeting/exceeding the standards. In society, are accomplishments enough? Regardless of how it is defined, underachievement must be dealt with in some manner due to the consequences often faced by students in the situation. The effects can be devastating for some and have a lifelong impact.

Potential is equally a term whose definition is up for debate. Whether in the eye of the beholder or determined by others, the expectation is that it must be fulfilled if one is to be seen as accomplished; a success. When a person fails to live up to their potential, it is generally a reason for calls to ‘fix’ the situation; even if the person in question doesn’t want fixed.

Underachievement has real life consequences that can extend well into adulthood. Gifted underachievers may have very different reasons for finding themselves dealing with those consequences. Causes of underachievement range from learning difficulties to lack of study skills or motivation to teacher mismatch or school policy.

Once underachievement envelops a student’s life; it can develop into apathy, disrespect, or a desire to conform to peers in an attempt to be popular. It may eventually cause social-emotional issues when a student’s ‘gifted’ identity is challenged.

What can schools do to counteract underachievement in gifted students? Gifted underachievers can benefit from incorporating depth and complexity in their learning, accelerating the pace of learning, allowing the free expression of creativity, and grouping with intellectual peers. Schools can reduce boredom and increase engagement of gifted underachievers by allowing students to experience “control, choice, challenge, complexity and caring teachers” (Kanevsky & Keighley, 2003). Research suggests that engagement can be encouraged by “enlisting gifted students’ social-emotional imagination, creativity, sense of purpose & empathy for others.” (Gottlieb, Hyde, Immordino-Yang & Kaufman, 2016).

Parents must advocate for the determination of the cause of the underachievement first so that schools provide appropriate interventions and then be willing to work with school personnel to address the causes. They may need to consider additional testing and counseling with a licensed mental health professional. Parents can nurture a love of learning by providing opportunities outside traditional schooling that appeal to their child’s interests and abilities. A transcript of this chat may be found at Wakelet.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 1PM NZST/11 AM AEST/Midnight UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

 Lisa Conrad About the authorLisa 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:



Cleverness and Common Sense-Your True Potential: Human Gifts and Talents! (Podcast)

Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic (Amazon)

Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement (bn)

Gifted Underachievers (why it makes sense, and how to deal with it) (YouTube 8:32)

Solving the Riddle of Underachievement: Kenneth Christian at TEDxSacramento (YouTube 8:49)

In Defense of the High School Underachiever | Rachel Hawley | TEDxYouth@Wayland (YouTube 16:45)

Reversing Underachievement: Stories of Success

Who is the Gifted Underachiever? Four Types of Underachievement in Gifted Children

What causes gifted underachievement?

Factors That Differentiate Underachieving Gifted Students From High-Achieving Gifted Students

Underachievers Under-the-radar: How Seemingly Successful Gifted Students Fall Short of their Potential

How to Help your Underachieving Gifted Child

8 Ideas for Building Intrinsic Motivation to Learn in Students

Underachievement in Exceptionally Gifted Adolescents and Young Adults: A Psychiatrist’s View (pdf)

Gifted Underachievers: A Contrarian Position or Two

Beware of Underachievement in Successful Students

Underachievement: A Story in Process

When You Don’t Live up to Your Potential


Image courtesy of Pixabay Pixabay License

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.


Dąbrowski’s Overexcitabilities

Dabrowski Quote


Overexcitabilities was a topic that had not been discussed on #gtchat since October of 2012, and obviously one that needed revisited considering the overwhelming number of votes it received in our weekly poll.

Kazimierz Dąbrowski is a familiar name in the gifted community as well as in the field of psychology. His theories of Positive Disintegration and Overexcitabilites, although not originally posited for gifted individuals only, were adopted by gifted advocates and academics as a way to explain many of the behaviors they saw in the gifted; particularly the concept of overexcitabilities.

Dąbrowski died in 1980, but two men who worked with him, Michael Piechowski and William Tillier, are closely associated with his work; albeit with significantly different interpretations. For a historical perspective, links have been included with this post to more fully cover this debate as it was not covered during the chat.

So exactly who was  Kazimierz Dąbrowski and how did his theories come to influence the gifted community? He was a Polish psychologist, psychiatrist and physician who lived from 1902 to 1980. His theories, as mentioned above, serve as a framework for understanding certain gifted characteristics. Dąbrowski believed ability/intelligence plus overexcitability predicted the potential for higher-level development. (Lind) For an excellent review of his influence on gifted theory, see this article by Sharon Lind at the SENG website.

Interview with Dąbrowski recorded in October 1975 in Edmonton (Canada) by PJ Reece

Concentrating on overexcitabilities, there are 5 types: Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional. Creative and gifted individuals appear to express overexcitabilities to a greater degree through increased intensity, awareness and sensitivity. These characteristics can often lead to misdiagnosis in gifted children by professionals unfamiliar and untrained in recognizing these traits.

Strategies have been developed for coping with overexcitabilities. Talking with and explaining the concept of overexcitabilities with those experiencing them tends to be a good coping strategy. In the case of children allowing them to ‘move’ and expend their energy in a safe and caring environment can be a huge benefit; especially in classroom settings. Provide stimulating and challenging coursework in educational settings for children with intellectual overexcitability can affect their lives in dramatic ways as well as prevent underachievement and boredom.

For a transcript of this chat, visit our Storify site.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZDT/11 AM AEDT 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.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About 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:



Interview with Prof. Kazimierz Dąbrowski 1975 (YouTube 22:38)

Five Unexpected Traits of Gifted Students  from Byrdseed Gifted

Dąbrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration & Giftedness: Overexcitability Research Findings (pdf)

Living With Intensity: Understanding Sensitivity, Excitability & Emotional Development of the Gifted (Amazon)

Dąbrowski’s Over-excitabilities A Layman’s Explanation by Stephanie Tolan

Identifying Gifted Adolescents using Personality Characteristics: Dąbrowski’s Overexcitabilities (pdf)

Overexcitabilities & the Gifted Child from Duke TIP

Living with Intensity Understanding Giftedness through Dąbrowski’s Eyes

Overexcitabilities & Why They Matter for Gifted Kids

Overexcitabilities A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Your Gifted Child (pdf)

Dąbrowski’s Theory & Existential Depression in Gifted Children & Adults (pdf) by Dr. James T. Webb

Relationships between Overexcitabilities, Big 5 Personality Traits & Giftedness in Adolescents via @sbkaufman

Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities or Supersensitivities in Gifted Children

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (Amazon)

Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration (Amazon)

Overexcitabilities & Sensitivities: Implications of Dabrowski’s TPD for Counseling the Gifted

Foundations for Understanding Social-Emotional Needs of Highly Gifted from Davidson Gifted

Mellow Out, They Say If I Only Could: Intensities & Sensitivities of the Young & Bright (Amazon)

Dąbrowski 201: Intro to Kazimierz Dąbrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration by William Tillier (pdf)

Point-Counter Point Piechowski and Tillier: Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration

Response to William Tillier’s “Conceptual differences between Piechowski and Dabrowski” (pdf)

Can Giftedness be Misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder? Empirical Evidence (pdf)

Thank you to Leslie Graves (President of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children), Dr. Brian Housand (NAGC Board of Directors, #gtchat Advisory Board, Amy Harrington (SENG Board of Directors), Jo Freitag (Gifted Resources), Corin Goodwin (Executive Director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum), Dr. Marianne Kuzujanakis (SENG Director and Medical Liaison) , Amanda Morin, and Jerry Blumengarten (Cybraryman).

The OEQ 2 Inventory (pdf)

Gifted Articles: Overexcitability on Livebinders

Educating the Educator – Gifted Education (AUS): Overexcitability

Dąbrowski’s Theory of Overexcitabilities

Photo of Kazimierz Dąbrowski

The Intellectual and Emotional Experience of Being Gifted and Talented

Overexcitabilities and Asynchronicity and Perfectionism! Oh, My!

Gifted: Overexcitabilities and Asynchronicity

Nurturing the Gifted Mind: Intellectual Overexcitabilities

Save the Gifted

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Brochures

Reducing the Risk of Medical Misdiagnosis from SENG

How to Help Your Grade-Schooler Manage Overexcitement

How to Help Your Middle- or High-Schooler Manage Overexcitement

GHF: Tips from an Occupational Therapist

Overexcitabilities on Livebinders from Leslie Graves

Cybraryman’s Coping Strategies Page

Cybraryman’s Yoga Page

WCGTC World Conference 2015

Sprite’s Site Do You Know the Dabrowski Dogs?

Sprite’s Site Doggy Classroom Dynamics

Sprite’s Site Travelling with the Dabrowski Dogs

Sprite’s Site Critical Thinking

Sprite’s Site Be Creative with the Dabrowski Dogs

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Gifted Cubed – The Expanded Complexity of Race and Culture in Gifted and 2e Kids

Dr. Doresa Jennings on YouTube

This week, Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT joined with Gifted Homeschoolers Forum to introduce their latest free brochure, “Gifted Cubed – The Expanded Complexity of Race and Culture in Gifted and 2E Kids.”

GHF 10th Anniversary Logo

Our guest and primary author of Gifted Cubed was Dr. Doresa Jennings. Dr. Jennings is a well-respected adjunct professor at the University of Alabama – Huntsville and Colorado State University – Global Campus in Communications Studies. She also homeschools her 3 profoundly gifted children. In the past, she has worked for NASA and the CDC.

Gifted Cubed Pic

“Gifted Cubed” – a free printable brochure (pdf) from GHF


So, what exactly is ‘gifted cubed’? It refers to children of color with learning differences/difficulties who are also identified as gifted. Unfortunately, when the first two labels are present, the possibility of gifted is often overlooked by schools. Add in the fact that these children may choose not to participate in gifted programs for cultural reasons or their lack of diversity and you see the reasons for the inequitable makeup of these programs.

As Dr. Jennings pointed out, “Often kids who ‘look different’ from others [at] their age-level of ability are seen as misbehaving or even pathological. These kids are more likely to be medicated rather than appropriately identified.” Michelle Mista, a homeschooling mother in San Francisco, added, “Some minorities are labeled troublemakers, period; and the issue is so endemic that their being gifted isn’t even considered. There’s also the issue in cultures where smarts = achievement; giftedness is [not seen as] a possibility.”

Moving forward, what needs to be done to ensure that these kids will be identified and have their needs met? GHF’s brochure is a good start to raise awareness that the problem exists. Educating teachers and parents about the identification process will help as well. All children deserve to have their educational and social-emotional needs met regardless of ethnicity, language, learning differences or being gifted. A full transcript of this chat may be found on our Storify page.


gtchat thumbnail logoGlobal #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT 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 Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About 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:



“What is Gifted Cubed?” from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum website

Gifted Cubed – The Expanded Complexity of Race & Culture in Gifted & 2e Kids brochure (pdf) from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

The Rise of Homeschooling among Black Families

Parenting the Culturally/Racially Diverse Gifted Child from SENG

Highly Capable Native American Students: Who are They? (YouTube 16:09)

Gifted and Minorities Resources and Links from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

Black Parents Exercising their Options: Educating their Gifted Children by Dr Joy Davis via Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

Special Populations in Gifted Education: Understanding Our Most Able Students from Diverse Backgrounds (Amazon)

Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League (Amazon)

Giftedness in Underserved Populations: A Call to Action by BobYamtich

Underachievement Among Gifted Minority Students: Problems & Promises (1997)

Diversity & Gifted Children: Are We Doing Enough? from IEA Gifted

Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education (Amazon) by Donna Y. Ford

Racism and Sexism in Diagnosing A.D.H.D. by Donna Y. Ford

Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2nd Edition (Amazon) by Annette Lareau

Kids Don’t Want to Fail: Oppositional Culture and the Black-White Achievement Gap (Amazon) by Angel L. Harris

Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners (Amazon) by Joy L. Davis

Why Aren’t More People of Color Labeled ‘Gifted’? Unlocking the Genius in All of Us 

Should Behavior be Used to Deny Entrance to Gifted Programs?

Many behaviors were discussed during this chat which might be used by                                       school personnel to deny entrance to gifted programs. Among these                                         behaviors were immaturity, underachievement/poor grades, disruptive                               behavior in the classroom, hyperactivity, daydreaming, and not getting easy                               work done.

An important point was made by Stacia Taylor of Texas Parenting PG that too often gifted programs are seen as a reward for good grades rather than for fulfilling the needs of the gifted child. In this instance, it is easy for schools to justify who gets into the gifted program and who does not. Krissy Venosdale, former gifted teacher and new school director at a GT school, added that gifted students who don’t handle the traditional classroom setting well can be denied access to the very programs that they really need.


It was announced at the end of chat that the chat for September 13th will be moved to Thursday, September 12th  @5PM ET/4PM CT/ 22.00 UK/ 7.00 Friday AUS (ET).

A full transcript of the chat may be found here.


A Creative and Gifted Young Man Finally Gets a Chance to Succeed in School

What We Have Learned About Gifted Children” by Linda Silverman

Finally, Some Good News for Gifted and Disabled!

If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back?”  from Jen Merrill

They Said He Would Never Learn

Smarte Barn from Jan Bakler

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