A quick note, please check out my page “What is Gifted?” if you haven’t heard of the term overexcitabilities (OE) or supersensitivities. As this post is going to be specifically about emotional overexcitability. There is a quick summary and links to more information.
Today on FB, in many gifted forums and in several science forums, I came across this article http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140328102909.htm on brain scans linking concern for justice to reason, not emotion. The University of Chicago was using brain scans on individuals with “justice sensitivity.” This of course got me wondering if the overexcitabilities so well known in the gifted community need to expand and separate justice sensitivity out of emotional sensitivity.
I know this is preliminary research and more studies are needed. However, these brain scans seem to document that there really is a basis for justice sensitivity. Whether the descriptors of overexcitabilities get expanded or not, I know that supersensitivities and overexcitabilities really do exist. Our son has had justice sensitivity and/or emotional overexcitabilities for some time.
The best example stems from days in public school. He attended a public charter school, which was crowded. Class size was 29. And, in the charter school, like other public schools here in TX, they use group discipline. Well, to a child with justice sensitivity and/or emotional overexcitabilities, this was a huge issue. Almost daily, his whole class was punished for the misbehavior of a just a few students (often the same few). The kids were told “one is all.” My child viewed this as torture. He felt he and his classmates that were following the rules and remained on the highest color clip were being unfairly punished. I agree with him, they were. There is research that this type of discipline can also cause resentment or dislike towards the ones causing the whole class to get punished. My son never acted out or threw emotional meltdowns when upset over the unjust punishment. Instead he resorted to writing. He often wrote notes in his school writing journals and directly to the teacher that “1 does not = all.” He also would tell his teacher, the GT teacher, the school nurse, and the principal any time he had a chance. His teacher did the best she could in explaining this. I explained it to him numerous times with all my former school psychology terms. Point is, our answers were not enough and never were going to be enough for him. To him it was all about social justice. If you do wrong then you get punished, and not everyone getting punished for the misbehavior of 1, 2 or 3.
There are lots of other examples stemming from as young as 2. My son would cry and get very upset when other children were being yelled at or disciplined harshly at parks, in stores, and in his MDO (mother’s day out preschool). He would cry easily if any family member raised their voice while correcting him. We were told by his preschool teachers that our son did not like it when others were punished and did not like it when others couldn’t get something right (could have been shapes, math, reading, etc.). He was and still is extremely rule conscious. We might not know all of the rules or social conventions he thinks people should be following, but he’ll let you know if you or anyone he sees is breaking them. He is also hard on himself when he breaks a rule.
My son brought himself to tears over several history lessons when discussing slavery, the underground railroad, Ruby Bridges, the trail of tears, and various massacres. We don’t avoid topics. Instead, we carefully choose when we are going to cover them and prepare him that we are covering a sensitive topic. We’ve also learned that he is not ready to watch some of the movies made on some books because the graphic representation in the movie often doesn’t match what he pictured in the book. In some cases the movies embellished and went beyond what was in the book. But, oh do we have some wonderful conversations on rules, laws, and social conventions. His brain truly doesn’t stop and the questions he comes up with are amazing.
So in my son, I most definitely see justice sensitivity whether it is a separate OE or part of emotional OE’s. He also presents intellectual OE’s too which is why his conversations on social injustices are very interesting. We know they are part of what makes him who he is. Hoping future research can give us even more answers. The more one can learn on this issue, the more that can be done to help others in the gifted education field.