Monthly Archives: June 2012

Yunasa West 2012!

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa and Yunasa West summer camps unite highly able youngsters and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives. 2012 was the inaugural year for Yunasa West, which took place June 10-17 in Sedalia, Colorado.

Yunasa West campers

There was a lot of excitement and some uncertainty going into Yunasa West – how would our beloved Yunasa camp work in the Rocky Mountains instead of on the shore of a Midwestern lake? Would the altitude prove challenging for our campers? Though there were a number of questions going into Yunasa West, coming out of it there is only affirmation.

The week was a rousing success. Our campers were challenged intellectually and supported emotionally. They engaged in social, creative, and fun activities throughout each day and had formed a true “Yunasa family” by the end of the week.

Low Ropes Course

Low ropes worked as a team building exercise where campers had to communicate and lead each other across the ropes to reach a final destination.


Druidawn, a creative writing and role playing summer camp, captivated all the campers with the task of creating mythological worlds and the characters that reside there. Campers enjoyed the challenge of coming up with original settings and creatures!

Zombie Princesses

On Friday, the girls initiated a zombie princess party that was a huge success!

Gaga Ball

“Gaga ball” was a huge hit for campers. A few of them played every day of camp.


During one of Dan’s workshops, campers were taught to make a labyrinth with rocks they collected from around camp. By the end of the week, the labyrinth was complete—a 30 by 30 foot wonder in which campers, Fellows, staff, and visitors could walk through meditatively.

Calling in the Directions

Each day of camp began with a “Call in the Directions.” On the final day of camp, we did this at the labyrinth and set an intention for the campers as they parted ways. It was a special time of reflection.

Terry Bradley came up to camp for a day to have students make a craft that represented the stressors in their lives and what strategies they use to deal with the stress. Terry also offered a chat in which she told about her life. She was greatly received and appreciated by the campers.

Campers thoroughly enjoyed singing silly campfire songs. Open mic night was another time of laughs, applause and appreciation for one another. One of the campers told an original mystery story that gave everyone goose bumps.

Our gratitude ceremony, part of our closing activities, was almost 45 minutes of the campers spontaneously sharing their memories of joy and fun and gratitude over the week. It felt like a culmination of the week – everyone celebrating their memories and experiences together, with many, many campers pledging to return for future years. It was a pleasure and an honor to see a community develop among these unique, thoughtful, shining-eyed campers as the week unfolded!

Although 2012 marks the first year of Yunasa West, the camp still captured and relied on the deep-rooted traditions and values of the Yunasa family. Campers were encouraged by staff, counselors, and Fellows to explore the five aspects of Self: body, mind, spirit, heart, and social self.

Many of the campers immediately felt comfortable with each other and were even surprised by the level of comfort they experienced with one another. It was an absolute joy to watch these kids as they made new friends, participated in camp activities and games, connected with the Fellows, and shared honest conversation with each other.

The level of intelligence, maturity, and emotional depth among the campers was inspiring. Our hope is for these campers to return home feeling encouraged, accepted, alive to themselves and the possibilities, and maybe a little exhausted from all the fun!

Also, be sure to check out the photos from camp!

What were your kids’ favorite parts of Yunasa West? Please share with us in the comment section below!

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Breathing in I Calm My Body: Intensities in the Gifted

Caroline loves to read — not as a pastime, but as part of her lifeline to the world. She once told me that when she was forced to stop reading in class, it was like her lungs were collapsing, and it was difficult for her to breathe. This seven-year-old has been described as extremely intense and sensitive. The loss of something that comforts her and intellectually feeds her manifests itself in a physical reaction.

Children who feel things with great intensity experience the world in a different way. Gifted young people are often more aware, stimulated, and affected by their surroundings. Emotional or physical reactions to events can last longer than expected and are often replayed in the child’s mind.

Intensities can be characterized by:

  • Extreme feelings: positive or negative feelings; complex emotions; connection with the feelings of others; grand laughter and tears
  • Physical reaction to emotion: stomachaches and headaches; blushing; rise in body temperature
  • Strong affective memory: re-living or re-feeling things long after the triggering event; nightmares; elaborate daydreams connected to actual events

Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski studied the mental health of gifted youth and adults. He described the areas of heightened stimulation observed in gifted individuals as “overexcitabilites.” The five areas of overexcitabilites are:

  1. Psychomotor: extreme physical activity and movement; rapid talk; pacing; use of hand gestures
  2. Sensual: perceptiveness of sensory experiences; unusual awareness and enjoyment of sensation
  3. Imaginational: clear visualizations; metaphorical speech; dreaming; magical thinking
  4. Intellectual: need to question or analyze; delight in the abstract and theoretical; puzzle and problem solving
  5. Emotional: intensity of feeling and relationships; natural empathy and compassion; susceptibility to depression, anxiety, or loneliness

Dr. Michael Piechowski, who studied alongside Dabroswski, has dedicated much of his life to researching the emotional and spiritual aspects of gifted children. In his book Mellow Out,’ They Say. If Only I Could: Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright, he stresses the need to “give voice to the emotional life of bright young people, to show how their intensities and sensitivities make them more alive, more creative, and more in love with the world and its wonders.”

Piechowski, along with other gifted experts, teaches gifted children a variety of techniques for coping with their overexcitabilities. For Caroline, this required her teachers, parents, and siblings to understand and embrace her overexcitabilities. At the same time, Caroline learned exercises to calm her senses and help her focus.

Guided imagery and meditation are excellent tools for those like Caroline learning to master their sensitivities. A good place to start is with a simple exercise. Have your child close his or her eyes, breathe deeply, and say with the breath,

“Breathing in I calm my body,
Breathing out, I smile.”

Learning to use the mind to control the body through exercises like this — along with overall awareness and understanding — is an important step in mastering intensities.

For more strategies, see our post 15 Strategies for Managing Your Gifted Child’s Intensities.

Does your child experience any of these overexcitabilities? What coping techniques have worked for you? Please share with us in the comment section below!

We are excited to share this post as part of the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour. Gifted children worldwide share many unique characteristics, including intensities. It is important for those who are in the lives of these gifted individuals to better understand these characteristics in order to help nurture and support their intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical growth.

#NZGAW Blog Tour

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The Many Faces of Gifted: Phillip

By Carole Rosner

Every gifted child has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs, depicting the many faces of gifted. Academy – mentioned in this story – provides young students with challenging enrichment classes that focus on exploration and application of knowledge.


Academy Student

Although ten-year-old Phillip is only a fourth grader, he knows what he wants to be when he grows up, and he’s studying now for his future. Phillip wants to be a chemist and is taking high level enrichment classes through IEA’s Academy.

IEA has partnered with h-bar tutoring in Pasadena to offer exciting, instructive, hands-on classes year-round for motivated students like Phillip in grades 2-8.

Phillip has taken most of the classes Academy has offered. His first class was Neuro- Energy. “I took this class because it appealed to my doctor side,” he said. “I liked all of the classes, but my favorite is Scientists Like Me because it taught me a lot about many important scientists, like Eratosthenes.”

Classes are developed and taught by content area specialists – many of whom are Caltech PhD students – and typically focus on math, science or history. Recent courses include Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Mysteries of History, Rocket to Calculus and Sustainable Earth. New classes are introduced all the time; Playwriting, Astronomy and Theatre have been added for this year’s summer session.

Parents often find out about Academy classes through word of mouth from other parents. “Phillip’s classmate’s mom told me about it, and I am very happy to know that IEA exists,” Phillip’s mom, Ming, said. Ming has since spread the word; at least two of Phillip’s classmates have also taken Academy classes, and another friend will be starting this summer.

In addition to Academy classes, Phillip keeps busy with choir, basketball, piano, art, golf and Boy Scouts. He likes watching the Olympics and the NBA and will travel to China this summer.

When I asked Ming if she’s seen a difference in Phillip since he’s been taking Academy classes, she said, “Yes, he seems more confident and comfortable exploring new subjects and has become a more independent learner.”

It is true that Phillip and the other Academy students are engaged and motivated learners, but they are still kids. So, Phillip answered three important questions for me:

  1. What is your favorite food?
    Pasta Carbonara with white wine sauce
  2. What is your favorite TV show or book?
    The Hunger Games series
  3. If you could create your own Academy class, what would it be?
    An aerodynamic/paper airplane class

Academy classes run year-round at our office in South Pasadena, California. This summer, Academy will have two sessions: June 18 to July 6 and July 16 to August 2. Kids can take one to four classes in one or both of the sessions. For more information, an application and class schedules, visit the Academy page of our website. Sign up today!

Have your kids participated in enrichment classes? What was their experience? Please share with us in the comments below.

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By the Numbers

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children who lives outside of San Francisco.

"As part of the gifted community, I think it is our responsibility to share our stories so that we feel less isolated."I feel responsible to a number: my son’s IQ score. I’ve spent 9 years struggling with my relationship to it. I’ve gone from feeling absolved of any responsibility to taking full responsibility for what the number means for his future. Eventually, I found a peaceful place in which the number and I can coexist. I just needed to see his IQ score for what it is: an invitation to challenge my assumptions about what giftedness means and to educate myself about my son’s needs.

I received my son’s IQ score by accident. I shouldn’t have been surprised; after all, I hired a psychologist to have him assessed. She told me that she was going to give him a test to “see how he learns.” She was, after all, an expert, and I needed help. I had no idea that this was her euphemism for an IQ test.

I contacted the psychologist when my son was in kindergarten. He was multiplying and dividing large “defense” and “attack” points while “dueling” with his older brother during Yu-Gi-Oh games. At the same time, my son’s intense nature took a turn for the worse. He cried every day on the walk to school. The timing of these two events made me wonder if his mathematical talent was connected to the distress he experienced on the way to school. It seemed coincidental, but I wasn’t sure.

My husband and I talked about what to do. I thought he should be tested. I had no idea what he should be tested for, but I was sure that there was some sort of test that could help me better understand my son. My husband made a prophetic statement. He said, “Before you get him tested, you should know what you are going to do with the information.” I thought he was crazy. How could I know what to do before I got the results?

When I received the results, I still had no idea what to do with them. Everyone else, however, thought they knew exactly what they meant and what I should do. According to my friends, my son was “cream,” as in “the cream will rise to the top.” Homework would be easy, GPAs would be high, and I didn’t need to do anything. The teachers at my son’s public school seemed to agree with this assessment. Their idea of differentiating the curriculum for him required no work on their part. They assigned projects and expected my son to extend and enhance them on his own. I call this type of differentiation “smart kids will act smart.” He didn’t oblige, so I changed tactics.

I swung wildly to the other extreme and took full responsibility for ensuring that the promise indicated by the number was realized. We hired tutors and subscribed to online learning courses. We enrolled him in an independent school for gifted children. After all, if the IQ number represented my son’s ability, then a subpar GPA or SAT score would reflect an inadequate educational or family environment, right? This view of his IQ score fit my “middle child” sense of responsibility perfectly. It just wasn’t true.

The substantial resources we directed to my son’s education turned out to be money and time well spent, though not exactly for the reasons I expected. I was not guaranteeing excellence; I was addressing challenges. I needed to reevaluate my assumptions about my son’s education much the same way that parents with children who have learning differences need to adjust their expectations about their children’s needs.

It turns out that his emotional intensity is connected to his gifted intellect. His sensitivity to sensory stimulation exhausted him and made him irritable. His aptitude for pattern recognition caused him to overcomplicate simple tasks. His classmates’ reaction to his developmental asynchrony caused him to “dumb-down” his performance. When we changed his environment, he found peers who were similarly excited about learning and teachers who understood his occasional outbursts and celebrated his creative problem solving. He developed new passions and let some of his anxieties go.

With the help of organizations like the Institute for Educational Advancement that study and support gifted children, I learned about my son’s needs. I still get it wrong, and it’s those stories I like to share because I learn more from my failures than my successes. As part of the gifted community, I think it is our responsibility to share our stories so that we feel less isolated. So, I’ll start with this story, because I am, above all, very responsible.

What was your experience when you first found out your child is gifted? Please share with us in the comment section below!

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