Vol II, No 11 November 11, 2020
I’m standing in a sandy round pen enclosed with sturdy pipe panels. In the pen with me, a curious horse looks my way, ears pricked, and begins to walk towards me. What happens in my brain at that moment?

Any number of things can happen depending on which part of my brain has the strongest response. I can become afraid and tense up, my eyes narrowing. When that happens, the horse stops, ears flicking back and forth as she reads my body language and tries to decide if I’m safe to approach. I might become curious, my face relaxing and opening, as I consider what the horse might be thinking. In that moment, the horse takes a few more steps and reaches out with her nose. What is the difference between these two states?

The difference is how active my brain is in determining whether or not I feel safe and whether I should react by running or by trying to figure out what this enormous creature might want with me through engaging higher level thinking skills. Many of these higher level skills fall into a category called “Executive Functions.” Executive functions are what we use most of the time when we do what we call “thinking.” We direct our attention, often to a problem, and hold elements in our working memory, set goals, and make plans related to the issue.

But right now, standing in the round pen, my senses and the lower parts of my brain are assessing safety. I’m reading the horse’s body language (but not as well as she reads mine). Meanwhile, my prefrontal cortex, the area where executive functions happen, is pulling information into my working memory. What do I know about this horse? About horses in general? My attention is focused on the horse, and I’m making a plan about what to do next. Maybe I’m making more than one plan, so if the situation changes, I can be flexible.

Heather Hanlin went into the clinical mental health profession after becoming frustrated trying to find therapists who understood giftedness for her two gifted/2e kids. A lifelong horse lover and owner, she has advanced training in Natural Lifemanship Trauma Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP). She thinks horses and nature can teach gifted people in unique ways, especially socially and emotionally. This is her third career after doing theatrical costumes and being Mom to those gifted kids, including a brief stint homeschooling. The kids are now a teen and young adult, and they are doing quite well, even with her video game producer husband training them as his “gamer-larva.” She lives with her 2e husband, 2e father-in-law, kids, and three cats, one of whom she suspects might be 2e as well. The horse lives elsewhere, for now.

Heather Hanlin is an LPC Associate (Supervisor Reem Glasco LPC-S) near Austin, Texas. Find out more at https://heatherhanlin.wixsite.com/website.

Ahh, Executive Function: the ability to plan, break tasks down into steps, prioritise, execute, and … what’s the last one? Oh yes: finish.

I remember that.

It used to be one of my superpowers. Once upon a time, my life looked like this:

I was enrolled full-time on a Masters degree, coursework plus researching and writing a 30,000-word thesis. I was also working 18hrs/week as a research assistant, collecting and analysing a range of print and video publications for someone else’s project. And I was also working 9hrs/week as a grad teaching assistant. The effortless tidiness of my office attracted colleagues’ admiration.

A few years previously, I’d helped found an animation lobby group, serving as treasurer and producing the newsletter. We were also managing a film project. I had helped obtain and distribute development funding, I’d drawn and submitted my own storyboard, I was helping assess the other proposals.

And that’s not all. In those days, my fella and I lived in a tidy two-story house; we did jiu-jitsu; we saved money; we cooked from scratch and packed our own lunches; we gardened. I had my own room with art and needlepoint supplies in frequent use. We went regularly to the movies and spontaneously invited people to dinner.

That life ticked all my boxes for intellectual stimulation and variety, physical activity, social time and quiet time. I thrived.

Aaaaaand then there’s now.

Executive Functioning: I Finally Got It But I Forgot Where I Put It

Whether you’re a new arrival to gifted/2e land or an au courant traveler, new adventures await you at every crossroads. At one juncture, you’re helping your young ones traverse the chasm of asynchronous brain development and the executive function challenges native to gifted/2e land, and around the next bend, you’re conceding they’ll get “it” eventually.

We swear we’ll get “it” together, too, and once we’ve gotten “it” together, we either forgot where we put “it” or one of the kids used “it” (along with all of the tape) to create a scaled replica of Rome, circa 1527 BCE, not 476 BC! But we shouldn't scream about “it.” Ohho no. What kind of an example would that set?

Fortunately, when we know better, we can do better. Such is my personal mantra, anyway. GHF Writer Heather Hanlin reminds us that executive functions are “what we use most of the time when we do what we call ‘thinking’ . . . We direct our attention . . . and hold elements in our working memory, set goals, and make plans related to the issue.” For gifted and twice-exceptional people who have executive dysfunction, whether delays or deficits, doing better—even when we know better—can be quite the challenge.

Traversing the first bend, we must first regulate our own emotions before we can co-regulate with our children. That’s easier said than done when we’ve used up the last of our answers and coffee while we wrestle with our adult responsibilities carrying three backpacks stuffed with crumpled papers of poor working memory, sensory sensitivity, or attention deficit (or others) and a rotting apple of trauma shoved down deep in the bottom, along with . . . more tape!

Some decide to stop along the path where the apples fall—never too far from the tree—and set down our baggage, throw out that rotten apple, and pick some more apples for the horse (or therapist) that will help teach us how to regulate ourselves.

Then again, sometimes all we need is to sit in the shade of the apple tree in the company of others and talk amongst ourselves, voice our stories, and rejuvenate the pep in our step. We welcome you—parents, educators, and professionals alike—to gifted/2e land with open arms, an open mind, and lots of Choices.
Most of us have watched DIY shows on TV. Handy people invite us to watch their creative approach to their current project. Have you noticed that the bigger the project, the more help they need? These folks consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help.

Your project is your child's education, with the goal of helping them learn what they need to become independent adults. Our kids may engage in higher education, trade school, careers, volunteer work, or go down a host of other paths, but our job is to help them be as prepared as possible to reach for their goals.

Homeschoolers do not DIY with only their own wits and limited materials. Homeschool parents are some of the most resourceful people in the world. They consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help. Sound familiar?
Our first and second talks were very warmly received with lots of community feedback and engagement. Were so grateful for your participation and in awe of what this group is accomplishing. And please know, we're archiving all talks in the series so you don't have to miss a thing! — The G Word
Conversations with The G Word: Homeschooling, Virtual Learning & Gifted Challenges During the Pandemic . . . with Celi Trépanier (GHF Learners), Kasi Peters (Square Pegs) and Jacqui Byrnes (FlexSchool).

Stay close for future talks; upcoming topics include:
  • 2e, 3e & Neurodiversity
  • Trauma & Mental Health
  • Gifted Legislation & Funding

Jude attended college with his revised 504 Plan accommodations and executive functions coaching access. We worked together to have these set in place, through his college disability department. He drives. He manages his own bank account. He has a rich social life.

My brother is twenty-seven years younger than me. Jude was born four months early via emergency cesarean section, weighing in at just over one pound. He started life as a special-needs child who was developmentally and physically affected in many areas. He was in the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) for the first three months of his life. Afterward, he continued to be administered medications and treatments for his impairments. He was protected, nurtured, supported, and accommodated by a village: his mother, his father, and his adult sister, me. Subsequently, when he was eleven years old, his mother died after two years of rehabilitation with intensive medical treatments, physical complications, and living struggles post stroke. This left my father and me and him now with this huge gap.

We Hope You Enjoy This GHF Press Latest Release!
Is Giftedness a myth? What is a Gifted Child? Why is Giftedness such a hot-button issue? Where does the fear and dislike of ‘gifted’ come from?

Come on an adventure about how Mrs Einstein, newspaper articles from the 1920s, and the San people of the Kalahari Desert can help us understand what gifted is – and is not.

In an easy-to-read style, Gifted Myths explores these and other stories on the history, science, and lived experience of gifted and twice-exceptional families.

Gifted Myths is a must-read for parents, educators, and professionals who work with gifted and twice-exceptional children.
A Supportive Community for Gifted Learners
Come join us in the GHF Forum, our new online community where GHF will be sharing all of our services and resources.
  • Crowdsourced resource library (join the project)
  • Discussion groups
  • Parenting
  • Professionals
  • Gifted Adults
  • Empty Nesters
  • Regular Coffee Chats to take a break and share

INCLUDED in GHF Family Membership:
  • GHF Choices: DIY Education
  • GHF Expert Series
  • GHF Member Discounts
GHF connects all sorts of people who love gifted learners. We offer both family and professional memberships to support and encourage adults working to create new ways of educating gifted learners. Our members homeschool gifted and twice-exceptional kids, run homeschool co-ops and micro-schools, write to foster understanding of gifted and twice-exceptional learners, mentor students one-on-one, teach online classes, provide services specifically designed to meet the social and emotional needs of gifted and twice-exceptional learners, and more. Wed love for you to join us.

GHF is a 501c3 organization. Please consider supporting our community with your most generous gift today. For more information on our organization, please feel free to contact us at info@ghflearners.org. Thank you!