Caregiver Perceptions of Overexcitabilities Among Early Elementary Gifted Children

By Keri Guilbault, EdD, Gregory Eckert, EdD, & Antonia Szymanski, PhD

Researchers have investigated the influence of parenting styles on development of talent, parents’ perceptions of giftedness, parents’ roles in the referral process, and their satisfaction with schooling and gifted programming (Gralewski & Jankowska, 2020; Jolly & Matthews, 2012; Morawska & Sanders, 2009; Papadopoulos, 2021); however, research is lacking on the perspectives of parents of young, gifted learners related to personality traits and overexcitabilities. Semi-structured interviews were held with a purposive sample of 11 caregivers of intellectually gifted children between the ages of five and nine. A thematic analysis revealed two overarching themes: (1) sensitivities and intensities, and (2) behaviors associated with challenges at home and school. Participants also completed questionnaires on personality factors and overexcitabilities. A hierarchical cluster analysis and k-means cluster analysis indicated that highly and profoundly gifted students scored higher in the five Dabrowskian Overexcitabilities as well as Openness to Experience. Implications for practice will be discussed.

Keri M. Guilbault, Ed.D. is an associate professor and coordinator of graduate programs in gifted education at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Guilbault has worked as a district supervisor of advanced learning programs, instructional coach, and teacher of the gifted. She received the 2019 Early Leader Award from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and served three terms on the NAGC Board of Directors. Dr. Guilbault currently serves as a U.S. Delegate to the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and chair of the Mensa International Gifted Youth committee.


Gregory K. Eckert, Ed.D. is a research assistant and graduate of Johns Hopkins University, School of Education. He also serves as a secondary public school educator in Pennsylvania. His research areas of interest include writing instruction, educational policy, and gifted education.


Antonia (Toni) Szymanski, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University. Dr. Szymanski has published several articles on the needs of gifted students and how teachers can improve the educational experience of these learners. She has done extensive work regarding advanced diverse students and the ways that schools can support them. Her work focuses on the psychological and social needs of learners, mindfulness, creativity, and talent development. Dr. Szymanski has devoted her professional career to improving the educational experience for students and supporting parents and teachers in understanding their needs. She Serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).