Can anyone recommend a resource to find a psychologist who specializes in gifted adolescents?

Shannon - posted on 08/13/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )

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Hi! My son who is 13 and starting 9th grade in 2 weeks, is exhibiting signs of obsessive thinking, insomnia, high anxiety, and (unfortunately) an extreme degree of impatience/intolerance for almost everyone around him who "can't keep up". He is truly gifted in many areas, but especially in logic and reasoning and his ability to synthesize information, and I am afraid that he is literally driving himself crazy thinking all of his "thoughts". He has an acute sense of justice and has been increasingly obsessing over some of life's big questions - evil, cruelty, abuse, political outrage, man's inhumanity to man/animals/etc. - to the point sometimes of showing physical symptoms (sweating, shaking, etc.). He can't "turn it off". I know alot of these 'tendencies' are normal for very gifted children, but I just know this is going down a road I don't like. We need help. Does anyone know of a resource that lists counselors/psychologists/therapists who specialize in gifted children/adolescents? My insurance company has been of no help, and the school has referred me to the school psychologist, but I'm not comfortable with that unless it's my only option.

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Dollia - posted on 09/17/2010

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SENG!!! It is all about Serving the Emotional Needs of the Gifted and they have a therapist list for each state! Just Google it!

Laura - posted on 09/06/2010

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Find a child/adolesent psychologist. Does the health insurance company have a website? Sometimes it has doctor info on it. Also, is there a gifted resource teacher at his middle school or high school that you can ask for info. His Primary care physician might be able to refer you to someone who does adolescents. I totally understand about the "not turning it off" part. My son is only 8 and has OCD along with being identified as gifted. The OCD came first although we suspected he was gifted. When things were changing in his world he would become obsessed with other things to the point he could not function. Anyway, I am not saying your child could have OCD, but definately get a referral to someone or even just call a pyschologists office and see if they know someone who specializes in young adults and then go from there. I am careful with the schools psychologists as ours kept saying my son had ADHD and wanted him medicated for it. He doesn't have that he is gifted and she doesn't know or understand the difference. Good luck and let me know what you find out.

User - posted on 09/05/2010

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Would you let me know where you are located? I am a child and adolescent therapist in Connecticut with gifted kids of my own. Gifted kids are often more intense in many ways, especially with their sensitivity, which can be tough to deal with even though it is normal. Often these kids are helped by just the reassurance that they are not the only people who feel the way they do and that they are NOT abnormal. Counseling is a great idea and you should trust your instincts as a parent. I believe that it is a sign of mental health to ask for support. Everyone needs it sometimes.

Laura - posted on 09/02/2010

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Thanks for clarifying your experience, Julie. I can tell this is a very emotional subject for you and I'm sorry you had to go through it.

You are right in that good communication between parents and children is the best way to start. But sometimes that just isn't enough. I've worked in social services before with kids that had "labels" by the professionals and those labels ARE a double-edged sword. Labels are a diagnostic tool that can be both limiting and extremely helpful--depending how they are used. They are used by mental and physical health professionals as a way to develop possible treatments for the patients' problems/illnesses. It's been my experience that the labels, more often than not, have been helpful, especially to the parents. It creates a starting point of sorts to providing the best possible care for the child. You are also correct that labels can be incorrect. That is why second opinions can be helpful, especially if concerns still exist with the parent. Again, this applies to both mental and physical health.

Unfortunately society will always use labels for people. Labeling is a tool that ALL people use. We even label ourselves! Kids that are in the gifted programs at school are labeled already--"gifted"! Some labels are earned, while others are given, rightly or wrongly; it's how people think in order to understand others and their environmment. The real trick as a human being is to live and behave in such a way that positive labels are associated with you. Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective on this!

Julie - posted on 09/02/2010

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I will reiterate again, if you decide to go with a psychologist and your child gets labeled with a diagnosis, which can be wrong, many school systems will only look at one diagnosis and that will be it. There will be nothing else addressed. I've had school and outside professionals tell me and my student they just "have differences" or they have never seen anyone before because they were bored. Talking and listening to your child is the best thing you can do and letting them know you are concerned about them, their behavior, their choices, and why you are concerned. What do you think the professional is going to do? They will listen to your child, they will talk to them, guide them, not lecture them and tell them what to do. They need to figure that out for themselves. Yes, if they start showing signs of being suicidal definitely get help, but I would first start the conversation at home before you send him to the professionals who don't know your child. It was not just a scheduling problem with my daughter. It's a problem with society - yes, justice. How can you not enforce rules for the welfare for everyone to make a better learning/working environment (see school's mission statement - I bet it's not serving your child), even if it means you need to do a little more work/effort? How do you get others from ignoring you/dismissing you, bullying you, not understanding you, trying to feel connected to someone who understands you or how you think and you can hold a conversation with without worrying about/wondering if the person is using you or going to steal your ideas or is even understanding you? Since we were dealing with students, teachers, etc. we started with the guidance counselor and after a year of getting no where we both made a face to face appointment with them to see the school records. There were other appointments with other school and outside professionals that had no clue. Please make sure you read your school's policies on gifted and talented education (which may be under special ed), IEPs and 504s, and school records (IDEA, HIPPA, FERPA are the federal laws that come into play). Medical records will eventually all be online. Think about privacy issues, if a misdiagnosis is made, and how any label or stereotype will affect your student and thier education/self-esteem/current and future relationships. Thanks for listening and understanding.

Laura - posted on 09/02/2010

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Julie posts a few good ideas, though I think your concerns for your son seem a bit different than what she was concerned about with her daughter. She was refering to the school guidance counselor (for class scheduling) while I believe you are looking for a behavioral counselor (for psychological issues). That's just my understanding of the situation.

Yes, gifted kids can act a little "weird" as my daughter likes to refer to it (she seems to relish the term for herself..which in of itself could be weird), but what you describe seems to go beyond that behaviorally. I think you are wise to seek counseling for your son. You might try checking your local hospital for names of psychologists/psychiatrists/thrapists. Does your community have a mental health facility that you could contact? You might also try your local health department to see if they have any resources or information. Initially, you might consider using the school's psychologist (who often do specialize in adolescent behavior) while you search for a more comfortable "fit". Plus he/she might even be able to refer you to someone else for long term counseling. If you as the parent have concerns about your son's behavior, then do what you have to do to address those concerns! Hope this helps and good luck!

Julie - posted on 09/01/2010

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Your son sounds like my daughter, except I would not say they are not driving themselves "crazy thinking all of (their) "thoughts" " . It might bother you, because you want them to be focusing on something else. You are right though, they can't turn it off. You mention this is going down a road you don't like. Is it because you can't understand it? - that you will be one of the people that "can't keep up" and your son will be impatient with? Enjoy the ride. All those thoughts bring discovery, a deeper understanding of who they are and of the world. So far my experience wih psychologists and counselors has been (school and otherwise) disappointing. They believe they are the experts, but they really have no clue. No one looks at the whole person and once you are labeled as a certain something that is it - you can't be more than 1 thing. Many just do their job, no more and will say talk to the school, the school will say talk to the dr., but the school and the dr. won't talk to each other, and if you don't have the support of an outside agecy or family or the person who is gifted it's a losing battle. Everyone loses. The best person for the job is you and then you and your student learn together and can advocate for your situation and teach others about the best way to educate. The best thing you can do is listen to him and discuss what happens at school. My daughter and I have the best discussions when she gets home about what happened during her day, what didn't happen that she wished they had talked about, or what she saw but didn't tell anybody. She's always reading, writing down ideas she has for stories she's writing, drawing pictures, etc. . All these thoughts they have lead to new ideas, new solutions, new discoveries. They get focused sometimes yes, because they aren't challenged enough in school or understood so they find a way to compensate on their own and exercise their mind so they don't lose what they have already gained. Wouldn't you be mad if you had to conform to lower standards every day and saw rules being ignored when you were doing the work you were supposed to do and others around you weren't, but still getting rewarded? My student is in all Honors and AP classes - pretty much all review for her again. We've lived in this state almost 2 years, and she's learning things she learned in 6-7th grade (she's in 10th now, just turned 15). It took me going into her guidance counselor at the end of last year, requesting to see her school records, after a year of emails about various topics regarding school concerns among them being not connecting to classmates, being bored in class, etc., that her counselor finally saw her test scores and realized she had scored quite high every year since 1st grade nationally. She said if we have problems at the beginning of this year (started last week, tonight is back to school night) we can schedule a meeting with all of her teachers and talk about what we can do to make school more interesting for her. If I had't asked to look at the school records ( I have copies of everything now) and made sure the couselor saw her test scores (my daughter was at the meeting also) I don't think the counselor would have ever looked at her records to see that she actually had a very smart student that wasn't just complaining she was bored, rules weren't being enforced, students in class were not doing their work, etc. Common problems she runs into are she's doing most of the group work because she's tagged as the smart one and no one will do anything. Only the teacher's will talk to her because class mates don't understand the words she uses (she told me last night she stops and thinks sometimes which word to say because she knows the students won't understand her even though the word she wants to use would be a better choice) and they don't have anything in common, plus most people are older than she is in her classes or they think she's a junior or senior because she acts more mature. She took the SATs in June and loved it - it was the first challenging test she's had in a while she said. Getting the schools, or anyone, including the student, to understand the students' and teachers' behaviors and choice of language going on in the school and how it affects the gifted student psychologically is an uphill battle. They already know they are different, but school when" friends" aren't really friends except when they need something, when you are hardly talked to at all (silent form of bullying) unless it's through side comments by students (she finished her test already?!) or through teachers, who talk to you as a business relationship, but you know they aren't doing their job by enforcing the rules of the school, it makes a six hour day frustrating to say the least. Last year a common theme was everyone I can talk to is graduating, and those people she only saw at lunch every other day. When people don't have others they can connect to on a regular basis and have fun conversations with, is it a wonder there are gangs, school violence, and school shootings by the quiet gifted students and adults who were probably isolated for so many years? My daughter asked that question back in 7th grade after the Virgina Tech and IL shootings - Why is it always a gifted student? She never got an answer. If you do decide to go with a counselor or a psychologist make sure please that you do an educational assessment and have them test for learning disabilities. Gifted children can have learning disabilities - it's called twice exceptionality (if only 1 learning issue). Since GT students are good at compensating to their environment and fitting in to societies "normal" their learning disability may not show up as well as the student who is failing. As long as teachers see "no academic impact" (how will they with a gifted child? - they meaning teachers/IEPa team) nothing will be done for them.
Insomnia - that could be developmental, could be anxiety, could be to much stimulation before bed (all those thoughts....I know my daughter and I both have trouble sleeping because we're thinking..., reading and exercise, less TV and computer time before bed helps, basically, distraction, another compensation)
Parents, students become invisible and it's very frustrating if you don't have the resources to fight back. I know I posted other websites and resources on another post. Take it a day at a time. Sorry this was so long. My daughter would call this honors randomness. One of the authors of the books in the resources I have posted would call it being in the ozone. Good luck and take care. Trust yourself and do your research.

Rebekah - posted on 08/27/2010

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Not sure where you are located, but many times University (teaching) hospitals have a good Child Psychology department and may even have gifted specialists. It's at least a place to start.

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