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Gifted Compensation

By Dr. Patty Williams on September 8, 2018

BISN founder and president Dr. Patty Williams is a trauma therapist who specializes in EMDR, ND-Affirmative DBT, and IFS modalities. Through Bright Insight Support Network, she works to counsel, coach, and advocate for gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodivergent persons, along with other marginalized populations.

Gifted Compensation

I was asked a question as follows:

Patty, given that Piaget suggests that thought develops from action, how do you think a child with physical limitations would be impacted by this? Do you think their physical limitations would impact their cognitive development?

To this I answered (and I believe it with every inch of my being):

While I believe physical limitations would impact a child's cognitive development, I tend not to identify this impact as negative, but rather different. That is, while children of average intelligence with typical physical ability may develop certain cognitive strengths and abilities, those with differing abilities may in turn develop different strengths and abilities.

There is a concept I talk to parents and other individuals about called compensation, or gifted compensation, that explains this well. According to Silverman (2009), "Compensation is the mind’s ability to solve a problem in another way than is typical" (para.3). This ability is seen frequently in twice-exceptional (2e) individuals who are cognitively advanced, but also struggle with a disability.

Gifted and 2e individuals that is, might accommodate and compensate for their difficulties in a way that actually creates a more advanced or different ability through the process. This ability, similar to any child, involves assimilation and accommodation. The accommodation aspect is simply different for differently-abled individuals.

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