Optimum Intelligence: My Experience as a Too Gifted Adult...
by Carolyn K.,
director, Hoagies' Gifted Education Page, www.hoagiesgifted.org
The original post asked, "In the book,
Guiding the Gifted Child, by
Webb, Meckstroth, and Stephanie Tolan, the authors suggest that there is such a
thing as optimum intelligence. They state that this "OI" is between
125 and 145 IQ and that most of our "cultural leaders" probably have
IQ's in that range, They are thinking that IQ's above that range probably
alienate that person from his peer group / society."
One response assumed, "... by the time a person becomes an adult, he
or she understands about different types of giftedness & has learned to make
friendships without discrimination. I disagree with the assumption that society
rejects extremely gifted individuals. Many gifted adults reject society long
before society is ever given a chance to make amends for their
Long before I read "Guiding the Gifted Child" or any other book on
gifted, or knew anything about levels of giftedness, or had kids... I worked. I
work in a place where most of my co-workers are gifted, if not more. Software
and hardware engineering tends to attract people like that. Worse, within a few
short years I was asked to join a group that some people teasingly called
"the unmanageables." Take your choice: either we didn't need
management, or we wouldn't take management. It seemed to me a little
Meanwhile, I just did my job. I was low man (so to speak :-) on the totem
pole. I got some of the less glamorous jobs in the projects. But I did them with
the same effort that I applied to everything I did (OK, this often meant messing
around while others were getting up to speed, but then finishing ahead and
winning awards I didn't think I deserved... Imposter Syndrome is another subject entirely).
In return, some of my peers were good friends. As I had kids, and they
started into the educational system with problems, some understood. Others
listened, but explained that their kids were nowhere near my kids. Knowing their
parents, I wasn't convinced, but perhaps they are right. I still don't know. And
still others ... well, I'm not sure how to describe what happened.
Even in this place where literally everyone is gifted, I became an outcast
without trying. The only other two women, both moms of kids around my older
child's age, just couldn't imagine what I was dealing with or talking
about. But I didn't realize that. Not at first.
At first they thought I was making it up (thankfully, there was another older
woman, who started handing me articles and materials on raising profoundly
gifted (PG) children, back before I even knew what PG was - I still don't know
how she knew - but I thanked her often, later, and I am still thankful for Jane
in my life and my work). Later people thought I was "pushing" my
children. I even had
one mom from another department ask how I managed to teach my child math at age
3 - 4. I'm afraid I had a pretty blank look when she asked - I didn't teach my
child - she just knew! And I didn't realize that all children didn't
In short order, it became clear that other moms were allowed to talk about
their kids, but my kids were not to be discussed in this place. And no, I'd
never had any trouble making friends before.
At the same time, a few of the men
made some snide comments when our group was asked to work with another group on
a project. I did my research, and knew my assigned areas going into meetings. We
were all supposed to do that. But not everyone did, or ever really knew their
subject, or their audience - their customers. And I got comments, to my face,
like "you know too much about everything." No man ever told a man that
at the conference table, even the very bright ones - they were complimented on
their knowledge - but I was called out. I started to shut down and hide what I
knew in meetings, on business topics, too.
Worse, I was also a teacher. I was often called on to create classes when
there was a need. Sometimes on topics I didn't already know. But no problem, I'd
just learn it and write the class, and then teach it. And co-workers, managers, secretaries,
everyone raved about my classes and my teaching. Again, I won awards - these I
thought I deserved - well, most of them - I'd usually worked hard to make the
class right for the audience.
But this, too, made two things happen: 1) students (co-workers) would call me
anytime, interfering with my job, to answer and support them on topics related
to my classes. And 2) people felt I knew everything, knew too much. It was not
Now perhaps there is something I was doing wrong. I certainly changed what I
was doing after these things happened: I stopped talking about my kids at work,
entirely. I stopped volunteering information at meetings, to some degree. And I
stopped working with some people... what was the point? They just wanted to hear
what I knew to pick on me for knowing it.
I was still called on by people all over the company, from management down,
to solve problems. But I no longer interacted with most of the people I worked
with in a social fashion. I even avoided the lunchroom and walking trail. I tend
to avoid pain, and these places were often the sites of painful conversations,
where I could only listen, and my speaking up was outside the boundaries of
"normal." I stopped running to the local kids stores with the women at
lunch. And I even stopped running to the computer stores with the men at lunch.
Here, in a haven for gifted people.
It was worse in the neighborhood. The neighborhood pediatrician pointed out
(at least she was pleasant!) that my kids and I were way above the doctors she
trained with, at least most of them. There were a few, she was always envious,
and everyone knew who they were... And she was my closest peer in the
neighborhood; I had to guard my words with everyone else. Talking about my kids,
and their needs, or worse, their accomplishments, was totally off base.
We're in a new neighborhood now, and things are mostly better. Again,
a doctor lives here, and he and his wife "get it." But he has recently
joined the practice we use (it is not comfortable having your neighbor as your
doctor, I can tell you, but he's the brightest guy I know, and more and more of
the neighbors are seeing him as their physician ;-). And the other doctors in
the practice sometimes talk to me to
get information on gifted children, when they run into a child who is being
teased to the point of abuse due to their intellectual differences from other
children, or other situations.
The rest of the neighbors accept the my kids are different, but they
still accept them... and I'm allowed to talk about them at Ladies Night Out.
And there's only one neighbor pushing me to tell my daughter's SAT scores,
so that she can "prove" my child is smarter than her. I haven't shared
those scores, even though I'd love to brag, "Hey, my child made
SET!" (And worse, that
neighbor may be
one of the smartest people in the neighborhood, another engineer, with a
profoundly gifted brother... but that's another story.)
After these years, before I moved to this new place, I met
other people with kids like my kids, initially through the
On-Line Support community for gifted families
on the Internet. It was with them I could finally talk about
my kids, their needs, and I finally learned to understand the
Imposter Syndrome that
I was suffering from as an adult.
Perhaps my experiences are unique. Perhaps not. I don't know my IQ, to know
if it falls in that Optimum Intelligence range. But I suspect not. The results
Webb, Meckstroth, and Tolan, and others, describe, did in fact happen to me.
As an adult. Without any pre-conceived notions of optimum IQ, or a "chip"
on my shoulder. They just happened, as soon as I had kids.
It is easy to say that I should have learned by now to make "friendships
without discrimination." I think I have. But what is a friendship when I
cannot reciprocate? I cannot talk about my kids, while the other person
can; I cannot talk about my concerns, my daily struggles, my life, while the
other person can. Friendships are based on common interests. My children are a
big part of my life, as they are for most parents. If we cannot share that common interest, because my
children fall outside of someone else's comfort zone, then... what is there to
base a friendship on?
As for leadership, again, people consider my children when considering me. I
was declined as a girl scout leader by our service unit because of who
my child was. No other reason. My husband and I were black-balled right along
with our child, without our even knowing or realizing until nearly a year later,
when our child was suddenly prohibited from scouting.
Our child's back in scouts now, in a different troop, in another school, where
they appreciate her... well, at least they appreciate the money she brings in as
high cookie sales person every year, though they never mention it (I learned
recently that they do talk about it, amongst themselves). And my youngest is in a troop, in yet
another school, where the leaders appreciate us both... she is high cookie sales
scout and I am cookie mom. But I'm not sure I'm appreciated by the other parents
for knowing the way
the badges are supposed to be positioned on the vests - didn't anyone else read that?
The placement is in the
book, and came drawn on the tag. Again, I know too much. I remember too much. I
learn too quickly. I make people uncomfortable. And it is hard to hide these
things. I try. But it is hard to spend your life hiding...
The people you list, as brilliant and respected... I agree. But I'm not sure
how many of them were respected in their lifetimes. And to be honest, I'm not
very concerned about how people feel about me after I'm dead. I need to live
now. I need friends now. I need people to talk to, about my whole life, not just
little pieces that I know are safe to discuss. I need true friends, just like my
kids. And I've learned, mostly by accident, that it is easier to find those
friends among folks with similar IQs. Even if they don't know their IQ. as
I don't know mine.
But whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be an optimum IQ...
"Loneliness does not come from
having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate to others the
things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which
others find inadmissible . . . If a man knows more than others, he becomes
1989, p. 356.
"Have no friends not equal to yourself." Confucius
I eventually did find a peer group, where I can talk openly, without guarding
my words, where I can share things about my kids, and even brag once in a while,
when something terrific happens. And while I didn't intentionally search
it out, I found this phenomenal peer group in an unusual place... on the
©2001-2005 by Carolyn K., director of Hoagies' Gifted Education Page
printed from Hoagies' Gifted Education Page,
May not be republished without permission.
Original URL is www.hoagiesgifted.org/optimum_intelligence.htm