For those that had obvious strengths in the maths and sciences, their logic, organization and linear thinking strategies often helped propel them to success in school. At the same time, struggles to get started (being forever in their mind weighing pros and cons), social skills related to how to best relate to peers and express themselves, and more subtle nuances in social situations could be more of a challenge.
Often those gifted in the arts (in areas such as literacy, fine arts, dance) show real strength in terms of creative thinking, divergent problem solving, and unique perspective. They may be more articulate and astute in terms of their interactions with others. Along with these strengths may come more emotional tumult and moodiness however, more struggles with organization for classes, planning / time management, and 'rule following' which may cause school difficulties in those areas.
Last, those that possess strong interpersonal skills often have a unique ability to put themselves in others shoes, feeling strong empathy and compassion for others, and sometimes strong skills in navigating social relationships as well. This may make them uniquely able to support and help family and friends as they 'get it' and are more likely to be a listening ear as well as knowing ways to help others feel better. On the challenging end, this can lead to taking in the negative and difficult feelings of others however and may lead to depression, angst, and anxiety from directly feeling the lived emotional experiences of others.
There are books, classes, and supports available for helping when these difficulties arise within our areas of giftedness. Learning how to best tap into these strengths for the betterment of society and a meaningful/purposeful life, while gaining skills to navigate the potential weak spots is important.
How do we know when an area of weakness becomes an actual disability, necessitating more than basic books and trainings? While more severe social impairments may mean a person is on the autism spectrum, in less extreme instances it may social awkwardness. When a person has extreme emotions and energy in their work and interactions with others, they may struggle with things such as sleep, irritability, or feelings of extreme passion / euphoria that makes it more challenging to stay focused on the 'here and now'. In more extreme instances, they may be experiencing disabilities such as bipolar disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or borderline personality disorder.
Trained, licensed professionals would be who we need to work with to investigate such things. As a strong word of caution, it is very important that these professionals are also trained in understanding giftedness as traits that are common for the gifted and are perfectly normal can be pathologized by professionals that do not have that training. It is also important to note that many that are gifted also have disabilities. This is referred to as being 'twice exceptional' or '2E', meaning the person has been diagnosed as both being gifted and having a disability.
How do we know when an area of weakness becomes an actual disability, necessitating more than basic books and trainings? I find it helpful to review the 3 'D's when trying to determine the level of support needed. First, D relates to deviance. By their nature, gifted individuals deviate from the norm. That is why it is important to work with doctors and educators that have advanced training and backgrounds in the field of gifted education. When compared to others functioning at a similar cognitive level, are they deviating substantially from their true peers? The second D relates to disability. In this case, is it causing significant impairment in functioning across multiple environments (at school, at home, at work, with family, with friends)? Last, D also relates to distress. Is this weakness causing personal distress to the individual? If you have answered yes to some or all of the 3 D's just mentioned, it is likely that working with a trained professional in the field of giftedness that also specializes in education, psychology, or psychiatry (depending on the area of challenge) will provide the best support and results for you or your child.
Our biggest strengths in life are often also our biggest weaknesses. We must continue celebrating and honing our strengths, while garnering support and further skill development in our areas of weakness. The balanced development of both our strengths and weaknesses is key to a life well lived and on the path to our fullest potential.