The Lottery of Genetics
Genetics are a fascinating thing. Usain Bolt’s legs, for example are genetically endowed with a higher proportion of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibres than the average man. This gives him remarkable power and force and a speed 99.9% faster than the general population.
The same is true of the genetics of the brain.
Some children are blessed genetically with brains that have structural and performance differences that, like Usain Bolt’s fast-twitch muscle fibres, enable them to do things faster, earlier, better and differently.
Think of this as having a Ferrari of a brain. The challenge for its’ owner is learning to understand that brain, and ‘drive’ it optimally.
If we were to take a look ‘under the hood’ of this Ferrari brain, we would see the pre-frontal cortex, which is the seat of abstract reasoning, is precociously developed, or has matured earlier than the rest of their same age peers. This child talks more, reasons more, sleeps less, feels more deeply, has a longer attention span, and a better memory. This advanced development means their mental age is often years ahead of their chronological age.
If these children have such a genetic advantage, why then do some seem to crash their Ferraris whilst others race down the super highway of achievement?
High intellectual potential does NOT automatically guarantee high performance. While the Ferrari brain hungers for intellectual stimulation and appropriate challenge, there are often many ‘road blocks’ in the way.
Sometimes the Ferrari Brain can seem to have the accelerator and the brake on simultaneously- one thing seems to cancel out the other. Advanced cognitive abilities that co-exist with an ADD or ADHD diagnosis, make optimally driving that brain a real challenge. Often the focus is helping the child manage their ADD or ADHD diagnosis, and the raw power or potential of that beautiful brain is overlooked or worse, unseen.
To race ahead, or to cruise with the gang
To us, it may seem crazy to slow down to the speed of the ‘race’, however many owners of Ferrari Brains do just that! Their desire to fit in socially outweighs their drive to race ahead. They slow down, hide their abilities, and cruise along with their peers. Extremely common in girls with high intellectual potential, forced choice dilemma (as this is called), needs a sensitive ‘mechanic’ to reverse this behaviour.
The slow lane vs the superhighway
The Ferrari Brain is genetically disposed to operate at speed but if it is confined to the slower lane through lack of intellectual challenge, it can sometimes make a LOT of noise. What we see is defiance, disruption and challenging behaviour, but what is really going on is boredom and frustration. These kids need the right road to drive on (appropriate academic challenge), the right traffic around them (intellectual peers) and the right navigator for the journey (teachers who understand their brain and their potential).
Revving in the driveway
Research suggests that 60-80% of these beautiful brains are working at least two years below their true ability, and either ‘revving in the driveway’, or driving dangerously to avoid the road blocks (Sousa, 2010).
The Ferrari Brain is a sensational asset
To help the high intellectual potential of the Ferrari Brain realise the high performance they are capable of, we need to understand the atypicality of this brain and how to drive it, uncover any challenges that may be hidden beneath and help your child find peers and teachers that understand and inspire.
Then buckle up, hold on and enjoy the amazing learning adventure together.
For more information, contact The READ Clinic’s Educational Support Consultant, Kim Bullock.