I had never heard this term before. I was looking for research about practicing (which I do a lot) and one coach who helps athletes, Leah Lagos, had resources for physiologically gifted kids. She recommends that parents of PGC (because there’s an acronym for everything) pay careful attention to the child’s overwhelming emotions. Parents should use a 3-step formula that includes developing a sentence to describe the fact, the feeling, and the need.

I could probably have used that in every emotional situation I’ve ever been in. But also, my younger son is very emotional. So I kept reading.

Some of the traits of a physiologically gifted child are:

  • Higher heart rate in stressful situations
  • Strong ability for sensing/perceiving emotions
  • Innate abilities to connect with others
  • Very sensitive to changes in sound and/or touch
  • Need quiet/alone time to maintain equilibrium

In the past, I think I would have identified this sort of child as one covered in the book, The Highly Sensitive Person — a book I received ten years ago from a woman who worked for me.

I fired her. But I see now that very sensitive people like her are not bad, just different; it’s a natural part of people’s biology rather than a conscious choice to be a pain in the neck. And people with this sort of brain can see and do things that other people cannot.

My younger son gets upset about a huge range of things that I would never care about. He feels everyone else’s emotions and can’t stand when people around him are not happy. But his high empathy is actually what allowed him, even at age six, to empathize with a composer and feel the music as he plays it.

But actually emotional empathy alone doesn’t necessarily make a child physiologically gifted. Remember, I got this term from a sports psychologist. People who are very in tune with their own physiology are good at translating what they see to what their body does.

Before my cello-playing son was playing cello he played soccer. He played with kids five or six years older than he was. Parents would tell me my son was a soccer god and he should be on a travel team. But when I asked a soccer coach, he said there was no telling how well my son would play soccer later on. He explained that what we were seeing was my son could translate what he sees into what he tells his body to do better than other kids. That’s his gift.

It was an interesting distinction. I don’t know if I like the term “gifted” though. I believe that everyone is gifted at something — it’s a core value of the whole personality type system and I see it in action all the time. But I also see that school doesn’t reward most gifts. School is a very narrow part of life, and it’s definitely no place for the physiologically gifted.

The same gift helps my son do so well playing cello, and now that I’ve read about Leah Lagos, I think it’s part of being physiologically gifted. To be honest, if it didn’t benefit my son so much in cello, I might have thought he’s got something wrong with him. (And I wouldn’t be the only one — here’s a place that specializes in neurofeedback therapy for physiologically gifted kids.) I mean, like all ESFPs,  he doesn’t read much and he’s not interested in abstract thinking. I don’t really ever meet people like that. Well, I guess I did when I played pro beach volleyball, but I confess it’s also probably a big reason why I quit pro beach volleyball.

Parents tell me all the time that they think kids should learn how to do stuff they don’t like because that’s what life is. But I know that’s not how life is. We don’t spend our adult life doing stuff we are terrible at doing. And the physiologically gifted do not flock to hard-core corporate environments.

I know because the highly sensitive woman I fired now sends her highly sensitive friends to me to find out about all the reasons why I fired her — and tell them what they should be doing instead of going to an office every day.