Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Book Review: Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, by Paula Prober, M.Ed. and licensed counselor.
Review by Emily VR
Raising any school-age child inevitably brings back parents’ own school memories – both positive and negative. For children identified with learning differences and special needs, parents may recall having the same diagnoses, or they may discover missed diagnoses in themselves. Either way, parenting a child with differences can raise questions and trigger self-reflection.
When a child is identified as “gifted,” and when parents begin to understand their child’s academic and social-emotional needs, they can experience a variety of conflicting emotions. They may feel curious, apprehensive, skeptical, or excited about their child’s potential. They may feel helpless, frustrated, or even angry when they realize how few states and districts follow research-based best practices in gifted education. When parents look back on their own education and their career choices, or if they recognize gifted characteristics in themselves, they may feel validated – or they may experience sorrow, regret, or loneliness.
For adults and teenagers who want to understand and better cope with unusual sensitivity and ability, Paula Prober’s new book is a welcome guide and companion. Paula is a licensed counselor with a background in education, and she writes a popular blog (Your Rainforest Mind) for gifted and sensitive adults and youth. Her book is a wealth of information, compassion, and helpful advice.
The book is organized by areas of gifted characteristics and challenges, and it provides a road map for the journey of self-discovery traveled by gifted youth and adults. For those of us who love evidence and want to dig deeper, each chapter is grounded in research with quotes and footnotes. Readers may see themselves in many of the counseling stories (used with permission, names changed), and each chapter ends with a section of coping strategies, advice, and resources. Readers who feel uncomfortable with the term “gifted” (as many of us do) can find relief and reassurance in the metaphor of the title; rainforest minds, or RFMs, are used in lieu of “gifted” throughout the text, and can refer to both intellectually and creatively gifted minds with high sensitivity and intensity. Paula explains that though “all ecosystems are beautiful and make valuable contributions to the whole, rain forests are particularly complex: multi-layered, highly sensitive, colorful, intense, creative, fragile, overwhelming, and misunderstood… the rain forest is not a better ecosystem, just more complicated. It also makes an essential contribution to the planet when allowed to be itself, rather than when cut down and turned into something it is not.”
Those familiar with gifted education will find important topics covered in a fresh, new light: perfectionism, multipotentiality, intensity, the need for intellectual peers, existential depression, impostor syndrome, and asynchronous development are included. Yet Paula’s book does not read like a research guide, but rather as a series of warm and personal sessions with a compassionate counselor and mentor. She offers an understanding of both gifted strengths and weaknesses, and she discusses them with empathy, without negative judgment, and with solutions that can improve daily life, increase happiness, and offer hope.
Whether you are starting on the “what is giftedness?” journey, advocating for a gifted child in school, homeschooling your child, or just looking for help in coping with life’s challenges, Paula’s guide gives wisdom and assistance to readers. Not all parents have access to local counselors familiar with the emotional issues faced by their families, but it is comforting to know that Paula and her book are here for parents, and can serve as companions on our parenting journey.
Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth is available through Amazon, and is published by GHF Press, a Division of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. To learn more about Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, please visit http://giftedhomeschoolers.org/.
p.s. To educators of the gifted: let’s face it, communicating with intense gifted parents can be a challenge, especially if they have strong emotions from past years, aren’t yet familiar with research on gifted children, or lack self-awareness. This book may be a welcome recommendation for them, and it could help improve parent-school communication while improving parents’ quality of life. (If you are new to gifted education, it may help you better understand the emotional needs of your students, as well!) In the meantime, please have patience with gifted parents, and please listen to them. Their insight is often needed for their child’s success, and they have a tough job… as Paula understands.