Today, Nicole Tetreault shares her vision of giftedness through the Gifted Interview. Thank you, Nicole! Nicole Tetreault, Ph. D., is a compassionate Neuroscientist, Founder of Awesome Neuroscience, a Meditation Teacher, an international Speaker and the Author of Insight Into a Bright Mind. In her Book, she explores groundbreaking research examining the experiences of unique, creative, and intense brains through interviews, storytelling, and literary science, while advocating for new directions of human diversity and neurodiversity. She lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.
.IF I COULD CHOOSE, WOULD I STILL BE GIFTED?
Yes. Being gifted is part of the human spectrum and it’s a collection of flavors in our vast experience of existence.
.WHAT BEING GIFTED MEANS TO ME
Being a unique being with a unique essence. No two brains are alike and each and every brain is actually unique with its own brain print for experiencing the world. More importantly, the neuro-uniqueness takes greater shape as we share our essence to benefit the collective and all beings.
.IF I HAD TO CHOOSE AN IMAGE OR A KEYWORD THAT SUMS UP WHAT GIFTEDNESS MEANS
A whirling kaleidoscope of shapes and colors encompassing all the colors of a rainbow and every possible shape imagined.
.HOW LONG HAVE I KNOWN ABOUT IT?
I think from the very first recollections of existing and being and then I had a formal identification when I was in college. Afterwards, I took a deeper dive into studying giftedness, as I learned my son was gifted when he was in third grade, but if I think about the very first time I understood I was gifted I would say it was when I was a little girl playing in my bedroom in my imaginary world. I was a highly imaginative and creative kid. I enjoyed hours of solitude reading, writing, playing and creating.
.WHAT PHASES HAVE I GONE THROUGH SINCE MY DISCOVERY?
I have been the gifted individual. I have been the gifted mother. I’ve been the mother of a gifted child. I’ve been a gifted advocate. I’ve been a gifted educator. I’ve been a gifted neuroscientist. I have been a gifted friend. I’ve been a gifted student. I’ve been a gifted speaker. I’ve been a gifted partner. I’ve been a gifted mentor. I’ve been a gifted soul. I’ve been a soul facing another soul. All I know is when we step out of our identities and roles, we can see the magnificent soul behind all the roles and once we can actually see that, we discover there is no real difference at the heart of everything, that we are beings here to resonate and mirror other beings and ultimately find the infinite connection of being.
.HOW DO I EXPLAIN IT TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER HEARD OF IT?
I meet them right where they are. I ask them their thoughts on giftedness and neurodiversity and explore from there. Each individual takes in their environment, words, thoughts and actions differently and so I try to understand where they are coming from and I fill in the details and encourage them the explore their own ideas and see through our discussion how things begin to take shape. I am currently developing a study guide for Insight into a Bright Mind, that explores this question for people to talk and advocate for themself and their child. The point is for us to find common ground to best support all people with a richer understanding for diversity, equity and inclusion for neurodiversity.
.THE REMARK WHICH BLEW ME AWAY MOST WHEN I TALKED ABOUT IT
In Insight into a Bright Mind, I talk about how there are 8 billion people on the planet, each with their very own unique brain print. Of that, one in five people is neurodiverse, experiencing the world uniquely. Gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) people often experience enhanced emotional, sensory, motor, imaginational, and intellectual processing due to their brain wiring. In our society, there are many misunderstood aspects of the bright people filled with misidentifications, misinformation, and myths. Thinking about the uniqueness of each brain offers a more inclusive and accepting society.
.HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE (TO KNOW IT)
Understanding the neuroscience behind our unique brain wiring is liberating because we can begin to really see all the strengths of an individual and help them to positively wire their mind for their natural gifts.
.WHAT I HAVE ALLOWED MYSELF TO DO EVER SINCE
Explore things that I love! I know when I am engaged in activities and with people that are in alignment with me, my brain is happy. I am wiring my brain to accept and enjoy the good and I am nurturing positive brain growth!
.WHAT IT CREATES TO OTHERS WHEN I TALK ABOUT IT
They are inspired to do the things they love!
.WHAT IRRITATES ME WITH GIFTEDNESS
The othering that happens with any identification. There are many myths, misinformation and misunderstandings about giftedness and it can just miss the human behind the label. Also, there are stereotypes that feed into the othering. When we can see the human behind the label, that they are not different from you, that is a huge step. We begin to allow people to be who they are and not force them to contort themselves to fit into an imaginary box of societal expectations and when people are liberated to be who they are, they are happier, healthier and offer more to the world as a whole.
.WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO EMPHASIZE ABOUT GIFTEDNESS
Gifted is part of the human spectrum—no better or worse. It’s a way a person experiences, processes and interacts with the world.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY FIND TO BE THE MOST DIFFICULT
The division and exclusion that labels create. When we see a person as a label, we miss their humanness and this is where bullying can happen when people are different. Also, I feel that it can be a problem when we over-identify with the labels and roles that we think we are. When we rely too much on a label to describe ourselves, we can begin to minimize who we are and get stuck in roles that can interfere with our personal growth and development.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY LOVE
I love to see and watch people as they share their natural gifts. I love embracing all minds!
.MY WELLBEING TOOL OR PRACTICE THAT HELPS ME MOST
Meditation has been game-changer for me in managing moments when I experience anxiety. I don’t think I would be where I am without my meditation practice. I rewired my mind. In every moment with our meditation practice, we can positively wire our minds for love-based states, manage and work through our suffering like anxiety, depression, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, challenging thoughts, emotions and patterns. We literally develop new brain networks and build our window of tolerance which makes us more resilient.
I meditate and chant every day. I cannot start a day without my morning practice. I believe in the power of meditation that I love guiding people in meditation. I believe we can positively wire our minds and take in the good!
I am in a new generation of meditation teachers, fusing neuroscience with the ancient Asian art of meditation. My training expands from Bön, Dzogchen, and Insight lineages, studying with Dr. Raven Lee and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche in Buddhist practices as well as more recent practices with Vince Horn and the Buddhist Geeks team that have focused on social and contemplative meditation. In 2023, I completed a two-year program with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach through the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science and Sounds True to expand my insight into meditation practices and teachings. My grounded understanding of neuroscience allows me to create practices to guide one’s mind to positive mind states and adaptive behaviors while strengthening positive neural plasticity and mental states. I have a passion to bring these practices to the masses and the populations most in need, including incarcerated and post-incarcerated women. I believe that through meditation and mindfulness, we can guide the mind to more peaceful states, which benefits all beings!
.A MISREPRESENTATION THAT I WANT TO CALL INTO QUESTION
I want people to know that gifted stems from different brain wiring. There is a lot of creativity and brilliance in gifted people – we can learn from unique thinkers! And that their uniqueness and biodiversity in society is necessary for our advancement and development. When we focus on the positive strengths of each individual, they can express amazing things. Through positive self-view, an individual can share their natural gifts which betters society as a whole.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO GIFTED PEOPLE
You are perfect exactly as you are, there is nothing you need to do or a way you need to be. You are perfect! There is nothing about you that needs fixing or improvement. You are uniquely beautiful. The more we can see people as they are, the more we see the amazing uniqueness they bring.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CONCERNED
It’s all okay, this may not be your thing and move on. Do focus on something that engages you.
.WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO IS WONDERING
Trust in your natural gifts and explore the things that make your heart sing. In a school setting, get tested and identify your natural strengths so you can have maximum engagement.
.THE MISTAKE NOT TO MAKE FOR A GIFTED PERSON
To mistake that they are gifted in all areas in life. Often a gifted individual has asynchronies where they can have a gift in numerous areas and they may also have challenges. This is where the brain develops out of sync and networks in the brain are still forming and developing. For example, you can have a child that is ten years of age where they read at the level of a fifteen-year-old but have the emotional regulation of a five-year-old. Sometimes their gifts can be masked by being asynchronous or they can overcompensate, because of their giftedness, for challenges they experience and this can be very taxing for them. In both cases, their natural gifts can be missed.
.MY PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FOR GIFTED
Be who you are and do not fear the amazingness that you are!
.A BOOK TO READ ON THE SUBJECT
My book, Insight into a Bright Mind, of course. It explores groundbreaking research examining the experiences of unique, creative, and intense brains through interviews, storytelling, and literary science while advocating for new directions of human diversity and neurodiversity. I feel that we are at the beginning of the neurodiversity movement centered on engendering greater awareness of diversity and providing greater equity and inclusion for all people.
In all seriousness, one of my go-to books is Living with Intensity. I love Differently Wired by Debbie Reber. Scott Barry Kaufman’s Ungifted. And I really love the story-telling of Jonathan Mooney in Short Bus.
.MY OPINION ABOUT THE IQ WAIS TEST
It’s tricky. I talk about this in my book. The tests help with identification for getting certain children where these test help identify their giftedness. For these specific children, it can help them get into programs that match their engagement. There is a problem with these tests in general because they do not capture all students, especially children that are twice-exceptional, being gifted and having a learning difference. If the tester is not aware of the complexity, the giftedness can be missed. In addition, these tests provide a snapshot, a moment, on a particular day and time when the test was taken, so it does not capture creativity, innovation and different types of intelligence. The test is good at capturing a specific type of intelligence specially, executive functioning. So, a highly creative and asynchronous kid can be missed. At the end of the day, the score is not the most important thing. It’s how you harness your intelligence through your creativity, motivation and passion. We really need to encourage kids to go for the things that they love.
.IS IT A WASTE NOT TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE GIFTED?
No. Gifted is a label and it builds an identity. We are more than any label or identification. At the end of the day, we are all human beings.
.WHEN I MEET ANOTHER GIFTED PERSON, DO I RECOGNIZE HIM.HER? BY WHAT?
Usually, through their passion, honesty, emotional intelligence and openness. We just “get” one another and click!
.THE CRUCIAL STEPS NOT TO BE MISSED IN THE JOURNEY OF A GIFTED PERSON?
In my case, it is personal. As I began to communicate neuroscience, I discovered my son was gifted and I knew he navigated differently in the world and differently from me. I wanted to best support him with compassion and understanding. I quickly began to study giftedness and twice-exceptionality (2e). I wanted to lead people that are gifted and 2e to a better self-concept. I deeply researched neurodiversity including autism, giftedness, and 2e for over two decades in relation to the brain and body and I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and approach to neurodiversity. Being 2e myself, both gifted and having dyslexia, I understand the 2e experience with an embodied awareness. In understanding the complexity of the mind, we can develop greater connection with others, more inclusion and embrace people for who they are rather than who we think they should be.
.A WISH FOR THE FUTURE
Often, we misunderstand bright people because they think, communicate and act differently than the norm. I wanted to demystify many of the misconceptions about the brain and create a more inclusive awareness of the complexities of the mind and bring forward the richness in the diversity, highlighting the positive aspects of thinking and being different. I wanted to bring neurodiversity into a bright light. So many people are fed the message they don’t fit in, or they are not worthy, and I wanted to bring forward ways to feed the minds of diverse people with affirming brain messages. The brain is nurtured by the kind of thoughts we feed ourselves with. We can feed our minds with junk food or with highly nutrient-rich food. I wanted to feed people messages of the positive aspects of neurodiversity the good food of positive thoughts, like blueberries rich with antioxidants and nutrients to support optimal health.