Asynchronous and Awkward

Asynchrony: In which two or more things have failed to synchronize. Occurrence at different times.

For me, and for other gifted and twice-exceptional young adults, it is asynchrony in our development which turns our abilities into challenges. It is when several aspects of ourselves are in different places, leaving us in a constant state of tug-of-war. My observation is that executive function tends to lag behind, learning ability shoots way ahead, and emotional regulation requires control to prevent it from swinging back and forth like a pendulum. Sensory processing, motor skills, and social skills vary. This can lead to some awkward situations.

Imagine a six-year-old who, out of concern for the planet, wants to start their own society (and invent a new language) that is vegetarian, doesn’t drink or smoke, and lives in perfect harmony with other animals… and tries to force all their friends to join, but can’t understand why nobody shares her passion.

Or an eight-year-old who throws a tantrum because the other kids won’t follow the rules in an historically accurate version of playing house.

Or a twelve-year-old who plays with their dolls all day and spends the evening deep in conversation with adults about policy and politics. And after bedtime (11:15pm, like clockwork), needs to spend time addressing her personal angst with a very tired mother in order to fall asleep.

Asynchrony doesn’t suddenly start, and it doesn’t magically go away. However, I went most of my childhood disregarding of it, because it didn’t seem important. I was a homeschooler, I had lots of support, and many of my friends were like me in that way. It wasn’t until I started college that I really felt the significance of it.


I was a thirteen-year-old college student whose mom sat outside my classroom for most of the first year. I was incredibly shy, had limited study skills, and only spoke to my professors, but I had to have the academic challenge. (Nothing like insisting on being allowed into a situation to learn what was needed!)

I was a fourteen-year-old who befriended a professor and started tentatively reaching out to other students, but had shaky social skills. (Thank goodness for adults who were willing to help, and students who kept an open mind!)

I was a fifteen-year-old who couldn’t organize deadlines on my own to save my life, but who desperately wanted to be able to drive myself to school and be a “normal” college student. (Thank goodness for disability resources, and for friends with cars!)

I was a sixteen-year-old climate activist who wanted to be taken seriously by adults who saw my chronological age… and only my chronological age. (Thank goodness for the opportunities I did have to express myself and to make a difference!)

I was a seventeen-year-old college graduate (cum laude!) who felt deeply the societal wrongs I saw around me, but wasn’t old enough to apply for the jobs I really wanted. (Thank goodness for alternatives to the traditional career path!)

I am an eighteen-year-old who is finally legally able to get a job, but whose executive function challenges still work against me. I take on professional responsibilities, I teach other students, I organize events, I work with others who respect me and see me as an equal and a great resource… but I am so sensitive that I fall apart emotionally when my cat goes in for routine dental work.

Academically, graduate school still isn’t very challenging.  I want to learn more, broader, deeper. I want to learn ALL the things! Professionally, I have an impressive resume, but I never feel like I’m doing enough to make the world a better place. Socially, I sometimes feel like I have the skills of an elementary school kid in the world of adults. Imposter syndrome: the direct result of asynchrony. Because if I can’t figure out how old I am or what I can do on a consistent basis, then all of those kudos and accomplishments can’t be real.  Can they?

I’m many ages all at once. That’s asynchrony. It’s awkward.


This post is part of the GHF Blog Hop: Perfectionism and Other Gifted/2e Quirks. Read more posts like this!


About EcoScienceGirl

Professionally, I am the Program Director for GHF Online, and a science instructor for the same. I also run a private tutoring business, Exceeds Expectations Learning. I received my Master's of Environmental Studies from Evergreen in 2016, after receiving my B.Sc. from Southern Oregon University in Environmental Studies & Biology. Eventually I would like to go back to school for either a PhD or JD, and focus my career on climate justice. Personally, I am a young adult who is fascinated with the environment, loves to read and write, and adores all animals (especially cats). In general, I do a lot of climate change activism, and I'm passionate about social and environmental justice. If possible, I would also like to save the world from humanity.
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13 Responses to Asynchronous and Awkward

  1. Nikki Linn says:

    Madeline, thank you for sharing your story. You express asynchrony so clearly. My 6yo reminds me of you in many ways, and I know stories like yours will help her understand herself in the future.


  2. Maggie says:

    Madeline – I’d love to know more about your experience entering college early. This is something we’re debating for my 10-year-old. Not this year, but sometime near 15 perhaps. Any wisdom from your experience would be appreciated!


  3. Asynchronocity comes in so many flavors and varieties. Glad to hear it hasn’t held you back.


  4. jofreitag says:

    Madeline, thank you so much for sharing your experience of asynchrony and all the aspects that made you thankful!
    Madeline, thank you so much for sharing your experience of asynchrony and all the aspects that made you thankful! You are a great role model for gifted and 2E students.
    Kind regards
    Jo, Sprite, Retweet and the White Poodle


  5. Melinda says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful, well written post about asychronous life. My 8 & 6 year old daughters are living thier own asychronous twice exceptional path. It’s encouraging to hear from someone whose lived thru many of the steps we have ahead. I write about my parent perspective at We all have a unique journey!


  6. Kathleen says:

    Being many ages at once. I know it’s something my kids struggle with – and honestly, it is something that everyone in our family have struggled with at some point in our lives. Thank you for writing about what it is like to be, as you say, asynchronous and awkward. I know I will be bookmarking this post to read with my children as they get older and need to face their own asynchronous nature in the wider world.


  7. I love, love this post, Madeline. It so helps us moms to hear these thoughts from someone who has recently experienced these issues. Although this is not the focus of your wonderful post, I loved this: “I was a thirteen-year-old college student whose mom sat outside my classroom for most of the first year.” How awesome to have a mom so devoted to sit outside your college classroom everyday. Just so wonderful!


  8. Wenda Sheard says:

    Thanks for generously sharing your life here, Madeline. Others will certainly benefit from reading your story.


  9. Pingback: That time The Today Show mocked gifted kids - Laughing at Chaos

  10. Alicia says:

    It’s not awkward, it’s AWEsome!
    If you can accept it, you can own it 😉
    Best of luck to you. Keep forging ahead…


  11. Pingback: The Perfect Quirky GHF blog wheel | Sprite's Site

  12. Pingback: Perfectionism and Other Gifted/2E Quirks GHF

  13. Care says:

    I’m not sure how I missed this the first time around, Madeline. Thank you for writing it. I was, also, that 2E kid who was all over the map, but I wasn’t identified, so I was mostly just in trouble. Thing is, that’s so many lifetimes ago that I can’t really remember it well, other than to remember specific instances where my drive to know more was squashed by people not knowing what I was asking – rather than what my words were saying. Facing it from the other end, raising Mad Natter, this is an invaluable perspective. It reminds me that there is always more than one way to view a situation, and it would behoove me to look for other ways before deciding mine is the Right Way. Thank you.


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