We’re smart in different ways

I’ve just recently watched two different videos of female gymnasts competing, and I was completely blown away both times. What these ladies can do with their bodies, I haven’t even imagined doing in my mind. They are perfect examples of high, probably genius level body-kinesthetic intelligence.

Many people still think of IQ’s [Intelligence Quotient] as a number that tells you if you are intelligent or not. Well there is just so much more! When I was learning to become a special ed teacher, I had to learn how to administer IQ tests. What the test was meant to demonstrate was how well a child would do in the current school system. However, most people believed that a high IQ score meant that you were smart, and a low IQ score meant that you were dumb.

My professors were on it! They knew that there was much more, and fed us research showing that adaptive behavior also needed to be considered. That was how the student performed in true life experiences. A child might get a low IQ score, but if he could read bus maps and get around town, making change, etc., we knew he was smart.

In 1983 psychologist Howard Gardner wrote a book called, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” His research led him to believe that instead of a single intelligence, human beings have a number of relatively separate intelligences, and that “The intelligences constitute the human intellectual toolkit. Unless grossly impaired, all human beings possess the capacity to develop the several intelligences. At any one moment, we will have a unique profile, because of both genetic (heritability) and experiential factors.”

Gardner had a very practical way of defining intelligence as:

– The ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture

– A set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life

– The potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.

Notice that he said that experiential factors are very important. Kids, (of all ages) you’ve got to try each of these different areas, not just once, but a few times to see which ones you have an affinity for, and which ones you like. And maybe you’ll like it later on, as your genetic code directs the certain development of your brain. Remember, Einstein flunked math in fifth grade. If you don’t get learning opportunities in school, perhaps you can get them in sports teams, church, clubs, or family gatherings. Parents: pay attention. Observe what your child does well, and find mentors for him/her.

I believe, from observing my elder friends, that we can keep learning in these different modalities well into old age.

Here are Gardner’s Eight Intelligences from his website above with a little more explanation:

1. Linguistic. An ability to analyze information and create products involving oral and written language such as speeches, books and memos. [They also are good at telling stories and memorizing words. Take them on a camp out!]

2. Logical, mathematical. An ability to develop equations and proofs, make calculations, and solve abstract problems. [They’re good critical thinkers and can follow reason logically. Not fun to argue with!]

3. Spatial. An ability to recognize and manipulate large-scale and fine-grained spatial images. [It relates to visualizing, seeing things with your mind’s eyes. Artists and architects have good visual spatial ability.]

4. Musical. An ability to produce, remember, and make meaning of different patterns of sound. [They often play one or more instruments, can make up melodies and have good rhythm and pitch. They’re the ones you want to stand next to in chorus!]

5. Naturalist. An ability to identify and distinguish among different types of plants, animals, and weather formations that are found in the natural world. [I thank them every day for fighting for our environment, and understanding ecosystems. They’d be good to be with if marooned on an island.]

6. Body, kinesthetic. An ability to use one’s own body to create products or solve problems. [They are coordinated, can handle themselves in different spaces, and handle objects skillfully. It includes timing, such as knowing when a baseball will arrive, and when to hit. Athletes, dancers, actors, builders, surfers, police officers and soldiers are some examples. Sometimes they don’t seem to understand that some folks are just a little more clutzy than they are, but your sports team would be good with them on it!]

7. Interpersonal. An ability to recognize and understand other people’s moods, desires, motivations, and intentions. [They communicate effectively and empathize (imagine how the other person feels). They can help two people work out problems. They make good teachers, mediators, counselors or social workers. [Go to this person when you need to talk to someone, and try to get a teacher or counselor with these skills. You’re blessed if your boss has this intelligence.

8. Intrapersonal. An ability to recognize and understand his or her own moods, desires, motivations and intentions. [It takes honesty to really look at yourself, but we’ve been told to “know thyself” since the 10th century. Find out what makes you feel peaceful and happy, and become that person, who would be your best friend.]

People who believe in the multiple intelligence system have also generated a new intelligence modality that they call “Existential.” A person with existential intelligence is a person who asks and answers questions about life death, and post or other life realities. Another way of describing it is that they have the ability to understand religious and spiritual ideas. They have a strong understanding of things that are not visual to the eye but through faith and belief.

They would be the ministers and priests, but also the shamans, kahuna, medicine people, and psychics who receive information from other than their own senses, through a deep inner connection with a sacred source. They have learned how to still the mind and listen for direction for the benefit of themselves and their community and beyond. These people have learned how to still their minds, and think outside of the box. They’re good to be with when you feel stuck in a rut, and are looking for another way to see a situation.

If no one is teaching you how to do this (and not many people do as compared to everything else) go out into nature, in a very peaceful spot, and breathe slowly and deeply. Ask that God, or your name for your source be with you. Concentrate on feeling love and peace, for that is the nature of nearly every major religion’s God, or main god. Connecting with God brings you peace and love that will stay with you through some tough times, or heal you when you experience tough times. If you can find a friend to do this with it is better, but can be done alone.

People may be brilliant in one area, and really low in another. There are people who can listen to a musical piece and play it, but who can’t speak a normal sentence. Or people who are terrific in math and logic, but can’t understand their or another’s feelings at all.

As you look at the different intelligences, you can see that many opportunities to develop these intelligences occur in school, church, sports’ teams and family gatherings. The intrapersonal one, you have to do yourself. Find out who you are, what you like to do, what makes you happy, sad, or angry, what inspires you to be your best. Know yourself. Because when you do, it will be easier to find your contented place in the world. It will also teach you to be less judgmental and more appreciative of all the gifts that each person can bring.

People change careers in their 50s, start new careers in their 60s, perhaps because they never had a chance to develop it in their youth. Try things. Find your smarts!


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.