Handout #1! – The Funnel and Cylinder Analogy

Our brains are like cylinders.

When we are experiencing new situations or going to places with lots of sensory input, our minds are collecting information and processing that information constantly. We notice details around us at a rate in which we can process them. There are many things all around us all the time that we do not notice, absorb, take in – mostly because our minds are already busy with processing other information. We take in about as much as our minds can hold and process.

If you imagine our brains as graduated cylinders, the opening to our cylinder is about as wide as the cylinder. The size of our cylinder is relative to how old we are. As we get older, the size gets bigger. We can handle more as we age. The opening is always relatively the same. We can overflow with information. However, we take in only so much information at once. So there is a balance.

The opening to our

cylinder is as wide as

the cylinder.


Your Gifted Child has a FUNNEL

Your gifted child goes to a new situation or a place with lots of sensory input. His brain is taking in a lot all at one time. Her brain is noticing many details: sounds, sights, emotions of others, colors, noises no one else notices… The amount of information going into the brain of a gifted child is significantly more than the average brain. A gifted child’s brain does not only notice what it can handle – it notices much more. It is a funnel collecting more information than it can process at a time.

That funnel is pouring all of this information into the graduated cylinder that is the brain. This cylinder, again, is relatively sized to the child’s age. But it fills so quickly because of the funnel collecting so much more information at once.

So why does this cause my child to be sensitive?

Your child’s brain fills fast. The funnel collects so much more than the small cylinder opening. It fills the cylinder quickly. This causes an overflow. Your child has reached the limit and beyond. Too much information all at once. We all have cylinders to hold the information we take in. Most people have an opening the same size as the width. Gifted people have funnels. Our funnels so grow as we age but a funnel always collects more than a cylinder opening.

How can I help my child cope with a funnel?

  • Allow processing time.
  • Don’t schedule busy or over stimulating events close together.
  • Teach your child about finding a quiet place or recognizing a need for a break in themselves.
  • Teach relaxation techniques to your child.
  • Give time for conversation.

Does this sound like your child?

  • Sometimes just does not want to be around other people. I am not even sure why.
  • Is introverted
  • Asks deep questions or reflects about movies, plays, books – sometimes long after seeing them.
  • Notices details you missed.
  • Wants to talk about subjects at a profound level for his/her age.
  • Peers his/her age seem unable to keep up with his/her thoughts. May have trouble talking with same-aged friends sometimes.
  • Seems to just get overwhelmed easily. Your child has a funnel.


Summarized and created by Angie Pebworth, Fern Ridge TAG Coordinator.

This is based on an article titled “Experience and Processing: The Funnel and Cylinder Analogy of Giftedness” by Shulamit Widawsky.

To read more visit http://www.shulamit.info/funnel.htm


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