Students who are classified as gifted and talented are often thought to be learners who exceed in all areas of study. In reality, it’s quite possible for one of these students to have one or more learning disabilities. A child may have a vocabulary bigger than any one of their classmates, yet struggle with simple arithmetic. These children are referred to as twice-exceptional, or “2e”. Twice-exceptional students have disorders such as ADHD, autism, emotional disorders, speech disorders, or physical disabilities. Despite this, they are still very intelligent in at least one area of study.
Is My Child Twice-Exceptional?
If you think your child may be twice-exceptional, here are some things to look out for:
- Displaying talent in one particular subject
- Heightened creativity
- Poor social skills
- Great problem-solving skills
- A unique sense of humor
- Advanced vocabulary
- Signs of a sensory processing disorder
- Performing well on aptitude tests but poorly in school
Additionally, there are three different types of twice-exceptional students. For some, their learning disabilities make it harder for their giftedness to be discovered. They may do poorly on an assessment due to poor language skills and be wrongfully placed in a special education class. Alternatively, some students’ talents are so great that they mask disabilities. This can be a problem as they get older, leading them to be classified as lazier than their other gifted classmates. In some cases, a child’s giftedness and disabilities may blend together so well that they appear to have no need for either a gifted or special education program.
Challenges Faced By Twice-Exceptional Students
Twice-exceptional children experience a unique set of obstacles that can cause them to falter in school.
Lack of self-esteem. Twice-exceptional students often don’t have strong support groups like gifted children without disabilities or disabled children who aren’t gifted. This leads to them not even making an effort to succeed, wasting their extraordinary capabilities. A lack of confidence could eventually lead to depression or anxiety.
Frustration. Children who have disabilities are often given low expectations by well-meaning parents and teachers. A twice-exceptional student has big dreams and a sharp intellect and will grow irritated with these subpar standards. Many twice-exceptional children feel held back by their physical and mental disabilities, which only compounds their aggravations. Their learning potential is just as high as any able-bodied gifted student, but they need additional support in order to meet their goals.
Loneliness. Twice-exceptional kids will often feel out of sync among their peers. They may have trouble communicating with their gifted peers, yet feel too advanced for students in special education. Because of this, they may isolate themselves from students their age and rely on adults and teachers for companionship.
How to Help Twice-Exceptional Students
Reassurance. Make sure that your child knows that they have your support no matter what. Take the time to listen to their thoughts and feelings. You won’t be able to solve all of their problems, but offering affirmations in their time of need can be a huge help.
Reach out to your school. Ask if there are any special accommodations that can be made for twice-exceptional students, or there is an evaluation test available.
Come up with creative study methods. Each twice-exceptional child has a different way of processing information. Instead of getting frustrated when they struggle with studying, find new ways to help your child learn based on their strengths.
Talk to other twice-exceptional children. A group of peers that have similar interests to your child will help them feel less lonely and improve their social skills.
Given the proper tools and environment, twice-exceptional students can flourish and make the most of their wonderful skills. At Tenney School, our Gifted and Talented program welcomes all twice-exceptional students. For more information, contact us.