Supporting Twice-Exceptional Students

Both physical organization of space and organization of workload are often challenging for 2e students. Parents serve as an important bridge between home and school. The traditional classroom environments often do not work for 2e students, and require teachers to make classroom modifications.

In School At Home

Twice-exceptional students often have high sensitivities amplified by fluorescent lighting, uncomfortable furniture, noisy HVAC systems, and compact space. Consideration should be made for lighting, alternative seating options, and availability of “free” space, where students can escape to when feeling overwhelmed.

Teachers may wish to stand physically closer to 2e students when providing directions, have visual cues and private signals for engaging the child, and locate a distraction-free place for test taking.

Allow the student to use assistive technology if necessary, and confer with parents for clues on which tools might work best.

Checklists, frequent reminders of due dates, and duplicate sets of books at home can help a 2e child stay on task.

Parents should partner with the school to help teachers and administrators understand their child’s physical, organizational, and other needs. This may include identifying the optimal seat location for general classroom work; finding an alternate, quiet spot for test taking; mirroring the same organizational strategies at home

and school; and staying on the lookout for additional scaffolding as needed.

Assistive technology and tools can be of huge help to students with dysgraphia, poor handwriting, and underdeveloped fine motor skills. This may include keyboards, word processing and dictation software, electronic calendars, and graphic organizers.

 

Focusing on a twice-exceptional child’s strengths versus weaknesses, and finding peers who share their interests and abilities, is essential for ensuring his or her social- emotional happiness

In School At Home

A 2e student should never feel that accommodations for the classroom and curriculum are being made because of his situation. All options for 2e students should be offered to all students, so there is never a focus on just one or two students. In actuality, all students can benefit from these strategies.

Advanced cognitive abilities, poor social skills, and sensitivities can leave 2e students vulnerable to peer bullying. School and classroom environments must feel safe and foster respect for individuals and individual differences. Embedding social-emotional skills training related to self-efficacy, motivation, goal-setting, and relationship management will help ensure that students feel free to be themselves, express their emotions, and handle their difficulties without fear of rejection or negative response.

Parents need to accept their child for who they are and realize that their child is not “broken.” A parent’s love, acceptance, and support are essential for ensuring their child does not feel different. While interventions can help shore up weaknesses, it’s important for parents to focus on what their child can do versus what they can’t.

Often 2e kids feel like they don’t fit in with gifted kids, but they also don’t feel like they fit in with those with disabilities. Parents can serve as role models and support their 2e child by: finding peers and helping build friendships; teaching friendship skills; modelling conversations; and providing tips for how to foster relationships. Extra-curricular activities are important avenues for 2e children to pursue their passions, experience success, and build self-confidence.

Many famous scientists, athletes, and world leaders are also twice-exceptional. Using bibliotherapy to find stories about successful people helps children realize that others like them have overcome their challenges to achieve important goals in life.

Parents need self-care and support, too. Look for local or online parent groups to provide resources, tips, and access to others with similar experiences.

 

If there is one thing teachers and parents can do to empower twice-exceptional children, it's to help identify and nurture their talents and strengths first. By understanding their own talents, 2e children build self-confidence, create positive identities, and find like-minded friends. These are essential elements for coping with their challenges, finding their path in life, and being able to pursue their dreams.

Resources

Different Minds: Gifted Children with AD/HD, Asperger Syndrome, and Other Learning Deficits by Deirdre V. Lovecky. 2004. London and Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley.

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders by Jim Webb, Edward Amend, Nadia Webb, Jean Goerss, Paul Beljan, and F. Richard Olechak. 2005. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.

Twice-Exceptional Gifted Children: Understanding, Teaching and Counseling Gifted Students by Beverly A. Trail. 2011. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

2e: (The Twice-Exceptional) Newsletter

National Association for Gifted Children’s White Paper on Twice-Exceptionality

2e: Twice Exceptional, An award-winning film focusing on the issue of twice-exceptionality.