I recently gave a workshop about twice-exceptional students to a varied audience including teachers, counselors, and parents. Twice-exceptional students are those who are gifted and also have a disability. They may also be known as 2e students. People at the workshop were greatly interested in the concept of twice-exceptional because they are seeing more and more students who have simultaneous talents and needs.
Students who are gifted and have a disability are frequently not identified as being twice-exceptional. Generally, if the student is identified as gifted most school people do not consider a disability. If a student is identified as having a disability school people do not often think they can also be gifted. Through study we know giftedness many times masks a disability, or the disability masks the giftedness; therefore, the student is not identified as twice-exceptional. They are either gifted or disabled, or neither, and their needs go unmet.
It takes an astute professional to identify both giftedness and a disability because there are so many differing characteristics that a student could show, and no two are alike. Generally speaking a twice-exceptional student has vast skills in a giftedness area (intellectual ability, specific academics, creativity, leadership, visual and performing arts, etc.), along with a disability of some sort which could be intellectual, physical, learning, or others.
Like other gifted students, twice-exceptional students may exhibit asynchronous development that somewhat masks their true abilities. The myths about gifted students also apply to twice-exceptional students. People often assume that if a student is gifted, they are gifted in all areas and can’t possibly have weaknesses in other areas. We know that is not true, and that gifted students, including twice-exceptional students, often have asynchronous development which presents as advance skills in some areas and delayed or weak skills in other areas. I teach the exceptionality continuum which spans the full range of exceptionality from profoundly disabled to profoundly gifted because students at either side of the continuum need as much intervention as the opposite side.
Parents and teachers are often the ones who suspect a student is twice-exceptional. A student with an intellectual disability who excels in art or music or leadership; a student who is gifted who has a great deal of difficulty with math and has a learning disability; or a student with autism who has deep insight into interpreting literature and beautifully writes about it. These are but a few examples of twice-exceptional students and their asynchronous development. If you suspect a student is twice-exceptional pursue that hunch. Know you may be the only one who notices, but you can provide support that can be life changing for that student. Below are a few resources for further information.
Davidson Institute: 2e Students: Who They Are and What They Need
Twice Exceptional Guides (scroll to the bottom for links), Montgomery County, MD
Supporting the Identification and Achievement of the Twice-Exceptional Student, Virginia Dept. of Education, http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/gifted_ed/twice_exceptional.pdf
Twice-Exceptional Children’s Advocacy-TECA
Ask the Doctor