She finishes all her homework by dinnertime regardless of how much homework she has, often not having dinner until late at night. There is no compromise. If homework was assigned today, it must be completed today, regardless of the fact that the group project is due in 4 days. She becomes agitated with her group-mates because they are not as focused as she is, in her opinion. She tries to get them to finish the project today, but they lay out a plan to work on it over the next four days with time to do final revisions and editing. Unrelenting, she storms away to go to the library to finish it herself. By ten at night she is frazzled, looks terrible, and is very stressed because it took her beyond dinnertime to complete the project, the whole project. She determined that since her group-mates were not serious about the project according to her requirements, she would do the whole project herself and submit it as her own project, not as a group project. The group could do what they want without her. She gets stuck on the strict self-imposed timetable of completing homework by dinnertime, and would not flex with the parameters of this assignment, ignoring all social norms because she does not recognize or take part in socializing and working with others. Yet, she is a brilliant artist and recognized for her artwork, and has average academic abilities.
Some of the time students seem to not fit in the classroom. They may have increased vocabularies, but poor math skills. They may be voracious readers and have unbelievable thoughts and ideas, but struggle writing and getting their thoughts on paper. They may be constantly in motion and challenge authority, yet are able to explain exactly what the teacher just introduced in a content area class. They may be an accomplished musician or exceptional artist yet can’t find their homework or stay organized from class to class.
This is the world of the twice-exceptional (2e) student. They are gifted in one or more areas, and also have a disability of some sort. They have two exceptionalities, hence the term twice-exceptional. They often receive special education services through an individualized education plan (IEP), or have a 504 plan that provides for their disability needs. Identifying these students as students with one or more disabilities is frequently the easy part. There are services and laws that protect students with disabilities. The problem in most schools is that once a student is identified as having a disability, they are often omitted from any search or program to identify gifted students. The common myth many people-educators and parents alike-believe is that if a student has a disability they cannot possibly be gifted. That is not true. Many students with disabilities who are also gifted are not identified and miss out on educational services that would meet the needs of their giftedness. On the other hand another common myth is that if a child is gifted in a certain area they cannot possibly have a disability. This is also untrue. It is quite a dilemma because in many students their giftedness masks their disability, or the disability masks their giftedness.
While the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 covers students with disabilities, there is no federal legislation providing a requirement for schools to provide services to gifted children. It should be noted that when IDEA was originally being crafted in the mid-1970s (originally the Education for All Handicapped Children Act [EHA] enacted in 1975), gifted children were discussed as part of the exceptional student population. Because advocacy groups and others pushed hard for students with disabilities the law was enacted minus the gifted. The intent was to revisit gifted students upon reauthorization of the EHA, but that has never occurred. The TALENT Act (To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act) holds promise but we will have to wait to see how this Amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) plays out in practice.
In 2010 Wisconsin moved to eliminate the Discrepancy Model in identifying students with learning disabilities. School districts had until December 1, 2013 to eliminate the discrepancy model. This is when a student’s IQ score was compared to their grades or achievement in school. If there was a specific numerical discrepancy between the two, a child could be identified with a learning disability. The discrepancy model is now fully phased out and multiple measures are being used. One result of this is the move toward Response to Intervention (RTI). Some educators and parents state that this move now excludes many gifted students from identification, especially twice-exceptional students, even though Wisconsin’s RTI framework includes all students including gifted students. Teachers and parents need more information about twice-exceptional students.
Twice-exceptional students in Wisconsin are at the mercy of their local school district. There are considerable differences from school district to school district throughout the state regarding services for gifted students, and even more differences for twice-exceptional students. This wide-range of differences includes no programming for gifted students and few identified twice-exceptional students, to good gifted programming including services for twice-exceptional students. Services for gifted and twice-exceptional students truly depend upon where students live. This is true across the board including underrepresented students.
Individual school districts may offer some services, but there is no mandate or model for school districts in Wisconsin to follow. It continues to be up to parents to advocate for their children so their individual needs are met be it through special education services, gifted services, or a combination of both.
Resources About the Twice-Exceptional Child
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