I recently had the opportunity to interview a parent of a child identified as 2e, twice exceptional. Twice exceptional is a term used to describe children who are gifted and talented and also possess another learning difference such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism spectrum disorder. The content of this article has been approved by the parent for the WATG Newsletter. For the anonymity of the family upon their request, we will give the parent the pseudonym -- Toni. Below is my interview.
Initially when I contacted Toni, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted the interview to go. I simply started a casual conversation, hoping to touch on the journey of the parent raising a child who is both gifted and autistic. In this excerpt, I end up taking a turn and highlighting a different area I was made aware of and would not have discovered if it weren’t for my conversation with Toni.
Initially, when I started talking to Toni, I wanted to confirm that her child was officially diagnosed as a 2e child. I followed up asking what came first -- the autism diagnosis or the gifted identification. She said early on she knew her child was intellectually different from his peers so she got his IQ tested around the age of 5. As she expected, he tested gifted. Then I followed up asking about when the autism diagnosis took place. Below is her paraphrased interview (approved by Toni):
“I knew early on that he was emotionally and socially different. I spoke to the pediatrician about it when my child was an infant. The pediatrician dismissed my concerns, along with other health concerns. I eventually switched doctors once I felt my concerns were not addressed. I knew as a parent my child was socially behind and there was more to this situation than me being an overly concerned parent, which the previous pediatrician had assumed. When I spoke to our new pediatrician about my concerns, she referred me and my child to therapy. A few sessions in, I spoke with the therapist about my concerns about autism and that I wanted to get a complete neuropsychological evaluation. The therapist said there was no need for a thorough neuropsychological evaluation. She told me my child did not have autism, but instead had ADHD, and thus a further neuropsychological evaluation was not needed. It felt like all doors were closed to me. Then the pandemic hit and when my child started kindergarten, I felt this was another opportunity to ask for further testing. I went back to the pediatrician for a neuropsychological evaluation referral, and she gave me one. The therapist saw the referral in our health system and said it was not needed and that she felt strongly about it. I initially listened, but my gut told me I should get a thorough evaluation and so I did. During the deeper neuropsychological evaluation, a diagnosis was finally made. I felt I finally reached someone who understood and had experience with 2e children. My child was officially diagnosed for autism along with his giftedness and thus became a 2e child. It was, of course, bittersweet. Autism has challenges, but I was happy that I was finally heard.”
I initially contacted Toni to talk about social challenges and other challenges she faces as a parent of a 2e child; however, I was shocked to learn that not all healthcare professionals have expertise in 2e children and are able to identify them. I asked if she felt her child’s giftedness almost confused the pediatricians and therapists; perhaps they were not exposed to enough 2e children. She does believe it did cause resistance and thus delay in diagnosis. She feels she lost early years of therapy because early intervention is key. I’m sure her story is not uncommon; hopefully her story helps shed light and encourages further training and knowledge in diagnosing children who are gifted.
Note: The Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted is currently in talks with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin about 2e children, and about the social and emotional needs of gifted children. Our hope is that we can get more professional development on these topics to our medical professionals.
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