By Laurel Coatsworth
(4 minute read) You know it when you see it. A brilliance that evades many but somehow is found in spades for others. It seems so effortless once on display that it almost seems surreal. You know what I mean. That one pupil who always seemed to excel. Naturally adept at most things, they made you squirm with self-consciousness. They weren’t your average student. They were gifted. What happens though, when raw talent is cloaked and hides behind its darker twin of self-doubt or behavioural issues? How do you recognize giftedness then?
As a parent, you may have seen an exceptional ability in your child, but remain puzzled over their inability to grasp smaller concepts. Perhaps your child is a literary giant, able to read well beyond their grade level and has an impeccable recall. Their imagination is astounding, but they have dysgraphia, emotional difficulties, or dyslexia. They might be obsessively attached to their schoolwork, unable to finish due to lack of focus or out of fear it contains imperfections. They constantly seem to be going down new rabbit trails intellectually and thwart their own best efforts at accomplishing even the smallest of tasks. You may have a 2e child in your home.
Twice exceptional or 2e individuals are those who excel in one or more areas and would normally be considered “gifted” were it not for a severe cognitive difficulty elsewhere. Sometimes referred to as GLD’s (gifted with a learning disability), these students routinely go undiagnosed and are often misunderstood. Individuals with 2e undergo what is known as a “masking effect” (Uniquely Gifted 72),where one exceptionality hides the other. From the outside, the student may appear to be lazy, or altogether not as intelligent as once thought. These individuals may struggle with time management, planning tasks, or reflective thinking, all elements related to their executive functioning capabilities (Perler, Seth https://sethperler.com).
Researchers continue to struggle with how best to identify and help 2e students. Traditionally, students in the gifted range have an IQ of 130 or higher; however, this number is generally lower for the 2e student. This has led researchers to adjust the IQ equivalent to 120 for these students (Maddocks, Danika L.S. 176). Because standard test regulations do not yet exist, many students are mislabeled. Intelligence is a multi-layered entity and it leaves researchers with vast amounts of data to analyze before finding solid conclusions and solutions to this complex dilemma.
When the Classroom Doesn’t Cut It
In a traditional school setting, you may find 2e children enrolled in gifted programs but their difficulties are often overlooked by teachers. Others are excluded from such programs because they don’t fit the typical model of an intellectually advanced student. This type of pigeonholing can have dangerous psychological consequences. If a child is constantly told they’re not smart, when they’re twice exceptional, that child will, over time, believe they are less capable of completing schoolwork. They won’t be able to see the great academic achievements they’ve produced and, in the end, the education system will succeed in creating a bunch of self-fulfilling prophecies.
This is where you as a parent and home educator have a great advantage. By already having your focus directed on your children and not 20 others, you’re better equipped to see your child’s true needs as they arise. Your child can receive help sooner than in a conventional classroom, if you as a parent know what to look for.
How Can I Help my Child?
What do you do if you suspect your child is twice exceptional? How can you alter their schooling environment to be one of maximum effectiveness? Here are some steps you can take to help your child:
Allow for extra time when testing your child / ask your child test questions instead of giving them a piece of paper to complete
Use earphones or noise cancelling headphones if your child needs less auditory stimuli to work
Explore topics before studying them formally to understand your child’s interests & support them better
Change your child’s curriculum pace as needed
Focus on understanding concepts, not on rote memorization of facts
Celebrate small gains and don’t get caught in the perfectionism trap
Consider having your child tested: While research is still out on the best method of testing your 2e child, it can still help you understand your child’s needs better. The WJ III ACH and WJ III COG are two of the more reputable tests your child can take
Remember, your child has unique needs because they are uniquely gifted. You can help them reach their full potential by learning on this journey with them. Take the pressure off yourself by allowing for a more flexible curriculum and continue to be patient with them. Your child will succeed; they may just need a little more time to do so.
Do you have a child who’s twice exceptional? Help bring greater awareness to the homeschooling community by sharing your story with others. Contact us today. Media
Did you know? We recently hired an Exceptional Needs Consultant at HSLDA. Samantha Cameron is here to assist you and your exceptional student with any questions you may have. Samantha will connect with homeschool families to help them with their Individual Education Plans and suggest appropriate resources to meet your needs. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2e The Movie is a film about students who attend a twice exceptional school.
Cait, a school psychologist and mom of three children (one who is twice exceptional) shares about her life journey on her blog mylittlepoppiesand offers helpful advice for parents with 2e children.
Gifted Parenting Support is a helpful site for parents with 2e and gifted children, as well as children who have learning difficulties.
“Uniquely Gifted: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of the Twice-Exceptional Student,” Reference Edition. Avocus Publishing Inc., 2000.
Perler, Seth. “Is my Child 2e or Twice Exceptional? The Ultimate Guide.” Seth Perler: Executive Function & 2e Coach, 2018, https://sethperler.com/child-2e-twice-exceptional-ultimate-guide/
Maddocks, Danika L.S. “The Identification of Students Who Are Gifted and Have a Learning Disability: A Comparison of Different Diagnostic Criteria.” Gifted Child Quarterly, vol. 62, Winter 2018, pp. 176