In Education, Who are Twice-Exceptional Children?
Twice-exceptional children are gifted children who also have learning disabilities. They represent a unique challenge in education and child-rearing, as many people are unaccustomed to the idea that a person can be gifted while also being disabled. One of the most common problems which faces twice-exceptional children is a failure to be recognized, meaning that their unique needs are not addressed. When this happens, a twice-exceptional child may fall through the cracks and fail to realize his or her full potential.
In fact, learning disabilities are not uncommon in people who are unusually gifted. For example, a child may be an extremely talented reader, but he or she may lack math and logic skills, or a child may be capable of composing a symphony, but be unable to write out his or her own name. Some disabilities are actually linked with gifted tendencies, as is the case with conditions like Asperger's Syndrome, dyslexia, and autism.
Twice-exceptional children can present in a variety of ways. In some cases, the child's gifts may compensate for the learning disability, essentially hiding the disability. In this situation, a twice-exceptional child may find schoolwork easy or even boring until he or she encounters a major obstacle, in which case the learning disability manifests. This can be seriously damaging for the child, as he or she may not get early support to address the learning disability, and the child may also struggle with difficulties, learning to abandon things which are too hard because everything else is too easy.
In other instances, people may become so focused on a learning disability that they miss a twice-exceptional child's gifts. This often happens to dyslexics, who struggle with reading and writing tasks as children. A dyslexic may be shunted to a different educational track which does not allow the student to develop other skills, with the dyslexia being viewed as a crucial impairment that needs to be addressed.
Many twice-exceptional children struggle with accomplishment and failure, and a child who fails to perform as expected may be struggling with a learning disability. If, for example, a child demonstrates remarkable reading and writing skills but poor oral comprehension, it could be a sign that the child has an auditory impairment, or that he or she is unable to focus on material which is presented orally. A twice-exceptional child may also become bored or restless by material which is too easy, which can result in a fall in performance.
Educators and parents are starting to recognize twice-exceptional children and their unique needs. Because these children often defy tests which are used to categorize children, it is important for parents of such children to support their children to ensure that they get the education they need. Discussing a child's situation with a teacher is a good way to start, and it can also help to use the services of doctors, psychologists, and other professionals who can address the learning disability while celebrating the child's natural gifts.
Contrary to popular belief, twice exceptional children are still not understood by educational professionals. I know, I was one of them. Half of all high school kids drop out of school. No one seems to accept that this situation could be a big reason why.
I found "Born on a Blue Day" by Daniel Tammet to be really interesting. He could do amazing things with math, but was quite limited in other ways. It is a good read and would help some of the parents with similar disorders and also some of those who have them. I have no financial interest in the book.
Donald W. Bales, M.D. retired internist
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