By: Alissa Talamo, PhD
Clinical Neuropsychologist, NESCA
- Rodney gets decent grades and achieves close to or at grade level in all of his district assessments. When concerns about his reading achievement were raised and an evaluation was conducted, it was found that his IQ is well above average, superior in some areas, but his reading decoding scores are below the average range for students his age. He has a combination of some gifted abilities and other areas that require intensive intervention. Rodney is twice-exceptional. (National Education Association, The Twice Exceptional Dilemma).
- Because of his behavioral difficulties, James attends a special program within his school for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. His teachers have difficulty seeing him as “gifted” as he is often uncooperative and reluctant to perform academic tasks in class. However, indicators are there. He participates in a weekly community program with students who are not disabled, to design a functioning robot and does so with a tremendous amount of ingenuity. He is also an avid reader outside of school and can offer a very keen oral analysis of the works he has read. James is twice-exceptional. (National Education Association, The Twice Exceptional Dilemma).
Twice exceptional—or “2e”—students are those who possess outstanding gifts or talents and are capable of high performance, but who also have a disability that affects some aspect of learning (Brody & Mills, 1997). The largest group of twice exceptional children are those students who are academically gifted but who also have a disability (e.g., learning, physical, social/emotional or behavioral).
Some common characteristics of gifted students who also have a disability include:
- Demonstrates a high verbal ability, but displays extreme difficulties in written language (reading, written expression)
- Has strong observation skills but difficulty with memory skills
- Shows attention deficit problems, even though they demonstrate special talents that consume their attention
- Understands concepts at a high level, but struggles with basic skills (e.g., reading decoding, math fact fluency).
As a result, these students are at risk of facing challenges, such as:
- Asynchronous development (the child is far ahead intellectually, but far behind socially and emotionally)
- Underperforming academically
- Argumentative personality
- Sensitivity to criticism
- Poor study habits and organizational skills
- Difficulty in social situations
- Because they are clearly bright but performing poorly, they may be perceived as “lazy,” which, in turn, puts them at risk for criticism that can negatively impact self-esteem, which can also put them at risk for depression.
Unfortunately, in the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, there is currently no gifted education legislation. As a result, schools are not required to identify gifted students. Even if a specific school system does choose to identify these students, there is no mandate to create a program for those identified, and there is no gifted funding. Massachusetts and New Hampshire are two of only eight U.S. states that do not have a gifted and talented mandate. And while Rhode Island has mandated identification of gifted students and requires programs to serve those students, it does not provide the schools with any government funding.
Since Massachusetts and New Hampshire are not yet mandating screenings for giftedness, nor mandating programs for these students (although some schools do so independent of the lack of mandate), it is important for parents to be informed of their child’s learning profile to advocate for needed services as well as to encourage their child’s areas of strengths and interests. The best way to determine if a child meets criteria for twice exceptionality is through a neuropsychological evaluation. A thorough neuropsychological evaluation will help a parent and school understand a child’s cognitive, academic and social/emotional strengths and weaknesses, helping to identify what supports or programming that specific child truly needs.
In addition, there are supports out there, as many giftedness programs and extra-curricular opportunities exist. Some helpful websites include:
- davidsongifted.org – along with a strong (and easily searchable) database, the Davidson Institute and Davidson Academy are dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted students in the United States, including summer programs, scholarships and an accredited online school.
- massgifted.org – The Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education’s (MAGE) mission is to support and advance the understanding of high potential/gifted children and their special needs, to promote the establishment of programs, services and opportunities for high ability/gifted students, and to encourage the exchange of information pertaining to gifted individuals among educators, parents, policy-makers and students on the national, state and local levels.
Additional sources used for this article:
childmind.org/article/twice-exceptional kids both gifted and challenged
www.understood.org/myths about twice exceptional 2e students
About the Author:
To book a neuropsychological evaluation or consultation with Dr. Talamo or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate that you would like to see “Dr. Talamo” in the referral line.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.