The Gift of the Twice Exceptional

In the summer edition of Gifted Child Quarterly, there is an article by Megan Foley-Nicpon, Susan G. Assouline and Nicholas Colangelo that explores the awareness of the concept of twice-exceptionality within gifted educational community. The conclusions of the study indicate that there is definitely a need for educational professionals to learn more about how to respond to this group of learners. How many of our gifted students might be twice exceptional? Depending on definitions (this varies from state to state), gifted students constitute 2-20% of the student population and it is estimated that between 2-5% of these students would be considered twice-exceptional.

For the purpose of this study, the researchers focused on four disabilities: autism spectrum disorders (ASD), specific learning disabilities (SLD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and emotional disturbances (ED). They sent out surveys to teachers, psychologists, specialists, parents and administrators familiar with gifted education. What they discovered was that although most respondents were familiar with the notion of twice-exceptionality, we are still struggling to find the best way to meet the needs of this group of students due to the complexity of their needs.

In my role as coordinator of gifted programming I can attest to the “struggle to find the best way to meet the complex needs” of this group of students. Oftentimes we see behaviors before gifts and it is not easy to know whether to begin with behavior management or gifted programming or finding a way to do both.  Because the needs are so different from what we may have encountered before we are often breaking new ground. What has made all the difference in most cases has been the willingness of parents and teachers to meet together and explore possibilities. Some days the task seems enormous and the little incremental steps we take almost imperceptible. But every once in a while you get the chance to step back and you see that things are happening and we are making progress.

It’s not the kids who fit easily into the system who will help us make the changes needed to create a more responsive education system for all students. It’s our exceptional and twice-exceptional who make us stretch and go further than we ever thought we could. Who knows where they will be able to take us as long as we are willing to be flexible?



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