* Twice Exceptional Kids

This post is the first of a series describing the challenges and solutions for children who are labeled “twice exceptional” or “2e.”

What does “twice exceptional” mean?  These students are gifted but also have a disability, such as dyslexia, high functioning autism, or attention deficit disorder.  There is no single special education “label” for 2e kids.  They may be labeled by a disability, such as Learning Disabled or Autism Spectrum Disorders.  They may identified as gifted.  And they may not be labeled and/or identified at all.  Twice exceptional children are both under-identified and under-served.

What challenges do 2e kids face?  The 2e child often struggles with feelings of anxiety, discouragement, “stupidity,” and frustration.  Both the regular classroom environment and special education setting can be a poor fit for twice exceptional students who need both remediation and stimulating instruction.  These 2e kids may act out in a classroom as a result of the discrepancy between their giftedness and learning challenges, or they may try to blend into the background, hoping not to be noticed.  Such a student may be able to solve complex abstract problems but be unable to write a complete sentence.  They may develop anxiety about going to school, especially over subjects related to their processing weaknesses.  Many of these kids are working twice as hard as their peers at school, holding it together during the school day only to fall apart when they get home.   And then they still have homework to complete!   Young twice exceptional students cannot make sense of their struggles any better than their teachers (and sometimes, parents).

What challenges do parents and teachers of 2e kids face?

Parents first:  Think about parenting a child with average abilities who is also hyperactive, learning disabled, or on the autism spectrum.  Now add superior intelligence to the mixture.  What do you get?  A handful!  Toss this into a school environment and you usually get misery.  Parents may be as confused as teachers about why their child is struggling.   They may react with the same distress as their child.   Now let’s suppose that you have somehow navigated the world of 2e and finally have some sense of your child’s needs.  How do you convince the teacher that your non-reading child is gifted?  How do you explain that this disruptive child is cooperative and pleasant with their neighborhood friends?  How do you pay for private evaluations so that the school will recognize your child’s giftedness?  Do you also pay for private tutoring  so that your child will learn?  Or do you let your child “fail” so that they can be identified as disabled?  Do you become “pests” to the classroom teacher for continually trying to help the school understand your child’s unique challenges?  How do you help your child with their nightly tears and morning struggles?  You may often feel alone, a voice crying aloud in the wilderness.

What challenges do teachers of 2e kids face?  “What are 2e kids?”  “What are you talking about?”  Despite educational research of twice exceptional students that predates the 1970’s, many teachers have little understanding of this dual exceptionality.  This is true for special educators as well.  Twice exceptional kids present serious challenges for educators.  It can take time to assess and determine the special gifts and weaknesses of 2e kids.  There is a reason that so many of them “fall between the cracks”: their strengths and weaknesses may mask one another.  This is especially true of gifted kids with learning disabilities.  They may even appear average and receive average grades at school.  As mentioned above, teaching 2e kids requires a fine balance between remediation and appropriately challenging instruction.  This can be extremely difficult in a large group setting.

The following video from the Your2eTV on YouTube proves a short overview of the twice exceptional student and their needs.

In the next post, we’ll look at examples of 2e kids from my own teaching experience.

If you have experiences and opinions related to this topic, please share them.  If you request, I can delete any identifying information before approving your comments.

18 thoughts on “* Twice Exceptional Kids

  1. This is my son in so many ways. Thank you for this. You don’t even know him, and this is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of him. He has TS, but many co-morbidities along with it. Just pick the most well-known alphabets in the series, and he has it. I can’t wait to read more on this topic!


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