Twice-exceptional students are those who are identified as gifted according to state criteria in one or more of the categories of giftedness (cognitive, academic, creative, leadership, or arts). In Colorado, these students, once identified, are most likely provided with an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP).
Identified with a disability according to federal/state criteria – and the disability qualifies them for either an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan.
General Twice-Exceptional Information
What you need to know.
Twice-exceptional children tend to fall into one of three categories. These categories help explain why students often go through school without the services and stimulation they need:
- Students whose giftedness masks their learning and attention issues. These kids score high on tests for giftedness but may not do well in gifted programs. These students use their exceptional abilities to try to compensate for their weaknesses. But as they get older, they may be labeled as “underachievers” or “lazy” as they fall behind their gifted peers.
- Students whose learning and attention issues mask their giftedness. Learning and attention issues can affect performance on IQ tests and other assessments for giftedness. For example, since many of these tests require language skills, kids with language-based challenges may not perform well. These kids may be placed in special education classes, where they become bored and possibly act out because they aren’t being challenged enough. Some of these children are identified, wrongly, as having emotional problems.
- Students whose learning and attention issues and giftedness mask each other. These kids may appear to have average ability because their strengths and weaknesses “cancel each other out.” Consequently, these students may not qualify for gifted programs or for special education programs.
Here are some early signs that your child could be a twice-exceptional learner:
- Extraordinary talent in a particular area, such as math, drawing, verbal communication or music
- A significant gap between your child’s performance in school and his performance on aptitude tests
- Signs of a processing disorder, such as having trouble following spoken directions or stories that are read aloud
There isn’t a simple, one-test for identifying twice-exceptional children. Determination will require professionals at the school including the Special Educator, School Psychologist, Social Worker, and Nurse. Private practices can also diagnose twice-exceptional. Whether the school or private practice is enlisted to help, they must be familiar with this population and its unique presentation. Misdiagnosis often occurs with this population. A good place to start is for you and the teachers to keep records of what your child excels in and struggles with. Be on the lookout for “disconnects” between how hard your child is studying and what kinds of grades your child is making.
How to Help Your Child
With the right supports and encouragement, twice-exceptional learners can flourish. Talk to the school. If you suspect your child may be twice exceptional, request a meeting with the school’s special education coordinator. Discuss your concerns, and ask about types of tests. The Colorado Department of Education endorses an IEP and ALP (advanced learning plan) be put in place to meet the needs of the twice-exceptional student in the public-school setting. This process can be daunting, so some districts have 2e advocacy through their GT department.
Seek advice from a local expert: Turning Point Assessments has specialized in twice-exceptional identification for 30 years and can help you decide if a private evaluation is needed. We can identify gifted and twice-exceptional students and provide individualized recommendations based on strengths and challenge areas. Many schools are grateful to receive this information to help with educational planning for a 2e student because they have not had training or experience with this population.
Ask to stay in the gifted program. If your child has been identified as gifted but is not doing well in that program, request that he be assessed for learning and attention issues before any decisions are made about removing him from the program.
Make the most of your child’s IEP and ALP. If the school determines that your child is twice exceptional, use the annual goals in his IEP to address his weaknesses and the ALP to nurture his gifts. Be prepared to brainstorm—and to be persistent!
Find other twice-exceptional kids. Encourage your child to spend time with children who have similar interests and abilities. This can help him celebrate his strengths and feel less isolated. You may be able to connect with twice-exceptional families through Understood’s parent community.
Empower your child. Help him understand what his gifts and weaknesses are. Reassure him that he can get support in the areas where he struggles. But resist the urge to rush in and rescue him every time he gets frustrated. It’s better to help him learn to cope with his mixed abilities.
Why it’s important for a 2E child to receive a 504 or advanced learning plan (ALP):
Some organizations estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of twice-exceptional learners in U.S. schools. But there are no hard numbers because so many of these students are never formally identified as being gifted, having a disability or both. Students who are gifted and disabled are at risk for not achieving their potential because of the relationship that exists between their enhanced cognitive abilities and their disabilities. They are among the most frequently under-identified population in our schools. Twice-exceptional students present a unique identification and service delivery dilemma for educators. Often educators, parents, and students are asked to choose between services to address one exceptionality or the other, leaving twice-exceptional students both under-identified and underserved in our schools. In order for them to not only reach their potential and be understood we need to learn how to accommodate their needs in the classroom so that they can strengthen their weaknesses and maximize their strengths. Like all other students with disabilities, gifted students with co-existing disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education.
Resources for parents, teachers and professionals helping twice-exceptional children reach their potential.
- Tips for Parents: Meeting the Needs of Twice-Exceptional Children from Davidson Institute: http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10140
- Students with both Gifts and Challenges or Disabilities from Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/twice_exceptional.htm
- A resource for parents to support their child in school and beyond. Parenting Gifted Children: The Authoritative Guild From the National Association for Gifted Children
- Colorado Department of Education: Twice-Exceptional Students Gifted Students with Disabilities. Colorado Resource Handbook
- National Education Association: The Twice-Exceptional Dilemma
Peg Rosen: Gifted Children’s Challenges with Learning and Attention Issues. Retrieved from: https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/building-on-strengths/gifted-childrens-challenges-with-learning-and-attention-issues
Colorado Department of Education: http://www.cde.state.co.us/sites/default/files/documents/gt/download/pdf/twiceexceptionalresourcehandbook.pdf