Friday, February 24, 2012


I just attended an IEP meeting for my twice exceptional 8th grade son, and I was struck again at how simple and yet how hard it is to advocate for him.The solutions to his school struggles seem so simple to me and yet getting the school to fall in line can sometimes be soooo hard. This IEP meeting was actually the most productive and the least frustrating I have ever attended, and I felt like we made good progress in planning for his transition to the high school next year.

I am going to digress for a moment and talk about what twice exceptional or 2E means and how 2E kids are different from the kinds of gifted students we have discussed in the past.

An article by Dawn Beckley in the NRC/GT 1998 Spring Newsletter, (re-posted on the UConn website), describes twice exceptional students this way: 

"Since Terman's time, a widespread belief about gifted children has been that they regularly score high on intelligence tests and perform well in school (Brody & Mills, 1997). Yet during the last decade, increasing attention has been being given to the confusing question of high ability students who also have learning disabilities. These learning disabled gifted and talented students, or "twice-exceptional students" (Nielsen, Hammond, & Higgins, n.d.), need remediation activities. At the same time, they also require opportunities to promote their own individual strengths and talents in one or more domains in which they have previously displayed their superior abilities."

The rest of this article is an excellent overview of the characteristics, identification, and educational needs of 2E children.

Twice exceptional students are gifted, but they also have some sort of disability. Often the gift masks the disability and the disability masks the gift, so the students are seen as being very average. Sometimes, as was the case with my son, the disability is noticed by teachers, or is severe enough that help is given. Ky has a writing disability, which became very apparent in the 2nd grade. Anything that requires thinking and then writing is very difficult.

Sometimes, twice exceptional students are seen as bright underachievers, and their disability is not diagnosed, and other students are just viewed as average students and their giftedness goes "undiagnosed."

The meeting that I attended was for Ky's three year evaluation, so we looked at psychological testing. It was very easy to see his giftedness, as his verbal score was in the 130's, (gifted). Several of his other scores were above 100, (in the average range), and the score that involved writing was 78, (below average). His composite score was just a little bit above average. In the past, the school has fought me tooth and nail to do anything but remediate the writing issue, but this year they were open to options and we came up with a program that is working well. My son is not in any special ed classes, but he does have accommodations which make it possible for him to keep up. Math is especially difficult because it is all "think-write," but finally they are allowing him to use a calculator, which has made all the difference. He knows how to do the problems, but thinking the calculations and then writing them is hard. With the calculator, he can quickly work through his homework and is successful. Incidentally, a test showing his ability to calculate math, (without a calculator), came out on a late 5th/early 6th grade level, while a test on mathematical reasoning or understanding the math concepts came out at a late 9th grade level. Times tables and remembering the algorithms are hard, but understanding the concepts is easy.

My friend Susan Baum is the guru of Twice Exceptional education.  I have taken numerous strands at conferences from her and talked to her at length about my son and my fight with the school to have his needs met. She is my hero, and she has a number of great articles and books that anyone with a twice exceptional child, should read.

Here is an article that gives a great overview of her thinking:

Gifted But Learning Disabled: A Puzzling Paradox

The Idaho State Twice Exceptional Manual, (printed with permission of Dr. Susan Baum), gives another good overview and some ideas for teaching 2E students:

TWICE-EXCEPTIONAL:students WIth Both GIfts andchaLLenGes or dIsaBILItIes

or read her book:

There is also a fabulous newsletter, available to parents and teachers: 2e Twice- ExceptionalNewsletter
 Here is another website I found, with some good information: Twice Gifted

Ky is my second Twice Exceptional child. My older daughter is a very talented RN, who also struggled with writing but was highly gifted in math, science, and hands-on learning. Do not despair! Keep advocating for your student! Susan Baum has told me repeatedly that I just need to get Ky through public school, so that he can go on and be brilliant.

Kids who don't know their times tables can still do math, kids who can't write can still be successful.We as parents CAN make the difference!

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