Twice Exceptional

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Photo by Ivan T via Flickr
Photo by Ivan T via Flickr

Imagine instinctively solving advanced math equations in your head — but struggling to read the word “multiplication.” Or mentally composing elaborate plays that you can’t write down. Imagine your frustration. Imagine your humiliation. Imagine life in a world that focuses on your weaknesses and ignores your gifts.

Such is the world of the twice exceptional child, a child who is simultaneously gifted and learning disabled. To many, the very words “gifted” and “learning disabled” are complete opposites. How, some wonder, can one person be “smart” as well as “dumb?”

Well, “gifted” does not equal “smart” and “learning disabled” does not equal “dumb.” A gifted person is one with incredible potential, one who sees and experiences the world in a way that is more intense, more open to possibility. A learning disability affects one’s ability to process or interpret information; a person of normal intelligence who struggles to read or write likely has a learning disability.

Children who are both gifted and learning disabled frequently feel confused. They may be ahead — very ahead — in some school subjects, but behind (even very behind) in others. The twice exceptional student doesn’t quite know where he fits in; his teachers and parents wonder why he’s not living up to his potential.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, “Gifted students with disabilities are at-risk because their educational and social/emotional needs often go undetected. The resulting inconsistent academic performance can lead educators to believe twice-exceptional students are not putting forth adequate effort. Hidden disabilities may prevent students with advanced cognitive abilities from achieving their potential.”

Some schools, however, are making strides to ensure that twice exceptional children have the opportunity to succeed, even as they learn to cope with their disabilties. Watch this “Chance to Read” video to see how one school is helping twice exceptional boys:


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