Helping twice-exceptional students starts with identifying them as such.
The phrase twice exceptional has been used by professionals in the United States since the 1990s. Unfortunately, people who are gifted with a learning disability are under-identified and underreported; and many parents of grade school children have had to voice frustration over misdiagnoses.
For parents seeking answers for their child’s struggles, I would like to offer some insight and hope into your child’s future and let you know that you and your child are not alone.
Every child has unique challenges and strengths. It is possible for a child to excel in one or two subjects and fall behind in others. This can lead to a child feeling bored by a curriculum that doesn’t challenge them, withdrawing when they feel lost, or even acting out when they feel bored and behind. These are all common characteristics of twice-exceptional students. As parents of twice-exceptional kids, it can be difficult to identify your child’s unique needs to help them reach their full potential.
I have compiled seven tips to help you care for your child’s special needs and increase their ability to learn effectively. If you are feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to begin in getting your child back on track, begin here with seven tips for helping twice-exceptional students.
1. Identify disabilities AND talents. Identifying both can be a challenge. It’s not always possible to see both disabilities and talents day to day. A child’s performance across a school year or several years may be necessary to notice exceptional ability AND learning differences.
As a parent, you can document your child’s academic performance by collecting graded tests, assignments, progress reports, and more. These items can be taken to your child’s teacher and school to argue the need for testing and services or to prove that your child is twice exceptional if they have been misdiagnosed.
However, it’s important to note two things. First, public schools are looking for students who are significantly behind their peers in one or more subjects. If a child’s education is being supplemented by a tutor or if they are getting by in the subjects in which they struggle, they will not be recommended for an evaluation.
Second, the pandemic created a backlog of students who are struggling with learning. Schools are therefore implementing interventions before recommending students for evaluations. While this practice is helping many kids get back on track without escalating the issue, it is delaying some students from getting the answers and help they need.
2. Complete an evaluation. A formal evaluation is known by many names such as an academic evaluation, educational evaluation, and psychoeducational evaluation. The psychoeducational evaluation was created to provide insight into an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. In the case of a child, test results may reveal a need for education classes or services. A formal Individualized Education Plan (IEP) can be drawn up from these results.
3. Know your child’s rights – even gifted children can qualify for IEPs. Twice-exceptional children have rights and may qualify for IEPs and accommodations. An IEP will establish a plan and give them access to resources that are tailored to their needs.
Educational professionals are available to help you on this journey. By investing in professional support, you will have an informed advocate for getting your child help. They can walk you through the process and step if your concerns are not being heard.
4. Find creative solutions. Your child’s unique needs may not be met entirely by one solution. Consider all your educational options and find what fits best, and then find creative solutions for the rest. Supplement. Each child has unique abilities and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
After completing the academic evaluation, you will have insight into areas your child excels in and areas we can work on together. Your child has a unique set of circumstances, and it is recommended that enrichment programs combined with creative solutions like tutoring are used to fulfill each child’s unique needs. By incorporating a strengths-based approach and fostering a community of growth, we can find what works best for your child to help them reach their full potential.
5. Get professional support. Ultimately, I want you to remember that it is ok to ask for help. The old phrase “it takes a village” remains true today. Professional support is not a judgment on your character, but rather a testament to the love you have for your child. Sometimes, it takes the background knowledge of a counselor and the love of a parent to give a child the push they need to succeed. Educational professionals and counselors are here to broaden horizons and give students the tools and resources to prosper. I am here to encourage your child and enhance their academic confidence.
Some things you can expect from professional help include your child having resources to reach their full potential, such as special education programs. If necessary, an educational professional will work on social skills and social interactions which can be practiced during the school day and at home. Working with a professional may also include tutoring and strategies for studying. Results from a neuropsychology evaluation may pave the way to formal resources and give your child the tools they need to be successful.
6. Recognize where twice exceptional contributes to behavior problems.
Finding the proper diagnosis can be frustrating and exhausting. Your child may have behavioral challenges, social anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or difficulties with reading and writing. These obstacles may feel insurmountable, but these behaviors are due to stress, boredom, inability to focus, and perfectionism. I want you to know that you and your child are not alone. The behavioral problems you are seeing can be tell-tale signs of gifted children. There is a reason behind the behavioral problems and through a neuropsychological evaluation, we can dive deeper into the best way to care for your child and possibly enhance their academic achievements.
7. Be in your child’s corner. Don’t forget to love them and have fun with them even while you try to advocate for them: I challenge parents to focus on preserving childhood. Oftentimes, the stress of advocating, searching for a diagnosis, and focusing on where your children are struggling can lead to a decrease in “fun.” Incorporate downtime and allow your child the freedom to focus on things other than academia. When the fight for resources and help for your child seems too weighty, take a break. Set aside time to have fun with your kids and to model living in the moment.
Twice-exceptional children are a unique population. Their social-emotional needs and academic needs may be different from other kids, The seven tips I have provided are a reference for you and your gifted children, and I hope they will bring comfort and direction into the next steps for pursuing support and resources. Through professional support, the neuropsychological exam, hard work, and creative solutions, we will be able to help your child reach their full potential. If you have any further questions, please reach out to me. I serve communities in and around Santa Clarita, CA. Please contact me and let me know how I can help you and your family.