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�Twice-Exceptional� (or 2e)�.What???

By Paula J Hillmann PhD, LPC

2e PhotoBut what does this mean – really….?  In simple terms it means a gifted child can also have a physical or emotional handicap, or have a learning disability. But wait – this is not so simple!  Schools tend to look for advanced behaviors when they are looking for gifted children, and look for deficits when they identify difficulties that need special education interventions. However, even though we have two eyes, we tend to see only one thing. And “….there’s the rub.” It appears the tendency in human nature is to focus on weaknesses or disability rather than on strengths or ability – and it is difficult to see both at the same time.

Gifted and talented kids with other exceptional needs do not exhibit behaviors that schools look for in the gifted!  These 2e kids may exhibit some of the following:

  • sloppy handwriting
  • disruptive behaviors that make it difficult for them to complete their work
  • seem confused about their inability to perform their tasks
  • symptoms of stress (sleep, eating, emotional outbursts, depression….)
  • discouragement
  • frustration
  • rejection
  • helplessness
  • isolation

They may deny having problems (voicing claims such as the activity or assignment was “boring” or “stupid”). They may use humor or sarcasm in demeaning ways in an attempt to boost their lagging self-esteem. They are usually unhappy about not living up to their own expectations, but expert at intellectualizing or justifying  their behavior (but often this is irrational or faulty thinking). They can be impatient, critical, and react stubbornly to advice.

But what if you have a child who IS gifted and DOES HAVE other exceptional needs? Here are some tips.

Home Support:

  • recognize gifted abilities
  • challenge them to see both sides
  • provide risk-taking opportunities that foster coping skills
  • advocate for the child at school
  • engage in family projects that use multiple talents and skills
  • seek counseling for the family

 School Support:

  • placement in gifted programs or activities
  • arrange for needed resources
  • offer alternative learning support
  • use project-based learning: investigations and explorations
  • provide time with both intellectual and social peers
  • give individual counseling

The goal for all our kids is to help them become autonomous and successfully intelligent. Building awareness of 2e behaviors and what we can do (and what we should avoid) is foundational in that process.


Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


©2012 Paula J. Hillmann PhD, LPC/ Advanced Learning Resources, Ltd.  All rights reserved. Please contact for permission to reprint ()  


Posted on November 11, 2012 by Paula J Hillmann PhD, LPC

Paula Hillmann is a professional counselor and educational psychologist who specializes in gifted education and talent development, working with children, adolescents, families, and schools in building strong and engaged partnerships. She is an advocacy coach for parents and teachers, and she guides children and adolescents in becoming mindful learners. Contact her at Advanced Learning Resources.

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(www.ParentInvolvementMatters.org does not handle reprint requests. For permission to reprint articles, please contact the author directly.)

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Tags: Learning environment

Posted November 11, 2012 by rick ackerly
This is an excellent example of where so much parenting advice goes astray. It takes the core neurosis of our school system as a given and treats symptoms rather than causes.
The root cause is not humans tendency to focus on weaknesses rather than strengthe, but our culture�s obsession with ability�strengths and weaknesses both. Expressing frustration with a problem by calling it boring or stupid, or trying to boost self-esteem by sarcasm or making excuses for not living up to expectations, impatience, criticalness or resisting advice, are all symptoms of having been labeled �gifted.�
They have been told they are smart, praised for being smart, believe their intelligence is fixed and is the cause for their success. The work of Carol Dweck et al. show this quite nicely.
This abilityism is enscrined in the school system, and its insanity is obvious when you make note of the fact that we all act and talk as if there are only three kinds of kids: gifted, normal and disabled. That is why we find it hard to believe that one person can be both gifted and disabled.
It is obviously truer to say that all children have gifts, all children learn differently, and no child is normal.
The normal child doesn�t exist, or course. A child might be 50th percentile in one or more categories (out of thousands of categories) but to say they are normal is to borrow from the medical profession a term that was intended to communicate �not sick.� To say a person is average is actually insulting.
There are 7 billion brains and 7 billion kinds of brains and they are all prone to
Discouragement, frustration, rejection, helplessness, isolation, disruptive behaviors that make it difficult for them to complete their work, seem confused about their inability to perform their tasks, show symptoms of stress and sloppiness of one sort or another depending upon the situation. Again, these are not symptoms of giftedness, but a fixed mindset confronted by �high expectations.�
Time to coin a new diagnosis: abilityitis. Better yet, skip diagnosis and go directly from description to prescription as Mel Levine used to say.
Most schools are archaic industrial age systems that put a narrow range of challenges on their students and then begins to sort them according to their probable ability to respond to those peculiar challenges. Most early interventions which pretend to correct such weaknesses do not correct but rather establish self-fulfilling expectations. As Dweck�s research demonstrates the very notion that you are smart is a predictor of the kinds of dysfunctional behaviors that are attached to those who are �twice gifted.�
Labeling a child as anything is a mistake. Twice exceptional kids are thrice labeled. That is the core of the problem. The rest is treating symptoms and not root causes.
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