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Boost the Potential of Twice-Exceptional Learners in the Classroom

Imagine you have an amazing talent to create confectionary delights without much training. Fellow foodies and food critics alike recognize your ability and you have become a mentor for many budding bakers. Now imagine that you can only showcase your talent using subpar tools, so it takes twice as long to complete any recipe. No one knows your tool challenge because your baked goods are fantastic, but the struggle for you is real with the limitations you experience. Wouldn’t this be frustrating? Sadly, this is how many 2e or twice-exceptional students experience classroom instruction. 

Twice exceptional children are defined by researchers as students who are identified as gifted or talented in one or more areas and have a disability as classified by the federal government. These students manage a great asynchrony with up to five years difference between their strengths and areas of disability. Often with 2e students, the learning or physical disability masks their gifted potential, creating complex challenges with identification and services. How might we bridge these gaps and make instruction engaging and effective for 2e students?

Below are a few strategies to consider when managing instructional services for twice-exceptional (2e) students:

1. Capitalize on the student’s strength first and address the disability second.

 Although this sounds counterintuitive, it is the optimal method of supporting 2e students. Focus on the areas in which the student excels or topics in which the student has advanced knowledge to help develop a positive outlook on areas of difficulty. Twice-exceptional students should have opportunities for appropriate opportunity to problem-solve, use their creativity, and engage in challenging curriculum. Flexibility in providing modes of instruction such as mentorship, opportunities to work with like-minded peers, and equip students with methods to manage their talent through their disability are all key components to differentiating instruction for 2e learners. When 2e students are acknowledged for their exceptional ability, they become more willing to take risks with tasks that are challenging for them.

2. Make their social-emotional wellbeing a priority.

Since gifted students can experience a great asynchronicity with their social-emotional development, they often feel trapped within their disability and unable to showcase their strengths or talents. This sense of entrapment can result in elevated levels of anxiety, poor self-concept, and a sense of hopelessness. Educators and parents must keep a pulse on their social-emotional wellbeing as well as provide students with opportunities to develop social and executive functioning skills. Appropriate interventions include counseling, therapeutic interventions, and alternative/flexible approaches to learning.

3. Utilize multiple stakeholders to advocate support services.

Due to the complexity of 2e needs, a spectrum of resources and support is needed to help students maximize their potential and manage their disability. From gifted specialists, special education teachers, and counselors to family members, collaborative planning is needed to help 2e students enrich their educational experiences. Start first with what services are accessible to you through the local school district or educational settings. Next, utilize state organizations or local agencies to support more complex needs. Communication and education are important when finding appropriate support and services.  Be the voice your child needs to develop and grow as a 2e learner.

The balance of services and the collaboration between the school and home settings are two components that will facilitate the potential growth of twice-exceptional students. The paradox of 2e students requires careful attention to ensure that their social-emotional needs are managed. When 2e students are provided with support from both their gifted and other exceptionalities, they can flourish and be their best selves!


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