Since the diagnosis of dually defined students is on the rise and “they do not fit the traditional definitions of either exceptionality" (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 218), there is an urgent need for reliable information that can be easily distributed to educators. We believe this information will help to educate teachers, administrators and parents while eradicating some of the misconceptions about the unique needs of twice exceptional students. Our hope is that we may be able to spark a movement toward a talent development model amongst or colleagues and other educators, at the very least helping them see the need for a talent focused mindset in educating students. We feel that it is time “that school no longer was a repair shop" (Baum & Olenchak, 2002, p. 81), and we start looking for ways to help students develop their talents as well as addressing their learning challenges, rather than just focus on what the student cannot do, making remediation the focus, while ignoring, not acknowledging or nurturing their giftedness.

Myths About Twice Exceptional Students

Since the diagnosis of dually defined students is on the rise and “they do not fit the traditional definitions of either exceptionality” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 218), there is an urgent need for reliable information that can be easily distributed to educators. We believe our booklet will help to educate teachers, administrators and parents while eradicating some of the misconceptions about the unique needs of twice exceptional students. Our hope is that we may be able to spark a movement toward a talent development model amongst our colleagues and other educators, at the very least helping them see the need for a talent focused mindset in educating students. We feel that it is time “that school no longer was a repair shop” (Baum & Olenchak, 2002, p. 81), and we start looking for ways to help students develop their talents as well as addressing their learning challenges, rather than just focus on what the student cannot do, making remediation the focus, while ignoring, not acknowledging or nurturing their giftedness.

 

 

                      ~ Liz Taylor & Sandra Van Hoekelen

Myth: Students can NOT be gifted and have severe deficits

Truth: Many students sitting in our classrooms today manage to use their gifts and talents to mask their disabilities. In fact, researchers suspect that there are more students with severe deficits who are gifted and talented than we know. According to Reis, Baum, and Burke (2014), dually identified students increased from 180,000 in 2003 to 360,00 in 2006 (p. 217). While these students do not have cognitive disabilities, twice exceptional students, or 2E, “are identified as gifted and talented and also diagnosed with one or more of the special education categories defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 219). Often they are the student that parents and teachers feel are “lazy” or “just needs to try harder” or “just doesn’t get it” but when tested for disability services often do not score low enough for special education instruction. While many of these students “do not fit the traditional definitions of either exceptionality” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 217) other students have severe disabilities, like High Functioning Autism, and “their giftedness is often overwhelmed by their special learning difficulties that obscure their gifted potential” (Twice exceptionality deconstructed, 2011, p. 5). No matter their dual exceptionalities, every twice exceptional learner is unique and has a need for a specific learning plan.

 

Myth: 2E students should have a remediation focus

Truth: No one likes having their weaknesses put on display. For the 2E learner, a school plan that focuses on remediation not only makes them feel as if their weaknesses are being singled out, but it is also proven by researchers that “approaches that prioritize and focus on remediating weaknesses are likely to block development” (Sabatino, Baum, Dann, Novak & Preuss, 2010, p. 6). Remedial activities do not engage the gifted child and are unsuccessful (Baum, Cooper & Neu, 2001). Reis, Baum and Burke (2014) found that “too much attention paid to review activities, simple assignments, and remedial activities have been found to be unchallenging and boring for 2E students” (p. 226). While students who are dually identified need their deficit strengthened, there is “wide agreement in the literature on gifted children with learning problems that, as a general strategy, interventions should focus on developing the talent while attending to the disability” (Neihart, 2003, p. 4). The disability is not to be ignored; it is just not to be the focus of education. As one student put it so eloquently, school should not be a “repair shop” (Baum & Olenchak, 2002, p. 81).

 

Myth: 2E students just need appropriate accommodations

Truth: Telling a twice exceptional student who struggles to write that they can have a writing accomodation but cannot be a part of a gifted program because they do not meet grade level writing standards is discrimination. Unfortunately, it is common practice to accommodate students with disabilities “while ignoring gifted potential” (Sabatino, Baum, Dann, Novak & Preuss, 2010, p. 13). Students who are dually identified need accommodations within the rigor of a talent development model since “It is through the rigors of talent development that they will become self-regulated and goal directed . . . that they will develop positive identities and like-minded friends” (An interview with Dr. Susan Baum: Supporting twice-exceptional (2E) students, 2011, p. 13). Schools need to work with parents and students to dually differentiate the 2E learner’s curriculum through content, process, product, and environment (Sabatino, Baum, Dann, Novak & Preuss, 2010, p. 14). Accommodations might still be necessary within the talent development model, but the focus on talents gives them a successful learning journey. 

Myth: 2E students just need to try harder

Truth: Twice exceptional students have disabilities that need to be addressed, but telling this population of students they just need to “try harder” or “practice more” into an area that is a deficit or disability will not make the disability go away. Many 2E learners struggle with basic skills and struggle with development during the elementary school years as a majority of the curriculum is language arts driven (Baum, Cooper & Neu, 2001); students even have to write their explanations in mathematics. Repetitive practice and grit will not help the 2E student overcome their disability. In fact, researchers found that “the skills students lack show dramatic development when practiced within the context of assignments and projects within the gift area” (Sabatino, Baum, Dann, Novak & Preuss, 2010, p. 7). When we focus on developing the gifts of twice exceptional students their disabilities are better addressed.

 

 

Myth: 2E students do NOT need IEPs or 504s

Truth: Dually identified students may need an IEP or 504 depending on their disability and ability to access the grade-level curriculum. The IDEA law is clear, students who have at least 1 of the 13 specific learning disabilities, and this disability keeps them from progressing in the general education setting, need an IEP. Most other students fall under the Section 504 law as they have a disability and need accommodations, but do not necessarily need special education instruction. Keep in mind that “educational practices that withhold services to 2E students can be considered discriminatory” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 217). Many 2E students need services to instruct them in compensation strategies and this must be taken into consideration when creating an education plan (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014). Most importantly, the IEP or 504 should include the student's strengths and allow for talent development. With dually identified students we must “use instructional strategies that accommodate both sets of characteristics to create appropriate balance between attention to strengths and compensating for weaknesses and, then, to infuse those strategies into authentic, challenging curriculum” (Baum, Cooper & Neu, 2001, p. 481). An IEP or a 504 must be accompanied by a talent development plan with the goal being to keep the 2E student in the gifted program.

 

 

 

Myth: Success for 2E students can found in being better organized

Truth: All parents, teachers, and students have a preferred organizational style. These styles can range from being sequential and concrete, requiring a need for predictability and stereotypical organization in a traditional sense, to being more random and abstract, preferring to organize in a way where at first glance it may seem to be chaotic or messy. It is imperative that educators and parents honor the organizational style of children. Use strategies that help them become more productive within the child’s organizational style rather than what educators or parents believe works best, as “attempts to box them in do more harm than good” ( Sabatino, Baum, Dann, Novak & Preuss,  2010, p.31). “For many 2E students with reading or writing challenges, linear forms of organization actually minimize their effectiveness, while students whose emotions govern their lives, their mood will dictate their productivity, not a predetermined schedule” (Sabatino, Baum, Dann, Novak & Preuss,  2010, p. 32). Thinking there is only one way to be organized in order to be successful can cause undue stress and conflict for everyone involved. However, by gaining more understanding for the diversity of how we organize ourselves, we can learn to appreciate the different paths to success our organizational styles can take us. (Sabatino,Baum, Dann, Novak & Preuss, 2010).

Myth: Strengthening weaknesses is the first priority for 2E students

Truth: The 2E student is much like a gifted student athlete whose training is given priority but also attends classes and has the modifications necessary in order to address their needs. Students are not going to make it in life through their areas or subjects of deficiency. Putting the focus simply on areas of weakness does not develop their academic giftedness or areas of strength. “Effective interventions are always those that are tailored to the unique strengths and needs of the individual.” (Neihart, 2003, p. 4), but in order to find these unique strengths, appropriate identification techniques need to be in place that help look for talent areas in 2E students. Currently“response to the intervention approach may be discriminatory for students with high cognitive abilities especially if the student expectations are contingent on achieving grade-level benchmarks” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 224). The learning deficit quite often masks academic giftedness, making it necessary to use a variety of methods in order to identify the talent area and make it a priority in developing.

 

 

 

 

Myth: Social and Emotional health is separate from academic ability

Truth: For many 2E students, the struggle to “make their brain, body or both do what they want them to do” (Rosen, 2014, para. 16), leads to frustration. More frustration ensues for the 2E student that has high expectations of themselves but cannot perform at these levels because they are not receiving appropriate support due to educators’ focus on remediation and lowered expectations. “2E youngsters require social and emotional support because of the emotional difficulties resulting from their asynchronous development” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 226). Not being able to do what they feel they are capable of because they struggle with basic skills while having high cognitive abilities, lowers self-esteem. When left unsupported this leads many 2E students to depression (Rosen, 2014).  Anxiety is also a problem as many 2E students have problems accepting their dualities (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014). By keeping the focus on the talent and simultaneously working in areas of learning deficit, social and emotional adjustments seem to be minimized (Neihart, 2003).

Myth: Behavior issues are deficits in 2E students

Truth: It is difficult to distinguish between what behaviors can be attributed to academic giftedness or learning deficits. Even if both areas are looked at independently, it is not as easy to determine what caused the behavior (Baum & Olenchak, 2002) “Behaviors alone can be misleading without understanding the characteristics of each exceptionality, the context in which a behavior occurs, and the effects of comorbidity on the combinations of giftedness with diverse disabilities” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 219). Much like when any student begins to act out with inappropriate behavior in class, unless teachers know about the student’s background, the situations where the behavior occurs, underlying issues that may exasperate the behavior, or even how a combination of events have come together to make the student behave inappropriately, it is impossible to pinpoint the behavior to one specific reason. 2E students struggle with the accompanying behaviors of their dual exceptionalities and while responding to these issues teachers need to remember there may be many reasons for the behavior and to act accordingly. All too often “educators tend to view atypical classroom behavior among students as indicative of weaknesses and problems rather than symbolic of strengths and gifts” (Baum & Olenchak, 2011, p. 81).

 

 

 

Myth: Students can NOT be gifted and lack basic skills at the same time

Truth: Many educators, administrators and parents have difficulty comprehending the idea that a child can be both gifted and lack basic skills. With focus on basic skills in testing and classroom activities, it is easier to notice what students cannot do rather than what they can. Using non-traditional method of identification (keeping the focus away from reading and writing) helps unearth more talent areas. When the focus is placed on either addressing the learning deficit or the academic gift “placing 2E students into either traditional remedial or gifted programs may exacerbate the emotional fragility of these students” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 226). It is imperative that both needs are addressed simultaneously in order to ensure achievement. It is also important to note that“when the advanced opportunity requires skills in students’ deficit areas, these students need to access appropriate accommodations” (Reis, Baum & Burke, 2014, p. 226). 2E students are both academically gifted and have learning challenges, therefore, their accommodations must address both needs, with a talent focus being a priority.

Contact the Authors:

Baum, S., Cooper, C.R. & Neu, T.W. (2001). Dual differentiation: An approach for meeting the curricular needs of gifted students with learning disabilities, Education Faculty Publications, 38(5), 477-490. Retrieved fromhttp://digitalcommons.sacreheart.edu/ced_fac/82

 

Baum, S. & Olenchak, R. (2002). The alphabet children: GT, ADHD, and more. Exceptionality: A Special Education Journal, 10(2), 77-91, DOI: 10.1207/S15327035EX1002_3

 

Foley Nicpon, M., Allmon, A., Sieck, R. & Stinson R. D. (2011). Empirical investigations of twice-exceptionality: Where have we been and where are we going? Gifted Child Quarterly, 55, 3-17.

 

Neihart, M. (2003). Gifted children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED649)

 

Reis, S., Baum, S. M., & Burke, E. (2014). An operational definition of twice-exceptional learners: Implications and applications. Gifted Child Quarterly, 58(3), 217-230, DOI: 10.1177/0016986214534976

 

Rosen, P. (2014, June). Gifted children’s challenges with learning and attention issues. Understood for learning and attention issues. Retrieved fromhttps://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/building-on-strengths/gifted-childrens-challenges-with-learning-and-attention-issues

 

The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education. (2011). An interview with Dr. Susan Baum: Supporting twice-exceptional (2E) students, INSPIRE: The Gifted Education Magazine for Educators, 6, 10-15.

 

The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education. (2011). Twice exceptionality deconstructed, INSPIRE: The Gifted Education Magazine for Educators, 6, 3-7.

 

Sabatino, C., Baum, S., Dann, M., Novak, C., & Preuss, L. (2010). The mythology of learning: Understanding common myths about 2E learners. Winfield, IL: Glen Ellyn Media.

 

References

Liz Taylor:

             liz2teachtaylor@gmail.com

      and

Sandra Van Hoekelen:

             sandracoral@gmail.com