Schools have a wide spectrum of students who are served under the Special Education umbrella. Many times, we assume that this only includes children who have academic needs because they are falling behind in the classroom. The reality is that kids qualify for 504 Plans and Individual Education Plans needs based on academic, social, and emotional needs. It is not simply due to academic concerns.
Counselors and therapists have noted that some students who are intellectually gifted may struggle in other areas. While they may be gifted in completing quadratic equations in a few seconds, they miss social cues from classmates. Others may have a difficult time with sensory integration. Sounds and lights in the room may overwhelm them and they may display behaviors which are socially inappropriate for school.
Identifying and Assisting 2E Students
The first step in helping children is to be able to identify those who are twice-exceptional learners. A Twice-exceptional (2E) learner is any child who may have some learning and attention deficits but is advanced in some academic areas. These gifted students often get left behind because too much focus is put on the other diagnosis which may be there like autism, ADD/ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and more. Many times, they are bored in academic areas, and some may be placed in self-contained classrooms.
We need to advocate for these children with their families. They need the extra social skills groups, the sensory supports, and executive function skill building. If they are given these along with their academic skills, progress will be made over time. It is also hard for many teachers to understand that a gifted student can struggle in other areas. Working together with the classroom teacher will enable the child to have supports which allow them to be as successful as possible in academic areas.
Challenging 2E Kids
In the past, many therapists thought that it was most important to push supports for 2E children and not challenge them academically. This has been shown to be the wrong approach. The more you allow students to push themselves, they show how much they are truly able to do. The key is to find balance for them in academic classes with proper IEP and 504 Plans in place.
School counselors need to work with the team to encourage 2E students to participate in honors classes. While many may not feel this is wise, giving these kids the ability to show their gifted academic work will help them to increase their self-confidence. It’s also possible for 2E children to take Advanced Placement courses. Teachers may need to work with the children and families to figure out ways to adjust how they learn. Supports may be given, but in the end, they will be learning the same information as every other peer in the class.
How does your school work on identifying students who may be twice-exceptional? Please share your experiences and what has worked well for children in different age levels in the comments section.