Reading Insights

To the Parents: What is Twice-Exceptional?

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To the Parents: What is Twice-Exceptional?

By Dr. Paula Tinnin

Parents need all the encouragement they can get these days; so, parents this blog is for you!  If you have a child who is identified as Gifted and who also has a disability, chances are you are constantly seeking advice so that you can parent well. First, let’s define Twice-Exceptional.


Twice-exceptional students are:
  1. Students who are identified as gifted and talented in one or more areas of exceptionality (specific academics, general intellectual ability, creativity, leadership, visual or performing arts); and identified with:


  1. A disability defined by Federal/State eligibility criteria: specific learning disability, significant identifiable emotional disability, physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, autism, or ADHD.  The disability qualifies the student for an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

What we know about this curious mix of gifts is that the combination of these two sets of traits in young people can be frustrating for students, parents, and teachers alike.


  • Does your child have inconsistent academic performance?
  • Is your child easily frustrated in school?
  • Does your child have a lack of organization and study skills?
  • Does your child have difficulty with social interactions?
  • Is your child highly sensitive to criticism?
  • Is your child struggling with written expression?
  • Is your child often argumentative, opinionated, and stubborn?


  • Does your child have advanced ideas and opinions?
  • Does your child have a special talent or consuming interest?
  • Does your child have a superior vocabulary?
  • Does your child exhibit excellent problem-solving abilities?
  • Is your child highly creative and resourceful?
  • Is your child imaginative and curious?
  • Does your child have a sophisticated sense of humor?
  • Does your child have a wide range of interests?



These characteristics are just a sampling of the many typical indicators of giftedness and cognitive/affective problems. These are not traits that ALL children possess because the 2e children do not form a simple, homogeneous group; they are a highly diverse group of learners.


It is important to know that Gifted students with disabilities are at-risk because their educational and social needs often go undetected.  Be aware that under the mask of the gifted ability may be a learning disability. In other words, talents may be hidden behind the behaviors of the disability and never noticed or developed. In some schools, behavior plans become the focus of the interventions, so that the behaviors are managed, but the underlying learning disability is never addressed. School can be a very difficult experience for struggling Twice-Exceptional students.


What Can Parents Do?
  1. Learn your child’s strengths and interests, then nurture these talents and hobbies at home.
  2. Create a supportive environment at home where studying homework can be completed at a designated time and place.
  3. Help your child learn skills needed to be successful in school. Help with homework, but do not assume responsibility.
  4. Encourage your child to develop the skills to be an independent, life-long learner.


It is important for parents to understand that learning problems connected with a learning disability tend to be somewhat permanent through life.  Simply correcting weaknesses may not be effective for Twice-Exceptional children, therefore, compensation strategies are considered in favor of remedial strategies in some cases. Overcoming learning difficulties are not insurmountable when teachers and parents team together to address the unique needs of the Twice-Exceptional learner.  Gifted education specialists and Learning specialists are skilled at and purposeful in attending to the gifts and strengths of each 2e student.

An Invitation

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An Invitation

By Dr. Paula Tinnin

Not long after you graduate from college, adults begin their conversations with a predictable question:  WHAT DO YOU DO? Children, however, will translate that question to mean WHAT IS YOUR JOB? When I am asked how I spend my time at work, I have a lot of explaining to do.

I am a doctor, but not a medical doctor.

I am an explorer, but not on the high seas.

I am a detective, but not for the police department.

I am a discoverer, but not of artifacts.

I am a teacher, but not in a classroom.

I am a diagnostician, but not a test administrator.

I Have the Best Job… I teach kids how to read and how to read to learn. That is my job. I direct a Reading program at Focus on Learning Center where I see children and teenagers individually for one-hour sessions, once or twice per week, every day except Fridays and Sundays.

But That Is Not the Whole Story…All students come to me with a unique set of intellectual and creative abilities. Struggling readers are no different than proficient readers in that regard.  However, years of research have shown that whatever children’s innate skills, strengths, and abilities may be, it’s the attitudes and actions of teachers and other adults in their lives that really matter. (Wolter, 2017.)

Getting Ready for Work!   I ask myself many questions when I get ready to work:  How will I teach my student in his area of strength in order to overcome difficulties? How does my learner make sense of the ideas and words on a page? How can I encourage my student to develop a deeper understanding of the text and be able to ask questions that involve explanations, interpretations, applications, and self-understanding? (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998)  How will I guide my learner to analyze, generalize, and evaluate what she is reading?

As a teacher, I am eager to learn about hemispheric dominance, natural intelligences, and diversity in learning styles, and I modify my teaching practices to ensure that my student makes sense of his or her reading experience.

I resonate with author and literary consultant Deborah Wolter who recommends many “restorative literacy practices” to bridge the gap between what is good practice for fluent readers and what is common for struggling readers.  These practices help students move from struggling to proficient readers.

  1. Plenty of Books
  2. An Army of Adult Support  
  3. Choice
  4. Exploration
  5. Settling In to Read
  6. Reading Deeply and Thoughtfully
  7. Using Cognitive and Linguistic Strategies
  8. Owning Their Language
  9. Using Information in Text
  10. Honing Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills

As a Reading Specialist, I work to create opportunities for kids to make connections between what we read and their own experiences. Here at Focus on Learning Center, we provide young readers with resources and a nurturing environment to improve their reading comprehension, vocabulary and reading fluency.  Call 573-875-5187 for more information or visit us at



Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Wolter, D. (2017). Moving readers from struggling to proficient. Phi Delta Kappan, 99 (1), 37-39.