To the Parents: What is Twice-Exceptional?

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.

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