Additional Coverage of 2e-related Sessions from the
WCGTC and NAGC Conferences

November, 2013

20th Biennial World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children

From August 10 through 14, 2013, over 500 people from around the world with an interest in gifted learners gathered in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was the 20th Biennial World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. This conference offered educators, parents, and others interested in gifted education the opportunity to share research findings, best practices, and other information with an international community. This year, there seemed to be more attention than ever paid to twice-exceptionality, with a keynote address devoted to the topic given by Megan Foley Nicpon. Following is coverage of one of the many sessions offered at the conference. For additional WCGTC conference coverage, see the September and November, 2013, issues of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter.

How Do I Advocate for My Twice-Exceptional Child?

Presenter: Kevin Besnoy

Kevin Besnoy is an associate professor of education at the University of Alabama. In this session, he reported on his research and intervention experiences with a group of parents of twice-exceptional children as those parents moved through four stages on the way to becoming effective advocates for their children. The parents had children all identified as gifted, with exceptionalities in the areas of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, visual processing, and writing. His research is interview-based, with about 700 minutes recorded to date. He described parental experiences and reactions on the “journey” they’re going through so far.

Besnoy’s four non-sequential stages are:

  • Becoming aware that the child is “not like everyone else”
  • Becoming knowledgeable about the child’s exceptionality and what to do about it
  • Negotiating with the school system over services, etc.
  • Monitoring intervention.

According to Besnoy, event triggers, or catalysts, move parents from stage to stage.

One common feeling the researcher found was distrust. He found that parents, as a group, felt naïve and intimidated by the school system – and these were parents with a high proportion of advanced degrees among them. They were neither able to articulate (at the early stage) what their children needed, nor did they trust that the school would do the best for their children. This distrust was the trigger to learn more.

As they gathered knowledge, parents learned the vocabulary of general and special education; policy and procedures; and how to articulate desired interventions. This knowledge put them on a more equal footing with the educators they dealt with; and in turn, this knowledge was the trigger to effective negotiation, to services, and to monitoring their children’s progress.

Besnoy has held focus groups with all of the parents, and the focus groups have evolved into parent support groups. Next, Besnoy plans to:

  • Interview teachers about twice-exceptional identification and intervention
  • Provide additional training for parents on the law and vocabulary
  • Provide opportunities to role-play negotiation.

60th Convention of the National Association for Gifted Children

The 60th Annual Convention of NAGC was held November 7 through 10 in Indianapolis, Indiana. By coincidence, it was the same location as the first NAGC convention 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter covered in our first year of publication, 2003. Following is coverage of three of the many 2e-related sessions offered at the conference:

Find more session coverage from the convention in the November and January editions of the newsletter.

Understanding Gifted Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Presenter: Megan Foley Nicpon, Associate Professor, Belin-Blank Center

The newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual has changed the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders. In addition, the DSM-5 has a new disorder, “Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder,” characterized by early onset and limitations on relationships and functioning. Given these changes, and given the amount of work that Belin-Blank Center does in the area of autism and Asperger’s, Megan Foley Nicpon has a concern about the accuracy of diagnosing gifted children with ASD. For example, she notes that giftedness and ASD may both be characterized by:

  • Intense focus on certain subjects
  • Uncooperative behavior
  • Difficulty in making friends.

In her presentation at this year’s NAGC Convention, Nicpon noted, “Because of these overlapping attributes, some children are diagnosed as either having ASD or being gifted, when in fact they should be diagnosed as both.”  She contends that current screens are ineffective at identifying ASD in gifted populations. As a result, she and colleagues at the University of Iowa are developing their own screen, currently called The Iowa Screener for High Functioning ASD.

Based on interviews with clinical experts, Nicpon and team formulated dozens of screening items and included 93 of them in a pilot test. Some items that might have indicated ASD in other populations did not seem effective at identifying ASD in a gifted population – for example, items screening for repetitive actions or difficulty with jargon. Other items did seem to point to ASD in the gifted population – for example, intense interest, an excellent memory for details, or difficulty in handling emotions.

In refining the gifted/ASD screen, the team will next attempt to:

  • Find items that differentiate gifted ASD from just gifted
  • Condense the number of items in the screen
  • Establish age ranges for which the screen is useful
  • Establish norms
  • Test the screen’s reliability (whether it produces consistent results) and validity (whether it measures what it’s supposed to).

Also of concern: how Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder relates to the measure.

Readers may find the slides for this session at

Take a Byte: Technology for 2e Students and their Teachers

Presenter: Linda Collins, Blue Valley West High School, Overland Park, KS

Linda Collins, a gifted education teacher at the high school level, explained that all of the technology information she would be presenting in this session is not just for those who are twice exceptional. It can be applied to any student in the classroom.

Collins began by discussing what teachers and parents can do to ensure that students who need the help that technology can provide in school can get it. Teachers, she explained, should simply ask students what they need in terms of technology support. “Spend time to build some relational trust,” she said, “and then really listen to what they have to say.”

In today’s classrooms, the speaker noted, mobile technology has come to play an increasingly important role. Teachers need to understand that for some students technology can serve as what Collins refers to as a “mobile safe place” – that is, if they have permission to use it and their teachers understand its’ importance. Many students, for example, rely on their smart phones for planning and organizing.

Parents, as well, need to understand the important role that technology can play in their child’s success as school and work with the school to ensure that students get the tech support they need. Parents should be certain to include tech supports when coordinating a child’s transition from one level of schooling to another. Collins cautioned parents that older 2e kids often find ways to adapt on their own. As a result, it looks as though they no longer needs accommodations such as technology support when, in fact, they really do. She also pointed out that having a history of accommodations is important when it comes time for taking college entrance tests and beyond. Without a history, they may not be able to get the accommodations they need.

Collins then went on to describe and demonstrate various online tools and websites that  included the following. Most are free.


Visual dictionary and  thesaurus

Free Technology for Teachers

Blog that provides teachers with free websites and resources to use in the classroom

Remember the Milk

Online to-do list and task management


Task manager that helps you figure out what your next task is


iPad note-taking app that lets you write and create shapes using your finger as well as type and record audio


A way to keep track of high school or college assignments

Istudiez Pro

An iPhone app for tracking college courses, professors, assignments, and grades


An app that allows instructors to launch interactive presentations on devices such as iPads and enables students to submit responses on their devices


A website with news articles targeted to schoolchildren that offers the articles at five different levels of reading difficulty and with Common Core-aligned quizzes embedded in them


An interactive geometry, algebra, and calculus application, intended for  teaching and learning mathematics from middle school through college level

Dragon Dictation

Speech recognition software for Apple's iOS platforms

Math Paper

An app for kids who have trouble lining things up; lets them type in numbers and organize problems on an iPad

How Does Differentiation Affect Twice-exceptional Students’ Attitudes toward Learning?


  • Richard Olenchak, Ph.D., University of Houston
  • John Gaa, Ph.D., University of Houston

Do you believe this? “…the aspects of cognition that are most heavily courted in schools – learning, attention, memory, decision making, and social functioning – are not only profoundly affected by but are actually subsumed within the processes of emotion.” (From Immordino-Yang and Damsio)

How about this? “…success in personal pursuits does not yield happiness but…happiness – or positive affect – produces success.” (From Lyubormirsky, King, and Diener)

If you agree with those assertions, you’ll understand the rationale for a study conducted and reported by Rick Olenchak and John Gaa. Building on prior links between academic outcomes and affect, the researchers hypothesized that dual differentiation – simultaneously addressing learning challenges and fulfilling the need for challenge in 2e students – would improve classroom learning attitudes (affect). The researchers tested this hypothesis on 207 2e students in fourth through eighth grades in three urban school districts.

The dual differentiation was provided by teachers who received 18 hours of training from the researchers, training based on the work of Carol Tomlinson. Student attitudes were measured before and after the differentiation using an instrument called Perceptions of Classroom Quality. The researchers’ quantitative analysis of results included the following factors, or variables:

  • Gender
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Socio-economic status
  • Grade level
  • Differentiation.

It turned out that the variance in student attitudes toward classroom learning was most affected by the latter three factors, with differentiation adding significantly to the explained variance, according to the researchers. In other words, differentiation, along with socio-economic status and grade level, influences 2e student attitudes toward learning.

The researchers also conducted some qualitative research by extracting four case studies from the quantitative portion of the study. All of these focused on students with notable behavioral or emotional issues. Using semi-structured interviews and classroom observations, the researchers concluded that differentiation, along with attendant teacher interest and other factors, led the case study subjects to be, in the words of the researchers:

  • More likely to engage actively in school
  • More likely to interact well with adults and peers
  • Less likely to engage in problematic behaviors for self or others
  • Less likely to be absent and/or tardy.

All in all, the researchers concluded that dual differentiation improves student attitudes toward classroom learning and, consequently, improves behavior in school.

A quote from one of the case study subjects will resonate with readers in the 2e community: “I came to school before and it always felt like I was a flat tire getting fixed. I hated it! Now, it is like I get to spend time on things I like.”

Current Status of Twice-Exceptional Students: A Look at Legislation, Policy,
and Standards

Coverage by Cathy Risberg


  • Julia Roberts
  • Nielsen Pereira, Western Kentucky University

At the start of this session, Nielsen Pereira, who teaches psychology of gifted classes at Western Kentucky University, shared an observation. His students – teachers who have been in the classroom for over 20 years – were not familiar with the term 2e. It was this observation and the scarcity of current research on the status of twice-exceptional students in America that prompted the research that Pereira, Julia Roberts, and J. Dusteen Knotts conducted. Its purpose was to determine the rate of inclusion of twice-exceptional learners in state laws, policy, and standards across the United States.

In his presentation, Pereira reviewed the definition of gifted and talented students, the characteristics of gifted learners, categories of students with disabilities, and the definition of twice-exceptional learners used by schools statewide in Kentucky.

State of the States in Gifted Education

In citing the 2012-13 State of the States in Gifted Education Report, Pereira noted the following:

  • Twenty-four states did not have information on whether students identified as gifted also had a disability.
  • Eligible states reported percentages for students with disabilities ranging from 0.02 percent (Oklahoma) to 14.01 percent (Oregon).

Pereira highlighted what four states had done to build awareness and meet the needs of gifted/twice-exceptional students:

  • Colorado requires gifted education professional development for all teachers that includes specific instructional strategies proven in gifted education, a curriculum model or gifted education program, social-emotional needs of gifted students, twice-exceptionality, critical thinking skills, and identification
  • Minnesota has expanded guidance on assessment and procedures for a variety of groups, including twice-exceptional students, low-income students, and English language learners.
  • South Carolina has acknowledged the existence of gifted/talented learners in all racial, ethnic, socio-economic groups, all nationalities, both genders, and populations with physical and learning disabilities or behavioral problems.
  • Texas has recognized the need for best practices or instructional strategies for G/T services for underrepresented students, including bilingual, low socioeconomic status, and twice exceptional.

Survey Used to Determine Rate of Inclusion of Twice-Exceptional Learners in
State Laws, Policy, and Standards

Aware of the fact that the State of the States Report (which only included data from the forty-two states that responded plus the District of Columbia and Guam) represented the only nation-wide research/collection of data on gifted and talented, Pereira and his colleagues embarked upon their own research. They developed a survey to enable them to reach out to all teachers and administrators involved in any way with gifted students, including special education administrators, in all 50 states. Their intent was to answer these questions:

  • Which states have laws in place that recognize 2e learners?
  • What policies do states have that address the needs of 2e learners?
  • What educational standards are in place to guide best practices in regard to the education of 2e learners?

Survey Results/Recommendations/Model Initiatives

Analysis of the research results led Pereira and his fellow researchers to develop these generalizations:

  • Legislation and policy related to twice-exceptional students are limited.
  • Collaboration among general, gifted, and special education professionals is lacking.
  • The need exists for specific definitions and characteristics of the various combinations of gifts and disabilities.
  • Stakeholders should look to those states that have addressed the needs of twice-exceptional learners in legislation, policy, and standards as models for initiatives related to twice-exceptionality.

Their recommendations include the following:

  • All states should have laws, policies, and standards related to children who are twice-exceptional.
  • General, special, and gifted educators must collaborate on strategies to address the needs of twice-exceptional children. Those strategies include best practices for identification and effective instructional practices.
  • All states should define twice-exceptional children in law and policy, looking to researchers to provide specific sets of characteristics that describe the various combinations of types of gifts and disabilities.
  • Stakeholders and professionals in education should look to states where laws, policies, and other initiatives for twice-exceptional learners are in place as models for their own initiatives. For example:
  • Colorado has addressed twice-exceptionality in its gifted definition, legislation, and gifted education specialist standards. Guidelines on how to address needs and statewide systems of professional development workshops
  • Pennsylvanialawrecognizes twice-exceptional learners and outlines procedures for services that meet the need of these students.
  • In North Carolina, the Academically or Intellectually Gifted Program Standards list twice-exceptional learners as one of the underserved populations requiring monitoring for representation and retention in gifted programs.

Conclusion/Importance of Advocacy

As the presentation was wrapping up, co-presenter Julia Roberts focused the discussion on advocacy for twice-exceptional learners, making these points:

  • Because of the overall lack of knowledge that exists generally within most educational systems in terms of identifying the twice-exceptional learners and meeting their needs, we all need to become advocates for these children.
  • To better address the challenges their 2e children face, parents should focus on building relationships within the school and knowing provisions of state laws.
  • It is essential that everyone understands that advanced learners can also be a part of special education programs.
  • If no one advocates for the twice-exceptional student, then the schools simply do not know who these students are or how to meet their needs. “Advocacy is informing people of what is there.”

For more information on this and related research, visit:

Cathy Risberg, M.A., consults with parents, students, teachers, and administrators to identify and provide strength-based strategies to help all students, especially those who are gifted and twice-exceptional, reach their full potential. Find more information at her website Minds that Soar,

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