Book Review

To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled: Strength-Based Strategies for Helping Twice-Exceptional Students With LD, ADHD, ASD, and More (3rd ed.)

Book by Susan M. Baum, Ph.D.; Robin Schader, Ph.D.; Steven V. Owen, Ph.D.
(Prufrock Press, 2017)

November, 2017

Back in August of 2005, a review of the second edition of To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled appeared in 2e Newsletter. It began:

Anyone borrowing my well-used copy of this book will find the pages streaked with yellow highlighter and overflowing with Post-It flags. Authors Susan Baum and Steven Owen pack a tremendous amount of information into it.

We wanted to see how the third edition of this seminal book for those who raise, educate, and otherwise help twice-exceptional students succeed compares with the earlier version. Co-author Robin Schader, who joined the team of Baum and Owen for this update, responded to our questions about the differences.

According to Schader “This edition is quite different. We really tried to bring in how much we’ve learned through our experiences at Bridges.” 

These experiences at Bridges Academy, note co-authors Baum and Schader, have been a major influence on this edition. Over the past decade, the two have worked with 2e students, educators, parents, and other professionals to discover strategies that are successful in helping these students meet their potential. Bridges is perhaps the world’s flagship school when it comes to serving twice-exceptional children, some of whom the reader gets to know through the book. The school, located in Los Angeles, enrolls almost 200 students in grades 4 through 12. [Ed. note: Bridges Academy, where the 2e Center is located, is often featured in the 2e Newsletter column News from the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development.]

This 316-page book is divided into four-parts. We’ll look at the contents of each and see, with Robin Schader’s help, how it differs from the previous edition.

Part I: The 2e Basics

“First of all,” says Schader, “you’ll find that the four sections are more self-contained. Part I is almost all new, except for the review of the history….[It] leads the reader to better understand the need for strength-based, talent-focused education.”

Chapter 1 defines twice-exceptionality through the story of Neil, a “poster child” for 2e with whom Baum worked with decades ago. After a few pages of the history of twice-exceptionality and the terms used to describe it, the authors introduce “the metaphor” of yellow (gifts), challenges (blue), and the result (2e green). [See the sidebar for more on this.] The metaphor is used throughout the book. 

Schader describes how the approach to describing giftedness and learning differences in Chapter 2 differs from the previous edition. “Rather than going into clinical detail, we break out four 2e types: specific learning disabilities, attention deficit, autism spectrum, and generalized anxiety disorder.”

In this chapter we also meet real students exemplifying the 2e types. The case studies and profiles throughout the book are, we believe, one of its real strengths. And the case studies aren’t simple textual descriptions of “Johnny had this condition, we did this, and Johnny succeeded.” They’re likely to include evaluative data such as WISC scores; data on interests and challenges, and how the interests and challenges interact; and more.

In Chapter 3, the authors elaborate on the concepts of “the yellows” (gifts) and “the blues” (the differences/disabilities). They also describe the complexities of green and the different “mixes” of green. Included is a discussion of the paradoxical needs of a 2e learner, including a profile called “A Very Green Tale: The Story of Olivia.”

Chapter 4 makes the case for strength-based, talent-focused education, using both the literature from the field and experience at Bridges.

Part II: Neurodiversity — The Complex Minds of 2e Learners

Schader explains that Part II is “about the complex minds of 2e learners.” It includes, she states, “a basic discussion of how an information processing model works”; and it “describes how and where learning breaks down.” This section also includes chapters on:

  • Multiple intelligences and personality preferences (updated from last edition)
  • Factors leading to the misidentification of 2e students and the misinterpretation of data.

Schader points out that the chapter on misidentification “does address IQ testing, but also includes social and emotional issues, asynchrony, and asks the reader to consider different perspectives (such as, is this child creative or disruptive?).”

Part III: Comprehensive Programming

When you find a 2e student, what do you offer in the way of programming? This part of the book focuses on answering that question. It covers:

  • Identifying 2e students in educational settings — “searching for blue” and “searching for yellow”
  • Elements of strength-based plans (“programming for green”)
  • Talent recognition and development — why and how.

Schader comments on Part III by saying that it “really calls for building strength-based plans while also recognizing the importance of talent development.” 

Part IV: Strategies that Work

“Part IV is at a classroom level,” says Schader, “with strategies that can support the 2e learner intellectually, physically, and emotionally.” The strategies include:

  • Creating a dually-differentiated classroom
  • Classroom strategies for successful intellectual, physical, and emotional environments<
  • What educators can do when learning breaks down — dealing with difficulties in attention, reading, working memory, and more
  • The importance of a “community of support” for 2e students, a community that includes not only educators but parents and counselors.

The book concludes with 12 pages of references and several appendices, some of which can be useful in identifying strengths and areas of challenge in twice-exceptional learners.


The third edition of To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled is a substantial, timely update to a standard in the field of twice-exceptionality. It’s clearly written with many examples, tables, and figures to illustrate the concepts presented. In addition, readers can access larger and more detailed versions of many of the tables and figures on the book’s webpage.

Robin Schader’s final comment about the book is, “Our hope is that a reader will feel informed, empowered, and….(the big hope)…curious enough to try on ‘fresh thinking’ about 2e students.”

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Throughout To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled, the authors use a metaphor to illustrate the combination of giftedness and challenges and the uniqueness of the resultant condition. The color yellow represents gifts, the color blue challenges. The combination of the two: green.

Going a step further, the authors refer to a line from an old (1970) song from Sesame Street, “Bein’ Green,” sung by Kermit the Frog and reflecting his ambivalence about his hue. The song, according to Sesame Street’s founding organization, is “a frog’s poignant realization of his own dignity and worth.” One line from the song is, “It’s not easy being green.”

“Bein’ Green” can apply far beyond the situational differences faced by twice-exceptional children. Here’s a quote from the singer Ray Charles, who recorded a version of the song:

“The words say ‘It’s not easy being green,’ but the song is about knowing who you are. And in it you hear [Jim Henson’s] message most clearly. He believed that people are good and that they want to do their best and that no matter how or why we might be different from anybody else, we should learn to love who we are and be proud of it.” (Ray Charles,

So we can use the phrase in the 2e community — but we can realize that its application extends far beyond.  

Editor’s note: In the spirit of full disclosure, the publishers of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter serve on the Advisory Board of the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, and Susan Baum serves on the newsletter’s Editorial Advisory Board.

Find the table of contents and sample pages from To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled at Prufrock Press. The publisher offers a 20% discount to newsletter subscribers using the code TBGLD20 at checkout. The book is also available from Amazon

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