How Do I Advocate for
My Twice-Exceptional Child?

November, 2013

Event: 20th Biennial World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children,
August, 2013, Louisville, Kentucky

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.

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