- 2e Newsletter
- 2e Resources
- Past Issues
- Articles & Columns
- Contact Us
The 2e Center, located on the campus of Bridges Academy in Studio City, California. In this column, we’ll share what’s happening at our center and report research findings, teaching ideas, and parenting suggestions we have found to be successful in helping 2e kids thrive.
This year, the Center has teamed with Tom Ropelewski, director and producer of the documentary film;2e: Twice Exceptional. The film provides insights into the academic, social, and emotional growth of young people with twice-exceptionalities.
Our first joint project was to create a viewer’s guide that now accompanies each DVD to spark discussions. As more people view the documentary, many questions have been surfacing, especially about what helps 2e students become successful learners. Over time, the 2e Center’s research has uncovered six factors that are critical in in building a strong foundation for these students. These factors are:
These six factors will be the basis for this current and future columns.
The 2e Center supports the professional development of the faculty at Bridges Academy, where we are located.
By Susan Baum, Ph.D.
“I know my 6-year-old son has never really been like others of his age. I’m having trouble ‘defending’ his inexplicable behavior to his teachers, my friends, and even my husband. While he’s like a human atlas, never forgetting a place we’ve been or how we got there, he needs constant reminders about common daily tasks. He speaks like a little professor with adults, yet isn’t comfortable on the playground. What is going on?”
Asynchrony is a term used to describe uneven development across cognitive, psychosocial, and physical domains. It’s often a striking characteristic of many gifted students who may have high cognitive ability but tend to experience marked unevenness or delays in the development of their social/emotional and motor skills. Socially and emotionally the development of these children is usually more akin to that of younger students, while their bright young minds far outpace their motor abilities. To work successfully with 2e students, it’s essential to understand their developmental asynchrony.
Twice-exceptional students typically experience uneven development in their growth pattern (Baum, Novak, Dann, & Preuss, 2010; Baum & Owen, 2004; Eide & Eide, 2006; Singer, 2000; Webb et al., 2005). This unevenness is frequently the cause of anxiety and unpredictable behaviors on the part of the students (Baum, Novak, Dann, & Preuss, 2010). As anyone who has seen Tom Ropelewski’s documentary will remember, one twice-exceptional student explained this dilemma:
Mentally I’m probably 2 or 3 years ahead of most kids my age, but socially I’m probably 2 or 3 years behind…. I’m stuck in a weird time warp thing….
This was a youngster who was clearly advanced cognitively, with interests and knowledge more sophisticated than those of her age-mates. Yet, she also had immature social skills and displayed oppositional behaviors when asked to write or produce anything, especially during her middle school years.
Uneven growth across areas of development causes these children to become easily frustrated while working on tasks beyond their readiness level, especially when it comes to production. This frustration can lead not only to anxiety, but also to aversion in initiating work. These bright students find it impossible to produce at a level that adequately reflects their intellectual thinking. On the other hand, if instruction is pared down to what the student can actually produce, he or she may become bored and distracted and may feel disrespected by teachers. Because the emotional regulation these students display may be like that of a younger child, behaviors resulting from their frustrations are difficult to understand and to deal with. In short, asynchronous development requires adults to alter expectations and to support the students at each of their disparate levels (Vygotsky, 1978).
According to developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the Zone of Proximal Development identifies the difference between what children have already mastered and what they can achieve with adult guidance. 2e students need academic challenge, while receiving scaffolding (support) to help the learners through the ZPD (Baum, Novak, Dann, & Preuss, 2010).
Teachers at Bridges Academy are acutely aware of asynchronous issues. They use Vygotsky’s idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) to meet students where they are at each stage of development. [See the sidebar below for additional information on ZPD.] For example, if a highly verbal and knowledgeable student frustrated by a writing assignment melts down, teachers understand that the student needs to regroup. They allow time and space for the student to calm down, asking questions like: Would you like to wash your face? Do you need to take a break? Do you need someone to walk with you? While these strategies are more often used with younger children, they are appropriate for students whose emotional development is lagging years behind.
Another effective strategy is to provide talent development opportunities. Doing so can offset feelings of anxiety and frustration brought on by asynchrony and also show respect for what the student can do well. During 8th grade, the young woman quoted earlier was experiencing difficulties, spending more time out of the classroom than in the classroom, especially during physical education. She was an artistically gifted student whose passion was painting. The psychologist and school head excused her from physical education for a few weeks to pursue an artistic project that, when finished, was visible to the entire school. It made all the difference for her well-being, allowing her to gain self-confidence along with increased motivation to produce in her other classes.
Here are some ideas that parents and teachers can use when dealing with an asynchronous 2e child.
For more information, see this booklet from the Spotlight on 2e series: The Mythology of Learning: Understanding Common Myths about 2e Learners, pp. 8-12.