Thoughts on Twice-Exceptionality

On the first page of each issue of 2e Newsletter, readers will find a quote. They offer insight into who twice-exceptional children are and what they have the potential to be. Here are some of the quotes we've used since the newsletter began in 2003.

"If parental love and support could combine with teaching excellence, administrative discourse, and the best of research available, we could find answers for our 2e children." − Kiesa Kay

"Too often the strengths and interests of GLD students are either unrecognized, seen but ignored, put on hold, or are irksome because they are the wrong talents for conventional school achievement." − Susan Baum and Steven Owen

"If a teacher can rescue the “hidden student” who has simply been buried under a barrage of never-ending irrelevant assignments, she will see miracles begin to appear." − Marilyn Leuer

"One of the great unrecognized dramas of childhood has been the struggle throughout history, sometimes spectacularly successful and other times dismally unsuccessful, of the unusual learner to find his best place in life." − Edward M. Hallowell

"…there is also the question of what is the cost to society of not developing the potential of these children. We have to consider the cost in emotional suffering and the cost to society of not having the next Edison." − Richard Weinfeld

"What do we do to them to make them afraid and angry? There should be a conference on what the outside world is like rather than the children. How much is created by the environment and not innate in the child?" − Annemarie Roeper

"If a child is perceived and perceives himself or herself as disabled, that is what he or she will become. If the child’s self-concept is that of a person with both ability and disability, that very belief will both strengthen and assist him or her in overcoming whatever problems exist." − Marlene Bireley

"There is no requirement in education in the United States to focus on the individual. We’re going to lose twice-exceptional kids without having this focus." − F. Richard Olenchak

"Gifted children with learning disabilities who are seen as defective, in constant need of remediation, come to view themselves with shame and doubt….But when those closest to them honor their strengths and believe in their ability to fulfill their dreams, they are able to mobilize their will to succeed against all odds. − Linda Silverman

"In my field we say that change only comes when we become uncomfortable. 2e parents are uncomfortable and are, hopefully, making their schools uncomfortable. It's time for more parents to become so, because education needs to change." − Melissa Sornik

"Perhaps the most innovative thinkers include not only the ones with the greatest intellectual talents, but also the ones who blend that intellect with perceptive dysfunctions that allow them to function beyond the norm." − Kiesa Kay

"Educators who take the time to understand parents’ views of their child more readily recognize a child’s strengths and meet his or her needs. Parents who take the time to understand the teacher’s view of the child as a student more readily recognize a child’s weaknesses and work to develop skills." − Edward R. Amend

"Many of our greatest historical contributors in this world are individuals who would now be labeled LD in the public school system. In many cases, their gifts would have never been spotted and would have been crushed right out of them. Can you imagine?" − Therese Clifford

"The biggest mistake we make in life is to treat everyone equally when it comes to learning." − Dr. Mel Levine

".…[W]e should be more concerned with results than with trying to get everyone to learn things in the same way…. In some cases, the conventional educational system may eliminate many of those who have the greatest high-level talents, especially when these talents are predominantly visual rather than verbal." − Thomas West

"…just as we have an obligation to care for those with special hardships, we also have an obligation to do something…to encourage those with special talents. A society that ignores children with the most promise is no better than a society that shuns those with the least." − Jonathan Last

"School for the [2e] student is rarely a positive experience, but for the adolescent learner, it can be a nightmare….[T]hese students have remarkable gifts and talents that need development. When… engaged, their efficacy soars….On the other hand, [they] struggle with simple tasks like organization, writing, spelling, reading, or paying attention. In those times, students find themselves in survival mode fighting to stay afloat." − Susan Baum, Mary Rizza, and Sara Renzulli (The Handbook of Secondary Gifted Education)

"Labels are starting points, not destinations – and certainly not destinies." − Fernette and Brock Eide

"Learning differences are lifelong, and although they may create embarrassment or failure during school years, later on they may be part of personal charm." − Priscilla Vail

"While parents of all children who are not in the mainstream do not have an easy time in our society, the fact that 2e children’s disabilities mask their giftedness, and their giftedness masks their disabilities, makes it incredibly hard to get the “experts” to listen and to understand that you can’t just average the two and say this is an average child." − Joan Affenit

"In a time when giftedness is not valued in the United States, and exceptionalities are a problem because of high-stakes testing, 2e children have a twice-difficult time being identified, nurtured, and supported in the school system." − Anonymous response to 2e Newsletter survey

"It is a common mistake to take something exceptional as a defect." − Michael Piechowski

"Through a collaborative approach that emphasizes sharing their diverse perspectives, teachers and parents can invigorate the love of learning inherent in twice-exceptional students." − Daphne Pereles

"I loved feeling special. I hated feeling special." − Garrison Keillor

"There are no learning disabilities. There are only teaching disabilities. Each child wants to succeed and each child is successful on his own time line."  − Dr. Jane Snider

"…I have come to believe that the children with the most phenomenal gifts often have severe deficits and that they compensate for these deficits in novel and unexpected ways." − Amy Bailey

“‘Fairness’ is not equal, identical treatment; rather ‘fairness’ means that every student receives what he/she needs.” − Richard Lavoie

"These amazing children are not deficient; they are different. We would all do better to remember this and learn to embrace these differences for the benefit of us all." − Cindy Little

"Modern psychology and education have been too preoccupied with repairing damage when our focus should be on building strength and resilience, especially in children." − Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman  

"The greatest challenge in serving students who are twice exceptional [is] the perception of  most educators that giftedness and special needs are distinct, separate conditions." − Marty Hougen, Ph.D.

"Excellence in education is when we do everything that we can to make sure they become everything that they can." − Carol Ann Tomlinson

"We shouldn't see children with learning challenges as disabled, disordered, or deficient," but instead as "needing new experiences that can help them...function better." − Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide

"A deficit in a different context can be a profound gift and strength." − Jonathan Mooney

"Branding them as lazy accomplishes nothing."   − Mel Levine, M.D.

"When you say they won’t do their work, it’s really that they won’t do our work."  − Susan Winebrenner

 "Instead of concentrating so much on children’s negative behaviors, teachers and mental health personnel should spend more time in schools looking for what comes naturally to children and determining in which environments and situations students are comfortable."  − Sally L. Smith, The Power of the Arts

"When school systems tell children that achieving at grade level is all that is expected, no matter what their ability or disability, they are sending a message that enforces the attitude that doing just enough to get by is a life goal for them." − Ruth C. Heitin

"A nurturing environment…values and respects individual differences. Students are rewarded for what they do well. Options are offered for both acquiring information and communicating what is learned. In such an environment, no child will feel like a second-class citizen, and the gifted students with learning disabilities can excel." − Susan Baum

"I think…we never quite got the distinction between academic success and high intelligence. When giftedness is defined as academic achievement, we not only miss individuals with unusual abilities, we also miss brilliant children with astronomical IQ scores. They just don’t fit the mold." − Linda Kreger Silverman

"These children truly are exceptional. Not only are they gifted, but they are also coping with learning challenges or disabilities. It is our responsibility to give these students the extra assistance they need to become successful." − Tom Luna, Superintendent of Public Instruction Prologue to Students With Both Gifts and Challenges or Disabilities, published by the State of Idaho

"Talent, self-esteem, and self-confidence take years to develop and always remain fragile. These treasures can disappear if not nurtured and guarded.  One must always protect a young person's promise.” − Marilyn Leuer  

"Kids with learning differences naturally become out-of-the-box thinkers, because they have to find different ways to solve problems. If we can get these kids through the school years, they will excel." − Rick Riordan (author of The Heroes of Olympus series)

"Ah, elitism...There's nothing wrong with being an elite athlete (and taking advantage of the opportunities that come with it), but dare to be an elite learner and the antipathy of society comes raining down upon you…." − Tamara Fisher

"Different is not deficient."− Jonathan Mooney

"Concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well. Don't regret the things it interferes with." − Stephan Hawking

“Twice-exceptional students are among the most misjudged, misunderstood, and neglected segment of the student population and community, possibly due to limited awareness of twice exceptionality and modest quantities of researched-based information about diagnosis and intervention.”
Megan Foley Nicpon

"We tend to frame the question of the twice-exceptional backwards, which contributes to our collective myopia. Instead of asking why gifted children should have learning disabilities, we should be asking, 'Why shouldn’t they?'” − Nadia Webb & Antara Dietrich 

“Although students of all types have strengths and weaknesses, the pendulum swings the farthest for [twice-exceptional] students. Their complex learning profile requires teachers to follow a moving target with good humor and a sense of adventure.” − The Authors of Creating Effective Programs for Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities

"Without appropriate education and services, their [twice-exceptional students’] discoveries, innovations, breakthroughs, leadership, and other gifts to...soc iety go unrealized." − National Education Association

"When we actively involve kids in determining what is getting in their way and thinking about how to get around their weaknesses, we promote an active, engaged approach to building success." − Laurie Dietzel and Joyce Cooper-Kahn in Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning

"When people don’t fit in, we react by giving their behavior a label, either medicalizing it, criminalizing it, or moralizing it." − Joel Nigg, Professor of Psychiatry, The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 20, 2013

“…to the teachers I say don't teach your class as a single unit. Realize that your room is filled with individuals and that your lessons need to be personalized to reach each of those individuals.” − David Menasche, author of The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lesson

"By focusing less on the child's label and more on the child's needs, we will better serve those students in our schools who are ready and hungry for greater academic challenges." − Scott J. Peters, Scott Barry Kaufman, Michael S. Matthews,  Matthew T. McBee, and D. Betsy McCoach in Education Week

“It is a constant negotiation with everything when you have a 2e child.”− Parent subscriber from Australia

“Individual differences are positive and should be considered as a resource in schools.” − Ruth Martinson

“By focusing less on the child’s label and more on the child’s needs, we will better serve those students in our schools who are ready and hungry for greater academic challenges.” Scott J. Peters, Scott Barry  Kaufman, Michael S. Matthews, Matthew T. McBee, and D. Betsy McCoach, in Education Week

"Once I finally accepted that [my kids are] just wired the ways they are and that nothing I do will change that, we were able to work together and get them to where they needed to be faster and with less stress." Jen the Blogger, at laughing@chaos

"Whether you are regarded as disabled or gifted depends largely on when and where you were born." Thomas Armstrong in Neurodiversity

"I had my kid tested millions of times and came back with millions of different answers. I threw all that away. I just came to understand that he was really bright, and I just backed him in what he wanted to be. I don’t really know what his gift is — he doesn’t even know — but I know he’ll be okay." — Panelist at 2014 symposium sponsored by the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development

"It’s like picking a rose and needing stitches from the thorns at the same time." — Author/blogger Jen Merrill on having a 2e child

“There exists in the school-age population a group of students who appear to be a contradiction in terms. These are children who can legitimately be called gifted, and yet at the same time, be labeled learning disabled. It appears that this group has gone undetected and because of this has not received appropriate or necessary services.” — Paul R. Daniels, from the book “Teaching the Gifted/Learning Disabled Child,” 1983

"…[I]t falls to parents to advocate for their children’s needs, often in the face of a hostile or indifferent educational system." Andrew Solomon, New York Times Magazine (11/4/12)

"A determined focus on both health and wellness by physicians, teachers, and parents that includes the complexities of giftedness can be an opportunity for society to do far more for all children." — Marianne Kuzujanakis, M.D., M.P.H., from “Giftedness, Misdiagnosis, and National Children’s Mental Health Week”

A little bit of madness is important for creativity. — Scott Barry Kaufman

The system simply is not set up for kids who have both an intellectual disability and a sharp intellect. Beth Hawkins, Journalist and education writer

If I could do only one thing to help twice-exceptional students on their journeys, it would be to identify and develop their talents. It is their talents that will provide them a pathway to success in life. It is through the rigors of talent development that they will become self-regulated and goal-directed. It is through talent that they will develop positive identities and like-minded friends. — Susan Baum

Neither the behaviors nor the diagnoses are choices. They are real, and are generally physiologically based. We need to help teach the children…coping and managing strategies so they can build on their strengths and pursue their talents. And we need to help others understand this need. — Dina Brulles,
“Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children,” The SENG Update, May, 2006

At some point…you may find yourself thinking, "…Why do I keep working so hard to change the school to fit my child? Why not find a school that already fits…, a place where my child belongs, is understood, and doesn’t always feel like an outsider?" Barbara Probst, “Finding a School that Fits,” 2006

When my kids fail to achieve, it’s not because they don’t want to – it’s not a behavioral issue. They really want to shine and be proud. Parent of a 2e child

They are so interesting to be around, to talk to, to live with. Their level of creativity is a joy to behold. Parent of a 2e child

The twice exceptional are heroic. It takes continuous hard work to compensate. Linda Silverman

When you raise a child like this, you're affected for life. — Sally Reis

We have to fight for every person’s right to be different. Jonathan Mooney

“With the right support services, twice-exceptional individuals become some of the most creative, productive innovators — people who change the world.” Linda Silverman

“...normal is a relative state that depends on time, place, and circumstance. There’s no one right way to be a human, and that applies to mental as well as physical states.” — Ephrat Livni, “Yale neuroscientists debunked the idea that anyone is ‘normal,’” March 15, 2018

“When you grow up feeling less than, feeling dumb, being told you’re not trying or not smart enough to do what is asked of you in school, it marks you. It just does.”
Amanda Kyle Williams, dyslexic author

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