I have been on a journey with my son for the past 17, almost 18 years, knowing that he has always been different; different than my 20 year old daughter, different than my 15 year old daughter, different than his peers in elementary, middle, and high school, and different than most of my friends’ kids of similar ages. When he approached his middle school years, he also started to realize that he was different. Unfortunately, in his first 12 years of schooling, none of his teachers, guidance counselors, special educators, camp counselors, grandparents, friends, coaches, nor his pediatrician, psychologists, psychiatrists, nor my husband or I could pinpoint or articulate what about our son was so different. Along the way, we had clues, many clues, including a diagnosis of ADHD and anxiety when he was 10. With those diagnoses, I thought that we would have solved the riddle of his challenges, but even after he started to take medication, he still had challenges and was not able to receive the support that he needed, especially at school. He and I (and my family) have endured challenges throughout the past 17 years that are too numerous to mention, including some moments that we both would never wish upon anyone, but we have persevered. This perseverance has required much resilience, and trust and hope on both of our parts. My son thankfully never gave up on me, and I never gave up on him, nor did I give up on finding out what made his learning and psychological profile so challenging and yet so endearing all at the same time.
In my efforts to help him throughout the course of his life, we met and worked with social workers, psychologists, his pediatrician, teachers and guidance counselors throughout his years of schooling, a gifted teacher and program in his elementary years, and even 3 full team evaluations, including 2 school-based psychological evaluations. I consulted and read book after book and went online, searching for methods to help my parenting of him and to understand methods that would help his skill deficits related to his ADHD and anxiety. In all of those encounters and books, I never came across nor did anyone ever mention to me the one word that would unlock a whole new community and abundance of resources which I had been searching for almost 13 years.
Last spring, in anticipation of needing a neuropsychological report for college and because it had been 3 years since his last team evaluation, my son went to a private neuropsychologist for the first time (I had previously been advised that the school team evals were sufficient given the cost of the neurospychological evaluation). In that report was the word which unlocked new hope and understanding of my son’s almost 18-year journey. That word is TWICE-EXCEPTIONAL. According to the website, www.bridges.edu, the term “twice-exceptional” (or “2e”) often is used to describe students with high ability and potential who simultaneously experience learning, executive functioning, production, and/or social challenges. They are challenged in most schools by a misalignment between their learner profile and the school’s curriculum and instructional approach.
Twice-exceptional, the magical word that has unlocked the key to understanding and finally finding the help and multi-pronged approach that my son has needed for years; the one word with such incredible significance and meaning, that has opened our lives to a whole new community and world of resources which I am now feverishly consuming, researching, and working to understand and implement (with the rest of his “team”, including his coach from EEC), to support my son so that he can, with a lot of intention and work on his part, achieve his goals of going to college to study computer science. In addition to helping my son, I am also intent on sharing my journey and discovery of the word, twice-exceptional, and its numerous resources with others so that even one person might benefit from our experience and find the resources and information sooner rather than later.
Like my son, all people who are 2e need their giftedness and their disability to be recognized, understood, and supported. For each 2e individual, the interplay between his/her giftedness and his/her specific disability results in a unique set of strengths and challenges or skill deficits. Not all 2e people have the same disability nor the same area of giftedness. Consequently, it is important to have the right team of professionals supporting the 2e child, so that all of the diagnostic, therapeutic, and educational needs of the child can be identified, and the medical, educational, and social/emotional resources accessed. Many times, giftedness in Massachusetts schools is generally not recognized nor fostered; less than 4% of school districts in Massachusetts have something they call a gifted program (Ansel, 2019). Because the disability of a 2e child is typically masked by their strengths, 2e students can be doubly underserved in the school systems, receiving neither support for their giftedness nor their disability. I am hoping to be an agent of education, advocacy, and of change for this.
Professionals like Dr. David Murphy and my son’s coach, Matt, have tremendous willingness, experience, aptitude, and interest in supporting 2e students like my son. I feel so fortunate to have discovered EEC in my search for a coach for my son. I also feel particularly grateful to have been invited to share resources that I have discovered throughout my search for information on all things 2e. I hope these resources will be helpful to you as you persevere, along with the help of many professionals, in supporting your 2e child. If you have any questions or are interested in discussing any of the information or resources I have shared, or if you have any other resources to share, please contact Dr. Murphy. He can help you get in touch with me.
Below are a few events and resources that I have found helpful or believe will be helpful in some way to people who are parenting or otherwise supporting someone who is twice-exceptional:
March 25 Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education (MAGE) Advocacy Group
If interested in joining to learn more about what is happening from an advocacy level for gifted students, including 2e students, please join the Zoom meeting on March 25.
If interested, you can also contact Dr. Murphy to let him know of your interest in order that we can keep you informed of ways that you can support the advocacy efforts in small or large ways.
Additionally, there was a conference scheduled for April 4th which had programming related to 2e students. The conference has now been postponed due to the current health pandemic. An alternative to the conference will be updated at this website: https://www.massgifted.org/
April 29 Supporting Twice-Exceptional Learners at School and at Home
A Webinar presented by Dr. Mary Grace Stewart through the Chris Walsh Center for Families and Educators at Framingham State University
To Register, Click on this link :
WEBSITES and AUTHORS/BOOKS
General information about the organization which supports gifted students in MA, along with links to many resources and events for gifted and 2e students
Ansel, D. Gifted Education in Massachusetts: A Policy and Practice Review, June 2019
This paper was commissioned by the MA DESE and presented to the MA legislature in August 2019. It is “a policy and practice review, along with a needs assessment, regarding education in the public schools, of the children who are capable of achieving beyond the age-based grades and those who are gifted as defined by federal law.”
Chris Walsh Center for Families and Educators at FSU
To provide information for families and educators about the continuum of educational support available to students with disabilities, students who are gifted, and students with unmet needs. The center will offer support, workshops and other programming for families, educators, student support professionals, administrators, and advocates in the MetroWest area.
A publication by the National Education Association
A publication about the twice-exceptional dilemma
A comprehensive website for many things 2e, including a school in CA but also providing information, books, and educational opportunities for families and educators such as the following resources:
A publication focused on providing the latest news, research, and perspectives around how to best support the needs of this population of learners. We provide readers with high-level information and perspectives about twice-exceptional education, covering a broad range of topics that are essential for all educators, parents, and industry professionals.
2e Center for Research and Professional Development
The 2e Center is a first-of-its-kind multi-disciplinary hub where professionals, scholars, and practitioners combine expertise to enhance understanding of the growing population of 2e students. With the unique opportunities afforded by working with a lab school, the Center can encourage and undertake much-needed research, provide courses and workshops for educators and parents, and share resources about the best practices that serve this cognitively diverse, at-risk population. The primary goals of the Center are to create awareness, offer professional development, provide outreach, and generate projects that will improve services for the special population of children known as twice exceptional (2e).
NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children)
A website with information from the national organization on supporting gifted children, which includes this information about 2e students and the support they need
Book: Differently Wired
Debbie is an author whose hope is to bring parents together as we raise, advocate for, and create awareness around our kids who are differently wired.
Book : From High School to College for Students with Disabilities
Elizabeth is a learning specialist and consultant and currently works in the Disability Services Office at Columbia University. She has a website that is rich with information and so many resources. I highly recommend exploring it.
Book: Bright Not Broken by Kennedy, Banks, and Grandin (2011) Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint, San Francisco, CA