As a gifted child who tested at 155 on a full-scale IQ battery at age 10, Heather has always done well in elementary school although she experienced some difficulty with math. In middle school she encountered stronger problems in math, but was tutored and received extra coursework in a university-based program in that subject. In high school, she handled coursework until precalculus, which she failed. Yet Heather is also a child who excelled in verbal areas, taking prizes for her writing, finishing in the top three in the regional spelling bee, and learning two languages at advanced levels by high school graduation. A diagnosis in high school found her to be both ADD and learning disabled, a situation overlooked earlier because her abilities masked her disabilities.
There are many gifted children like Heather — unable to perform at levels approaching their ability in specific areas, unable to finish projects they have been assigned, and immobilized by anger and frustration over their inability to produce on demand. These children often are doomed to be unsuccessful in school and in careers unless they have strong parent advocacy at critical stages of the educational process.
Many of these children have characteristics like Heather’s. They experience uneven capacities for academic work in all subjects, suffering from dyslexia, dysgraphia, or discalculia. They carry diagnoses that range from learning disabled to attention deficit disorder to depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder. They may be decidedly less advanced in social and emotional skills, often experiencing difficulties in peer relationships or social adjustments in school-related settings. They are plagued by feelings of low self-esteem and emotional outbursts that vent their feelings about the frustration of being both gifted and disabled.
Research on twice-exceptional learners has revealed several principles that parents may apply in working with their own children who may have learning problems. I will comment on the eight that I believe are crucial to understand and use with these learners throughout their educational journey.
Parenting a twice-exceptional learner is a big job, one that many professionals may try to dissuade you from taking on in the ways outlined here. Teachers, administrators, and even counselors may send you the message of nonintervention, allowing your child to fail, letting her figure out the problems on her own rather than providing support. Cases of successful twiceexceptional learners offer an alternative view. Parents are these students’ best, and many times, only, advocates in school systems geared to address normal development and expected behaviors that are age and grade appropriate. In the absence of strong advocacy, these students can and will be lost in such systems. We raise children in the hope of elevating the level of human accomplishment to new heights through the next generation. Twice-exceptional learners deserve to take their place in the success stories of our collective future. The chance for that to happen rests with the capacity of parents in collaboration with other agencies and individuals to will that future.
Copyright 2012 NAGC. Reprinted with permission of the National Association for Gifted Children http://www.nagc.org. No further reprints are permitted without the consent of NAGC.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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