The National Twice-Exceptional Community of Practice (2eCoP) is comprised of representatives from over 15 of partner organizations and individuals representing a broad range of stakeholders, all of whom have a vested interest in students who are twice-exceptional (2e). The 2eCoP recently reached a new consensus definition of twice exceptionality in order to help professionals begin to better understand and meet the needs of those who are 2e. This definition served as a starting point for an online discussion of 2e individuals and their needs facilitated by Edward R. Amend, Psy.D., a member of the 2eCoP.
The 2eCoP Twice-Exceptional Definition:
Twice exceptional (2e) individuals evidence exceptional ability and disability, which results in a unique set of circumstances. Their exceptional ability may dominate, hiding their disability; their disability may dominate, hiding their exceptional ability; each may mask the other so that neither is recognized or addressed.
2e students, who may perform below, at, or above grade level, require the following:
Working successfully with this unique population requires specialized academic training and ongoing professional development.
Through the discussion, many parents shared their view that is definition indeed does capture the essence of 2e. Their concern, however, was that too few schools recognize 2e, let alone understand how to meet the needs to 2e students. Many were frustrated with their efforts to secure evaluation, often seeking outside evaluations, only to be met with hesitation to address identified needs because the student is achieving at grade level. This definition affirms that 2e individuals may demonstrate unexpected low performance that can be at or even above grade level and still indicate a disability. This aspect has been frequently overlooked by schools who have looked for absolute low performance and required students to meet a low-level “cut score” for qualification. The new definition affirms that a relative weakness should indeed qualify a student for services, supporting the legitimacy of a group of students who are often marginalized due to their strength areas and ability to compensate for their learning and processing weaknesses.
How can parents negotiate these difficult situations?
Remember that most schools’ mission statements do not suggest grade level performance or average skills. Have you ever seen a school’s mission statement say, “Striving for mediocrity!” Of course not. Why, then, are parents of 2e students told to “relax” because their child is “doing fine” or “right on target.” Most often, a school’s mission statement reflects “reaching potential” or “growing” or “learning” or “progressing.” Helping an educator understand 2e and how it undermines a student’s ability to learn, progress, and reach his or her potential may increase the likelihood of obtaining services.
Know your rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and your state’s special education regulations. Follow the chain of command and request evaluation, or a follow-up independent evaluation if you disagree with the school’s conclusions. Seek experts in gifted education who understand 2e students to evaluate for a second opinion, or to provide an interpretation of evaluation results completed by the school. When armed with information, you are more likely to be heard. All students, including 2e students, are entitled to receive a free and appropriate education.
Understand that comprehensive assessment is the best way to identify 2e students and their needs. According to correspondence from the United States Department of Education, IDEA “requires the use of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child, and prohibits the use of any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability and for determining an appropriate educational program for the child.” If no evaluation has been done, request one or inform the school you are considering contacting the local or regional Office of Civil Rights to discuss the situation. If you already have an Individual Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan that is not being followed adequately, the local or regional Office of Civil Rights may help.
2e students’ needs are complex. They can only be adequately served if they are identified and understood. Education for all involved with 2e students is necessary. On-going professional development for teachers as well as continuing education for school-based psychologists will increase understanding and, ultimately, the ability of schools to meet the needs of 2e students.
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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