This article first appeared in the May, 2017, issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter (www.2eNewsletter.com) and is used here with permission of the authors.
Far too often, parents of twice-exceptional children
are faced with answering this question: “What’s wrong
with me?” The pain experienced by both parents and
their children when it’s difficult for the youngsters
to express the full potential of their abilities is rarely
soothed by the standard responses of “everyone has
their strengths and weaknesses” or “everyone has
challenges.” How can it? The reality of multiple therapies
sends a less-than-positive message to a gifted
child who already feels different from other children.
While it’s inarguable that 2e children benefit from
therapeutic intervention, it’s also inarguable that many
children start to feel that the focus of their lives is on
what’s wrong with them as compared to what they do
well. Like individuals undergoing major medical treatment,
2e children can begin to feel like their second
exceptionality defines them rather than being just a
piece of who they are. For some children, the result
can be secondary emotional concerns such as depression,
anxiety, and poor self-concept. Many parents are
torn between wanting to provide everything they can to
help their child and hating how the pursuit of interventions
negatively affects their child’s self-esteem and
invades the peace of family life.
What if there was a way to help 2e children work
on their exceptionalities that didn’t feel like “therapy”?
What if there were things that could be done to help
children overcome obstacles while
focusing on their strengths? We
frequently do these very things.
The Need for a Plan
The two of us work with multidisciplinary
teams to develop
education plans that address
children’s challenges indirectly. In
other words, we look for “real-life”
alternatives that can accomplish
therapy goals. While not a substitute
for professional treatment,
changing the focus of a child’s education
plan not only helps build
self-esteem, it often increases a
youngster’s willingness to engage
in challenges that are necessary
for growth in all areas.
An important part of developing
an individualized education
plan is for parents to step back
and ask themselves these very important questions:
Parents often become so overwhelmed with all
the different ways in which exceptionalities affect their
children that they lose sight of the bigger picture. At
this point, it’s essential to consider two additional
For example, children with slow processing speed
might go through their school day feeling like they
never get to do the things that are interesting to them
— playing and making friends, for example — because
it takes them so long to finish all the required work.
While adults might think that giving the child more
time to complete schoolwork is a great idea, the child
may actually benefit more from being allowed a less
burdensome way to show mastery of the subject
The Need for Creativity
Once a family has narrowed down and prioritized
the issues to be worked on, the next step should be
bringing together a Student Success Team. Team
members should include the relevant professionals
in the child’s life, and their aim should be to come up
with the best ways to address the child’s exceptionalities.
The goal here is to be as creative as possible.
Take for example a student who has challenges
reading and responding to social cues, difficulty taking
another person’s perspective, and a strong need for
physical contact. A traditional approach to addressing
this child’s challenges would be to put the youngster
in a social skills group and provide speech therapy for
social pragmatic language. However, alternative, and
perhaps more creative, ways to address these issues
might include the following:
While none of these types of interventions is a
stand-alone solution, when combined they offer children
ways to work on remediating several exceptionalities
in real time without feeling like they are in therapy
all the time. Sometimes the best thing we can do for
our children is to give them the gift of being a child, not
a child who needs to be fixed. When we use a creative
education plan to support children’s second exceptionality,
they not only make gains in their areas of weakness,
unburdened by feelings of “brokenness,” they
are freed to soar in their areas of strength.
Dr. Joanna Haase is a psychotherapist
in private practice
in Pasadena, California
She has over 28 years of experience
working with gifted
individuals and their families
to help them understand,
navigate, and embrace the
joys and challenges of giftedness. She also partners
with schools and districts to educate teachers and
administrators on how to better support gifted and talented
students; and she helps individuals with eating
disorders, anxiety, and depression.
Haase is a regular presenter at state and national
conferences on various topics about giftedness She is
the president and co-founder of the California Gifted
Network (www.cagiftednetwork.com), an online forum
where California’s gifted community can find resources,
information, and support. She is also a co-founder
and active board member of Gifted Research and Outreach
(www.gro-gifted.org), a non-profit organization
promoting a comprehensive and accurate understanding
Sharon Duncan consults
with parents and educators
to help them understand
and meet the social, emotional,
needs of gifted children
and also consults on homeschooling.
In addition, she
conducts research, most
recently a study on identity formation in the parents of
Duncan is co-founder of both Gifted Identity (www.giftedidentity.com) and Gifted Research and Outreach
(www.gro-gifted.org). She is also a SENG Model Parent
Group facilitator, a member of the advisory board
of a private school for highly gifted children, and past
member of the Mensa Youth Programming Committee.
In addition, she is a regular presenter at state and national
conferences on various topics concerning gifted
This article is reprinted with permission from the 2e Newsletter and the authors.
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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