Gifted with a learning disability, twice-exceptional students require a special touch
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
- How to tell if my child is twice exceptional?
- How can I assist my child?
- Where can I turn for help?
Students who are considered twice exceptional, meaning they are gifted but also have a learning disability, are gaining more attention nationally and locally as teachers and counselors learn how to identify this special group.
1. HOW TO TELL IF MY CHILD IS TWICE EXCEPTIONAL?
Florida defines a gifted student as “one who has superior intellectual development and is capable of high performance.” Special assessments and educational plans can be designed to help such a student hit academic goals.
A gifted student may have strengths, such as an excellent vocabulary, creativity, a sophisticated sense of humor, a wide range of interests and special talents.
However, if a parent notices a decline in the student’s academic performance, frustration with homework assignments, disorganization, or an emerging argumentative personality, the student may be struggling to manage a learning disability.
Twice-exceptional students are grouped into three distinct categories:
- Students who excel but later show signs of disability
- Students with diagnosed disabilities who show exceptional gifts in some areas
- Highly intelligent students who seem average because they have disabilities
2. HOW CAN I ASSIST MY CHILD?
Gifted services fall under Exceptional Student Education (ESE) within the School District of Palm Beach County. Parents can contact the child’s teacher to request a parent-teacher conference to discuss academic concerns and/or request a referral for testing, says Joan Clark, the department's program planner.
Testing can help determine the student’s academic levels and whether exceptional services are warranted because of an identified disability, such as a specific learning disability, visual impairment, autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD.
“It’s a huge area to tackle, so we cannot go into it with tunnel vision,” says Michelle R. Martin, the school district's gifted program planner. “If the student is experiencing an issue that happens every single day, it is something that needs to be addressed. Parents have to get away from the mindset that ‘This is a gifted child, so they will just get it.’ Parents are their child’s best advocate, so if they see a constant struggle, it’s time to get help.”
If the state-mandated criteria are met after an evaluation, an educational plan (for gifted students), 504 Plan (for students who need accommodations only) or an Individualized Education Program is created and customized so the academic goals align with the student's needs.
3. WHERE CAN I TURN FOR HELP?
The school district offers Parent University for those who may need assistance working with their gifted students. The series of classes offers parents insight on giftedness and guidance on how to advocate for their child. Call 561-434-8377 for more information.
Parents also can adopt classroom strategies to help with homework and follow the study plan created for their child. For resources, visit the National Association for Gifted Children website, which offers information for how to help children in school and at home.
• Joan Clark, program planner of Exceptional Student Education Office, School District of Palm Beach County
• Michelle R. Martin, gifted program planner, School District of Palm Beach County
• Parent University, School District of Palm Beach County
• "Identifying Twice Exceptional Students: A Toolkit for Success," published in Teaching Exceptional Children Plus
• National Association for Gifted Children
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School District of Palm Beach County
Exceptional Student Education — services for gifted students and students with special learning needs who have an individualized education program561-434-8626 Website Email
National Association for Gifted Children
Supports those who enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children through education, advocacy, community building and research202-785-4268 Website Email
Unicorn Children's Foundation
Supporting cradle to career pathways for children and young adults with special needs, such as autism, ADHD and other learning challenges, including the Unicorn Village Academy, the Unicorn Connection Center and virtual program services561-620-9377 Website Email
Mental Health America of Palm Beach County
Based in West Palm Beach, local information and services related to mental health, including support groups and an online screening test561-832-3755 Website Email