Twice Exceptional Students
Boluo School | 2023-02-11 | 5 min read

I was 38 when I learned there was a term for what I am.  I always thought that term was, “smart, but bad at math.” As it turns out, the term for what I am is “twice-exceptional.” That term makes it sound like I can breeze my way through the world with accolades and success….but the reality is quite the opposite.

What is Twice-Exceptional?

Twice-exceptional is a term for students who show the criteria for being labeled “gifted and talented” but also “give evidence of one or more disabilities (NAGC).” Often, one of these “labels” tends to overshadow the other. “Gifted” students often have learning or emotional disabilities that go undiagnosed. Talents and gifts in children with a “special education disability” are frequently overshadowed or downright ignored.

How Does a Twice-Exceptional Student Appear?

Twice exceptionality can manifest itself in a variety of ways.  A student who excels in math might struggle in language arts because of dyslexia.  A student might be a distraction to his classmates because he is not being appropriately challenged by the material. A student on the Autism spectrum might not be able to participate effectively in group projects. A straight-A student might forget or lose her homework because of ADHD.  An otherwise brilliant student might fail tests due to anxiety. 

How Can I Help My Twice-Exceptional Student?

Your student will almost certainly excel in some areas and struggle in others.  As a parent, you are uniquely able to identify those strengths and struggles. 

Allow Exploration of Subjects in Which They Naturally Excel

As a parent, there is no one more qualified to assess your child’s strengths and interests. When you and your child find something that they’re passionate about, allow self-direction. 

Encourage students to develop their own learning goals and then design projects that align with those goals using their strengths and interests. The more control students have over their learning, the more interested they will become. 

It’s an unfortunate truth that we become less creative as we get older. Kids’ minds are creative and amazing. By giving them some general parameters like, “do a project using butterflies to learn subtraction facts” you will likely be amazed at the ideas they’ll bring to the table.  

Set Customized Time Limits

This is especially important for students with ADHD. ADHD is often misunderstood as the inability to focus. But it can manifest itself in the opposite way as well-ADHDers and children on the spectrum can frequently “hyper-focus” to the exclusion of nearly all else…including even bathroom breaks.  

It’s important that you customize time limits to your student’s interests and needs. If it’s a topic they’re passionate about, the time limit would need to be long enough to let your student enjoy themselves, but not so long that they exclude other needs and responsibilities. If it’s something they aren’t passionate about-in many cases, perhaps absolutely loathe-the time limits should be set much lower. When you’re working with your child on one of these subjects, note your start time and then note when your child’s mind begins to drift. This is probably a good indication of the maximum amount of time they can spend on this subject. 

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Exercise

The correlation between brain health and exercise has been proven with countless studies. The more physical activity human beings get, the better their brains function. As adults, we tend to view exercise as an extra thing we have to schedule rather than an absolute physical necessity that should be near constant. 

Since exercise clears and refocuses our brains, it should happen consistently, multiple times per day. You and your child don’t have to go for a jog every two hours, but scheduling stretch breaks, nature walks and dance parties throughout the day can make the day far less tedious and education far more effective. 

We hear about auditory and visual learners, but “kinetic learning” is often overlooked. Everyone knows that “learning by doing” is the best type of learning, but “learning while doing” can be an effective avenue as well. Listening to an educational podcast while walking, memorizing math facts while dancing, listening to an audiobook while lifting weights-these are all examples of approaches to kinetic learning.

Consider Outside Help

For every struggle a student has, there is an expert (or online tool!) out there that can help.  

For the subjects your child has a hard time focusing on, consider small group classes or online tutoring.  The presence of peers or a certified instructor may help students by teaching those concepts from new and different perspectives and allowing them to engage with others about the subject matter.

For issues like dyslexia and dyscalculia, there are online resources and tools to help students work around these struggles. Explore some of these resources and use free trial versions of different software until you find something that works for your child. Every child is different and any classroom teacher will tell you, there is nothing out there that works for every child.

At Boluo School, we offer solutions to help your 2e students. Boluo School offers certified educators with a variety of specializations to meet the needs of every student.  Before pairing students with a tutor, we carefully compare student needs with teacher qualifications to ensure a successful match.

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