“Students with gifts and talents perform—or have the capability to perform—at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains. They require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential. Student with gifts and talents:
“It is important to note that not all gifted children look or act alike. Giftedness exists in every demographic group and personality type. It is important that adults look hard to discover potential and support gifted children as they reach for their personal best.” (see http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/what-giftedness)
“Highly capable students are students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments. Outstanding abilities are seen within students’ general intellectual aptitudes, specific academic abilities, and/or creative productivities within a specific domain. These students are present not only in the general populace, but are present within all protected classes.”
What’s not often well-known or well-understood is that students who are gifted may also have a special need or disability— just as students with disabilities may also be gifted. The term “twice-exceptional,” also referred to as “2e,” is used to describe gifted children who, have the characteristics of gifted students with the potential for high achievement and give evidence of one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria. These disabilities may include specific learning disabilities (SpLD), speech and language disorders, emotional/behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, autism spectrum, or other impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Like other gifted learners, 2e students are highly knowledgeable and talented in at least one particular domain. However, their giftedness is often overshadowed by their disabilities, or these students may be able to mask or hide their learning deficits by using their talents to compensate. Sometimes a twice-exceptional child’s special education needs are overlooked until adolescence or later, or are never identified throughout his or her life.
Twice-exceptional children often find difficulty in the school environment, where organization, participation, and long-term planning play a role. They can be highly creative, verbal, imaginative, curious, with strong problem-solving ability, and a wide range of interests or a single, all-consuming expertise. However, at school, they may have difficulty keeping up with course rigor, volume, and demands–resulting in inconsistent academic performance, frustration, difficulties with written expression, and labels such as lazy, unmotivated, and underachiever. All this may hinder their excitement for school and be detrimental to their self-efficacy, self-confidence, and motivation.
When we think of gifted children, most people think of their intellectual state. That is, after all, how we define who is gifted. But parents of the gifted know that this is not the only thing that sets them apart from their peers. It can be just as challenging to find a social and emotional balance for your child, as it is to find an educational fit. PATH aims to help with both.
One of PATH’s major efforts is to communicate with Tahoma School District about the needs of highly capable students. Many of the services schools can provide address the social and emotional along with the intellectual—while students are learning more at their level, they are simultaneously able to work with intellectual peers and feel more at ease where they are. For example, PATH was instrumental in the formation of the current highly capable model in the middle schools, where gifted students are grouped together. There, they learn at a deeper level, have a better chance to make friends with children who understand them, and benefit from teachers who have training directed at their needs. PATH continues to look for ways we can partner with TSD in supporting our gifted kids wholistically.
From the parent side, we also need to look for ways to support our children in their atypical social and emotional growth. An excellent resource for further learning is Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), found at sengifted.org. SENG is a national organization that focuses on the social and emotional needs of gifted children, and they are a wealth of knowledge for both characteristics of the gifted and approaches parents can take.
Here are a few of the most prominent organizations in gifted education, both on the national level and locally. All have websites with a wealth of information.