12 myths ABOUT 2E kids
MYTH: A STUDENT CANNOT BE INTELLECTUALLY GIFTED AND HAVE A LEARNING DISABILITY
Truth: Some students with learning disabilities have outstanding skills in certain academic areas. These kids are often called “twice-exceptional” or “2E” students. They are exceptional in two ways: they are gifted and they have learning disabilities. As such, 2E students face unique challenges, not least of which are the myths and misconceptions about being 2E.
Twice exceptional / 2E students are a puzzling paradox. They may appear to have average ability because their strengths and weaknesses cancel each other out. 2E students often go undetected in regular classrooms because their intellectual ability and their learning disabilities mask each other, making them appear “average.” They are often perceived by teachers as being “lazy” or needing to try harder. However, when tested for learning disabilities, they often do not score low enough to qualify for special education support. As a consequence, their learning disabilities are often undiagnosed.
Furthermore, learning disabilities can obscure a student’s giftedness by affecting the student’s performance on IQ tests, standardized tests and other assessments for giftedness. For example, since many intelligence tests assess language skills, 2E students with language-based challenges may not perform well on these type of tests. As a consequence, these students may not qualify for gifted programs.
Due to the skewed test results, these students may be incorrectly placed in special education classes, where they become bored. Some students may act out because they are not being challenged enough, which could result in these students being wrongly identified as having emotional problems.
MYTH: ALL KIDS ARE GIFTED
Truth: While it is true that all kids have strengths and positive attributes, not all children are gifted in the educational sense of the word. The label “gifted” in a school setting means that when compared to others his or her age or year group, a kid has an advanced ability to learn and apply what is learned in one or more subject areas. This advanced ability requires modifications to the regular curriculum to ensure these children are challenged and engaged in their learning. The term “gifted” does not connote superiority; it is a term that allows students to be identified for services that meet their unique learning needs.
MYTH: A STUDENT WHO STRUGGLES WITH BASIC SKILLS CAN'T BE CONSIDERED INTELLECTUALLY GIFTED
Truth: It can be hard to acknowledge that a student who is very intellectually advanced in certain academic areas can have significant deficits with basic skills. However, 2E students often have uneven skills. They may excel in one area (for example, math) but have difficulty with working memory, processing speed or social skills. Without explicit teaching in these areas, it does not matter how hard 2E kids try—they are still going to struggle to overcome their difficulties.
MYTH: A STUDENT CANNOT BE GIFTED IF HE /SHE IS GETTING POOR GRADES
Truth: Underachievement (a discrepancy between a student’s performance and his actual ability) is very common in 2E students. There are several reasons why 2E students underachieve. Some gifted students may become bored or frustrated in an unchallenging classroom situation causing them to lose interest, learn bad study habits or distrust the school environment. Other 2E students may mask their abilities to try to fit in socially with their same-age peers, whereas others may have a learning disability that masks their giftedness. Irrespective of the reason, it is imperative that a perceptive, caring and supportive adult help gifted learners break the cycle of underachievement so that 2E students can achieve their full potential.
MYTH: INTELLECTUAL GIFTED STUDENTS ARE SO SMART THAT THEY CAN DO WELL IN SCHOOL ON THEIR OWN AND DO NOT NEED HELP
Truth: Would you expect a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach? Intellectually gifted students need guidance from well- trained teachers who challenge and support them in order to fully develop their abilities. Many gifted students may be so far ahead of their same-age peers that they know most of the grade-level curriculum before the school year begins. Their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, frustration or unhealthy work habits. In my case, I often finished geography and history classroom worksheets in record time and then sat idle for the rest of the lesson. My teachers immediately noticed this and responded by giving me a booklet of worksheets to complete so that I was engaged for the entire lesson. Teachers play a very important role in identifying and nurturing the talents of students at their school, whether it by an intellectually gifted student or a student that is a gifted athlete.
MYTH: ALL GIFTED STUDENTS ARE HAPPY, POPULAR AND WELL ADJUSTED IN SCHOOL
Truth: Many 2E students flourish in their school environment. However, being academically gifted and having a learning disability means that 2E students are different from their classmates in two significant areas. Furthermore, 2E kids tend to have greater emotional and moral intensity, are more sensitive to expectations and people’s feelings, are prone to perfectionism and tend to have deep concerns about societal problems. Since their classmates may not share their views or interests, 2E kids may experience social isolation or be labeled unfavorably as a “nerd.” 2E students are also more prone to being bullied. As such, it is common for 2E students to have a less than ideal school experience, an experience that has to be endured rather than enjoyed.
MYTH: GIFTED EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE ELITIST
Truth: Gifted education programs are meant to help all high-ability students. Gifted learners are found in all cultures, ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic groups. However, many of these students are denied the opportunity to maximize their potential because of the way in which programs and services are funded and due to flawed identification practices. This is especially true of 2E students that may be academically gifted, but may have disabilities that cause them to underperform on standardized tests and IQ tests.
Furthermore, although there are numerous outreach programs designed to support under-privileged gifted kids (for example, Sutton Trust programs), most state schools do not have the resources to run gifted and talented programs specifically designed to support 2E kids.
According to Potential Plus UK, their research suggests that every year approximately 35,000 kids are born in the United Kingdom with high learning potential. However, without the right support, these kids will not live up to their academic potential. It is important to challenge the barriers others often unwittingly place that prevent young people from achieving their full potential. Academic excellence should not be confused with elitism. Moreover, striving to be an academic elite is very different from being a social elite.
MYTH: ACCELERATION OPTIONS ARE SOCIALLY HARMFUL FOR ACADEMICALLY GIFTED STUDENTS
Truth: Academically gifted students often feel bored or out of place with their same-age peers and naturally gravitate towards older students who are closer to being their “intellectual peers.” Many academically gifted students are happier being with older students who share their interests than with children their age. Therefore, acceleration placement options (such as early admission into nursery or reception, skipping a school year or taking GCSEs early) should be considered for these students. In my case, I took four IGCSEs a year early so that I could take GCSEs in economics, psychology and further math, subjects that interested me and that are not usually offered by most schools.
MYTH: THE 2E STUDENT IS SIMPLY LAZY AND NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH
Truth: Twice exceptional students are able to use their intelligence to compensate for their learning disabilities. However, this requires a significant amount of effort and perseverance. Ironically, teachers do not perceive this and often label the student “lazy.” This could not be further from the truth.
At some point, the compensatory techniques 2E students rely on to overcome their disabilities begin to fail them. This typically happens in secondary school when the pace and complexity of school work increases. Their heighted intelligence is no longer sufficient to carry them. However, with the appropriate support in place, 2E students are able to significantly improve their academic performance, closing the gap between their academic achievement and their academic potential. This also ensures that 2E students do not become frustrated and disillusioned by their inability to live up to their potential.
MYTH: ACADEMIC GIFTEDNESS AND LEARNING DISABILITY CHALLENGES CANNOT BE ADDRESSED AT THE SAME TIME
Truth: In order for 2E students to succeed, both their giftedness and their challenges need to be addressed. 2E students need to be challenged in the areas in which they are gifted. They also need to be supported in the areas where they struggle, just like any other student with a learning disability. For example, if a ten- year-old student has a reading and comprehension age of 16, but is unable to spell basic words, the kid should be provided with the appropriate support necessary to improve his/her spelling. The same student should also be encouraged to read challenging books that are within his advanced reading ability.
MYTH: ACADEMICALLY GIFTED STUDENTS MAKE EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CLASS
Truth: Academically gifted students can help create a stimulating classroom environment that can raise the bar for the rest of the class. However, students that are average or below-average do not benefit from being in the same learning environment as academically gifted students. Since average or below-average students generally learn at a slower pace and need more time to learn new concepts, they may struggle. As a consequence, their confidence and self esteem may be negatively affected. Similarly, academically gifted students benefit from classroom interactions with peers at similar abilities. If placed in a classroom environment with average or below-average students, 2E students may become bored, frustrated and unmotivated.
MYTH: 2E STUDENTS SHOULD BE MORE MATURE THAN OTHER KIDS THEIR AGE
Truth: Intellectual ability and emotional maturity are two attributes that are very different to each other. 2E kids often have what is referred to as “asynchronous development.” In other words, 2E kids are far ahead of their peers intellectually, but far behind their peers socially and emotionally. This disparity can cause 2E kids a lot of anxiety and make it difficult for them to get along with other kids their age. For example, 2E kids may get easily frustrated with other students who do not “get it” as quickly as they do. They may also have a lot of anxiety around doing things “just right.” They may unfairly come across as argumentative when they really just want to have in-depth discussions. 2E students can also have difficulties reading social cues the way that other kids do, especially if the 2E student has Asperger’s Syndrome. It is therefore unfair to expect a 2E student to be more mature than his/her peers because he/she is intellectually gifted.