Twice-Exceptional Children - Their strengths, difficulties and needs 


Twice-exceptional (2e) children are children who are gifted and have learning disabilities and/or some form of disorder at the same time. Coupled with high intelligence, these children struggle with Dyslexia, attention deficits, autism spectrum disorder, emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning challenges. They are exceptional both because of their strengths and because of their limitations and therefore have special (learning) needs in a double sense.


If we fail to recognize their strengths and/or their weaknesses, they are at risk to develop serious emotional and social problems, a ruined self-esteem, anxieties and depressions. The following three conditions make it more difficult to identify these children:


(a) The talent or strength may dominate and mask the disability. These children are able to compensate for their learning issue and when they are struggling, they are often thought to be lazy, not trying or underachieving.


(b) The disability may dominate and mask the talent. These children usually struggle in school and are only noticed for what they are not able to do.


(c) Talents and disability mask each other. These children appear to be ‘average’ and usually perform at grade level, well below their potential.


Most parents, teacher and physicians are not aware that there is something like twice-exceptionality, since information and further education is missing. So what do these children need for developing their full potential and how can we support their needs?


For supporting and challenging a twice-exceptional child, we need reliable information about his or her academic strengths and weaknesses, but also about his or her learning style, interests and preferences. All those areas can be identified by means of rating scales and questionnaires. IQ-Tests can be a good source, too, but only if we consider the subtests and pay attention to possible discrepancies. A child can score 135 in one subtest, and only an average or even below average score in another one.


The holistic view on the child in mind, parents and teacher need to generate a learning environment, which meets the special learning needs of the twice-exceptional child. Additionally, the interaction between academic and therapeutic arrangements and activities is crucial in order to support the child’s academic and social-emotional well-being. 



*Pädagogische Psychologie, University of Connecticut, USA