2e defined: At the 2022 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference this past spring, the Division on the Association for the Gifted (TAG) revised the definition of twice-exceptional (2e) students indicating that:
“Twice-exceptional (2e) individuals evidence exceptional ability and disability, which results in a unique set of circumstances. Their exceptional ability may dominate, hiding their disability; their disability may dominate, hiding their exceptional ability; each may mask the other so that neither is recognized or addressed. Additionally, 2e individuals come from – and are impacted – by all forms of diversity.”
This inherently means that students who fall under the twice-exceptional category are less likely to be identified in either gifted and/or special education services. There are currently about 385,000 2e children in the U.S., however this is a huge underestimate due to misidentification. Many of the missed identification challenges of 2e students are due to the limited number of trained professionals in these areas (gifted, special education, and 2e), a lack of understanding of what to look for in identification of 2e students at the school and home level, inconsistent implementation across states in acceptance of gifted programming, and non-existant federal requirements for gifted services.
What does 2e look like? If you are a teacher or administrator, outside of their individual talent or disability, you might see recurring frustration, stress, anxiety, depression; challenges with personal identity; difficulties with peer or social relationships; a heightened need to understand their diagnosis; shyness; and hiding of their own struggles or disabilities due to worrying what others may think; and refusal to accept accommodations (even when they need them) because they may think it makes them look “weak” or that is a form of “intellectual cheating.” There is also a misconception that if you are gifted, you must be smart, therefore you don’t need educational support. Remember that giftedness could be in the form of non-academic content such as art, theatre, abstract thinking, any trade skill, or technology including computer science. In addition, some students may perform really high in one academic area, but poorly in others. The student may be gifted in mathematics, but struggle with reading, and visa versa.
According to the department of education, education is more than just academics and grades; it is the education of social, emotional, and life skills and additional vocational training to prepare for life after high school or what special education considers transition to post-secondary education and employment. Many 2e students miss out a great deal in a “specially designed instructional environment…unique to the student” as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) because their gifts are not addressed through special education services, which is what many advocates in 2e research are fighting for. These students are included in special education services, but not in gifted services or are missing “talent development plans”. On the flip side, some 2e students are served in gifted classes, but their disability is not addressed through an individualized education plan (IEP) or is being “masked” by their achievements.
Teachers play a leading role in advocating and identifying 2e students. Do you know of a student who has a disability but is also very gifted? Or a gifted student who might struggle in one or more special areas related to any form of education? You may know a 2e student. Identification is the first and most missed step so it is vital to refer the parent and student to the special education and/or gifted and talented program for testing wherever it applies. If you are interested in learning more about 2e students, check out some of my favorite 2e books and resources below.
Online Learning Extensions for Advanced Learners Poster Presentation (NAGC National Conference, 2021)
2e Online Resources
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Gifted and Talented Professional Standards
The Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development
2e News Newsletter and Magazine
The 2e Resource
Bridges Academy Website
Bright and Quirky 2e Resource Center
National Association for Gifted Students (NAGC): Resources for Parents of Twice-Exceptional Students
TECA: Twice-Exceptional Children’s Advocacy