I really like the name Twice Exceptional. Probably because it doesn’t have any bad connotations to it yet. Special or special needs shouldn’t have a bad connotation either but lets face it, those titles unfortunately do. I was recently in a store and the cashier was having trouble and commented “don’t mind me, I’m special!” chuckle, chuckle. I just stared at her because like my son sometimes it is better if I just become non verbal. But maybe I should have said “No, you aren’t special, my special needs kid could operate the cash register, or if broken make change off the top of his head and then fix it and get it running better than before with no manual, you bitch are stupid, not special”
Although I am guessing the reason there is no bad connotation to it is because no one has ever heard of it. Because kids are either one or the other, even when they are both.
Part of the Introduction to the Twice Exceptional Guide in Ohio
In 2002, the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children, commissioned the
Ohio Gifted Task Force to make recommendations for better serving Ohio’s gifted students. The
document, entitled Gifted in the 21st Century: A Report of Findings and Recommendations,
identified a critical need to better recognize and serve the needs of traditionally underserved
special populations, including children who are twice exceptional. Twice-exceptional children
are students who are identified as gifted and who also have a disability such as attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disability or Asperger’s Syndrome.
“Children who are gifted can also have a disability that hinders their success
unless proper interventions are provided. These twice-exceptional children may
receive special-education services, but gifted services are often not even
considered” (Ohio Gifted Task Force, 2002).
My son clearly meets this definition. The school district indicated he was gifted in Math and Music specifically but off the record I have been told he is very bright and his IQ test probably isn’t accurate. I am not telling you this to brag in fact I agree very much with what this blogger wrote. Thoughts on that post, other recent articles, my experiences and my son’s experiences have been swirling around my head and like Sheldon I have knowledge that I need to get out of here! (pointing at head).
Since I grew up long before Asperger’s diagnosis and just daydreamed in school I was never really labeled with any diagnosis or learning disability. I was only labeled as gifted. I got poor grades most of school and I was considered an under achiever. I can step back now and see where the problems were. I usually felt (and probably true) that I was smarter than the teachers. In fact I reveled in pointing it out most of the time. In fact when I realized my son was struggling the same way I tried to teach him how to make a game out of it. Sometimes I got poor grades because I didn’t care to put the effort into the class but other times I would get good grades just to prove to the teacher I wasn’t stupid like they thought. I knew they thought I was stupid.
In high school I was the kid that sat in the back of the room wearing holey jeans, black t-shirt, and either slept or talked during the lesson. I talked to other kids but never had any real friends. I had issues, but not enough for anyone to take notice or do anything about.
Subs were the best to mess with because they had no clue. They would give an assignment and then smirk when I walked up five minutes later with my paper. “I knew you’d be up here” me: “really, did you know I would be done and it would all be correct?” smirk back, sub with jaw dropped. Yep that was me, (which reminds me I need to go pin Real Genius as “Movies I Love”). But really school was pure hell. I was bored and the games were the only way to get through. I don’t know why I was never suspended. I remember friends making comments that I got away with murder. My mom would go to parent teacher conferences and come back telling me that they didn’t know what to make of me. Clearly bright, not what they expect when they first saw me in class.
I somehow made it through, in college and beyond I shined. I vowed to never let me son go through what I went through. I think I failed but I think that is why I am so willing to work with him and make online schooling successful. He is exactly like me in every way. With working so much with him I realize he learns the same way I do. He is incredibly bright and would get agitated with the teachers and other kids. The difference is he exhibited different outward behaviors. Maybe because he is a boy? Doesn’t matter, in my opinion, that is the only difference.
When he got bored in school he would get up and walk around. He has problems focusing and organizing like me. We both had lockers and desks that were disasters. I had more than one desk dumped out, evil bitches, why do teachers do that? As a mom I would shake my head at my kids locker but I knew I couldn’t say anything! When other kids irritated my son he hit him. I am sure I hit people to but when a petite girl hits people and has trouble listening it is viewed differently. I know this is a fact because I couldn’t tell you how many times I would get told some version of “He scares us”. I get it, I do, but it isn’t fair to him to be judged so harshly because he is a boy and then grew into a 6 foot tall boy.
Anyways my point is that for my son they focus on the disability not the giftedness. We are both “twice exceptional” but treated completely different. In my case I guess one could argue no one knew of my disabilities because they manifested differently. But with him they know he is twice exceptional but they NEVER addressed it. I would bring it up and I gave them the manual! They set it aside. I fought. I fought to get him tested. I contacted the county to get him tested in music. I fought to get him in the right math classes. But that isn’t the end of the issue.
There was never a right place to put him. He could probably do the harder work in English class but they didn’t provide supports he needed for the areas where he did struggle. In 7th grade we put him in the special ed English class so he could at least receive supports since he was struggling so much and it clearly caused him stress. In 8th grade is when they really start to get separated by ability and I thought it would make things better. Um, no.
We received his schedule for 8th grade and he was in Algebra but in regular English. Seriously, we just went round and round about that. I finally hear from school and they inform me that the special needs English class is the same time as the Algebra class and they knew I would choose Algebra since he is so gifted in math. WHY DID WE HAVE TO CHOOSE? Why can’t a kid be bright and have special needs?
Honestly the English class was better than it could have been. The one English teacher had just transferred from 7th grade and said she knew Sheldon and would work with him in her class. This was pretty admirable since Sheldon flipped over a desk in 7th grade English hitting a teacher. It wasn’t perfect but she was at least open to modifying assignments and giving extra time when he hit a road block. She was actually extremely kind to him even if she didn’t always understand his exact needs.
Clearly the Algebra teacher had never had a special needs kid in his class. Sheldon was supposed to be allowed to work with his Intervention Specialist for tests. They took it away because she needed to be in the special needs English class. They offered he could come in early or stay late, neither worked for him unless they reminded him to stay over which of course they didn’t. Basically they were not equipped to accommodate him appropriately. They also wouldn’t modify his assignments because that was not his area of identified needs. He wasn’t diagnosed Asperger’s at the time but he was diagnosed with ADHD and clearly had global needs. This by the way is why the DSM5 changes scare me, I have been there without the diagnosis. I eventually won the argument for modifications but it was a really rough battle and his grade suffered significantly the one quarter especially. By the last quarter the Algebra teacher was much more accommodating and understanding. I can only hope that other students benefit from that battle.
I find it very frustrating that schools and teachers cannot address both needs at the same time. Yes my son is gifted, especially in math, but he still needs supports. We are currently going through same issues with online school although there I can act as more of a buffer. When we enrolled the fact that he was already in Geometry in 9th grade was a huge deal so clearly he is the only 9th grader in the class. The IS has told me she can’t provide any support in that class. When I email the teacher about getting the slides ahead of class or study guides I am told he is to read the book prior to class and take notes during class.
I have tried 3 different ways to explain it to her. He is now behind in that class. Again the class where he is by far the brightest and most capable in is the one he is struggling in. I think it is beyond anyone’s understanding that he can have the highest score on the standard math test, the only 9th grader in geometry and need supports? Can’t be! Maybe I should send the link to the twice exceptional guide to his Geometry teacher.
For now I can print out the slides prior to the class since we are behind. I can work with him to help him fill out the study guides. I think we are going to be okay but only because the online schooling is flexible with scheduling. But it bothers me that they are not equipped to work with a kid like him. Just ask Albert Einstein’s mom!
There really isn’t a place for Sheldon either. If he is put in a class that provides his needed supports it may not meet his needs academically. Put him in a room that meets his academic needs and they can’t support him. End result in either situation is he isn’t happy and his needs aren’t getting met. That turns to frustration, anger, and meltdowns. So then the school focuses on the behavior instead of his academic needs and I have to fight to get his academic needs met. Round and round we used to go. I can’t go back to that and neither can he.
It is so frustrating. The schools don’t really serve special needs kids adequately and they certainly don’t serve gifted kids adequately. Twice Exceptional kids are just twice as screwed!