Twice Exceptional = Twice Screwed

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!




  1. A couple of thoughts.
    1. have you ever read “Aspergirls”? If you haven’t, you should.
    2. There are private schools that are geared towards “Twice Exceptional” students… I learned about them from a friend I met in college (He had ADHD/OCD and had attended one… He picked me out as the Autistic kid in a class of 300 people on the first day.) The concept is really a neat one, its just sad that most public schools are unequipped to deal with it.

    And I definitely think that our culture is more likely to see “gifted-ness” in girls more than boys, and see “needs” in boys rather than girls. Maybe its because girls are taught to suffer in silence…

    • Thank you for stopping by! I am going to go order that book right now! I looked for a school and I had three issues 1) they were very expensive 2) they were far away and not sure he could tolerate that on any level 3) did I say they were too expensive. I tried looking near by and the one we found that sort of said they catered to such a thing, it was okay but neither of us felt right. But you are right & I should have mentioned that there are schools and if lucky enough to live by one and can afford it then one should look into it. And it is possible to get the public school to pay for it if needed. Difficult but possible.

      That is true about girls are taught to suffer in silence. We just suck it up and deal with it.

      • but in our state they have scholarship to cover the cost of the schools, right? or does it only cover a small portion of the cost?

      • The state covers $20,000 per year which is usually enough if you can find one that meets your child’s needs and it is on the list of providers. This program in ohio is better than what exists in other states. The providers seem to address needs of autistics but not necessarily gifted. Can email you more info next time on computer. The one was probably close but I think we were both hesitant to try a different school and it seemed questionable would meet all of his needs. But every kid has different needs. There is one near us that is supposed to be really good but they do not work with autistics. Only ADHD and dyslexia. The ones that looked great were out of state and who knows if would meet needs once we got there!

  2. Excellent post! It is so true. My son is hearing impaired and they treat him like that’s a mental processing issue not a lack of hearing issue. It seems to me we have too many people running schools who didn’t get the interventions they needed when they were students so another generation is getting screwed and I’m sick of it.

  3. I had similar problems in school, and so did my son. He is also twice exceptional and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. When I tried to get help for him with speech through the school, I was told that he did not qualify for any help at all because he was not failing so “it did not affect him academically”. I said that maybe it was because what they were asking of him was so beneath his abilities. They balked at this. At the time, we didn’t have his latest IQ results. I got them after we started homeschooling. -He had topped out the Otis Lennon they gave him. Yeah. No wonder he was able to perform at grade level in second grade. It’s great that there are so many more services now for kids that are behind, but the schools really need to step it up when it comes to gifted and 2E kids. I know that not everyone can homeschool but I am so glad that it is an option for us.

    • Thank you for stopping by. I know it is probably hard to teach to all of the kids abilities but whenever we as parents point out the issue it would be helpful if they didn’t get so defensive!

  4. This is why i homeschool my 2E teen boy. Not virtual online classes, i teach him myself. Its not the most rigorous education it could be, but its working SO much better than public school did. He spent time in the gifted program and time in special ed and no one could meet his needs. I know i’m not pushing him enough, but at least he’s not actually bored.

    one of the breaking points for us was when IEP meetings started to focus more on how to keep him away from phones so he couldnt call me than about meeting any of his needs.

    i’m homeschooling my 8 yo, too, who is probably more adhd/gifted and maybe a tad dyslexic.

    i hate many an hour and am exhausted by my days, but i’m SO grateful to be able to provide this for them.

    of course, then there comes the question of work . .. how will they ever be able to work? unless they find a boss like your algebra teacher . ..

    • I can’t think about work at the moment! Although I do now that in certain fields people seem to be more accepting and understanding. So I can only hope that my son is also accepted. Glad you can homeschool, it is really a shame when people can’t. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the online curriculum, at least not with working! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. quirkyandlaughing says:

    I had similar problems as a girl & was just recently diagnosed with Asperger’s (I’m now 36). It’s interesting how differently it manifests in girls. I think it’s way underdiagnosed in girls.

    I love the comment above about schools for twice-exceptional kids. It seems like they would be difficult to find.

  6. They are twice as screwed, good way to put it. My son is (was?) in fifth grade; now I’m homeschooling him. His incredible teacher last year was flat-out honest with me when he said public school isn’t set up to handle this kind of kid. He wasn’t saying it as an excuse, but a sad matter of fact. He didn’t like it any more than I did. So now we homeschool. And by going at my son’s pace (slower in some things, faster in others), it seems to be ok. So far. 😉

    • Hey, glad you stopped by! Good that the teacher was willing to admit they couldn’t meet your child’s needs. I am sure it will continue to go well for your son.

      And thanks for saying you liked the twice as screwed part. I almost didn’t say it but it really is how it feels!

      • I laugh that twice-exceptional means “exceptionally gifted and an exceptional pain in the ass.” ONLY parents of 2e can say that. 😉

  7. I hate that you have run into problems with virtual school, but that was also our experience with K12. We might have been able to work through it if it were not for the PTSD from the bullying on top of the twice exceptional issues. She did complete her classes for ninth grade and some 10th grade level classes, but it was not easy, and when the school year started back for her friends, it was another reminder that she is no longer in her school. This is when things really unraveled.

    We are now trying self-paced virtual schooling, but even it is boring, and she is having trouble staying motivated. We may end up letting her take the GED and try community college at some point, but frankly I am not sure that this is the best option either.

    BTW Oahu has a twice exceptional school, but I have heard that they do better with dyslexia and attention deficit than with Asperger’s kids. Frankly she is not interested in going there anyway.

    Twice screwed is right!

    • I understand PTSD- I think that is what kept us from working things out at the high school. We both were so scarred from previous. He is struggling but I am hopeful can work through the few issues we are having.

      I have good friend who dropped out of high school related to medical issues and ended up taking GED. She is now in early 30s and no one knows, she has masters degree and management position. I had forgotten until I called her panicked about my son and she reminded me that high school diploma is overrated. I love friends like that 🙂

      If I had millions of dollars I would open special school that catered to Aspies. There is supposedly one near our house but they fall short on academics and other areas. I looked at all of the schools in the area. And I do wonder if he was not open to trying another school because he just doesn’t want to deal with other kids anymore. Although he does have other social interactions outside of school.
      And no worries I would set it up the school near you because if I was a millionaire that is where I would want to live anyways!! I just need to get millions of dollars, I am sure that won’t be hard. HAHA
      Thanks for stopping by & I just ordered your book btw 🙂

  8. Similar story here – in the 1980s I was skipped and put in gifted – But I still underachieved – I was bored out of my mind, had executive function delays, absent parents, and low socio-economic status. Nevertheless I graduated with my pick of universities due to my test scores and extracurricular achievements in veterinary science. Now in the 2010s the school is trying to throw every pathology in the book at my very similar daughter while categorically denying that her restless behaviour stems from cognitive/sensory differences (gifted/SID.) What’s more I’ve discovered that every disability accommodation available in our massive urban school board is geared only toward kids with cognitive delays or extreme violence. All other special needs be damned, I guess, as long as the kid can make the standardized test scores. Nice system we’ve got here.

  9. As a teacher and psychology student, stories like yours break my heart. I know that when I had my own classes (I’m a relief teacher now), I was painfully aware of how little resources (physical, time, knowledge and often emotional) I had to give kids like yours everything they needed, even though I tried. It hurt to see them slipping through the cracks and I always felt horrible for not giving them more.

    Thank-you for sharing your story, I appreciate your openness and it helps me to understand families like yours better! Even if “the system” is failing your son, I think having someone like you who understands him and who can provide support, encouragement, motivation and strategies is really the most powerful thing he could have.

  10. Reading this I can feel your frustration. It is very hard to make people understand other’s condition sometimes when they don’t have to experience it by themselves 😦 I hope your story can be an eye opener to most teachers who happen to read it 🙂

  11. Hi, You are so right! Especially when all teachers know going in the class is your son’s disability. Every year I write a page or two about my son for his new teachers. I always lead with his gifted areas and include a photo. This has really helped with a lot of his teachers. I also include some tips on how to help with his challenges. Of course, you may be doing this already 🙂

  12. My brother is twice exceptional, and early testing shows that my son is as well. I saw my brother have similar issues as to what you’ve described and I worry about M. Difference with M is that since we’ve had the IQ testing, the schools just want to look at his IQ and ignore his disability. Wondering if homeschooling will be in our future down the road.

  13. Thanks very much for this post. I am just starting this world of trying to educate my very bright child that doesn’t fit in a box. We, too, are doing an online school and I am finding it frustrating already that they aren’t supporting her need for more advanced material in reading (she is K reading ~8th grade level) all the while having her completely panic during online testing due to her phobia of being timed. Not pretty.

    I’ll be giving that handbook a whirl and have shared this post with other Moms in the same boat.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I hope the online program works. I have had people tell me to try just regular homeschooling without using online because it may not be challenging enough. Not sure I am ready for that but plan to research that over the summer.

      My son used to get anxious about timed tests at school and I bet they would give more time if ran out of time. I haven’t asked though because I currently have the opposite issue. He is obsessed with how fast he takes the tests now and trying to beat his previous time! I tried to explain there are no extra points for being the fastest! Sigh!

      Thanks for sharing my post and I wish you luck with educating your child as well. Wish there was a perfect solution!

  14. I totally understand. And it isn’t just twice exceptional or gifted or Aspie. It’s every damned kid in America. Being completely failed by a SHIT system.

  15. I am so glad I stumbled upon this site tonight. I feel like I am constantly fighting with the school for my son. He’s 9 and in the 3rd grade. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of three and is also listed as gifted. He is listed as gifted in Math and Reading but is ahead in other areas as well. He had an aid in grades K-2nd but going into 3rd they took the aid away so he’s “look more normal”. We are having a heck of a year. The problem we have is they want to deal with the gifted part and ignore the fact he has a whole other part of him and that is the disability. YES he is capable of doing that math but doesn’t mean he is able. Writing things is just a fight..why..oh well maybe because it’s communication? He is receiving grades on things that in no way reflex his ability because they are expecting him to complete the task in the same manner as other children in his class. I’m so frustrated and wish I had another option.

    I do love the teachers and staff (well most of them) as our school but we are a small town school that just isn’t set up to deal with children like my son.

    • I always try to believe the teachers try but they just are not going to get it. It seems that my son thinks the complex things are easy and gets irritated they go on and on about it but then they don’t explain something that is obvious but that is the thing he needs explained. Happened just this week but he was comfortable telling me where he was stuck. I had to go look it up to explain it to him and it was a 2 second explanation and he said “OH!” and then all was right in the world.

      I am finding that online school works best for him. We struggle sometimes but overall it is much better for all of us.
      Thank you for stopping by, glad you found it as well.

  16. I was gifted, bored, underachieving, bullied (by both teachers & students), and consider myself a ‘survivor’ of school if anything. Schools back then, and now, were/are not equipped to deal with people who are ‘different.’ I hated school for the most part. I learned more on my own. I’ve always been a voracious reader and if I was interested in something, I found out everything I could about it—Aspergers is like that. I’m glad I made it to adulthood mostly intact.

    My wife is a school teacher. Most teachers today are overwhelmed by the ‘miracles’ demanded of them by parents and administrators. They are expected to do it all, yet often have very little support behind them. My wife is leaving teaching after this year. As much as she loves it, it’s not worth the hassles she has to put up with anymore. She will miss her students, but little else…

    • It is really a shame that the teachers do not get to actually teach. it is all about the tests now. Sorry that you had a bad experience at school to. thanks for stopping by.

  17. I love your attitude. I’m a psychotherapist who specializes in working with twice exceptional people (and their parents) and my best resource is parents who have similar challenges and have already developed strategies for success. Additionally they provide compassion, support and a model of how to manage and thrive in spite of challenges. This is how we build resiliance and tenacity in our 2e kids, important traits for future success.

  18. “ictus75 says:I was gifted, bored, underachieving, bullied (by both teachers & students), and consider myself a ‘survivor’ of school if anything.”

    …that was me!!! LOL. I hated school.

    My kids are having a very different experience than I did. For one, we are blessed with compassionate teachers. For another, they are in a language immersion program. It’s a Godsend… especially considering they are both math whizzes… my son, in fact has a language processing disorder and ADHD (my daughter is not diagnosed but shows all the signs of ADHD as well).

    Why do I “subject” my language disorder / ADHD / math whiz kids to language immersion? Because they are adequately challenged. My daughter is also the second youngest in her class in the bottom grade of a split, and is finally challenged enough to pay attention in class.

    They both LOVE school. (phew)

    It’s been suggested to me by the team that I move my son to the new Montessori stream (not available for my daughter because she’s in a higher grade) so that his math can be accelerated (which hasn’t happened in the French program). I can do that acceleration myself with him at home, but I can’t give him the level of French that the immersion teachers can. Also, my personal experience is such that if you are not sufficiently challenged at a young age, you may not learn the problem solving skills and emotional resilience you’ll need as an adult in the real world, which is why I’m positioning them both to “struggle” in school. Struggle is when learning happens.

    I attended regular public school, in standard English, in the same grade as my age peers. I never struggled. I got the best marks in my grade, finished all the homework during class time, tuned out and stared out the window. I never learned how to study, or how to proceed though a challenge. Today I am paying the price.

    I tell my son: “Don’t feel bad if there are kids in your class who are better at reading French. YOU are good at math, and there are other kids who find math hard. Everyone is has strengths and weaknesses, and you’re no different than anyone else.” He does not know about his diagnoses (he’s 7).

    The beauty of immersion is that many kids tend to be clever, and wired in such a way that my kids are not misfits to the same degree they would be if they went to regular school. (again, phew).

    Anyway, to reconnect with the original post, twice exceptional is most definitely twice screwed!! I’m trying to flip this over, though, to become “twice benefited.” 1) the LD provides them with the challenge they need to learn problem solving and emotional resilience, and 2) the GT gives them areas of atypical strength to boost their self esteem. Both require parental intervention, though, because as we all know, the schools just DON’T get it.

    For example (LOL I could write about this for HOURS – somebody please stop me ;p) My 9 yr old grade 4 daughter finds the grade 5 math in her class too easy and wants her teacher to give her grade 6/7 math. I ask, and her teacher tells me NO, because “lately she has not been showing her work or completing her math to the best of her ability.” Imagine that… maybe it’s because she’s BORED.

    Meanwhile, we’re facing more government cuts to education (I’m in BC Canada). The gifted math program my daughter was in during grade 3 was cut this year, and may not run next year when my son will be eligible (it starts in grade 3). Private school is just not in our budget.

    ARRRRGH!!!! Never mind. We’ll just do it at home…


    • Thanks for such great comment. Very true that they learn from both the LD classes and the gifted classes. I try to encourage my son in his gifted areas so he feels good about himself.

      And by the way my son used to go to a private school – it was worse!

  19. Pam Mitchell says:

    Thanks so much for this post. People without 2e kids just don’t understand. They don’t “get” why if our son is intellectually gifted that there are other issues that make life difficult for him. They don’t understand how we as parents struggle and spent inordinate amounts of time trying to get the best education for them.

    • Thank you for stopping by! No, most people do not get it. It is such a shame because they deserve a great education and a chance to live up to their potential.

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