Twice exceptional (or 2E students) are sometimes also referred to as double labelled, or having dual exceptionality. These are gifted students whose performance is impaired, or high potential is masked, by a specific learning disability, physical impairment, disorder, or condition. They may experience extreme difficulty in developing their giftedness into talent.
Gifted students with disabilities are at-risk as their educational and social/emotional needs often go undetected. Educators often incorrectly believe twice-exceptional students are not putting in adequate effort within the classroom. They are often described as ‘lazy’ and ‘unmotivated’. Hidden disabilities may prevent students with advanced cognitive abilities from achieving high academic results. 2E students perform inconsistently across the curriculum. The frustrations related to unidentified strengths and disabilities can result in behavioural and social/emotional issues.
Issues for Identification
Be aware that 2E students often perform as “average” on standardised testing (that is, between the 40th and 60th percentiles). Their high ability level enables them to find coping strategies to mask their learning disabilities. Their learning disabilities in turn limit their ability to achieve at a level commensurate with their high abilities.
It is important to look at the strengths of twice exceptional students separately from their weaknesses, rather than averaging their scores. Low scores or abilities in specific areas should be perceived as real weaknesses, not just “relative” weaknesses.
The self-confidence of 2E students often becomes a barrier to their participation in the classroom. They often withdraw and no longer freely contribute their ideas, thereby reducing the opportunity to notice their high skill levels.
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