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Learning outside the classroom


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.

  • For assessment of 2E students, or students who you suspect may be 2E, trial oral questioning instead of formal written testing. This can help to avoid the difficulties that may arise when a student experiences processing difficulties. If the student is using a great deal of their cognitive energy attempting to read the question, the cognitive energy left for formulating the answer can be significantly reduced. The answer written often does not reflect the students’ actual knowledge; rather it reflects their reading, fine motor, or writing difficulties.
  • Another option would be to utilise a writer to record answers. If writing or spelling is difficult for these students you will receive a reduced output on written testing, usually limited to simplistic language as they attempt to reduce both the amount of writing that is required and the complexity of spelling (which may be beyond them). The quality and complexity of the answers will usually dramatically increase if the student has the opportunity to demonstrate their actual knowledge without the challenge of having to write it down.
  • Does the test have to be time limited – can you extend the time available to the student to demonstrate their knowledge? If other students question why extra time is given, offer it to them as well – not many students will willingly spend more time on a test unless they really need it.
  • Ravens Matrices can also be useful as this is a non-verbal cognition screen. This may show gifted visual-spatial students and is considered more culturally fair than many other screening tools. Teachers can administer this tool. It is currently under review but is available for purchase through New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER).
  •  2E students often score well on short answer tests (for example, ICAS competitions).

Related reading



Idaho State Department of Education (2010)

Twice-Exceptional: Students with Both Gifts and Challenges or Disabilities, pages 11-21 contains guidelines for a standardised approach to identification

Macfarlane, S (2000)

Gifted children with learning disabilities - A paradox for parents (PDF, 126 KB), refer page 4 for strengths and weaknesses