Gifted and Twice Exceptional Children

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) acknowledges that while there is no universal definition of giftedness, gifted children are identified by “…outstanding levels of aptitude…or competence…in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with it’s own symbol system (e.g. mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g. painting, dance, sports).”  Many academic organizations qualify students as gifted based on standardized test scores that fall in the top 10% or rarer. Children who are identified as gifted are noted to have high potential for talent development in one or more domain areas. While definitions of giftedness may vary, most professionals recognize that gifted children often display a cluster of characteristics that may include:

  • Emotional sensitivity and intensity
  • Moral intensity
  • High degree of compassion
  • Strong imagination or creativity
  • Perfectionism
  • Tendency to question authority
  • Overly concerned with fairness and justice
  • Perseverant and highly focused on specific areas of interest
  • High levels of energy or physical activity
  • Preference for older companions or adult interaction
  • Heightened awareness and keen observation skills
  • Strong curiosity and desire for knowledge

In 1991, The Columbus Group (a gathering of professional and parents invested in furthering understanding and services for gifted children and adults) formed the following definition of giftedness:

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.”  (Columbus Group, 1991)

Asynchronous development is characterized by disparities between various areas of development. For example, an 8 year old gifted child may have the cognitive abilities of a 14 year old, the gross motor skills of a 10 year old and the fine motor skills of a 6 year old. There can also be asynchronies involving advanced awareness of social issues and heightened moral reasoning but with an absence of the appropriate emotional coping skills to understand and respond to situations.

Asynchronous development is often the greatest in the twice exceptional (2E) child who may have profoundly advanced skills in one area but lag far behind age peers in other areas related to a specific disability. A child who is considered “twice exceptional” is defined as having gifted abilities in one or more area of development but also have a specific disability such as ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism spectrum disorder or any other condition that is present in conjunction with giftedness.

The twice exceptional child is often mislabeled due to the disability masking giftedness or the gifted abilities masking the disability. These children require very specific skill sets from the professionals serving them. Understanding the unique needs of gifted and twice exceptional children is vital in providing the right support for both the child and family.

For more information about giftedness and twice exceptional children contact us today or visit these helpful websites:

National Association for Gifted Children  http://www.nagc.org/

Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted   http://sengifted.org/

Hoagies Gifted Education Page   http://hoagiesgifted.com/

Uniquely Gifted: Resources for Gifted and Twice Exceptional Learners http://www.uniquelygifted.org/

Twice Exceptional Newsletter  http://2enewsletter.com/

Recommended Reading:

Parenting Gifted Kids: Tips for Raising Happy and Successful Gifted Children (by James DeLisle, PhD)

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults (by James T. Webb, PhD)

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