Gifted? Learning Disability? Twice-Exceptional.

“It’s hard to imagine how a child could be actively “yanking your chain” or know “just the right buttons to push” when he’s not thinking rationally in the midst of frustration. It’s harder still to imagine why a child would intentionally behave in a way that makes other people respond in a manner that makes him miserable.”  (Greene, 2014).

Giftedness is the possession of natural abilities or aptitudes at levels significantly beyond what might be expected for one’s age, in any domain of human ability’. (DEST, 2013) In the widely accepted Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT), Gagné suggests that giftedness is prevalent in up to 10% of the population (AGDE, 2013).

Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent makes a distinction between giftedness and talent as it highlights the many faces of giftedness:

website 1 (Gagné, 2009)

Here we can see the varied domains in which giftedness presents itself as natural ability. Giftedness does not necessarily equate to talent. Here, gifts are untrained natural abilities. Talents as specific skills are learned capabilities. According to Gagné, there are a multitude of catalysts that can affect a student’s natural abilities manifesting into talent. These include environmental and intrapersonal factors, including learning disabilities (Gagné, 2009).

According to Ziegler & Ziegler (2009),  intellectual giftedness can be measured rather validly, given that intelligence tests have the highest known levels of reliability in intellectual assessment. Whilst there are other tests offering formal measures of giftedness in other domains (such as Torrance Test of Creative Thinking), it is important to remember that formal testing is only one way of identifying gifted students. Parent and student feedback, along with a teacher’s observations, will greatly assist in identifying and meeting the needs of your students.

Giftedness does not restrict itself to race, gender, socio-economic status, those with a learning disability or any other minority group (Trail, 2011).

The importance of catering to the cognitive needs of the gifted with the music studio cannot be underestimated. Neville et. al (2013) writes ‘The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally’

A Learning Disability

Learning disabilities may include neurodevelopmental disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), processing disorders such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), emotional or behavioral disorders such as Anxiety or Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) or physical disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy or Deafness (2EN, 2014)

Could a gifted child be short-sighted, requiring them to wear glasses?

Or perhaps they may have diabetes? 

Similarly, a child who is gifted can also have a physical or learning disability.  We refer to these child as Gifted Learning Disabled (GLD, Dual-exceptional or Twice- Exceptional.

Twice-Exceptional is a term used to describe students who have two exceptionalities; the first exceptionality being their giftedness, the second being their learning disability. The co-occurrence of giftedness with a learning disability is not a new concept. In fact, Hollingworth (1923) deliberated on the needs of this group almost 100 years ago. It is highly plausible that a private music teacher will teach 2E children within their teaching career. Rogers (2010) found that a total of 14% of gifted children in her research presented with some form of twice-exceptionality. Indeed, ‘a high IQ is protective against nothing but a low one’ (Barnes, 2015).

Often the greatest challenge for teachers of 2E children lay in engaging their minds at an intellectual level, whilst accommodating and catering for their learning disabilities. Abramo (2015) reflects: “Twice-exceptional children are a misidentified, misunderstood, and underserved population. Often their needs are not met because 2E students differ from students with disabilities, students with average intelligence and gifted-alone peers”. Reis and Renzulli (2004)  stated that “gifted students with learning disabilities often were misunderstood because their giftedness could mask their disabilities and their disabilities could camouflage their talents”.

“Teachers may be unaware of effective strategies for twice-exceptional students or might even deny their existence outright (Foley Nicpon et al., 2011). Few would doubt the coexistence of giftedness with some disabilities (e.g., blindness and deafness as in the case of Helen Keller), yet they remain sceptical about giftedness coexisting with learning disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; Schultz, 2012). As Schultz (2012) stated, teacher professional development is needed, including “tangible, real-life examples of variability in development” (p. 127) to bring about change in meeting the needs of this group. Teachers and twice-exceptional students alike would benefit from research into effective learning strategies”

Willard-Holt et.al (2013)

For twice-exceptional children, their ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unacceptable’ behaviours and challenges are often not intentional. Perhaps they fiddle with the piano keys, look dreamily out the window during saxophone lessons or throw themselves on the floor after struggling with a rhythmic pattern. With little or no training in the needs of twice-exceptional children undertaken by pre-service teachers, there pervades a lack of knowledge in this area amongst the teaching community. The evidence-based research and resource provided through this project will not only equip private teachers, but will acknowledge and emphasise the significant needs of twice-exceptional children.