What is Twice-Exceptional?
Twice Exceptional, or 2e for short, is a term used to describe children who fall into the gifted category and have a learning disability, or we prefer to refer to it, a learning difference. Examples of a learning difference are, but not limited to, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, General Anxiety Disorder. The term giftedness is clouded in controversy and varying opinions. The markers for identification change depending on who you are talking to and what profession they are in. Layer on top of that a learning difference and the conversation becomes complicated quickly.
The question that arises with 2e children, is the gifts shadowing a learning difference or is the learning difference hiding the gifts? If so, how do you identify and separate the two? Parents look at schools and professionals for direction. Although finding someone who works with gifted children is difficult enough, it becomes worse when looking for someone who is familiar with 2e children.
What do 2e students look like?
A quote from a student in the book, To Be Gifted & Learning Disabled, by S.Baum, R Schader and S.Owen, sums it up the best, “I think in paragraphs, speak in sentences, but write in words.” While this doesn’t describe all 2e students, it speaks to how frustrating the school environment is for them.
Quite often 2e children are not identified until middle school when their advanced abilities can no longer compensate for the learning differences. This describes the situation of the gift hiding the learning difference. Many times 2e children are never identified. This would be the learning difference hiding the gift. How does a school identify students then? It’s a question difficult to answer because each student is unique.
Sometimes students come to Triad already identified as gifted or gifted with a learning difference or simply have learning differences. Sometimes students come to us with no history at all. We view diagnoses, not as a way to define a student, but as clues of how to work with them. At Triad we are always looking for clues or patterns of behavior, as behaviors are also clues to what is happening with a student. Behaviors are responses to the environment and can be clues the environment and the student are out of sync. We ask ourselves what in the school environment do we have control over that can be tweaked to help the student succeed. This is where most educators discuss classroom accommodations. While accommodations are helpful, students are resistant to them. At Triad we provide the same opportunities for accommodations to all of our students. This way accommodations are no longer accommodations, but simply how the classroom functions.
How does Triad support Twice-exceptional students?
At Triad we look what students can do, not just what they can’t.
For example, if a class is doing a literature study and a student struggles with reading due to dyslexia we ask the teacher to reflect on what is the purpose of the assignment. Is it to understand a message delivered in the story, to debate on themes in the book or to open up conversation between students? If so, can the student achieve these goals without allowing the learning difference to be a hindrance to their learning? Can the goals be achieved by allowing an audiobook? Can the teacher read to the students in the class? We focus on solutions, not problems. These are conversations families are involved in. We work together as a team. It is important to Triad families are involved in these decisions made about students.
Students are not held to grade-level curriculum
Many 2e students need advanced material but are limited to accessing the information because of their learning difference. While it is important not to forget where a student struggles it should not be what holds them back. We can accelerate the pace and subject matter, but at the same time find alternative ways for the students shows mastery of a concept.
We explore their interests and use these as entry points in the students’ learning
By the time a student is identified as 2e, they have acquired years of bad experiences with schooling. Because of this, they tend to have anxiety when it comes to learning new material and once anxiety is there, learning does not happen. To overcome this teachers at Triad look for opportunities to engage students in the area of their interests. When the student is interested their anxiety goes down allowing for learning to happen again.
Physiologically Safe Environment
Triad believes students require more from school than simply providing a challenging curriculum. Knowing how to interact with peers and understanding one’s self is an important life skill, but is not often taught in a classroom. We believe these are foundational skills needed to navigate complex social situations and relationships that they will use throughout their lifetime. Students take part in social-emotional learning (SEL) classes. Our aim is to help students better understand their emotions and become more resilient when faced with demanding situations, whether those situations are social or academic. Our goals are to teach children to be mindful of why they feel the way they feel and how to deal with those emotions in a productive way. These skills they learn are practiced by students and staff daily.
Classroom and playground observations are what drive the SEL classes. Other schools may put in place an SEL curriculum, but at Triad we prefer a solution that is more dynamic, changing based on our students’ needs. Staff works with students to build relationships, allowing students to feel seen for who they are and not just one of many students in a classroom.
At Triad, our overarching approach is flexibility.
A once size fits all approach does not work for education, students or teachers. When discussing what Triad has to offer the one take away is flexibility. We work with the student and family to focus on solutions, not problems.