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Twice-Exceptional Students
By Kevin Stuckey, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Twice-Exceptional (2e) students are identified as having an exceptional gifted ability as well as accompanying learning or developmental challenges. The 2e child may also display behaviors characteristic of ADHD, autism, or other disabilities. However, these students may be able to mask or hide their learning deficits by using their talents to compensate.
Some of these disabilities may include but are not limited to:
  • Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)
  • Speech and Language Disorders
  • Emotional/Behavioral Disorders
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Autism Spectrum
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Twice-exceptional students can also display very focused academic and social behaviors such as intense focus on one topic or action. These students can be highly creative, imaginative, curious, and exhibit strong problem-solving abilities. The 2e student often struggles and becomes frustrated with idle class time since they require active and challenging ongoing tasks. This off-task time may lead to behaviors often characteristic of ADHD such as fidgeting and interrupting others. If twice-exceptional students do not receive the appropriate support, a lack of self-esteem and emotional dysregulation can result, leading to behavior problems.
Collaboration of Support
It’s important for both parents and school personnel to take a collaborative team approach in understanding the child and to implement the appropriate interventions or accommodations required for him or her to succeed. When developing instructional strategies, it’s important to first recognize the student’s strengths and implement support systems targeting their weaknesses. The focus should be on what the child can do versus what they can’t.
Twice-exceptional children often experience difficulty in the typical school environment, where daily organization and class participation are required. These students may have difficulty keeping up with classroom demands, resulting in inconsistent academic performance, frustration, and difficulties with written expression. These behaviors could negatively impact the student’s performance, and the student can be inaccurately labeled as lazy, unmotivated, and underachieving. When this happens, their excitement for school is diminished and may be detrimental to their self-efficacy, self-confidence, and motivation.
Teachers should make classroom modifications to assist 2e students’ adaptation to the classroom with the use of checklists and visual aids (charts, graphs, etc.), frequent reminders of due dates, and eliminating rote or repetitive work when possible. Teachers should also consider alternative methods of allowing 2e students to demonstrate their knowledge and ideas. Examples of these methods include integrating the arts, role-playing activities, hands-on activities, and problem-based learning activities.
Twice-exceptional students who receive appropriate support have an increased chance to reach their full potential, both academically and emotionally, while building higher self-esteem and confidence.
“Twice-Exceptional Students” (2019) Retrieved 9-6-19 from
“Twice-Exceptional Kids: Both Gifted and Challenged” (2019) Retrieved 9-6-19 from

*Handy Handouts® are for classroom and personal use only.
Any commercial use is strictly prohibited.

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