Dyslexia in Twice Exceptional (2E) Children

‘Twice exceptional’, also referred to as 2E, is a term accounted for those children who are gifted (intellectually) and disabled (here, learning disability). The paradoxical characteristics of distinguishing strengths and complex challenges, that are attached to this term, are what makes them acquire special assistance. The ‘disabled’ aspect of this term includes special needs such as learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental disabilities. Dyslexia is a learning disability characterized by difficulty in word recognition and impaired decoding of letters into sounds (also called phonics) which inhibits 2E children from achieving their academic potential due to their boosted cognitive abilities.

A neuroscientific approach helps us have an in-depth knowledge of the structural and functional differences in the brain of 2E children along with gaining an insight into how these changes have an impact on the cognitive functioning of the individual. This is significant, because each 2E child needs a neuropsychological evaluation that helps in individualizing a curriculum specially designed catering to the child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. It is important to emphasize the educational needs of such children, because the term ‘twice exceptional’ is fairly new and people need to be aware of it in order to distinguish twice exceptional children from the gifted or the disabled.

Educators with knowledge in gifted education significantly contribute towards academic learning for 2E children. A quantitative methodological study mentions that gifted education professionals have more knowledge and familiarity with twice exceptionality than those in other domains of childhood studies. 2E children need special academic curriculum that caters to both their special educational needs, i.e., being gifted and being disabled, simultaneously, in terms of learning.

Twice exceptionality is not a very conventional topic among the population. It was first coined by James J. Gallagher in 1975. 2E children need supportive parents who help them to overcome their disability by being supportive and by not making them fall back because of their disability. Parents need to use effective coping strategies and enable a safe and secure environment at home. Furthermore, the paradoxical theme of dyslexia (disability) in 2E children (who are born gifted) will be unveiled in order to give the care and support 2E children need in an academic setting, as learning is a hardship for them. These children are not only identified by the occurrence of weak academic skills, but also identified by emotional and behavioral problems that comprises two types of behaviors: internalizing behaviors and externalizing behaviors. The former include depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, whereas the latter include behaviors that are aggressive such as hyperactivity. The gifted aspect is portrayed through excellent memory skills and verbal language skills. The IEP (Individualized Education Program) or the 504-accommodation plan needs to be implemented in order to ensure academic success. This plan ensures the provisions of required accommodations for a disabled child in order to gain maximum academic success and be on par with non-disabled students. Screening tests like Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR), Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), help in understanding ‘dyslexia’ in twice-exceptional children, at early-school level or in kindergarten.

Biological and demographic factors change from individual to individual, family to family; this is because the genes (dominant gene on chromosome 3) and the functioning and executing of the brain majorly contribute to the occurrence of such learning disabilities. In case of twice-exceptional children, sometimes, the ‘disability’ factor pops in from biological traces, too. The largest category of 2E children consists of those who are gifted and have a particular learning disability (in this post, dyslexia). A neuroscientific approach towards twice exceptionality examines and analyzes that 2E children have an underdeveloped limbic system as well as language processing skills. The underdeveloped limbic system often causes instantaneous emotional fluctuations. The learning disability is caused due to the interaction among factors of risk of cognitive development, that are influenced by nature-nurture of an individual. Educators need to identify and implement either the IEP or the 504 Accommodation Plan, depending on the 2E child’s educational, emotional, and social requirements. Furthermore, 2E children require a multidisciplinary team of educators with special knowledge in giftedness and disability in order to achieve better learning outcomes. Educators with knowledge in gifted education were identified as the best academic providers for twice exceptional students/learners. Studies indicate that various types of twice exceptionality have varied chances of occurrence, depending on not only the biological aspects (structures and functions of the brain) of it, but also the emotional and physical ones. These types include physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, Asperger Syndrome, Emotional/Behavioral disorders, ADHD, and learning disabilities. Thus, dyslexia is a small topic under the largest subgroup of twice exceptionality: learning disabilities.

Dyslexia in twice exceptional children needs to be treated by executing a special academic curriculum, because their brain structures and functions in a distinct way.Does this make 2E children have the same academic curriculum as those who are dyslexic, alone? Research shows that there are neurological variations that take place during early phases of neural development, which causes the ‘disability’ in gifted children. The brain of a dyslexic 2E child is wired in a way that makes learning to ‘read’ a difficulty but learning in any other domain is escalated because of the ‘gifted’ aspect. Therefore, dyslexic 2E children need an integrated co-teaching class, which consists of one general educator and one special needs educator. The extra academic support required is by getting trained under a special needs’ educator (gifted education professionals), who has knowledge about giftedness and 2E children. However, emotional and behavioral problems in 2E children need different attention and therapy, which for the children and their parents, is exhausting and taxing. Disruptive behaviors can interrupt learning processes and can delay educational attainment.

Although a few measures have been found, a full-fledged plan is required for maximum academic outcomes of these children who, if given special academic assistance, can do wonders. We need to merge current research and approaches into new ways of critical thinking in order to assure that giftedness and learning disability in twice exceptional children should be looked upon as a multifaceted unit that needs special attention and assistance.

References

Pfeiffer, S. I. (2015). Gifted students with a coexisting disability: The twice exceptional. Estudos de Psicologia, 32(4), 717–727. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-166X2015000400717&lng=en&tlng=en

Foley-Nicpon, M., Assouline, S. G., & Colangelo, N. (2013). Twice-Exceptional Learners: Who Needs to Know What? Gifted Child Quarterly, 57(3), 169–180. https://doi.org/10.1177/0016986213490021

Coleman, M., Harradine, C., & King, E. (2005). Meeting the Needs of Students who are Twice Exceptional. TEACHING Exceptional Children. 38. 5-7. 10.1177/004005990503800101. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318535629_Meeting_the_Needs_of_Students_who_are_Twice_Exceptional

Mccallum, R., Bell, S., Coles, J., Miller, K., Hopkins, M., & Hilton-Prillhart, A. (2013). A Model for Screening Twice-Exceptional Students (Gifted With Learning Disabilities) Within a Response to Intervention Paradigm. Gifted Child Quarterly. 57. 209-222. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258137875_A_Model_for_Screening_Twice-Exceptional_Students_Gifted_With_Learning_Disabilities_Within_a_Response_to_Intervention_Paradigm

Beckley, D. (1998). Gifted and Learning Disabled: Twice Exceptional Students. National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED424711.pdf

van Viersen, S., de Bree, E. H., Kroesbergen, E. H., Slot, E. M., & de Jong, P. F. (2015).Risk and protective factors in gifted children with dyslexia. Bulletin of the OrtonSociety, 65(3), 178–198. https://doi-org.jpllnet.sfsu.edu/10.1007/s11881-015-0106-y

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Jessica Gohil

Jessica Gohil

Mental Health Champion