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Twice-Exceptional Kids with Guests from the Bright Not Broken Lorna Wing Institute

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BNB Marianne Russo

Marianne Russo

BNB Diane M Kennedy

Diane M. Kennedy

BNB Rebecca Banks

Rebecca Banks

This was an exciting week as #gtchat was LIVE from the Soar With SENG 2015 Conference in Denver, Colorado! Our guests included Marianne Russo, Director of Development and Communications at the Bright Not Broken Lorna Wing Institute of America and President of The Coffee Klatch; and Diane Kennedy and Rebecca Banks, authors of Bright Not Broken. The BNB Institute exists to bridge the gap between the disability and gifted communities. Our topic was Twice-Exceptional Kids.

BNB Book Cover

We first considered the definition of ‘twice-exceptional’ and why it’s important to recognize its existence. According to the BNB Institute, “the term 2E refers to individuals who are both gifted and have a learning, emotional, behavioral, or social issue. 2E fall into the exceptional range for cognitive, academic, or creative abilities but fall in the lower end in their deficit area. Common 2E diagnosis include: Aspergers, ADHD, OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] , Dyslexia, SPD [Sensory Processing Disorder], Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression; to name a few. ” Many educators who understand the term, do not recognize its existence. This becomes problematic for 2E children. Without recognition of twice-exceptionality, it becomes difficult to gain access to appropriate services.

BNB Institute told us, “2E individuals are found within every socioeconomic, cultural, racial, ethnic population and are present in most school classrooms. It is commonly reported that 6%, or over three million of the student population is identified as academically gifted. The diagnoses that 2E children receive include a significant number of the most common childhood disorders in mental health.”

Why are twice-exceptional children stuck in regards to both education and mental health services? “Lets start With the focus on proficiency brought about by No Child Left Behind and Response to Intervention,” said BNB Institute. “Current policies governing a student’s eligibility for services contribute to the under-identification leading to remaining invisible. In the wake of NCLB and budgetary considerations, the emphasis is on helping the lowest performing students achieve proficiency. Giftedness and disability mask one another, 2E students are likely to remain unidentified as either gifted or disabled or average.” This makes it difficult to receive an accurate determination/diagnosis. Diane and Rebecca reminded us that “proficiency often equates to low expectations for gifted and also means 2e is often missed.”

Marianne told us, “under IDEA 2004, many states have moved to RtI [Response to Intervention], a universal screening process to identify students with learning and behavior needs. RtI is questionable in its ability to identify either gifted or twice-exceptional learners; especially in the general classroom. Teacher education programs provide little to no training in 2E; making teachers ill equipped to identify or instruct these kids. Common behaviors exhibited by 2E kids lead teachers to see them as lazy, unmotivated, defiant, and behaviorally disordered.” Diane and Rebecca added, “these are our highest population of dropouts.”

How do recent changes to the DSM5 affect provision of services to the twice-exceptional population? The DSM5 is the 5th Ed of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is the bible for psychologists and psychiatrists. Marianne explained, “the DSM system traps 2E kids in misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis because the DSM descriptions of disorders and checklists of symptoms do not account for the presence of high IQ and how this affects presentation of symptoms and behaviors. This system is causing frustration for clinicians and those served because the diagnostic tools used in the U.S. derive from the DSM. Our focus at the BNB Institute is to bring an alternative tool DISCO to the U.S. DISCO is developmental and dimensional and leads to a portrait of the child’s abilities and challenges. It is a road map for therapies.”

“DSM leads to an alphabet soup of labels that emphasizes challenges not strengths,” according to Diane and Rebecca. A major recent change in the DSM5 was the elimination of Asperger’s as a descriptive category. Rebecca McMillan of The Brain Cafe and The Creativity Post pointed out, “Collapsing major diagnostic categories is not likely to net more accurate diagnoses, improve targeting or quality of services to twice-exceptional.”

What should parents do if they feel their child has received a medical misdiagnosis? “Finding a clinician that takes a dimensional approach to evaluating your child is key,” said Marianne. “They must be fierce advocates for the gifted or 2E child with strength based strategies. Parents with children with differences need to be able to parent those children differently without judgement. Listing a child’s strengths is mandatory at an IEP; focus on strengths, foster deficits.”

Diane and Rebecca stated that parents should, “get someone on board who understands gifted and strengths. Also make sure to seek comprehensive testing for discrepancies in ability and functioning.” Psychologist, Gail Post of Gifted Challenges, recommended, “Ask the evaluator why disability issues may not have been included in the evaluation or why sub-tests were not prorated.” Rebecca McMillan added, “Become a crack observer of your child and her needs. Keep notes of how she responds in different environments. Don’t be afraid to share doubts, concerns, and countervailing evidence with the experts. Ask probing questions.” Corin Goodwin, Executive Director of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, implored parents to:

“Learn to trust yourself, and to find allies – which may be anywhere!”

A full transcript including how clinicians and educators can help the twice-exceptional child and where parents can turn if they suspect their gifted child may be twice-exceptional may be found at Storify. Also see, Joys and Challenges of Twice-Exceptional Kids.

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Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7E/6C/5M/4P in the U.S., Midnight in the UK and Saturdays 11 AM NZST/9 AM AEST to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Bright Not Broken-Lorna Wing Institute of America (website)

What Do Twice-Exceptional and Gifted Children Look Like

The Faces of Giftedness and Twice-Exceptionality

Twice-exceptional/Gifted How to Help Them

Bright Not Broken (Amazon)

Twice-exceptional/Gifted Why They Are Stuck – Education

Child and Adolescent Mental Illness and Related Disorders

SENG (website)

SENG Professional Members Listing

SENG Misdiagnosis Initiative

Dr. Temple Grandin: Bright Not Broken (YouTube)

The Bright Not Broken Talk Radio Program

APA DSM-5 Implementation and Support

When Parenting Twice-Exceptional Kids, Not Everything Needs to be Fixed

Smart-Shaming: Sorry But Your Child is Too Bright to Qualify for Help

The Search for Shangri-La: Finding the Appropriate Educational Environment for Gifted and Twice-Exceptional Children, A Parents’ Guide

2E Is from Sprite’s Site

Resources: Twice-Exceptional (2e) from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

Gifted Cubed from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

Cybraryman’s Body Language

Cybraryman’s Twice-Exceptional Children

Madeline’s Musings Communication Complications

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