The twice-exceptional student has long been seen as the ‘inconvenient’ student by many educators since the term was first introduced into our educational vernacular. But who exactly is the twice-exceptional … sometimes referred to as 2E … student? This week’s guest on #gtchat, Dr. Mike Postma, recently wrote a book addressing this often misunderstood population. The Inconvenient Student (sample pages here as pdf) provides parents and educators with a unique perspective rarely seen in 2E literature … a view from the educator.
Dr. Postma is an educator, parent of 2E children and the Executive Director of SENG. His credentials lend an insight into twice-exceptionality that has been missing, but sorely needed by those touched by the lives of these extraordinary kids. We appreciate Mike taking time out from his busy schedule to chat with us.
So, how should we define twice-exceptionality in educational terms and should we even try? Within the same child can reside high intellectual ability and mental health challenges. Either may mask the other. “Twice-exceptional (2e) individuals evidence exceptional ability and disability which results in a unique set of circumstances.” (K. Dickson in The Inconvenient Student, p. 20) According to Dr. Postma, “There are a number of definitions but the essence is that 2e persons have dual exceptionalities.” Carol Raymond, M.Ed., of EA Young Academy in Texas, reminded us of the importance of the ADA and its implications for the twice-exceptional student; specifically, “The ultimate outcome of an individual’s efforts should not undermine a claim of disability.”
There are characteristics teachers should look for if they suspect a student may be twice-exceptional. 2E students often exhibit a ‘disconnect’ between performance and ability. Look for discrepancies. Asynchronous development will make assessment more challenging; all avenues should be pursued because there may be multiple disabilities and abilities.
“Teachers should be looking for a number of things: flashes of brilliance, high intensities, evidence of creative thinking and problem solving, discrepancy data on formalized assessments, inconsistent performance…to name just a few. I have yet to meet a 2e child that is exactly similar to another … all present unique profiles and thus require unique accommodations…however, there are patterns that can be detected by the astute teacher.” ~ Dr. Mike Postma
What are some successful strategies for teaching 2E students in the classroom? Always seek first to nurture strengths before accommodating disabilities. An effort should be made to identify the exact abilities and disabilities before determining specific interventions. Use a combination of simultaneous supports – gifted intervention with OT or support personnel.
“In hiring staff I always look for empathy first; an understanding of what it is to be a 2e student. Basic strategies include flexible teaching, teaching to strengths; first to assist in remediating areas of weakness, sensory awareness, use of depth, breadth, and complexity. 2E kids need extra time for tests and assignments … they tend to be slow processors.” ~ Dr. Mike Postma
Strengths and weaknesses can present differently in 2E kids. Children with intellectual disabilities will not present the same as gifted children who also have intellectual challenges. Intellectual ability can sometimes compensate for the weaknesses and make identification harder.
“Adults need to understand the differences between misbehavior and brain function. In most cases, when a 2e child is acting out, the issue is a function of limbic delay or the limbic system being overwhelmed. At that point the child needs to reset in a safe environment. In addition, due to limbic delay, skills such as executive functioning, language development, emotional regulation are not present ‘in the moment’. Adults need to work on building these skills in 2e kids rather than punishing them for ‘overreacting’.” ~ Dr. Mike Postma
Finally, we explored the difference between underachievement and non-production. Mike explained, “There is a big difference. Underachievement is a psychological disorder that needs to be addressed by professionals while non-production (fairly common with g/t kids is a conscious decision not to do the work for a host of reasons: boring, busy work, low level. If a student can articulate why he or she will not due the work, that would be non-production whereas an underachiever will not be able to explain the issue.” A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 2 PM NZST/Noon AEST/1 AM UK 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 and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.