Why do you call your kid twice-exceptional? Isn’t being gifted once enough for you?

I’d love to answer this question for you.

It’s all about the words. The exclusionary, non-descriptive and scorn-inducing words that we use to describe kids who are “gifted” and who are gifted with “learning disabilities.” Underlying these are the other words we don’t want to speak: ADHD, OCD, ASD, anxiety, depression, Tourette’s, dyslexia – that’s a partial list of the disorders that can accompany giftedness.

The list is heartbreakingly vast.

We have no choice but use word like gifted, special needs and so on, for one reason: without a diagnosis that indicates one or more of these conditions, parents can’t get medication, treatment and appropriate services for their children. No gifted or advanced education. No OT services for spectrum disorders. No accommodations or special assistance for kids with dyslexia, ADHD, mental illness.

After all the agony parents have gone through to get a proper diagnosis, we’re stuck describing “what’s wrong” to the rest of the world using words that invite judgement and misunderstanding.

The word “gifted” is hard enough to explain. From family members to strangers, explaining how your kids are “2E” can be an awkward conversation. Twice-exceptionality is not widely known outside the clinicians, educators and parents who learned it from another parent.

In many cases gifted kids who have a learning disorder are never diagnosed and suffer a downward spiral of failure. Twice-exceptionality is difficult to detect. We never see it coming when they are little. We see clues we can’t interpret. We read articles and books that don’t fit. We watch our children draw away from other children. We observe them in behaviors that are not consistent with their ages.

Maybe a teacher or well-meaning relative hints there is something off about our kids. They are behavior problems. They’re demanding. Won’t sit still. Won’t participate. Bored. Disinterested. Lazy. Rude.

We know our kids aren’t any of these things.  The words we use don’t tell the whole story. That is the reason for little understanding or tolerance.

“Twice-exceptional” may not be perfect, but it’s the closest thing we have to say, “My kid is extraordinary because he is thriving and learning despite the challenges he faces.”

I don’t know who coined the term twice-exceptional, but, thank you. It is much kinder than the alternatives. It’s a step toward a new vernacular that will allow us to tell our stories the way we live them.

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