Guest Blog: Meeting the Needs of Twice-Exceptional Learners

By Emily Kircher-Morris​ – Guest Author

2e FI

Twice-exceptional (2e) learners often need support for both their advanced cognitive abilities and their areas of struggle, however research shows that once students are identified for gifted or special education services, they are not referred for the other (Foley-Nicpon & Kim, 2018). This presentation will explore identification issues for twice-exceptional students, including recommendations for enhancing communication between gifted and special education departments, assessment tools useful for identifying twice-exceptional learners, and common obstacles facing the identification of 2e students.

Educators who are prepared to recognize, identify, and provide services for 2e learners will provide a valuable service for a group of students that has been traditionally under-recognized (Assouline, Nicpon & Whiteman, 2010). Lack of opportunities for collaboration between educators and limited awareness of qualifying criteria for either gifted or special education services limits educators’ ability to advocate for twice-exceptional students. Educators who attend this session will be equipped to overcome these obstacles when they return to their schools.

Twice-exceptional learners who are not identified and do not receive appropriate services or accommodations struggle with a range of negative academic, social, and emotional outcomes, such as learned helplessness, anxiety, and depression (Reis, Baum, & Burke, 2014). This session will raise awareness about this often-underserved population of students. The presenter will also address the struggles facing “3e” students – students who are not only twice-exceptional, but also come from a culturally diverse or economically disadvantaged background (Kaufman, 2018).

Following this presentation, attendees will be able to:
1. Recognize the obstacles facing appropriate identification and placement in gifted and special education programs for twice-exceptional students.
2. Utilize common assessment tools to recognize unnoticed exceptionalities for 2e learners.
3. Develop strategies to build collaborative practices between special education and gifted education departments in their schools.

The National Association for Gifted Children published a position statement in 2013 titled “Ensuring Gifted Children with Disabilities Receive Appropriate Services: Call for Comprehensive Assessment.” This position statement included 5 strategies that can ensure twice-exceptional learners receive the services and support they need. This proposal works directly toward two of the suggested strategies: “Provide training for teachers and other school professionals on the nature of and performance patterns of twice-exceptional students to improve identification and raise academic expectations,” and “Provide comprehensive assessment (including norm-based, psychometrically sound, comprehensive individual intelligence and achievement tests and measures in all areas of suspected strength and disability) whenever a disability or second exceptionality is suspected in a gifted child or when students identified with a disability show signs of advanced reasoning, creativity, or problem solving.”

  • Assouline, S. G., Nicpon, M. F., & Whiteman, C. (2010). Cognitive and Psychosocial Characteristics of Gifted Students With Written Language Disability. Gifted Child Quarterly, 54(2), 102-115. doi:10.1177/0016986209355974
  • Foley-Nicpon M., Kim J.Y.C. (2018) Identifying and Providing Evidence-Based Services for Twice-Exceptional Students. In: Pfeiffer S. (eds) APA handbook of giftedness and talent. APA Handbooks in Psychology(r).
  • Kaufman, S. B. (2018). Being 3e, a new look at culturally diverse gifted learners with exceptional conditions: An examination of the issues and solutions for educators and families. In Twice exceptional: Supporting and educating bright and creative students with learning difficulties (pp. 278-289). Oxford University Press.
  • National Association for Gifted Children. (2013). Ensuring gifted children with disabilities receive appropriate services: Call for comprehensive assessment.
  • Reis, S. M., Baum, S. M., & Burke, E. (2014). An operational definition of twice-exceptional learners. Gifted Child Quarterly, 58(3), 217-230. doi:10.1177/0016986214534976

 To hear more from Emily, check out her Neurodiversity Podcast and join us on May 19th.


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