• Twice Exceptional (2E)

    Twice Exceptional (2E)

    Twice Exceptional Definitions

    The term “twice-exceptional,” also referred to as “2e,” is used to describe gifted children who, have the characteristics of gifted students with the potential for high achievement and give evidence of one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria. These disabilities may include specific learning disabilities (SpLD), speech and language disorders, emotional/behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, autism spectrum, or other impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

    Like other gifted learners, 2e students are highly knowledgeable and talented in at least one particular domain. However, their giftedness is often overshadowed by their disabilities, or these students may be able to mask or hide their learning deficits by using their talents to compensate. Sometimes a twice-exceptional child’s special education needs are overlooked until adolescence or later, or are never identified throughout his or her life.

    Twice-exceptional children often find difficulty in the school environment, where organization, participation, and long-term planning play a role. They can be highly creative, verbal, imaginative, curious, with strong problem-solving ability, and a wide range of interests or a single, all-consuming expertise. However, at school, they may have difficulty keeping up with course rigor, volume, and demands--resulting in inconsistent academic performance, frustration, difficulties with written expression, and labels such as lazy, unmotivated, and underachiever. All this may hinder their excitement for school and be detrimental to their self-efficacy, self-confidence, and motivation.

    Previously published on https://nagc.org/, Parent Resources

    Gifted students with learning disabilities are a unique subgroup of students who demonstrate both superior intellectual ability and specific learning problems. Also known as “twice exceptional” and “dually exceptional, “gifted students with LD have cognitive, psychological, and academic needs that appear distinct from those of either gifted populations or those with LD (Crawford & Snart, 1994). Students with dual exceptionalities tend to fall into two categories: (a) those with mild disabilities whose gifts generally mask their disabilities and (b) those whose disabilities are so severe that they mask the gift (Baum & Owen, 2004). Often these students are not identified for either gifted or special education services due to the combination of their advanced capabilities and difficulties. High intellectual functioning often compensates for the learning difficulty, obscuring both the gifted potential and the learning disability (Baum, 1990; 1998). In essence, the gift masks the disability, and the disability masks the gift. This population of learners is highly diverse. However, in an effort to help recognize and understand the interaction of giftedness and learning disabilities, each category and potential combinations of the two are outlined below.  

    • Gifted behavior consists of an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits: above average ability, high levels of task commitment, and creativity. Students who are gifted are considered to be academically talented individuals who have abilities in one or more domains that are significantly advanced (Renzulli, 1978).  

    • Learning disability is characterized as a specific learning difficulty that is demonstrated by a substantial discrepancy between performance and ability. Students with LD seem to be performing below their potential in one or more areas and are most often provided with remediation in deficit areas.  

    • Gifted/LD behavior results from the interaction of high ability and a learning disability that may create social and emotional difficulties as students struggle to understand why they can know the answer, but are unable to say or write it correctly (Reis & Colbert, 2004).  

    • Gifted/other disabilities characterized by high activity level, impulsivity, low frustration tolerance, and social/emotional difficulties may co-exist with giftedness and lead to additional

    Source: Twice Exceptional: Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities Considerations Packet, William and Mary School of Education


    How Families Can Support the 5 Pillars for Twice Exceptional Learners in the Home

    The term “twice-exceptional,” also referred to as “2e,” is used to describe gifted children who have the characteristics of gifted students with the potential for high achievement and give evidence of one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria. These disabilities may include specific learning disabilities (SpLD), speech and language disorders, emotional/behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, autism spectrum, or other impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Source:  National Association for Gifted Children

    Pillar I - Strength-based Instruction


    • Expose your child to a wide variety of possible interests.

    • Point out and help your child discover their skills and strengths.

    • Encourage your child to explore their talents and interests as much as possible.

    Pillar II - Alternative Methods for Demonstrating Mastery


    • Encourage your child to explore a variety of options when using choice boards assigned at school. 

    • Praise your child’s creativity.

    • Enable your child to use their 504/IEP accommodations, such as speech-to-text, at home.

    Pillar III - Self-advocacy

    • Encourage your child to ask for help when they need it.

    • Teach your child to ask for opportunities for extensions when needed.

    • Teach your child to ask for and take a break when needed.  


    Pillar IV - Self-regulation

    • Teach your child to identify feelings (ex. frustration, excitement, and boredom.

    • Teach your child strategies for coping with feelings. 

    • Praise your child for perseverance and resilience.

    Pillar V - Self-efficacy

    • Review the previous day’s accomplishments with your child.

    • Celebrate your child’s efforts.

    • Draw your child’s attention to their growth and praise specific skills.

    Parent Resources

    Twice Exceptional SEL Resources for Home

    2E Parent Resource


    Research Quotes

    Talented and Gifted Students

    Children are gifted when their ability is significantly above the norm for their age. Giftedness may manifest in one or more domains such as; intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or in a specific academic field such as language arts, mathematics or science.

    It is difficult to estimate the absolute number of gifted children in the U.S. and the world because the calculation is dependent on the number of areas, or domains, being measured and the method used to identify gifted children. However, many consider children who are in the top 10 percent in relation to a national and/or local norm to be a good guide for identification and services. It is important to note that not all gifted children look or act alike. Giftedness exists in every demographic group and personality type. It is important that adults look hard to discover potential and support gifted children as they reach for their personal best.

    Source:  National Association of Gifted Children website: https://nagc.org/ , Previously published under Resources- Publications

    Twice Exceptional Students

    Crawford and Snart also states, "Gifted children with disabilities are often able to use their superior abilities, especially in the areas of predictive ability, vocabulary, conceptual ability, and verbal expression, to compensate for areas of weakness."

    "Beckley (1998) also mentions the use of oral language, memory skills, problem-solving capabilities, curiosity, and drive as indicators often associated with GLD students and suggests portfolio assessment as an important tool for the identification of these children."

    Source: Clark, B. (2012). Growing up gifted (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

    Twice exceptionality is not a diagnosis; it is a conceptual way of identifying, understanding, and supporting the social, emotional and academic needs of a uniquely gifted learner. Twice Exceptional students demonstrate superior ability in one or more areas (specific academics, intellectual ability, creativity, leadership, visual or performing arts) and one or more social, emotional or academic challenge(s) caused by a neurobiological disorder (ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism), or an emotional, sensory or learning disability.

    Source: Gifted and Underachieving… The Twice Exceptional Learner by Melissa Sornik, LMSW

    This term refers to the fact that this group of gifted children are exceptional both because of their strengths and because of their limitations. Coupled with high intelligence, these children also may have one or more learning disabilities, attention deficit, autism spectrum disorder,  emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning challenges.

    Source: 2E Newsletter http://www.2enewsletter.com/topic_2e_what_is.html

    Twice Exceptional learners are students who give evidence of the potential for high achievement capability in areas such as specific academics; general intellectual ability; creativity; leadership; AND/OR visual, spatial, or performing arts AND also give evidence of one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria such as specific learning disabilities; speech and language disorders; emotional/behavioral disorders; physical disabilities; autism spectrum; or other health impairments, such as ADHD.  Twice Exceptional students represent a unique group of learners with diverse programming and emotional needs due to the fact that they may have both gifts and disabilities.

    Source: National Association of Gifted Children website: https://nagc.org/, Previously published under Get Involved.

    Students with Disabilities

    The term "child with a disability" means a child—

    (i) with intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this chapter as "emotional disturbance"), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and

    (ii) who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services. (Taken from Chapter 33 of the IDEA http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title20/chapter33/subchapter1&edition=prelim