Monday, January 2, 2012

The Twice-Exceptional Student

Edward C.
First Published in the Newport Daily News 

For some students, school is often too hard. For others, school can be too easy. For a certain percentage of students, it is both.

These students are known as twice-exceptional. They are twice-exceptional because they are both gifted and disabled. The problem is that educators tend to only focus on their weaknesses, and having only their weaknesses accommodated could be worse than having no accommodations at all.

Parents and educators across the nation are regularly viewing twice-exceptional students as lazy or oppositional. After all, they argue, if a student with an IQ in the 98th percentile and a math disability has proper accommodations to help him with math, what reason does he have to not be excelling in his academics?

The emotional pressure on twice-exceptionals is typically disregarded. There is a reason a disabled middle school student with writing and reading scores in the post-college range could be getting a C in English, or a student with a IQ in the 98th percentile could be failing his classes; these students are incredibly frustrated or discouraged, because little to no attention is placed on accommodating or recognizing their giftedness— even when their strengths are more deviant from average than their weaknesses.

Unfortunately, twice-exceptional students are often failing miserably in school. Who wants to devote effort and attention to something that makes them feel frustrated, depressed or flawed? Pressure and expectations they receive from their peers in addition to those of their educators creates social, emotional and academic challenges.
Research done regarding twice-exceptional students tells that one of the primary reasons that they are underachieving is because of this sort of frustration.

A study done in Connecticut observed several twice-exceptional students. The researchers found that, when accommodated for only their incredible strengths, their grades went up significantly across all subjects. This suggests a major improvement of attitude and academic interest.

According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, twice-exceptional students often “hit the wall” before they are properly accommodated. After a student reaches this point, it can be difficult to recover.

In order to bring out the best of our brightest, educators must understand how critical it is to accommodate both the strengths and the weaknesses of a twice-exceptional, otherwise the true, brilliant potential of such students is neglected.

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