Twice Exceptional is a phrase for someone that is special needs and also gifted. Twice exceptional is also known as 2e. From my experience these students tend to get passed over a lot. As a parent of a 2e student we frequently heard things like he’s doing so well academically we can’t do an IEP. I remember looking at a report card for counting from 1 to 10 and knowing my child could count past 1000 and he had received an S for Satisfactory… Contradictory information was the norm.

Parents of 2e kids deal with stressors that are a little different from the standard special needs parent because there is a guilt that felt that because their child is doing well academically their struggles won’t be acknowledged in the special needs (SN) parent world. I do have to admit that when I’ve tried to voice concerns in the SN groups it frequently doesn’t go well. How do you ask a question about your child not being able to handle the fact that the teacher is giving boring work (according to your child’s complaints) and won’t let them do advanced math in a group where they are parents dealing with children with seizures, meltdowns, threats of self harm… When a parent asks the question about math, the group doesn’t realize that same child may have ran off to the bathroom, locked the door and refused to come out because the parent asked one question about how they were doing, or paced endlessly and was in tears because the teacher wanted them to send a baby picture. (Not that they don’t have a baby picture but because somewhere in their logic that is wrong for school). The same child that is now advanced in reading and math was non-verbal until almost 4 and had speech therapy until 6. That child went to summer programs, after school programs and worked with their parent and teacher to become more social for years with amazing progress. Some days there is the ‘nope just not going there or doing that’, frequent I’m just staying home, and a lot of things that won’t happen… I know in our house swimming, water in general, animals, bugs and so many other things cause anxiety and are off limits.

Challenges parents face with 2e kids include the students not being provided services for their disability because they are doing too well academically (a frequently uttered phrase) and also not being allowed in gifted services (because their behavior or disability, sometimes just because the teacher thinks they are a handful). Sometimes those kids turn out to start acting out in school because of boredom and not having their needs met. While so much focus is given to making sure students that are failing academically are caught and identified, very little focus is given to helping students who are able to function well enough to pass their classes. This can lead to students that want to be stellar not having their needs met and slowly falling behind and sometimes acting out.

From the parents side, parents of these kids fall into an odd sort of limbo middle land. The kids frequently don’t have IEPs, they are doing well in classes, but the kids are facing anxiety and issues. Leaving the parents with very few places to turn for help. Family members frequently also don’t understand, using phrases like “Why don’t you make him”, “If he was hungry he would eat”, “Just make him go”, and so many more. Anyone taken a screaming baby on a 3 hour plane ride? I know I’ve been told to just make my son go to the fair, go to a restaurant, go to a movie, eat something… the list is endless… What happens… We walk in, he doesn’t like it, he asks to leave, he asks again to leave, he starts crying, then he starts screaming, then he runs out with or without us…. oh yeah and then he complains about it for 365 more days and won’t go near a place like that again, ever, like ever in his life, has the memory of an elephant. We quit attending mom’s club at a particular building because one boy came up and touched him. He would seethe building and get upset if he thought we might go in. Personally my own solution is just to turn a deaf ear to anyone that keeps asking these things, and avoid the situations. I know this school year I sent a note to the school that I didn’t think the school field trip to a basketball game would go well, my husband and the teacher both thought it would work…. that ended with me having to leave work early to drive as fast as I could to the next county where the field trip was and pick my son up where he was sitting in the parking lot with a friend that is a bus driver.

The 2e kids have a hard time completely fitting in with the gifted kids also though. Twice Exceptional kids can have the social awkwardness of any other SN student. (2e doesn’t just apply to autistic kids, but that is what my son is) Some can have other disabilities that make it a little tougher to fit in with the gifted students. Students that stim, whether it’s pacing, fidgeting, or doodling… not looking the teacher in the eye when they are concentrating or answer questions, and even not understanding the questions the same way or taking everything literally. Teachers have to be able to deal with students that are unique in their own way.

At least as far as autism, I do like the puzzle pieces – because I can look at the world as one huge puzzle. All the people that are neurotypical and think the same make up things like the dirt, grass, sky and clouds and then you have all the brightly colored unique pieces. Personally I love those pieces, without them my world puzzle would be pretty boring.