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Twice Exceptional Students

The term “twice-exceptional” is used to signify the presence of gifted potential and a disability. 

Collaboration between classroom teachers, special educators, gifted educators and parents need to that place in order to implement strategies to meet the diverse needs of twice-exceptional students.


The following characteristics may be among those observed in twice-exceptional students, particularly those with learning disabilities (Higgins, Baldwin & Pereles, 2000; Nielsen, Higgins, Wilkinson, & Webb, 1994; Weinfeld, Barnes-Robinson, Jeweler, & Shevitz, 2006):


Characteristics of Twice Exceptional Gifted Students

• Struggle with basic skills due to cognitive processing difficulties; need to learn compensatory strategies in order to master basic skills • Show high verbal ability but extreme difficulty in written language area; may use language in inappropriate ways and at inappropriate times

• Demonstrate strong observation skills but have difficulty with memory skills

• Excel in solving “real-world” problems; have outstanding critical thinking and decision making skills; often independently develop compensatory skills

• Show attention deficit problems but may concentrate for long periods in areas of interest

• Have strong questioning attitudes; may appear disrespectful when questioning information, facts, etc. presented by teacher

• Display unusual imagination; frequently generate original and at times rather “bizarre” ideas; extremely divergent in thought; may appear to daydream when generating ideas

• May be unwilling to take risks with regard to academics; take risks in non-school areas without consideration of consequences

• Can use humor to divert attention from school failure; may use humor to make fun of peers or to avoid trouble

• Appears immature since they may use anger, crying, withdrawal, etc. to express feelings and to deal with difficulties

• Require frequent teacher support and feedback in deficit areas; highly independent in other areas; can appear stubborn and inflexible • May not be accepted by other children and may feel isolated. May be perceived as loners since they do not fit typical model for either a gifted or a learning disabled student

• Poor memory for isolated facts, but excellent comprehension

• Preference for complex and challenging materials; easily distracted

• Lacking self-regulation and goal-setting strategies

• Boredom with rote or memorization tasks, but often disorganized

• Skill in manipulating people and situations, but poor interpersonal skills

• Poor performance on simple facts such as addition and subtraction, but capable of complex, conceptual manipulations such as algebraic concepts


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