top of page

What is twice exceptional anyway?

I almost got up in the middle of the night to write this because it was on my mind!

Twice exceptional simply defined is the dual diagnosis of giftedness with a learning disability (difference). We often think of gifted people as doing everything perfectly and beyond what the average person can do. This is far from the truth though. Einstein was expelled from school because the school didn't understand his mind. He was bored and had ADHD. He might even have had Autism too. He didn't fit the mold. He didn't just do advanced calculations on his chalkboard. He acted out. He was the kid that teachers struggle to keep in their chairs. They stare out windows and daydream. They crawl under their desks and decorate their erasers (Sawyer). They get texts and notes home to parents and spend time in the principal's office. None of us would think Einstein the "bad" kid because of his massive contributions to science, but he was seen that way in his time because of his classroom behavior. His mother ended up home schooling him to meet his needs. He was able to work in an environment that served him and at his own pace. Today, we have the tools to meet these needs in the classroom when we properly identify them.

ADHD isn't the only diagnoses that commonly accompanies giftedness. We see dyslexia, dysgraphia, hyperlexia, Autism, ADD, ODD, SPD, executive dysfunction, asynchrony, and more. In my book, "Growing Exceptional Seedlings: Companionship for Parents of Neurodivergent Kids" (, I refer to these as comorbidities. Diagnoses that go together.

Dyslexia is a difference in how the brain processes letters and words. We commonly think of it as a switching of letters, but it is more than that. The communication from the eye to the brain gets jumbled and people have to work harder to arrange the letters and words back into their intended pattern. If your child is struggling to read beyond about age eight, it might be helpful to seek a diagnosis with a professional. Most of the common fumbles with young kids work themselves out around age eight, so when struggles go beyond that, there might be a diagnosis possible, and therefore, assistance available to teach these brains how to efficiently process what they're seeing.

Dysgraphia is a lesser known diagnosis that deals with a disconnect in how the brain exports information onto paper. Will struggles with typing and writing his brilliant ideas, but can dictate them eloquently. When he was about five, I noticed that when I asked him to tell me what he was thinking, he could thoroughly explain his thoughts and back them with well researched facts. However, when I asked him to write or type them, he froze. His handwriting was beautiful and easy when doing copywork, so I knew the physical act of writing wasn't the issue. There had to be something between his brain and his hands that wasn't talking well. I hadn't heard the term dysgraphia yet, so I had no starting point to research. I chose to end the battle and allow Will to dictate his complex writing to me, and encouraged small sentences on his own. I gradually increased the difficulty of the sentences and with editing help, we adjusted his independent writing to improve it. With this gradual help, he now pumps out lovely research papers with ease. He still isn't a great creative writer, but neither am I. We tell what is. As he will be required some form of creative writing in college, I will continue to encourage and stretch it, but with a lot of support.

Hyperlexia is another diagnosis I hadn't heard of until Will did it. Rory and Kae are also hyperlexic. While Mack didn't start reading until later, he has become such as well. They read light years ahead of where they ought. The struggle here is keeping them in books. They are also fast readers. Will puts away thousand page, high school level books in just a couple of days. Another struggle we had was that Will could read, but not talk. I know he could read at four because that is when he could tell me he could read. He spent hours looking at books prior to that, and I think now, that he was truly reading them even though he couldn't say the words. Many people think that readers are a blessing...don't get me wrong, I love that my kids love books! But, it is painful to keep them in books. Finding books that are appropriate both for difficulty and subject matter is nearly impossible. Forget about the pigeonhole interests associated with Autism!

So, Autism. While Autism isn't exclusively linked with giftedness, the two often go together and make the diagnosis of either challenging. Will masks many of his Autism related symptoms very well. But his Autism masks his giftedness on paper. He must know something is correct before committing to an answer, and his anxiety means he second guesses himself often. Once he knows, he KNOWS. We call him "Actually Man" because he will correct anyone at any time. Including accredited scientists. And I love that about him. Everyone with Autism is very different so I won't presume to adequately describe the struggles associated with this mixed diagnosis. I do go into more in other blog posts and my book, linked above. "Neurotribes" by Steve Silberman is also a wonderful, if dry, read about the struggles of this important subset.

I will do another post for ADD, ODD, SPD, ED, and asynchrony. This is a lot to chew on. Please let me know if you have additional twice exceptional diagnoses you've heard of, or specific struggles you experience with your kids but are confused about what direction to seek help in. I am NOT a diagnostician, but I can help get you the right kind of doctor.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

To take a break, or not? Homeschool edition

Whether you school year-round like we do, or take summers off, the question (or thought) about taking a break from whatever your schedule is will come up. Your kids are resisting more, you're movin


bottom of page