Beyond the Labels

Identifying a gifted child can be a challenge in itself unless you understand the criteria to look for. Identifying a twice exceptional child (one who is both gifted and has learning differences simultaneously) is exponentially confusing. As a result, these children are misidentified, misdiagnosed and, possibly most troubling, “mis” treated.

  • “Parenting a gifted/[twice exceptional] child is like living in a theme park full of thrill rides. Sometimes you scream. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you gaze in wonder and astonishment. Sometimes you’re frozen in your seat. Sometimes you’re proud. And sometimes the ride is nerve-racking, you can’t do anything but cry.” *~ Carol Strip &Gretchen Hirsch

There is a misconception that having a child who is gifted is like being on a five-star ocean liner in smooth waters but those of us who parent these children know the reality. Raising these children can be isolating because they are “different” from the norm. We have experienced first hand how treacherous and confusing navigating these waters can be.

Is my child Gifted?

Or Does my child have learning differences (although so bright)? AND

Does it matter?

YES, children are being misdiagnosed because there is a lack of knowledge among professionals, few health care professionals even know about the characteristics associated with giftedness. Gifted education is generally not included in the curriculums for health care providers or educators which results in common characteristics of giftedness being mistaken for one or more disorders or behavioral problems. This then leads to mistreatment with medication, incorrect placement in schools, incorrect disciplinary methods, and our gifted youth are at risk!

Dr. Webb, the “father” of SENG, (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted, an organization he started in 1981 after the suicide of a 17-year-old gifted youth), states in his book A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children

“The reality is that gifted children’s educational needs arise directly from their strengths; it is precisely because these children are rapid and advanced learners that they need specialized learning opportunities…
Children not identified and/or not properly served are likely to experience more difficulties in school and, possibly in life”

Looking at a bell-shaped curve, children who have educational scores in the upper ranges which would fall to the right of the mean are as far from the mean as children who have scores that are lower than that same mean. It is vital to address the children who are as far from the mean to the right as those who are the same distance from that mean to the left. When children fall on both sides of the mean, i.e. the twice-exceptional child, the gifts can often mask the learning differences as they figure out how to compensate for them for a period of time or visa versa and both are gifted and our twice exceptional children are at risk.

Risk factors include:

  • Underachievement
  • Social isolation
  • Peer issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Perfectionism
  • Power struggles

Gifted youth can be identified both through IQ scores and character traits. Common character traits, personality traits and physical characteristics that we observe in these youth can include, but are not limited to: intensity, sensitivity, perfectionism, less need for sleep, they ask probing questions, have a highly developed curiosity, unusually emotional, extreme need for fairness, etc.

The benefit that a gifted and twice-exceptional child can gain from an understanding adult cannot be overemphasized.

Giftedness can explain behavior but should not excuse inappropriate behavior. The burden, however, falls on us, the parents, educators and health care providers to learn more about these misunderstood children so we can appropriately help meet their needs. If we take on this responsibility, which is ours, we will witness these children blossom into all the potential they have rather than wilt and coil into the mis-shaped boxes we, as a society, are providing for them!

Parenting is challenging and when we add layers of differences that fall into both gifted and/or disabilities it can be very isolating and lonely for us as parents and for our children.

There are numerous resources I recommend and I hope that you take both the Parenting Tools for Gifted and Twice Exceptional children course and SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) course to learn more and find support. Additional resources, aside from the groups you can attend, include:

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