Twice Exceptional Children

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When you hear the term “special needs,” what do you think of? A child in a wheelchair, perhaps, or one fed through a feeding tube. Perhaps you think about someone who contends with dyslexia or autism.

Now think of the term “gifted.” Whom do you envision? The star math pupil or the young inventor, most likely. The prodigal musician or child poet. Perhaps the star athlete falls in this category.

The twice exceptional child is both gifted and has special needs. He or she is far beyond her years in one area while needing extra help in another. The twice exceptional child most likely to fall through the cracks is one whose giftedness may disguise their special needs or one whose special needs may mask their giftedness. It’s easy to categorize a child with an enormous vocabulary and incisive mind as lazy when they never complete their schoolwork, but what if, instead, they’re dealing with an attention deficit that has gone undiagnosed? The average child in a class may in fact be brilliant at math, but held back by dyslexia.

I had the privilege of attending a talk by Dr. Beverly Trail, author of Twice-Exceptional Gifted Children: Understanding, Teaching, and Counseling Gifted Students. She was hosted by the our school district’s gifted and talented program, and I learned a lot from her talk.

Twice-Exceptional Gifted Children by Beverly Trail

My daughters were identified early as being gifted. Some might argue that my daughter M also has special needs. In addition to her facial cleft and all the social fallout from looking different, M’s anxiety can sometimes be paralyzing.

Let this be a reminder not to pigeonhole the people you come across in one box or another. People are complex. A teacher friend of mine, Gloria, once told me that her approach to gifted children is to consider theirs to be just another type of special need. The gifted child needs personalized attention and education just like any other special needs child. I could have just kissed her for saying that, but I just hugged her instead.

Do you know what my exceptional, possibly twice exceptional, 7-year-old did at the talk on twice exceptional children, which she attended with me? She went up to Dr. Trail after her talk and asked her why, given that her points were relevant to all students and teachers, only those affiliated with the district’s gifted program were invited. Dr. Trail told her that she’d been specifically invited to speak to this audience, but that she agreed that her content wasn’t just for us. She also told M that her question was a very good one.

Because my child, like yours, is exceptional.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at and Multicultural Mothering.

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