THE BLOG

Twice-Exceptional: Is It a Gift?

10/24/2013 12:01 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

"Do you have any idea how smart he really is?" She looked at me with visible frustration when I seemed to discount her words. After all, she was the mother of two highly gifted girls and she knew all the signs.

In the beginning, my partner and I enjoyed hearing these words. Because our son was adopted, we had questions about his development. We had limited answers, so we actively exposed him to music and learning experiences to try and make up for anything that might have been initially lacking.

"There are things that he does that remind me of mine." She looked me in the eye and said, "He can do things that are not typical." My sister encouraged us to get my son tested. We didn't think it was necessary. After all, even if he was bright, what would that change?

As my son grew, he continued to surpass expected milestones. His high vocabulary and impressive early reading skills were obvious strengths. He had an amazing memory and asked inquisitive questions that were unexpected as a toddler. These positives were the things that I shared at parenting meetings or at family gatherings; however, negative characteristics started to overshadow his obvious strengths.

When my son turned four, a quirky toddler had morphed into a demanding dictator. I remember the day that I volunteered in his preschool class and he was upset that I complimented another student; he demanded that I pay attention to only him. When I refused, he announced that he would wet his pants. He stared at me and I watched a wet spot on his pants spread and the urine run down both of his legs and onto the carpet.

When his preschool friend "betrayed him" for playing with another child, he was furious. Once home, he went to the playroom and began writing. The educator in me was thrilled at his ability to express himself this way. He put several letters, each of them sealed and addressed to his classmate, on the counter.

Believing that these messages were friendly, we delivered them to the preschool teacher to give to his friend; we didn't give it a second thought until we received a phone call from the preschool the next day. My son's classmate didn't know how to read so the parents opened and read the messages. They were angered by the words that my son had used to describe their son. Unfortunately, my son's spelling was so clear that the words were easily understood.

When my son attended kindergarten, the real education began. As an elementary teacher, I knew the curriculum and was confident that academically he would succeed; however, his poor social skills nagged at me. He struggled with sharing and didn't take suggestions from others well.

School was frustrating for him. As an early reader and writer, he could already do the assignments and was told to "add details" when his work already surpassed what his classmates were doing. He was told that certain parts of the library were off limits because they were not for primary students. He received more work... but nothing deeper, more complex.

Because school was not a positive place, his behavior declined. He tried any behavior to escape to the principal's office where he played Legos and read his own selected books. No one understood that this only reinforced my son's behavior so that he could escape the boredom of his classroom.

As this was happening at school, he grew angrier and his behavior at home worsened. He had physical tantrums that lasted hours. Everyone was exhausted by the end of the day and weekends were used to recover and prepare for the upcoming stress. Although I had taught large groups of young students for many years, I didn't know how to help my own son or my family.

Soon, we took my sister's advice and sought out the answers to the questions that were growing about my boy.

After a series of doctors and therapists, we found that our son was twice-exceptional. This meant that he was blessed with a very high IQ but cursed with equally extreme low social skills. In addition, he had sensory issues that impacted every part of his day.

Like many, we were unfamiliar with the term "twice-exceptional" and set out on a long journey to learn whatever we could. We learned that many of the characteristics that we were seeing were "classic" to the 2e child.

It has been almost three years since we got many of the answers we needed. With the help of experts, we have learned accommodations that are necessary and continue to seek help.

As a mother, I am so proud of the growth that he has made. As an educator, I know that this type of learner struggles in school. There is so much confusion about a child that is highly-gifted, but not self-motivated. A highly introverted student that is not able to be a leader in the room, despite amazing ideas and a high intellect.

Being a parent continues to teach me that I still have so much to learn!