Twice Exceptional (2e) students are the kids that are intellectually gifted, but have a learning disability or other challenge that affects their ability to progress effectively in a mainstream school environment. Most 2e students are too gifted for traditional special education classes, or excluded from them because their learning disability is not as apparent.
In the typical “teach to the top” American schoolroom the general population is taught to suppress their individuality for the sake of the whole in order to be a good student. Kids are expected to engage in academia by being well-behaved boys and girls; by listening, learning and then leaving to fulfill their academic obligations of homework et al. The twice-exceptional (2e) child, however, inherently has a hard time toeing this line. Even though they may be bright, this oftentimes gets the 2e student pegged as difficult, or learning disabled, and they may find themselves eventually becoming depressed, distracted and displaced from their original love of learning. As an educator myself, I have seen this happen all too often. This is why I chose to open Reid Day School, to give those 2e students a chance to shine on their own accord.
The true definition of learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing, existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. I used to think that I could facilitate learning best by holding high expectations, believing that my students could meet them, and that then they eventually would. Although a good majority of them did, some did not.
This led me to try to understand how those kids who seemed to be doing poorly in this system could best be led to shine. I became convinced that 2e students needed things that so-called “normal” students did not.
Some of these things include:
- Getting to know my students as individuals
- Giving students the benefit of the doubt
- Respecting that there are times when students aren’t completely available to give 100%
- Knowing when they can
- Understanding that behavioral issues mean that there is a discrepancy between what I have asked a student to do and what they are able to do.
- Believing that all students want to do well
- Understanding that they can meet objectives in alternative ways
- Providing explicit expectations and feedback
- Knowing that learning profiles are very complex and having the background and understanding needed to approach them effectively
- Supporting their variable needs through appropriate accommodations and accelerating learning opportunities where they have strengths
- Listening to and supporting their ideas no matter how far-fetched they seem
- Involving students in goal setting, monitoring and reflecting upon their progress so that they can take ownership of their learning.
There is a middle ground but until the educational system at large embraces it, it is important to offer excellence in learning to a niche of those who are twice-exceptional.
By Lisa Reid, Director and Founder of RDS