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Raising a 2E Child
Natalie asked me quite awhile ago if I would do this guest post for her. I was honored to share my insight. I am the homeschooling mother of an eight year old who is twice exceptional. She is very gifted and a self taught reader, who has a passion for science and animals. She is also autistic, which has brought many challenges in her life. Behavioral issues, anxieties, dysgraphia, and struggles with social skills. Now that we have a better understanding of the puzzle pieces that make her who she is, we are learning many techniques and ways of helping to meet her desire to learn as well as her weaknesses.
What exactly does "twice exceptional" mean? I think the easiest way to define this is to understand that a child can be both gifted, or very bright, but at the same time he or she can have struggles, learning problems, or behavioral issues. Many children who fall in this category are autistic. Asperger children fit this definition very well. If you have ever watched “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon would be a perfect picture of a twice exceptional adult. While he is very intelligent, we see him move through his days with all sorts of obstacles, OCD, a lack of true understanding of the basic things about life. Now I know his character is a very extreme example of a twice exceptional person but when you really watch him and begin to see his character for who he is supposed to be, you realize that this character has some problems, though he is as smart as they come.
How then do we help a child like this? Their mind spins out of control with such a desire to learn, know everything there is to know about topics that interest them. Their brains do not shut off, leaving them sometimes not able to sleep at night. They may be very strong readers, and bury themselves in every book they can get their hands on, or they might not be able to stay off the computer, researching, coding, playing games or just consumed with how a computer works. At the same time they are having struggles, maybe they can’t write, maybe they struggle in basic math, or lack social skills. They have a real struggle - a very internal struggle that they deal with every day.
The greatest challenge in educating twice exceptional children is to understand that we have to meet both ends of their needs. We have to feed their desire for knowledge, we have to continue to allow them to expand their knowledge. At the same time we can not forget their struggles. We have to work hard on encouraging them to practice and try these harder areas. We may find we are all over the board with curriculum, 6th grade reading and 1st grade math or Kindergarten writing. This why I believe that homeschooling works well for twice exceptional kids - they are unique and they need uniqueness in their environment to meet all their needs.
Social skills are a challenge, all too often these children struggle socially. They are very misunderstood. Just like the gifted child who needs to learn when it is appropriate to share their knowledge, for the child who has difficulties in areas they may be slower to understand how to have appropriate relationships. This creates a lot of anxiety and stress for not only the child but the parent. I think it is important to find smaller groups or a few children who are interested in the same things, this provides an atmosphere of comfort. We like to mirror appropriate behavior, through the way we introduce ourselves to new friends, as well as how we show respect, friendship and interaction.
Living with and teaching a twice exceptional child is not easy. it can be draining at times. You have to make sure that every aspect of their needs are being met. Just remember to meet them where they are, provide stronger material to meet their strengths and plenty of support to help with their difficulties.
My greatest advice is to love them, be patient, be a role model and give them everything they need to grow into the best adult they can be.
Have you had experience with twice exceptional children and what did you learn?
More Resources for Parents of Gifted KidsFrom this blog:
- Dilemma of Gifted Testing
- Book Series About Gifted Children
- Game Recommendations for Brainy Kids
- Should We Accelerate Our Gifted Child?
- Beyond Common Core – Math for Advanced Learners
- Gifted Advocacy for Beginners
- Why Brains Are Not Everything