Back-to-School Tips for 2e Students
What is a 2e student? Twice-exceptional children have an exceptionally high intellectual ability in one area or another alongside a learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, auditory processing disorder, and/or social/emotional challenges that impact their ability to effectively progress in typical or remedial settings.
Many people do not realize that giftedness, or, exceptionally high intellect can exist alongside a deficit. In fact, more than 15% of individuals with exceptional intelligence have a learning disability that impacts their ability to progress effectively. Many twice-exceptional children are misdiagnosed with labels such as Autism and ADHD. While many twice-exceptional children may have these challenges, a good majority do not. Often, 2e children are able to mask their challenges and so their difficulties are subtle and often overlooked until school and life demands become more complex.
What this can look like is, a very clearly bright student who cannot produce written work and/or read well, a gifted child who continually gets into trouble because they cannot keep their hands to themselves or interrupts class discussions, or intellectually advanced children who experience extreme school anxiety and/or difficulty in social situations.
What is the biggest challenge for 2e students?
The biggest challenge for 2e students is two-fold. This includes the way that they are perceived by others, and the way that they perceive themselves.
It is difficult for educators and even therapists and doctors to recognize that a gift and a deficit can coexist. The best explanation I’ve heard regarding this was from SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) which described the fact that neuropsychologists can more easily absorb the idea of twice exceptionality because they work frequently with people who are brilliant, but acquire deficits as a result of injuries. They are able to understand that “ability and inability can sit side-by-side.” To them, it is logical that a gifted child can have a variance in their makeup that includes challenges like dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing issues, etc.
What most people see is a child who displays intelligence alongside a lack of work production, or misbehavior. The discrepancy is misleading, and frequently results in lowered standards and the assumption that these children are lazy, defiant or behavior problems. A lack of awareness of twice-exceptionality and the tendency to rush to a label stop people from looking further into what may be at the root of the difficulties that these children are experiencing.
One of the biggest challenges that families of 2e children face is the fact that student strengths will compensate enough that they mask challenges, making it seem like the child is doing “fine” or not failing enough for support. Meanwhile, the challenges that 2e students are dealing with become compounded over time. From a personal standpoint, 2e children tend to be more emotionally intense and their uneven development can cause extreme confusion, anxiety and frustration. They themselves do not understand their limitations, and they frequently experience getting into trouble or being described as working below their ability when, in fact, they have not developed the self-regulation or self-awareness necessary to cope with the difficulties they are experiencing. When a cycle of this type of feedback that they are underperforming, or a problem comes into play, children begin to accept that identity and we can see a pattern of low self-esteem and actual underachievement and misbehavior develop. Over time, negative coping strategies and family issues can arise and, the trajectory can turn from one with great possibilities to one that is challenging and potentially grim.
What are the best educational options for 2e students?
The most important thing that families and schools can do for twice-exceptional students is believe in them, understand that they want to learn and be successful, and gain a full understanding of their learning profile so that they can specifically identify their strengths and the challenges that are impacting their progress. Programs that focus on individualized instruction that is strength and interest based are the best option for 2e students. It is essential that they experience success with their strengths as they work to overcome or develop strategies toward their learning challenges. The other essential piece is that the educational setting should not only support academic progress but also social and emotional progress. A whole child approach that integrates family, academic, social, physical and emotional well being is very important for 2e children. While there are many wonderful school programs out there, both public and private, sadly, there are few that provide this comprehensive approach.
What tips do you have for parents of 2e students during the back-to-school season?
There are helpful ways that parents can prep their children for an easier transition by following some of the tips in our checklist below:
Visit your child’s school if possible and do a “walk through” of what to expect during the course of the day with your child.
Talk through how it is going to be to meet new friends on the first day of school. If appropriate, role-play some scenarios and think ahead about some conversation starters that your child might use.
Create a fun, casual “vision board” with your child. Have them think about the (achievable) things that they would like to see happen for themselves during the course of the school year.
Talk with your child and create a structured weekly routine and set of expectations together. Maintain consistency with this routine and with expectations.
Discuss scenarios that may come up at school and ways in which they can respond to them. For example, if a child has trouble sitting still or understanding directions, encourage them to self-advocate by asking to take a movement break or letting the teacher know that they do not understand what is expected of them. If they become easily frustrated, talk through ways in which they can communicate their feelings calmly in order to get their needs met.
Make sure that you are punctual each morning when delivering your child to school (arriving late really stresses them out all day long).
If your child likes to listen to music to focus, help them preload music playlists onto their smartphones and provide a headset that is a good fit.
Get your child into a consistent bedtime routine before the start of the year.
Practice smart sleep hygiene so that students are rested and ready to go in the morning.
Discontinue technology use at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Practice positive thinking by listing three things that you are looking forward to on the way to school with your child.
Consider contacting an educational psychologist or educational therapist who can prepare a list of specific instructional suggestions that are tailored to your child’s learning style and will help support their success in the classroom.
Prepare a letter for your child’s teacher. Express your hope to team with them to help your child have a great school year. Provide suggestions for things they can do to help your child have a successful start to the year (you will be surprised how many are grateful to receive this). Ask your child what they would like their teacher to know about them.
If your child has trouble focusing suggest they not be seated in the front row but in the second row or another seat where they cannot only see the teacher, but other students as well. It is helpful for them to be able to look to their peers for visual cues if they’ve missed something due to lack of engagement.
If writing or reading are challenging for your child, find out if they can use accommodative technology such as voice to text and audio versions of books. It is helpful to point out that a key component of learning is making information accessible for the students. Separate reading and writing instruction from content area progress if it is presenting obstacles.
Holding a Doctorate in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a secondary emphasis in Educational Psychology and a Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a secondary emphasis in Gifted Education, Reid has spent over a decade in the K-12 teaching system. Prior to founding RDS, she served as a teacher and an administrator in accelerated school programs and was a learning specialist for 5th/6th grade twice exceptional students at Los Angeles’ Bridges Academy.
Throughout her teaching career, Reid consistently noticed a relationship between behavioral challenges, underachievement and displayed higher level thinking ability. Her heart went out to obviously bright children who found themselves in trouble or completely misunderstood. She was further disheartened by a drastic lack of communication between the determinations of professionals and the follow up that occurs with teachers and therapists. Time and time again, she encountered mentally, physically and fiscally worn out parents with children whose needs were not being met.
Reid was determined to create a solution for families in Orange County by starting her own day school and resource center that would utilize a true “treatment alliance” approach. Her dream was to offer access to a child’s full, individualized learning team all in one place at an affordable cost. In Spring 2015 Reid Day School was born.
Additionally, Reid is a SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator, an Associate Therapist with the Association of Educational Therapists, holds a California State Teaching Certification and is a Certified “Critical Friends Group” Counselor. She has also won numerous awards including a 2015 Nomination for the SENG Honor Roll of Outstanding Educators, a 2009 Rancho Solano Private School Excellence in Education Award, a 2008 Xavier College Preparatory Golden Gator Award for Excellence in Teaching, a 2008 Meritas Lead Teacher honor.
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