Understanding Twice Exceptional Kids

How to identify a gifted child who also has learning challenges


Published:

Photo courtesy of FamVeld/Shutterstock.com

The term Twice Exceptional, or 2e, is used to describe complex learners who are both academically gifted and, at the same, time challenged in some way. These unique and complicated combinations often make school and life activities more difficult for them to manage.

According to Dr. Mary Ruth Coleman, Senior Scientist Emeritus at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, twice exceptional individuals typically present themselves in three different ways:

1. An individual who is obviously gifted, be it academically, artistically or kinesthetically, but who also struggles with memory, organization, learning to read or even just sitting still in his or her chair. Parents and teachers often recognize their strengths but don’t understand that their challenges are caused not by choice, but by an underlying physiological or neurological issue. These learners are often mislabeled as lazy by parents and teachers.

2. An individual with an obvious disability, be it neurological or physical, who also has exceptional strengths, gifts or talents. These children can be challenged by social interaction, completing tasks or even communicating effectively. Their frustrations can lead to temper tantrums, withdrawal or aggression. In these instances, we may miss seeing their strengths because we are distracted by their behavior.

3. An individual whose strengths are masked by the disability and challenges or, the reverse: The challenges in the disability areas are propped up by the strengths. This way is the hardest to identify. The truth of the situation is masked and they learn how to just get by. They might present as average “C” students but are often battling a deep inner struggle because while they have strengths, they don’t understand why some activities are so challenging for them. This can lead to insecurity and low self-esteem, as they feel like no matter what they do, or how hard they try, they are going to fail. These children often slip through the cracks, unidentified and unsupported.

Coleman describes 2e children as snowflakes. “They are all unique and their tensile strength is quite strong. However, when pushed too far they don’t break, they shatter.”

This can take the form of tantrums, meltdowns, rage, despair or self-loathing. It is extremely challenging for these children to recover from such situations, Coleman says, which is why it is important to identify them and provide the support they need to succeed. 


Identifying 2e Children

Coleman says it’s very difficult to obtain an accurate number of how many children are twice exceptional. Within the disability population, at least 3% also have strength areas that qualify them as twice exceptional. Accurate identification of double-masked kids would make the number higher.

Twice exceptional expression exists on a continuum. Many parents will recognize aspects of it in a child children, but that doesn’t mean he is twice exceptional. For this to be the case, Coleman says, the presentation must be extreme and sustainable — obvious, asynchronistic strengths and challenges that don’t go away.

Identification usually starts at school. If you detect twice exceptional characteristics in your child, begin a conversation with her classroom teacher. Bring documentation with clear talking points regarding your concerns. What you see at home may not be what the teachers are seeing at school. For example, a child might seem fine at school, but when challenged at home, she may have a complete meltdown.

Teachers can try intervention techniques and provide support at school. If that doesn’t solve the problem, your next step should be to request a formal assessment. This can be done at the school or by a private child psychologist who has experience working with twice exceptional children. Once the assessment is done, decisions must be made about what to do next. This often includes setting up an individualized education program or a 504 plan with your child’s school. 


Tips for Parents

Coleman offers the following tips to help parents who are raising twice exceptional children.

1. First and foremost she believes “a parent’s primary job is to provide unconditional love for their child. Simply love them as they are and don’t try to fix them. They aren’t broken,” she says.  

2. Because there is often a genetic component, one or more of a twice exceptional child’s parents might struggle with the same issues, and may carry a sense of guilt or shame for giving this to his or her child. It’s important to work through these feelings.

3. Provide opportunities for your child to shine by supporting his interests. If your child loves animals, go to a shelter or rescue. Find places in the community where your child can be engaged, and nurture the area where he shines.

4. Tied to that is to help introduce that area of interest into your child’s school setting. Work with her teacher to organize a field trip or special assignment where your child can be the expert. Allow the other children and teachers to see your child shine. 

5. Provide academic support, if needed, be it through tutoring or remediation. However, Coleman cautions that parents should not fulfill the role of tutor. Inevitably, working with twice exceptional children can be frustrating. She also cautions that while remediation helps fill gaps, it must be done with laser focus only in the areas the child needs. Remediation should be handled in a more formal school or professional tutoring setting.

6. Parents must advocate for and help their child advocate for an appropriate amount of homework and daily work. Ask teachers to be very clear about what they want your child to accomplish. Sometimes less is more for twice exceptional kids. Busy work for them can be exhausting. 

7. Make sure they are in a classroom where the teacher and teaching style fits. When children and teachers aren’t getting along, it can be hugely problematic. Twice exceptional children need classrooms with flexibility and that offer room for self-expression. They need to feel nurtured. The environment should provide structure and predictability, and the content should be organized for learning. 


Long-Term Benefits of Being Twice Exceptional

The good news is, successful twice exceptional children develop:

  1. A clear and honest self-assessment and self-awareness of who they are and what they are capable of.
  2. A deeper sense of tenacity. They know they must work harder because they have always had to. They know how to get a job done and how to overcome challenges. They have strong coping and problem-solving strategies. 
  3. A deep sense of empathy for others who struggle and for people who don’t quite fit in. 

All of these are win-win-wins in the real world. 


 Maureen Churchill lives in Durham with her husband and son. She blogs at carolinaparent/com/cp/blogs/main/searching-for-balance.

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Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Cost: Free

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Cost: 20

Where:
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5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
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Cost: $15-$35

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2080 E Williams St
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Cost: 20

Where:
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Cost: Free

Where:
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5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15-$35

Where:
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Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
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Cost: $70/month

Where:
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
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Sponsor: USNWC
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120 Country Club Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Show More...
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Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
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View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

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Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

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Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

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Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

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Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
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Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
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More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.