Twice Exceptional Students: How Speech Therapy Can Help

Last week we discussed “twice exceptional” students, children who are intellectually gifted, but also have one or more disabilities. Twice exceptional students face unique challenges in the classroom in that their strengths are often masked by their weaknesses, so their academic performance may not accurately reflect their intellectual capability. In order to perform to their potential, it is vital that twice exceptional children receive the right support to develop their strengths and compensate for their relative weaknesses in the classroom. Because many of the deficits commonly associated with twice exceptionality affect language and communication skills, a speech-language pathologist is often a critical element in a twice exceptional child’s support team.

Speech-language pathologists can help twice exceptional children in several ways. In many cases, language may be the child’s area of deficit, with the ability to excel in other intellectual areas. While language may not be the goal of all academic subjects, it is almost always required to access the material, and a twice exceptional student with a linguistic deficit may find that their grades suffer in their area of strength because of this. For example, although a child may have a natural aptitude for math, the inability to read instructions effectively, or organize the language in a word problem can significantly affect their performance. Likewise, if a child has difficulty processing spoken language, they may have difficulty interpreting and organizing language that they hear. This can affect the ability to understand lectures given in class or even lengthy or multi-step directions for subjects in which they would otherwise excel. In these cases, the speech-language pathologist will assess the child to determine which areas of language are most affected, and then tailor therapy to target these areas. The speech-language pathologist will also take into account the child’s strengths, and analyze how these can be used on a day-to-day basis to support their language development.

In some cases, a twice exceptional child may have relatively strong linguistic skills, but demonstrate difficulties in using language for social or academic purposes. This is often seen in children with Asperger syndrome; while their vocabulary and language use may be significantly advanced for their age, the inherent social “rules” of language (e.g. how close to stand to someone in a conversation, turn-taking, and topical transitions) can be problematic. Often, this can result in social isolation and anxiety at school. It can be difficult for others to understand why a child may have difficulty with these skills, as they come naturally to most children. In speech therapy, the speech-language pathologist can help break these general social rules down into finite parts and use the child’s strengths to make them more easily accessible.

If you know a child who qualifies as twice exceptional, don’t put off getting appropriate support! While the child may be functioning in school, without the appropriate services, they may be significantly limiting their true academic potential.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty with speech, language, or swallowing, contact Speech Associates of New York today to find a professional speech-language pathologist who can help you or your loved one communicate to the fullest. Remember, early intervention is the key to maintaining and developing strong communication skills. Call us today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at

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