In school settings, “exceptional” can have two very different meanings. On one hand, an “exceptional student” might refer to a child who has above average abilities or demonstrates a mastery of academic material beyond what is expected for their age. On the other hand, “exceptional” is also used in academic settings to refer to children who have a learning disability or other challenge which requires special consideration for academic success. Typically we think of children as falling into either one or these two categories or somewhere in between. However, there’s another group of children that actually fit both definitions of “exceptional” and are referred to as “twice-exceptional.”
A twice-exceptional child demonstrates above average abilities in at least one area. For example, their math skills might be far beyond what would be expected for a child their age, they may have a highly developed vocabulary or reading level, or might just be generally advanced academically. However, children who are exceptionally strong academically often have other challenges that accompany these strengths. There are as many examples as there are children—social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, language learning deficits, dyslexia, disorders on the autistic spectrum, and so on.
Twice exceptional children can be difficult to identify. Their strengths may help them compensate for their weaknesses, and their weaknesses might downplay their strengths. However, it’s essential that twice exceptional children get the support they need to succeed. Because many of the deficits commonly associated with twice exceptionality affect language and communication, a speech-language pathologist is often a critical element in a twice exceptional child’s support team. If a child’s challenges are rooted in language (e.g., processing spoken language, poor reading skills, difficulty with verbal reasoning, etc.) a speech therapist can help identify which aspects are the most problematic, and tailor therapy to target these areas. If language is one of the child’s strengths, they may still have trouble with the social “rules” of language, a common problem for children on the autistic spectrum. Whatever the child’s particular profile, the speech-language pathologist will help the child develop their strengths in a way that allows them to bolster or compensate for their challenges.
Do you have a twice exceptional child? Share your story in the comments section below!
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