Have you ever felt like there was a disconnect between what your child was doing and what you knew they were capable of? So maybe they were reading by the age of 3 but now at 7 they can’t even write their name legibly. Or they can reproduce something they see or hear nearly to perfection but they can’t seem to follow directions? The combinations are endless.
Most children have some form of “asynchronous development”--which means that different parts of their brain (and the corresponding skills) develop at different times. An educator in the documentary “2e: Twice Exceptional” describes it as “the 5-10-15 rule” where a child may be 10 chronologically, 15 in some abilities and 5 in other abilities or lagging emotionally or socially.
Being “twice exceptional” or “2e” is an exaggeration of this naturally occurring situation. In the case of a 2e child, they may be 10 chronologically, 30 in their ability to learn and understand in some domains, and have dysgraphia--which is a neurological problem that inhibits their ability to write, placing them significantly behind their age-peers in this specific domain. Or perhaps they have some other disability or significant challenge. Slow working memory, visual processing problems, sensory integration, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder… the list of challenges is long and the symptoms of issues overlap formal labels.
Children who are so advanced in some domains are presumed to be capable of managing in all domains of their life. In fact, many manage to find coping mechanisms to compensate for their challenges. They may not even realize they’re doing it--it’s just how they figure out how to navigate life the way they see others moving through the world. For some, they are completely unable to find coping mechanisms and move through the world with ease. Often, the adults around them don’t understand. Children are naturally unable to express their confusion about their inability to figure the world out. Let’s be honest: adults aren’t always great at articulating their specific challenges, either! The frustration of the situation and the inability to articulate it or self-advocate can sometimes exacerbate the problem--creating emotional issues that are secondary (they only exist because of the frustration).
Getting help for these children can be a challenge. For one, advanced students capture content quickly and “check out”. That can manifest in behavior problems or simply not tuning in to hear something important that comes up during the teacher’s process of instructing the students that are still working. Other issues are that gifted students will often opt out of work that is “too simple to matter” or too boring. Parents will often say that students need to learn that not everything is going to be fun in life, but when brain development continues through the mid-20s, that’s a hard thing for students to see--even at high school level.
Gifted students also do not always perform as well on tests--which are targeting a different level of thinker. When a 2nd grader could make a case for two test answers being correct on a standardized test because they are thinking like a teenager and the test creators never accounted for that level of thought and logic--and the student picks the “wrong” answer multiple times on a test, their score isn’t going to reflect their abilities.
Schools often see either these students advances and assume they will “figure it out” or they only see the challenges and try to move them into behavior or special education programs with no regard for the need to address cognitive or academic abilities. Neither of these situations is addressing the whole child and this affects their overall growth, development, well-being and long-term productivity and happiness. Children whose challenges are not addressed are building a shaky foundation for the future. Children whose strengths are not grown and challenged are not learning how to persevere to learn and grow because things are always easy--which could later turn into self-worth issues when they face a learning challenge that doesn’t come easy and are completely unequipped to face that with no experience, tools or resources to do so.
Finding environments and learning leaders to help these children become their best selves means parents need to become advocates for their children in a culture where challenges are the focus of interventions in the education community and students who are performing at the expected level of their grade are ignored in terms of being challenged. Being challenged appropriately is seen as “gravy”. In the school’s eyes, they’ve done their job getting the student to the expected norms.
It can be difficult. Parents and students need to find their people in this world and get the information they need to help move forward together. It can be chaotic and frustrating for all involved. Take a breath, refocus on loving one another first, and connect with community. After that, the rest becomes more manageable.
Click here to learn about our Free Parent Education Workshops. December 15, 2019 is our next workshop, and it will cover legal rights and services for gifted and 2e. Click here for more in-depth information and resources, including local and national organizations to support your family through identification, learning, and building community.
Come to our Gifted Resource Fair on January 12, 2020 to have an immersive experience and learn about all the local support there is for your family. There will be several useful workshops on topics such as dyslexia and testing/identification.
MAGE has just held a Free Parent Education Workshop in Chicago, in partnership with CGCC. For those who couldn't make it, we thought we would summarize some thoughts and resources shared at the workshop.
Helpful books - PLEASE USE THIS LINK FOR THEM, SO THAT CGCC COULD GET CREDIT THROUGH AMAZON SMILE, as a thank you for this workshop and for their work in the gifted community so that they can continue doing it:
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by Webb?
Mellow Out, They Say. If I Only Could: Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright by Piechowski
The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide
The Secret Life of the Dyslexic Child by Robert Frank
Upside-down Brilliance by Linda Silverman
Understanding Creativity by Jane Piirto (yup, double i)
If This Is a Gift, Can I Send It Back? by Jen Merrill
Organizations specifically helpful for Dyslexia:
Local resource: Everyone Reading Illinois
International Dyslexia Association: https://dyslexiaida.org/idas-free-webinar-series/
The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity https://dyslexia.yale.edu/
Dyslexic Advantage https://www.dyslexicadvantage.org/