How do you finish that line from the 1940s Christmas song, “All I want for Christmas is my two ...?” While many of us would say “front teeth,” there are a surprising number who might respond this way: “All I want for Christmas is my two exceptionalities recognized.”
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, you’re probably not alone. Even the term “twice exceptional” is fairly new, dating back to the early 1990s.
According to the nationally-recognized Center for Gifted Education at William and Mary, twice exceptional, or 2e persons, are those “… who demonstrate both superior intellectual ability and specific learning problems.” James Gallagher, a pioneer in the field of giftedness and talent development, described them as “both gifted and having disabilities.” Peak Center adds that those learning problems or disabilities “make it difficult for them to achieve up to their full potential.”
That’s the problem with being 2e: intellectual strengths allow twice-exceptional people to compensate for their learning challenges, and the learning challenges mask the incredible intellectual abilities. The result is that 2e children often are chastised for being lazy, not caring about things enough, or being undisciplined or unmotivated when they’re doing the best they can to figure out how to work through their unrecognized challenges. As a result, these children often feel like failures, think they must be stupid, and even worse, presume that they’re defective and can’t be fixed.
“They tend to be intellectually deep, incredibly creative, emotionally intense, quirky, and when they get their educational needs met, they do really cool things as adults,” Executive Function Coach Seth Perler says of 2e children. “Many of the people who ‘change the world’ were twice-exceptional kids.”
The problem is that if we don’t recognize them as 2e, these children don’t get the educational assistance they need in order to develop their gifts while accommodating their challenges.
There’s so much more to be said on the subject with not enough room here, but I encourage you to do some research on twice-exceptionality. Believe me, someone you know is 2e, and even for 2e adults, just the recognition of the reality is so helpful.
Why is this important? Because if you want to give a truly meaningful and valuable holiday gift this year to someone who is twice-exceptional, give the gift of understanding and respecting them and their significant differences. If you’re an educator, meet their exceptional needs. You’ll never know how much it means to them, but I assure you, it can be life-changing in a very positive way.