There’s this term that I have kind of known the meaning of but not really thought about. One of those terms you hear and wonder what on earth it means. One of those terms that you don’t really worry about if it doesn’t impact you directly. This term has not been one that has been of impact to me throughout my life. The term has only really been in existence about the same amount of time as I have been alive.

The term I refer to is “twice exceptional” or “2E” as it is often abbreviated to. At first glance it is easy to wonder what on earth does that mean. A bit of reflection and you can kind of get your head around an idea of what it might mean. Twice exceptional, well a gifted child is often referred to as exceptional. A person of high IQ, a candidate mind-767592_1920for MENSA membership.

But twice exceptional, that has to get you thinking, what is that. It is where a person has that giftedness but is coupled with some disability as well. So the first exceptional is the giftedness or high IQ and the second, then, is a diagnosed disability, such as Autism, ADHD, OCD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder to name a few.

A definition:

Dual Exceptionality or twice exceptional is the term used to describe a child who is not only exceptionally able but has additional learning difficulties or a disability which can make it difficult to identify their high lintellectual ability.

As I said this is not a thing I have spent a great deal of time thinking about, but it has sparked my interest a little just recently and as I have read I find myself wondering about it all, wondering how and if I might fit in that realm of being.

My childhood education was if nothing else quite disrupted. I attended four primary schools between years K-6 and three high schools from 7-12 with a 9 month interlude after beginning year 11 leaving and returning to give it another go the next year.

My family moved many times. I lived in many many homes, in many locations. I was the proverbial new kid on the block. Add to that being an undiagnosed autistic who was considered a naughty, difficult child by my parents who considered that a good hiding delivered with a good measure of rage was the answer to any problem, followed by the banishing to the bedroom for hours upon hours on end.

target-887802_1920Home life was not a happy place with parents and siblings that did not understand me and harshly treated me. It was not a safe and supportive place in any way shape or form.

These factors coupled together to create a childhood and adolescence where I for all intents and purposes was the perfect target to the bullies in the neighbourhood and the school. I kind of walked those years in somewhat of a daze.

On top of this was the underlying knowledge that I was somehow different to everyone else. I was different and I knew it, but didn’t know that that was an okay way to be, but lived with this sense of being somehow broken and wrong.

Little wonder I did not perform at school with any real academic success.

And yet. There were all these little moments that occurred…

In the fourth grade in the principals office as she said to my parents that I was very much of above average intelligence..

In year seven, at the half-yearly examinations, after doing no homework or assignment work throughout the semester and the teacher handing back the exams in the highest to lowest score order and discovering my result in the top few to be handed back.

In year eight being dumped up from one class level in Maths to the one above.

The odd teacher saying the odd little comment about me being smart, clever and intelligent.

And yet, never was it identified any further than this.

A prevailing memory of report cards throughout my education was a cliché’ comment from teachers effectively stating that Richard is not working to his potential.

I always thought this a horrible thing to have said. To this day I am not sure if these teachers were trying to make a point of letting me know that I was actually a clever young man.

Unfortunately I was so used to being labelled as the dumb one, the stupid one, the naughty one, the difficult one, the useless one, the failure and the never amount to anything one that I was only ever able to hear it as negative, and certainly my parents used it as a weapon against me to affirm their negative labels of me.

The internal tapes that inform my mind were well set with negative messages from an early time.

And then…

At the age of 26 I for some reason did a self-administered IQ test on a computer. To brain-20424_640my great surprise I scored with quite a high IQ score. I don’t recall the exact number but it was somewhere around the 140 number. Obviously not an official score but it certainly got me thinking.

Shortly after in an informal chat with a college lecturer, the lecturer said to me, something along the lines of, but Richard, you have a great mind, and I love to hear your thoughts.

These little moments were the catalyst to a beginning, a beginning of discovering that I wasn’t the dummy I always believed I was but was actually quite smart.

Identifying twice exceptionality[edit]

Children identified as twice exceptional can exhibit a wide range of traits, many of them typical of gifted children. Like those who are gifted, 2e children often show greater asynchrony than average children (that is, a larger gap between their mental age and physical age). They are often intense and highly sensitive to their emotional and physical environments. The following chart summarizes characteristics commonly seen in this population.

Typical characteristics of twice-exceptional children[10]
Strengths Deficits
  • Superior vocabulary
  • Poor social skills
  • Advanced ideas and opinions
  • High sensitivity to criticism
  • High levels of creativity and problem-solving ability
  • Lack of organizational and study skills
  • Extremely curious, imaginative, and inquisitive
  • Discrepant verbal and performance skills
  • Wide range of interests not related to school
  • Poor performance in one or more academic areas
  • Penetrating insight into complex issues
  • Difficulty with written expression
  • Specific talent or consuming interest area
  • Stubborn, opinionated demeanor
  • Sophisticated sense of humor
  • High impulsivity

The above is from the Wikipedia article on twice exceptionality here

When I read through that table I tick virtually all of them. I am left then to wonder about this whole idea of twice exceptionality. And to ask myself I wonder if…

I wonder if I should have been identified as 2E.

I wonder if I really fit the category of 2E

I wonder what might have been different if someone had identified me and given me some support.

I wonder how things might be different. Would I have been able to have gone more successfully through school.

I wonder if my social and friendships may have been better.

I wonder if my vocational life would have been more successful.

I wonder if I would have been able to discover my strengths earlier in life.

I wonder if I would have found a career I could settle in.

I wonder if it would have made any difference at all.

I wonder…

I wonder what you think….