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Comparing Twice-Exceptional Gifted Students with Other Gifted Students

written by: Mayflor Markusic • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Twice-exceptional students are gifted students who have disabilities. Unlike other gifted students who face challenges, such as low socioeconomic status and a different cultural background, these twice-exceptional students don't display the majority of expected characteristics of giftedness.

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    Gifted Students with Disabilities

    Gifted students are expected to demonstrate exceptional academic performance and to achieve success in their chosen careers. But there are gifted students that fall behind, gifted students that quit school, and students whose giftedness was neither identified nor developed. These students, whose giftedness and talents remain unnoticed, most likely belong to a group of special students that are called twice exceptional. The twice-exceptionality lies in the fact that they are mentally gifted but suffer from a learning disability. The giftedness attempts to compensate for and hide the learning disability. On the other hand, the learning disability prevents full development of the giftedness. As a result, the academic performance of these twice-exceptional gifted students is similar to that of an average student. The key to helping and teaching these gifted students is to identify their giftedness and their learning disability. How can they be identified? One way is to know the characteristics of gifted students with disabilities. Another way is to compare these students with other gifted students.

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    Skills of Gifted Students

    Normally, gifted students are easily identified by their ability to quickly learn skills with little or no repetitive instructions. Teaching gifted students is usually exciting because the keen powers of observation, exceptional verbal skills, and creative problem solving skills. The characteristics of gifted students who come from a culturally different background are essentially similar and could also learn second and third languages. The gifted students who face socio-economic challenges may not possess the expected verbal and reading skills because of the lack of exposure to reading materials. However, given the opportunities, such students can rapidly acquire these basic skills. They also have the tendency to prefer real-life problems. For twice-exceptional students, there is a struggle in learning basic skills because certain areas in cognitive processing may have been disabled. Their oral verbal skills are excellent but they need to work hard to master the written language. They make insightful observations but there are gaps in memory skills.

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    Traits of Gifted Students

    All gifted students are persistent, but when it comes to curiosity and independence, gifted students may exhibit marked differences. For example, some gifted students from a culturally different background may be compelled to curb their curiosity because they’ve been trained to refrain from questioning authority. They are also trained to work cooperatively rather than pursue independent tasks. On the other hand, the gifted students from a low socio-economic background are highly independent and self-sufficient. They may also present a questioning attitude that a teacher may find belligerent or hostile. The gifted students with learning disabilities have the same strong questioning attitude but they are not always independent. To prevent these gifted students from falling behind, the teacher must provide frequent feedback and support, especially in areas where their disabilities interfere with the learning process.

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    Attitudes of Gifted Students

    When it comes to humor and maturity, the gifted students with disabilities depart significantly from their counterparts. The humor of gifted students from a culturally different background is shown by their unusual play of languages. On the other hand, the humor of gifted students from a low socio-economic background can be too self-effacing to the point of making themselves the object of ridicule. Their purpose is to avoid or reduce stressful situations. The twice-exceptional students utilize humor to divert attention from their learning challenges. All gifted students mature earlier than their peers, except for those who have learning disabilities. Such students may use anger, crying, or emotional withdrawal to deal with their learning predicament.

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