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Before looking at this webpage, please take a minute to test your prior knowledge. which of these statements are true? Which are false?

  • Not all gifted students look like gifted students. Unfortunately, students who are not well-behaved, conforming, and dutiful are often not identified as gifted (by their teachers).

  • Teachers of students with gifts and talents may work to create advanced programming that appropriately challenges them.

  • A combination of formal and informal measures is useful in determining if a student is a 2e student or a gifted student who is underachieving.

  • Students with twice-exceptionalities need a nurturing and safe classroom
    environment that supports the development of their potential.

  • Schools and families can collaborate in a number of ways to meet the needs of twice-exceptionalstudents. Families often have insights to share on their child’s strengths, likes and dislikes, creativity, motivation, and attention. They can provide important clues about their child’s passions that can be capitalized upon in determining the most appropriate programming options for their child.

These are all true and illustrate the complexity and opportunities of working with gifted and twice-exceptional students. Source:  The Journal of Special Education Apprenticeship.

Click here to read about the characteristics of twice-exceptional (2e) students. 

Courtesy of Elizabeth Nielsen (UNM) and
Dennis Higgins, 1994

Meet the Students


Meet Isadora, 6th grade

Strengths: math, oral vocabulary, art 

Weaknesses: peer relationships and reading


Isadora is a gifted and talented artist; however, unevenness in academic performance—a discrepancy between Isadora's advanced vocabulary, for example, and her difficulty decoding words while reading, frustrates Isadora and teachers alike. Also, Isadora has difficulty making friends. On top of that, she feels under-challenged in mathematics, one of Isadora's gifted areas. 

How could Isadora be accommodated in a strengths-based classroom? 


To explore accommodations, I would go to my handy-dandy Colorado Department of Education Twice-Exceptional Resource book link. Look especially at pages 40-47.    


Here are some strengths-based accommodations I recommend:  

1. Involve Isadora in a debate club. Her advanced vocabularly skills would serve her well, and involvement in a club might help her build relationships with other students.  

2. Given Isadora's artistic abilities,offer Isadora the opportunity to create story boards or other graphic depictions when completing classroom work. 

3.  In mathematics, provide Isadora with hands-on experiential learning opportunities that allow her to demonstrate mastery of concepts and eliminate unnecessary drill.  





According to the National Associated for Gifted Children (NAGC), students with gifts and talents:

  • Come from all racial, ethnic, and cultural populations, as well as all economic strata.

  • Require sufficient access to appropriate learning opportunities to realize their potential.

  • Can have learning and processing disorders that require specialized intervention and accommodation.

  • Need support and guidance to develop socially and emotionally as well as in their areas of talent


Some gifted students are "twice-exceptional." That means they demonstrate the potential for high achievement or creativity in certain academic areas or the performing art--typical gifted student tendencies--BUT also manifest one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria.


For example, a twice-exceptional student might score high in oral vocabulary but have difficulty decoding words while reading. Or a student might be a whiz at math but have difficulty explaining how she got the answers; this would probably be a processing disorder. Other processing disorders involve completing classwork in the allocated time. A common accommodation in this case is to allow extra time. In a strengths-based approach. For example, we might allow a student strong in oral vocabulary to complete the assignment orally.  A student with a strong technical background but weak in writing might respond to a writing assignment via FlipGrid. In these cases, the outcome is the same.  

A strengths-based approach to working with gifted and twice-exceptional students considers the whole child. It recognizes the child, first, as a gifted individual who deserves opportunities to develop her talents and interests, and second, as a student who deserves the appropriate support in areas of challenges so that he can fully demonstrate those talents and interests. It seems counter-intuitive, so educators often tend to emphasize students' weaknesses.  Doesn't it make more sense to build on strengths? 

To me, an obvious benefit of strengths-based programming is that working from strengths builds students’ self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy, thus contributing to social and emotional growth, which is an important component of academic growth, as well. 

Learn the Language


Meet Enrique, 8th grade

Strengths: musical genius, high standardized academic test scores in all areas (95th percentile)

Weaknesses:  low classroom performance (Cs), low self image 

Enrique plays four instruments and has been writing music since he was in the fourth grade. His only motivation for staying in school is to attend out-of-school music classes, which his parents will not let him attend unless he does well in school. Unfortunately, Enrique has slow processing speed and difficulty finishing classroom.  Consequently, he feels "stupid," a label he imposes on himself.  

How could Enrique be accommodated in a strengths-based classroom?  

To explore accommodations, I would go to my handy-dandy Colorado Department of Education Twice-Exceptional Resource book link. Look especially at pages 40-47.    


Here are some accommodations I recommend:  

1. Introduce the "most difficult first" strategy" This would allow Enrique to demonstrate his understanding in a quicker fashion. If he can do the most difficult first, he can skip the rest.  

2. Celebrate Enrique's efforts as opposed to his outcome. This will build his sense of self. 

3.  Coach Enrique in the use of mnemonics. Mnemonics could possibly bypass Enrique’s processing disabilities. Also, the rhythm of mnemonics may appeal to Enrique's musical sensibilities.  

ten tips.jpg

Gifted- and special-education teachers, can create profiles for your 2-e learners and brainstorm and research accommodations that will improve learning based on their profiles. That is a big part of my role. 

Polk Middle School Parents, feel free to contact me at

Additional References

A Guidebook for Twice Exceptional Students

An Operational definition of twice-exceptional learners: implications and applications" by S. M. Reis, S. M. Baum, & E. Burke. Published by "National Association for Gifted Children, 2014.    

Central New Mexico College, SPED 2233

Colorado Department of Education

Davidson Institute


Winebrenner Susan 

Open Books
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