Synopsis & Links
Twice exceptional refers to people who are both gifted and with a disability of some kind. Is this you? Even if you don’t have a diagnosis, what if giftedness was its own kind of neurodivergence?
- r/Gifted: https://www.reddit.com/r/Gifted/
- Gro-Gifted: Giftedness research
- Misperceptions about Giftedness
- Learning disabilities in adolescents with high IQ scores. H C Faigel. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1983 Mar;4(1):11-5.
- Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children Updated: Jan 10, 2019 By James T. Webb, Edward R. Amend, Nadia E. Webb, Jean Goerss, Paul Beljan, & F. Richard Olenchak.
- Innate Talents: Reality or Myth?: M J Howe, J W Davidson, J A Sloboda. Behav Brain Sci. 1998 Jun; 21(3):399-407; discussion 407-42.
- Domestic Blisters on TikTok
- The Mini ADHD Coach on Instagram
Topic: Twice exceptional - what if there’s more overlap between giftedness and disability than we thought?
2E or twice exceptional refers to kids who are both gifted and disabled in some way.
I offer the possibility that for gifted kids, being neurodivergent is not the exception, but the rule, and that giftedness as a trait might actually be a manifestation of its own neurodivergence.
What we can do about it:
- Research the claim that giftedness is neurodivergence and what support needs gifted kids have
- Restructure education to offer more support to non-gifted kids in academics, and more support to gifted kids in social and life skills
- Develop our own systems and structures to fill in the gaps we each have individually. Tune in in 2 weeks to hear more about that.
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Kawai Kitsune by Kevin MacLeod
About the Ex-Gifted Podcast:
If you are a former gifted kid who grew up to struggle with basic adulting, then you need the Ex-Gifted podcast.
Host Ren Eliza talks about gifted kid burnout, and the damage that lasts long into adulthood. Damage like battered self esteem, decimated internal motivation, and a continued failure to live up to expectations even while we were placed on pedestals and alienated from our peers.
Ex-Gifted will cover failure, procrastination, imposter syndrome, and chronic anxiety and depression, and a whole lot more.
Each episode also offers suggestions to deal with your executive dysfunction in adulthood so you can rebuild the systems that allowed you to shine so brightly in childhood.
We’re making exceptional children into functional adults.
If you are not once, but twice exceptional, then this is the show for you. Welcome to Ex-Gifted.
Hi friends, I’m your host Ren Eliza and this is the Ex-Gifted podcast. Go ahead and fasten your seatbelts for the ride today. Before we begin, I want to point you to the sources and citations I have in the show notes – but at the same time I should make it clear that the overall premise of this episode is based on my own theories which haven’t been studied in a clear and controlled way. Hmm wonder why that is – just kidding, I don’t wonder and we’ll get to that in a minute.
Okay first off – what does twice exceptional even mean? Twice exceptional or 2E refers to gifted children who also have a disability – most commonly a learning disability or something that interferes with their ability to succeed in school, such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism, OCD, to name just a few. The term started gaining traction in the 1990s, but was still fairly uncommon until the turn of the millennia.
The thing is, diagnosing autism, adhd, or learning disabilities can be very tricky in gifted individuals who have a high enough intellect to offset the struggles they face.
So it’s great that we’re finally starting to actually pay attention to the needs of these students, especially since the idea that a child can be intellectually gifted while also having struggles beyond what their peers face has been around for 50 years.
But 2E education would have been much more useful in the 90s when it was first being developed so we could have noticed just how many of the children in the gifted program were having these struggles and facing burnout.
It takes so long for these concepts to really take root because a lot of times our internal struggles are not really the priority for teachers or researchers until they are externalized to an extent that they make other people uncomfortable. So especially if you have something like inattentive ADHD, you might sit there and stare out the window or doodle or even fully fall asleep in class- that was always my signature move. But then when you get called back to earth and asked a question that you can immediately answer, it’s assumed that nothing is wrong. Because you’re not actually inconveniencing them and you appear to be learning the material. Who cares that you can’t pay attention for 15 minutes? That surely won’t affect you in the future, right?
Now, quick note here – I know that a lot of people with ADHD use things doodling as a way to hold their focus and that’s great! The point isn’t that you shouldn’t be doodling, but just that you have a constant need to make accommodations for your own abysmal attention span or working memory then that should be a red flag to your teachers that something else might be going on and they should look into all the other challenges you have so you can get some actual help.
But the focus is on solving externalized issues like the kids that can’t stay in their seats, or who have loud or distracting stims, or those with oppositional defiant disorder – the things that affect the adults around them. Gifted kids who grown up and have a problem functioning in the real world aren’t a problem for anyone really except ourselves.
So that means we shouldn’t count on ever seeing this research unless some of those gifted kids become adults who have a passion for looking into this concept a little more, and that they manage to coordinate and carry out that research without facing burnout themselves. I know there are some of y’all out there doing better than I did. I believe in you! Hire a housekeeper and make it through grad school.
But grad school itself hit all those weak points for me. I had no guidance or guidelines – it was an open sandbox. Some people excel with all that freedom, but having never learned how to create my own structure and boundaries, I floundered, and I know I’m not the only one.
Okay, so, now that 2E is finally being acknowledged, and we know that a kid can be extremely smart and quick witted and that their problem might not actually be that they just won’t apply themselves, the term is already kind of outdated. Because it relies on the assumption that 2E is the exception, and that in order to qualify a gifted student must incidentally have a disability.
But what if so-called giftedness is just one symptom of a neurodivergence in and of itself? That’s my theory, and I will say that although I came into this idea independently, that once I started looking into it I found a lot of people theorizing exactly the same thing. As already noted, there has not been controlled research being done on the topic – at least not that I have found, so if you have sources hit me up and I’ll gladly do a followup.
That would mean that 2E isn’t even the exception, and that it isn’t somehow coincidental, but is actually the standard. Now, it might occur to some people that neurodivergence doesn’t necessarily mean disability and I think that’s a good point. Except that under the social model of disability, essentially all of us Ex-Gifted types would qualify. We are able to thrive under the right conditions, but the real world does not meet those conditions and so we sometimes struggle to just survive.
This would mean that gifted programs based on academic acceleration for the students, with no attention paid to social or executive function deficits are not only not helping, but are actively hurting gifted students. In fact gifted programs like the one I was in – focused on making sure the smart kids are intellectually stimulated – are failing everyone. We’ve already seen that with the right support, even kids who don’t test as gifted are able to excel academically as well as gifted kids, so we are failing them when we single out the gifted kids for advancement. And it’s is failing us by making us into show ponies to be on display for our academic success while doing nothing to actually prepare us for what comes next – in fact, gifted students are more likely to be pulled out of the more practical classes like home economics in order to engage with more hard-hitting academics because it’s assumed things like cooking, time management, financial management, carrying simple conversation, are basic and trivial to our abilities but fun facts that’s not how it works. How often have you felt like you can easily do something most people would consider devastatingly hard, but you struggle with what are normally considered to be the simplest things?
SO of course I like to end my episodes talking about what we candy to improve things going forward, and this is a tricky one. Because when we need is more research to determine if there’s any credence to the claim that the gifted trait is associated with neurodivergence, and if so, what are other related concerns to look out for or support needs they may have beyond their neurotypical peers. What we need to do is as a society rethink education programs as a way to help all kids excel academically while teaching gifted kids the extra supports they will need to avoid burnout and even thrive in their lives outside of academics.
But that’s kinda a lot, right? Especially if you’re already dealing with executive dysfunction and burnout. So what can you personally do to improve your own life?
That’s kinda gotta be done piecemeal at this point. If you think you may be neurodivergent, especially if you think you have something that may be clinically diagnosed like ADHD, autism, OCD, etc… then go talk to a doctor or a psychologist and see what kind of specific supports they might be able to help you with (including medication or not) based on that diagnosis.
But hey, you’re already taking the first step. Listen back through my old episodes and keep on listening because coming up is an episode on systems and structure which will in some ways be the second half of this episode. Follow me on instagram – this show is @exgiftedcast but @nerdish_mom is where I post my best executive dysfunction tips or check out any of the huge number of creators on Instagram and tiktok putting out executive dysfunction tips. I’ve even listed a few in the show notes.
So yes unfortunately we have to kind of create this plan for ourselves a la carte using a lot of trial and error to see what works, but that’s why the systemic change has to happen at the same time so that future generations aren’t left doing it bit by bit like we have to do.
As I’m signing off here, I do want to give a special thanks to the r/Gifted subreddit which has a ton of resources compiled if you’re interested in learning more about the idea of giftedness as a neurodivergence. I put a link to that as well as my other references down in the show notes.
Just two more quick things, I’m glad to say I’ve had some interest in the role planning system that I’m developing! But there’s still some time to get on board as a tester as I tie up some loose ends – dunno if I mentioned this but the last 5% of a project is always the worst for me. So you still have time to get to exgifted.com/roleplan and sign up to test it yourself for free. If you love roleplaying games and want to level up in real life, or just want an excuse to roll some dice, come on sign up.
And finally, if anything in this episode was helpful to you, please please visit my donation page at ko-fi.com/reneliza – that link is in the show notes. That is where for just $3 you can support this show. I love those of you who have supported so far! My first fundraising goal is just 4 monthly donors at $3/ month so I can pay for podcast hosting. If you’ve got $3 to spare that will be so helpful.
I’ll talk with you again in two weeks where we’ll go over systems and structures to help you exist in the real world. Until then, byeeee…..