Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children through Frustration to Success

By Trail, Beverly | Parenting for High Potential, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children through Frustration to Success


Trail, Beverly, Parenting for High Potential


Parenting would be so much easier if children came with a book of instructions. Paul's parents thought he would excel in school because in kindergarten, he was performing at the second-grade level in reading and math. He understood complex concepts well beyond his years (like "plate tectonics") and was identified as gifted. Paul continually complained that school was boring and he begged to stay home to learn. It became evident during the intermediate elementary years that he was not progressing as he should. Even though he understood the concept of multiplication in first grade, Paul was not able to pass the timed math facts tests and he could not do long division problems. He would write the correct answer where it belonged, but could not do the step-by-step process of long division. Paul's writing was a mixture of print and cursive writing that was illegible. His fourth-grade teacher gave him two desks and still papers (usually incomplete assignments that should have been handed in) were hanging out of the desks and spilling onto the floor. Paul participated in all classroom discussions, sharing knowledge and demonstrating understanding of concepts beyond his peers. However, his writing was below grade level. Written papers consisted of short sentences, low-level vocabulary, many spelling mistakes, and no elaboration of ideas. Certainly, his written work was not consistent with his verbal ability. Paul's parents began to really worry as his grades dropped and teachers began to comment on behavior issues. Why was this bright child not doing his work? More alarming, he was very frustrated with school and his love of learning was diminishing along with their hopes and dreams for college. What should parents do when their gifted child's lack of achievement results in failing grades?

Sally's parents were equally concerned with her progress in school. During her preschool years she was not as verbal as her brothers and sisters. It was difficult to understand her speech because she mispronounced words. Testing with the Child Find project in the local school district at age four showed there were sizable discrepancies among her skills in various areas. She was more than two years ahead in some, and more than two years behind in others. In elementary school, she appeared to her teachers to be an average student. Sallys parents were concerned because they knew how hard she was working to get average grades. Learning basic skills seemed to be so difficult for Sally! She couldn't remember letter sounds and consequently had difficulty sounding out words. Sally could solve really difficult puzzles and demonstrated exceptional skills in problem solving and critical thinking; in those areas, she was superior to her brothers and sisters who had been identified as gifted. Some people suspected a learning disability, but teachers were not concerned because she was doing average work and her composite scores on assessments were average, so she did not qualify for special education services. Sally's attitude was alarming her parents. She used to be very outgoing and now was an unhappy loner. At school she was quiet and compliant, but at home she exhibited severe anxiety and had almost daily emotional "melt downs." She even mentioned a couple of times that she "wanted to go to heaven." Sally's parents became really concerned about their daughter, but they didn't know what to do.

Both of these children demonstrate characteristics of gifted students with disabilities. Their school experience will be challenging because hidden disabilities can make aspects of academic achievement difficult for these gifted learners. Inconsistent performance, incomplete assignments, disorganization, and behavior problems can be indicators of learning problems. Not only does the disability influence their academic performance in school, but it can intensify social/emotional risk factors. In my role as a twice-exceptional consultant, I have become increasingly aware of the interrelationship between academic achievement and social/emotional factors.

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Parenting Twice-Exceptional Children through Frustration to Success
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