Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Impact of Vulnerabilities and Strengths on the Academic Experiences of Twice-Exceptional Students: A Message to School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Impact of Vulnerabilities and Strengths on the Academic Experiences of Twice-Exceptional Students: A Message to School Counselors

Article excerpt

The ever-broadening roles of school counselors range from traditional (advisor for college planning) to novel (advocating for students with learning difficulties or giftedness). A newly recognized group of learners, with both learning difficulties and academic strengths, known as twice-exceptional learners, has emerged. After a synopsis of federal legislation that has shaped the field of twice-exceptionality,, the authors use two case examples to highlight the contribution of prevailing educational myths to the lack of attention to twice-exceptional students. They conclude with comprehensive recommendations.


Twice-exceptional students baffle their parents and teachers by simultaneously displaying academic strengths and learning difficulties. They often are accused of being lazy and/or underachievers. Their strengths and limitations--either uniquely or in combination--are typically misunderstood. Twice-exceptional students, themselves, are bewildered by the inconsistencies and unpredictable results in their academic lives--inconsistencies that result from the inherent incongruity of their strengths and vulnerabilities. In addition, the unpredictability of their performance makes it difficult for educational professionals and others to understand that twice-exceptional students present distinctive attributes requiring similarly unique educational interventions.

A student is considered twice-exceptional when he or she is identified as gifted/talented in one or more areas while also possessing a learning, emotional, physical, sensory, and/or developmental disability (Yewchuk & Lupart, 1988). For twice-exceptional learners, their school counselor is the logical professional liaison between psychologist and classroom teacher. The psychologist provides the diagnostic assessment and recommendations about classroom interventions for twice-exceptional learners. The recommendations are designed to guide interventions that promote access to challenging curricula matched appropriately to their academic strengths. This curriculum is provided within supportive educational environments where their vulnerabilities also are addressed. Ultimately, the classroom teacher implements the psychologist's recommended interventions, which include attention to the students' strengths and vulnerabilities. A school counselor can facilitate communication among parents, teachers, and psychologists so that recommendations are both understood and actualized within the context of the children's educational environment.

In this article, we explore three main areas that contribute significantly to our message to school counselors. First, we provide a synopsis of the federal legislation that has shaped the current educational environment as well as the delivery systems for specialized programming. This brief discussion serves as the rationale for focusing on gifted students with learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity, disorder (ADHD) here. Second, we discuss certain prevailing myths about gifted students, which have perpetuated the lack of attention by the general educational community, to twice-exceptional students. Through the stories of two twice-exceptional students, Jacob and Randy, the impact of these myths is addressed. These particular case studies underscore the need for parental advocacy in ensuring an appropriate learning environment for twice-exceptional children.

The case studies also emphasize the importance of basing educational recommendations on data obtained from comprehensive psychological and academic evaluations. Therefore, the third and final component to the message is a list of recommendations designed to empower school counselors as the professional charged with the responsibility to be concerned with the academic, career, and personal/ social needs of students and as someone who encourages the maximum development of every student (American School Counselor Association, 2005). …

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