If there is one thing my life has hammered into me over and over again, it’s that with twice-exceptional children, their struggles and abilities can be hidden in plain sight. It has certainly been the case for us. Again, and again, and again. For us, hitting a developmental milestone on time has become not a sigh of relief, but a 10 metre high red flag.
One of the most frustrating aspects of parenting a twice-exceptional child is that they are deeply asynchronous. What do I mean by that? I mean that some skills and abilities are way ahead of what other children their age are doing, and others are way, way behind.
After a while, it can be hard to predict which way a child will jump. Will a new task be easy? Hard? Just right? Sometimes it can feel a bit like a lottery.
Even worse, sometimes a task will look like it’s in that Goldilocks zone, when the reality is very different. When ability and disability are masking each other, sometimes everything looks just ‘fine’.
The Catch-22 of the Twice-Exceptional Child
But often, twice-exceptional children are using massive amounts of their thinking ability to work around a disability. A gifted child with reading or sight problems could be using their phenomenal memory to remember the contents of an entire book after one reading – but not actually be able to read. (Like my daughter.) Or a delay in motor skills may not be immediately evident because gifted children have accelerated motor development. (Like my son.) Or a diagnosis of ADHD is not be made till much later in life because while ADHD comes with a 30% lag in social skills and executive functioning, giftedness often comes with a 30%+ acceleration. (Like me.)
For twice-exceptional kids, (and particularly my kids!) hitting milestones on time can be a massive red flag, and it is a red flag often missed by everyone – even doctors and specialists! It’s the catch-22 of the twice-exceptional child – doing OK means early signs of developmental problems are overlooked because they fit within the expected development timeline.
Advocating is Hard . . . But Necessary
It’s often incredibly hard to advocate for twice-exceptional kids.
“Why do they need remediation when they are doing just fine?”
“Why give extension work when they are obviously ‘trying so hard’ just to keep up?”
The thing is – eventually compensation fails. One day, they won’t ‘hear’ the story first. One day, they’ll have to climb that ladder, or organise their own timetable.
Without remediation and extension, the twice-exceptional child or adult may never practice the skills that help them build to more complicated abilities.
And that can leave them flailing when their tricks and work-arounds are no longer enough.
The Twice-Exceptional Child: Hidden No More
My own life has felt like I’m just-ahead-of-the-avalanche for far, far too long. Knowing why? That has helped enormously – if only so I can remind myself that I and my kids don’t have the same set of skills as most people, and that’s OK.
When the hidden is brought into daylight, when we are able to finally see what was hiding in plain sight, it’s a revelation. Shining a light on what is easy and what is hard means we can more confidently step forward. We can create the environment twice-exceptional kids need to thrive.
And that can’t be a bad thing.
This post is part of the GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s blog hop on “The Invisible Gifted Child: Mislabeled, Misdiagnosed, Unidentified and Misunderstood”