The Twice Exceptional (2E) Child

The Twice Exceptional (2E) Child

The Twice Exceptional (2E) Child

A 2e (twice exceptional) child refers to an individual who has exceptional abilities or strengths in one or more areas, such as intellectual or creative abilities, while also having a diagnosed disability or learning difference. In other words, a 2e child possesses both giftedness or high intellectual potential and a disability or neurodevelopmental condition.

Twice Exceptional Diagnosis

The term “twice exceptional” acknowledges that these individuals have dual exceptionalities, as they may exhibit strengths and challenges that may mask or complicate each other. It highlights the importance of a holistic and comprehensive approach to education and support that recognizes and nurtures their strengths while addressing their specific challenges.

Some examples of 2e children include:

  1. A child who demonstrates exceptional intellectual abilities or talents in areas like mathematics, science, or the arts, but also has a diagnosis of ADHD that affects their attention, focus, and executive functioning skills.
  2. A child who has a high level of creativity, original thinking, and problem-solving skills but also experiences challenges related to dyslexia, making reading and writing difficult.
  3. A child who shows exceptional verbal and communication skills but struggles with social interactions and sensory sensitivities associated with autism.

Twice Exceptional Diagnosis

History of 2E Terminology

The concept of twice exceptional individuals has been recognized and studied for several decades, although the term “twice exceptional” itself is relatively more recent. The history of this diagnosis or term can be traced back to the field of gifted education and the recognition that gifted individuals can also have disabilities or learning differences.

In the 1970s, researchers such as Joan Smutny and Linda Silverman began to explore the concept of giftedness combined with learning disabilities. They observed that some gifted students were not achieving their full potential in traditional educational settings due to underlying disabilities that were not being addressed. This realization led to the recognition that the needs of these individuals were complex and required specialized attention.

In the early 1990s, the term “twice exceptional” emerged to describe individuals who demonstrated exceptional intellectual or creative abilities alongside identified disabilities or learning differences. The concept gained attention in the field of education and psychology as researchers and practitioners recognized the importance of identifying and supporting the unique needs of these individuals.

Since then, there has been an increased focus on understanding and addressing the needs of twice exceptional individuals. Organizations, such as the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Twice Exceptional Children’s Advocacy (TECA) have played a role in raising awareness, advocating for appropriate education and support, and providing resources for families and professionals.

Learning Differences in 2E+

Learning Differences in 2E+

Twice exceptional children have some kind of learning difference or challenge in addition to their giftedness. This varies greatly from child to child but may include:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. 2e children with ASD may exhibit exceptional abilities in specific areas such as mathematics, technology, or visual thinking, while also facing challenges in social interactions, communication, sensory processing, and executive functioning skills.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a condition characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with daily functioning and development. 2e children with ADHD may have exceptional abilities in areas such as creativity, problem-solving, or divergent thinking, but they may also struggle with attention, focus, organization, time management, and self-regulation.

Specific Learning Disorders (SLD)

Specific learning disorders encompass difficulties in acquiring and using specific academic skills, despite average or above-average intelligence. Examples include dyslexia (reading difficulties), dyscalculia (mathematics difficulties), and dysgraphia (writing difficulties). 2e children may demonstrate exceptional abilities in other areas but struggle with one or more specific learning domains.

Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD)

SPD refers to difficulties in processing and integrating sensory information from the environment. 2e children may experience sensory sensitivities or sensory-seeking behaviors. These sensory challenges can impact their ability to focus, regulate emotions, and engage in daily activities effectively.

Emotional/Behavioral Disorders

Emotional or behavioral disorders such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, or oppositional defiant disorder can coexist with giftedness in 2e children. These conditions can affect the child’s emotional well-being, self-regulation, and social interactions, potentially impacting their ability to fully utilize their exceptional abilities.

Common Challenges for 2E Children and Families

Common Challenges for 2E Children and Families

2e (twice exceptional) children and their families face a range of challenges that stem from the combination of giftedness or exceptional abilities and disabilities or learning differences. Here are some common challenges that 2e children and their families may encounter:


2e children may struggle with underachievement, as their exceptional abilities may be overshadowed or masked by their disabilities or learning differences. They may face difficulties in meeting academic expectations, demonstrating their true potential, or finding appropriate educational placements that address both their strengths and challenges.

Misdiagnosis or Misunderstanding

2e children may be misdiagnosed or misunderstood due to the complex nature of their profiles. Professionals and educators may focus solely on their disabilities or overlook their exceptional abilities, resulting in inadequate support or inappropriate interventions.

Asynchronous Development

2e children often exhibit asynchronous development, where their intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development occur at different rates. This can create challenges in finding appropriate peer groups, feeling understood, or maintaining consistent academic and social experiences.

Frustration and Emotional Challenges

Balancing exceptional abilities with disabilities or learning differences can lead to frustration, anxiety, and emotional challenges. 2e children may struggle with perfectionism, feelings of being different or misunderstood, and may experience heightened levels of stress due to the unique demands they face.

Lack of Appropriate Educational Support

Finding educational programs that meet the needs of 2e children can be challenging. Many traditional educational settings may not adequately address their dual exceptionalities, leading to boredom, disengagement, or limited opportunities for growth and development.

Social and Peer Interactions

2e children may face difficulties in social interactions and building peer relationships. Their exceptional abilities or disabilities can create social barriers, making it challenging to find like-minded peers or navigate social dynamics effectively.

Advocacy and Understanding

Parents and families of 2e children may struggle with advocating for appropriate educational services and accommodations. They may face challenges in finding professionals who understand the unique needs of 2e children and can provide the necessary support and guidance.

Balancing Interventions and Accommodations

It can be challenging for families to strike a balance between providing interventions and accommodations that address their child’s disabilities while also fostering and nurturing their exceptional abilities. Finding the right balance can be crucial for the child’s overall development and well-being.

Therapy for Twice Exceptional Children and Families

Therapy for Twice Exceptional Children and Families

Therapists play a crucial role in supporting children and families with 2e (twice exceptional) by addressing their unique challenges, fostering their strengths, and promoting their overall well-being. Here are some ways in which psychotherapists can help children and families with 2e:

Assessment and Diagnosis

Therapists can conduct comprehensive assessments to evaluate the child’s intellectual abilities, identify any disabilities or learning differences, and gain an understanding of their emotional and social functioning. This assessment process helps inform the development of an individualized treatment plan.

Individual Therapy

Therapists can provide individual therapy to 2e children, focusing on specific challenges they may face. This may involve addressing emotional difficulties, anxiety, self-esteem issues, social skills deficits, or helping the child develop coping strategies to manage their exceptionalities and disabilities effectively.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is crucial for supporting the overall well-being of children with 2e. Therapists can work with the family as a whole, providing a safe and supportive space for open communication, addressing family dynamics, and strengthening relationships. Family therapy can also help parents understand and support their child’s unique needs and foster a positive and nurturing home environment.

Psychoeducation and Parent Support

Therapists can provide psychoeducation to parents and caregivers, helping them understand the characteristics of 2e children and the implications for their development and education. They can offer guidance on effective parenting strategies, support the development of appropriate accommodations, and connect families with resources and support networks.

Advocacy and Collaborative Approach

Therapists can advocate for 2e children within educational settings, ensuring that their unique needs are recognized and appropriate accommodations are provided. They can collaborate with other professionals, such as educators, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and psychiatrists, to ensure a comprehensive and integrated approach to the child’s care.

Social Skills Training

Therapists can facilitate social skills groups or individual sessions to help children with 2e improve their social interactions, develop empathy, navigate social challenges, and build meaningful relationships with peers.

Coping Strategies and Emotional Regulation

Therapists can teach children with 2e effective coping strategies to manage their exceptionalities and disabilities, including emotional regulation techniques, self-advocacy skills, stress management strategies, and problem-solving skills.

The specific approaches and techniques employed by psychotherapists may vary depending on the unique needs of the child and family. Contact us today to find a therapist who understands these unique needs.