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Twice Exceptional Child: balancing gifted education with learning disabilities

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I was asking a question in another thread and it was suggested that I start this topic. I have since found out with a little internet research that if you have a gifted child with learning disabilities that the term is twice exceptional. Hoping that is right but even if it is not, I would prefer not to get into a debate about correct terminology.

 

My story so far is that my very bright daughter who is in 3rd grade and has never been to school was starting to have problems in math and reading in second grade. She couldn't remember times tables and would have periods where she seemed to forget everything. At the same time, she would be able to explain advanced concepts to my seemingly by intuition. Last year, I changed her over to All About Spelling and Reading which helped a great deal. I decided to redo second grade for those subjects since she didn't seem to understand decoding that well from her previous books. AAS/AAR's multisensory technique and building worked for her so I feel that we are getting on track there. 

 

We are using Singapore math and she just finished 4A last week. She has superior conceptual math understanding especially with word problems but often gets the arithmetic wrong. We have added Exploring Numbers through Dot Patterns. They recommended at the meeting that I let her use an adding machine for the Singapore math portion of our day.

 

The testing she had done by the state was finished this month and our team meeting was last Weds. It was two hours. The test results were discussed, she was determined to have dyslexia and dyscalculia and that she was a gifted student as well. They offered her speech therapy specifically targeting sh, ch, and blends. They also will give her 30 min of special education resources without really having a plan of what that  means yet. If I could come up with some suggestions for them, I think they would be happy to have them.

 

It was through looking at articles on the internet that I found out that I should not overlook the gifted part of the assessment. I will have to ask the tester to be more specific about what she is gifted in and how dyslexic she is. There really wasn't enough time at the meeting. She did mention that she had a hard time quantifying my daughter's test results because of her gifts. Please don't ask me what that means because I do not know. 

 

I can see that there is a lot of help for dyslexia, less so for dyscalculia, and I am assuming for gifted children but what do you do when they are altogether? 

 

Opening this thread up for general discussion and not necessarily for my child alone. I still need time to learn more and process this better than I have.

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I think the comment about some things being difficult to quantify means that your daughter’s strengths are compensating for her weaknesses.

 

Compensating is good in a lot of ways, but bad in some ways. She could be having to work really, really hard to do something in a round-about way, and be able to pull it off because of her strengths. But it could be so much effort and it could leave it hard to know that weak areas are in need of support or extra/different teaching.

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I think the comment about some things being difficult to quantify means that your daughter’s strengths are compensating for her weaknesses.

 

Compensating is good in a lot of ways, but bad in some ways. She could be having to work really, really hard to do something in a round-about way, and be able to pull it off because of her strengths. But it could be so much effort and it could leave it hard to know that weak areas are in need of support or extra/different teaching.

I think you are right. Maybe that is why I didn't get specific answers from the tester about her exact strengths and weaknesses?

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I think you are going to get "off" scores in some way.  I looked at the blog post and -- how sometimes her son had low scores but then in the end he had high scores?  I think don't base too much off of a "moment in time." 

 

Either some area that is really probably high, will come back with a low score.

 

Or, some area that is really probably low, will come back with an average score. 

 

But it won't be really accurate, it will be a snapshot in time.  And either the person doesn't want you to underestimate some areas.  Or, doesn't want you to overestimate some areas and think "well the score is average" when maybe that should be taken as "this needs work" and not just "I guess this is just average." 

 

Basically -- don't get too caught up in what the numbers say if they are not considered to be really accurate in a way we might hope/expect to get from testing like this.  Sometimes just as much information comes from "why are the scores not what we would expect them to be." 

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Maybe my giving an example from my own children would help you. (And to help with shorthand DD means Dear Daughter and DS means Dear Son, so DD refers to my daughter and DS refers to my son.  If you see DH that means Dear Husband.  )

 

My daughter has dyslexia and dyscalculia.  In 6th grade she still could not read fluently or decode with accuracy (she had been in a brick and mortar school through 5th grade).  I started her completely over with reading/writing/spelling through Barton Reading and Spelling.  I did not ask for ANY written output or required independent reading except for the requirements of that program that was specifically designed to teach a dyslexic to read/spell.  ALL other lessons were done orally with me reading to her and scribing for her so her reading/writing deficits did not hold her back for learning or impede unnecessarily her areas of strength. 

 

What are her areas of strength?  Mainly anything to do with 3D spatial relationships.  She is great with art/architecture/engineering type things.  She also has a phenomenal sense of balance, a sense of her place within a three dimensional space.  She was scaling very high trees as a tiny person.  She can create drawings and clay sculptures that are very accurate and beautiful.  She has great fine motor skills and can build many things.  I worked hard to incorporate those areas of strength into our learning.  

 

Let's talk math:

 

  DD is profoundly dyscalculic.  Her issues with math far outstrip her issues with reading/writing, and considering she could not read with fluency in 6th grade that is saying something.  Arithmetic based math has been a very long hard slog for her.  For anything to stick she needs to see its application, its purpose AND she must have instruction broken down into tiny pieces then reassembled for her in clearly laid out steps and then those steps reviewed over and over and over and over, along with their meaningful connections.  Unlike with reading, which took off after a year and a half using Barton, math has been a much harder nut to crack.

 

In 7th grade we had to start over completely with math.  I realized she had NO number sense, no subitization skills.  She could not rote memorize math facts but her issues went far beyond that.  Frankly, lack of rapid recall of math facts can be gotten around.  Her issues run much deeper.  For instance, measurement of any kind has been a particularly difficult process and such a hard skill for her to acquire.  In 7th grade she still could not measure with a ruler, use a measuring cup, read a thermometer nor could she sense the passage of time so reading a clock had no meaning.  From that perspective she seems utterly disabled.  Those are actually life skills.  If she cannot do these things how will she function in life?  And how will she get through High School level math?  How will she get a diploma?

 

Now lets flip that around and look at her strengths... 

 

DD loves art.  She is good at it, regardless of the medium.  I let her take a class on-line that combined art with Geometry.  The math concepts and terms were tied to creating art.  BINGO.  Light bulb.  She was understanding Geometry.  And the artwork she was creating based on the Geometric math concepts and tools she was using were amazing.  One weak area turned into an area of real strength. 

 

Now let's look at the measurement issues.  DD finally, after years of work, can measure to the quarter inch.  She can use a measuring cup to the quarter cup.  She can read a thermometer mostly accurately.  She still has no sense of time passing but now better understands that while she cannot feel time passing activities take time.  To get ready for something she knows she needs external scaffolding and reminders.  She has alarms on her phone for everything.  Let's say that she needs to go to drama.  On her list of things to do for the day is a reminder that at 3pm she has drama class.  On her phone there is an alarm an hour before we need to leave reminding her to gather her things, make sure she is properly dressed, she knows where her shoes are, ect.  20 minutes before time to leave is another alarm to remind her that we are leaving in 20 minutes and if she hasn't finished getting ready she needs to do so.  5 minutes before time to leave another alarm goes off.  This tells her she MUST be ready to go RIGHT NOW.  Then the alarm goes off saying it is time to leave.  We should be heading to the van.  Because she has learned to put in external scaffolding she is almost NEVER late for ANYTHING.  She arrives on time even though reading a clock is still hard and she has no internal sense of time passing.  She is frequently commended for arriving to things on time or a bit early.  A weakness became a strength.

 

Also, with regards to measuring, I will share a story.  DD struggles to measure consistently to anything smaller than the quarter inch with a tape measure or ruler.  If someone were testing her on this they would think she was not very bright, perhaps.  Her brain processes measurement differently, though, and I can say with certainty that her ability to measure accurately is far greater than mine.  She just does it differently.  A couple of years ago our dog panicked and  tore up the lower parts of our kitchen blinds.  We had put in the same kind of blinds in another room but the windows were shorter and wider in that other room.  We had removed the extra slats from those other blinds.  DD saved the slats.  When the kitchen blinds got damaged she pulled out the longer slats and brought them into the kitchen. She sat studying the way the blinds were assembled.  She took apart the kitchen blinds, cut the extra slats to match the damaged ones then replaced the damaged slats with the extras.  She did not use a tape measure.  She was still able to accurately determine where to cut the longer slats.  She also was able to rethread the blinds so they still opened and closed.  She did not watch a youtube video or read step by step instructions or use any sort of measuring tool or in any way seek help from me.  It took her about 6 hours.  The blinds looked brand new.  You could not tell there had ever been any damage.  Someone else might have insisted she stop, made her let someone else take over since she had never repaired a set of blinds in her life.  At the very least they might have insisted she measure the slats to confirm where to cut.  I trusted her strengths and let her do what she needed to do (knowing that I did not have the skills she did in this area) and she did an excellent job.  She just needed to do it her way.    :)

 

Not sure if any of that helps you but I thought I would share just in case.

 

Best wishes.  

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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For my ds, I try to make sure we do something every day that really taps into his gift, not his disability. Someone else like OneStep will probably have percentages to target for. Honestly, right not we're not very balanced on that, but it's partly because his disabilities also require compliance work, which means they're not really fun. But I try to make sure we do that. So right now I have him starting every day with science. It's someone motivating to him, very hands-on (addressing that measuring and sense of "ness" OneStep was talking about), and it is just good. And we have our state study. But I also really fund his interests and put money to them, so that it's not like oh I fund disability curriculum and sorry nothing leftover for science kits, kwim? His world revolves around making things, building things, and his perseverative interest, so we put money into that. 

 

In theory, you'd like to see if 40% of your day could be spent in non-disability ways. You won't get there, but you could go wow how close am I, what would it take, what would that look like. Whatever I don't do as actual academics, I do in other ways, like by having cookie Fridays, sending him to his aunt's for half days and outings, etc. Right now we're doing a roller coaster challenge kit from ThinkFun I think. It's fine, a little fun.

 

Also, in our academics themselves, I try to flex or use differentiated materials and make sure there's something intriguing about what we're doing. I look for workbooks and tasks that will make him scratch his head and think. Right now, he's using workbooks ranging from 1st-4th. I keep him just all over the place, cherrypicking, giving him stuff that will really make him think. Also, I buy lots of brain teaser books and use those for break pages between regular work. They seem to keep him happy. Like maybe the regular math page was rough, but the brain teaser page will be fun. I have him working through word search books now too, same gig. They really make him think and challenge him a bit in a good way. When he has task like that that are interesting but challenging, he gets more confident.

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Now if you want kind of a different picture of how it could look, I could tell you about a $$$$ dyslexia school I visited today. Seriously expensive, like $40k a year I think. (I actually didn't look, ugh.) Anyways, they do things really differently! They do Zones of Regulation check-ins for everyone and weave in Zones throughout the day for calming strategies. Everyone is free to get up and move, and they do lots of work at least in pairs. They use ipads for everything, no paper, and they use apps like Book Creator and Lexia. That Book Creator, especially, is unleashing the creative side in the kids.

 

All the kids go to special classes (enrichments) most days, so all grades get art, music, technology, etc. EVERY WEEK. And the INVEST in these classes, with great materials, top notch teachers. It was very obvious the kids could go blow off their steam in art, etc. It wasn't so much about being classical and academic and saying you learned a list of composers as it was about getting back to calm and having a portion of your day NOT be bogged down with disabilities and interventions.

 

The other thing you notice, and I'll just saying this (sorta going out on a limb), was how laidback it was. Not like do nothing laidback, but really intentionally NOT being this really up-pace kind of prep school, bang it out, now for your intervention session, rap the ruler kind of thing. It was pretty chilled. Because if kids are coming in from really stressful situations where things haven't been working, then they really NEED that. Their population is coming from other schools, and they need the chance to go ok, I'm not defective on every level, playing with the class turtle works, making books using videos and pictures in Book Creator works. They take lots of field trips. They do all these things to show there is life BEYOND the disabilities and then leverage that success and relationship to say ok, let's stay calm, let's do some hard things for a few minutes.

 

And it's clearly working, because over the long haul, the kids turn out well. It just might not seem very flashy in the moment, because they actually need to put a lot of effort into getting the kids stable emotionally. Like the level of supports they provide is so high that my ds, with autism, could almost fit in there. It's a significant level of support. I was really surprised, because I had no clue kids were coming in struggling with their emotions so much (depression, frustration, anxiety, meltdowns over work seeming too hard, etc.). So changing to a positive dynamic seems to be HUGE there.

 

Remember, I told you in the other thread things I can do with my ds, but he's only had positive experiences for the most part. He was identified in K5 and has only been worked with using disability-specific materials. Might be a totally different situation from yours or what your dd is emotionally ready for, I don't know. It might be that things will be good later but that you have more important goals now (creating a positive work dynamic, building confidence, etc.).

 

They were very proud of their Book Creator use. You could check it out. And they weren't even necessarily being really academic with it, kwim? Like they were just having fun, letting the kids connect with the idea that they had something to communicate and could do it lots of creative ways, like including videos, acting out the scenes for their stories and recording them, etc. 

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With my 2e son, work was divided into skill areas and content areas. Time was always set aside for reading remediation. Math remediation was daily and THE subject of math.

 

For content areas, son was accommodated with audio books, mindmapping software, by scribing, typing, documentaries, and hands-on activities. My son’s particular passion is history, so we deeply pursued elements of history that were of particular interest to him. He loves the history of weapons, so we purchased coffee table books, posters, models, visited museums, and watched documentaries. Unit studies can be an awesome approach to learning.

 

Son is very good with computer modeling, so he uses Adobe, AutoCad, and Sketchup to design whatever he wants. He uses a Wacom tablet. If he expressed an interest in something, we pursued it. He likes to hike and fish. He uses my sewing machine to design and modify clothing. He has free access to my color printer and laminator. He has his own toolbox, paints things for friends, and builds his own designs. DH works directly with him, and they pursue car repair and building objects.

 

Teaching a gifted a child is a pleasure. Remediation is long term, so we normalized the skills areas until he was caught up.

Edited by Heathermomster
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I think some kids have gifts in very particular areas, and some more generally so--with or without the 2E, twice exceptional, aspect.

 

For my ds, he tended to do well with materials that tended to be geared to more gifted kids, but with methods used that would allow him to use them despite his difficult areas.

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I love the personal stories and ideas people have shared on this thread!

 

I’d like to share this: Read to them!

 

 

My ds has dyslexia, yet he's been exposed to lots of literature and language, both at grade level and beyond, because I read to him (and the rest of my children) several times throughout the day from textbooks, illustrated story books and chapter books.

 

It may go without saying, but I thought it important enough to share that idea specifically. All children, 2E or not, can benefit from their parents reading to them, but for a child with a reading disability, it may be especially important to expose them to words, language and ideas beyond what they are able to read. Even once remediated, many people with dyslexia still benefit from books on tape or someone else reading to them, because while they can comprehend the material, the difficulty of reading it for themselves may get in the way of their comprehension. For someone with dyslexia or language processing disorders, the comprehension of ideas needs to be separated (at least in part) from reading comprehension.

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I think some kids have gifts in very particular areas, and some more generally so--with or without the 2E, twice exceptional, aspect.

 

For my ds, he tended to do well with materials that tended to be geared to more gifted kids, but with methods used that would allow him to use them despite his difficult areas.

 

Well said.

 

With my kids, that methodology often involved using parallel materials to go broader with a skill. So, for instance, we might pair a gifted-geared resource with scaffolded notes (can be graphic organizers, etc.), or we might pair it with practice that showed the concept from additional angles.

 

In some cases, we get ouright therapy--seeing a speech therapist or tutor for language tasks. 

 

I don't have dyslexic kids, but we do have some language-y issues.

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Some random thoughts about being gifted with discalculia:

 

If most subjects are easy for you but you really struggle with math facts and multiplication tables, you can easily convince yourself at an early age that you are not “good†at math. This may not actually be remotely true! I’m hopeless with arithmetic, but actually really good at geometry. And IKEA furniture. And maps... Anything I can visualize is good.

 

Speaking of visualization, having super concrete tangible examples really helps me with math. Physics solidified my algebra. Micro-economics is the only reason I understand calculus. I would avoid “discovery†curriculums. Just tell me how to do it already.

 

Get documented. I took a calculus class in college where we were not allowed to have calculators. Professor promised the numbers would be easy and we wouldn’t need them. Well I happen to need a calculator to figure out 10% of 5000. If my discalculia had been documented, I could have had one.

 

Alphabetization isn’t easy. (If you think about it, the alphabet is really just a base 26 number line. And I’m not great with numbers.) I have a sense of front half versus back half. So I know B comes before Y, but I can’t tell you if X comes before W. Or H before F. I have to sing the song to myself. (I can start from L if I know it’s in the back half.)

 

I’m a tax attorney. I have a degree in finance. I count on my fingers. 2E kids are funny like that.

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I was asking a question in another thread and it was suggested that I start this topic. I have since found out with a little internet research that if you have a gifted child with learning disabilities that the term is twice exceptional. Hoping that is right but even if it is not, I would prefer not to get into a debate about correct terminology.

 

My story so far is that my very bright daughter who is in 3rd grade and has never been to school was starting to have problems in math and reading in second grade. She couldn't remember times tables and would have periods where she seemed to forget everything. At the same time, she would be able to explain advanced concepts to my seemingly by intuition. Last year, I changed her over to All About Spelling and Reading which helped a great deal. I decided to redo second grade for those subjects since she didn't seem to understand decoding that well from her previous books. AAS/AAR's multisensory technique and building worked for her so I feel that we are getting on track there. 

 

We are using Singapore math and she just finished 4A last week. She has superior conceptual math understanding especially with word problems but often gets the arithmetic wrong. We have added Exploring Numbers through Dot Patterns. They recommended at the meeting that I let her use an adding machine for the Singapore math portion of our day.

 

The testing she had done by the state was finished this month and our team meeting was last Weds. It was two hours. The test results were discussed, she was determined to have dyslexia and dyscalculia and that she was a gifted student as well. They offered her speech therapy specifically targeting sh, ch, and blends. They also will give her 30 min of special education resources without really having a plan of what that  means yet. If I could come up with some suggestions for them, I think they would be happy to have them.

 

It was through looking at articles on the internet that I found out that I should not overlook the gifted part of the assessment. I will have to ask the tester to be more specific about what she is gifted in and how dyslexic she is. There really wasn't enough time at the meeting. She did mention that she had a hard time quantifying my daughter's test results because of her gifts. Please don't ask me what that means because I do not know. 

 

I can see that there is a lot of help for dyslexia, less so for dyscalculia, and I am assuming for gifted children but what do you do when they are altogether? 

 

Opening this thread up for general discussion and not necessarily for my child alone. I still need time to learn more and process this better than I have.

 

 

30 minutes per day or per week or ????

 

 

 

 

Generally school district help is given where a child is not up to a certain benchmark in a certain area. It sounds like your daughter isn't at expected level for certain speech sounds so they can help for that and at the same time can give her some other resource help.

 

I'm surprised that your school district was specifically able to tell you she had dyslexia and dyscalculia at all.  Ours was not able to use those terms per se.  Giftedness as determined by a school district in my experience relates to scores on IQ ("intelligence") tests. Scores in certain ranges count as "gifted".  Your daughter could have many gifts that are not even looked at in such testing, for example, artistic gifts, or a gift with animals would not even be considered.  My own sense is that it is easier to tell areas of giftedness by observing the child than by looking at test results.

 

If AAR/AAS are working for her, personally, I'd doubt that she is extremely dyslexic.  And if she is a 3rd grader doing Singapore math 4, I'd doubt that she is extremely dyscalculic.  Though very high intelligence can sometimes cover up a fair degree of either.

 

When my son got help like that at local school, we got some use of computer lab since we do not have good internet access from home--this allowed him to work on talkingfingers.com, KhanAcademy, and other resources we could not access from home.  We also got school library privileges as homeschoolers.  And my son got 30 minutes of extra reading and writing help Monday to Friday in small groups in the resource room.  This help ended once he reached a remediated benchmark level as compared to his grade--not as compared to what his own personal best might perhaps be.

 

From things you have said it sounds like your budget for materials is very limited, so you might be able to get help by having school books and other materials be able to come home, maybe school library privileges, etc.   You can look around and see what they have that might be of help and then ask about it. If there is an area where she needs help on math or reading or writing, especially that is hard for you to do at home for whatever reason, or just where a different approach might be useful, she might be able to get some help with that.

 

You might also get to observe what teachers are doing at around her level in classes and may find useful ideas from that to use at home--websites, books, projects, things other kids her age seem to get into and soar with.  We found a bunch of things this way.  My son also got to join anything special happening when he was around the school for his special education time, such as visiting musicians, or that sort of thing.

 

If the people at the school can certify your daughter as dyslexic so as to qualify for Bookshare and/or Learning Ally for audio book help, that might be extremely useful.  I did not try for that at the time and realized in retrospect that I probably should have done.

 

If you can have a good working relationship with the people there so as to perhaps get help from them informally even if your daughter places out of the official need for help that would be good.  In our case, my son is now in high school in the district where he was getting concurrent special ed help in 3rd grade, and having a good relationship with his then special ed teacher has continued to be beneficial.

 

In my experience, special ed resource rooms are not particularly designed to help with giftedness areas, and homeschool (or afterschooling) tends to be much better at dealing with providing help for areas where a child is gifted.  But you could ask if she qualifies for Talented and Gifted (different names in different places exist) programs and what might be available. 

 

 

 

Help that can be given in special ed resource rooms can be quite broad, in my experience, including things like working on self-control of emotions, or penmanship, or coordination, or study skills, or, or, or....  So, consider what might help your daughter, and see if they have any ideas.

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