Could Your Child be Gifted?

gifted puzzleLast week I mentioned that identifying twice-exceptional children can be very difficult. (Quick review: a twice-exceptional child is one who is diagnosed with a learning difficulty and who also has been evaluated as fitting the criteria for being called a gifted child. The term twice-exceptional is often abbreviated 2e.)

According to an article that originally appeared in The National Psychologist (reprinted with permission on the SENG website), “some ‘twice-exceptional’ children, intellectually bright with a specific learning disability, may mask their giftedness or deficit, rendering one or both conditions invisible, and thus remain unacknowledged and unsupported.”

In short, some children may be gifted enough to compensate to a certain extent for whatever learning difficulty they may have. This makes it difficult for educators to help such students learn to work with their learning difficulties and also to help them reach the full potential of their giftedness. Alternately, twice-exceptional children may have a dominating learning difficulty that requires so much help and attention from educators and parents that their giftedness may go completely unnoticed.

So parents, if your child has been diagnosed with a learning difficulty, do not rule out the possibility that they may also be gifted. It’s not a guarantee that they will be, but as a parent, it is always beneficial to notice and nurture any of your children’s gifts, all the more so when they have a recognized learning difficulty. It will help them to see themselves in terms of their own individual gifts and abilities, not in terms of areas where they may compare unfavorably with their peers and which they may see as a “disability.”

The article The Misunderstood Face of Giftedness by Marianne Kuzujanakis, published in The Huffington Post, points out another possibility where a child’s giftedness might be overlooked. She writes, “Normal giftedness can be easily confused with a diagnosable mental disorder. Gifted kids may talk a lot, have high levels of energy, and be impulsive or inattentive or distractible in some settings — similar to symptoms of ADHD. It’s not unusual for gifted kids to struggle socially, have meltdowns over minor issues, or have unusual all-consuming interests — all pointing to an inappropriate diagnosis of autism.”

She goes on to quote Dr. Jack Wiggins, the former president of the American Psychological Association, who has said, “This is a widespread and serious problem — the wasting of lives from the misdiagnosis of gifted children and adults and the inappropriate treatment that often follows.”

The SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) website has an article (referenced earlier) that includes the following list of traits of gifted people that are “commonly misdiagnosed as mental health pathology:”

High activity level
Sensitive to loud sounds
Sensitive to textures in clothing
Highly emotional
Refuses to do schoolwork
Fails to complete tasks
Difficulty with transitions
Frequent mood swings
Reading difficulties
Poor handwriting
Doesn’t pay attention
Poor sleeper
Poor eater
Atypical sense of humor
Language/speech delays

Clearly this is something that parents want to be aware of. If you have a child that is struggling with a learning problem or has been tagged with a label like ADHD, etc. perhaps a reevaluation may be in order.  It could be that you have a gifted child.


  1. C. Wayne says:

    Wow! I can’t help but sense I fit in to too many of those categories, however, if I was a gifted child, I was one that my parents and teachers wanted to trade in!

  2. So true. I have two twice gifted kiddos. One who is able to compensate and one whom teachers thought was an unmotivated kiddo. Luckily, we went with our gut and found out that they are both gifted and both have a learning disability-just another way they each make themselves unique in this world!

  3. Trainboysmom says:

    My son exactly. We didn’t figure out what was going on until I finally had it with poor spelling and googled “good readers poor spellers.” The description of compensating dyslexic kids fit him to a t. He’s a third grader who reads at a 6th grade level but struggles with spelling and writing. We discovered that even though he has good comprehension of what he reads that he skips words,and puts little weight on word endings (s, es, ed). We’re doing Davis with him now and that seems to be helping him. We have to work outside of school because he can’t qualify for testing or services with is above grade level reading. Our son has always had speech issues and has been in speech therapy since he was 2 1/2 but excels at math and grasps concepts quickly. He’s in a gifted program and doing well, though we sometimes wonder if that will continue to be the case as the workload increases and depends more upon his ability to translate his thoughts into writing. As his parents we feel like we’re making this up as we go along.

    1. Don M. Winn says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. There are a lot of “gifted Kids” out there that slip through the cracks, so to speak, and are never helped to see their true potential. I’m pleased to hear that your son is doing well and I’m sure much of that has to do with the understanding/support he receives from his devoted parents.

      1. Trainboysmom says:

        Thanks, Don. We could have so easily missed it and attributed his struggles to not trying hard enough or being lazy. Thanks for your post because I think it does encourage parents for look for the sometimes unexpected strengths a child has even when you’re busy trying to figure out how to shore up the weaknesses. We’ve told our son that the same things that make him so very good with some things (spatial relationships, 3d images, knowing where the ball is going to be in soccer) make other things (spelling, writing down his thoughts) harder. We tell him everybody has strengths and weaknesses–and we’ll help him work on doing those harder things more easily. I just want to encourage other parents because I know when we first begin to understand what was going on, I often felt overwhelmed. I had worked extensively with him beforehand to little effect. We’re just beginning to figure out how to help him learn how he learns. 🙂

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