Let me first say what an honor it is to be selected to guest blog for Christina. She has done some very remarkable things within the gifted community and I’m thrilled to contribute in any way I can.
That being said, I come with the Learning Disabled twist on Giftedness, so it’s a niche within a niche and not a huge population, but significant for more than just humanitarian reasons, and I’ve been thrilled to see more 2E folks out and about. Some may have a mental double take going on when thinking about how a person can be both LD and Gifted at the same time. It’s not hard to imagine a person who is gifted and blind (Stevie Wonder / Ray Charles) or gifted and paralyzed (Stephen Hawking), but for some reason many people often think that if you’re gifted, you can’t be learning disabled. It would be an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp or broken Black Box. I was a little pained when it came out so recently (again) in a study posted by the L.A. Times “Dyslexia not related to intelligence, study finds” but I guess since I’ve been trying to dispel this myth for 15 years, I should be happy with any help in de-mything it.
The difficulty lays in finding/diagnosing such individuals because they often have learned how to jury-rig their life to get by at a rather early age. They figure out how to compensate for areas that may be weak. I’ll use myself as an example here. I have dysnomia. This means that I have the “word on the tip of your tongue” syndrome. Everyone has that occasionally, but for me it’s once or twice per sentence, not once or twice per day. I developed a large vocabulary early and use analogies and examples often when expressing myself. This worked in many situations, but not in all. Once I received a 90 out of 100 on a college sociology test in which I missed all 10 points in the “fill-in-the-blank” section. I was still undiagnosed at this time. I always knew I stank at fill-in-the-blank but I didn’t know there was a reason behind it still. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was a semester away from either graduating college or dropping out.
Very rarely are these twice-exceptional individuals recognized as both. More often than not when they are discovered at all, it is the learning disabled aspect that is diagnosed and not the gifted. I don’t want to bash the LD system as a whole, but we often times find a very low-expectations system in place when it comes to kids in LD programs. Also when students with LDs are placed in “regular” classrooms as opposed to placed in Special Ed. classrooms they have greater success, as noted in No Disabled Student Left Behind posted in the Boston Herald earlier this year.
What I have not read in reports, but I hear from actual LD labeled students, is that they are “spoon fed” answers and often if they ask for further understanding of a question, they are simply given the answer instead. Imagine a gifted student who sees questions in multiple ways needing clarity on what is being asked. In a gifted program this is looked upon as creative. Unfortunately this same instance is looked at as slow in the LD room and confirms their LD label.
The real problem occurs when we start looking at the emotional issues that come forward as students are not understood and don’t understand themselves. They don’t fit in and feel it’s something they are not doing that everybody else can do, so they should be able to too. One of my colleagues wondered what it would take to make other people think, “I wish I had a learning disability.” I think that’s wonderful. The new challenge should be finding the positive in the difference; celebrating our diversity and knowing we bring a rare perspective into most areas. Maybe we’ll see more studies like “The Upside of Dyslexia” soon.
We really need to change how we view differences, especially in students that have so much to contribute. Maybe we need to start with:
1) Identify and understand the differences
2) Identify and understand distinctive aptitudes
3) Build on strengths
What do you think?