Can Children With Disabilities ALSO Be Gifted?

MYTH – Children identified with special needs CANNOT be gifted. 

Being a school psychologist, this particular myth is near and dear to my heart. Working in this field,  I spend most of my time with students with various forms of disabilities – things that qualified them for specialized services under IDEA.

What I am most surprised at it the sheer number of students I run across that are also gifted – despite not being identified as such. In fact, talk with most teachers and they will tell you that having a disabilities precludes giftedness.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As I keep saying, post after post, giftedness is not a performance-based attribute.

The fact is, gifted children who also present with a learning disability, mental health concern or other challenge are often underserved in our current educational system. Trained in identifying disabilities, the giftedness of the student often gets overlooked. The result, more problems.

The reverse is also true, as students who are gifted and have learning disabilities are often seen as able to “get by” without services.

The Truth:

Not only are teachers often under-prepared for the challenges of teaching gifted children, many school psychologists, school counselors, therapists, clinical psychologists, and doctors are undertrained in giftedness as well. Many attributes of giftedness look like other problems resulting in misdiagnoses.  Furthermore, due to many of the myths we have discussed here, giftedness is often not identified in students with disabilities, and disabilities are not often identified in students previously identified as gifted.

We need to start realizing that 2E kids DO exist – human beings seldom fitting neatly into a particular label or box. More often, we fit into a series of sometimes overlapping venn diagrams.

What do you guys think? Can children with identified disabilities also be gifted?

4 thoughts on “Can Children With Disabilities ALSO Be Gifted?

  1. thank you so much for this post christine! you couldn’t be more correct. i have a daughter with LD’s but she has a very high IQ – higher than the average college student. although at this point she only has a 504 and not an IEP, i see part of her problem not just the LD but her boredom in the classroom. the sooner the public education system learns to adapt to individual needs and not a “box” the happier, smarter, more well-adjusted children we’ll have, educationally speaking.

  2. Laura P.

    Thank you for this post. I have a learning disability and when I was in school teachers made assumptions about what I could or could not do. A first grade teacher never put me in a reading group because she assumed that I couldn’t read because my handwriting was messy. She didn’t realize her mistake until I began reading something on her desk because I was nosy🙂. It was something that could have been solved with a call home or a meeting with my parents. I had been reading for quite awhile and at a higher level than my classmates or at least most of them. Also, my kindergarten teacher used to make fun of me because I couldn’t walk up the stairs properly which is an element of my LD. I don’t mean to bash teachers, most try the best they can I think they are overwhelmed and underfunded.

    Though, I don’t consider myself gifted, I do think it is important to remember that EVERYONE has strengths and weakness. So, don’t write a person off just because they they have a disability.

  3. Tom

    I have been advocating for G/LD for the past 10 years and could not agree more. The difficulty rises when schools may push for “one label per child” and/or don’t feel a child who has such needs can be serviced reasonably. Often times the “needs” of the individual are shockingly easy to supply because they don’t need remedial work, they just need some loose scaffolding support to let themselves learn and become stronger.

    There have been a few programs for these twice exceptional students, but with funding cuts racing through the land like wildfire, I think it’s a tough row to hoe right now to get anything going. These are often the kids who could become the next Einstein or Steve Jobs because they don’t see “outside the box” they often don’t even understand where the box is or if there is a box at all.🙂

  4. YESYESYES they can. And sadly the Powers That Be at my son’s school do NOT believe that. And so while we fight, we’re all suffering.
    And Tom up there is absolutely correct; these kids are the ones who will change the world…if schools don’t kill their souls.

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