I having been living in data hell for the past few years. Actually, lack-of-data hell.
Nobody seems to be able to get a handle on my most complicated kid: a 5-year old with 2nd grade math and reading skills, the emotional meltdowns of a 2-year-old, and significant developmental delays relating to basic self-care skills. Figuring out what is simply asynchronous development and what is a disability or learning difference is hard. He has dysgraphia, sensory processing issues, and challenges with pragmatic social skills, but what else is going on – and there definitely is more going on – is hard to fit into diagnostic categories.
Understanding twice-exceptional children can be challenging. When a child’s areas of strength are enough to compensate for their weaknesses, both academic giftedness and disabilities can be missed. If the weaknesses win out over the strengths, the gifts can be missed. And, if the child compensates adequately for the weaknesses, the deficits do not get addressed.
To complicate things further, twice-exceptional children often develop emotional and behavioural problems as a result of the frustrations they experience.
While the adults around are busy struggling to understand these kids well enough to help them thrive, the kids themselves are experiencing their own frustrations. Remember, these are gifted kids – they are tuned in to the signals around them. They know that they are smart, that they have skills others do not have. And, at the same time, they have problems that they do not see other smart kids having. Adults often misconstrue failures as lack of willpower and self-discipline and accuse them of laziness. Frustration is hard to avoid, self-compassion hard to maintain.
A teacher or parent who has seen average academic performance from a child and then witnesses the secondary emotional and behavioural issues often has a hard time accepting that a child’s giftedness is contributing to the behavioural problems.
The kid I am most concerned about lives in a useful-data-free zone. Every comprehensive assessment comes back with a “well, he doesn’t really fall into any diagnostic categories beyond needing OT for his handwriting and sensory issues, but he has many other minor issues that collectively negatively impact his ability to function but at least he’s doing so well academically” report, a report that is neither useful in building a treatment plan nor in advocating for accommodations at school, despite the fact that the combination of issues is agreed to be a substantial problem.
For now, I work with the child in front of me, based on hunch and experience without benefit of theoretical framework for understanding and I wait for him to get off the waiting lists for the next rounds of assessments. I am always on the hunt for useful data, but I am not expecting much.
For a more theoretical look at the challenges of identification of twice-exceptional kids, here are a few resources:
Kate can usually be found writing about writing at www.katearmsroberts.com.