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Practical Classroom Strategies for Twice-Exceptional Leaners

Twice-exceptional learners are those who are gifted AND have an additional exceptionality. As mentioned earlier, these students can often ‘hide’ their giftedness, or can use their giftedness to ‘hide’ their other exceptionality. Exceptionalities including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly called Aspergers), physical or sensory impairments or anxiety, can all co-exist with giftedness.

So, how do you spot a twice-exceptional child? Some common clues are:

  • extremely uneven abilities – eg noticeable differences between verbal and non-verbal abilities; high score in a Listening PAT accompanied by a low score in Reading Comprehension PAT

  • wide-ranging knowledge that is out of sync with apparent achievement

  • extensive and advanced speaking vocabulary, which is much more sophisticated than written vocabulary

  • sophistication, perception, reasoning and insights that seem far beyond years

  • exceptional creativity and imagination

  • excels in visual and performing arts, technology, science, mathematics, but not in literacy

  • difficulty with learning tasks that require rote memorization (eg learning basic facts, spelling, phonics) but thinking abilities are obvious (eg doesn’t remember times tables but does know advanced mathematical concepts)

  • handwriting that is illegible – avoidance of written work

  • poor executive functioning skills, eg time management, keeping track of belongings and commitments, hands work in late or not at all.

Each exceptionality has its own set of recommendations for teachers, but broadly speaking here are some of the strategies which are common to all:

  • follow the 70/30 rule – twice-exceptional students should spend roughly 70 percent of their learning time working in their areas of strength and 30 percent on remediation of weaknesses

  • give students a range of ways to take in, process and then present information. Actively teach these ways, eg by teaching students how to watch a video as a way of taking in information, or teaching them how to create an info-graphic as a way to present information

  • focus on experiential, hands-on teaching as a key mode of instruction rather than relying on text (but where using text is essential, make full use of the capabilities of assistive technology including speech to text and text readers - even old-fashioned ‘scribing’ is a great support!)

  • give clear mini-lessons on ‘missing’ skills, such as time management, goal setting, prioritising, sequencing and chunking of tasks.


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