My elementary school years were difficult for me as a talkative nonconformist in an authoritarian led school. It seemed that all of my closest friends got citizen of the month at least once a year, and were placed in the gifted program in 3rd grade. I, on the other hand, did not pass the test. This was likely due to my slow reading skills, and inattention. When I finally was identified for the program in 5th grade, my score was high enough they told my parents, “you need to get her out of this school and into a full time gifted program!”

Unlike many, my middle school years were probably my best because I had the best educational fit. By high school though, my poor executive functioning skills and larger class sizes caught up with me and they tried to kick me out of the gifted program for underachievement. When I finally was tested for learning disabilities in college just before I dropped out, they dismissed my concerns entirely because I tested so high, even though there was a 50 point spread between scores.

I would eventually learn that I am twice exceptional, which means both gifted and have thinking and learning challenges.

Twice Exceptional: Supporting and Educating Bright and Creative Students with Learning Difficulties, edited by Scott Barry Kaufman, states that “Twice exceptional individuals demonstrate exceptional levels of capacity, competence, commitment, or creativity in one or more domains coupled with one or more learning difficulties. This combination of exceptionalities results in a unique set of circumstances. Their exceptional potentialities may dominate, hiding their disability; their disability may dominate, hiding their exceptional potentialities; each may mask the other so that neither is recognized or addressed.”

I was a combination of the three.

No one saw my potential in elementary school so I was forced to do mundane work, and in high school no one saw my internal challenges so they treated it as laziness and almost kicked me out of the gifted program.

In his book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Scott Barry Kaufman shares his experience of having his own gifts go unrecognized due to his Auditory Processing Learning Disability. It wasn’t until a high school teacher recognized his potential that he was really able to thrive. He went on to get his PhD in cognitive psychology and has rapidly become my favorite nonfiction author due to his thorough reviews on topics such as intelligence and creativity, and his strong ethics in looking at all perspectives and minimizing his own bias. You can hear more about his story on this video here.

In her thread on the curse of being a gifted child with undiagnosed ADHD, René Brooks of Black Girl, Lost Keys shares how her struggles were ignored and treated as personality flaws due to her obvious potential:

“Beyond the torment of ADHD symptoms, add the additional criticisms of “we KNOW you’re smart” “you’re WAY too intelligent for this” and “why aren’t you working up to your full potential?”

Then turn those internal and they are your internal diaglouge forever. So there’s your gift.”

She has since shared her experience in this blog post Double Trouble: Navigating Life As A Gifted Kid with Undiagnosed ADHD. Colin Seale, of Think Law, also wrote a post Gifted at 7 and ADHD at 37: My Story and The Costs of Overlooking Twice-Exceptionality.

As the concept of twice exceptionality has become more and more on my radar, I’ve found myself testing more kids who had been in special education with unrecognized giftedness, or who had not qualified for either due to one masking the other.

What I have found is that it’s not so much the services that made the difference in their success, but recognizing how their gifts and challenges interact and inspiring them to use their strengths.

This has become my goal with comprehensive educational assessments and adult learning profile assessments – to help individuals better understand how they process information and how they can maximize on their learning and cognitive strengths.

I’m building a community of gifted, creative and twice exceptional thinkers in my Embracing Intensity Community, where I’ll be sharing lessons to help manage your energy, and started an accountability group with regular check ins both in the app and on live zoom!

I also started a new playlist on youtube of stories from the Embracing Intensity podcast featuring experiences relevant to twice exceptional individuals on this playlist here.

You can get a free copy of the workbook from my first lesson on Harnessing the Power of Your Intensity here.

Some additional resources on twice exceptionality, feel free to share more in the comments:

2E Newsletter

Bright & Quirky – Summits & Community

With Understanding Comes Calm

Bridges Academy

Seth Perler – Executive Function Coach & Vlogger

Gifted and Thriving

Tilt Parenting – Podcast, book and Community

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