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Twice Exceptional: Challenges and Joys

For those that don’t keep up with the lexicon of teachers, twice exceptional means that a student is both in the gifted program and in the special needs program for a delay. I was one of these students, being both in speech therapy and highly capable (Washington States Gifted Program).  It was challenging as times, especially since my speech therapist thought I had a mental disability and talked down to me. It was very tough, and I later got out of the speech therapy program and worked on my speech at home. Now, at 28, I have a kid in speech therapy.

When first seeking it out speech therapist, I was so worried. I didn’t want my son to deal with a speech therapist that believes all kids in speech therapy have a low IQ. Because my son is incredibly gifted. He’s 3.5 years old, has known his ABCs since before 2, can already read and write, and spell out loud. But he’s also very behind in speech, namely expressive language. Thus, he’s what teachers call twice exceptional.

I believe my son has what’s called Einstein Syndrome (or Late Talking Syndrome) as coined by Thomas Sowell. However, I’m not letting any labels define my kid. We thankfully found a wonderful speech therapist, who immediately recognized there was no cognitive delays in my son. It turns out that his facial muscles and core muscles didn’t develop as quickly causing him to not use his muscles enough to formulate good speech. Feeling relieved, we started speech therapy and have been doing it for 7 months. He’s made amazing progress and we’re so happy that we found a speech therapist that looks at our son as a whole, and not just his speech.

So what are the challenges of a twice exceptional kid? What’s some advice that can calm our fears and enjoy this time?

1. People expect your kid to be good or bad at everything

When people hear “gifted”, they often think that the child or person is gifted at everything. There are very few people that are good in all areas. Most specialize in an area, such as math or music. So when I tell people my son is gifted, and he cannot yet hold a conversation with someone, they give me this incredulous look. Until I show them a video of him spelling words that most kindergarteners don’t know how to spell.

Conversely, when I tell people my son is in speech therapy, many immediately think he has a cognitive delay. Many kids in speech therapy aren’t there because of any mental disability, sometimes they just need an extra boost for whatever reason. Just like my speech therapist from school, some think that if a kid is delayed in one way, they are delayed in many ways.

2. You’ll feel extremely proud and worried at the same time

Some days I wonder if my kid will ever catch up in his speech, especially when kids a year younger then him are having a very complex conversation with me. But then, I see my son doing a 100 piece puzzle on his own, and I just smile. Like any parent, you’ll have victories and defeats every single day.   I know once he’s caught up in speech, this year will feel like a faint memory. But in the throes of it, it’s hard. Especially when people ask my son questions, he doesn’t answer, they look at me and think “what a rude kid!” Of course, I have to calm answer their silent glare “he’s just shy.” I don’t want to go into the whole “he’s in speech therapy, but actually really smart, etc”. For the most part, my son is shy around new people, but it’s especially hard when kids his age try to engage him in conversation. I have to breathe and just tell myself “he’ll get there, one day he’ll be able to talk with other kids”

3. Don’t let labels define your kid.

There are a million labels for a million different syndromes, delays, everything. We can assign labels to our kid, in order that we can find support groups or the proper help, but sometimes we as parents can go too far. If you stick your kid in a label, then you define their limits by what the average kids with that label can or can’t do. I said I believe my kid has Einstein Syndrome. However, I’m not letting that define who he is. What I love about his speech therapist and she is very careful not putting any syndromes or labels on my kid. She may say things like “he’s very sophisticated in visual ability” or “hypnosensitive in taste” but never anything like “oh he has this syndrome or this” because we fully believe he’s going to grow out of this speech delay. Sure, because he’s so visual he has some sensitivities we are working on. But we aren’t assigning a label to it, just working on it and seeing his progress. I was a bit of a crazy kid when I was young, and back then there weren’t so many labels to throw out there. But, I grew out of them (with the help of my parents and prayer!). Sure, I still have some quirks, who doesn’t? But those weird oddities I had were just a thing of my childhood. My kid will be quirky, but I fully believe once he’s caught up on speech, he’ll not even remember he had such a delay.

My kid is only 3.5 years, so I know things will change as he grows older and gets more vocal. I know that not much will hold him back once he gets there. While there are challenges to a twice exceptional kid, there are also numerous joys. I think whether or not your kid is gifted or has any delays, parents have worry, fears, but also incredible victories whenever their kid reaches a milestone. Parenting is hard, and sometimes we need to just make some coffee, sit back, pray, and trust that our hard work will pay off.