Three Key Ingredients: knowledge, willingness, and understanding

by Cathryn Bjarnesen





Belonging, acceptance, inclusion and connection……. These are all fine goals that we wish for our children BUT for a few gifted children, these goals will only ever remain as ideals. Being gifted, but with a learning disorder, a twice-exceptional (2e) child is among the small minority of another minority group and often they (and their teachers) do not realise their unique combination of gifts and limitations. Often the 2e child is impatient to finally start this wonderful place called school, where they can “learn”, have fun and “make lots of friends” like all the other five year olds, but for some children the reality is quite different. They may find that their peers (and their teacher) may not share their fascination for bats’ abilities to use echolocation nor their love of stick insects. The 2e child’s classmates may struggle with: their use of “big words”, their intensity, their obsession with knowing and following “rules”, and their crazy ideas. On the other hand, the 2e child may not see “the point” of many games, may struggle to catch or hit a ball, and not know what to say or how to interact with their peers. Over the first few months at school, the 2e child can become frustrated and confused as their classmates, seemingly with little effort, acquire the “magic arts” of reading, writing and/or arithmetic, while they are repeatedly put into the bottom group for extra support (even though the teacher may try to disguise this when naming the groups). As a member of “Turtles”, the 2e child quickly realises that the other struggling readers, writers, or math students, are quite different to themselves. They are faced with the question “if these kids are “dumb”, does it mean that I am “dumb” too?”


Last year I was visiting a school to provide learning support to a 2e child who did believe that she was “dumb”. I was told by a teacher at that school: “She can’t be gifted, she can’t read”. I felt that my first and most important goal with this student was to help her understand and accept herself for who she was, with her unique combination of strengths and differences. By understanding and accepting herself, she is slowly developing confidence in herself and in her relationships with others. Due to her gifts and learning disorder, she may always struggle to be included and to belong. In the classroom, she needs extra support and this singles her out from her peers. While she enjoyed the challenges offered during her trial in a gifted programme, she struggled to participate because of her learning disability.


Before: belonging, acceptance, inclusion, and connection, must come: knowledge, willingness, and understanding.



Image Credit: Paulo Coelho When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change by BK is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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