Gifted Asynchrony and the Twice Exceptional Child

It’s not long before parents of gifted individuals discover that there is more to gifted kids than just intellect. As our gifted children grow and develop it’s not long before we discover an imbalance in areas of learning.

As parents discover and learn about asynchronous development you can begin to accept that not all areas of growth will be equal. But, could you be missing a twice exceptional developmental or learning difficulty?

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But, you don’t want to rely solely on asynchrony as an explanation for areas where development seems delayed. If you rest solely on that explanation asynchrony could actually mask twice exceptionalities.

Discovering that your child is cognitively and creatively gifted can sound like such a fabulous thing. I mean, we all want our kids to be smart don’t we?

But, realizing that with the gifted comes emotional intensity, overexcitabilities, and often, twice exceptionalities can quickly become overwhelming. 

But, what is this thing, twice exceptional? How is it different from asynchronous development? 

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An Explanation of Twice Exceptional

A gifted individual is considered twice-exceptional, or 2e for short, when he or she has another medical, psychological, or learning issue to deal with.

These twice exceptionalities can be things such as;

  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD)
  • Auditory Processing Disorder, 
  • Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome,
  • Bipolar Disorder,
  • Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalcula
  • Cognitive Distortions
  • Communication Disorders,
  • Language Processing Disorder,
  • Sensory Processing Disorder,
  • Vestibular Dysfunction,
  • Physical and/or Medical Difficulties,

and a variety of other types of issues.

Discovering How Asynchronous Development Can Mask Twice Exceptional Issues

Because these children have brains that learn to adapt quickly to any given situation, they develop compensations that can mask their second, or even third exceptional issue.

This is something I recently found myself dealing with.

I could see some areas where my son wasn’t quite developing in a typical way. Yet, he was able to accomplish most tasks with ease, as if, they weren’t a struggle. Other times, he would struggle with seemingly simple tasks and get frustrated because he SHOULD be able to do them. 

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I was confused. In his early years it was easy to say, this must be because of asynchronous development. And, I’d jump in and help him resolve the struggle. 

Other times, he’d struggle with something and rather than telling us it was a struggle he’d become belligerent, or argumentative. He might seem unfocused or over focused. And at other times, he’d just give up and present an I don’t care attitude. 

Also, as he got older he developed an odd speech pattern. It was like a hiccup in his brain that caused him to repeat phrases. And, the older he got the worse it was becoming.

That’s when I decided to reach out for help!

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Discovering Twice Exceptional

I decided to call Poss-Abilities Children Therapy Group. This was so new to me I didn’t know where to begin. But a friend who is a former Occupational Therapist recommended this group because she knew they do take insurance and I could probably just start with them without having to get a physician referral. 

After verifying with them that they could do assessments and did take my insurance I started with… 

“I don’t really know what he needs, but I’m sure he needs a speech assessment, and perhaps a physical therapy or occupational therapy assessment as well.”

I’m sure they hear that or something similar all the time. They were pretty patient with me, and helped me navigate getting him started on the road to appropriate therapies.

The Need for Speech Therapy

After they completed his assessments I learned that he was dealing with a stutter, but not the type of stutter most people think of. He was dealing with a hesitancy and verbal block stutter.

He struggles with effective communication. And, has pragmatic communication disorder.

Through his wonderful speech therapist, Laurel, he’s pretty much stopped stuttering.

And, I had NO IDEA, that speech therapists can help students who struggle with writing. And, help him she did. She’s working to teach him communication skills and writing is a communication skill, so speech therapy can include writing instruction. She has unlocked something in him I’ve been trying to do for 10 years. 

While he has always been good at grammar, reading, vocabulary, and spelling he always struggle to write (be it via computer or paper) his thoughts in an effective way. 

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Now he’s working on writing an epic fantasy novel. Not just a novel! He’s outlined plans for an entire series of novels. 

To say I’m stunned and thrilled is an understatement. 

The Need for Occupational Therapy

Emotionally, as a mom, this one was, and still is the hardest for me to talk about. As I’ve written here I’ve kept putting off this part of the discussion. It’s because, I feel like I failed him. I feel like I missed very important clues in his young life.

It’s because I feel that I should have somehow known that he had some very real, very intense, struggles that I missed.

Following his occupational therapy assessment we were stunned to learn that he’s been struggling his whole life with balance, strength, sensory processing, and executive functioning issues. 

I’ve always been a researcher. I’ve always wanted to know more. I’ve always wanted to see if I could figure out what my child’s needs were and meet them to the best of my ability. 

I had researched gifted education.

I had researched homeschooling gifted children.

And, while I was focused on meeting his gifted needs, I was missing that he has twice exceptional development as well.

As he grew and developed I would see inconsistencies but I’d chalk them up to asynchrony. Perhaps, I didn’t want to see a problem. I can’t say for sure.My friend Colleen, at Raising Lifelong Learners, reminds me that you can’t know what you don’t know until you know that you don’t know it. And, while that is true there is still a part of me that feels guilty for missing what I now see as obvious. 

It’s been just under a year since he began speech and occupational therapy. We’ve seen progress in some areas, and he’s still struggling in others. 

Embracing Twice Exceptional and Therapy

Let me just say, his therapists are amazing! His therapist, Jenny, helps him to approach tasks in a fun way, recognizing his age level, but challenging him past the struggles that can seem so elemental. She makes it fun for him.

We definitely see improvements in strength. He embraces each given task with determination even if they are a struggle.

Our OT and ST have also helped me to recognize that he has a lot of anxiety. Maybe it’s because he struggled to effectively communicate, but, that too came as a surprise to me.

The Need for Psychological TherapyKnowing that anxiety can have an impact on overall health, feelings of security and confidence we sought psychological help for him.

Of course for him, and most gifted individuals, perfectionism plays a big role in his life. But, having that desire for perfectionism can be a root cause for anxiety.

We sought out a psychologist who is helping him to recognize cognitive distortions related to perfectionism. Once he sees those distortions she also gives him tools to self-regulate his emotions. She’s helping him to be calmer, more aware, and able to recognize when he’s becoming over excited, anxious, or stressed.

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Making Peace with Twice Exceptional

Moms let me just say, seeking help for your child is never a bad thing! In fact, it’s a good thing. 

We can’t always know everything. When we know better we do better.

But, we also can have this desire for our kids to be, normal, whatever that is. Letting go of preconceived expectations and embracing our children for who they are allows us to truly help them in all areas of their developmental growth.

Perhaps, some of the guilt I’ve felt stems from being a homeschooling family. There’s that little part of me that wonders if he’d have gotten the help he needed had he been in public school.

And, maybe that’s true. We can’t know. But, given the data regarding gifted children falling behind, or getting misdiagnosed with the wrong diagnoses it’s likely that he would not have thrived in a public school environment.

Thus, I’ve had to make peace with the decisions we’ve made thus far in his life. I’ve had to embrace our new normal. And, I’ve learned to let go of the need to know all the things.

I’ve had to learn to be at peace with allowing his therapists to guide his therapy and I then act as a

Are you a parent of a gifted child and seeing some inconsistencies in their development? While it’s true that asynchronous development will be a key factor the truth is you can’t go wrong by having assessments to see if your child may need therapeutic assistance.

It’s OK to admit you don’t know everything. And, it’s right and good to get help for your child. You may discover a twice exceptionality or you could just get help them to develop skills to compensate for their asynchrony. Either way, yo’ll be helping your child.

What are your thoughts? Tell me how you are seeking to help your asynchronous and/or twice exceptional gifted child.

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