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Twice Exceptional

Students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must have access to all of the programs and services offered in their district, including gifted and talented education. Students who qualify as a student with a disability and for gifted education under their local district plan are often considered “twice exceptional.”

In November 2013, the National Twice-Exceptional Community of Practice Summit at the National Association for Gifted Children National Convention came up with a working definition of twice exceptional individuals: 

Twice exceptional individuals (“2e”) evidence exceptional ability and disability, which results in a unique set of circumstances. Their exceptional ability may dominate, hiding their disability; their disability may dominate, hiding their exceptional ability; each may mask the other so that neither is recognized or addressed. 2e students, who may perform below, at, or above grade level, require the following:

  • Specialized methods of identification that consider the possible interaction of the exceptionalities;
  • Enriched/advanced educational opportunities that develop the child’s interests, gifts, and talents while also meeting the child’s learning needs,
  • Simultaneous supports that ensure the child’s academic success and social-emotional well-being, such as accommodations, therapeutic interventions, and specialized instruction

Working successfully with this unique population requires specialized academic training and ongoing professional development.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) also mentions 2e students in its position paper on Response to Intervention (RtI). Specifically, CEC states that a RtI process shall consider the educational needs of children with gifts and talents and their families, particularly related to the identification of children considered to be twice exceptional because they have gifts and talents as well as a disability. These advanced learners shall be provided access to a challenging and accelerated curriculum, while also addressing the unique needs of their disability.

The Wisconsin RtI Center provides professional development and technical assistance to help schools operationalize implementation of culturally responsive multi-level systems of support (also known as RtI) that supports all students, including those who are twice exceptional. DPI encourages individuals to use the Match Supports to Needs Learning Module as one way to support 2e students. 

The IDEA does not specifically address 2e students. Local education agencies (LEAs) must evaluate all children suspected of having a disability under IDEA, including those with high cognitive skills. Students who have high cognition, have disabilities and require special education and related services are protected under the IDEA and its implementing regulations. For more language from the United States Department of Education visit the 2013 Letter to Delisle or 2015 memorandum from the Office of Special Education Programs.

For more information on gifted and talented education in Wisconsin, visit the Gifted and Talented page or contact Mark Schwingle .