Awareness

Twice Exceptional (2e): What Is It?

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I’ve been busy with DBT and haven’t had any topics of interest to write about. I want to write about neurodiversity topics that aren’t commonly talked about, so I’m not going to make blog posts just to increase my content. Speaking of neurodiversity topics that aren’t commonly talked about, what the heck is the term “twice exceptional”?

Twice exceptional (or 2e) describes a person who is intellectually gifted, but has a neurodivergent condition that affects learning. If you have read some of my recent blogs about my autism diagnosis, you will see that I am labeled as 2e as I’m intellectually gifted and autistic.

Yes, autistic people can be intellectually gifted. You might be working with or attending school with someone on the autism spectrum and may not realize it.

If you have never heard of this term, it’s okay! I didn’t hear about it until April 2021 when I was having my intake session with my autism evaluator. I mentioned to her that years ago, my grandfather revealed to me that my elementary school wanted me in a special program at a different school. I asked mom about it because I was wondering if it was a “special needs school”. She told me that the school felt like I was very smart and a school administrator wanted to do a home visit to see if I was naturally smarter than other classmates or if I was getting supplemental learning at home to get ahead of my classmates. Mom didn’t want to go through with it because she wanted me to have a normal childhood. My husband and his brother were in gifted programs at their school, but my husband might not remember what he did in the program. I think it was through his school, while other people have to attend school elsewhere.

This leads us to the next point about gifted children: Are they getting a proper education? It depends. Let’s first talk about gifted education for someone who is neurotypical. In many gifted education programs for kids (not sure if it’s improved now), gifted children get additional homework instead of intellectually-appropriate homework. As someone who had anxiety issues since before starting kindergarten and now has diagnoses of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, having a lot of homework would not have worked well for me.

Proper education for twice-exceptional children? Heck, parents of disabled children are still trying to fight hard for accommodations and an education that works well for the child. Now add the fact that people are thinking “WTF?” when they hear a gifted child needs some form of special education and it’s a bigger challenge. You know, the whole “You’re smart, so why aren’t you trying?” issue. People also focus more on the disability instead of the ability. Let’s look at this Understood article written in 2017 by Jon Morin. Jon Morin talked about the educational journey of his oldest son and how the family worked with his high school to balance his intellectual strengths with his neurodivergent challenges. His son’s high school tried something new: a hybrid English program that combined what he was learning in English class with independent study. His son’s strength includes making larger connections to what he’s learning. For example, instead of getting simple worksheets on Romeo and Juliet, he’d write an essay to more deeply explore the play. Could this work for every twice-exceptional student? No, but it’s important to notice your child’s strengths and challenges to find the best way for your student to learn while managing their challenges.

My research dealing with twice exceptional mostly shows twice-exceptional children. If you’re like me, your twice-exceptional profile wasn’t noticed until adulthood. Like autism, there needs to be more resources and services for adults.

To the teachers and future teachers: Learn about twice-exceptional students and how to help students who are gifted, regardless of neurotype. Learn from them too, as a proper education for twice-exceptional students is crucial.

Self-Reflection

Do I Wish to Have Gotten my Autism Diagnosis Sooner?

Short answer: Yes!

I could have included this in my post where I process my diagnoses, but I think this is a question that some of us ask ourselves or others may ask us.

While my answer is yes, I would have wanted a diagnosis AFTER high school. This is because I have been told by other neurodivergent people that they didn’t feel challenged enough at their schools. I was in honors and AP (advanced placement courses) in high school, and I feel that having an autism (or Asperger’s as I probably would have been labeled back then) diagnosis would have prohibited me from taking those classes. As revealed in my testing, I am also intellectually gifted so I would have been bored in my regular classes. Heck, my “finger play” in second grade came from being bored in class.

Would I have wanted a diagnosis in university? Yeah, I was struggling HARD during some semesters in college. Read about that here. I wish my parents started suspecting something when I was having trouble during my freshman year so they could figure out ways I could be helped. Not only was I adjusting to a less-structured life, but my struggles lasted throughout freshman year and returned during junior year. I struggled junior year of high school as well, and they should have suspected something was wrong when their ideas for improving my grades didn’t work. I’m very resentful of my parents for them thinking just trying harder would work. If I had a diagnosis (again, I would have probably been given the Asperger’s label if my diagnosis was before DSM-5 came out), we would find ways that I can minimize my struggles.

A major barrier to getting a proper diagnosis before last month is due to the lack of knowledge a lot of people have about autism. My mom didn’t think I was autistic because she had a brother who was autistic (was because he died in 2007) and I wasn’t like him. It took 5 therapists to notice my social skills issues and an additional therapist to figure out that I show autistic traits. So many therapists are unaware of autism that many of us either get misdiagnosed or are only diagnosed with the comorbidities without someone trying to piece together everything that’s the underlying cause. A misdiagnosis may cause more harm than good, especially if an autistic person is misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). There is such a heavy stigma on BPD inside the mental health industry that a majority of therapists refuse to work with BPD patients. Regarding me not seeming autistic to my mom, non-autistic people have a one-track perception of autism. They expect every autistic person to look the same and have the same presentations. It’s why many autistic women have a hard time seeking a diagnosis. Autism was something that people thought only white boys could have and that it was a childhood condition that people grew out of, hence the lack of services for adults.

I first was wondering if I was autistic almost 6 years ago when a co-worker at the time asked me if I had any learning disabilities because it seemed like I did. This co-worker has been diagnosed with many learning disabilities, but I am not sure if he has an autism diagnosis. If I ever see him again, I’ll ask. This was the first time someone noticed something was wrong with me. However, it was over two years ago when I strongly suspected it. See the full timeline here.

Having a diagnosis much sooner in life would have saved me a lot of stress and anxiety when it came to not performing to neurotypical expectations. I would have been able to get help for things I struggle with. I could have learned what jobs to not do because of my unique autistic traits.