Giving Compass' Take:

• Rachel Blustain explains why schools struggle to serve gifted students with disabilities, who make up 6% of students with disabilities. 

• How can funders help schools to better serve these students? How are these students currently treated in your community? 

• Learn about schools where special-needs students flourish

To Eva Santiago, her son’s education has always felt like an impossible dilemma.

Before elementary school, the boy was diagnosed with autism, ADHD and anxiety, and in kindergarten he was placed in a small, self-contained class for kids with disabilities.

But he was articulate and curious, so when he was 6, Santiago took him to be tested for the city’s exclusive gifted-and-talented program. She was pleased when his score earned him one of the coveted spots.

But in his larger gifted-and-talented class, he became anxious and easily upset. He fought with students and teachers and spent most of the school day roaming the halls. After he kicked a security guard and the school called the police, Santiago said, she begged administrators to return him to a self-contained class. There, at least, his teachers could manage his behavioral challenges — even if it meant he breezed through his school work and learned little.

About 6 percent of students nationwide are “twice exceptional,” or 2e: They have high academic aptitude but struggle with ADHD, mild autism, dyslexia or other learning and behavioral challenges.
The boy’s experience is typical for a category of students known as “twice exceptional,” or 2e. These kids — believed to make up at least 6 percent of all students who have a disability — possess high academic aptitude but struggle with ADHD, mild autism, dyslexia or other learning and behavioral challenges.* They are notoriously difficult for schools to serve effectively for two reasons, say advocates, parents and some educators. Often, their intelligence masks their disability, so they are never assessed for special education or don’t receive the services best suited for them. In other cases, they’re placed in special education classes tailored to their disability but grade levels behind the school work they’re capable of.

But a handful of school systems across the country are searching for better ways to accommodate bright students with disabilities. Colorado trains teachers across the state in twice exceptionality, for example, while Montgomery County, Maryland, is perhaps the only school district to offer self-contained classes for students in elementary school who need both an accelerated curriculum and more support than they would receive in a mainstream classroom.

Read the full article about gifted students with disabilities by Rachel Blustain at The Hechinger Report.