Gifted But Disabled (Twice Exceptional)

Image courtesy of brainbalancecenters.com.

Gifted people are said to learn and master knowledge quickly especially in the classroom. Chances are, they accelerate and finish schooling (college and post graduate) earlier than their peers. But giftedness has a wide range of learners, from fast learners to slow learners; some of them are truly intelligent but cannot cope with school’s demands. They are the gifted people who end up without educational achievement. But their giftedness go unnoticed and may be diagnosed with a learning disability or a neurodiverse condition. Yet they have extraordinary gifts from making art masterpieces to solving algebraic equations in mind.

Learned but cannot learn??? How possible is that?

A person can be profoundly gifted yet have certain learning styles not fit for modern education. This kind of gifted is the opposite of the child prodigy. He is called twice exceptional.

What is twice exceptional?

Twice Exceptional (2e) is a kind of giftedness combined with special needs like learning disabilities and developmental disorders. refers to intellectually gifted children who have some form of disability. These children are considered exceptional both because of their intellectual gifts and because of their special needs.[1] A 2e child usually refers to a child who, alongside being considered intellectually above average, is formally diagnosed with one or more disabilities.[1][2] The disabilities are varied:dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, Asperger syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, or any other disability interfering with the student’s ability to learn effectively in a traditional environment.[1][2]

2e children are said to be one of the most misunderstood of all exceptionalities.[1][3] This means they can be both intelligent and dumb at the same time. In each situation, the 2e student’s strengths help to compensate for deficits; the deficits, on the other hand, make the child’s strengths less apparent.[1][4] For example, he might be a skilled artist or builder but turn in assignments that are messy or illegible. She might complete assignments but lose them or forget to turn them in.[1] This makes him or her look lazy or not trying at all, which frustrates parents and teachers alike. In fact, many 2e children work as hard if not harder than others, but with less to show for their efforts. This struggle to accomplish tasks that appear easy for other students can leave 2e children frustrated, anxious, and depressed. It can rob them of their enthusiasm and energy for school and damage their self-esteem.[1]

2e can be classified into 3 profiles, according to educator and researcher Susan Baum[1][4]:

  • Bright but not trying hard enough – students who have been identified as gifted yet are exhibiting difficulties in school and are often considered underachievers[5]
  • Learning disabled but with no exceptional abilities – students who have been identified as having learning disabilities, but whose exceptional abilities have never been recognized or addressed[5]
  • Average – the students may appear to possess average abilities due to the fact that their abilities and disabilities mask each other. They typically perform at grade level but unfortunately are also performing well below their potential[5]

Image courtesy of ablpsychology.co.nz. 2e children can be divided into 3 groups.

How is a 2e child identified?

2e children, like other gifted children, have asynchronous development (a larger gap between their mental age and physical age). They are often intense and highly sensitive to their emotional and physical environments.[1] Twice-exceptional students are atypical learners who are often characterized as smart students with school problems. These students assume that learning tasks will be easy for them and are not prepared for the difficulty that arises from activities in areas of their disability. This leads to frustration, tension, and fear that eventually becomes defensiveness. Due to this frustration, these students often tend to be aggressive, careless, and frequently off-task. They also cause classroom disturbances, and, similar to learning disabled students, seem deficient in tasks emphasizing memory and perceptual abilities. In other areas, their learning characteristics resemble those of high ability students.[5]

Below is a chart of the strengths and weaknesses of 2e children[1][6]:

Strengths Deficits
  • Superior vocabulary
  • Poor social skills
  • Advanced ideas and opinions
  • High sensitivity to criticism
  • High levels of creativity and problem-solving ability
  • Lack of organizational and study skills
  • Extremely curious, imaginative, and inquisitive
  • Discrepant verbal and performance skills
  • Wide range of interests not related to school
  • Poor performance in one or more academic areas
  • Penetrating insight into complex issues
  • Difficulty with written expression
  • Specific talent or consuming interest area
  • Stubborn, opinionated demeanor
  • Sophisticated sense of humor
  • High impulsivity

Other common traits 2es have are[7][8]:

  • creativity
  • excellence on tasks requiring abstract concepts
  • difficulty with tasks requiring memorization
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • acting-out behavior
  • poor organization
  • poor motivation
  • active problem solving
  • analytic thinking
  • strong task commitment when interested
  • withdrawal/shyness

What makes hard for parents, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and developmental pediatricians to identify 2e is that 2 children are more mistakenly identified as either problem students, kids with disabilities, or just simply not bright; they only are average, which makes it more complicated for the 2e child.

More often than not, 2e children’s giftedness are masked by their deficits, both academically and emotionally.

What is 2es are not identified?

Complications arise when 2e children are not identified. Unfortunately, most 2e children are not identified as gifted and are more identified as problem children; if not, problem adults later on life. Twice-exceptional children feel trapped between two worlds: Many have the internal motivation and strong belief in their abilities of gifted children, yet the lack of confidence in certain areas common with children with learning disabilities.[7][8] They tend to have high expectations of themselves that are continually frustrated by their disabilities, and thus may develop an overdeveloped fear of failure. Twice-exceptional students also experience the paradox of feeling bored and confused at the same time, which leads to increased frustration and sometimes depression.[7][9]

According to an article in Learn NC, the self-concept of a 2e is in danger because inside she knows she is more than capable of knowledge acquisition (characteristic of giftedness) yet she cannot learn or cope alongside her peers. This can ultimately destroy her self-esteem.

The self-concept of twice-exceptional children is in particular danger due to their condition. Even if these children are achieving at grade level in school, their sense that they should be able to do better may contribute to a lower self esteem than would be seen in a typical student.[7][8] Depending on where the disabilities and gifts lie, teachers and parents may be sending mixed messages as to the student’s disabilities, and twice-exceptional children can have a hard time sorting out different expectations. Socially, studies have shown twice-exceptional students to feel more isolated than either their gifted peers or those with learning disabilities. While gifted children are often popular, children with learning disabilities are less likely to be leaders and face more rejection than typical children.[7][10] They struggle with feelings of isolation and difference, and need more special attention than other children. However, when they come to terms with both their giftedness and their learning disability, they can easily build self-concept in both academic and social areas.

Image of Your Gifted and Talented Child. Characteristics of a twice exceptional (2e) child.

To avoid this, proper identification is needed to nurture the gifts of 2es. Although there are standardized tests available for giftedness and various learning disabilities, oftentimes, the 2e child neither passes these tests, slipping through the cracks of specialized or gifted education. Instead, teachers and specialists should use holistic methods for classifying a child as twice-exceptional.[7]

Managing 2e children

When a child is finally identified as a 2e, strategies are formed to help her manage her disabilities as well as nurturing her strengths in order to reach her potential.

There are no easy answers for helping our twice-exceptional kids learn to tolerate difficulty, especially after they have been burned. It certainly helps if you can recognize when a task is hard for them and let them know that you understand.[11]

One way to identify 2e children is through the use of the IQ test Wechsler Intelligence Test (WISC III ). Here, a child’s IQ is measured and if found to be high (beginning at around 115 and above, click my giftedness blog for more details), combined with observations made by the tester can suggest that a child receive further assessment for possible special needs.[11] But be careful when administering IQ tests. 2e chldren usually perform poorly at IQ tests. Considerations must be given especially with their special needs. Below are some tips from Davidson Institute[11]:

  1. The Arithmetic subscale is in the verbal section – it requires the ability to understand word problems and keep the information in memory while solving the problems (i.e., it is not a paper and pencil test)

  2. The Comprehension subscale is based on understanding social situations.

  3. Digit Span is a measure of auditory memory.

  4. A child with hearing or auditory processing problems may have trouble with the verbal subscales (some won’t, since some will do fine in a quiet, one-on-one setting, especially if they can see the tester’s mouth and lip-read).

  5. The performance scales all have time limits, and almost all give bonuses for speed. This penalizes children who are either slow processors, have fine motor problems (i.e., take longer to manipulate objects even when they understand the relationships involved) or who are perfectionists and want to be sure they are right before moving on.

  6. The performance scales all require visual processing and/or fine motor skills. A child with poor vision or motor problems will do poorly on these tests.

This is because 2e children don’t readily finish on IQ tests especially if this involves time limit. Also, aside from measurement, a written report of observation is a must as well to better identify both her gifts and special needs.

Image courtesy of highiqpro.com. A high IQ must be present as well as a special need to be considered twice exceptional.

Her IQ is high and also has identifiable special needs. Now what?

After identifying a 2e, educational strategies are made to ensure her potential development as well as managing her special needs. This is to nurture the 2e’s gift that have made and will make some of the most extraordinary contributions to our world.[12]

The needs of 2e students can be met through appropriate identification and an individualized approach to education.[12]

Programming for 2e students must include strategies to[12][13][14]:

  • Nurture the student’s strengths and interests – An encouraging and exciting learning environment for 2e students is one in which their giftedness is recognized first, not their disability. Despite their difficulties in reading, writing, math, or attending to the task at hand, these learners must be allowed to engage in a challenging curriculum tailored to their strengths[15]. Strength-based instruction is one of the most effective strategies for 2e students, emphasizing talent development over remediation of deficiencies.

  • Foster their social/emotional development – 2e students need a nurturing environment that supports the development of their potential. An encouraging approach is recommended over implementing measures from a punitive perspective.

  • Enhance their capacity to cope with mixed abilities – The drive to achieve perfection, common in many gifted children, generates much psychological conflict in academically talented children who have difficulty achieving. Furthermore, 2e students can be very self-critical, which can lead to a particularly dysfunctional form of perfectionism. Counseling is recommended to address their unique needs and should be available on an as-needed basis.

  • Identify learning gaps and provide explicit, remediative instruction – A lack of organizational, time management, and study skills can have a negative impact on both the emotional wellbeing and school performance of twice-exceptional students. Many in the 2e research community agree that it is critical that students receive explicit instruction and support to develop this battery of skills.

  • Support the development of compensatory strategies – Accommodations, particularly the use of assistive technology, are highly recommended to help these academically talented students compensate for their learning challenges.[16][17]

Image courtesy of rochestersage.wordpress.com.

Individualized education is designed for the 2e child because 2e students have needs that differ considerably from those of gifted students without LDs, students without exceptional abilities who have LDs, and average students whose abilities are more evenly distributed.[12] There must be a paradigm shift from a remediation or deficit model to a strength-based model of education.[12]

Image courtesy of mermaidsandmermen.com.au.

Final Note

Twice-exceptional children need an education that fits, and it’s in all of our interests to give it to them.[12]  By knowing, understanding, accepting and helping 2e people, they will surely bring out the best in them to the world.

“…failure to help the gifted child reach his potential is a societal tragedy, the extent of which is difficult to measure but what is surely great. How can we measure the sonata unwritten, the curative drug undiscovered, the absence of political insight? They are the difference between what we are and what we could be as a society.” –James J. Gallagher


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twice_exceptional
  2. National Education Association, 2006. The Twice-Exceptional Dilemma.Washington D.C.:NEA.
  3. Brody, L.E.; Mills, C.J. (1997). “Gifted Children with learning disabilities: a review of the issues”. Journal of Learning Disabilities 30: 282-296.
  4. Baum, S. & Owen, S. (2004). To Be Gifted & Learning Disabled: Strategies for Helping Bright Students with LD, ADHD, and More. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press
  5. http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt/newsletter/spring98/sprng984.html
  6. Higgins, L. D. & Nielsen, M. E. (2000). Responding to the Needs of Twice-Exceptional Learners: A School District and University’s Collaborative Approach. In K. Kay, (Ed.),Uniquely Gifted: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of the Twice-Exceptional Student (pp. 287-303). Gilsum, NH: Avocus Publishing.
  7. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/6960
  8. King, E.M., “Addressing the Social and Emotional Needs of Twice-Exceptional Students,” Teaching Exceptional Children 38(1) (2005).
  9. Assouline, S.G., M.F. Nicpon, & D.H. Huber, “The Impact of Vulnerabilities and Strengths on the Academic Experiences of Twice-Exceptional Students: A Message to School Counselors.” Professional School Counseling, 10(1) (2006).
  10. Stormont, M., M. Stebbins, & G. Holliday, “Characteristics and Educational Support Needs of Underrepresented Gifted Adolescents,” Psychology in the Schools 38(5) (2001), 413-423.
  11. http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10140.
  12. http://www.2enewsletter.com/article_2e_what_are_they.html
  13. Reis, S. & McCoach, D.B. (2000). The underachievement of gifted students: What do we know and where do we go? Gifted Child Quarterly, 44(152-170).
  14. Smutny, J.F. (2001). Meeting the needs of gifted underachievers—Individually! Gifted Education Communicator, 32(3).
  15. Baum, S. & Owen, S. V. (2004). To be gifted & learning disabled: Strategies for helping bright students with LD, ADHD, and more. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
  16. Baum, S., Owen, S. V., & Dixon, J. (1991). To be gifted and learning disabled: From identification to practical intervention strategies. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
  17. Howard, J. B. (1994). Addressing needs through strengths. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education,5(3), 23-34.


Image courtesy of brilliantentertainment.com No, not that gift.

No, not that gift.

Image courtesy of School A to Z New South Wales. This is a stereotype gifted child.

Yeah, that one. A gifted child.

Surely, all parents want a gifted child who’ll give that awe and wonder and something to be proud of. Teachers like them a lot, but peers don’t like their “geekiness.” They’re libraries’ best friends. They’re also a turn off to peers and lovers and employers.

But what exactly is giftedness?

Giftedness or intellectual giftedness is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. It is a characteristic of children, variously defined, that motivates differences in school programming. It is thought to persist as a trait into adult life.[1] Most school placement decisions and most longitudinal studies over the course of individual lives have been based on IQ in the top 2 percent of the population, that is above IQ 130.[1]

This means extremely intelligent people on the top tier of the IQ population.

Image courtesy of iqcatch.com. The IQ score distribution (bell curve). Take note of the gifted population on the right side of the Bell curve.

As you can observe in the bell curve of IQ scores, the gifted population are the top 2 of the total population, those with IQ of 130 and above. But IQ between 115 and 129 can be considered mildly gifted.[2]

According to About Parenting, giftedness can be classified according to IQ score[2]:

  • Mildly Gifted — 115 to 129
  • Moderately Gifted — 130 to 144
  • Highly Gifted — 145 to 159
  • Exceptionally Gifted — 160 to 179
  • Profoundly Gifted — 180

The various definitions of intellectual giftedness include either general high ability or specific abilities. For example, by some definitions an intellectually gifted person may have a striking talent for mathematics without equally strong language skills. In particular, the relationship between artistic ability or musical ability and the high academic ability usually associated with high IQ scores is still being explored, with some authors referring to all of those forms of high ability as “giftedness,” while other authors distinguish “giftedness” from “talent.”[1]

What are the characteristics of giftedness?

Image courtesy of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center. A gifted boy.

To be considered gifted, a child or adult must have these following characteristics[2]:

Exceptional Talent

This is the ability to perform a skill at a level not usually reached until later years or adulthood.[2] For example, a 3-year-old reading high school books or a 5-year-old performing violin piece Meditation de Thais. usually, if the exceptional talent is academic, he or she is easily screened for gifted programs, unlike non-academic skills such as art or music.

Is exceptional talent akin to prodigy?

Probably. In definition, a prodigy is a person under the age of ten who produces meaningful output in some domain to the level of an adult expert performer.[3][4][5][6]

High Achievement

Gifted children are usually, but not always have high achievement.[2] Even if they don’t excel in school, they have high scores on achievement tests. They have the ability to learn quickly. However, if a gifted child loses his interest to learn in school, this doesn’t affect his or her ability to learn at home.

Potential to Achieve or Excel

Gifted children love to learn. Many of them are intrinsically motivated[2], meaning their curiosity to learn comes from within themselves and are not forced by parents.

Heightened Sensitivity

What sets common gifted children apart from other children is their heightened sensitivity to stimuli (what the senses send to the brain). They can be either physically sensitive (irritated by shirt tags) or emotionally sensitive (easily cries over what other children see as trivial). In fact, the gifted child’s sensitivities are called “overexcitability’ (OE), coined by Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski.[7] These observations are supported by parents and teachers who notice distinct behavioral and constitutional differences between highly gifted children and their peers.[7] But not all of the gifted children have OEs, but OE is more prevalent in the gifted than the general population. Take note that OE could be or not be similar to sensory processing disorder.

More characteristics of giftedness:

Informal indicators[8]:

  • Walks and talks at an early age
  • Has a large and advanced vocabulary
  • Learns rapidly and easily
  • Reads at an early age
  • Demonstrates a great appetite for books and reading
  • Entertains self for large blocks of time
  • Has a long attention span
  • Readily retains a large amount of information
  • Consistently organizes, sorts, classifies and groups things, and names them
  • Has a heightened curiosity (asks ‘why’ often)
  • Fantasizes often
  • Is self-motivated, self-sufficient, and independent
  • Shows sensitivity to other people’s feelings and empathy in response to their troubles
  • Demonstrates leadership abilities
  • Exhibits perfectionism
  • Likes to discuss abstract concepts (such as love, justice, etc.)
  • Has a high energy, needing less sleep than age-mates
  • Learns new material rapidly
  • Loves puzzles, mazes, building blocks, and toys that challenge
  • Has an advanced sense of humor
  • Prefers the company of older children or adults
  • Is highly creative, imaginative
  • Is a keen observer
  • Expresses unusual sensitivity to what they see, hear, touch, smell or feel
  • Is widely informed, especially in areas of personal interest
  • Expresses concern for the world’s problems

Characteristics of Gifted Students[8]:

1. Verbal Proficiency

  • Large vocabulary
  • Facility of expression
  • Breadth of information
2. Power of Abstraction

  • Interest in inductive learning and problem solving
  • High level of conceptualization
  • Pleasure in intellectual activity
3. Intellectual Curiosity

  • Interest in a wide range of things
  • Willingness for complexity
  • Persistent pursuit of goals
4. Retentiveness/Power of Concentration

  • Intense attention
  • Retains and uses information
  • Long attention span
5. Independence/Goal Directed

  • Self-initiated student
  • Pursues individual interests
  • Seeks direction
6. Power of Critical Thinking

  • Self-criticism
  • Skepticism
  • Adept in analyzing strengths and weaknesses
7. Sensitivity/Intuitiveness

  • High level of awareness
  • Keenly observant
  • Emotional depth
8. Potential for Creativity

  • Inventiveness
  • Liking for new ways of doing things
  • Interest in brainstorming, freewheeling
9. Versatility/Virtuosity

  • Diversity of interests and abilities
  • Many hobbies
  • Proficiency in art forms such as music and drawing

From Raising Champions: A Parent’s Guide for Nurturing Their Gifted Children,
by Dr. Michael Sayler

Wow! They’re truly a blessing, right?

Contrary to popular belief, not all gifted children succeed later on in life, as they face various challenges.

The Challenges of Giftedness[8]:

Strengths Possible Problems
1. Acquires/retains information quickly 1. Impatient with others; dislikes routine
2. Inquisitive; searches for significance 2. Asks embarrassing questions
3. Intrinsic motivation 3. Strong-willed; resists direction
4. Enjoys problem solving; able to use abstract reasoning 4. Resists routine practice; questions use abstract reasoning procedures
5. Seeks cause-effect relations 5. Dislikes unclear/illogical areas (such as traditions or feelings)
6. Emphasizes truth, equity, and fair play 6. Worries about humanitarian concerns
7. Seeks to organize things and people 7. Constructs complicated rules; often seen as bossy
8. Large vocabulary; advanced, broad information 8. May use words to manipulate; bored with school and age-peers
9. High expectations of self and others 9. Intolerant, perfectionist; may become depressed
10. Creative/inventive; likes new ways of doing things 10. May be seen as disruptive and out of step
11. Intense concentration; long attention span; persistence in areas of interest 11. Neglects duties/people during periods of focus; seen as stubborn
12. Sensitivity, empathy, desire to be accepted 12. Sensitivity to criticism or peer rejection
13. High energy, alertness, eagerness 13. Frustration with inactivity, may be seen as hyperactive
14. Independent; prefers working solo; self-reliant 14. May reject parent or peer input; nonconformity
15. Diverse interests and abilities; versatility 15. May appear disorganized or scattered; frustrated over lack of time
16. Strong sense of humor 16. Peers may misunderstand humor; may become “class clown” for attention

Adapted from Clark (1992) and Seagoe (1972)


In fact, one article from Psychology Today stated that giftedness is more of a curse than a blessing.


Because giftedness is associated with intellectual, emotional, imaginational, sensual, and psychomotor “over-excitabilities”.[9] With these sensitivities, a gifted child/person can be extra sensitive to environment, criticism, and failure. Being gifted academically can make a child feel different from her peers and may even lead to the child being bullied and becoming depressed. Studies have shown that the more intellectually gifted a child is, the greater the risk of social difficulties and unhappiness.[10]

Why is that so? The gifted child should be happier at all because she’s smarter than most kids.

That’s the point. The gifted child’s extreme intelligence is the cause of her difference from other kids. Giftedness isn’t only associated with higher intelligence, but with heightened sensitivity to the environment, which makes them more susceptible to grasping ideas which cannot be readily understood by her peers, resulting in misunderstanding which may lead to rejection to the gifted child. The gifted child’s peers will not get what the gifted child is saying, therefore, peers label her as “weird” or “crazy.”

Image courtesy of giftedkids.about.com. Gifted children are at risk of rejection by peers.

Identified gifted children are treated differently by parents and teachers and place a lot of expectations on them to succeed in all areas of life. This can result in perfectionism of the gifted child. Perfectionism can lead to fear of failure, in turn causing a gifted child to avoid failure by refusing to even try something (including doing a homework assignment!)[11]

Gifted kids are usually more developed in one or more areas, called asynchronous development[11], where they intellectually understand abstract concepts but be unable to deal with those concepts emotionally, leading to an  intense concerns about death, the future, sex, and other such issues.[11] Because these kids already understand these issues, including equality and inequality and world problems like hunger and war, gifted kids may be too concerned with such situations and may become withdrawn and introverted and may become depressed, which is called existential depression.[11]

Gifted kids are aware of their differences from the rest of the children. That’s why they prefer the company of older children and adults. This can have an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is, that this can be productive for gifted kids, as they are at level with normal adults and older children intellectually. The disadvantage is that they may not socialize very well with normal kids her age, which can cause socialization difficulties for the gifted child.

Advanced verbal and reasoning ability can lead a gifted child to be argumentative and/or manipulative. (Adults often remark that the child is a little lawyer!)  Parents and other adults need to remember that, although credit should be given for logical and convincing arguments, a child is still a child and requires appropriate discipline, no matter how clever or cute the behavior may look. Children who see that they can manipulate adults can feel very insecure.[11] This may look that the gifted child is not respectful and insubordinate to authorities.

If these are the problems, a gifted child may become depressive or argumentative that it becomes a problem at school and at home. If the gifted child is unidentified, he may be at risk for being misdiagnosed with a learning disability, and that is not good for the gifted.

How is the gifted child identified?

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and special education teachers use different methods of identifying gifted kids. There are two main ways to determine whether a child is gifted: observing characteristics and behaviors, and testing. No one definition of giftedness exists, and gifted children are often misdiagnosed with disorders like ADHD.[12]

Behaviors indicating giftedness in young children[13]:

  • early development of language
  • abstract thinking
  • strong memory
  • a capacity to focus and concentrate on tasks of interest
  • intellectual curiosity
  • a strong motivation to learn

Giftedness in school-aged children and adolescents[14]:

General ability

  • High levels of abstract thinking, verbal and numerical reasoning, spatial relations, memory, and word fluency.
  • Adaptation to the shaping of novel situations encountered in the external environment.
  • The automatization of information processing; rapid accurate, and selective retrieval of information.

Specific Ability

  • The application of various combinations of the above general abilities to one or more specialized areas of knowledge or areas of human performance (e.g., the arts, leadership, administration).
  • The capacity for acquiring and making appropriate use of advanced amounts of formal knowledge, tacit knowledge, technique, logistics, and strategy in the pursuit of’ particular problems or the manifestation of specialized areas of performance.
  • The capacity to sort out relevant and irrelevant information associated with a particular problem or areas of study or performance.

Task Commitment

  • The capacity for high levels of interest, enthusiasm, fascination, and involvement in a particular problem. area of study, or form of human expression.
  • The capacity for perseverance. endurance. determination, hard work, and dedicated practice. Self-confidence. a strong ego and a belief in one’s ability to carry out important work, freedom from inferiority feelings, drive to achieve.
  • The ability to identify significant problems within specialized reason; the ability to tune in to major channels of communication and new developments within given fields.
  • Setting high standards for one’s work; maintaining an openness to self and external criticism; developing an aesthetic sense of taste, quality, and excellence about one’s own work and the work of others.


  • Fluency, flexibility, and originality of thought.
  • Openness to experience; receptive to that which is new and different (even irrational) in thoughts, actions, and products of oneself and others.
  • Curious, speculative, adventurous, and “mentally playful” willing to take risks in thought and action, even to the point of being uninhibited.
  • Sensitive to detail, aesthetic characteristics of ideas and things; willing to act on and react to external stimulation and one’s own ideas and feelings.

Identifying gifted children is easier said than done. There are a lot of barriers in identifying gifted children. They are listed below[13]:

  • Individual assessments and observations are ‘snapshots’ only, and provide information about what the child can do at this time. To really identify a young gifted and/or talented child requires a collection of evidence over time.[13]
  • For various reasons, young children may not perform ‘on demand’, and thus not demonstrate their full potential.[13]
  • The development of young gifted and talented children can be very uneven, with peaks and troughs, stops and starts. Multiple assessments and observations over time are necessary to identify advanced development or learning.[13]
  • Where gifted and talented children also have disabilities (dual exceptionality), the disability can hide or mask the giftedness or talent. Educators should be aware that gifted and talented children can show learning that may not fit within conventional ideas about achievement.[13]
  • Cultural and other biases can interfere with a professional’s ability to identify giftedness and talent in young children. Families’ different cultural backgrounds can lead to a diversity of expressions of giftedness and talent, and may not fit narrow or pre-determined ideas. In some cultures, children may be discouraged from displaying their abilities.[13]
  • Stereotypes about giftedness and talent can lead to failure to identify young gifted children, particularly where the signs of giftedness are subtle. Young gifted children are not ‘geniuses’. Not all gifted children are early readers or good at maths.[13]
  • Young gifted children may lack opportunity or support to demonstrate their gifted potential, or develop this potential into talent, and thus not be identified.[13]

What is done for gifted children to develop into their true potential?

Gifted children may be put at special education programs designed for the gifted. They can also be accelerated to a grade level aligned with her learning and reasoning age (i.e., a 7-year-old with a mental capacity of a 13-year-old can be placed on a 7th grade level instead of staying at 1st grade level). Gifted kids can also have extra-curricular activity programs that suit to their strengths and interests (i.e., a violin lesson program, art class). Given these programs, a gifted child may reach her fullest potential and contribute to humanity. Remember that some famous people’s names on history and science books were identified or unidentified gifted children.

List of famous gifted people (identified or suspected):

Child prodigies[15]:


Mental calculators:



  • Ainan Celeste Cawley


  • Colin Carlson
  • Evan Ehrenberg
  • Gabriel See


Computer Science:


Engineering:Materials engineering

Mechanical engineering



Visual arts:



Law/political science/philosophy:




Music Prodigies:

see Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_child_music_prodigies

Late bloomers:

see Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_bloomer

Gifted persons are truly a blessing if nurtured the right way. Unfortunately, not all gifted are lucky to be identified right away especially in poor countries like my Philippines. Parents, teachers, and governments should be aware of the gifted population and must be identified, accepted, and nurtured to unravel their true potential.

P.S. There are possible two kinds of gifted:

  1. Child prodigies – talents/intellect generally noticeable and achieved during childhood
  2. Late bloomers/twice exceptional – talents/intellect don’t become apparent until middle or older adulthood


Historical figures who are suspected to be gifted too:

Gifted women[16]:
Susan B. Anthony – US women’s rights advocate
Marie Curie – Polish physicist
Florence Nightingale – English nurse (mother or modern nursing)
Emily Dickinson – US poet
Fanny Mendelssohn – Felix Mendelssohn’s sister; also a composer
Pearl Buck – US writer

Gifted men[17]:
Isaac Newton
Thomas Edison
Walt Disney
Enrico Caruso
Leo Tolstoy
Verner Von Braun
Admiral Richard E. Byrd
Louis Pasteur
Abraham Lincoln
Fred Waring
Winston Churchill


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_giftedness
  2. http://giftedkids.about.com/od/gifted101/p/gifteddef.htm
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_prodigy
  4. Feldman, David H.; Morelock, M. J. (2011).“Prodigies”. In Runco, Mark A.; Pritzker, Steven R.Encyclopedia of Creativity (Second Edition). Academic Press. pp. 261–265. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-375038-9.00182-5. ISBN 978-0-12-375038-9. Retrieved 8 April2015. Lay summary (8 April 2015). For the purposes of this and future research, a prodigy was defined as a child younger than 10 years of age who has reached the level of a highly trained professional in a demanding area of endeavor. – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)
  5. Rose, Lacey (2 March 2007). “Whiz Kids”. Forbes. Retrieved 3 April 2015. At the moment, the most widely accepted definition is a child, typically under the age of 10, who has mastered a challenging skill at the level of an adult professional.
  6. Feldman, David Henry (Fall 1993). “Child prodigies: A distinctive form of giftedness” (PDF). Gifted Child Quarterly 27 (4): 188–193.doi:10.1177/001698629303700408. ISSN 0016-9862. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  7. http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/overexcitability-and-the-gifted
  8. http://txgifted.org/what-giftedness/
  9. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/good-thinking/201407/the-problem-being-gifted
  10. http://school.familyeducation.com/coping-with-giftedness/building-self-esteem/74694.html
  11. http://www.giftsforlearning.com/problems.htm
  12. http://giftedkids.about.com/od/gifted101/u/how_to_identify.htm
  13. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/professionals/learning/Pages/idgiftedchildren.aspx
  14. http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/sem/semart04.html
  15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_child_prodigies
  16. http://giftedkids.about.com/od/genderissues/tp/Biographies-of-Gifted-Women.htm
  17. https://sites.google.com/site/areyougifted/Home/interesting-facts-about-gifted-famous-people

Further Reading:

The Problem of Giftedness: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/good-thinking/201407/the-problem-being-gifted

Vulnerabilities of gifted children: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10065.aspx

Dealing with Gifted Children: http://www.nytimes.com/1984/12/09/us/dealing-with-problems-of-some-gifted-children.html


Are All Autistics Geeks (and Genius)?


That’s a typical stereotype of autism. Male. Introverted. Loner. Geek. Wimp. Math, music, or computer savant. Abnormal. Weird. Mute. Even emotionless. And so the list goes on. For the autistic, that really hurts to be called wimp, though a lot may be proud of being geek, but for most I think are indifferent to this. I really don’t have an idea but I think that stereotype is absurd as it overgeneralizes the whole autistic population. Now, let’s break this myth of geekiness, autism version.

Image courtesy of autismkey.com

Not all of these traits are present in autism.

First, autism also affects females, though not as common as males (maybe I’ll write a post about why neurodevelopmental disorders affect males more than females). The male-female ratio is 4:1.[1][2] However, females may go underdiagnosed because of its stereotypical association with males. Dr Judith Gould, director of the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism, challenges this long-held view. She argues that girls on the spectrum are slipping through the net.[2]

Image courtesy of sfari.org

“There is definitely a gender bias towards boys when it comes to diagnosis.”

Why is like that? It’s because girls on the spectrum are not easily diagnosed in primary school years. Autistic boys have more pronounced symptoms like getting violent and disruptive. Girls, on the other hand, are not obvious in behavioral problems. In fact, although communication amd social skills are nil, they can follow social actions by delayed imitation because they observe other children and copy them[3], masking autism. To make the story short, autistic girls differ from autistic boys, well, the reason is obvious, they’re girls.

The other reason autism is biased toward males is the autism theory of “extreme male brain” where systematizing things are more ‘male’ than ‘female’ in nature. This theory was derived from Empathizing-Systematizing Theory (E-S Theory)[4] where males are good at systematizing (having narrow interests and highly repetitive behaviors, also called ‘resistance to change or need for sameness’) and also low score on empathizing (understanding feelings of oneself and others). University of Cambridge professor Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues then linked the E-S theory to the prevalence of these traits in autism and its association with males.[5] Nevertheless, this theory has been questioned because it overlooks females in the spectrum.

Second, being autistic doesn’t necessarily mean genius or extremely intelligent. Autism is a spectrum of disorders ranging from high-functioning to low-functioning. That means autists have different intelligence levels.

The autism spectrum.

Some of them are with high IQs (high functioning autism or HFA). They’re exceptional, usually in logical studies like mathematics, science, and computer studies, and abstract reasoning as well. Some are savants in music, though mostly classical. Usually, they can finish college or even doctoral degrees and can have good employment given they choose jobs in these areas. But that’s not all. Unfortunately, there are also autists with low IQs (low-functioning autism or classic autism). They’re completely dependent on others for daily living. Some of them cannot talk even they have developed hearing and speech and focused on their inner world rather than outside.

Unfortunately, both HFAs and classic autistics are discriminated by the neurotypical community, particularly in the social field. Just because they cannot comprehend the social world doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested in the social arena. For them, it’s comparable to the dyslexic who cannot comprehend letters. This breaks the autistic stereotype of being a loner. Though some are asexual (having no romantic/sexual interest with another person) and/or introverted, some want to have a relationship and to have friends.

Third, having autism doesn’t necessarily mean weird. As I said in my autism article (see my article on autism here) they usually have repetitive behaviors like rocking, stacking up objects, etc. This is the way they cope with everyday life.[6] This is nothing different from a neurotypical watching TV when unwinding. But not all autistics stay like that. Stacking up objects may gave way to more mature interests like i.e. collecting stamps or becoming expert at astronomy facts. These interests may not be socially desirable for the majority of neurotypicals, that’s why they become more socially isolated.

But wait. Don’t generalize right away. As for female autists, their interests are the same with neurotypical girls like princesses, dolls, fairies, etc., but are usually more intense and may seem not to outgrow these interests into adulthood.

Fourth, not all are mute. Some autistics can talk, although their language development is late and they talk literally, like they cannot understand figures of speech and nonverbal communication. But still, some are able to speak.

Lastly, they are not emotionless like what most people think. They can feel emotions like us. From fear, sadness, joy, even pain, they have feelings. And they have affection too even if they find it haed to express themselves. They don’t have to say their feelings like what pickup artists do. They just so it like hugging a parent.

Image courtesy of lutherwood.ca

Being mocked by other people is painful to the autistic.

Next time you plan to stereotype an autistic, think again. Maybe you are stereotyped too, but as a bully or mean person.

Not all autistics are the same. They’re individuals like us.

1. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism
2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/11149383/Autism-and-girls-Why-we-urgently-need-to-talk-about-it.html
3. http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/autism-and-asperger-syndrome-an-introduction/gender-and-autism/women-and-girls-on-the-autism-spectrum.aspx
4. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathizing%E2%80%93systemizing_theory#Extreme_male_brain_theory_of_autism
5. Baron-Cohen S (2002). “The extreme male brain theory of autism”. Trends Cogn Sci 6 (6): 248–254. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(02)01904-6. PMID 12039606
6. http://www.autism.org.uk/living-with-autism/understanding-behaviour/obsessions-repetitive-behaviours-and-routines.aspx

Suggested Reading:
1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hannah-brown/7-myths-about-autism_b_2977120.html
2. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/inspiring-adifferentbrilliant-campaign-video-tackles-autism-stereotypes-9859661.html

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