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Twice exceptional Learners

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have six year old student in my 4 year old class. Last year's teacher suggested that he repeat the four year old program because he socially tested a year behind his grade. He sees a speech pathologist for auditory processing problems. He is doing everything required of him in this 4 year old class. He is performing at the bottom of the class. (This is a private school and most students intellectually fall into the top 20% of all children). He has amazing visual perceptual abilities such as creating designs from pattern blocks and totally amazed me when he could put three letter puzzles words together but he was looking at the shapes of the puzzles instead of the letters.

My question is what is the percentage of bright children who have learning disabilities? I believe this child is very bright but "we" in regular education do not have the facts to back this idea. I also want him to be fully tested by a psychologist but his speech therapist is afraid that these auditory perception problems will show up as something else. I trust this speech therapist and the people at my school that are testing him and continue to see him socially a year behind. I am a regular ed teacher and way out of my league but have a gut instinct that he is one of those really smart learning disabled students. Any advice would be helpful.

A: Children who are both gifted and learning disabled may exhibit remarkable talents or strengths in some areas and disabling weaknesses in others. Such children display vast gap between achievement level and potential which can often be observed in the discrepancy between the qualitative level of oral and written work. They could also be a perfectionist and self-critical with unrealistic expectations. Last but not least, they may also use unique and effective means of compensation.

One study report in 2003 estimated that between 2 percent and 5 percent of the total population might be simultaneously gifted and learning disabled nationwide. This is a rather high percentage and a good number goes undetected due to various reasons. It has also been researched that the largest category of gifted students with disabilities identified was students with speech and language impairments, which is the case of your student. When the school does not have teachers who are familiar with such students, it may pose a problem of this student going unrecognized.

You may be able to help by looking for information of associations or support centers that may be able to provide some support. The web is also an excellent place to look for information and support. Talk to his parents as they are the best people to deal with this.

The following link provides a useful and insightful article for parents and teachers of children with characteristics of gifted and/or learning disability to help identify children with special needs.

You can also contact Parents of Gifted/LD Children and receive an informational brochure & complimentary newsletter by calling the following contact: 

Address Parents of Gifted/LD Children
Phone 301-986-1422
Fax 301-0929-9304


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