Homeschooling Gifted Children with Learning Challenges (Twice Exceptional)
Most gifted children have some asynchronies. That means they they are not developing evenly in every way. Your sweet little seven-year-old may at times have insights worthy of an adult, the attitude of a teenager, and the hissy fits of a preschooler... and that doesn't even address their academics! For a gifted child, this can be normal behavior. Some gifted children, however, have more extreme asynchronies. Some of these may fall into the category of learning disabilities. These kids, who are gifted but have learning or attention difficulties, are what we call “twice exceptional.”
“Children with learning disabilities, behavior disorders, or other types of school problems who are also gifted in one or more areas must be allowed to be gifted in their areas of strength while they receive assistance in their areas of need. The discrepancy between their superior abilities and their dramatic weaknesses results in feelings of inadequacy, frustration and hopelessness. Many of these students are at high risk of becoming school dropouts. To bring sanctions against any child which prevent them from experiencing differentiation whenever or wherever it's needed is simply not effective or fair.” (Winebrenner, Susan; The Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children Fall 1998 XII )
However, making the distinction between typical asynchronies and a true learning disability is difficult, because the line is so fuzzy. You may find yourself asking, “Is my child just a little quirky, or are we looking at the possibility of Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD, mental disorders, dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorders...?” What is 'normal' and what is pathological, anyway? One marker is the level of frustration your child faces - is this something they can truly work through, or would some kind of academic accommodation or professional assistance be more helpful?
There are more challenges in educating a twice exceptional child, but the flexibility to differentiate inherent in homeschooling allows you to address your child's strengths while leaving room to work at a different level on their learning challenges. Perhaps your child has an amazing ability to tell long, complicated stories - but has difficulty with hand-eye coordination, making handwriting a challenge. At home, you can have your child dictate his or her stories, or you can have them work on the computer (keyboarding is often easier for children with fine motor issues). In a classroom, the child with auditory sensitivities or ADHD may appear 'spaced out' and unable to learn, but at home, with few distractions, they can zoom ahead with their schoolwork. Another child might work best lounging upside down over the living room sofa, or they may prefer to contemplate the Roman Empire while pacing in circles and manipulating a Rubik's Cube. When you are homeschooling, the possibilities are endless for a child whose learning style or behavioral challenges don't work well in a formal classroom setting!
In addition, by homeschooling, you are able to schedule appointments for doctors, occupational therapists and other specialists who may be so busy as to be unavailable during typical school hours.
If you suspect that your child's learning differences may benefit from professional help, we suggest you visit http://www.uniquelygifted.org/ or http://www.hoagiesgifted.com/special_needs.htm for more information.
In addition, feel free to contact HSC's Gifted or Special Needs Advisers for support.
Reprinted with the permission of the HomeSchool Association of California. © 2007–2008 by HomeSchool Association of California. All rights reserved.
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