How can schools help students who are twice-exceptional?
J. Christine Gould, Linda K. Staff, and Heather M. Theiss
Second grade was a defining year for Henry, the third boy in a family with two lder gifted siblings.
He attended an elementary school
in a small Wisconsin town and
appeared to be a typical 2nd grader.
However, as the year progressed,
his classroom teacher noticed that
Henry used high-level vocabulary
words in conversations with adults.
He asked delightfully insightful
questions. He understood subtle
jokes his classmates missed. He
had an intense interest in the world
around him and wanted to know
details about everything.
Henry’s teacher suspected he
was gifted, and at the final parent-teacher conference of the year,
she suggested an assessment to
see whether Henry qualified for
the Challenge Program, the school
district’s self-contained, all-day magnet program for gifted students in grades; 1–5. The program’s curriculum is advanced
by two years while remaining developmentally appropriate for
the students’ ages. Even though the Challenge Program provides a fast-paced curriculum, some highly advanced students
receive additional subject-matter acceleration. Henry easily
met the entrance criteria and began his 3rd grade year as a
Challenge Program student.
As 3rd grade began, Henry seemed
to be doing well. He developed
excellent social skills and became
popular. Interactions during class
quickly earned him a reputation as
a “smart kid” even in a room full
of smart kids. When Henry could
demonstrate what he knew verbally,
he was able to show understanding
far above his age level. His leadership ability was obvious, and many
other students wanted to work
with Henry during group projects.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER THEISS
In conversations, he frequently
surprised teachers with his level of
sophistication. In most ways, he
But Henry wasn’t reading or
writing well. Most of his problems
were in word-attack skills, spell-
ing, and composition. His teacher
was spending at least an hour each
day working with him on reading,
but the gap between Henry and his classmates was increas-
ing. The same problems appeared at home. Homework that
should have taken 15 minutes was taking two hours and
ending with Henry in tears. His parents were frustrated and
wondered why he wasn’t learning to read as easily as their
older children did. They suspected he wasn’t gifted after all
and wondered whether the Challenge Program was right for
him. They requested a conference with his teacher.