Gifted Prepared by Sharon Drummond for UWO Special Education Specialist Module 3
Gifted and a Learning Disability?
That can’t be right!
Giftedness is “...an unusually advanced degree of
general intellectual ability...”
A learning disability is “...a significant discrepancy
between academic achievement and assessed
(Ministry of Education, 2001, p. A18)
• A student who possesses an outstanding
gift, but who also has areas of great
relative weakness can be both gifted and
have a learning disability (Weinfeld, et al,
2006, p. 15).
“Twice Exceptional” Students
• Students who are gifted and have another
exceptionality are often referred to as “twice
• Estimates state that 2-5% of gifted students
may also have a learning disability (Delisle, J.
& Galbraith, J., 2002, p. 75).
• These students are at high risk for under-
achievement (Goldstein, 2001).
How do these students do in school?
Above average achievement: Struggling: Average achievement:
Identified as gifted, with Tested because of a Performs at the same level
subtle difficulties in specific suspected disability, as his or her peers. The
areas. Often told to just “try and giftedness is also giftedness masks the
harder” in those areas. discovered. The disability, and the disability
giftedness masks the disability masks the masks the giftedness.
What might I see in my classroom?
• A bright child who is “difficult” – they might act
out or be the class clown or trouble maker.
• A verbally gifted student with a highly advanced
oral vocabulary, but simplistic written language.
• A student who has mastered math concepts
before they are taught, but struggles with
• Asynchronous development (large splits between
strengths and weaknesses).
• A student who loves to learn, but hates school.
• Encourage students to use strategies that compensate for
their areas of need while experiencing challenging tasks
in their areas of strength.
• Teach specific learning strategies to overcome
weaknesses. Twice-exceptional students cannot improve
simply by “trying harder”.
• Teach the way they learn. Try different methods until
you find one that “fits”.
• Focus on strengths rather than weaknesses.
• Pace tasks appropriately – compact curriculum in
strength areas and provide additional time in areas of
In areas of Strength
• Never take time away from an area of strength to
create time to work on areas of weakness.
• Twice exceptional students need the same types
of activities in their areas of strength as other
“Most Difficult First”
Encourage high level abstract thought, creativity, and problem solving
Using technology or other non-traditional means to show learning
(e.g. Movie Maker, Podcasts, Websites or Wikis)
In areas of need
• Teach whatever compensatory strategies are needed
to achieve success.
• Learning tasks should never be so easy that the
student will succeed without effort.
• Teach students to set short-term goals, and
celebrate reaching those goals.
• Make sure they see the “big picture”- teach concepts
first and details second.
• Help to make connections between previously
learned content and new content.
In areas of need
• Provide specific instruction in organization.
• Allow students to choose where in the room they
will work, as long as they are not disruptive in
• Use learning style inventories, such as Multiple
Intelligences, and allow the student to complete
learning activities that match their strengths.
• Assistive Technology can help students achieve a
deep understanding of the big concepts rather than
worrying about the less important details (e.g.
• Even with remediation, a student with a learning
disability that affects how well they spell will always
struggle with spelling. Technology helps to
compensate for the area of need.
• Help students find and learn to use any available
technology that may assist them:
Word Prediction software (e.g. Premier Suites)
Speech to Text software (e.g. Dragon Naturally Speaking)
Graphic Organizer programs (e.g. Smart Ideas)
Food for thought...
"...[Albert] never was much good at the
'easy' part of mathematics. To shine,
he had to move on to the 'hard' part.'
In adult life his mathematical
intuition was recognised as
extraordinary and he could handle
deftly the most difficult of tensor
calculus, but it appears that
arithmetic calculation continued to
be an area of comparative weakness."
~ Maja Einstein
(Albert Einstein’s sister)
Baum, S. (1990). Gifted but Learning Disabled: A Puzzling Paradox. Retrieved 07 14, 2009, from Council for Exceptional
Cosmos, C. (2007). Imagine Teaching Robin Williams - Twice-Exceptional Children in your School. Retrieved 07 14, 2009, from
Council for Exceptional Children:
Delisle, J., & Galbraith, J. (2002). When Gifted Kids Don't Have All the Answers. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.
Goldstein, L. F. (2001). Diamond in the Rough. Retrieved 07 14, 2009, from LD Online:
Martin, A. D. (2006). The 2e Dilemma: Understanding and Educating the Twice Exceptional Child. Retrieved 07 14, 2009, from
2-e Twice Exceptional Newsletter:
Neumann, L. C. (2004). What Can We Learn from a Tale of Two Cities? Retrieved 07 14, 2009, from 2e-Twice Exceptional
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2001). Special Education: A Guide for Educators.
Weinfeld, R., Barnes-Robinson, L., Jeweler, S., & Roffman Shevitz, B. (2006). Smart Kids with Learning Difficulties:
Overcoming Obstacles and Realizing Potential. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.
Willard-Holt, C. (1999). Dual Exceptionalities. Retrieved 07 14, 2009, from LD online:
Winebrenner, S. (2003). Teaching Strategies for Twice-Exceptional Students. Intervention in School and Clinic , 38 (3), 131-137.
Slide 1 : jbird , digitally altered in Paint.net by Sharon Drummond
Slide 4 (l-r): Thomas Hawk, zeynep’arkok, and ::PhotoMassacre::
(Photos licensed under Creative Commons under Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic)
Slide 10 : Turner, O. J. Albert Einstein. (Digital ID cph 3b46036). Library of Congress, Washington D.C.