GTLD: Gifted, Talented, and Learning Disabled?
Divergent thinkers are often responsible for breakthrough innovations that enable human progress. These individuals can usually synthesize vast amounts of information and quickly connect disconnected ideas in order to develop creative solutions to our problems. Many of these traits and capabilities to process large amounts of information, while thinking creatively and divergently exist in twice exceptional students. Unfortunately, they are usually misunderstood, and their gifts are drowned in an environment that didn’t realize and capitalize on their potential.
In our classrooms, there is a population of students that can be defined as “twice exceptional.” These students are ones with exceptional strengths coexisting with a learning disability (sometimes labeled GTLD). A twice exceptional student may exhibit excellent thinking skills with a robust vocabulary and strong problem-solving skills, but they may struggle to solve basic math equations or construct a coherent paragraph. For another student, this may mean brilliant creativity and an outstanding memory for things like historical dates or facts about topics that interest them, yet they struggle to keep themselves organized and are rarely able to follow directions correctly. The failures that gifted students experience can dissociate them from exerting effort towards learning as they are painful to process. Over time, many twice exceptional students can have their learning sabotaged by their weakness rather than saved and led by their gifts.
These students are often at-risk, in large part because they are difficult to identify. Because of a lack of understanding about twice exceptional students, these students often end up being “single tracked” either by their disability or by their exceptional strength, and there are down sides to both.
Students whose gift is obvious to parents and teachers often get treated accordingly, with expectations to match, and placed in gifted classes. However, these students often act out or fall behind due to their disability, and they suffer emotionally from being labeled “ADHD” “hyper” or “lazy” by their teachers. Being labeled lazy or unmotivated is one of the most common outcomes when these students are not identified, and the impact can long-lasting for students, resulting in disengagement, poor grades, and even refusal to attend. Twice exceptional students tend to be creative problem solvers, see patters and relationships, advanced abstract reasoning, enjoy solving novel problems, and quick on their feet. Not surprisingly, twice exceptional students confuse teachers to believe they are gifted only but uninterested and lazy.
Alternatively, students may be tracked according to their disability, and this can be very frustrating for the student who is then not challenged or engaged in the classroom. These students may act out due to boredom or lack of interest and may suffer emotionally because their gift is not recognized. Twice exceptional or GTLD students require identification and unique supports in place in order to properly support them as learners.
COGx programs are a uniquely effective option for twice exceptional students because our programs allow for the learning disability to be addressed rather then ignored, and for an exceptional strength to be recognized and used to lift other skills. The exceptional strength can be explored, and the student can gain improved confidence from better understanding how their own learning works and getting the validation they have likely been seeking.