Strategies for Teaching Twice-Exceptional Students

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

How can a student be both advanced and have special needs at the same time? This lesson reviews the case of twice exceptional students and strategies for working with these unique students.

Twice Exceptional Students

What is twice exceptional? Picture the proverbial 'nutty professor'. You know the one; he is always running late, doesn't seem to be able to carry on a conversation, would not have a clue how to behave in social situations, may even need help with basic living skills, but is the smartest person you've ever met! That person is most likely a twice exceptional person.

Twice exceptional (2e) is the seemingly contradictory conundrum of a person having both advanced academic abilities and a learning/development difficulty at the same time.

In fact, while not confirmed, Albert Einstein was probably a twice exceptional person as he was known to become easily lost in familiar places and could not tie his own shoes. He lacked social skills and was considered slow by his teachers. Yet, now, no one would doubt his academic excellence. He was a genius that was thought to be academically challenged!

Working with twice exceptional children offers great challenges. There are three general categories to consider when supporting twice exceptional students: teaching strategies, student-centered tips, and support for parents.

Teaching Strategies

2e students come with huge extremes. They are advanced and highly skilled in some areas (normally academic) yet need a lot of support in other areas (often sensory/development/social areas of life). There are several strategies that can be used to help them in the classroom.

Differentiate Instruction

One of the most important teaching strategies to remember is to make sure that you differentiate your instruction. Conducting assessment tests will help you to identify the levels at which your students are working in each subject. You may find an 8-year-old child working at a sixth-grade level in science, but only a first-grade level in writing skills. That is okay.


It is also important to teach organizational skills. These students have difficulty organizing themselves. They are very intelligent, but their minds tend to hyper-focus on those topics and subjects that interest them while the remainder becomes a chaotic mental mess. Presenting units on organizational skills such as color-coded subject notebooks and note taking can help students learn to take control of their own educational paths.

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