Why It’s Difficult For Twice Exceptional ADHD To Get Help
ADHD can be exceptional human beings. They often have a lot of creativity, curiosity and strong problem-solving skills. This is why they tend to make successful entrepreneurs. They sometimes also have a double exceptionality.
“Twice Outstanding” is a term coined by international leader in gifted and talented special education and education, James J. Gallagher. The word “exceptional” is generally used in special education to identify exceptional strengths and talents, which allow a student to be classified as “gifted” or to have exceptional deficits.
The Primary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides the following definition of gifted and talented students:
“Students, children or young people who demonstrate a high capacity for achievement in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic or leadership ability, or in specific academic areas, and who require services and activities that are not usually provided by the school in order to fully develop these abilities.Exceptional deficits or handicaps may include specific learning disabilities (SLD), speech and language disorders, emotional/behavioural disorders , physical disabilities, autism spectrum disorders or other impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“Twice outstanding”, also called “2nd”, is the term used to describe learners who fit into both groups simultaneously. Gifted students may have a co-existing disability or disorder, and disabled students may also have high cognition or high IQ. Having one does not exclude the possibility of having the other. There is strong scientific evidence to support the conclusions.
It also speaks to the importance of adopting a neurodiversity framework. who argues that it’s time to break with an outdated and useless paradigm and recognize that the two are not mutually exclusive. We don’t, and has never, limited the other from being possible.
Sounds a bit simple, right? Not enough. Unfortunately, a diagnosis of “twice outstanding” is unnecessarily controversial and invalidated by some educators and school systems. Consequently, many gifted ADHD will not receive educational services to nurture their exceptional ability and adapt to their disability. Qualifying for special education as a student with ADHD to ensure equality in schooling is unreasonably difficult in many experiences. Being a “gifted” student with ADHD and getting special education services is seemingly impossible for countless young people.
To date, only 29 states mandate programming for the gifted. These young people are among the citizens with the emerging potential to generate instrumental and unique solutions to many current and future global problems. I believe this is a social tragedy and a disservice to the country and our collective future, especially when our nation’s creative productivity has been tested every year for decades.
Why It Can Be Difficult To Get Help For A 2E Child
1. Lack of training on ADHD and high cognition in school systems.
There are many harmful myths and misconceptions about ADHD and high cognition in school systems. Rebecca Jacobs, Esq., published an article in the Children’s Rights Journal in 2020 which perfectly describes the problem:
“A large percentage of students who have been deemed twice exceptional will not receive the necessary services because once they qualify for one exceptionality they are unlikely to be tested for the other. Twice exceptional students caught in the middle are often labeled as “lazy” and “unmotivated” because their giftedness can mask their special needs and vice versa.
“When parents asked if these difficulties in their offspring could be due to attention deficit disorder, many were told that such problems did not occur in individuals with such high levels of intellectual ability.”
It is simply wrong. Children with high IQs may fully meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. A 2007 study sought to investigate the results of Massachusetts General Hospital longitudinal family studies of ADHD to assess whether ADHD was an accurate diagnosis in the presence of high IQ. Their analysis revealed that ADHD was a valid diagnosis in high-IQ children.
Three years later, in 2010, researchers conducted an empirical case series study to investigate the controversy and validity of an ADHD diagnosis in children who also had high IQs. Their data also supported that ADHD is a valid diagnosis in children with high IQs. A landmark NIH study, conducted in 2012, also found no association between IQ and ADHD, noting that “lower IQ does not appear to be a general explanation for impairments in these specific cognitive domains.” Yet the myth that ADHD is linked to low IQ persists.
According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), early identification improves the likelihood that “gifts” will be turned into “talents.” What happens to the nation’s untapped talent without widespread training among school personnel?
2. Federal Law.
The National Education Association (NEA) states that federal law does not require states and districts to meet the educational needs of gifted and talented learners. As a result, gifted programming decisions in the United States are made at the state and local levels.
That’s not to say the federal government doesn’t recognize 2nd graders. Indeed, students are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its regulations. In a 2013 letter to an education professor and his survey of “2nd grade” students, the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, said that following :
“IDEA does not specifically address “twice exceptional” or “2E” students. The Department’s position remains that students who have high cognitive ability, who have disabilities, and who require special education and related services are protected by IDEA and its regulations… That is, under 34 CFR §300.8, a child must meet a two-pronged test to be considered an eligible child with a disability: (1) have one of the specified impairments (disabilities) ; and (2) because of the disability, require special education and related services…. In analyzing comments and amendments to the final 2006 regulations implementing Part B of the IDEA, the Department, in responding to public comments, acknowledged that there will be gifted students who will also need special education and related services.See 71 Fed. Reg. 46540, 46647 (August 14, 2006)
As such, parents and therapists should note this statement from Rebecca Jacobs, Esq. : “Per IDEA, a state cannot use a twice exceptional student’s high academic performance as a reason to deny them special education eligibility.”
3. Confusion in definitions, cut-off scores, using only one test or relying solely on IQ scores.
- Definition: There is currently no universally adopted definition or profile of a “gifted student”.
- Cut scores for “gifted”: Identification policies and procedures are determined at the district level. IQ scores for the US population are based on a bell-shaped curve, which means that the average IQ in the US is 98, with the majority of people falling between 85 and 115. Many schools require that a student scores 130 on an intelligence test to be classified as “gifted”. Are the 116-129 students of “average” intelligence with this classification system?
- Using a test: According to the NAGC, testing to assess “gifted” status is intended to be a multi-phased, multi-rater assessment process. If a test is used to determine eligibility, it is prudent to question the determination.
- Relying solely on IQ scores: IQ tests are notoriously controversial measures of “intelligence” and “talent.” Relying solely on IQ or performance scores can overlook students who excel in one area and are consistently labeled as “gifted.”
Unfortunately, many schools do not receive the funding needed to create programs for gifted and talented students. Even relatively progressive and wealthy states, such as New York, may not mandate gifted education services. It’s not always for lack of trying. New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. introduced a bill in 2013 requiring teachers in New York to obtain approximately twice exceptional training and programming for twice exceptional students. Unfortunately, it has not yet been adopted.
5. A high IQ can “mask” ADHD symptoms.
One of the hallmarks of an ADHD diagnosis is having a deficit in executive functioning, such as problems with working memory, auditory verbal working memory, processing speed, time management, and organization. . It has been found that ADHD people with a high IQ can manage their symptoms better than ADHD people with a lower IQ. A 2017 study found that adults diagnosed with ADHD with higher IQs showed less dysfunction with deficits in executive functioning than those diagnosed with ADHD and average IQs. The researchers claim that this compensatory mechanism “leads to problems in making an accurate clinical diagnosis.”
why is it important
The National Education Association states that at least 6-7% of all students are “2nd”. More than 3 million of the estimated 50 million students nationally according to a 2019 consensus. If these students are not supported, it is in theory equivalent to millions of world-changing ideas rejected, discarded and lost for ever.
In Gallagher’s words, “…failure to help the gifted child reach his or her potential is a societal tragedy, the magnitude of which is difficult to measure but surely great. How do you measure the unwritten sonata, the undiscovered cure, the lack of political insight? They are the difference between what we are and what we could be as a society.