Although it seems almost a contradiction, children can be both gifted and have special needs, such as learning disabilities. Yet, because of their unique blend of talents and challenges, these students, known as “twice exceptional” or 2e students, can be difficult to identify and diagnose. Often their combinations of intelligence and special needs mask each other, leaving the child performing at grade-level. Other 2e children have been identified as learning disabled with teachers who may be unaware of the student’s high cognition. Conversely, those students who are identified as gifted but not LD may fail to meet their potential, leaving them underperforming, frustrated, and often with significant emotional issues. School districts may label these students lazy or unmotivated, and it can be difficult for parents to convince schools that the student has a disability that is affecting their performance in school.
“Giftedness” is not recognized as a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and it can be difficult for some families to obtain special programming for gifted children. Where families live can make a difference. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, only about half of states (28 in 2008-2009) had a mandate to identify gifted children. How many of these states go further to identify those students who are both gifted and have a disability is unclear. Some states, such as Colorado and Idaho, have clear policies with accompanying guidelines on their websites. The National Association for Gifted Children has an interesting web page that provides data on gifted education by state, which parents may find useful.