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Possibly Twice Exceptional

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I have an 11 year old son in Year 7 who is struggling to cope in several areas of his education and in trying to help him develop strategies I have trawled the internet and am wondering whether he is either just being a 'naughty' bright boy or he is bordering on the gifted/ADHD, neither of which have been mentioned specifically before but there is so much literature that seems to point to this that I am hoping you can help me out please. He showed no particular gifted tendencies when very young, just obviously a bright boy. Infant school was a good experience and then he moved to Junior school.

After a troublesome start he was finally referred to an EP as he was; reacting extremely to events at school (huddling and rocking in the corner of the playground), crying, refusing to eat lunch, having friendship issues and a poor attention span. The EP found him responsive to talk to, enjoying the one to one attention, bright but anxious and isolated. As a result of this she suggested he follow a programme of Emotional Literacy Support which seemed to improve things and although he always had problems with attention, distraction, fidgeting, not reaching his potential, he was usually happy.

Now having started secondary school his poor behaviour is becoming more marked. Teachers are very critical of his inability to sit still, his seeming inability to stop shouting out, either to answer their questions or to distract others and general is hard to 'shut up'. He lacks ability to focus and frequently gets set extra homework because he hasn't completed the task in class. He is very disorganised (I seem to have to replace a pen and pencil in his school bag every day). He has been placed in the top stream at school and this has highlighted his mismatched emotional development as although age specific it appears, within his class, not to be intellectually matched (none of his friends are in this group). He has been highlighted as gifted in Science but seems to be able to focus in some subjects much better than others.

At home he has to be stood over to start and complete homework as the smallest thing will distract him, he gets bored very quickly with some of it. He is sociable - better with adults and very young children who always gravitate to him rather than his brothers (he is a middle child). He is the most sensitive and empathetic of my three boys and if they are not on their screens they are playing rough and tumble games outside - he does not like to be alone. When in the wrong he can often be reasoned with but I have found, from a very young age, that rewards and punishments do not act as any kind of motivator for him.

Sorry about the length, I guess parents could go on forever! Do I have any grounds to go to the SENCO at school and ask for some help with him?

A: Somehow I believe that he is a special child and may need that extra help and coaching to unleash his potential. It appears that he has been suspected of other conditions rather than being above average - probably due to the more prominent nature of his behavioural traits. It appears possible that he may be ADHD and gifted at the same time - and his attentional concern seems to mask his other abilities.

Teachers at the primary level are usually more adapting to children who may not sit still - I believe they are somewhat trained to handle such kids in general simply due to the fact that younger children are more active. However, it's a different ballgame for secondary school teachers where lessons are more challenging and demanding and they usually may not tolerate any lack of attention which may be seen as a disruptive behaviour and sometimes being plain rude. Hence, teachers tend to “blacklist” such students. If the child has no idea why teachers are reacting in the manner they are in secondary school, s/he may feel isolated and unloved and eventually slip into the cracks of the system.

He probably still needs the Emotional Literacy Support that helped him in primary school - you may want to see if they have something similar in secondary school. Since he has been highlighted as gifted in Science, it just proves that he need tasks that are meaningful, challenging and help his maintain interest to feed his intellectual needs. Most importantly, as you are already aware, he needs to be diagnosed appropriately - he has a learning problem. So, yes - go to the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) at his school and get some help he rightfully deserves. Please do not delay any further. Best of luck!


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