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?
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!