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Resource Room Home > Giftedness and Learning Disabilities > Twice Gifted Review


Gifted and Learning Disabled


Materials Review

cover of Uniquely Gifted Uniquely GiftedIdentifying and Meeting the Needs of the Twice-Exceptional Student, Edited by Kiesa Kay Avocus Publishing

Uniquely Gifted: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of the Twice-Exceptional Student explores the nature and needs of "brilliant, creative thinkers" who also have disabilities which mean they do not "fit the system."

Despite the broadness of the "twice-exceptional" terminology which is used throughout the book, it's primary focus is on gifted and learning disabled students, including those falling under the autism umbrella, and touching on students with emotional disorders. It does not deal with physical disabilities with the exception of a three-page contribution by a person who had low vision in his youth, and subsequent problems with handwriting and with complying with the arbitrary academic demands of high school. If I were to change anything about the book, it would be to define its audience and subject more clearly.

There is a tendency for a label to put a distance between us as it defines us. The first task that Uniquely Gifted tackles is to turn "twice-exceptional" people from a category to a group of humans. . By reading the first section, "Family Matters: Perspectives from Family Members" we also rediscover that people are far more dynamic and prone to change than their labels, whether the change is positive or negative, and just how much of an impact the learning environment can have on whether those changes will be positive or negative.

Uniquely Gifted takes on the challenge of going beyond personal stories, though, and covering educational issues, and research and theory regarding gifted people with learning challenges. The question of finding the right placement is discussed, including excellent ideas for ways to work with gifted programs (make accommodations) and students (teach creative strategies) to enhance the match between student and program. In perhaps the most useful analogy to bring to an IEP meeting, Marca Nemeth-Taylor compares interpreting the often average IQ score of the gifted/LD student to deciding a person must be comfortable with a bucket of ice around one foot, the other foot in a fire, because, after all, the average temperature is in the comfort zone. The "Bridging the Perspectives" article is very helpful in describing how differently a child can be perceived by him/herself, teachers and parents, and the importance of understanding all three perspectives to collaborate effectively. Barbara Guyer's article on college and the learning disabled students has many practical tips for increasing the odds of success in the college setting in her description of the "Higher Education for Learning Problems" (H.E.L.P.) program at Marshall University.

I especially appreciated the space and detail devoted to sensory integration issues, as these are often poorly understood. A pervasive myth persists that a bright child is allowed to be "klutzy," as if somehow that makes the world more fair, and that sensory sensitivity issues are things that a person should (somehow) learn to ignore. Carol Stock Kranowitz breaks down the different sensory issues with many examples of how a sensory integration problem can manifest itself, and offers suggestions for "appropriate," socially acceptable ways of coping with sensory integration issues. I also appreciated the acknowledgement in the discussion of the uses of technology for this population that yes, in fact, drill and repetition are sometimes a good thing and not to be dismissed out of hand.

Other articles discuss specific teaching strategies and curriculum design issues, high potential and antisocial behavior, and the role and potential role of technology in teaching and learning for students with disabilities. The third section is devoted to research and theory. There is a mixture descriptions of research about gifted and gifted/disabled people, and descriptions of various models for understanding the conflicts gifted students often have in academic settings. This is perhaps the most fascinating section of the book, and the variety of perspectives helps the reader keep from getting ensnared in any single way of thinking about the issues.

The fourth section offers many examples of settings where the educational needs of twice-exceptional students are considered a priority. Again, having various perspectives gives the reader keen insight into the common threads as well as unique characteristics of the various settings. It is quickly clear that it *is* possible to have a high level of challenge, but without the arbitrary standards that keep challenge out of the reach of gifted/LD students. Public and private programs were discussed; the descriptions of the public programs were more general and often emphasized early identification, while the private programs tended to go into more detail, and to be secondary or post-secondary. I would have liked more specific coverage of early intervention rather than simply acknowledging the need for identification at that level, and for private gifted/LD settings for elementary students to be included.

The book concludes with an invaluable collection of educational resources, both general and specific. Between the resources listed there and the names and places described in the articles, the person searching for more information will be able to find it. This alone makes it a book worth having on your shelf.

There are rough edges to the book. In the same paragraph as the 'hot foot, cold foot' analogy, Marca Nemeth-Taylor says that high scores "ameliorate" low scores -- which means they make them better -- and they certainly do not. In a discussion of self-esteem issues for twice-exceptional students, the population is defined as "particularly emotionally fragile," but counselors are implored to be aware of the "low vulnerability of this population." All the other discussion would indicate high, rather than low vulnerability. "A Second Look At Attention Deficit Disorder" the authors state that ADD children "share a strikingly common attribute: They have a visual, right-brained learning style." I have to feel very sorry for the auditory, left-brained child with ADD who might be placed in that classroom, though the child with that profile is much less likely to be sent there. However, those authors began that discussion with a caveat about writing from personal perspective, and the format of the book makes it clear that each contribution represents the views of the individual author(s). If nothing else, the article accents the importance of finding a setting that matches the individual student.

This book is an excellent resource for understanding the very complicated people and issues involved when giftedness and learning difficulties coincide. It would serve as a wonderful springboard for discussions as well as a reference to grope for when thinking "but somebody has to know *something* to do about this!"



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