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Twice-Exceptional Students


According to the state of Colorado, Twice-Exceptional (2E) Students are:

1. Students who are identified as gifted and talented in one or more areas of exceptionality (specific academics, general intellectual ability, creativity, leadership, visual or performing arts); and also identified with:

2. A disability defined by Federal/State eligibility criteria:

  • specific learning disability,
  • significant identifiable emotional disability,
  • physical disabilities,
  • sensory disabilities,
  • autism,
  • or ADHD where the disability qualifies the student for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.


Twice-exceptional students are difficult to identify because they possess the characteristics of gifted students and the characteristics of students with disabilities. Gifted characteristics may mask disabilities or disabilities may mask gifted potential. Either the strengths, the disabilities, or both may not be identified. To be considered twice-exceptional, the student must be identified for gifted education and for either special education services or a 504 plan. Research indicates that 2-5 percent of the gifted population will have disabilities and 2-5 percent of students with disabilities will be gifted (Dix & Schafer, 1996; Whitmore, 1980; & Maker, 1977).

Gifted Identification

When gifted students begin to struggle in school, their identification for gifted services is sometimes questioned. Just because students have disabilities does not mean they are not gifted. Many eminent people have struggled in school and later gone on to make substantial contributions to society. Not achieving commensurate with ability should raise a red flag that there is the possibility a disability may be impacting learning. Disabilities in gifted students can go unnoticed for years and valuable windows for effective interventions are missed. It is important to utilize a collaborative problem-solving approach as early as possible to prevent the development of behavioral and social/emotional issues. (For more information, see Gifted Education Guidelines, Section 3: Identification from

Identification of Disability

A collaborative problem-solving approach should be considered for students who are struggling in school and who may need academic and/or behavioral support. Use of this approach is “effective when multiple perspectives collaborate to identify student needs, implement targeted interventions, utilize data to measure student progress as a result of the interventions, as well as to monitor intervention integrity” (Response to Intervention [RtI] A Practitioner’s Guide To Implementation, Colorado Department of Education, 2008, <

Students Who Have Inconsistent Academic Performance

Strengths and disabilities may mask each other and the student may appear to have average ability. However, inconsistent performance may indicate the presence of gifted potential and disabilities. It is important to focus on developing potential and providing strategies to help students when they struggle. Research-based strategies for twice-exceptional students can be implemented before formal identification is achieved. Continue to look for indicators of gifted behaviors or behaviors that suggest a disability.

Attention Teachers

Strategies to Help Support (Potential) Twice-Exceptional Students in Class

Thompson Resources