And The Answer Is…She’s 2E (Twice Exceptional)

twice exceptional

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc
text: Shelly Tiffin

It’s the end of another school year. This one ended in promise rather than panic for the first time since my youngest started school. God has blessed me with the ability to see my daughter learn and grow in leaps and bounds this year. He has provided answers, He has provided money, and He has provided people. The glory is His alone! SDG

Past Struggles

Since she was three, Taylor has perplexed us and her teachers with her ability to achieve well above average on a test, yet struggle so much in the day to day. In fact, most of her teachers thought me crazy when I mentioned something out of the norm with her.

I’ve been asked things like, “Are you sure you just aren’t overly sensitive because your an educator?”

As if any mother WANTS their kid to have a problem. But here’s the thing, because I was an educator, I knew there was a problem. (To read Taylor’s story from the beginning click here.)

Over the years we learned that what we thought to be ADD was really a sensory processing issue that kept her distracted. Taylor struggles with both auditory and visual processing disorders. These have been recently discovered in second and third grade. To read the second part of her story that includes the discovery of these issues click here.)

The Here, Now, and 2E

Here we are at the end of third grade, and while our journey is not over, it finally has answers. We have spent most the year in vision therapy. It cost us almost every Saturday of the school year as we drove to Los Angeles and back, not to mention the extra homework she had every night. BUT it was worth it.

What we have discovered about our daughter makes me all the more grateful that I fought for her. I didn’t take no as an answer. Many prayers were said, lots of money has been spent, but here were are with a 2E child.

What’s 2E?  2E is “Twice Exceptional”. It’s a label for kids who are both gifted and learning disabled.

Taylor started the year as a LD student, but third grade brings testing for the gifted program to which she qualified with even higher scores than her older sister.  Most, including educators, have never heard of 2E. These kids often fall through the cracks. Either their intellect compensates for their struggles as was Taylor’s case, or their learning disabilities skew their intelligence scores. Sometimes it’s possible that the two even each other out completely. It is very rare to have a proper fit for these children within our current educational structure. I was shocked when I found a school district in another state that has an entire program centered around it with some resources. Click here to be taken to their site.

Regardless of a label, we have answers. And, we understand why this has been so difficult to figure out. This whole journey has felt like a desert wandering. There was start point but no end point. There was no map. There were very few who could help. There were fewer still that were willing to help. But for all of it, I say thank you Jesus for leading the way. This has been one of the largest trust walks of my life, and not only has my faith grown through it, so has Taylor’s.

Why I Share

I am a public school educator in the state of California. Everything I thought I knew about our system regarding kids with struggles went out the window as soon as I had a child that the system couldn’t service. Even knowing the system and many people within it, the system couldn’t and still can’t do much to help her (and I don’t want them to, let’s leave that to the professionals).

I share because I’m one of the few moms who has fought for their kids, put the puzzle together, and has seen a complete turn around in their child.

Twice Exceptional

We started the year in tears. Taylor hated to read and hated even more to write. It would take hours just to copy something with many melt downs in the process. When reading, she’d guess as much as she could and begged us to read for her, so she could just listen. After the first week of school this year, I looked at my husband and said, “I have to do something. I have to know I’ve tried everything. I can see the writing on the wall, she’s not going to graduate from high school if nothing changes.”

Fast forward to the end of the year. Not more than three nights ago Taylor handed me a paper from school and asked, “Mom, can I do Battle of the Books next year?” (It’s a competition that tests students’ knowledge of 30 novels, that they have the summer and school year to read.)  To which I replied, “Are you sure? You do realize you have to read novels, not picture books and they are thick!” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I know! I want to do it.” Not many mothers get to experience such a tremendous sense of relief and excitement all in the same moment.

How Did We Get Here?

First of all we prayed. We believe in a loving Heavenly Father who created this Earth and everything in it. We believe He has a plan for each of us and that His plan is perfect. So, we prayed for wisdom and for answers. We thanked God for the victories and the set backs, and the glory from this journey is all His. Even Taylor herself will attest to how God has moved in her life.

Other than that…

  • I fought. I started with an independent educational therapist and got his opinion of where Taylor was at in Kindergarten. At the point of testing, he said he thought she had both a visual and auditory issue, but he was not qualified diagnose those. In the end, it took testing by very hard to find specialists and thousands of dollars to figure it out. And I can tell you story after story of how God provided not only money but classroom resources for Taylor to take this journey.
  • I worked with her. Our current education system requires a child to be 2 years behind before resources are provided for most students that haven’t been diagnosed outside the system. I refused to let her fall behind, so we spent most summers playing catch up and getting ahead.
  • I educated myself. I can’t tell you how many books on ADD/ADHD, auditory processing, and visual processing I’ve read. That doesn’t make me an expert, but what it did was let me know if what I was seeing from my child was consistent with what the experts said. If I felt it was, then the money for the testing was worth it. If I didn’t feel like there was a match, the cost of a few books was a lot less than most tests.
  • I’ve never stopped, and I’m still not done. Now that we have answers, we still have much work to do to get her processing skills up. Therapy has helped immensely, and although we would hope for it to be a “one and done” scenario, my gut says that she will deal with these issues for the rest of her life.

Encouragement for All Moms

Maybe you are in the middle of trying to figure out whether or not your child has a learning issue of some kind. If so, my first advice is to pray. Or, maybe your concerns for your child have nothing to do with learning disabilities. My advice is still the same, pray! God should be the first One we talk to about our kids.  After all, He created them, has a perfect plan for them, and loves them even more than we do. Ask for wisdom, discernment, and answers. Ask for people to be put in your path that will lead you down the right road. And, trust that His plan is the perfect plan for their life, even when it looks different than yours.

Then share your journey, please! There are many who are in the middle of a similar journey as you. The problem is that no one wants to share because of the fear of labels or judgement. To that I say, no one’s kids are perfect even those without learning issues. As moms we need to stop pretending like we’ve all got this parenting thing figured out, and start encouraging each other through humility and vulnerability. 

Do you have a child with learning issues or know someone who does? What have your experiences been? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below and share this with anyone who you know who could use some hope in this area.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jennifer Kaufman

    I’m so, so grateful for you sharing this story! We have one that I imagine will fall into the 2E category as well. She has ADHD and sensory processing disorders but is brilliant. She’s a bit young for LDs to manifest – and maybe they won’t – but I’m so glad to have things like this on my radar and a school that will partner with us in getting my children their best education. Thanks for sharing!

  • Joan-

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. My best friend’s story is very similar to your story – she knew something was “not quite right”, but was brushed off often as overly sensitive as a first time parent. It has been very frustrating watching her try to navigate assistance. He was diagnosed with a sensory processing issue also & once recognized, he started making incredible progress. Both stories solidify that the mom always knows best!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Camilla

    So glad that you didn’t just give into the system that tries to fit everyone into the same box and figured out what was going on. Learning disability or not, we all learn differently but our schools as much as they try can’t venture far outside the set curriculum. You have a brilliant child that will flourish when given the right tools. Some of the most brilliant minds and innovators have ADD. Can’t wait to see what kind of awesomeness that your 2E child will bring to our world.

    • Shelly Tiffin

      That’s so true Camilla. No matter how hard we try as teachers to individualize instruction, it will never be enough.
      Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Becca

    It’s so tough sometimes to find what’s going on with our kids, and I can’t imagine the struggle of identifying a child who is both gifted and learning disabled. Good for you for not giving up, and for taking the extra steps necessary to help her! I’m hoping the next school year is awesome for you and her both.

    • Shelly Tiffin

      Thanks Becca! I’m sure it will bring new challenges, but knowing the problem is the key to solving it.

  • David Mike

    Shelly, thanks for sharing your journey with us. At what age do you start seeking out assessments when you feel like you notice differences in a young child?

    • Shelly Tiffin

      David, the sooner the better. Sometimes the issues are obvious. For example public schools offer speech for kids in preschool. We started in Kindergarten because part of me thought maybe I was being a little too sensitive and I wanted to see what would happen in school.

    • Shelly Tiffin

      David, we started seeing it around age 3, but it became more obvious as the school work got harder.

  • Mark Allman

    I’ve been wondering how this was going. I am so glad that it is so positive… reading novels … wow. I know this was a family struggle and a family success. That is awesome.

    • Shelly Tiffin

      Thanks Mark. We are extremely happy with her progress and all her hard work.

  • Steven Tessler

    Praise God for your courage to fight! Proud of your daughter wanting to take on this challenge!!