Parenting a twice-exceptional (2E) child is not for the faint of heart, folks. I have been doing just that for 7-years. I often tell friends that in order to keep up with Leo I need the following: a decent night of sleep, several strong cups of coffee, my sense of humor, and a prayer. One thing I can say for certain: there is never a dull moment around here. Today, I’m going to share my tips on how to parent a 2E child. Here is my must-have list for parenting your 2E kiddo.
How to Parent a 2E Child:
I wasn’t kidding about the coffee. My 7-year-old son, Leo, is profoundly gifted and twice-exceptional. I often say that he’s at least twice-exceptional. Leo struggles with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms as well as sensory processing (SPD) challenges, with a dollop of worry thrown in for good measure. He never stops moving, even when he’s sleeping. He is like a tornado full of boy, whizzing through my house, climbing my walls, and talking from sun up ’til sun down. I can barely keep up on my best days, folks. Coffee is my survival strategy.
Sense of humor
I’m being serious here. You’re going to need a sense of humor because you are going to run into a lot of interesting situations. In our home, we refer to those moments as “Jesus has nipples moments”. Sometimes you have only two options: to laugh or to cry. I don’t know about you guys, but I’d rather laugh.
You are going to need heaps and heaps of patience, folks. These children are amazing, and brilliant, and brilliantly, amazingly exhausting. As I said, they can be tough to keep up with. They can be tough to parent. They can be tough to educate. Raising and homeschooling our son has been the most unexpected yet delightful and educational journey of my life so far, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it is also the greatest challenge of my life so far. Over time, parenting Leo has become easier, but it is still far from easy.
When we first discovered that our son was PG and 2E, I did what I always do when faced with unknown challenges: I read all the books. Reading about giftedness and gifted education, homeschooling, ADHD, SPD, and anxiety helped me to understand my son better and to figure out next steps for his education.
Understand asynchronous development
Once you’ve read all the books, you’ll have a better understanding of your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, the most important thing for folks to understand about gifted and 2E children is the concept of giftedness as asynchronous development. One of the hallmarks of giftedness, asynchronous development refers to the uneven intellectual, social-emotional, and physical development that is so common among gifted children. Put simply, gifted children are often out-of-sync. While the average child develops relatively evenly, the gifted child can be many ages at once. And the more gifted the child- the further to the right on the bell curve- the more asynchronous the child may be. Asynchronous development often becomes less of an issue with time, although difficulties can persist into the teen years. I truly believe that if the public understood giftedness as asynchrony, the gifted world would change for the better. My son is 7-years-old, but he is many ages at once. Physically, he looks like your typical 7-year-old. Cognitively, he is functioning at the level of someone more than twice his age, and yet his social-emotional functioning is lagging behind his chronological age. Being many ages at once has got to be tough for the kiddo, folks, and it certainly makes it challenging to meet the child’s educational needs.
This whole 2E thing isn’t going anywhere, folks. It’s best that you accept it now and come up with a plan of action. Adjust your expectations. In my case, I always assumed my kids would go to public school as I had. Then we had our son tested and the results indicated that his academic abilities were two to six grade levels above his grade placement at the time and I realized that you cannot educate a child with that profile well in a K-3rd grade public school building. I had to adjust my idea of what schooling would look like for our children.
Respect your child’s unique learning style
Your child may learn differently than his or her peers. He or she may learn differently than you learn. That’s okay. Watch your child learning. See what works best and do that. My son loves to learn through reading, followed by hands-on activities. He is very self-motivated and driven. He can come up with ideas that are more interesting than the ones I dream up. When we first started homeschooling, I assumed that I would be a teacher. I have since learned that my son is often the teacher while I serve as more of a facilitator. If he’s interested in bridges, I strew STEM related texts and materials about our house and let him have at it. Most of the time, he’s teaching me about what he’s learning. That’s certainly not how I pictured it in the beginning!
Advocate, Advocate, Advocate
Advocating for your child’s unique academic, cognitive, and social-emotional needs could be a full-time job. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can garner. When Leo was in public school, I found this book to be quite helpful. Another great read is A Nation Deceived which is available for free. Remember that advocacy is not a one-stop-shop, folks. You are going to need to continually advocate for your child. In order to keep fighting the good fight, you’re going to need a support network.
Find a community of parents
This is so important, folks. Parenting a twice-exceptional child can be a lonely venture. You look around at your friends’ kids and your kid is just… different. Your child may be more challenging, or more intense, or have unique needs, or may struggle in certain areas. It can be hard to talk about giftedness and its challenges to parents that are not dealing with it. You often feel that you’re bragging, and so you say nothing. Listen to me: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are other parents out there with kids like yours. Find them. Find your people. How? Look online. Check out Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, Davidson, or even do a local Google or Meetup search. If you don’t have a group, create one.
Vent to these new friends
I cannot tell you how refreshing it is for me to talk to my friend Colleen about parenting these kids. We can talk about parenting and homeschooling strategies for our kids and bounce ideas off of each other, or I can vent about x, y, or z and she gets it. After talking about all of this, I always feel better. My parenting energy stores feel replenished, my patience renewed.
Find a community for your child
I’m not going to lie, folks, this can be hard. These gifted and 2E kiddos are all so unique. I often hear people say, “If you’ve met one PG kid, you’ve met one PG kid” and that’s not even factoring in the 2E part of the mix. My son is able to connect and to play with his peers right now. I’ve watched it in action, but I worry. I worry because I hear the conversations he has with them and I see that, often, his friends do not always catch his references or understand his words. I know that this divide is only going to grow. My son is quirky. It’s tough to be a kid these days but it’s doubly hard to be a quirky, asynchronous kid. I watch these interactions and I wonder when the divide will grow larger, and I worry about how to find peers like him who can fill it. Leo has a smattering of gifted friends in the area, but I want him to find more. I know that they are out there- I have connected with so many parents and educators of these kids online, but it can be hard to find children like my son locally. That said, it can be done. You just have to work at it. I’m happy to report that just last week we had a play date with another DYS family. Watching Leo connect with his new friends brought tears to my eyes. There was a spark there- a passion- that I haven’t seen before. To say the two connected is an understatement. They played together like two 7-year-old boys, but their conversation and vocabulary belied their giftedness. It was awesome!
Take care of yourself
I’ve just given you a hefty list. I told you that parenting these kids is not for the faint of heart! Listen to me, it is important to take care of yourself. You cannot care for others if you aren’t replenishing your parental energy. Find out what self-care works for you and do that. Your entire family will be better of for it!
Tell me, folks… Are you the parent of a 2E child? What would you add to this list? What has helped you on your journey? Share here!
This post has been part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page May 2015 Blog Hop on Twice Exceptional Learners. Click the image below to hop to more posts on this topic!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram