Is My Child Twice Exceptional?


Our child was diagnosed with ADHD several years ago. But now that she’s older we can see that she’s also very smart, possibly even gifted. How can I tell if she should be reassessed to make sure we are addressing all aspects of her learning profile?

                                                                                                            Anonymous, Charlotte, NC

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Devon MacEachron, Ph.D. 

Dr. Devon is a New York City-based psychologist specializing in strategic learning assessments of gifted and twice-exceptional learners. Access her website at

I’m often asked by parents of bright children with LD and/or ADHD how they can tell if their child is “2e”, or twice exceptional, meaning intellectually gifted as well as learning disabled.

To know for sure, your child needs a complete neuropsych evaluation—or, in your case, a reassessment. But if you suspect your child might be twice exceptional, and are considering how to move forward, I offer the following 2e “symptoms” checklist, a form I often ask parents to fill out as part of their child’s assessment.

Individual children won’t necessarily meet all criteria, but even a handful of checkmarks could indicate twice-exceptionality. I find that parents usually have accurate insights into their children, and encourage you to trust your instincts. Most teachers aren’t taught about either giftedness or twice-exceptionality, so you generally can’t look to them to spot this in your child. Many other professionals aren’t familiar with the unique combination of strengths and challenges we find in the twice-exceptional. I suggest you try filling out the checklist and seeing how your child fares. This may help you decide how to move forward.

Directions: Place a check mark next to each description that fits:

  • Is your child asynchronous – i.e. more advanced than his or her peers in some respects but significantly less so in others?
  • Is there a discrepancy between your child’s ability to comprehend ideas and his or her output?
  • Does your child appear to be smarter and more capable than grades or test scores suggest?
  • Does your child have a sophisticated vocabulary and/or strong oral comprehension, but struggle with the mechanics of reading or writing?
  • Does it take your child a lot longer to complete homework than his or her peers?
  • Is your child a good mathematical thinker, yet struggles with performing calculations accurately and/or has found it hard to memorize math facts?
  • Does your child need more parent/teacher support in academic learning, social interaction, and/or organization than his or her peers?
  • Does your child have wonderful ideas, yet fail to reliably implement them?
  • Does your child have an ability to hyperfocus deeply in areas of interest, but is inattentive to things other children seem to have less difficulty paying attention to?
  • Does your child prefer to play with or converse with older children and adults?
  • Does your child worry more about existential questions like the purpose of life or focus intensely on questions of fairness and justice?
  • Does your child tend to question rules and authority, be opinionated and/or argumentative?
  • Does your child exhibit great curiosity for why things are the way they are, constantly asking why and questioning – perhaps interrupting others and at the cost of actually doing their assigned homework?
  • Is your child experiencing anxiety/loneliness/loss of self-esteem due to their “failure” to fit in with their more neurotypical peers?
  • Does your child have a quick wit or a unique sense of humor?
  • Is your child’s academic performance inconsistent or uneven?
  • Does your child have much more difficulty with social interactions than his or her peers?
  • Were you caught off guard when your clearly bright child experienced challenges once formal schooling began?
  • Does your child have a lot to communicate but find it very difficult to put their ideas down in writing?
  •  Does your child struggle with perfectionism or frustrations due to the discrepancy between their ability and performance?

If you checked a number of items and your child hasn’t yet been identified as 2e, it might be time to look deeper.

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