Whether your twice exceptional child homeschools or goes to a public or private school outside the house, parenting and teaching him or her is a challenge. Your kiddo is tough to understand, and the usual methods of parenting just don’t seem to apply.
It’s okay – you’ve got this.
You are the absolute best parent for your twice exceptional child, and you CAN parent, teach, and advocate for him or her better than anyone else ever could. You just need a few new tools to add to your parenting arsenal.
Tools for Parenting and Teaching a Twice Exceptional Child
A study of twice exceptional students found that the ones whose giftedness was addressed before their disabilities had a higher self-confidence, self-image, and showed significantly more positive social, emotional, and academic growth. (Nielsen & Mortorff, Albert, 1989) By playing to their strengths before remediating their weaknesses, twice exceptional children did better.
It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me though. When we focus on the positive we all do better in life, right? Why wouldn’t twice exceptional children be that same way?
So how can we do this?
Cultivate a Nurturing Environment
While it’s hard sometimes to stay calm and encouraging (ask me how I know) when your twice exceptional child is pushing all your buttons, it’s important for them to know that they’re not alone. They need to know that you’re there for them, and you love them. Even when they drive you crazy.
It’s so easy to fall into the habit of correcting everything your twice exceptional child does. But, he may begin to feel that the only time you interact with him is when he’s done something wrong. Encouraging words go a long way towards helping your child reach his potential. Find positive things to say about him – especially if it’s one of those days where he’s at his most trying.
I love the way that you hung out and talked to Braxton’s grandma. You were such a great conversationalist, and I know she was impressed with your film knowledge.
You did such a great job of listening to the gymnastic coach’s critique, even though I know that it was hard for you. Then, you picked yourself up and went out to have your best gymnastics class yet. I’m so proud of you.
Specific praise nurtures confidence. Your kiddo knows that you’re paying attention.
Focus on Talents and Strengths
Hand in hand with an encouraging and nurturing environment, is one that focuses on a twice exceptional child’s strengths. Your child may struggle when it comes to writing, but is one of the most creative kids you’ve ever met. It’s hard for him to get the stories swirling in his head down on paper.
But does he really have to?
Why not focus on that creativity and storytelling skill instead of remediating his writing for now? Get an inexpensive dictaphone and let him dictate his stories, or have him use a talk to text program on the computer.
Build him up, one success at a time, then work on those things with which he struggles.
Build a Team
Whether you homeschool or send your twice exceptional child to a traditional school, you need a support team to join you in raising your sweet kiddo. And sometimes that’s much easier said than done.
No matter what you do, or how hard you advocate, not everyone will ‘get’ your twice exceptional child. Let’s face it, outliers are tough to understand anyway. When you have an outlier who struggles, well, you’re often faced with an uphill battle. Fight it, though. Your child matters.
So, who needs to be on your team?
Your spouse – If the adults in the adults in the house aren’t on the same side, then the battle is lost. You and your spouse need to believe in your kiddo. He needs to know you’ve got his back.
Teachers – No matter how and where your child learns, he’s bound to have teachers. Classroom teachers don’t come to the table with much knowledge about giftedness, and might only think of it in terms of the stereotypes. Museum, nature center, and other informal educators aren’t any more knowledgeable. It’s up to you to educate them and get them on your side. Kindness wins, usually… But sometimes it’s the squeaky wheel that trumps all. Be persistent in advocating and help them see your kiddo’s strengths.
Friends – You need friends who get you and the parenting struggles you face. It’s not always easy to find another parent who understands what you go through, but try. It’s important. There are others out there who have been exactly where you are. You need them. If you can’t find local friends who get you, head over to Facebook and join Raising Poppies, the support group for parents of gifted and twice exceptional children that I founded with my friend Cait. You’ll be glad you did.
And, if you’re looking for both new friendships AND stellar info about parenting and homeschooling your gifted kiddos, head to one of the Great Homeschool Conventions where I’ll be talking more about twice-exceptional kiddos and hanging out to chat with parents like you.
Psychologists/Counselors – There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting professional help for you or your child when you feel overwhelmed or unsure. But, find a professional who understands gifted children, and don’t be afraid to change to another one if it doesn’t feel like the advice you’re getting matches what you know about raising your child. You are the expert on your kid. You really are. Don’t let anyone make you doubt that your intuition is valid.
Your Child – A twice exceptional child is pretty aware of what’s going on. Metacognitively, he gets that he doesn’t quite fit. Don’t be mislead into leaving him out of the loop. You’re going to need his buy-in to make any strategies work. Keep him involved in developing strategies for his success.
You – Yes… you. YOU need to be on your own team. Too often we get bogged down by the overwhelm involved in raising a twice exceptional child. It’s okay to step away, take a break, get some chocolate or take a night out with a friend. But, in the heat of it all, remember this – you are a great parent. You are the perfect parent for your child. There is nobody who cares more, loves more, or is more invested in his success. YOU matter. And you’re fabulous. Believe in yourself. Recharge when you need to. But keep fighting.
The bottom line is that parenting and teaching twice exceptional children requires a complete shift in perspective. They just can’t thrive in environments where they’re constantly reminded of their weaknesses. Parents need to find ways to capitalize on their strengths and use those to catapult them forward.
Twice exceptional children are creative, innovative, fun, and so, so special. We owe it to them to give them the best start we possibly can.
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