3 things you should know about being the mom of a twice-exceptional child

I battled with myself a bit about this post. I am happy to divulge all the information when the information is mine, but this particular issue centers around my son, who is incredible and independent of me. Indeed, one day he will be entirely his own entity and this story will be his to tell instead of mine. However, it is impossible to separate us in some respects; my experience being a mom is being a mother to him.

So, I'll stick to the basics. My guy is six, a Kindergartner, and twice-exceptional. Twice-exceptional children are considered to be intellectually gifted AND diagnosed with an additional learning disability. Disabilities can run the gamut, which makes the gifted aspect of these children's capabilities even more amazing. My son's level of giftedness was medically confirmed earlier this year, along with his second diagnosis after completing an IQ test and regular therapy sessions. We originally sought out psychological evaluation for our son to diagnose or rule out placement on the autism spectrum. While we weren't surprised to hear the words "gifted" associated with our then five year old, it wasn't what we were after. We wanted to help him deal with mounting difficulties in structured (or sometimes not structured enough) environments like school. We wanted to support him socially when we saw him struggling. Mostly, we wanted him to be happy and we needed to know how to help him down whatever road he needed to travel.

His secondary diagnosis revolving around his anxieties was not totally surprising, but we were still unprepared. Still, we finally had a full picture of our son and his abilities. I remember being SO THANKFUL for a name, a label, a title, AND the ability to find out more.

We've covered some good ground since his diagnosis, but it is always a work in progress. We sat in our first 504 meeting, drafted a plan for our boy, and are working to support his angel-like teacher. We have great days and we have rough, awful days. Some days I stare at him in awe of his mind, and other days I wish (silently, in the depths of my heart) that he wasn't so damn intense. We aren't good at anything, but we are doing our best.

So, if you are starting your journey parenting a twice-exceptional child (or even just know and care for one) here are 3 things you should know:

1. Life is INTENSE around a 2E kid
From infancy on, this kid lived hard. Needs were demanded. Time schedules were adhered to (by him, not by me. I never needed a watch because this baby literally cried to eat and sleep at the same time every day. I sobbed often during daylight savings).

He LOVES the things he loves. His attention span knows no bounds with them. His aversions are just as intense, and honestly, sometimes irrational. We might be the only family who truly cannot enter Home Depot because my 2E kid remembers a Halloween decoration from 3 years ago that the store once displayed that terrifies him.

Gifted children carry their own set of intensities, and these can certainly be increased with additional diagnoses.

2. You will doubt yourself
I cried in the doctor's office when we got the official feedback on our son. Part of me was damn proud of him and his cool little brain, and the other part was entirely overwhelmed. I'm of average intelligence and (maybe?) average parenting ability. I had NO IDEA how I could or would support someone like my son. I still wonder how often I'm doing it right.

Recently my son incurred a scrape on his arm on the way to his bus. Most kids would be a little shaken up. Some parents might turn around and head back home for a band-aid, ice pack, etc. Me? I first had to deal with his VERY PHYSICAL reaction to pain, and then his very public display of his emotions. The Great Escrape, as I've come to call it, resulted in me patching him up, writing a hurried note to his teacher, sweating literal buckets while trying to calm him down in the car, breaking my own heart watching him walk into school carrying his "broken wing" and sobbing in the car because he had requested a "time-turner" to go back in time and erase the worst moment of life---and the knowledge that I had dropped him off to deal with his big feels all day without me. A simple scrape on the sidewalk left me doubting my choices and my abilities. And, with him, BIG things happen more often than I would have ever imagined.

2E kids demand more from the world and it is sometimes difficult to feel like you are meeting their standards, so to speak.

(P.S. Two days later he is still insisting that he cannot move his arm, is eating, writing, and dressing himself one handed, and refusing to do some of his favorite things because "healing hurts" He STILL hasn't let me off the hook with The Great Escrape).

3. You will always be amazed
This last one isn't a display of what my gifted child can do. Rather, it is the statement that his mind AMAZES ME. He sees the world in a different way than most. He encounters learning differently. He can and does.

We worried so much, SO MUCH, about our guy's transition into a public, mainstreamed school. We anticipated the worst. Time and time again, he did his best. The run wasn't flawless, but goddamn, that little boy AMAZED us with his mind, his character, and his heart.

As far as we are concerned, there is no goal out of reach for our son. He will always have to learn to work differently to achieve it, but he can and he will.

A final word to those parenting 2E kids---I see you and how hard you are working at it. The rap of having a gifted child these days has certainly changed. You may have been accused of being a "tiger mom" or "hot boxing" your kid, and it's tough to find a place to share his or her accomplishments. Add in a little something extra, something that complicates it all, and your job is ROUGH. I see you and I applaud you for trying. I'm literally making a mess of it all, but I keep plugging away for him. You keep working at doing the best you can, and we'll probably all turn out alright. ----Megan

Other posts you may like:

Teaching tolerance: Explaining the word gay to my son 
Why we spend so much time outside

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