Finally Some Good News for the Gifted and Disabled

One of the most challenging and infuriating areas in which I practice is advocating for the gifted and disabled (called “twice exceptional”).  I feel particularly passionately about these cases because I fall into the category of twice exceptional.  I suffer from multiple learning disabilities.  When I was a student in public school, I was left back in second grade and misdiagnosed as cognitively “slow.”  Only to learn later in life that I’m actually Gifted.

I spent years arguing to school districts that a twice exceptional student should not be denied special education even if they are capable of performing at or above grade level.  It can be enormously frustrating for parents and advocates to get schools to recognize that bright students can also have disabilities.  A twice exceptional students with decent grades is absolutely legally entitled an IEP if they have significant medical, physical, social, emotional or behavioral deficits.   But a Gifted learning disabled student who has none of those deficits will have a hard time getting an IEP.   However, a Gifted learning disabled student will have an easier time getting a 504 Plan.

Another really unfortunate problem twice exceptional students have is getting into accelerated academic programs.  Well, now for the good news! On December 26, 2007 the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to all public school districts in the country.  That OCR letter basically stated that twice exceptional students cannot be denied admission to challenging academic programs, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes.  Some schools even pressure IEP or 504 to give up those plans as a condition of getting into the accelerated program. But thankfully since 2007 parents can bring the OCR letter to their schools and tell them their twice exceptional child is entitled to both accelerated academics AND the assistance of a 504 Plan or IEP.  Hallelujah.