The new school year is upon us! As we start to stock up on school supplies for our children, we also want to have the right tools to give them the best chances for success. 2e learners are only about 2-5% of the gifted population and learning disabilities population. Although there is a growing recognition of 2e learners, many of us still live in communities where the school systems don’t have a sufficient way of addressing 2e learners and their needs. Many 2e learners go unrecognized and remain underserved. What can a parent do in this situation?
EDUCATE YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL
Become educated about 2e learners. Understand what to inquire about and what to look for regarding 2e learners.
- As a parent, know what your rights are and how to communicate your needs. This enables you to advocate for your child and to educate others about 2e learners. Please visit our Resources.
- Attend meetings sponsored by the school board. For example, in Baltimore County you can attend the Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC) and the Gifted and Talented Citizen Advisory Committee (GTCAC).
- Stay up to date with the latest developments that affect your rights and your child’s education. For example, the U.S. Department of Education has stated that 2e learners are entitled to special education services. See the article “IDEA Applies To ‘Twice Exceptional’ Students Too.”
- Connect with other parents. Bonding through the PTA, neighborhood communities, and local online forums will help create a strong voice for 2e learners. When parents need to deal with their immediate situation for their child, they rarely have energy left to deal with more. That is why numbers are so important. The more parents that come together the better they can effectively help each other and change the system. Without a significant number of invested parents, school systems will be unlikely to act in favor of 2e learners.
Educate your school administration about your child’s needs as a 2e learner. Your child’s teacher is their main contact at school, so their understanding of the issue is critical. However, the teacher has to comply with the school administrator’s policies. Therefore, it is important for the school administration to also understand 2e learners.
- In Baltimore County, you can request a SST (Student Support Team) meeting for your child. This is the basic level of support that is offered. If your child’s needs cannot be addressed at this level, then a 504 plan may be considered. If a 504 plan does not meet your child’s needs, then an IEP is considered.
- Many parents will be told that their child has to be failing in order to quality for an IEP. This is simply not true. Please visit www.wrightslaw.com for more information.
- It may be difficult to know who in the school district should address your concerns. If your child has a 504 plan, look to the Office of General Education, not the Office of Special Education or the Office of Advanced Academics. If your child has an IEP plan, the Office of Special Education addresses his/her needs.
- Ideally, a 2e learner’s needs should be discussed by all three of these parties. Therefore, you may eventually need to request all three parties to be involved to avoid being shuttled back and forth.
- The vice principal is typically in charge of SST, 504 plans, and IEP meetings and serves as the main contact. Meetings usually consist of the vice principal, school nurse, special education teacher, your child’s teacher, and the school/county psychologist. Ideally, someone from the Office of Advanced Academics (formally called Gifted & Talented in Baltimore County) is also there to address your child’s giftedness and needs.
- It is highly recommended that you have a professional psychological evaluation for your child that provides support for your child’s giftedness and disabilities.
- An independent professional who is skilled in this area is also recommended. Please see our article “Going Beyond the Testing Norm: The Importance of a Comprehensive Approach to Testing Twice Exceptional Students.”
ADDRESS THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
When a school system does not have an official process or program to address 2e learners, acquiring the accommodations you need and having them implemented consistently can be difficult. You may be told that your child’s needs will be met with the “best practices.” The reality is that these “best practices” are often not being realized in the classroom; substitutes aren’t aware of your child’s needs, class sizes are too large, and you have to constantly check in to make sure your child’s needs are being met. It is unlikely that a SST meeting alone will be enough to meet your child’s needs; even with a 504 plan, the school is not required to provide accommodations.
Just as teachers are bound to policies approved by the school administration, the school administration is bound to follow the school system’s policies. To truly have an effective system, the needs of 2e learners have to be addressed holistically throughout the school system and not just in one school. Starting a dialogue with key stakeholders – parents, teachers, the school administration, and counselors – can be one of the first steps towards this ultimate goal.
1. Asking the right questions to the right people is a start. Get to know your the coordinators in your school system.
2. What questions need to be asked? When we are starting at the base level where an official definition and set of protocols do not exist for 2e learners we need to start with the basics. We are still at the very basic needs here in Baltimore County. What is the definition of a 2e learner that the county recognizes? How will they identify 2e learners? Do not accept rhetoric that 2e learners are accounted for in current policy language concerning Gifted and Talented (GT) and Special Education. They are not. General GT identification protocols are not appropriate in identifying 2e learners. How many of us have been told that our child doesn’t qualify because they simply don’t look “eager” enough? Many myths still exist about how a gifted child presents. Please see the article “The 2e Student: Damaging Myths.”
3. Develop a separate and distinct set of policies and protocols to recognize 2e learners. Having the answers to the questions above will help you and the school district develop the distinct set of policies and protocols needed.
4. Push for professional development. In conjunction with having a proper identification system, we need specific and ongoing professional development for special assigned teachers who have a personal and district commitment and support to serve GT/2e learners. The professional development should be implemented throughout the year and conducted by noted trainers in GT/LD; it should also be announced to all parents. Obtain a schedule of the trainings and names of the trainers and their topics. Strongly suggest that parents be able to attend all trainings. Ideally, the trainings should be focused on parents as well as teachers. That way accountability and transparency is increased.
5. Find out how other counties or states have arrived at recognizing and meeting the needs of 2e learners. Montgomery County is just around the corner and has a rich history of and a strong program addressing these issues.
6. Check with the MSDE gifted office on any latest developments concerning 2e. BCPS and all MD schools only go as far as MSDE rules and regulations require. Join national organizations to learn more how other communities have been able to bring about change for the better. Please visit our Resources.
7. Work together. Honest and open communication is always a good place to start. Instead of fighting with key stakeholders; teachers, the school administration (teachers, representatives from Special Education, General Education and Advanced Academics), and counselors, embrace them as your partners. After all, we all share the common goal of helping every individual realize their potential.
Every child has the right to access equal opportunities in their education. By taking these steps towards raising awareness of your child’s needs, you can make sure your child has the opportunity to experience a successful and enjoyable school year!
Edited by Vivian Tsai
Contributions by Ken Dickson, GT/LD Advocate