With the new school year underway, some parents will have a harder time than others because of a little-known, but very real phenomenon: their child is “twice as extraordinary.” These children have both the potential for high achievement (“gifted”) and one or more disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or generalized anxiety.
While talent is a strength, being exceptional twice creates a vulnerability for a child. Twice the number of exceptional children in Quebec is estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000, but their exact number is unknown as they are difficult to identify. However, their parents know that something needs to be done.
Parents have to deal with their child’s difficulties in adjustment, and the psychological, social and behavioral problems that can come with being twice as extraordinary. These parents face many challenges on a daily basis, which add to the stress of parenting.
Juliette is a first-year doctoral student in psychology at Sherbrooke University, working in Matthew’s lab. We are interested in the experience of these parents, and more specifically, in the relationship between their stress levels and their sense of how effective they are as parents.
problem in school
Many parents of gifted children with ADHD report being called by their child’s teacher to discuss their child’s disruptive behavior in class. Teachers will often report that the child’s high level of movement distracts other students and has trouble following instructions.
Although the teacher may say that the child’s impulsive behavior needs to be closely monitored, the teacher may also comment on the child’s impressive creativity. After hearing this, many parents go off in search of answers, which often ends in a request for a neuropsychological evaluation. A little luck will lead to the right identities: Giftedness and ADHD.
Although the reality of twice-extraordinary children is unknown to the general public and even health professionals, the parents of these children completely ignore the daily stress they experience in their role. This tension is explained by the gap between parents’ perception of expectations and the resources available to them. This is a real burden for parents of gifted and vulnerable children.
Parents are at greater risk of developing physical and psychological health problems such as depression and anxiety, and they generally experience more marital conflict. In addition, their stress affects their child’s social, emotional and behavioral development.
Read more: Kids on Individualized Education Plans: What parents need to know, and 4 questions they should ask
Parents of gifted children often find that their child’s early development sets them apart from their peers. Parents of children with Attention Deficit Disorder find that their child’s growth rate may be below average. Yet parents of gifted and ADHD children experience both of these realities together, which often means facing prejudice from teachers, doctors, and family.
In fact, it can be hard to imagine that even a gifted child, for example, might have learning difficulties. As a result, parents of these exceptional but vulnerable children need to advocate for their child’s special needs in school, the community, and even in the political arena. As a result, it is not uncommon for these parents to be perceived as perfectionists, demanding and challenging.
For example, a lack of knowledge about two-exceptional children in some primary and secondary schools means that many parents must notify teaching staff about their child’s condition. They should consider it as valid as other vulnerabilities and emphasize that an intervention plan is designed, then implemented, to meet their child’s needs during their child’s evaluation.
a delicate balance
It is even more difficult to identify a twice exceptional child because the condition manifests in different ways for each child. The talent can be so strong that the child does well, hiding the difficulty created by ADHD. Conversely, the attention disorder can be so strong that the child underperforms, hiding his talents. Finally, it is also possible that giftedness and attention disorder hide each other, which is called the masking effect.
However, if neither the talisman nor the associated disorder is identified, the child may not benefit from interventions for any of their exceptionalities, which are necessary for them to develop to their full potential. This adds to the stress of parents, as they know their child’s emotional and educational needs are not being met.
a promising future
Dual exceptionalism is still a taboo subject. It is possible that values of humility and humility, rather than wealth and success, may have played a significant role in our social choices in this area.
Fortunately, the Quebec Ministry of Education and Higher Education recently published the document “Acting to Support the Success of Talented Students”. It aims to assist teachers, complementary educational services staff, school principals and parents in their efforts to understand the needs of gifted students and meet them in the school environment.
It offers a range of functions, such as academic acceleration, mentoring and extra-curricular activities, that can be used to help gifted students maintain their motivation and develop to their full potential.