In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“We see kids whose challenges don’t show up on their report card, so they aren’t getting services,” said Jennifer Choi, a parent and founder of the advocacy group 2eNYC and a trustee of the nonprofit Twice Exceptional Children’s Advocacy. “And we see kids who are gifted, but they also have a disability, who lose the ability to participate in any sort of accelerated program because those programs often decline to provide special education services.”
But a handful of school systems across the country are searching for better ways to accommodate bright students with disabilities. Colorado trains teachers across the state in twice exceptionality, for example, while Montgomery County, Maryland, is perhaps the only school district to offer self-contained classes for students in elementary school who need both an accelerated curriculum and more support than they would receive in a mainstream classroom.
Now parent activists in New York City are fighting to get the country’s largest school system to be more responsive to 2e students. Last fall, after Choi’s group presented the New York City Department of Education with a survey of more than 500 parents that described the challenges facing 2e students, the agency began to offer training to staff in gifted-and-talented programs on how to work more effectively with students who have ADHD. In the last few years, three of the city’s most selective public high schools — Brooklyn Technical, Bard College and Townshend Harris — have sent teachers to learn about twice exceptionality from employees of the Quad Preparatory School, a six-year-old private school that focuses on educating these students. And in New York state, lawmakers introduced bills in 2017 that would require teacher training about twice exceptionality and programming for twice exceptional students.
One of the biggest barriers to educating 2e students, advocates say, is simply proving they exist. Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, all students are entitled to the special services and accommodations necessary to enable them to learn. But to qualify for those services under the law, a student’s disability must “adversely affect educational performance.”