You may have heard this term bandied about in educational circles: twice-exceptional (sometimes shortened to 2e).

What does it really mean?


Twice-exceptional refers to students who are both intellectually gifted and have some kind of learning difficulty. So they are “exceptional” on both ends of the spectrum of strengths and weaknesses.

You may find this with children who struggle to read, but have off-the-charts visual-spatial skills, like a lot of the kids on our reading intervention program. Or kids with high IQs who are stuck in special education classes. Or kids with incredible verbal vocabulary beyond their years who can’t spell words like “was”.

The term came into use in the 1970s and has grown in popularity over the years. While you could take the view that another label just clutters what’s really going on, it is a helpful term in one important respect: it takes into account that a child should not be defined by what she struggles with. Every child has areas of strength, and those should always be built up and encouraged, even while addressing the weaknesses.

Sarah Forrest is a Literacy Specialist for the Easyread System, an online program for children with reading difficulties, dyslexia, auditory processing issues, and more. Get a free trial at