Autistic And Gifted: Supporting The Twice Exceptional Child

Children with exceptionalities are special, and those with twice-exceptionalities (2E) are even more unique. The term “twice-exceptional” refers to individuals who are both intellectually gifted and autistic.

Being intellectually gifted means having an IQ above 130 in one or multiple fields, while being autistic means having limitations in social interaction, communication, understanding sarcasm or body language, and sensory processing, among others.

The combination of these two traits can make these children exceptional in many ways, but it also makes it challenging for them to fit in the “norm”. They may struggle to connect with other children, show uneven academic performance or underachieve, and have difficulties with impulse control or emotional regulation.

This article aims to explain more about twice-exceptional children, their strengths and challenges, and ways to support them.

Strengths of Twice-Exceptional Children

Twice-exceptional children possess unique and valuable strengths, such as:

1. High cognitive abilities

Being intellectually gifted means having advanced skills in various domains, such as language, mathematics, music, arts, or science. This allows the 2E child to excel in academic pursuits and understand complex concepts faster and more deeply than average children.

2. Creativity and problem-solving skills

Gifted children have a natural inclination towards creative thinking and problem-solving. They can approach problems from different angles, connect seemingly unrelated ideas, and innovate novel solutions. This ability can help them in various fields, from entrepreneurship and science to arts and engineering.

3. Intense focus and passion

Autistic children often have a special interest or passion that they love to explore or learn about. When combined with their giftedness, this interest can become a source of deep focus and motivation, leading to impressive achievements and discoveries.

Challenges of Twice-Exceptional Children

Although twice-exceptional children have valuable strengths, they also face significant challenges. These include:

1. Social and emotional difficulties

Autistic children have difficulty understanding social cues, making friends, and expressing emotions. Gifted children may feel isolated, misunderstood, or bored in regular classrooms. The combination of these factors can lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

2. Learning difficulties

Gifted children may show uneven performance and struggle with certain subjects, such as handwriting, organization, memorization, or attention. Autistic children may have difficulty with executive functions, such as planning, prioritizing, and initiating tasks. The combination of these factors can lead to underachievement, frustration, and lack of engagement.

3. Sensory overload and meltdowns

Autistic children may exhibit meltdowns or shutdowns when overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, or unexpected changes. Gifted children may have high expectations of themselves or feel overwhelmed by the pressure to excel. The combination of these factors can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout.

Supporting Twice-Exceptional Children

Supporting twice-exceptional children requires a holistic and individualized approach that considers both their strengths and challenges.

1. Early identification and evaluation

Identifying giftedness and autism early on can help parents and educators provide appropriate support and interventions. Tests such as IQ tests, achievement tests, and developmental screenings can provide valuable information for understanding the child’s strengths and challenges.

2. Individualized education plan (IEP)

An IEP is a personalized plan that outlines the child’s educational needs, goals, and accommodations. It should include both gifted and autistic features and be updated annually to reflect the child’s progress and changing needs.

3. Differentiated instruction

Differentiated instruction means providing different pathways, strategies, and materials for students based on their abilities and interests. Teachers can tailor their lessons to the 2E child’s strengths, whether it’s providing advanced reading materials, hands-on activities, or flexible seating options.

4. Social skills training

Teaching social skills can help the 2E child understand and connect with their peers, navigate conflicts, and express emotions. This can be done through role-playing, group activities, or therapy sessions.

5. Executive function training

Executive functions are cognitive processes that control and regulate behavior, such as planning, organization, and time management. Providing targeted training for these skills can help the 2E child become more efficient, independent, and successful.

6. Sensory support

Providing a sensory-friendly environment, such as minimizing noise or avoiding fluorescent lights, can help the 2E child feel more comfortable and focused. Using sensory tools, such as fidget toys or weighted blankets, can also help the child self-regulate their sensory needs.

7. Emotional support

Providing emotional support, such as counseling, art therapy, or mindfulness training, can help the 2E child cope with anxiety, stress, or low self-esteem. Celebrating their successes and acknowledging their efforts can also boost their confidence and motivation.


Twice-exceptional children are special and unique, possessing both valuable strengths and significant challenges. Supporting them requires a holistic and individualized approach that considers their intellectual, social, emotional, and sensory needs. With appropriate interventions and support, 2E children can thrive and fulfill their potential as gifted and autistic individuals.


What is the meaning of Twice Exceptional child?

Twice Exceptional children are those who have high intellectual abilities along with a neurological disorder like Autism. These children are highly intelligent and gifted, yet their academic performance may not match their potential due to a condition that interferes with their abilities. In the case of Autistic and Gifted Supporting the Twice Exceptional Child, the article provides information on how these children can be supported to achieve their full potential.

What are some of the challenges faced by twice exceptional children?

Some of the challenges faced by twice exceptional children include difficulty in socializing and communicating with others, sensory processing issues, difficulty in expressing themselves, emotional outbursts, and distractibility. These challenges may interfere with their academic performance and lead to underachievement.

What are some strategies to support twice exceptional children?

There are several strategies that can be used to support the education of twice exceptional children. This includes providing a sensory-friendly learning environment, individualized learning plans, assistive technology, and peer mentorship. It is also important to encourage the child to pursue their interests and strengths while building their self-esteem and self-advocacy skills. Furthermore, collaboration between parents and educators is vital to ensuring the child receives appropriate support in both academic and social settings.


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3. Bölte, S., Golan, O., Goodwin, M. S., & Zwaigenbaum, L. (2010). Autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia: overlapping perspectives on diagnosis and treatment. Neurotherapeutics, 7(2), 258-271. doi: 10.1016/j.nurt.2010.05.006