Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is It Really 'Twice Exceptional'?

I've been looking through the Hoagies' Gifted page about gifted disabled kids. A common term, used by them as well as many others, to describe such people is 'twice exceptional'. Besides the non-specificity of this term (it applies equally well to multiply disabled people, such as deaf-autistic, blind-CP, etc) I have another problem with this term.
It assumes the person has two distinct differences. This is fairly accurate for gifted people with disabilities that aren't based on how you think and feel, such as blind gifted people or gifted people with solely physical disabilities. But is it really accurate to describe a gifted-LD, gifted-autistic, gifted-ADHD or any other gifted and developmentally disabled person as 'twice exceptional'?
On one online IQ test, I scored 158. In general, I tend to score in the 130s (the cutoff for giftedness is generally 130). I am also diagnosed with PDD NOS, a form of autism. So, therefore, I must be twice-exceptional, right?
Except that I've only got one brain, and there is not an 'autistic part' and a 'gifted part'. Except that I'm gifted in a characteristically autistic way. Except that my gifts are common among autistics, and my difficulties are common (in a less severe way) among gifted people. Except that I don't think giftedness and autism are really very separate at all. Except that my difficulties are caused by the exact same underlying traits that cause my gifts.
For an example of the last, and most important, point: I am extremely creative. I am also very disorganized. I've found that creativity is considered a common trait in gifted people, and disorganization is common in autistics (where it is generally subsumed under the broader category of executive dysfunction).
Here's the thing - both are caused by the same trait. I call myself a tangential thinker. This means that my thinking is like a mental web, with many interconnected ideas, and I easily wander off into various tangents. This causes creativity in that I find myself unexpectedly connecting ideas in ways most people wouldn't connect them - thinking of how things connect and putting them together in distinctive ways, and looking at things from unusual perspectives. This also causes disorganization because I don't stick with one thing the 'right' amount of time, instead sticking with some things too long and others too short, I wander from objective reality into ideas, I wander into the intricate details of a tangential topic and I do not naturally think in sequences. From my perspective, they're really the same thing. But the 'positive' results of tangential thinking are labeled creativity and subsumed under giftedness and the 'negative' results of tangential thinking are labeled disorganization and subsumed under neurodevelopmental disability.
Most gifted-developmentally disabled people are probably like this - in reality, many traits of both conditions are the exact same trait in a different circumstance. A common example is visual thinking. Many visual thinkers have trouble with language, especially with reading, while being gifted at math, mechanics, drawing or other visuo-spatial activities.
PS: I also think that for developmentally disabled kids, giftedness shouldn't be only having a full-scale IQ over 130. In the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B, volume 134B, pages 104-109, they describe a girl with a full-scale IQ of 99 whose subtest scores ranged from 5-18 (normal is 7-13). I think kids like her are gifted disabled, too, despite having a nongifted IQ.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Maddy said...

The problem [difficulty] is accurate measurement of IQ with the current tools available to clinicians in part.here.
This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Hi! Thanks for this post- it's really good. I think I have ADD and so I'm really interested in stuff like this.

I can totally identify with the absentminded professor thing. You make a good point here. I've seen other articles talking about how high IQ can mask ADD and so people don't get help for ADD, nor do they achieve at the level their IQ should allow them to.

Found your blog from a google alert on executive dysfunction- one of my pet interests! Feel free to visit my blog- http://redtailblogger.blogspot.com

I'm going to look at some of your other posts now.
~S

12:39 PM  
Blogger Locke said...

"I call myself a tangential thinker. This means that my thinking is like a mental web, with many interconnected ideas, and I easily wander off into various tangents. This causes creativity in that I find myself unexpectedly connecting ideas in ways most people wouldn't connect them - thinking of how things connect and putting them together in distinctive ways, and looking at things from unusual perspectives. This also causes disorganization because I don't stick with one thing the 'right' amount of time, instead sticking with some things too long and others too short, I wander from objective reality into ideas, I wander into the intricate details of a tangential topic and I do not naturally think in sequences. From my perspective, they're really the same thing."

THAT IS EXACTLY HOW I VIEW MY THOUGHT PROCESSES! Amazing! For instance, in a recent conversation, I went from talking about labor economics, to drawing a labor curve represented by a rapper who would work for free, to making a joke about me flatlining after listening to rap for too long, to Jack Bauer flatlining after being tortured, to the WGA strike, and back to the economics of labor. And I am pretty sure I was the only one who was really connecting the dots.

2:45 PM  

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