Monday Minute: Growing Up Twice-Exceptional in the 1980’s

What does twice-exceptional look like?

As a young child, I was extremely quiet, could polish whole chapter books off in a day, and spent my young years compiling 20 journals in which I religiously recorded my thoughts and experiences. At the very mature age of 10, I would utilize post-it notes stuck to my desk lampshade in order to record all of the ideas that I would get, most often and inconveniently at bed-time, where I found it difficult to turn off my brain. These post it notes served as a holding bin and quite literally demonstrated the phrase ‘Stick a pin in it.’ I was “different’ than my peers, usually finding certain topics so interesting that I would become a little expert on them. By the age of eight, I adored my babysitter’s high school text books that she brought over to complete her homework. Time with adults was my safe space, as they never commented or made fun of my advanced vocabulary.

What many did not realize is that I also spent the better parts of second, third, and fourth grade unable to complete any of my school work. I have distinct memories for the duration of these years, of wondering why, yet again, I could not get my work done like the other kids who got to go out to recess. I, instead, would be spending another recess with my never-ending list of unfinished assignments. Although I have memories of making patterns out of the numbers on the paper or creating storylines for the pictures on the work page, I did not connect these things to not getting my work done. And for a long time, no one helped me connect those dots. I was left to wonder how the other kids did it, because I assumed they also made patterns and created storylines and managed to get their work done. It didn’t cross my mind that they simply focused. Some might say I was “bored.” Maybe, but that answer was too simple. In retrospect knowing what I know now, I realize that my brain was breaking up a task that felt tedious. In a way, by stopping throughout the worksheet to do something my brain enjoyed, I was breaking up the overwhelm and providing myself with a little “preferred activity” reward.

I so desperately wanted to know what the other kids got that I just didn’t. I could not, for the life of me, understand why I struggled to keep things organized, even with the best of intentions. I probably more resembled a charming, but unorganized professor, with my stack of books by my bed, some having been read multiple times. It wasn’t until the middle of my fourth grade year, that a teacher finally took action and informed my parents that I had a list of about 20 unfinished assignments. It was the first my parents had heard of it. I had always maintained A’s. I suppose I was graded on the fact that I could read many grade levels ahead of my age or that writing was something that I could almost feel. I loved writing so much and reveled in using newly noticed author’s craft from texts I had read. Playing with the syntax of a sentence was like a game for me and I loved to try a sentence several different ways just to see how it could change the impact of the words. Yes, at the age of nine. I also believe it was because I was quiet. At all costs, I avoided getting my name on the board. But finally, someone was willing to reflect these challenges in my grades. My parents worked with the teacher to immediately create a system, walked beside me as I completed unfinished work, and presented me with an incentive which forever helped to establish the habits that led to being a doctoral student with a 4.0. Most important, I don’t remember being in trouble. My parents did NOT let me know how disappointed they felt, even though I am sure they felt that and so much more… worry, confusion, frustration, upset they didn’t know earlier.

This was not the end of challenges for me. It created a platform and I grew. But I still struggled through my jr. high years to figure it out and many times learned the hard way. I had to become aware of the things that were difficult for me and I found ways to compensate.

Have compassion for our littles that are gifted and the unique challenges they face. The asynchronous development. The ones who simply don’t understand why their vocabulary of a 20-year-old does not fit inside the frontal filter of a seven-year old. They are our future thinkers, inventors, creators, yet they are one of our most underserved and misunderstood populations. They will not work for companies; they will create companies. They will not follow ideas; they will create ideas and advocate. It is not for us to decide a child’s future but to help them reach their potential. To walk alongside them and to help them connect the dots in the unique way that works for them. And by the way…these characteristics are now my superpowers. I still adore and swear by post-it notes and seek to advocate for our twice-exceptional youth!

If you would like some guidance for your twice-exceptional child, I would love to walk alongside you and bring my expertise to help! Check out my 1:1 coaching sessions where I customize strategies to help you meet the needs of your family at


Is ADHD Real? Myths and Misconceptions

During a recent conversation, the topic of ADHD in children came up. “Don’t you think that ADHD is all made up?,” the individual countered. I have to admit, this caught me off guard. My profound and personal understanding of ADHD, the very real nature of it, and the unique way in which the ADHD brain is wired had prompted me to forget that many still lack the fundamental understanding of just what ADHD is. I had forgotten that the need for education still exists, that there are those who still believe it is an excuse for “poor parenting”, rather than the physiological complexity of a brain that is differently wired. The individual I spoke with maintains an impact on a wide variety of families and so I took the opportunity to gently share with her very real information I knew through experience and learning. Following are some real facts about ADHD that will help those who are new to or skeptical of such the ADHD diagnosis and how a lens shift can make a world of difference in helping students with ADHD to access learning.

  1. ADHD Medications are Stimulants Not Tranquilizers. While not all who receive a diagnosis of ADHD choose to utilize medication as a treatment, it is important to dispel a common misconception about the family of medications used for the treatment of ADD and ADHD. While many assume ADHD medication is a tranquilizer, the most commonly used medications used to treat ADHD are, in reality, stimulants. The ADHD brain is physiologically wired differently and responds differently to the stimulant. A person with clinical ADHD will become calm and more focused when given a stimulant (including caffeine!), while a neurotypical brain will become hyper. This response indicates that the ADHD brain is truly and physiologically wired differently.

2. Children with ADHD are doing the best they can. When you think about it, can you imagine that any human, child or adult, would go day after day constantly feeling the challenges of ADHD by choice? Constantly “in trouble,” ostracized by peers, missing recess once again because work is not complete ( I truly hope that this practice no longer exists, but when I was in school it was the only thing the teacher knew to do)… the list goes on and on. In his book, Lost at School (2014), Dr. Ross Greene, uncovers a major flaw in the way we address such behavior challenges in school. His premise rests on this simple fact: “Kids do the best they can.” And when children are struggling, it is our responsibility not just to send them up to the office again or suspend them, but to find out the WHY of the behavior and to uncover best practices to help that child succeed. Otherwise, we risk yet another child lost to a system that does not recognize children who do not fit within the “classroom box.” And the consequences of that are huge for society as a whole.

3.Typical patterns of consequence and reward may not work with a child that has ADHD. For many nuerotypical children who are developing at an average rate, the stick and carrot method may be just enough to motivate. (Truly, motivation should be fostered within the child, but that is a different story for a different day.) Again, going back to Dr. Greene’s model as it applies to the school environment, consequence and reward systems typically used in PBIS and other systems in schools, may not be enough to get a child whose brain is differently wired to learn differently. Too often, the assumption is that there is a lack of parenting. Trust me, there are many, many parents out there exhausting their resources trying to find out how to help their child function, only to find out that consequences and rewards (no matter how consistent) provided no change. Remember, the ADHD brain is wired differently. Much like the ADHD brain does not respond the same to stimulants as the nuerotypical brain, it may not respond the same to consequence and reward. Depending on the child, the ADHD brain may not have the executive functions developed enough to make sense of such a system. These children need our guidance and direction, not punitive consequences. And a little secret most miss: the ADHD child is just as miserable in the midst of their challenges, too. With this lens shift we can approach the ADHD child, not as a “problem”, but with compassion.

4. Children with ADHD may also overlap with giftedness. While ADHD is considered a “learning disabilty,” many children with this type of wiring are also gifted in the very truest sense of the word. When this happens, we refer to it as being twice-exceptional, because the child’s learning disability is overlapped with their giftedness. Children with ADHD often possess an almost super-human ability to perseverate on topics that interest them to the point of becoming experts. Many times this ability to hyperfocus that defies their otherwise unfocused brain is misconstrued to mean that they only focus “when they want to,” once again shifting ADHD into a blame game, rather than finding ways to help a child learn ways to be successful. There is much to do in regards to providing access to gifted programs for the ADHD student. Many schools require straight A’s just to be screened for the gifted program, forgetting that some of our most brilliant thinkers of all times would not have made it into the gifted program under that burden. Getting straight A’s in school is not a mark of IQ but rather of academic talent in which a student is able to comply with the “in the box” expectations of the classroom (such as completion of work without distraction). Many of these students would find themselves much more engaged in school if allowed to access enrichment opportunities.

5. ADHD behaviors and effects go well beyond hyperactivity and behavior issues. A student with ADHD may outwardly appear overactive and always on the go, but there are underlying co-existing factors we must consider. Many ADHD children have a heightened sensitivity towards correction. While some may appear indifferent, this is often the protective shell they have developed. Additionally, they often lack executive functioning skills and experience developmental delays in their ability to order tasks. Keeping these facts in mind help us to be compassionate towards students whose brain is wired diversely!

6. And a bonus suggestion: if you are an individual parenting or teaching a young human with ADHD, make sure to leave room to have compassion for yourself. Guiding a nuerodiverse brain is draining, so ease up on yourself. When we teach we touch the future, and that is a pretty amazing place to be!


Greene, R. (2014). Lost at school. NewYork: Scribner.


Mothers of Struggling Superheroes!!

Welcome to Mothers of Struggling Superheroes!! (M.O.S.S.) We are a tribe of women parenting a kid with superpowers, such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Twice-Exceptional (identified as gifted with learning disabilities), or have a child who has emotional, behavioral, or educational challenges. If this sounds like something you are interested in, I welcome you to check out this new support group for moms facilitated by a close friend and one in which I have the pleasure of co-hosting. This last week, we were blessed to have women from around the country join in! Topics include:
*tools to address behavioral challenges specific to these diagnoses
*how to build a positive climate in your home
*dealing with the inaccurate messages we receive from family, society, and the school system
*navigating the world of accomodations, modifications, IEP’s, and the like
*how to address the needs of siblings of differently abled kiddos
or~if you just need a place to be heard, to vent, and to hear that others are going through your journey, too, pm me and I will get you connected.
*this upcoming week, I will be presenting on the power of relationship building with your differently-abled child.
Meetings are held by Zoom Wednesdays 7:00-8:00 PST. Feel free to share and pass the word on!

Learn more on my Facebook Page.