Rates of twice-exceptional children higher than previously thought

The prevalence rates of twice-exceptional children in Australian schools are significantly under-reported according to new Griffith University research.

Twice-exceptional children are those who are gifted/talented in one or more areas while also possessing a learning, emotional, physical, sensory and/or a developmental disability.

Dr Michelle Ronksley-Pavia

Dr Michelle Ronksley-Pavia from the School of Education and Professional Studies and the Griffith Institute for Educational Research, who reviewed the estimates of students in Australia in a study, said their data found more than 280,000 of all students may be twice-exceptional.

Using the most recently available statistics on the number of students with disability in Australian schools, Dr Ronksley-Pavia developed a continuum of prevalence from a conservative estimate of 78,668 (2%) and 157,336 (4%) to a progressive 283, 204 (7%).

“Understandably, this may still be a conservative estimate with limited empirical research on the actual prevalence rates of twice-exceptionality in schools,’’ she said

“Over the past five years, educators’ understanding, and recognition of twice-exceptional students has improved incrementally, yet these students are largely unrecognised in Australian schools and education policies.”

“And this is to do with the definition of what it is to be twice exceptional. Common thought is that disability and giftedness are on a spectrum of disabled at the lower end and gifted at the upper end, when in actuality, there is no correlation between gifted and having disabilities.”

Twice-exceptionality is more pervasive than a simple connection between the definitions of giftedness and disability, particularly as many twice-exceptional students have coexisting disabilities.

“The conflation of disabilities as a lack of ability further complicates understanding and recognition of twice-exceptional learners.

”As the estimate of the twice-exceptional population is larger than previously thought, specific attention, development and implementation of policy and funding is needed to enable educators to understand and support this important group of students.

“Until the goals of supporting both gifted and twice exceptional students in Australia schools are achieved, achieving equity in education will remain a pipedream.”

Twice-Exceptionality in Australia: Prevalence Estimates is published in Australasian Journal for the Education of the Gifted.