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This document has been retired from the active collection
Giftedness and Learning Disabilities
of the ERIC Clearinghouse
on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
It contains references or resources that may
no longer be valid or up to date.
The ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education
The Council for Exceptional Children
1110 N. Glebe Rd
Arlington, VA 22201-5704
Toll Free: 1.800.328.0272
ERIC EC Digest #E427
Authors: C. June Maker and Anne Jo Udall
How Does One Identify the Learning Disabled Gifted?
It is difficult to describe or list typical characteristics of
learning disabled gifted people because there are so many types of giftedness
and so many possible learning disabilities. The biggest problem in
identification is that a disability often masks or inhibits the expression of
giftedness, so that it is difficult to tell whether a person's abilities
are outstanding enough to indicate giftedness. On the other hand, giftedness
can often mask the learning disability because the person's abilities can
help him or her overcome or compensate for the disability.
Some weaknesses that are observed more frequently than others
in these children are the following: poor handwriting, poor spelling, lack of
organizational ability, and difficulty in employing systematic strategies for
solving problems. More frequently observed strengths are in speaking,
understanding and identifying relationships, vocabulary, knowledge of
information related to a wide variety of topics, and observational skills. In
general, thinking and reasoning processes are often not impaired, but the
mechanics involved in writing, reading, mathematics computation, and
completing academic tasks often present great difficulties.
To identify a student as learning disabled and gifted, one
must consider a wide variety of information, including in depth assessment of
both strengths and weaknesses. Evaluation should include individually
administered intelligence tests, diagnostic achievement tests, evaluation of
creative products by experts or teachers, peer evaluations of leadership
ability, parent interviews, classroom observation of peer interaction and other
performance, auditions (performing), tests of aptitude, and tests of
creativity. In addition, tests of perceptual ability, visual motor
coordination, and expressive ability can be used to pinpoint disabilities.
One of the most frequently used indicators is a severe discrepancy between
potential and performance.
After a variety of information has been collected, a committee
of individuals familiar with the student (teachers, psychologists, parents,
the principal) should review all information and decide whether the abilities
are strong enough to indicate grandness and the weaknesses are low enough to
indicate a learning disability. This is, of necessity, a subjective decision
made with the best interest of the student in mind.
What Are the Educational Implications?
There is no single best solution for meeting the educational
needs of the gifted learning disabled student. Individual decisions will be
made based on numerous factors, including the particular strengths and
weaknesses of the student, parental preferences, the type of gifted program,
and logistical considerations (i. e., district size, location of
special programs, transportation, etc.). A program for gifted learning
disabled students may take one of several forms:
- primarily an enrichment program with the student receiving
additional help for the disability
- a self-contained program which
focuses on both strengths and weaknesses
- primarily a remediation
Educators concerned with making sure these students receive appropriate services must be creative in their search for solutions.They must
work with both educators of the gifted and handicapped. Furthermore, a strong
advocacy role will often be necessary. It is still difficult for many people
to not only accept the existence of the gifted learning disabled child, but
to also understand the need for special programming.
What Are the Major Classroom Problems and How Can They be
Regardless of the educational placement agreed upon, there may well be some major problems in the classroom setting because of the unique
nature of the gifted learning disabled child.The interaction of giftedness with
learning disabilities produces children who may be simultaneously frustrating
and inspiring. Experimenting with a variety of teaching strategies is often
the quickest way to find out what will work for a given child.
The following are some suggestions for the classroom teacher to experiment with.
- For Academic Problems:
- Present material in a variety of ways (visually, orally, kinesthetically) have written material taped by
parents, other students, or community helpers.
- Give students opportunities to share knowledge in different ways (taped reports, oral quizzes or tests,
- Provide alternative learning experiences which are not dependent on paper and pencil or reading (puzzles,
logic games, tangrams, math manipulatives).
- Place the child where the board and teacher can be easily seen.
- Give realistic deadlines for completing assignments (often longer than for others).
- Use contracts.
- To Develop Compensatory Skills:
Teach typing and computer literacy and encourage the use of calculators and tape recorders as aides.
- Teach organizational and problem solving strategies using cognitive behavior modification
- For Affective Needs:
- Reduce academic pressures as a way to lessen frustration and lack of motivation.
- Use values clarification and role playing activities.
- Use games such as UNGAME to encourage students to talk, and hold class meetings to discuss feelings
- Bring successful gifted learning disabled adults into the classroom to serve as role models.
- Explain what it is like to be gifted and learning disabled.
- Work toward having the gifted learning disabled student learn to value her or himself as a strong,
intelligent human being.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents must become effective advocates for their children. The first step to becoming an effective advocate is to learn as much as
possible about the gifted learning disabled student.
Look to other parents of gifted learning disabled students for support and advice. Contact local parent organizations or the local chapters
of The Council for Exceptional Children or The Association for the Gifted.
Discover if the local universities have special education programs for the
gifted learning disabled and ask for assistance. If there is a large district
with a strong parent support network, consider the possibility of establishing a
special program for these students. It will not be easy, but it can be
At home, the first step will again be to increase awareness of the child's needs.Then, it will be easier to accept the contradictions in the
child. For example, many of these individuals will spend hours on a self-initiated project, but cannot seem to complete a single class
assignment. Parents often find themselves frustrated and angry because of these paradoxes.The reasons behind these behaviors are complex and
children's shortcomings should not be simply explained away with the label
Accept your child, and acknowledge the strengths as well as the weaknesses.
Praise the child for successes.
Provide an enriching environment (trips, puzzles, materials, and discussions about any topic of interest to
Involve the child in making decisions about his or her life, including establishing a contract for school work
or deciding to change from one special education program to another.
Do not compare your child with other offspring. This will do no one any good, and could do a lot of
Talk honestly with your child about what it is like to be both gifted and learning disabled.
Resources for Parents
An open letter to school district X from a disillusioned
parent. G/C/T, 1978, 1 (4), 23-24.
Chester, B. M. Who wants to wash the dishes? Exceptional
Parent, 1974, 4, 12-15.
Clark, L. Can't read, can't write, can't talk too good either.
NewYork: Walker and Company, 1973.
Elkind, J. The gifted child with learning disabilities. The
Gifted Child Quarterly, 1973, 17, 96-97.
Mindell, P. The gifted dyslexic: A case study with theoretical
and educational implications. The Roeper Review, 1982,4 (3),
Resources for Children
Hayes, M. The tuned in, turned on book about learning
problems. Novato CA: Academic Therapy Publications, 1974.
Daniels, P. R. Teaching the gifted/learning disabled child.
Rockville MD: Aspen Systems Corporation, 1983.
Fox, L. (Ed.) Learning disabled gifted children: Identification and programming. Baltimore MD: University Park Press,
French,J. The gifted learning disabled child: A challenge and
some suggestions. The Roeper Review, 1982, 4 (3), 19-21.
Harris, D. G. and Avery, S.W. Gift behind the difficulties.
The Pointer, 1978, 23 (1), 65-68.
Krippner, S. and Herald, C. Reading disabilities among the
academically talented. Gifted Child Quarterly, 1964, Spring,
Maker, C.J. Searching for giftedness and talent in children
with handicaps. The School Psychology Digest, 1976, 5, 24-36.
Maker, C.J. Problem solving: A general approach to remediation.
Smith. Teaching the learning disabled. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice Hall, 1981.
Mauser, A.J. Programming strategies for pupils with
disabilities who are gifted. Rehabilitation Literature. 1981, 42 (9-10), 270-274.
Meeker, M. N. Creative experiences for the educationally and
neurologically handicapped who are gifted. Gifted Child Quarterly, 1977, Autumn, 160-164.
Steeves, J. My math is all right, what's wrong is my answers.
G/C/T, (12), 52-57.
Vautour, J.A. Discovering and motivating the artistically
gifted LD child. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 1976, 8, 92-96.
Whitmore, J. R. Giftedness, conflict, and underachievement.
Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1980.
Wolf, J. and Gygi, J. Learning disabled and gifted: Success or
failure? Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 1981, 4,
This article is reprinted from
ERIC EC Digest #E427. ERIC Digests are in the public domain
and may be freely reproduced and disseminated. This publication
was prepared with funding from the National Institute of Education,
U.S. Department of Education under Contract No. NIE400840010.
The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect
the positions or policies of NIE or the Department of Education.
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