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How I discovered that I was a Twice-Exceptional Child in my music therapy training

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Growing up in a society where "being exceptional was dangerous," I did not find the perfect word, twice-exceptional child, to describe my experiences until I was 23 years old.

I was sitting in room 117 of 7 Harviland in the Back Bay of Boston, Massachusetts, where we, Berklee music therapy students, called it our "music therapy home." The room was filled with exotic instruments from around the world and painted green, covered with grey carpet that complimented the ideal acoustics. Beloved professor, Donna Chickwick was sharing her experiences working as a music therapist in the special education system since decades ago. I was amazed by her clinical stories and progress made towards humanism.

The phrase "twice exceptional child" slowly sank into me.

Later that week, I found myself bursting into tears in Donna's office. I finally found the words to precisely describe my lived experiences. These muddy feelings, strange interactions, indigestible comments, muted expressions, invisible pressure to be "normal," intense feelings of the world all the time, huge empathy for injustice, never-ending curiosity, contemplating the existence of humanity and morality at a single-digit age (hence reading Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams at 10, applying psychotherapy methods to help peers who were bullied or self-harmed at 12), tendency to dig deep into everything I put my attention to, and loneliness.

For the longest time, I felt that only the authors of books in philosophy, psychology, or science could fully understand me and share my passion for knowledge. I wished to be friends with them.

These are all characteristic traits of a gifted child. In an educational system where average was the focus and producing standard outputs (examination results, obedience, and labor for industrialization) was the goal, I suffered because my authentic self was not appreciated, nor allowed to fully develop.

As a result, I internalized that I was "a normal child," just like my peers. However, in reality, I was never "normal" or "average" or "fitting into the industrialization standard." I was "on the edge of the normal distribution."

I could see things that others could not, because of my intense, focused, and all-consuming attention.

I always wanted reasons and are seldom satisfied with superficial answers like, “That’s just the way we do it.”

I seek complexity.

When inspiration comes to me, I accept it and run with it. This is how I wrote this article in a flow.

Being unique is my superpower when it comes to my creativity as an educator, clinician, musician, writer, podcaster, entrepreneur, and more.

If you are reading this article, you might be wondering if you or your child might be gifted or twice-exceptional. Here are a few resources to assist you in your self-discovery journey or to find support for your family.

Common Characteristics of Gifted Children

  • Unusual alertness as early as infancy

  • Rapid learner; able to put thoughts together quickly

  • Retains much information; very good memory

  • Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age

  • Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors, and abstract ideas

  • Enjoys solving problems that involve numbers and puzzles

  • Largely self-taught reading and writing skills as a preschooler

  • Unusual emotional depth; intense feelings and reactions; highly sensitive

  • Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful

  • Idealism and sense of justice appear at an early age

  • Concern with social and political issues and injustices

  • Longer attention span, persistence, and intense concentration

  • Preoccupied with own thoughts; daydreaming

  • Impatient with self or others’ inabilities or slowness

  • Ability to learn basic skills more quickly with less practice

  • Asks probing questions; goes beyond what is being taught

  • Wide range of interests (though sometimes extreme interest in only one area)

  • Highly developed curiosity; limitless questions

  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently

  • Tendency to put ideas or things together in ways that are unusual or not obvious (divergent thinking)

  • Keen and sometimes unusual sense of humor, particularly with puns

Except from book A Parents Guide to Gifted Children (James T. Webb, Janet L. Gore, Edward R. Amend)

Another book recommendation:

Raising Twice-Exceptional Children by Emily Kircher-Morris

Movie may help you to explore in a fun way:

Novel may help you to explore in an experiential way:

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