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“I Grew Up Gifted and Autistic — and Suffered the Burnout of Twice Exceptionality”

I’ll say it: Being gifted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially if you’re also neurodivergent.I was identified as gifted in kindergarten. At age 6, I began participating in my school’s Challenge program, where gifted students were pulled out of class once a week to engage in a curriculum that focused on critical thinking and self-directed learning.

I loved it. Challenge days were the only days I looked forward to school.Unfortunately, my giftedness didn’t come alone. I am also autistic, though I remained undiagnosed until my senior year of high school — in part because my giftedness masked or distracted attention away from my autism.I am twice exceptional — basically a neurodivergent gifted student.

Today, the term twice exceptional (2e) has become popular in parenting and educational circles to describe gifted children who also have autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning differences, or other similar conditions. 2e wasn’t in the academic vernacular when I was a kid. My parents, teachers, and even my therapist simply saw me as a weird gifted kid.2e children need specific support, but because of their seemingly contradictory conditions, they don’t always receive it.

Some children may become withdrawn — school becomes overwhelming, so they stop trying. They are then predictably but unhelpfully told they need to apply themselves; that they have so much potential. I took the other route: I kept up my high academic performance but also developed severe anxiety and depression from the pressures I felt thanks to my gifted label and the lack of support for my autism.[Read: How to Nourish and Nurture a Gifted Child with ADHD]By my sophomore year of high school, I was burnt out.

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