I had a great run of presentations this autumn, often with big audiences (over 300 people at once), and I learned something new and interesting. I was invited to present for the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT) conference in October and now know that I am considered “twice exceptional.” That means that, even though I clearly have disabilities due to my autism, I am also considered gifted. I always thought that the school TAG (Talented and Gifted) programs were for what I call “the Super-Smarts,” for the kids that are academically advanced. But we have a TAG specialist at my high school who explained to me that my performance ability, my way of connecting with people and touching their hearts as a speaker, is considered a gift as well.
It’s interesting to recognize that being “gifted” has its own set of challenges, and that the difficulties which often go along with being gifted happen to overlap with some of my autism issues. Here’s what Terry Bradley, my school’s TAG specialist and President-Elect of CAGT, has to say: “While there are many distinctions that set giftedness and autism apart, there are also many parallels between characteristics of giftedness and characteristics of autism. Benjamin displays many of these commonalities, including: excellent memory and verbal fluency, extreme asynchronous development, awkward social relationship skills, being absorbed in one or more special interests, attention problems, not adapting easily to change, hypersensitivity to noise, lights, smells, textures, and flavors, seen by adults and peers as quirky and different, heightened anxiety, heightened intensity, and needing sensory supports to deal with heightened sensitivity. Benjamin is highly capable in many areas. Some of Benjamin’s teachers have noted that he has a deeper level of understanding than others his age. He is succeeding in high school despite his challenges. This ‘twice exceptionality’ (having areas of extreme strength and areas of extreme limitations) is often hard for teachers to accept and understand.”