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Gifted Students with Specific Learning Disabilities

What is it?

girl smiling while reading

A specific learning disability is an identified disability. These students receive special education services so they can become proficient in academic subjects. The term “specific learning disability” is defined as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in their ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. This also includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia (Ruben & Reis, 2004, p. 2).

While students with specific learning disability (SLD) may take longer to learn academics, such as reading, than other students, they can still be gifted or advanced in other areas. An explanation of gifted and talented (GT) students is given in a three-trait definition. A gifted and talented student has above-average intellectual abilities, has a high level of task commitment, and is creative (as cited by Heward, 2009, p. 495). Gifted and talented covers a wide range of abilities and traits. GT students aren’t always exceptional in academics. They may have precocious abilities in areas such as performing and visual arts, leadership, or creativity (Sternberg, 2010, p. 329). It is important to note that a student can be gifted but also have a learning disability.

Natural Occurrence Rates

The number of students identified as gifted and talented varies from state to state. Some states report up to 10% of the student population as being GT, while other states identified only 3%. The significant discrepancy of GT students across states could stem from the fact that there are not any policies or regulations regarding the identification or services provided for these students. The National Association for Gifted Children asserts that gifts and talents can be developed over a period of time and may manifest themselves at different stages in a child’s development (Heward, 2009, p. 497).

Transition Service Supports

Transition services help students stay on track to graduate from high school and succeed as an adult. The main goals of transition services are to promote self-sufficiency, self-determination, and active participation in society. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (2004) defines transition services to be based on student’s strengths, preferences, and interests; promoting student movement form school and post-school activities; and includes instruction, related services, and community experiences. Furthermore, IDEA (2004) requires transition services to be initiated at age 16 (Kochhar-Bryant, Shaw & Izzo, 2009, p. 17). At this time the individualized transition plan (ITP) is included in the students individualized education plan (IEP). The ITP is geared toward planning the next several years. It includes the curricular programming and supports that will prepare the student for a smooth transition to life after high school. The ITP can discuss ideas such as employment, postsecondary education, and overall adjustment (Bryan & Greene, 2009, p. 123).

Transitional Services for gifted and talented students with SLD should focus on developing appropriate curriculum to match the students’ specific needs with a different curricular intervention. The need to differentiate curriculum for gifted students is “based on recognized strengths of these learners and acknowledged inadequacy of the regular or core curriculum to meet those needs” (Ruban & Reis, 2005, p. 107). Because gifted students have peculiar gifts, their education needs to be individualized to meet their specific needs. They also need to be an active participant in all instructional and evaluative activities (Heward, 2009, p. 507).