I am what is politically correctly called twice-exceptional: intellectually gifted and disabled. The combination of these qualities has thrown me for quite a few challenges in my life. Mostly, it is impossible for most people to see both my intelligence and my disabilities, so they expect me to be either gifted or disabled, not both.
My parents expected me to be gifted. They couldn’t deny my blindness – if they could, I’m almost certain they would have -, but they could minimize its impact and deny my autism. I was fine with that as a child, being quite poorly adjusted to my blindness and assuming my autistic behavior would go away as I grew up. So I learned to present as gifted, as genius. I calendar calculated aloud at family gatherings, and liked the praise I’d get.
The people at my schools for teh blind expected me to be disabled. I’m not sure how they managed to deny my academic ability, but for some reason, they denied it. I still remember in sixth grade the principal calling my parents in ecstasy about my high standardized test score. My behavior problems, daily lviing skills delays, and poor adjustment to blindness were magnified, and my academic achievement failed to impress my teachers.
The education system in the Netherlands is not equipped to meet the needs of people who are gifted as well as disabled. I – or rather, my parents – had to choose between an academically challenging education and a school for the disabled. They chose an academically challenging education, and found a psychologist willing to recommend mainstreaming at last. I struggled at every level other than academics, but till this day, my parents maintain that is normal.
The higher education system is theoretically equipped to meet the needs of those who are gifted as well as disabled, but as soon as you don’t fit into the standard programs, you are too difficult. That’s how I failed college twice.
Anotehr misconception that haunts those who are gifted as well as disabled, is the idea that intellectual ability is the same as being high-functioning, or that you are able to compensate for disabilities by being very smart. This misconception leads people to believe that I am either not truly intelligent, or can live independently without difficulty. Well, I wonder what academic intelligence has to do with housekeeping skills.
I internalized a lot of misconceptions about the twice-exceptional. I till this day struggle with believing I must not be smart because I failed university and independent living, or I must be able to go back to university and independent living because I am smart. In reality, my disabilities at this point prevent me from doing these things, although we can never be sure what the future will hold. That does not mean I’m not intelligent.