UI creates institute for ‘twice-exceptional’


Rob Johnson/The Daily Iowan
Rep. David Loebsack, D-Iowa, speaks at a meeting held to promote the National Institute for Twice-Exceptionality at the Blank Honors Center on Monday.
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UI and state officials are trying to help a unique group of students who, they say, are often overlooked.

On Monday, Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and several university officials gathered at the Blank Honors Center to discuss the creation of the UI National Institute for Twice-Exceptionality.

The institute recently garnered $165,000 in federal funding to help the center begin outreach efforts to twice-exceptional students.

Such students are defined as having both a learning disability — such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder — as well as being academically gifted. In many cases, either the disorder or the giftedness “masks” the other so that it is not easily identified, said Susan Assouline, the associate director of the UI Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education.

This is something that officials at the new institute will work to correct, said Nicholas Colangelo, director of the center.

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“It’s easy to focus on the disability and forget the giftedness,” he said, and often, twice-exceptional students are “invisible” — meaning their disability or talents are not properly identified and dealt with.

Since 2005, officials have researched different outreach tactics, and the federal funding will finally allow the institute to take off, Colangelo said.

“This gives us our launch,” he said. “The good news is we’re not starting at point zero.”

Twice-exceptional students who have been identified and assisted have a better chance of succeeding both socially and academically.

“To me, the community has an interest in doing this,” Loebsack said.

Plans to focus on identifying twice-exceptional students, training parents and teachers, and sharing research with other organizations make the National Institute for Twice-Exceptionality unique, officials said.

“As far as we know, we’re the first of our kind,” Colangelo said.

The first goal of the institute is to increase awareness and education about twice-exceptional students among parents and teachers, Colangelo said. These students represent a “unique and important population,” he said.

According to the National Education Association, there are approximately 360,000 twice-exceptional students in America’s K-12 schools.

Colangelo said the growth process for the institute will take about three to five years, and the institute has big plans for the future.

“We’re looking to this institute to be a national leader,” he said. “I do think it will reach out to partnerships well beyond our borders.”

Loebsack shared his sentiment.

“I’d love to go back to Washington, D.C., and brag about the things here,” he said.

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