And Then There Were 2(e)
Our son was diagnosed with ADHD in March of 2019, then assessed as being cognitively gifted in June of 2019. A diagnosis of gifted+ (gifted, plus another diagnosis) is commonly referred to as “twice exceptional”, or 2e (more links about what it means to be 2e at the bottom of this post).
After our son was diagnosed, I took it upon myself to learn everything I possibly could about ADHD that I hadn’t learned in school. I quickly realized that my 10-year-old psych degree and 13-year-old CYW diploma were not nearly enough to make me an expert on the topic, so I made it my mission.
And Then There Were 2(e)
It didn’t take me long to notice a lot of similarity between my son’s symptoms and struggles and my own, which is not entirely surprising, as ADHD is highly genetic and very commonly found in multiple family members.
I spoke to my family doctor and received a referral to a psychiatrist who specializes in Adult ADHD. In October 2019 I received my own official diagnosis. When I told my son he said “ I already knew you had ADHD, Mom”! We had spent the previous seven months learning everything we could together and he was becoming increasingly knowledgeable and self-aware. He had previously asked me if I also had ADHD because my observant little dude had already noticed the many similarities between us.
Now that I, too, am more self-aware I can’t believe I didn’t realize this earlier. For example, this not-very-long blog post took more than three hours pieced together throughout the day to complete. Not because I couldn’t think of what to write, but because once I started writing I suddenly realized I had to to all of the things. I mentioned my book list, so I had to go and update it. Then I needed (wanted) a cup of coffee, which reminded me that I had only halfway finished the dishes in the sink, so I (mostly) finished those. Then I remembered I had meant to take the recycling out and put in some laundry, so I did that too, and so on.
It isn’t a matter of procrastination, this blog is a labour of love, and I have no reason to do it other than because I want to. My extreme multi-tasking happens because one action or thought reminds me of another, and before I know it I have seven half-finished tasks on the go.
Luckily I eventually (usually) finish them all and this process seems to (mostly) work for me, but that’s after many years of developing strategies and essentially becoming used to how my brain works. There was definitely a time in my life when those seven tasks would all remain half-finished and I would just keep starting new ones as the mood struck. I’m also still very forgetful, often misplace things, and rely heavily on technology to keep organized.
My ADHD Makes Me a Kick-Ass Businesswoman
The thing is, this has also been my superpower, and has probably helped me be a successful entrepreneur for the past 10+ years. I started my own business from the ground up in 2010 and turned it into a profitable full-time job for myself, as well as creating part-time jobs for a handful of employees.
I have succeeded in part because of outside-the-box thinking, very common amongst 2e/ADHD folks, which helps me solve problems in ways that others may not think of. I am a master of hyperfocus, which can be both a help and a hazard for people with ADHD. I can set my sights on a work-related task and not come up for air until it is done.
My son is like this as well, when he’s reading a book I could tell him his hair was on fire and he would mumble “okay” and continue reading. He’s not ignoring me on purpose (most of the time anyway), hyperfocus is a coping mechanism that some people with ADHD develop as a way of preventing themselves from being so easily distracted, it also stems from difficulties with transitions (such as switching from one activity to another).
For me, hyperfocus can be a reprieve from the constant barrage of thoughts, distractions, and general buzzing that is constantly going on inside my head.
ADHD Does Not Impact IQ
ADHD is not a learning disability, it does not affect one’s intelligence, and many people with ADHD have average or above-average intelligence. A recent study (Kaplan et al., 2020) showed no difference in general IQ distribution amongst people with ADHD when compared to those without.
Like my son, I was identified as gifted during my school years, but for me it was much later because our small town did not have any gifted programming in elementary schools. In high school I was enrolled in what was then called an enriched program for academically inclined students. So, why didn’t I struggle in school like many who have ADHD? Well, I did, but not in the way that made anyone suspect anything other than a precocious and energetic child.
Sure, I had trouble sitting still in kindergarten, but what 5 year old doesn’t? I was often sent to sit away from the group during story time because I couldn’t sit and listen without fidgeting, but when I was school-aged that was just seen as misbehaviour and punished and that was the end of it. In retrospect, this was probably the worst thing for me because fidgeting helped me truly hear and comprehend the story, whereas being sent back to my desk probably resulted in me doing something entirely different and not listening to the story at all.
Neurodiversity and Masking
One of the challenges for twice exceptional students is that their giftedness can often mask the symptoms and struggles caused by other diagnoses, and doing well in school often means no one takes notice of other difficulties because the students seem to be just “fine”.
They may be doing well academically, but they may have to work twice as hard to do so, and there are more important considerations when measuring a person’s success.
Twice exceptional students often have executive functioning challenges and may end up pulling all-nighters in order to get their assignments in on time — which, of course, I did. Having to pull all-nighters does not a diagnosis make, but pervasive executive functioning difficulties, such as difficulty with organization and time management, can lead to a student feeling overwhelmed. Frequent all-nighters can lead to a sleep-deprived student unable to absorb information in class because of exhaustion, as well as other quality of life issues due to fatigue, anxiety, and stress.
This also presents challenges at home, work, and in all of our relationships, including our own self-perceptions. I admit to, on a daily basis, having unrealistic expectations of both myself and my son.
My 7 year old son presents as so asynchronous that in one day he can read an entire 600-page novel meant for 10–12 year olds and yet can’t seem to go upstairs and brush his teeth and get ready for bed in an orderly fashion. Our evenings look something like this:
*Child walks up the stairs while also reading*
…[20 minutes later]…
“Did you brush your teeth yet, buddy?”
“Are you getting your PJs on?”
*Child sitting on his floor, completely naked, still reading* …
[without looking up from his book] …“Oops, I got distracted.”
Mornings are the same, but in reverse. He can seem so mature that I expect so much of him, but then I am forced to remember that intellectual maturity is a completely separate entity from emotional maturity and executive functioning.
Intellectual maturity is a completely separate entity from emotional maturity and executive functioning.
Despite many experts providing a wealth of information on ADHD, we are still in the early stages of public awareness and education, and even earlier with regards to twice exceptionality. I completed a 3-year Diploma in Youth Work as well as a BA in Psychology, and worked in the social services field for 10 years, and still had never once heard the term 2e until my son was diagnosed.
If you suspect you or your child might have ADHD, speak to your doctor or mental health professional about your questions or concerns. There is a lot of great information posted on the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada’s website and there are additional links below.
Kaplan, B. J., Crawford, S. G., Dewey, D. M., & Fisher, G. C. (2000). The IQs of Children with ADHD Are Normally Distributed. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(5), 425–432. https://doi.org/10.1177/002221940003300503
Learn More About ADHD
CADDAC — The Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada
Understood.org — Understood is an American website, so some references to educational rights and laws will not be applicable, but it is a fantastic resource for information on ADHD and neurodiversity in general.
Learn more about Twice Exceptionality
TECA — Twice Exceptional Children’s Advocacy
Learn more about Gifted Children
About the Author
Welcome to ADHD 2e Manitoba
Qualifications Jillian has Child and Youth Work diploma as well as a BA in Psychology. Jillian has worked on the front…
Jillian is an ADHD 2e Coach and Child Advocate in Manitoba, Canada.
Originally published at https://adhd2e.blogspot.com on April 25, 2020.