At the Belin-Blank Center, we take a strengths-based approach for all aspects of talent development. Additionally, we do not recommend holding students back academically if acceleration is a good match for them, even though there are other issues.
We recommend first making sure the students receive services to address specific areas of need; for example, a student might need support for behavior issues. In a meeting where you are considering acceleration for a student, take time to acknowledge the support the student is already receiving in these areas of need. Consider inviting those individuals providing support to attend the acceleration child study team meetings so they can add more information about their work with the student in the areas that require attention. Recognize that they are providing support in their areas of expertise and that support will help the child study team as they consider the academic areas that need attention.
This support will need to continue, even if the decision is made to accelerate the student. Below are some examples of support a student might need after being accelerated (either subject acceleration or whole-grade acceleration):
- A student might need extended time on tests.
- A math-talented student might need to have someone read story problems to them instead of reading them on their own.
- A student talented in English/language arts might need accommodations for handwriting when writing out their answers.
- Students who are resistant to group learning might need help in scaffolding appropriate behavior.
The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic has worked with many students who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and most (more than 50%) of them require some form of acceleration, either whole-grade, single-subject, or some combination of whole-grade and additional single-subject. They have the academic aptitude, ability, and achievement indicating the need for academic acceleration. Their issues related to the ASD diagnosis also require support and so do their academic issues. One does not preclude the other. This is why the decision needs to be a team decision.
Additionally, the Talented and Gifted (TAG) teacher might attend the student’s IEP or 504 meeting, in order to add perspective about the student’s academic development and to discuss needed accommodations that might be needed for the student in the gifted program.
Acceleration and other advanced curricular options should not be a reward for good behavior. Students may exhibit behavioral issues, but they would still benefit from academic placement and programming that is matched to their academic needs. These students might simply need additional support. It would also be important to observe the student’s behavior: When appropriately challenged, does the behavior improve?
The chapter, “Acceleration Practices with Twice-Exceptional Students,” found in A Nation Empowered might be helpful reading. Visit http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/nation_empowered/ for a free download.
Belin-Blank Center experts on twice exceptionality have also created The Paradox of Twice-Exceptionality: Packet of Information for Professionals, which provides additional information.