Many people with AS, autism, ADHD, Tourette, dyslexia etc. seem to be very gifted in some subjects and need adequate challenge in these, while having learning difficulties in others. It is not uncommon to be years ahead of peers in favourite subjects and years behind in the ones of least interest. Some seem to thrive on intense mental, social and/or sensory stimulation; others get easily overwhelmed & distracted and learn best in solitude, at their own pace.

– If special needs children are put in a regular class they may be both under-stimulated in their best subjects (bored stiff from not learning anything new), ostracised by other students and/ or physically overstimulated by the environment.

– If they are recognized as having a learning disability they may get the help they need but perhaps not have their gifts given adequate attention and stimulation.

– If they are recognised as gifted they may receive the required stimulation in their best subjects, but still have to struggle with the rest and may feel pressured to perform equally well in all areas. Many don’t realise that you can be gifted and still have learning disabilities at the same time. Linda Silverman calls these children ‘twice exceptional‘.

“There is this 4th-grader that needs special ed in english but who needs high school math. If you make him do baby math he will just misbehave. Or maybe he needs special ed math but read college textbooks. Then let them do it! Build on that skill!”

Temple Grandin, HFA author and lecturer

“In school I was in the top 2 percentile, which was as high as the test series my schools used went. School was almost always boring for me since we spent so much time on things that I had already grasped an understood. This was especially so in math, so much so that I came to hate it and it has affected me ever since. The problem then became one of my scholastic performance not measuring up to my potential. The adults never could figure this out. They also never paid attention to me when I told them that the classes were boring and slow. Eventually I just learned to ‘coast’ and do my best work in some classes to compensate for poor performance in others, like the math classes.”

– William, Aspie from USA

“When I went to school the belief seems to have been that gifted and learning disabled were opposites and it was not possible to be both. In my early years of grade school I had much difficulty because most of our instruction was given orally and I have difficulty processing auditory information. (I had some other problems as well, but that was the most significant.)  Starting from around fourth grade instruction tended to be more from books and I am much better than the average person at getting information from books. I went from special ed classes to regular classes to gifted classes all within the same school year. The teachers were very puzzled but finally decided I was just a ‘later bloomer.’

“On the negative side of being ‘gifted’ was that when I was not able to do something ‘easy’ I was ‘lazy,’ ‘unmotivated,’ an ‘underachiever,’ ‘being difficult,’ etc.  There were quite a few kids at my high school that were smart but did poorly in school.  I wonder how many of them were gifted/learning disabled. Another factor is that people with a learning disability that have learned to compensate for it (like me) are not usually classified with a learning disability.

“I also notice that it seems like many parents place much more pressure on their children now that they did when I was growing up. At least it seems like it from my experiences.  If my mom [had] pressured me to take all these extra [curricular] activities they seem to shove down kids throats today, I don’t think I could have handled it.”

– Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

Thus, individualised education seems to be the most appropriate for atypical children. Especially since they often have an atypical learning style too, which may make it hard even for a gifted child to learn if teaching is not done in a way that is suitable for that person’s way of learning.

“I am not sure if this is still the case, but it seems that in many schools they are not truly interested in helping the very brightest students reach their full potential.  These would be the kids who are getting A’s even in the advanced classes, but still not reaching their full potential.

“I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging, but this is me again too.  I do not do my best from learning in lecture settings or having a learning environment with lots of distraction, but managed to get very good marks dispite all this (primarily by spending long hours at home reading and studying undisturbed in my very quite home).  I wonder sometimes what great academic things I might have been able to accomplish if only they had left me each day in a quiet library with paper, pencil, books and no distractions.”

– Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

Ideally, every child (not just children with special needs) should be tested for learning style, sensitivity level, introversion/extraversion, talents & interests etc., and have education tailored to suit their particular needs. This could make learning the pleasure it should be, instead of the torture it often is for children in general and for sensitive/atypical children in particular.

“When I was a kid they didn’t have gifted programs or separate classes at all. In kindergarten I was too shy to let anyone know I could read so I don’t think the teacher knew. I just loved being there, anyway. But in 1st grade I had an awesome teacher who separated the kids into groups as to how well they could read. She would go to each group giving them individual help.  I remember doing this in other grades, as well. It was just accepted that that’s what you do. This was in the early 70’s too, but I think the school I went to was known for its good teachers (the evil nurse was another story!).  Plus my quietness was always seen as being a good little girl. I wish they would pay teachers more–they’re so important, especially when you’re in grade school–it can scar you to have a bad teacher that early.”

– Carrie, adult Aspie

It is not a good mix to put hypersensitive HSP/AS/ADD kids in the same class as those with classical autism, uncontrollable ADHD, hypo type SID or TS. These are often at opposite ends of a sensory tolerance spectrum and need to be tutored separately in order to protect the sensitive ones from the ones that can’t sit still and be quiet or enforce undue limitations on those who are more energetic, tactile learners and needing to move around.

Nor is it fair to either party to put gifted kids hungry for knowledge and mental stimulation in special needs class for children who are mentally disabled, just because they happen to share the same social disabilities or reactions to sensory stimuli.

“That cousin of mine that I have mentioned from time to time, her son was put into special education because he had learning problems. From their experience, being in special education seems to be counter productive for a lot of people. First off, he didn’t really get the training that he needed. Second, there were kids in there who shouldn’t have been, who needed to be elsewhere for more specialized care.

“Some of the kids in that class were terribly disabled. Several of them were ‘shaken babies’ and were barely functional. Most of them were so bad off that they were being trained to just push a single button to communicate. Now, children that bad need more specialized care than being in a room full of kids and divided attention from the teachers.

“Many others weren’t that bad, but most sound like bad ADD kids and were wild. Again, those kids need different care than what most Aspies would need. Extra courses in social skills and coping methods would be good for us. Now, it would be nice to have a quiet room too away from the noisy regular cretins.”

– William, Aspie from USA

Many Aspies learn best if they can concentrate on the same subject all day, instead of being jolted from one to the other in rapid succession.

“I found that my teachers would change the subject matter of the lessons just when they started to get interesting, and changing to a new topic was like losing an old friend. It also became dizzying in the sense that there was no rhyme or reason to the switches. One day we would be studying American Indians, then the Civil War, then Spanish Explorers, then Austrailian Aboriginal peoples.

“Whereas the other kids were wanting ‘something new’ after the second day of lessons on a topic, I was wanting to stay on the same topic after we had been on it a week. This was why I did mediocre in elementary, middle, and high school, but did well in college. In college, you could take WHOLE CLASSES on ONE subject. My Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton classes were the absolute favorites. Imagine doing nothing but studying these subjects for a whole semester each!”

– Tom, Aspie from USA

“there are things i gots to study, like english and maths and things but i can chose when i study and how. like i just have certain goals and objectives for each thing. it is better too because she says i can do all one thing one day and that helps me better than  having lots of things to study at one time. i used to not like having to change me mind about a topic of focus so quickly just because everyone else did and the school made me. also, yes, the hours are less each day and when i am more awakes in late afternoon! so that helps better too.”

– Martka, adolescent HFA from Scotland, about the transition to personal home tutor

Since love of factual accuracy is often a lot stronger than the sense for self-preservation or social tactfulness, many Aspies have an unfortunate habit of correcting their teachers if these do not provide correct information. The surprised Aspie often finds that this friendly helpfulness very rarely is appreciated…

“My teachers always gave me a hard time because I was constantly correcting them with facts drawn from textbooks and libraries. (The way I saw it, I was doing them a service each time. Why would any teacher WANT to teach 25+ kids incorrectly? – Nevertheless, I always got marks off for disrupting the class). Nothing would have helped me change my behavior significantly.

“What caused me to make it through school was finally seeing it as a jail sentence that had to be served, after which I would be transferred to still another jail (junior high, high school, college, etc). The one thing I wanted to make sure of was that I didn’t prolong my sentence.”

– Tom, Aspie from USA


Gifted Development Center

Gifted Children with Learning Disabilities : Lost Treasures Linda K. Silverman, Ph.D.

Is It a Cheetah? by Stephanie Tolan

Nonverbal Learning Disorder Wikipedia

Nonverbal Learning Disorders Dr Rachele Jones


Different Minds: Gifted Children With Ad/Hd, Asperger Syndrome, and Other Learning Deficits

Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner

To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled: Strategies for Helping Bright Students with LD, ADHD, and More

Smart Kids with School Problems: Things to Know and Ways to Help (Plume)

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew

Homeschooling the Child with Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome and the Elementary School Experience: Practical Solutions for Academic & Social Difficulties

School Success for Kids With Asperger’s Syndrome: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teachers

Succeeding in College With Asperger Syndrome


For children with learning disabilities: Fast ForWord

Online general training for teens and adults: Lumosity


1 Comment »

  1. cam said,

    My oldest brother is eight years older than I am and when we were younger we would fight constantly and could never get along and I think it’s partially because he was very loud and adhd and I was very quiet and sensitive and partially because he tended to think like someone a lot younger than him and I thought like someone much older than me

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