What is Twice or Thrice Exceptionality in Adults?
Updated: 2 days ago
I have worked with many individuals who are twice or thrice exceptional, also known as 2e or 3e. The term 2e or 3e refers to people who are intellectually gifted but also experience some form of neurodivergence, such as ADHD, autism, or a learning difference. It can be difficult for them to navigate a world that doesn't quite understand their unique combination of strengths and struggles. This can lead to them feeling out of place in the world.
One common struggle for twice and thrice exceptional individuals is feeling like an outsider. They may struggle to fit in with their peers, especially if their giftedness is not recognized or valued. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, 2e and 3e individuals often experience emotional sensitivity and intensity. They may think about things more deeply and feel things more deeply than their peers, which can be overwhelming at times. Their intellectual capacity may mean that they might exhibit rapid learning, larger vocabularies, stronger curiosity, creativity, and divergent thinking.
However, 2e and 3e individuals may also struggle with social interaction, perfectionism, inconsistent performance, executive functioning, and fatigue. Another issue unique to 2e and 3e individuals is the misunderstanding that they are not trying hard enough. Despite their giftedness, 2e and 3e individuals may still struggle with certain tasks due to their neurodivergence. However, because they are so capable in other areas, their struggles may be dismissed as lack of effort when in reality, they are likely trying as hard or even harder than their peers. This can be incredibly frustrating for the individual and can lead to low confidence and self-esteem.
There can be a number of issues with being labelled as the “smart kid”. This can create either a spoken or un-spoke pressure that 2e and 3e and other gifted people have a difficult time living up to. As a result, a person’s self-worth can be tied to their intellect and feeling an overwhelming pressure to do things perfectly. Or perhaps the person was expected to overcome their struggles with their strengths. There is a toxic message that gifted people have it easier by default. This can lead people to feel like they can never quite measure up to other people's expectations, or perhaps their own expectations and feel not quite good enough.
As a therapist and coach, I use an integrative approach to supporting 2e and 3e individuals that is strength-based and neuro-affirming to explore the various challenges they present with. We work together to focus on the strength that already exists, address negative thought patterns, and build coping strategies. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can also be effective in managing emotional intensity. It's important to tailor the approach to the individual and their unique needs. I focus on resilience and leveraging the abilities my clients have and acceptance of their neurodivergence.
In conclusion, twice and thrice exceptional individuals face a unique set of challenges that can be difficult to navigate. However, with understanding and support, they can thrive and reach their full potential. As a therapist, I am honoured to work with these individuals and help them on their journey towards greater self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love.
If you are interested in exploring some of these topics in therapy, please visit the contact page to book a free 15-minute consultation.