Can a child be twice exceptional? Hana, the gifted visual-spatial thinker certainly fits the bill. She is what is known as 2e (the abbreviation for twice exceptional) because she has both outstanding ability and yet is learning-challenged. Is it possible for a child to be both gifted and challenged at the same time? Indeed the answer is Yes. Take Albert Einstein for example. As the renowned genius who gave the world his Theory of Relativity (E mc^2), Einstein displayed behaviours that could today, be argued as signs of autism. When he was a child, he experienced severe speech delays and echolalia. He had dreadful temper tantrums akin to meltdowns, was a loner (he stayed away from other kids), had trouble socialising and was highly technical. On top of that, he was dyslexic, and only did well in two subjects in school\u2014mathematics and science. This busts the myth that geniuses excel at everything. It also confirms the notion that genius abilities can sometimes be accompanied by a deficit, such as learning or developmental disabilities like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyscalculia or even autism. Hana Safiyya ana Safiyya Bt Hafez Rachwan has this unique combination. Her mum Nazreen recalls she had a feeling her daughter is gifted when she watched her reach developmental milestones earlier than described. \u201cThe two traits of giftedness\u2014curiosity and creativity, were apparent in her from young, \u201c says Nazreen, \u201clike how she figured out how to climb down the king-sized bed feet first when she was 7 months old, and asked \u2018Where does the sun go at night?\u2019 when she was 2 years old.\u201d Yet, Hana has ADHD and dyslexia. With such twice-exceptionalism in the child, Motherhood takes the opportunity to ask Nazreen all about Hana, her discovery of her daughter being 2e and the issues and challenges surrounding raising and nurturing a 2e child. Gifted and Challenged: A First Hand Account of Bringing Up Hana 1.Motherhood: Please introduce everyone in your family. Are one or both parents Mensa members?\u00a0 Hana on the extreme left with her parents and three sisters. Hana\u2019s Mum: I'm Nazreen, a mother of four. I stay at home looking after my children. My husband, Hafez, works as an engineer for Motorola. We have four daughters: Hana (turning 7 in September), Miya (age 4), Nina (turning 3 in October), and Lily (7 months old). I'm a member of Mensa but my husband is not. He hasn't taken the test yet. I sat for the Mensa test in 2019 just to test a theory that IQ is heritable. I was stunned when I found out I passed with a score of 160+. The reason why I wanted to test the theory was, I wasn't sure whether Hana is different because of ADHD, giftedness, or both. We brought Hana to see a clinical psychologist for the first time when she was 3 years old for what we first saw as signs of ADHD. She just couldn't stay in one place for long, and was always on the move exploring out and about! Hana rushed through her developmental milestones. She took her first baby steps when she was 9.5 months old and had 50 to 60 words in her repertoire by 18 months. The psychologist couldn't confirm the diagnosis as she was too young at the time. My hope is that there will be more awareness on giftedness in Malaysia. We still have the misconception that gifted kids are high-achievers, and that if they're bright then they shouldn't struggle in school. Wrong. \u223c Nazreen Bt Saidi \u223c Two years later, we referred Hana to a different clinical psychologist as the ADHD traits became more obvious. The psychologist asked us not to rule out giftedness. I read about Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration in gifted children and it confused me even more. Psychomotor Overexcitability of a gifted child can look similar to the hyperactive-impulsive traits of ADHD and Imaginational Overexcitability resembles inattentive traits of ADHD. To confirm, the psychologist suggested taking the Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI), an IQ test for a child younger than 6. We couldn't afford the cost back then. Fast forward to July 2021, we went to see a clinical psychologist for a third time. Finally, we got the answers we were looking for. 2.Motherhood: How old is Hana now? Did you test her anywhere? Letting her imagination turn into reality: (Left) Building her dream house at 3 years old, (Right) And at 5 years 11 months old. A 2e child such as Hana, has both exceptional ability (giftedness) as well as disability\/disabilities. Hana\u2019s Mum: Hana just did a neuropsychological evaluation with a clinical psychologist last month which includes WISC-V (an IQ test) and ADHDT-2 (an ADHD diagnostic tool). Her IQ score is in the superior range but just 1 score below Mensa cutoff of 130. Far from being disappointed, we're grateful that we now know Hana better. The discrepancy between her highest and lowest scores is quite large, 33 points, indicating a disability. Apart from being mildly gifted, she also has ADHD and mild dyslexia. This profile makes her what we call twice-exceptional (2e). A 2e child has both exceptional ability (giftedness) and disability\/disabilities. We found out that Hana's IQ score was pulled down by working memory and processing speed scores due to having ADHD (unmedicated) which affects her executive functions. Another valuable lesson we learned is that Hana is a divergent thinker*. In one of the subtests, she was asked to name the comparison between two given items. Instead of grouping them (they are both insects\/fruits\/clothing\/etc.), she listed out several similar characteristics of the items. Her answers, unfortunately, do not follow the marking scheme. But it reassures us of what we've known all along\u2014that Hana is a girl who always thinks of possibilities. A big picture thinker. * Divergent thinking is more than thinking outside the box; it's thinking without the box, and imposing structure later. This type of thinking is found among personality traits such as nonconformity, curiosity, willingness to take risks, and persistence. 3.Motherhood: Apart from climbing down the bed feet first at 7 months and asking "original" questions, can you give more examples of her amazing abilities?\u00a0 Hana\u2019s doodles and drawings at age 5 Hana\u2019s Mum: Hana has a knack for visual-spatial skills, and it is shown on her WISC-V report when she got the highest score for visual-spatial index. When Hana was 3, she could solve 100-piece jigsaw puzzles without looking at the reference pictures. She also remembers a direction to a location even though she has been to that place only once. Hana is into building LEGO creations out of her imagination. She refuses to follow instruction manuals. We find LEGO Classic the best set for her. Hana used to love drawing and she's good at it, until perfectionism got in the way. She reached the Schematic Stage of drawing when she was 4 even though typically the stage is reached by 6 to 7-year-olds. "If there is one advice I can offer to fellow parents, it is that focusing on a child's EQ development for the first six years of life really pays off." \u223c Nazreen Bt Saidi \u223c 4.Motherhood: Is Hana attending school? Is she taking some form of enrichment class? Hana holding her nature-based project for her playschool. Hana\u2019s Mum: Hana is currently in Standard 1 at a public primary school. Prior to that, she went to a play-based learning centre (Kinderkaizen). She doesn't take any extra class other than once-a-week swimming lessons (which is now on hold due to MCO). 5.Motherhood: What's a day in the life of Hana like? Before the pandemic, this was the family\u2019s way of life \u2500 going out to different places of interest. This was at Kanching Waterfalls. Hana\u2019s Mum: Pre-pandemic, we used to go out almost daily when the weather permitted. Hana seeks challenges so we have to go to different parks and playgrounds in the evenings. Like today, we\u2019d go to playground A, tomorrow it'll be playground B, and so on. This routine started very early on, when she was a toddler. As for the weekends, we\u2019d get our kids involved in decision-making as they are the ones who are learning. We have weekly family discussions to decide where to go and what to do. We often let Hana make the call. Sometimes we add an element of surprise by telling them we're going somewhere they've never been before. Kids learn best when they have the autonomy to choose their interests and pursue them. This was at the KL Rimba Park. Currently, school is closed. Hana has one to two hours of online class(es) as part of PDPR (Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran di Rumah) on weekdays. When she has no online lesson and schoolwork, you'd be surprised to know how much she plays. Hana plays all day long, no kidding! Screen time addiction is not an issue for us, Hana prefers play that engages all her senses. I rarely hear her complain she's bored. There's always something she wants to do. She does read books but she prefers to learn hands-on. Our house is a mess from all the \u201cexperiments\u201d and \u201cexplorations\u201d (am not proud nor ashamed of this). It seems that Hana's little sisters are following in her footsteps. Their go-to kind of play is imaginative play. We personally don't want our kids to follow strict schedules. There is a quote by Albert Einstein that we agree on: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand." 6.Motherhood: Let\u2019s see some of Hana\u2019s drawings and Lego creations. By age 4, Hana was starting to show an understanding of perspective in her drawings. In this early example of one of her many drawings, she drew the bird under the ground line because it is closer. The girl stands on the ground line. The building is far in the distance. Yet all look the same size. (Excuse the scribble on the butterfly. Her younger sisters decided to colour it out!) Some of Hana's LEGO creations. Hana just started painting with acrylics. (Left) This is her work. (Right) A mother-daughter comparison painting of the same subject when they first attempted acrylics. Hana\u2019s painting is on the right. Which is more creative? 7.Motherhood: Reading about twice exceptional children (2e), it seems that their hardest years are their growing up years because they need the right kind of support. Could you give us an insight into what it's like to handle a 2e child? How are you supporting her development?\u00a0 \u00a0 Constant stimulation required: (From left) Hana at a Hot Air Balloon Fiesta; A simple microscope to support Hana\u2019s learning at home; Playing with birds at the Bird Park. Hana\u2019s Mum: Raising a 2e child is certainly challenging, not just to us as Hana's parents, but to herself as well. There is a part of Hana that needs constant intellectual stimulation\u2014that insatiable curiosity. Hana's pursuits are ever-changing, it's hard for us to catch up. From learning human anatomy, astronomy, and natural sciences to wanting to learn carpentry, archery, sewing, and violin. We need resources to support her intellectual needs but resources are limited in times of pandemic. There is also another part of Hana that needs accommodations for her deficits. As I've mentioned before, ADHD affects the executive functions of the brain. In Hana's case she has combined-type ADHD which means she has issues with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. It's like Hana functions on two extreme modes. At times she's always, always on the move and talks so much. Most of the time she daydreams, is distractible, and forgets her priorities like an absent-minded professor. Her condition impacts not only her daily life functioning, but academics as well. She struggles with math as doing arithmetic needs good working memory. (Left) Coming back from Kedah to Selangor, they visited Gua Tempurung because Hana wanted to see bats. (Right) A visit to the Butterfly Park earlier this year. Although Hana is mildly dyslexic, she can read fluently though it affects her reading comprehension of lengthy, difficult text. I need to lower my expectations of her. While other kids take 20 minutes to finish a schoolwork, Hana takes one hour to get it done. I need to always be by her side when she has her online class and does her schoolwork, or else she'll space out. We're going to work with a psychiatrist to figure out the best intervention for Hana. If there is one advice I can offer to fellow parents, it is that focusing on a child's EQ development for the first six years of life really pays off. Typically with asynchronous development comes poor emotional regulation and social skills. Hana, however, has no issue with these thanks to years of lots of free play. Play really helps a child to develop holistically. There's a good book on parenting a 2e child: Differently Wired by Deborah Reber. The more you know, the better you'll understand your child. So if you sense something is off with your child, don't be afraid to seek professional help. And do read and find out more information about your child's diagnosis. 8.Motherhood: Being 2e, what\u2019s learning been like for Hana during the pandemic? (Top) In Principia Mathematica, Sir Isaac Newton laid down the laws of motion and gravity and changed the world of science forever. (Bottom) He lived in Woolsthorpe Manor, and discovered the Theory of Gravity in 1665 after watching an apple fall from the tree. Newton\u2019s room was upstairs on the right side of the house overlooking the apple trees. (Image Credit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk) Hana\u2019s Mum: Learning during the pandemic can be difficult but thankfully my daughter thrives in the less structured environment at home. There are many lessons we can learn from history, one of it is how Isaac Newton flourished during The Great Plague of London in 1666. He was a college student at Trinity College, Cambridge when students were sent home to minimise the spread of bubonic plague. It was when Newton was at his parents' home in Woolsthorpe Manor that he came up with the famous Theory of Gravity and several other discoveries. He invented early calculus and found that light is made up of a visible spectrum of colours. All in one year and through self-directed experimentation! I strongly believe that by allowing children to muse and explore on their own terms, they can achieve great things. But when things get better and kids can go back to school, I do worry for Hana. She has out-of-the-box thinking and traditional schooling has been known to stifle creativity in these children. I don't want her spirit to be crushed when she is required to conform to neurotypical standards, what with all the standardised tests. Hana came up with the idea of growing and selling plants (bird's eye chilies and mini cucumber) to raise funds. All proceeds were donated to an NGO to protect the Malayan Tigers. When I look at my 2e child, I realise that she learns best with project-based tasks. We don't have personalised education in public schools that includes both accelerated program and accommodation to cater for 2e kids. My hope is that there will be more awareness on giftedness in Malaysia. We still have the misconception that gifted kids are high-achievers, and that if they're bright then they shouldn't struggle in school. Wrong. It is also hard for parents of\u00a0 gifted and 2e kids to seek support, as they may come off as bragging even though it isn't their intention. I don't know where this journey will take us but no matter how difficult it is, we will strive for the best. **All images courtesy of Nazreen Bt Saidi, except where indicated. As can be seen from this story, the term \u201cgiftedness\u201d defines a broad range of outstanding abilities in one or several fields. A child can be creatively-gifted, intellectually-gifted, artistically-gifted, learning disabled-gifted or even sensorimotor-gifted, such as in sports or dance. \u00a0To learn more about giftedness, keep a watch on this space in motherhood.com.my to read the next story on another gifted child.