The term dual or multiple exceptionality (DME) is used in the UK to describe individuals who have both a special educational need/ disability/ neurodiversity/ mental health issue combined with high learning potential (also known as “gifted”/ “gifted and talented”/ “exceptional”/ “more able” / “most able” / high ability). Denise Yates, former Chief Executive of Potential Plus UK and author of Parenting Dual Exceptional Children shares 10 suggestions for the skills parents and carers should have to support their child with DME at home.
1. Be a positive role model for your child, being the best you can be as a parent and modelling the behaviour you want your child to learn.
2. Speak up for your child with others, whether they are friends, family or teachers and give them the skills to speak up for themselves positively.
3. Communicate with your child sensitively. Listen to them and help them to understand and address their concerns in an age-appropriate way.
4. Problem solving with your child and help to improve their resilience by letting them problem solve for themselves.
5. Tackle your own anxiety positively so that your child can learn how to tackle theirs.
6. Encourage your child to be the best version of themselves that they can be. This is particularly important for children with DME as they are often highly sensitive and lack self-confidence in their own strengths.
7. Praise effort and help your child to formulate alternative strategies to tackle setbacks. Focusing on what a child has learnt rather than what they have achieved can help give your child a ‘growth mindset’ (one where they understand that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work and where intelligence and talent are just the starting point), rather than a mindset where they question their own ability when they begin to struggle with aspects of their learning.
8. Adapt your personality and behaviour around your child rather than expecting your child to do this first. Understanding how they will act and behave in certain situations can help you to address trigger points before they become problems. For example, sometimes a child with DME comes across to others as being lazy and not trying, when they are seen as having the ability to succeed. In fact, they could be working really hard just to appear ‘average’. Turning this on its head and addressing what motivates them to learn, whilst supporting the things they find difficult, can help to transform a child with DME.
9. Recognise and tackle your own perfectionism. Many children and young people with high learning potential and DME are perfectionists and can become demotivated when the results of their work fail to match their own (often impossibly) high expectations of what they are capable of achieving. Many parents and carers can also be perfectionists, expecting the highest grades from their child and pushing them to achieve, which may result in a range of social, emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties for your child and you. Tackling perfectionism positively in the family can help both you and your child to be the best you can be, even when that is not perfect.
10. Look after your own health and wellbeing. As parents or carers we are often at the back of the queue when looking after the health and well-being of our family members. However, what would happen to your child with DME if you weren’t there to support them? Taking time out for yourself and finding ways to relax and unwind are equally important and can ultimately benefit the whole family.
About the author: Denise Yates has worked in education and training for over thirty-eight years to enable all individuals to maximise their potential. For ten years. Denise was CEO of Potential Plus UK which she left in 2017 to pursue her passion, which could be summarised as ‘hidden potential’: children and young people with DME, those with mental health problems and those who have been failed by the system, for whatever reason. Denise is currently a Board member of The Potential Trust, Nisai Education Trust and Potential In Me. She is also an adviser with Citizens Advice in her local area. In 2020, with Adam Boddison, she wrote The School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality. Her second book, Parenting Dual Exceptional Children was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in March 2022. @DeniseYates_