Characteristics of Children with Dual or Multiple Exceptionality

Detail of child's face with a confused look

Whilst it is difficult to generalise about such a diverse group of children and much will depend on the type of issues alongside their high learning potential, dual or multiple exceptional children share some characteristics. The characteristics relate to their intellectual strengths, academic difficulties, emotional and behavioural characteristics.

Intellectual Strengths

Children with dual or multiple exceptionality are likely to have these characteristics which relate to their intellectual strengths:

  • ability/expertise in one or more specific areas
  • an active imagination
  • an extensive vocabulary
  • exceptional comprehension
  • high performance in tasks requiring abstract thinking and problem solving
  • excellent visual or auditory memory, possibly not both
  • creativity outside of school
  • the ability to take part in broad-ranging discussions.

Academic Difficulties

Conversely, children with dual or multiple exceptionality might have the following academic difficulties (depending on their special educational need or needs):

  • poor handwriting
  • poor spelling
  • difficulty with phonics
  • inability to do seemingly simple tasks. However, they often have the ability to do seemingly more complex ones
  • success in either mathematics or language subjects, but challenges in the other
  • poor performance under pressure
  • difficulties in completing tasks with a sequence of steps discussions
  • Inattentive at times

Emotional and Behavioural Characteristics

Managing two (or more) issues means that children with dual or multiple exceptionality often develop emotional characteristics which may then result in certain behavioural characteristics.

Emotional Characteristics

  • minor failures that create feelings of major inadequacy
  • unrealistically high or low self-expectations
  • feelings of academic ineptitude
  • confusion about abilities
  • strong fear of failure
  • sensitivity to criticism
  • experiences of intense frustration
  • low self-esteem
  • feelings of being different from others
  • poor social skills.

Behavioural Characteristics

  • disruptive in class
  • often off-task
  • disorganised
  • unmotivated
  • impulsive
  • creative when making excuses to avoid tasks they find difficult
  • can be intensely frustrated at times. Sometimes this can spill over into anger or aggression
  • withdrawn at times.

Many parents start their journey of high learning potential and dual or multiple exceptionality with their child through these sets of characteristics. You can discover more about the general characteristics of children with high learning potential on our page  Characteristics of Children with High Learning Potential

The following resources and advice sheets may help you further

Girl sitting in front of a textbook, with an empty thought cloud from her head

Clearly Able, Yet Complicated? – Might Your Child Have ‘DME’?

‘Dual and Multiple Exceptionality’ describes the idea that, due to the challenges they face, an individual might really struggle to show their full potential.

Learn more about dual or multiple exceptionality in our introductory blog Clearly Able, Yet Complicated? – Might Your Child Have ‘DME’?

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Dual or Multiple Exceptionality Advice Sheet

Find out more about children with dual or multiple exceptionality and how to help them in our free advice sheet F01 Dual or Multiple Exceptionality.

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