Helping Gifted Children with Autism Succeed


Maureen Neihart, PsyD, shared a lot of information with us at our Lecture Series devoted to 2E (twice exceptional) children on the autism spectrum. Using the latest research in the field, she highlighted the areas in which these children typically struggle. It was no surprise that the two most impacted areas are social/emotional skills and adaptive functioning. Yet, seeing the huge disparity between these kids’ cognitive profiles and  other skill areas is illuminating. Gifted kids with autism fit the following profile:

  • Overall reasoning scores fell in the 99%
  • Daily living skills fell in the 20%
  • Functional communication skills fell in the 33%

So we focused most of the night’s discussion on how to address these areas of need. The guiding principle for supporting these kids, according to Neihart, is developing social competency while providing academic challenge. To achieve this overall goal, Neihart shared the Seven Skills Needed for Success:

  • Learning strategies that enhance ability
  • Working harder
  • Use of technological aids
  • Use of other people as role models and support
  • Persistance
  • Risk-taking
  • Developing a will to succeed

Given that gifted kids with autism often struggle with social anxiety, Neihart shared specific tips for helping these kids cope in a school setting: 1. Learn to breathe (specifically belly breathing), 2. Learn how to relax (progressive relaxation of the body), 3. Keep moving toward the things that scare you

Additionally, she recommended Russell Barkley’s books as a framework for teaching social skills, and the Circle of Friends model for supporting these kids socially throughout their academic career. Finally she reminded everyone that the most effective intervention for gifted students is acceleration. Establishing the right social supports opens up this option for gifted children on the spectrum.

Resources shared

Watch the video of Helping Gifted Children on the Autism Spectrum Succeed

Don’t miss our next Lecture Series on February 12 – Engaging Autism: The Serious Business of Fun

Author: Editorial Team

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