Guest Post: Helping Students with Stealth Dyslexia

"Twice exceptional" students are academically gifted but also have a learning difference.

“Twice exceptional” students are academically gifted but also have a learning difference.

This is the last in a series of guest posts from Brian Smith, an educator from North Carolina. Please share your experiences with dyslexia or stealth dyslexia in the comments.

In the simplest terms, dyslexia is an unexplained learning difficulty in reading that is not typical of the students’ general intelligence. Dyslexia is not a vision problem but rather a processing difficulty that occurs “behind the eyes.”

I recently learned the term stealth dyslexia, which is defined by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development as a student who is intellectually gifted but also has dyslexia. Stealth dyslexia falls under the umbrella of “twice exceptional,” meaning an academically gifted child who has a learning difference. The most common learning differences that coexist with giftedness are ADHD, dyslexia and autism.

Twice exceptional students can be hard for teachers to understand and can seem to have a lot of potential but may struggle on seemingly “easy” activities. For example, a child may struggle in reading by inserting, misreading, or omitting smaller words like the, was, or like but have superior comprehension. These students often go years without detection. They aren’t challenged to their academic potential. They also aren’t given needed accommodations to help them demonstrate how smart they are. The lack of accommodations can lead to poor self-esteem in twice exceptional students. Having the ability but not being able to express your knowledge can be very difficult for students to understand.

As their school years go by, these students often become frustrated. Others might assume the child isn’t putting forth enough effort. In actuality, twice exceptional students can be very creative. Teachers should not lower their expectations because students with stealth dyslexia are capable. There are several accommodations teachers can use to help these students show what they can really do:

• Extend deadlines to help them gather and organize their thoughts
• Let them answer orally so that they can focus on their answer and not getting their thoughts on paper
• Use capital letters beside each answer choice in fill-in-the-blank word banks. They are more distinct and less likely to be reversed in the blank answers
• Let students read information and questions aloud to themselves. This can help them read with more accuracy – often times when a student misreads a word, if they hear it, they can “catch” their error and go back and correct
• Remember that fair isn’t everyone getting the same, fair is everyone getting what they need

Providing students with stealth dyslexia the accommodations they need to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject know benefits the student and the teacher. The student feels successful and is able to grow academically. The teacher gains a student who is engaged in the classroom.

For more information about dyslexia, please visit

For more information about twice exceptional students, please visit,

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