Five tips to reach your true potential as a twice exceptional adult

A twice exceptional diagnosis is often missed as it’s common for people with this condition to mask their problems and learn to compensate for any challenges they may have

When you hear the phrase ‘you have so much potential’ are you slightly triggered? Were you labeled a gifted child but never seemed to soar as high as those early predictions? Then maybe you are a twice exceptional person – or 2e


A twice exceptional person is someone who, on the one hand may have a high IQ, be extraordinarily creative, or meet some other characteristic of giftedness but, on the other hand, struggles with a learning or developmental disability or neurodivergence – such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia or dysgraphia, among others.

woman writing on bookIt can be a struggle for twice exceptional folk to complete tasks that neurotypical people find straightforward. 

Some characteristics of 2e folk include:

  • Advanced oral vocabulary 
  • Strong ideas/opinions
  • High problem-solving skills
  • Exceptional talents

A twice exceptional diagnosis is often missed as it’s common for people with this condition to mask their problems and learn to compensate for any challenges they may have. They often have to work twice as hard to get the same tasks done. So, it’s important to get a diagnosis to get the targeted support you need to thrive in an environment designed for neurotypical folk. 


With the majority of focus and studies on 2e in kids (it’s estimated that between 2-5% of US school aged kids are twice exceptional), it’s easy to assume that it’s something you grow out of. But, there are many adults who are twice exceptional, oftentimes without a diagnosis or support. Perhaps they were always labeled the ‘smart’ or ‘gifted’ kid when younger, but a career that matches expectations has always been, inexplicably, out of reach. Or maybe there are other parts of their life that have always been out of sync despite obvious skill or creativity.

person holding penLeaning into the pillars of ikigai can help with the challenges of being twice exceptional.


So, say you have a diagnosis or think you could be twice exceptional – is there anything you can do to make your life easier? Again, as with all my advice, it’s necessary to reach out to a specialized health profesional. However, as with many aspects of life, ikigai can be a great support. 

Pillar 1: Starting small → Focusing on the details. For neurodivergent folk, it’s easy to get anxious and stressed when faced with work or general life tasks. In a world that has been generally set up for neurotypical people, seemingly simple projects can cause major headaches for people who are 2e. Start small. Break big projects down into smaller tasks that feel doable. This will increase the chances of success and decrease frustration.

Pillar 2: Releasing yourself → Accepting who you are. The labels people put on you when you were younger don’t define you. Remember that we define others based on our (limited) experience and frames of reference. So their vision of you has more to do with them than with you. Without minimizing the challenges that come with neurodivergence, make an intentional effort to identify the strengths that it affords. Among others, you can see the world in a unique way. People with dyslexia or dyscalculia, for example, tend to be especially inventive and creative.  So lean into your uniqueness and celebrate it. And try to challenge that harsh inner self-critic.

Pillar 3: Harmony and sustainability → Relying on others. Find your ibasho. Whether its’s other neurodivergent folk or hiring the services of a qualified ADHD coach who can help you navigate life easier and more successfully. Or check out an online community like ADHD twitter. Finding others where you can be yourself will help you feel validated and accepted. 

Pillar 4: The joy of little things → Appreciating sensory pleasure. Get into a daily routine of creating pleasurable moments and sensations. It could be an early walk around a local park to watch the wildlife and nature bloom or enjoying that first cup of coffee in the morning. But stopping to really enjoy it. Savor the smell and sensation. Be in the moment – which leads on to the final pillar of ikigai that will help twice exceptional folk especially.

Pillar 5: Being in the here and now → Finding your flow. What are your passions? What really lights that internal fire? With the stresses and strains of modern work life, perhaps coupled with parenthood, it’s easy to lose sight of the things you used to love to do. Playing 90’s grunge on your guitar? Painting or drawing caricatures? It’s time to get back to what you love. Put down your cell phone and really spend some time on the things you love to do. This is a great way to avoid ADHD burnout and help build your resilience. 

These five steps will get you on your way to your 2e ikigai! Reach out today for a free consultation about how I can help you, as a qualified ADHD and Ikigai coach, navigate a world designed for neurotypicals.

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