An Exceptional Opportunity

We want to learn more about how the brains of high achievers work, as well as the genes that drive these remarkable abilities. We also want to compare your genes to others who are similarly gifted, but also have autism. This group of people is considered “twice-exceptional,” and in order to learn more about the origins of their abilities and challenges, we need to compare their genes to gifted individuals without autism. We hope to have your family’s help in this research.

How Will Research Help?

Our Genetics of Twice-Exceptionality (2e) project builds on another study we are involved in, SPARK, through a focus on gifted and twice-exceptional individuals, who have been especially underrepresented in research. This research is helping us answer some important questions about how the human brain develops and functions, while also helping us better understand the needs of high achievers and how to best cultivate their strengths. Additionally, this will improve our understanding of the processes and circuits that contribute to high performance in the classroom, but that may also lead to challenges in other areas, such as social communication.

Who Can Participate in this Research?

There are many ways a person can be gifted. For the purposes of this research, eligible participants should be able to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • skipping a grade, or advanced placement in a subject such as
  • reading or math
  • participation in enrichment or accelerated programs at school
  • scoring > 90th percentile on a standardized achievement test
  • earning an IQ of 120 or higher on any sub-scale

If you have questions about eligibility, please contact us:

This project is being conducted by the University of Iowa Michaelson Lab in collaboration with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute and the Belin-Blank Honors Center.

Interested in Participating? Enroll Today!

Email or call us if you're interested in participating!

Receive your study materials in the mail!


Participation in our study of high ability is very easy! If you or one of your family members meet the eligibility criteria above, here's how you can participate:

  1. Call us at 319-335-8882 or email us at
  2. A researcher from the Michaelson lab will mail you an enrollment kit that includes
  • a brief survey to fill out
  • consent forms to share some of your information, such as standardized test scores and newborn screen results
  • a saliva collection kit

Materials will be mailed to your family at absolutely no cost to you, and you can participate in the comfort of your own home! The entire study should take no more than 30-40 minutes to complete.

Please contact our team at or (319) 335-8882 if you'd like to participate or if you have questions about the study!

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I (or is my child) "gifted"?
Please contact us if you are interested in participating in this study and are unsure if you meet the requirements. If you are interested in assessments of ability and achievement, please contact the Belin-Blank Center, which is a counseling and assessment clinic at the University of Iowa. The B-BC is a national leader in the fields of gifted and talented education and twice-exceptionality, with over 30 years of experience. The team at the B-BC can provide your family with enriching programs or recommendations to achieve each individual’s highest potential as well as address any challenges.

Why do you need DNA from the whole family?
Sometimes a random mutation will occur in either the father's sperm or the mother's egg, and consequently the child may carry a change to their genetic code that neither the father nor the mother experienced as part of their own development. It is vital to have the DNA of parents as a point of reference when looking for genetic causes of these conditions. In other cases, the parents may have genetic differences that do indeed contribute to the condition observed in their child, but they might not show symptoms themselves because they also have other protective factors in their genomes. Part of our research interest is in better understanding why genetic risk factors manifest themselves clinically in some people but not in others. 

Will I get any genetic results back? 
If we find a genetic variant that has substantial evidence that suggests a role in the conditions mentioned above, we will contact you regarding participation in follow-up studies. We will not return genetic results that do not have a strong connection to the conditions investigated in this study. It is not a guarantee that you will receive any information about your family members' genomes, and genetic research is not a substitute for medical genetic testing.

Please feel free to reach out to us at or (319) 335-8882 with any questions - we're happy to help!