What is Twice-Exceptionality?

Twice-exceptional (2e) individuals are, as the name suggests, exceptional in two dimensions:
  1. Gifted & talented - having high intellectual abilities
  2. Diagnosed with a developmental condition, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), or a specific learning disability

2e students can be incredibly difficult to spot, as it is common for either characteristics of their disability to mask underlying giftedness or for their high abilities to mask difficulties that may exist as a result of their disability. It is very important to develop better ways of identifying twice-exceptionality, so that these students can reach their full potential throughout their learning career and beyond.

Join now!

To participate in the study please complete our online survey by clicking the button below! There you will be able to learn more about the study and provide consent to participate.

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.

How Will This Research Help?

Right now, a landmark study of autism genetics, SPARK, is in the process of learning more about autism biology, with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of individuals with autism. Our Genetics of Twice-Exceptionality (2e) project builds on SPARK with a focus on gifted and twice-exceptional individuals, who have been especially underrepresented in research. This study is looking to determine the genetic underpinnings of autism, giftedness/high-ability, and where these intersect (2e), filling in some of the missing links in our understanding of brain development and function.

Having a better understanding of the biology of twice-exceptionality will enable researchers to move toward better diagnostic techniques and more personalized interventions for twice-exceptional individuals, who can easily fall through the cracks of educational support systems. Additionally, this study will accelerate  research about all gifted/talented individuals and help us learn crucial information about brain development as a whole.

Who Can Participate in the 2e Genetics Project?

We are looking for gifted and twice-exceptional individuals to participate in our study:

Gifted individuals

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:

  • participation in accelerated coursework in school
  • skipped a grade
  • competed for admission into a talent development program for art, music, dance, or writing
  • competed for admission into a talent development program for math, science, or engineering
  • earned or recruited for an athletic scholarship at the collegiate level
  • a clinically assessed IQ > 90th percentile (120 or above)
  • scored 29 or higher on the ACT
  • scored 1300 or higher on the SAT

Twice-exceptional individuals would meet one or more of the gifted criteria above, while also having a diagnosis on the autism spectrum or another neurodevelopmental condition. Autism spectrum includes a diagnosis of asperger's, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, or autism.


What's Involved in Participating?

Email us or complete our survey if you're interested in participating!

Receive your study materials in the mail!

Gifted individuals and their immediate biological family members will be asked to:

  • Provide a saliva sample for genetic analysis
  • Complete a brief questionnaire
  • Give our team permission to access histories of test records and newborn screening information

Saliva 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! 

Twice-exceptional individuals and their immediate biological family members will:

  • Complete our online survey to enroll (button above)
  • Enroll online in SPARK and provide a saliva sample for that study (if applicable)
  • Receive a separate packet in the mail from our team with brief questionnaires and consents to share test history and newborn screening information

Additional participant testing may include the following tasks:

  • An MRI scan
  • An IQ test
  • An interview and audiovisual recordings
  • Cognitive and language assessments 
  • Collection of vitals data

Frequently Asked Questions

I'd like to participate in your research but do not meet the criteria for giftedness.

Am I (or is my child) "gifted"?

Why do you need DNA from the whole family?

Will I get any genetic results back?


I'd like to participate in your research but do not meet the criteria for giftedness.

If you want to participate in our genetic research studies and you or your child have an autism diagnosis, you’d be eligible for SPARK! If you or a child have another neurodevelopmental condition (e.g., ADHD, intellectual disability, etc.), you can participate in our local study called devGenes.

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 info@devgenes.org or 319.335.8882 with any questions - we're happy to help!