Impact of Support Services on Autistic 2e Students’ Academics

Despite high interest in twice-exceptionality among parents and teachers, limited empirical research has examined academic performance or use of support services among twice-exceptional (2e) students, particularly autistic 2e students1. As a group, how do autistic 2e students perform academically? Does their performance change as they grow older? Which services do they utilize, and do services help or hurt their academic performance? Researchers Meghan Cain, Juhi Kaboski, and Jeffrey Gilger sought to answer these questions in their paper, “Profiles and Academic Trajectories of Cognitively Gifted Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” which was published in the journal Autism in 2019.

For their study, Drs. Cain, Kaboski, and Gilger used two existing datasets from the United States Department of Education focused on preschool and elementary-age students eligible for special education services. These data-collection projects spanned six years each and were designed to capture a snapshot of the children’s services, needs, and academic performance. For this study about autistic 2e students, the researchers selected only students who had an individualized education plan (IEP) based on a primary educational diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Students with ASD were then identified as 2e if they scored at or above the 90th percentile on any subtest of an academic achievement measure or if they qualified for their school’s gifted and talented program.

The authors examined students’ achievement over time on a nationally-normed test of academic achievement (the Woodcock Johnson-III Tests of Achievement) as well as students’ use of medication and support services, as reported by their parents. Support services inclu...


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About Danika Maddocks

Danika Maddocks earned her Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to her doctoral studies, Danika taught elementary and middle school and trained other educators. She researches giftedness, twice-exceptionality, intelligence, assessment, and the role of motivation and emotion in teaching and learning. Danika provides therapy and consultation services in private practice; learn more about her research and private practice at You can also sign up for her mailing list.