Friendship and the 2E child

teenagers bullying another isolated in white

teenagers bullying another isolated in white


CAVEAT: I am not a trained therapist. This is not professional advice. I do have a degree in special ed, but it’s been 30 years since I took those courses. This is just my opinion based on my life and observation.

It may seem odd for me to be writing about friendship because – well, am I qualified?  Sure, I am 2E (twice exceptional, gifted and LD) my subtest scores on the WISC I took at age 9 ranged from 60 to 160.  30 years later I took a WAIS and got 70 to 160+ (I was helping a friend who was learning to give the WAIS and she did not know how high my arithmetic score should be).  I’m 2E.  But I had no friends as a kid.

As a child who had no friends, I’ve been there, done that, I lived but I have scars.

So. I am writing this, more or less, because of the things I did wrong and the things my mom did wrong.  Maybe it will help some people avoid some of the same mistakes.  I think it will be most helpful to those who are like me – gifted academically but somewhere in the autism ballpark, but if it helps others too, that would be great.

I am going to divide this into 3 parts: Early, middle and late.  I would give ages but, as anyone who is 2E or has a 2E child knows, we don’t follow a set path. Early is when the parents or guardians set up social activity. Middle is when the child starts to do it, but still has a lot of supervision. Late is when the child does most or all of the social organizing on his own.

Friendship in the early years for 2E children

You’re still getting used to your kids and (if this is your first) to being parents.  And your kids aren’t …. they aren’t typical. If you get one of those books about what to expect when, your kids are not on track.  They’re ahead in some things and behind in others and it’s hard.  There is a marvelous essay about having a special needs child called Welcome to Holland.  But for those with 2E kids, it’s more like welcome to Switzerland! Huge high mountains, great deep lakes ….

That’s hard. It’s hard on the parents to realize this about their kids.  But … try to realize it with your spouse, your partner, your friends, maybe your therapist if you have one.  Not your kids.  Your kids need your nonjudgemental respect even more than NT kids. (Y0u thought I was going to say “love” right? But, while it’s great to love your kid, love can’t be ordered up.  Respect can.)  Respect your child’s strengths and weaknesses and arrange play with other kids who are at the social stage that your kid is. Two year olds don’t care if their playmates are younger.  That’s one of the Es, one half of the twice exceptional.  For the other half – as soon as you  figure out what that mountain is, encourage it. Find people who share that interest. Maybe your three year old will have one friend who is 18 months old and another who is 12 years old.  So?  So you mind. Because it’s another sign that your kid isn’t NT. But … respect your child.

Friendship in the middle years for 2E children

Now your kids are in school.  Maybe a public school, maybe private school, maybe home school. Maybe some special program.  They may start to try to make their own friends. And they may fail.  Here are some ideas:

  • With the help of a teacher (if your kids are in school) identify kids who are unpopular for stupid reasons (e.g. they are fat, they have pimples, they don’t wear the right clothes) and try to get your kids to make friends with them. Those kids want friends!  Even if they are NT, they are likely to be lonely. (But you want to be sure that they aren’t unpopular for reasons like being violent, into drugs, etc).
  • Avoid the popular kids.  In the early part of the “middle” period, those popular kids will just be too busy for your kids. They have lots of friends.  A little later (usually around middle school) it gets worse. They define their popularity by excluding people and the more people they can exclude the more they have.
  • Follow interests.  Many of us 2E people have strong interests – often not the typical ones. But no matter how odd your interests are, someone else has them. If you live in a big city, you may be able to find a club about some of those interests, but even if not, there is always the internet.  Yes, the ‘net is not the same as face to face, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing!  And adults with a strong interest in a subject are often very welcoming to kids with that interest. But, again, be careful.  There are also weirdos out there.
  • If your child likes some of your friends or adult relatives, encourage that. Adults are often more forgiving that kids, especially in this age range.
  • Encourage friendships with younger kids – again, they are often more forgiving.

Friendship later in childhood and the 2E child

Now your kids are more on their own.  Mostly, I think, they should keep to the points listed right above but do more of it themselves. As kids get more independent it becomes easier for them to do this sort of thing. But the parents are still there; just take a more passive role. But keep the communication open and keep on respecting your children.

Your turn

Share your thoughts in the comments.



  1. Ursula White says

    Thanks for the insight Peter. As the parent of two 2e kids, I value it. Ursula

  2. Thanks!

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