St. Mary's Law Journal


Laura Ketterman


Disabled children benefit from federal legislation which guarantees a free, appropriate education. While no federal mandate requires providing special education for gifted and talented children, the government encourages schools to offer gifted and talented programs. Gifted and talented children with emotional disabilities, however, often fall between these two groups and do not qualify for special education under any legislation. Unfortunately, in many gifted and talented children with disabilities the gift hides the disability—or the disability hides the gift. To compound the problem, legislation and recent court decisions fail to recognize that gifted and talented children have unique needs which should be considered when planning an appropriate education. Many education professionals do not recognize that a child can be both gifted and disabled. The usual method of identifying children with disabilities is not appropriate for identifying the hidden potential of disabled, gifted and talented children. A disabled child is afforded the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide them an appropriate education. In contrast, a gifted and talented child with a disability—whose grades are at or above average—has no such legislative protection to ensure they receive an appropriate education. In many cases, the disability may be perceived as not having an adverse effect on the child’s educational performance. Since one of the requirements to receive benefits under the IDEA is for the disability to adversely affect the performance of a child, gifted children with disabilities are often excluded from IDEA. Every child should be educated through a method which allows that child to reach their full potential; otherwise mediocrity remains the goal of American schools.


St. Mary's University School of Law