Date of Award

Winter 11-14-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Special Education - General Curriculum (Ed.D)



Committee Chair

Dr. Harriet Bessette

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Joya Carter-Hicks

Second Committee Member

Dr. Katie Bennett


Students who possess both a disability and characteristics of giftedness are referred to as students with dual exceptionalities. This paradoxical relationship of disability and giftedness creates a challenge for teachers and students, particularly in schools that do not have a specific program for students with dual exceptionalities. Most of these students typically receive the majority of their instruction either within a special education program, or a gifted education program. Students with perceived dual exceptionalities are often able to mask their disabilities with strengths in other major areas. The students in this investigation have all demonstrated strong talent in mathematics. They each have a unique view of the world and their learning experiences are filtered through the lenses of both their disabilities and their talents. In this qualitative case study, the researcher will explore the learning experiences of students with perceived dual exceptionalities through the perspective of parents, teachers, and the students themselves. While it may be subjective to ask middle schoolers what they think, perception is reality, and however they feel about their experiences istheir current reality. The conceptual framework that undergirds this study is the Constructivist Theory offered by Piaget (1952) and elaborated by Vygotsky’s (1978) socio-cultural theory. Building upon these is the theoretical framework of the Stage-Environment Fit Theory which attempts to explain the fit between adolescent developmental needs and the educational environment. Student participants generated drawings in order to express their perceptions of their learning experiences. Other data sources included semi-structured interviews, observations, and a document review. All data was triangulated and analyzed using three analysis strategies offered by Creswell and Poth (2018), consisting of (1) data preparation and organization (i.e., transcribing data for analysis, or preparing student drawings/image data for analysis), (2) development of themes through a process of coding, and (3) writing up the results of the study and representing the data in tables and figures. Themes that emerged from the data became larger categories of note. Findings suggest that (1) Students perceived to have dual exceptionalities who receive instruction primarily within gifted educational settings may use their giftedness to mask their disability; (2) Conversely, students perceived to have dual exceptionalities who receive instruction primarily within special educational settings may use have the tools or opportunity to leverage their giftedness to mask their disability; (3) Academic and/or Social/Emotional difficulties that begin early in the educational careers of students perceived to possess dual exceptionalities can become exacerbated by time they reach the middle-school level (Stage Environment Fit Theory); and (4) Students who are perceived to have dual exceptionalities and who suffer from feelings of isolation, may experience these feelings regardless of the setting in which they receive the majority of their instruction.