Can you be gifted and learning disabled?
Can you be tall and fat?
You certainly can!
One really has very little to do with the other. A learning disability is a marked difficulty in learning some type of thing (more below). A gift is a marked ease in learning some type of thing. So, if a person is particularly bad at learning one type of thing and particularly good at learning some other type of thing, then that person is gifted and learning disabled. In fact, there are so many of us that there’s even a term: Twice exceptional, or double exceptional, to describe us.
“Us”? Yes, us. Because one reason I know you can be gifted and learning disabled is that I am gifted and learning disabled. I am very good at some types of math. But I am very bad at some things too … I have what is called nonverbal learning disabilities (for more, see resources).
But it’s not just me. Many people who are dyslexic are gifted in other areas. There are legions of people who cannot spell but are good at lots of other things. In fact, there are a huge array of possible combinations of gifts and learning disabilities, because there are a huge array of things you have to learn. In fact, a newborn infant can do very little – suck, cry, pee, focus their eyes (at least, after a couple days) and so on. Everything else that adults do – from solving quadratic equations or playing chess to holding a conversation and making a bed – has to be learned, somehow. And you can be good or bad at any of it. (I, for example, am good at equations, mediocre at chess and conversation (I do better online) and terrible with beds).
The list of things that we have to learn is very long indeed, and can be categorized in various ways. But the list is so varied that the categorizations are muddled, too. You could, for example, divide them into academic and nonacademic skills. Or into skills with people, skills with data, and skills with things. Or into social and nonsocial skills. Or into visual and nonvisual skills. And so on. In addition, no skill falls cleanly into any of these categories. There aren’t really categories, but continua. Each skill relies on both academic and nonacademic abilities; every job requires some ability with people, data, and things, and so on.
Even just within the skills assessed by an IQ test, we can distinguish myriads of patterns by looking at the subtest scores. In fact, there are three attributes to look at in an IQ (and we typically only look at one). There’s the overall level, assessed by the mean (or perhaps median), the amount of scatter (assessed by the standard deviation or range) and the pattern, which has to be assessed by eye.