UHD Professor’s Research Enhancing Understanding of Twice-Exceptional Students
National Honors, New Text Reflect Scholar’s Commitment to Special Populations of Students
By Mike Emery
Dr. Matthew Fugate has long focused his energies as an educator and researcher to support twice-exceptional students (2e students) … or those learners who are characterized as gifted yet face learning or developmental challenges.
While these students excel in specific classroom subjects, they still struggle with disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia or mild autism. Because these students are performing well in certain areas, their disabilities may not be easily identified by educators. Unrecognized, these learning disabilities can create future, long-term challenges for these students.
Fugate’s efforts and expertise in supporting this underrepresented population recently earned national honors and were the impetus for a new book, “Understanding Twice-Exceptional Learners: Connecting Research to Practice.” Both accomplishments spotlight Fugate’s hard work and his dedication to supporting parents, educators and students.
Fugate recently received the 2020 National Association for Gifted Children Special Populations Network Early Career Award. The award recognizes professionals who have created change and had an impact among gifted children from special populations.
“There are so many people in the field of gifted education who are doing amazing things to advocate for and advance our understanding of the many special populations of gifted students who often go unrecognized for their talents in schools,” said Fugate, Assistant Professor and Assistant Chair in UHD’s Department of Urban Education. “To have the work that I have done recognized in this way is incredibly humbling.”
His book “Understanding Twice-Exceptional Learners” (Prufrock Press) complements this award and expands his contributions to understanding gifted students. The text was co-authored by Wendy Behrens, Gifted and Talented Education Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education and Dr. Cecilia Boswell, consultant and founder of Austin Creek Educational Systems.
The book, Fugate said, is aimed toward practitioners, educators and graduate programs with specializations in 2e students. It includes case studies and research on co-occurring disabilities experienced by 2e students: ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and others. “Understanding Twice-Exceptional Learners” also provides a bridge between research on this population of students and practical strategies that educators can apply in the classroom.
Chapters include literature reviews, suggested interventions, resources for further exploration, and examples of the behaviors and experiences of 2e students that will support educators in identifying them in the classroom.
“It is my hope that educators will come away from the book with a greater insight into the unique strengths and challenges faced by our twice-exceptional population,” Fugate said. “These students often go unrecognized for either their giftedness or their special education needs. They are at risk, and without proper understanding and support, their needs will go unmet. We want readers to have a cache of strength-based strategies that they can implement in the classroom that is built on an understanding of these students – their giftedness and their learning differences.”
Fugate has written several texts and articles on the topic of twice-exceptional students and is part of a federally-funded grant looking at the academic effects of the Total School Cluster Grouping Model. He is currently working on another book with Behrens and Boswell, as well as educational consultant Dr. Joy Davis on enhancing cultural competence and understanding of various populations of gifted students including students of color and those who are LGBTQ+. The text will include chapters written by Fugate’s colleagues in the College of Public Service Dr. Bernardo Pohl, Associate Professor of Education; Dr. Nina Barbieri, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice; and Dr. Jace Valcore, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice.
The collaborative environment of the College of Public Service contributes to its mission of actively engaging the community through a variety of platforms. Fugate’s latest text is a perfect example of the College’s ongoing efforts to make a difference in classrooms and the community, said Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Dean of the College of Public Service.
“Dr. Fugate’s book is a perfect example of scholarship that serves practitioners, parents, students, and other researchers,” Schwartz said. “We are proud to have Dr. Fugate in our College, as one of the experts in the world on twice exceptional students. His strength-based approach to supporting each student's unique gifts is important to guide practice in this area. I believe this book will be significantly influential in supporting families and training current and future practitioners.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.