Nurturing Brilliance: The Crucial Role of Early Intervention in Social Skills Development for ADHD, Gifted, and Twice-Exceptional (2E) Children

Reema Dixon

Associate Director


The journey of childhood is a dynamic and formative period, particularly for those with unique cognitive profiles such as ADHD, giftedness, and twice exceptionality (2E). Early intervention in social skills development emerges as a pivotal factor in unlocking the full potential of these children. Camp Sequoia is proud to be the first research-based social skills camp for this incredible population. This blog explores the significance of early intervention and its transformative impact on fostering social competence in ADHD, gifted, and 2E children. Camp Sequoia’s outcomes speak for themselves, but having an understanding of some of the research that underpins what we do is a valuable tool for parents, teachers and medical team members for our (2E) population. 


I. Understanding the Unique Needs


A. ADHD: Impulsivity and Social Interaction

  • Barkley’s theory on ADHD emphasizes executive functions, linking them to challenges in sustained attention and inhibitory control (Barkley, 1997).
  • Research by Mikami and Hinshaw sheds light on buffers of peer rejection among girls with ADHD, highlighting the role of popularity with adults and solitary play in social interactions (Mikami & Hinshaw, 2003).



  • Barkley, R. A. (1997). Behavioral inhibition, sustained attention, and executive functions: Constructing a unifying theory of ADHD. Psychological Bulletin, 121(1), 65–94.
  • Mikami, A. Y., & Hinshaw, S. P. (2003). Buffers of Peer Rejection Among Girls with and Without ADHD: The Role of Popularity with Adults and Goal-Directed Solitary Play. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31(4), 381–397.

B. Giftedness: Asynchronous Development and Social Struggles

  • Webb et al. discuss the concept of asynchronous development in gifted children, where intellectual and emotional development may not align (Webb et al., 1982).
  • Neihart et al.’s research delves into the social and emotional development of gifted children, emphasizing the importance of understanding the unique challenges they face (Neihart et al., 2002).



  • Webb, J. T., Meckstroth, E. A., & Tolan, S. S. (1982). Guiding the Gifted Child. Ohio Psychology Publishing Co.
  • Neihart, M., Reis, S. M., Robinson, N. M., & Moon, S. M. (2002). The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know? ERIC Digest.

C. Twice Exceptionality (2E): Balancing Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Baum and Owen’s work addresses the complexities of being gifted and learning disabled, highlighting the need for tailored intervention strategies (Baum & Owen, 2004).
  • Mullet and Zigmond’s research identifies and defines students with gifts and learning disabilities, emphasizing the diversity within the 2E population and the necessity of nuanced approaches (Mullet & Zigmond, 2000).



  • Baum, S. M., & Owen, S. V. (2004). To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled: From Definitions to Practical Intervention Strategies. Prufrock Press.
  • Mullet, D. R., & Zigmond, N. (2000). Students with gifts and learning disabilities: Who are they? Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 24(4), 363–384.


II. Importance of Early Intervention

A. Cognitive Flexibility and Social Problem-Solving

  • Diamond and Lee’s research highlights interventions that aid executive function development, emphasizing the malleability of cognitive skills in children (Diamond & Lee, 2011).
  • Fisher’s study explores the relationship between cognitive flexibility and social skills in individuals with ADHD, emphasizing the interconnectedness of cognitive and social development (Fisher, 2011).



  • Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions Shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4 to 12 Years Old. Science, 333(6045), 959–964.
  • Fisher, C. (2011). A Study of the Relationship Between Cognitive Flexibility and Social Skills in Individuals with ADHD. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

B. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs

  • Elias et al. provide guidelines for educators on promoting social and emotional learning (SEL), emphasizing the role of schools in fostering these skills (Elias et al., 1997).
  • Durlak et al.’s meta-analysis demonstrates the positive impact of school-based universal interventions on enhancing students’ social and emotional learning, suggesting the potential benefits for diverse learner profiles, including ADHD, gifted, and 2E children (Durlak et al., 2011).



  • Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., Haynes, N. M., … & Shriver, T. P. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. ASCD.
  • Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.


III. Tailored Strategies for Diverse Learners


A. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

  • VanTassel-Baska et al.’s work advocates for leadership in the socialization of young gifted children, stressing the importance of tailored plans to meet their unique needs (VanTassel-Baska et al., 2007).
  • Hebert and Furner’s investigation delves into the efficacy of gifted education practices, underlining the need for individualized approaches to address socialization and learning (Hebert & Furner, 1997).



  • VanTassel-Baska, J., Feng, A. X., & Evans, B. R. (2007). The socialization of young gifted children: A call for leadership. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 330–342.
  • Hebert, T. P., & Furner, J. M. (1997). An Investigation of the Efficacy of Gifted Education Practices. Roeper Review, 20(4), 222–227.

B. Strength-Based Approaches

  • Lopez and Snyder’s positive psychology framework underscores the importance of strength-based approaches in nurturing social skills and emotional well-being (Lopez & Snyder, 2011).
  • Silverman’s exploration of the moral sensitivity of gifted children emphasizes the role of ethical development in social interactions and the potential for fostering positive social behaviors (Silverman, 1993).



  • Lopez, S. J., & Snyder, C. R. (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press.
  • Silverman, L. K. (1993). The moral sensitivity of gifted children and the evolution of society. Roeper Review, 15(1), 30–35.


IV. Building Collaborative Networks


A. Parent and Educator Collaboration

  • Renzulli’s Multiple Menu Model emphasizes differentiated curriculum development, highlighting the collaborative role of parents and educators in shaping educational experiences for gifted learners (Renzulli, 1998).
  • Robinson and Robinson’s research explores the interaction between gifted students and their teachers, emphasizing the importance of positive collaborations in social and academic development (Robinson & Robinson, 1982).



  • Renzulli, J. S. (1998). The Multiple Menu Model for Developing Differentiated Curriculum. Gifted Child Quarterly, 42(2), 81–85.
  • Robinson, N. M., & Robinson, H. B. (1982). Interaction between gifted students and their teachers. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 5(4), 307–316.

B. Community Support Networks

  • Robinson’s essay on gifted education and democracy calls for community support, emphasizing the need for societal recognition and encouragement of gifted learners (Robinson, 2002).
  • “A Nation Empowered” by Assouline et al. underscores the collective responsibility in supporting gifted students, urging communities to play an active role in their educational journey (Assouline et al., 2015).


V. Conclusion

In conclusion, early intervention in social skills development is a cornerstone in the holistic growth of ADHD, gifted, and twice-exceptional children. Understanding their unique needs and implementing tailored strategies from an early age can pave the way for enhanced social competence, emotional well-being, and academic success. By embracing individualized approaches, leveraging strength-based frameworks, and fostering collaborative networks involving parents, educators, and communities, we can ensure that these exceptional learners not only navigate their educational journey effectively but also flourish as confident, socially adept individuals ready to make meaningful contributions to society. Camp Sequoia exists for this very purpose with trained staff and superior staffing ratios to support the needs of our exceptional campers in their zone of proximal development.