The Potential Trust Potential Stories.

Potential Stories about individuals with High Learning Potential and Dual and Multiple Exceptionality (High Learning Potential and Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities)

Why telling real stories is so important.

Children, young people and adults with High Learning Potential and Dual and Multiple Exceptionalities (DME) should have their gifts and talents as well as the challenges they face recognised and supported in an inclusive society. However, they are often not easy to identify and their needs even harder to determine both inside and outside the classroom. Amongst other things, their abilities can be hidden or even masked by their special educational needs and/or disabilities. They can ‘disappear’ in the system; they can be misdiagnosed or labelled as lazy, as badly behaved or as troublemakers or they can develop a range of social, emotional, mental health and other problems which provide the focus for intervention without looking at their holistic needs as a child or young person with HLP and DME.

Every child is an individual and their abilities and needs even more so. To best illustrate the characteristics and potential of those with HLP and DME, The Potential Trust is seeking stories about these children and young people including their journeys, how their needs are met and what happens to them at home and in their learning.

If you have a personal story about DME which you would like to share with others, please email this to Please change the names and details to preserve anonymity. The Potential Trust reserves the right to edit the story or not to publish it on our website. Sending us your story implies consent for us to send it out on social and other media to raise awareness and support others in this important area of work.

Lee’s Story.

My early years at school are somewhat hazy now but I was always pretty good at most subjects and I found school quite enjoyable.  On the move to secondary education things changed slightly due to being part of a bigger school but I still performed well academically, even if most of my reports still contained plenty of references to ‘…being able to do better.’

Nothing seemed terribly difficult, I had the subjects I was really enthusiastic about, such as Physics and English.  Anything to do with rote learning didn’t grip me, such as history and mathematics; in physics I could see an application to the calculations whereas in maths it seemed we were just doing sums for no discernible reason other than to show ‘working out’.

Around the age of 13/14 things changed, but I can’t quite put my finger on what happened. There was no conscious turning away from school, but I just felt I had less and less in common with my contemporaries, parents and wider family. I felt a growing sense of isolation, whereas previously I had a wide social circle this narrowed significantly, and I stopped taking part in sports and activities that I’d previously enjoyed; I lost touch with long-term friends and gained associations on an ‘easy come easy go’ basis.

I felt like I just didn’t feel a part of things anymore and assumed people just didn’t want to be spend time with me, believing that I was ‘odd’.  This was the beginning of my academic slide downwards; I could see it happening, but I didn’t understand why. It also wasn’t an overnight change (perhaps over the course of a year), which reinforced my notion that I was simply an oddity and not as clever as I thought I was.

I eventually left school with a handful of low CSE’s and so the only work I could obtain was mainly unskilled manual work and, though I was earning a wage, all it really did was drive me insane.   The sheer boredom of my working life was devastating and the desperation of looking down a lens of where I’d be in 20- or 30-years’ time was something I just couldn’t comprehend.

To take the pain away I self-medicated through drink and drugs but all this ultimately did was to cost me more years of waste.  Through sheer desperation I sold up what belongings I had and worked abroad in Spain for a year; and in an effort to avoid facing my history, I elected to return to Surrey rather than my hometown; thinking that a clean sheet would help me move on with my life.

Yet more unfulfilling and undemanding jobs followed and so in desperation I elected to join the armed forces.  During the enrolment process, my educational failure haunted me yet again and served to significantly limit the options I had open to me and although my application was accepted, it was not for the position I would have chosen were my situation different.

Once I passed out, I settled into forces working life and took up the opportunity to gain some GCSEs. Two things immediately struck me; I liked learning, and I was good at it.  Suddenly I saw some hope and, after seeing adverts for Mensa for some years, I finally took the test at 28 years of age.

I somehow instinctively knew I would pass, but the certificate landing on my doormat was still a surprise and took me a few reads to accept it as being real.  This was a seminal moment for me as for the first time I began to understand more about myself and who I was and, more importantly, began to right some of the wrongs I’d forced myself to accept about myself.

Fast forward some years and I elected to leave the Armed Forces; I’d accepted that I’d simply never be able to make up the lost ground to enable me to perform the roles I’d viewed as equal to my ability.  

Since leaving the forces I have obtained a plethora of professional qualifications in addition to bachelors and master’s degrees, in working life I have become a seasoned professional and one time company director; in short I have become something towards what I always could have been.

For me, the Mensa test was literally life-changing, not for the supposed kudos it offers but for the affirmation and explanation it provided.  I have a debt of gratitude to Mensa I can probably never repay.

To this day and knowing what I know now, I am still confused and saddened by what happened; but I also feel were it to happened today the result would likely be the same.  The generally accepted view of society, or at least Western society, is that the gifted or high learning potential members of society are capable of managing their own education and have an advantage over the many; you won’t be surprised to hear that I feel strongly that this is very far from the reality.

If you suffer a failed education that’s not something you recover from in a couple of years; some studies have put the impact at around 30 years, but I don’t think you ever recover and so you live the damaging output of that situation daily for years upon end.  The fact that many like myself are capable of so much more simply rubs salt into an already open wound.

About Lee

Lee was brought up in Leicester by his mother and father and has an older brother and a deceased older sister. He was educated locally within the state school system, which he left shortly after completing his compulsory education.

Lee is married and has four children, two girls from his previous marriage and two boys from his marriage to Katie. After working as a freelance specialist, Lee now works as a project manager for a telecommunications company based in Manchester, UK.

Lee has many varied interests; these days he prefers to maintain breadth rather than to specialise as he has learned that new experiences help to maintain his balance; the ever-present boredom being never more than a page away.

After most of his life being spent making up for lost time, opportunity and the rigours of chronic depression, Lee has finally reached the point of calm acceptance, stillness and satisfaction with his lot.

About The Potential Trust.

The Potential Trust is a registered charity (charity number 326645) whose aim is to provide, promote and encourage whatever makes education and learning more interesting for children and young people (up to school leaving age) who have High Learning Potential (sometimes called more able, highly able or Gifted and Talented) or Dual or Multiple Exceptionalities (sometimes called DME, Twice Exceptional or 2e, neurodiverse or gifted with learning differences). We want to support all those children with more than the average share of curiosity, creativity, perception and persistence and to enable them to have access to events and experiences that facilitate their personal and social development and their creative, artistic and practical abilities as well as their intellectual abilities. We do this by:

  • Providing Potential Bursaries
  • Running Potential Conferences
  • Developing Potential Collaborations
  • Being a catalyst for Potential Change.

For more information about how to get involved or to support us, please log onto our website at or follow us on Twitter @PotentialTrust

The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own.