The Future is Twice-Exceptional
How do we get there?
“As an old Chinese proverb says: ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any way will get you there.’ When a group of people argues over what it needs to do, it is nearly always because the members of the group have neglected to agree on a destination point, the result they want, or the vision they are pursuing. Thus, the ‘how do we get there” question is unanswerable as long as the ‘there’ is not defined.” – Rethinking Leadership (April et al., 2000, pg. 4)
Each summer, I return to Bridges Academy for a two-week residency hosted by the Bridges Graduate School for Cognitive Diversity in Education. At first, I went as a student, and now I return as a faculty member. It is a week of excitement and hope about how to build a better future for neurodivergent and twice-exceptional children, their families, and the professionals that serve them. As part of our coursework, I ask each student to identify their values related to their goals for joining the program. I then ask them to craft a vision statement that embodies those values. The vision statements seek to answer the above question, “How do we get there?”
Below are my student’s responses.
I would like to have more 2e specific programs, services, and schools in more places that role model what is possible for 2e learners to mainstream education. I want more empirical research on twice-exceptionality to guide these initiatives. I want every 2e person to have at least one 2e friend. I’d like to have more psychologists, doctors, psychiatrists, teachers, and school administrators who understand what twice-exceptionality is and how that could influence how we all work with this group of neurodiverse people. I want schools to actively and intentionally screen their students for twice-exceptionality and every school to have a tool and process for how to do so. I want employers to know how 2e people can shine in their workplaces. I’d like us to spend less time debating whether labels are helpful or harmful and focus more on addressing the attitudes that make them harmful. - Holly Gooch
I want to live in a world where people can express themselves freely and feel valued as they are. The goal I want to reach is a society where not only twice-exceptional people but all people with all differences are accepted, and the community can view these differences with tolerance. And hopefully, people can start to see differences not as obstacles but more like opportunities. - Deniz Baloglu
I would like to see a world where we stop trying to push 2e people into boxes and where they are free to live authentically and with purpose. I think we can achieve this through education and advocacy. - Erin Tee
In my dream world, there will be no talk of learning and neurodevelopmental disabilities, only of accepted and celebrated differences. - Jenn Nee Khoo
I hope that someday all 2e students can attend their neighborhood public school where necessary supports are in place to meet their social, emotional, physical, and academic needs. Public school teachers will have received extensive training in their credential program about the needs of twice-exceptional students and feel confident to provide what is needed to serve all of their students. - Gayle Bentley
What I see for 2e families in the homeschooling community is what I hope can become part of the mainstream for all. I see families walking their paths created by the values that are relevant to each specific family. I see curious, self-directed, autonomous children mentored by engaged, respectful people. I see families free to follow rabbit holes, dive deep into areas of interest, and take tangents wherever they lead. I see children who never learn to tie their self-worth to an achievement or a grade. I see intrinsically motivated individuals who trust themselves and are trusted to find their way, to understand what they need to learn to reach their own self-determined goals. I see free spirits who are creative and uncontainable. I see hard workers who are appropriately challenged and properly supported when warranted. This is what I want for all 2e children and their families. - Kasi Peters
I’d love to see a world where we have dropped the stigmas around our labels, and we can see the individuality in each 2e child in terms of their strengths and gifts. - Melissa Jackson
If I had to boil my vision of the world I want for 2e individuals down to a single word, it would be freedom. I want a world where 2e people are free to be themselves, free to learn how they learn best, and free to express their knowledge, talents, and strengths whichever way they want. I want a world free of expectations for them to fit into what’s deemed normal– a world that embraces and celebrates their individuality. - Stephanie Coxon
Endeavoring to nurture our cognitively diverse and 2e young learners through supporting their strengths and talents and helping them grow into independent and self-advocating learners that joyfully explore their potential and enrich the world in which we live. - Zoe Trodden
The 2e community needs time. Time to be themselves. Time to find their tribes. Time to let their uniqueness shine. - Gabrielle Boles
I envision a world where we recognize 2e individuals and all individuals for their strengths and the positive ways they can contribute and collaborate. I also envision a world where we see differences through a strengths-based lens. - Tiffany Chaiko
I want all 2e individuals to grow into themselves as adults and give themselves the grace to explore the benefit of being 2e. - Katy Davis
I would like to see twice-exceptional students automatically identified, thoroughly understood, and fully supported in public schools nationwide. - Austina DeBonte
My vision for 2e people is a world that honors and values everyone's authentic way of being. This vision also includes the realization, by all people, that neurodiversity is absolutely vital to the whole picture of human survival.- Andrea Finnegan
I would love to live in a world that understands and goes beyond acceptance to the appreciation for all neurodivergent thinkers. - Tara Geier
A diverse world of multi-generational families, educators, and professionals supporting each other through community, education, and creating content relating to gifted home education. - Barry Gelston
The world I envision for twice-exceptional learners starts with awareness. Awareness begins with education for classroom teachers on the complexities and challenges faced by 2e learners. So each teacher may understand the differences in a neurodiverse brain and the tools needed to identify and support these unique learners to succeed in school and life. A successful education campaign would include collaboration between special ed/504 teams, gifted-ed teams, and classroom teachers, working with the student and their families to create a supportive environment. Awareness of the brains and needs of this population of learners would lead to acceptance. Acceptance that a student can be highly or profoundly gifted and have a disability. Acceptance and embracement of different thinkers and learners. The hope is that awareness leads to understanding, and understanding leads to acceptance. The ultimate goal is to have educators who have awareness, understanding, and acceptance of 2e learners so that, as teachers, they can help facilitate the ability of these students to be independent and to thrive socially, emotionally, intellectually, and academically. - Tina Glass
I hope for change in the macrosystem and exosystem, where individuals are valued for their unique combination of traits rather than forced to strive for an imagined “norm." - Jessica Lawrence
I want a world where
* nobody has ever heard the phrase twice-exceptional, special or gifted education.
* there is an education system flexible enough to meet everyone where they are without expectations about where they should be, without requiring an elaborate labeling system.
* we have seriously considered what we require of students as they move through school and adjusted our requirements to be less biased and more equitable.
* students are benchmarked against their own progress, not the apples-to-oranges comparison of peer-to-peer grading.
* we foster academic collaboration over academic competition.
* we don’t traumatize kids who learn “differently.”
* the social/emotional needs of kids are acknowledged across the board, and where we intentionally cultivate the social and emotional intelligence of kids.
* everyone who heard a person exclaim that “all brains are wired differently” would think to themselves, “duh.” - Jared May
I want everyone to love their learning experiences and feel empowered regarding their time in our schools. I want everyone to understand their strengths and how to use them to create a quality of life that they think suits them best. - Bryan Mischler
There is a great opportunity today to embrace diversity. With decades of evidence-based research to prove students' success can increase according to positive niche construction, dual differentiation, and teaching towards students' strengths, advocates for a 2e-friendly world are possible. Understanding the neurodiversity movement described by Judy Singer and giving the general public a common, sexy term they can wrap their head around seems like a good start to creating a 2e-friendly world. The time is now for the 2e world to act. - Danielle Mizuta
My idealistic vision for public school education includes universal screenings for strengths and challenges and individualized learning plans for support, enrichment, and acceleration. This vision comprises diverse integrated homeroom classes by age or grade and small group content classes based on abilities, interests, and needs. Universal Learning Design and inquiry-based project learning that develops critical thinking and leadership, and not the current pipeline ensuring class division. I envision schools that facilitate the development of each student's natural strengths and, through challenges, empower them with soft skills such as self-reflection and awareness, problem-solving, grit, resilience, self-advocacy, and social responsibility. Schools that include rich social-emotional learning and support to develop emotional intelligence and the inner resources all humans need. - Vera Radunsky
What I would like for 2e individuals is to be appreciated for their unique traits and given opportunities to showcase their strengths while receiving understanding and support for their challenges. - Marna Wohlfeld
Thank you to all my beautiful students for leading the way toward a better future for neurodivergent and twice-exceptional people. The world is a better place with you in it. Follow this link to learn more about the Bridges Graduate School for Cognitive Diversity in Education.
April, K. A., Macdonald, R., & Vriesendorp, S. (2000). Rethinking Leadership. Amsterdam University Press.