The Plight and Slight of Twice Exceptional Kids
I was speaker #22 last week at our county school board meeting regarding next year’s budget. I was there to object to plans to eliminate the modest “twice exceptional” (2e) program, which amounts to a single counselor at one of our high schools. The 2e kids are both learning disabled and gifted. The program gives them the exclusive attention of someone trained in both areas, versus generic special education. My son, a senior with attention deficit disorder, has benefitted enormously from this program.
The 2e kids may at first blush seem like an unsympathetic group. In my son’s case, his high capabilities—e.g., his SAT scores were near-perfect—suggest that his poor performance is due to immaturity. I admit that’s partly true: he’s struggling to grow up like any other teen. Yet he also struggles with a disability that unfortunately doesn’t get much respect. Some dismiss ADD as an excuse without evidence. Space doesn’t permit here, but this is a devastating ignorance. ADD kids struggle simply to put pen to paper. They often flunk despite their best efforts. They risk depression, even suicide. Ironically their “gifts” become poisons in the face of drastically failed expectations.
I believe that parents are the child’s first line of support, but we vary in how well we are able. As for Julian, we’re doing everything we can. He should not pay the price for our inadequacies. It has been indispensable to have someone in the school who knows the disability, knows the law, and petitions the individual teachers, too many of whom are skeptical or ill-informed.
Here is the video of what I said on Thursday night. It went better than I expected. I wanted to entertain in a sense and got several moments of laughter (difficult to hear in the recording). I didn’t want to lecture. It helped not to have a script. I wanted to tell a story, and it felt good to share.
As I was leaving the building, a school employee came out of a little room crammed with audiovisual equpiment and said, “Hey I really liked what you said.” He explained he was the tech charged with recording and broadcasting the meeting. He smiled and raised his hand confessionally: “I’m ADD. That middle school stuff you said, that was me.” ADD is real, and smart, hard-working people have it. In fact, they probably work harder than the people who don’t have it just to achieve the same thing.
We exchanged some ADD stories. I recommended my favorite ADD site, You Know You Have ADD When…. . It was nice to have some camaraderie and know I was hitting the right note. Unlikely it made any difference for the present issue, which appears dead now, but you have to keep going to bat if you’re ever going to hit anything. I think folks simply hearing the message seeds a potentially better future.