Updated: Nov 1
I spent the last two days at the inaugural Twice-Exceptional Teacher Education (2eTE) conference organized by and held at Cleveland State University (CSU) in Ohio. The conference would not have happened without the drive and determination of Dr. Claire Hughes, a parent of two 2e kids and the new head of the 2eTE program at CSU, and her doctoral student Tatiana Nikitina, the twice-exceptional mastermind behind the conference’s conception. It was two rainy days of learning, networking, connecting with new people and those I have previously met only online, and exchanging ideas of how to move forward.
As I am sitting in my aisle seat on the plane back to the Bay Area and reflecting on the experience of the last two days, I cannot help but feel both sad and hopeful. Sad because in most school districts, including my own, teachers still have never even heard of the term twice-exceptional. Hopeful because in the last several years four higher education programs with focus on twice-exceptionality have emerged: at CSU, University of Iowa (UIOWA), Johns Hopkins University (JHU), and Bridges Graduate School (BGS).
From Jessica Altuch’s insights into project-based learning and Dr. Cynthia Hansen’s introduction to using gameplay for embracing positive self-identities of 2e learners, to Dr. Brian Harper’s tips on transitioning between high school and college and Dr. Randy Lange’s overview of the program for supporting twice-exceptionality on the UIOWA campus – the conference showcased a variety of talks. 11 roundtable discussions took place and explored the topics of co-teaching, the needs of LGBTQ 2e learners, cultural diversity, interdisciplinary interventions, acceleration, homeschooling, talent development, tools for exploring complex identities of 2e, aligning education with the job market, and equity in gifted programming.
Several panels and three keynotes provided additional inspiration. Dr. Wendy Muraswki demonstrated how we cannot use the same interventions for individual 2e kids just as we cannot give the same prescription glasses to all members of the audience who need them, and how those with invisible disabilities get missed just like the audience members who wear contact lenses. Christopher Milo’s message about the lost and left out kids whose faith in themselves is crushed by being misunderstood and bullied was touching. But the highlight for me was the moving and intimately personal story by Dr. Brian Harper – the deviser of the 2eTE program at CSU – of his autistic and musically prodigious son who has perfect pitch: their struggles, despair, and anger, but also victories, acceptance, and wisdom.
As we are starting our descent into the San Francisco airport, I continue to feel both sad and hopeful. Sad because it feels like the twice-exceptional movement needs to be pushed forward by parents of 2e kids whose families are suffering, no matter who they are in their professional lives – teachers, professors, administrators, or lawyers. Hopeful because the change is coming. It must come. And we are the messengers.
About the Author: Guest blogger Yekaterina (Katrina) O’Neil is a homeschooling mom by day, a doctoral student by night, and a software security researcher by trade. The mom to two 2e kids in middle and high school, she began homeschooling them after public school turned out not to be a fit. To understand and support her kids better, Katrina is pursuing a Doctoral Degree at Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education, while attempting to juggle a career in cybersecurity at the same time. She is passionate about neurodiversity and hopes to spread awareness and acceptance of neurodivergent individuals at home, at school, and in the workplace.She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science & Engineering from UC San Diego.