I’m always wary of telling people my sons are twice exceptional, or 2e. It means they’re intellectually gifted and have learning differences. I could explain this to people. But I worry they’ll stop listening after I say “gifted.”
Sometimes I feel like people think one “E” makes up for the other “E.” As if the gifted part cancels out all the learning challenges. The truth, however, is the two multiply and make my kids twice as complicated.
People don’t always understand that I’m also twice as worried about them. I cry behind closed doors because I don’t want other people to tell me I should be grateful they’re gifted. In my mind, those gifts make them stand out twice as much.
But when I watched the new documentary 2e: Twice Exceptional, I couldn’t hold back. I cried openly with tears of relief and recognition. Here’s the trailer for the film.
The film follows a small class of students at Bridges Academy, a school in California for 2e students. The film weaves together stories from students, parents and teachers about the joy and challenge of teaching these kids.
I was in awe — the students in the film are so much like my sons!
I laughed hearing the kids in the movie say things like: “You tell me to look you in the eye and I want to know which eye should I look in!” That’s just like my sons. They have no problem reading books, but reading social cues is tough.
I was also struck by the knowledge of the school staff profiled in the film. One psychologist explained how kids who are way ahead intellectually may be way behind socially. That disparity, she explained, can cause great anxiety.
“Yes!” I said to myself, when she talked about how these kids tend to disregard their talents because of their challenges.
The film shows that when you work at reaching 2e kids by building on their strengths, they really can soar.
In one scene, a student asked offbeat questions about the geography of the places in The Great Gatsby. His teachers realized the best way for the student to study the book was to literally create a map. Once he created the map, he became more invested in the characters and the literary themes.
I also deeply identified with the parents in the film. I knew exactly what one mother meant when she said she thought her son would be at home forever. She didn’t know if he would go to college or get a job. Like her, I worry that my oldest son might not be able to handle the “real” world. I celebrated with her as I watched her son blossom throughout the film.
For me, the most moving part was when one of the school’s teachers spoke about happiness. He said:
Happiness is just this kind of trill that happens in the melody. Like, there’s the melody of your life and then every once in a while, there’s a little trill, a little something extra. And that’s what happiness is ... except if you’re not singing the song, you’re not gonna get the trill anyway. So you gotta sing the song.
As parents, I think we need to encourage our kids to sing their song. That’s how they can find their happiness — the trill in the melody. But we also need to sing our own song. All my worrying about my sons can dampen my happiness, but this documentary is a trill in the melody for a parent of 2e kids.
The film reminds me that there are more kids out there like mine than I might think. It shows me there are people who understand them and will accept them for their gifts and their challenges. And that gives me so much hope.