In today’s show, host Lori Boll speaks with Julie Skolnick. Julie is a thought leader and expert in the field of twice exceptionality a.k.a. 2e or gifted with a learning difference. As Founder of With Understanding Comes Calm, Julie passionately guides parent, mentors 2e adults and trains teachers on how to bring out the best and raise self confidence in 2e learners. Lori and Julie discuss what it means to be 2E and how it is essential for educators to understand the needs of these learners so they can be successful both in and out of school.
Resources mentioned on today’s show:
Founder of With Understanding Comes Calm, LLC, passionately guides parents of gifted and distractible children, mentors 2e adults, trains educators and advises professionals on how to bring out the best and raise self-confidence in their 2e students and clients.
Julie serves as Secretary to the Maryland Superintendent’s Gifted and Talented Advisory Council, is an advisor for the Masters of Education Program for the Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity, is the Maryland liaison for Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), is a Committee member for the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and serves as an advisor to “The G Word” feature documentary currently in production.
Julie produces Let’s Talk 2e! virtual conferences, hosts the Let’s Talk 2e! Parent Empowerment Series, maintains the free listing service, 2eResources.com, and publishes “Gifted & Distractible,” a free monthly newsletter.
A frequent speaker and prolific writer, Julie is also the mother of three twice exceptional children who keep her on her toes and uproariously laughing.
Subscribe to “Gifted & Distractible” monthly newsletter at www.WithUnderstandingComesCalm.com, find resources at www.2eResources.com and learn more about our conferences and parent series at www.LetsTalk2e.com. Follow Julie on social media: Facebook: WithUnderstandingComesCalm, Let’s Talk 2e – Parents, Let’s Talk 2e – Teachers’ Lounge, Instagram: @LetsTalk2e, Twitter: @JulieSkolnick, LinkedIn: Julie Rosenbaum Skolnick, and YouTube: Let’s Talk 2e.
Transcribed by Kanako Suwa
[ Introduction music plays ]
Welcome to the SENIA Happy Hour with your host, Lori Boll. We know you’re busy so we bring you 1 hour’s worth of content in under thirty minutes, leaving you with time for a true happy hour.
Lori: Hello everyone Lori Boll here and in today’s show, I get to speak with Julie Skolnick. Julie is a thought leader and expert in the field of twice exceptionality, AKA 2E or gifted with a learning difference. As founder of With Understanding Comes Calm, Julie passionately guides parents, mentors, 2E adults and trains teachers on how to bring out the very best and self confidence in 2E learners. Today, we discuss what it means to be 2E and how it is essential for educators to understand the needs of these learners so they can be successful both in and out of school. And now… onto the show. Hi, Julie and welcome to the podcast!
Julie: Hey, thanks for having me.
Lori: You bet! So today, we’re going to talk about twice exceptional which is otherwise known as 2E. So just to start, can I just ask the basics? What is twice exceptional? And then please tell us how you came to be interested in this field of study.
Julie: Thank you so much for the great beginning question. So 2E, twice exceptional, sometimes school districts refer to it as GTLD, which means gifted, talented, and learning differences or learning disabled- they’re all synonyms. So it’s somebody identified or diagnosed as gifted, with a learning difference. Differences can be anything from ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, high functioning autism, auditory processing… I’m not going to be able to give you an exhausted list because that would take the rest of the time. But it definitely includes and often includes working memory challenges, processing speed challenges, anxiety and when you add that onto the gifted profile, what we see is an asynchrony, or the ability, the superpower to do some really awesome stuff, coupled with challenges.
And so there’s so much to say to this question, but you know what I’ll say is this. People understand the learning difference part much better than the gifted part, so even wrapped up in this answer, there are so many layers because there are so many assumptions about this profile. But the bottom line that is really important to know is that these two ways of coming to the world can exist simultaneously and that they cause a lot of confusion and challenge for the person, because you don’t outgrow your 2E-ness, and for people around that because expectations are skewed because wow you can do some of this amazing stuff but you’re challenging this other way and how could that possibly be! And so there’s a lot of confusion that happens and the outcrop ends up being you know a lot of challenges.
Lori: Sure. Yeah it makes sense. I’m, I’m curious because you said it “can occur” – and I’m wondering, do you think it “mostly occurs”? I mean what is the prevalence do you believe for gifted students?
Julie: Oh so that is a really interesting question. What I can tell you is this – we have a statistic, it comes from Karen Rogers, and we know it’s a low statistic, but she found that 14% of gifted people identified as intellectually gifted have a learning disability. Now you’re like 14%, wow that’s nothing, well but guess what, that’s compared to 4% of the general population so it’s actually… and we know it’s a low.. And frankly, okay I’m just gonna say even though I don’t always say this to everybody… but I’m going to say it. If asynchronous development is a characteristic, the defining characteristics of gifted, which it is, then isn’t every gifted person 2E? Right? Because…
Lori: hmmm yeah…Yeah! That’s kind of where I was going with that question. It’s fascinating, really. Well, what are some characteristics of a twice exceptional learner? Or maybe, because so many of our members are educators, what might our educators see in our classrooms?
Julie: Okay so there’s the kid jumping up and down. There’s that kid who wants to answer questions all the time, maybe raising their hand, maybe just shouting out… It seems like they want to take over the classroom and seem like they want to be the center of attention. There’s that kid who seems like they’re lazy because they’re just not engaging, and you know that they could but they’re not. Or oh my gosh, look at that kid poking, the kid sitting next to… look at the kid with the hands over his ears, oh my gosh what about the kid who just seems to walk in the classroom, we haven’t even started the day and already he’s so obviously not ready to learn or not able to engage the curriculum so that is that glass half empty piece.
Let’s look at the glass half full piece. Wow that kid is asking so many questions, they have unrivaled curiosity. They’re so fascinated by everything I said! Look at that kid who’s got all that energy, he just might need to move in order to learn! Or that kid who’s doodling! Wow they need to doodle in order to allow that part of the brain to access what I’m talking about. That kid really wants to connect but doesn’t know how… Do you see how we can just completely flip it and have a positive reframe on all the stuff that I said in the first place.
So, in your classroom, the kid, it’s, it’s the same kid who seems lazy, who’s having a hard time connecting, who knows that they can do some things really well and other things not so well, that kid who suffers from executive functioning challenges, and hard time initiating and planning and totally time-blind… that’s the same kid who just delivers such comprehensive information verbally that has a hard time outputting in written expression.
Lori: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Julie: So I just gave you, like, 20 different types.
Lori: No, you did, and I’m thinking back to all of my students in the past, you know the the incredibly bright and gifted student who really struggled with writing, so he had a learning disability, or now it’s called specific learning disability in written also students who had high functioning autism so bright so bright but would sit outside the group and not understand why he wasn’t being included in the classroom… Or why everybody thought he was mad all the time because his face, facial expression showed that he was angry but he was like no this is just my face…! Yeah
Julie: Yea, it’s just my face! Yeah you know I have a very robust social media posting and sharing and so I think this week we’re actually going to be sharing why PE is so hard for 2Es which is really an interesting subject in and of itself.
Lori: why… what did you say? Why…?
Julie: Why PE, which in the United States…
Lori: Oh, PE! Yes.
Julie: Physical education or gym class, right? Is hard for 2Es, you know, it’s kind of a joke… or It’s an and sometimes not just because there isn’t athleticism. Sometimes, it’s because they have uber-athleticism, which leads to uber-competitiveness…
Lori: Ahhh right, yeah. How did you get into this field?
Julie: So, another awesome question… how I got into this field is is an interesting story in that I raised three twice exceptional kids, and so you know, the specific answer to that is that my middle guy when he was 5 was diagnosed gifted and ADHD, and I said, gifted, of course. He was actually answering the questions to the psychologist in Hebrew because he thought he would make it more interesting for her or something, but ADHD? To me, Way back then was like oh my God what is it that was 15 years ago, you know, like… attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? DIS-order, your child has a disorder. Wow, let me just tell you, as a side note, that I’ve re-named ADHD into Hyper Attention/Activity Deficit, because there’s so much attention and need to move, so… anyway, that was really the beginning, and then, realizing when I spent three years eyeball deep in everything ADHD and how very glass half empty and sort of negatively framed it was, when I landed in the gifted world, I realized you know what, there’s a way to positively reframe this strength based, talent focused and I really wanted to speed it up for other parents and that’s how I started.
Lori: I love it, I love it. So many of us in this field get in because of our children, right? So, some people might find this surprising but being twice exceptional is considered a special need… Why is it?
Julie: Well, guess what’s more surprising. Gifted, is a special need,
Lori: Right, yes.
Julie: Gifted is a special need. So You know it’s really fascinating human psychology and general but the all of these labels right you think well if you was around the United States there’s all this craziness happening around gifted right now, it’s like, oh my god, it’s racist, oh my god, it’s elitist, and you know, it… it’s such a bummer for the gifted kid and the gifted grown up who are completely misunderstood.
Yes, do we need better assessment tools? Yes. Do we need cultural norms? Yes. But the truth is, there is no “one definition” of gifted in the United States, let alone in the world. And when I worked with and consulted with parents and teachers and 2E adults around the world, what I hear from them that’s going on in Europe, Asia, wherever, is they think it’s so behind what’s happening in the United States, and the truth is the United States have not cracked this nut. We do not, we have a federal definition of gifted in the United States but there’s no mandate. Every state has different definitions and 4 states don’t even have definitions, right? So it’s very confusing. The definition I like to use is made by the Columbus Group – you can Google the Columbus Group definition and it really just talks about the synchrony and asynchronous development of a gifted person, they talk about the need to really change the way you parent, the need to change the way you teach, change the way you counsel gifted people. THey talk about how, with a stronger intellectual profile, the more asynchrony, the further you are from the norm on the intellectual bell curve…
So I like to use that definition and it’s a springboard for my trademarked chocolate cake definition of gifted, which is that frosting is the ability piece, the assumption that everyone makes about gifted, the smart, bright, potential. Which had led you to ask that question, why is that even a special need? Then we have the 3 layers, asynchronous development, perfectionism, the other side of which can be anxiety, and intensity, or what’s known in the gifted universe as overexcitability. So I use gifted as a special need, because you cannot teach them the same way. The kid sitting there asking 50,000 questions is not doing that to be obnoxious or to be the centre of the attention. He’s doing that because he has an organic piece of him that literally, neurologically, cannot let go of the curiosity until he finds out the answers, until the end of his questioning. So when the child is misunderstood, that leads to a whole host of issues, the least of which, not the least of which, is anxiety.
So a theory that I have, Lori, about this profile, which has never been researched or proven but I bring it up every time at a talk I do… and also people come up to me and say, can we do that research or whatever, who has time… So the idea is this. The high percentage of depression and suicide in gifted children, I believe, the seeds are planted by their overexcitabilities or those intensities not only being not understood but being misunderstood. So, I mean, I just gave you a whole bunch of information and it’s of course layered and complex, but overexcitability, which is a term used to describe the heart of the gifted experience, is a very important thing to understand. They come in 5 areas, it’s a term coined by Kazimierz Dąbrowski, researcher and the psychologist who came up with the term “overexcitabilities”, and it comes in 5 areas – intellectual, emotional, imaginational, sensual or sensory, and psychomotor. And these are neurological – we have proof that this is how the brains are wired.
Lori: ah, you did give me a lot, and I think what I’m getting from it, is how heartbreaking, this is really just heartbreaking for gifted kids. So, in just a side note, I will be putting all these resources you’re mentioning in our show notes so that people can access them. But um, this is a big question and I don’t think you can answer it in the timing of the podcast, but what, what can we do in our classrooms to help support that strength based learning of these kids?
Julie: That is the most important question, that is the only important question. To me, the “Now What” is the most important question. Right?
Julie: So, I talk about the cycle for success – it’s a talk I give, it’s where I live, it’s how I inform my consulting, everything. It starts with understanding. With understanding comes calm. You gotta start with understanding – you don’t know what overexcitabilities are and you’re teaching gifted kids, you gotta know what overexcitabilities are so get informed. Okay, so that’s the first step, with understanding comes calm, understanding. That leads then to strategies that are specific and impactful, and durable for the gifted and 2E kids, and then there’s advocacy. So teachers, when I train teachers, I frequently say, guess what guys, you might be the advocate of the kids, to their parents because they don’t know what 2E is. This is something that not, the people who know it know it but there’s a lot of people who don’t know. So there is, first of all, understanding that kid. Remember when you asked, Lori, what’s the kid look like, and I said well it’s the kid who comes to your door and is already fried? Why is that? What’s wrong? Well, I’ll tell you what’s awesome about this kid. That kid is probably emotionally overexcitable, which means that he picks up on everyone’s emotions, not just noticing how people are feeling but actually feeling their feelings in their bodies. So if mom and dad had a fight that morning or on the bus or carpool there was some issue, or even walking into your classroom, somebody was unhappy. He might’ve picked up, it’s like a huge antenna! He’s picked up all those feelings.
We have to, the most important thing for you, if I have to say, and I’d love to do this when I talk, if there’s one thing you remember, one thing only, it’s that “behaviour is communication”. Don’t react to the behaviour. Become a detective and find out why – this kid does not want to be doing it and he knows that he’s doing it, it’s some sort of impulsivity or just, just having that ability, especially right now, with everything that’s happening in the world, maybe that kid saw an article of what’s going on in the world and he just can’t deal because he can’t do anything about it. And he’s so empathetic, right, so it’s really kind of noticing the behaviour, giving the benefit of the doubt, ghuge, and taking some time to find out what’s going on for this kid, I know this is really hard because you’ve got a bunch of kids in your class but one of the things i like to say to training teachers is “find the hardest kid to love and love them the hardest because that’s who’s gonna respond abd be so fulfilling for you, we can’t just let it all rest on the gifted coattails and what gifted means, that brilliant part of the brain, you gotta understand how complex it is.
So the other, there’s only one thing, thing is making a personal connection. That’s so important with these kids. Find out what makes them tick, find out what ticks them off. They need to know so you can be connected to them and they feel responsible to you. So you can find out what’s going on for them.
Lori: Fantastic. These are… this is amazing stuff. I… keep coming back to your empath student that just described me in a nutshell growing up, and still in a way, that feeling, what everyone is feeling in a room, and I can tell you from experience, sometimes, that is not a good thing.
Julie: yeah, you gotta learn what to do with that and teachers can help kids, by just being aware, what superpower they have. So I talked about my middle guy, but my littlest guy, who’s now 13, since he was teeny tiny, I knew what an empath he was. Oh boy oh boy. I have messaged to him the superpower he has and when he doesn’t feel like, and this is really interesting, typically for girls I find this happening or they relate to it, all that you’re able to give, I bet you can relate to this, Lori, all that you’re able to give, you’re not gonna get back, You’re just not. Because most people just don’t have that superpower, right? So it’s like, recognising, oh, I’m starting to feel this way. It is legitimate what I’m feeling. But I need to not beat myself up – there’s a lot of self-deprecation for gifted people because they think something’s wrong with them, they said something wrong, they did something wrong. Something’s wrong. And fixers, doers, often feel this way. And so you have to recognize for your little people in your classroom, and I mean little as in 18 years old because it still applies, that this is really, honestly, a lot of people are talking about, um, being able to work with gifted people from a trauma-informed place. THere’s a lot of trauma in not feeling accepted, feeling different, not knowing why or what to do about it, so. Now that I went down that road, can I give you another strategy?
Lori: Yes, please!
Julie: You cannot just allow these kids to pick their groups. If you want them to work in a group, it is super hard, if the kids want to a) take over and b) probably want to take over for a really good reason, they probably see from A to Z much quicker and they need help figuring that out so they need to be with kind people and they need some oversight. They need to learn how to listen and even if their way was the best way and eventually it was the best way, there is such important learning in the process and they need to know that. So group work is really hard for gifted and 2E kids. And they need some hand holding, for sure.
Lori: That’s a great strategy. So, tell me, you explained, with understanding comes calm… but tell me about your business or your consulting.
Julie: Thank you for asking that, yeah, so I call it a service.
Lori: Service, thank you, service. Tell me about your service!
Julie: So, With Understanding Comes Calm is my umbrella, right, it’s a mantra, I believe in it, whenever I say it, people who need it go “awww, I want some of that”. So that started in 2014, and it started with me. My tagline, I think, was “supporting parents of gifted and distractible kids”. That’s what it was. It was a mouthful. So now, not only do I guide parents but i also mentor 2E adults, again, we don’t outgrow our 2Eness and I work with people all over the world, everyday via Zoom, and I also train teachers. I also do a lot of trainings, half day trainings, I train teachers in groups, actually even have parent clients who pay for me to sit down and do teacher meetings with teacher groups to really learn about 2E, learn about the kid in front of them, the client’s kid, and then to really strategize really specific strategies for in the classroom.
So With Understanding Comes Calm is all that consulting plus my writing – I’ve been writing blog a month since 2014 so Renaming ADHD, that’s the blog that you can link, and my free newsletter is called Gifted and Distractible. So aside from that, I started in 2018 way before the pandemic – I started producing virtual conferences that were originally called 2 Days of 2E and then became Let’s Talk 2E and I do, I produce them for all sorts of stakeholders. For educators and they’re accredited, for parents, for clinicians, and most recently, for 2E adults which is a really really awesome conference that was just launched. And then we also have a community parent empowerment group, we have all these attendant based Facebook pages, so Guess What, Let’s Talk 2E Teacher’s Lounge is a great Facebook community for teachers all around the world, and last but not least, I host 2E resources.com which is organised by categories – education, clinicians, consultants, association, and enrichment. So lots of great resources for teachers there, especially under enrichment and a really fun place to find stuff that is specific for gifted and 2E. That’s in a nutshell.
Lori: So what I hear you saying is you have a lot of free time.
Julie: Yes! So when people ask me for an elevator speech, I say “yes, let me give you my elevator speech but it’s a very tall building”.
Lori: Well, that’s great. I think the service you provide is so needed and I’m excited for our members to hear this because I’m sure they’re working with twice exceptional individuals in their classrooms and around the world and can benefit from your knowledge. So I’ll definitely be posting all those resources on our page.
Julie: Thank you, thank you. Yeah, parents, people most professionals like to, let’s put it this way, dont like to work with parents, I looooove working with parents. My theory, Lori, is that you have to circle the wagon to the grown ups because the kids don’t have the power. So I need my grownups to understand first so they can help the kids understand.
Lori: I’m with you. I am with you. I am at, that’s the book that I’m currently writing with the coauthor right now, so to be continued on that one… Well, I think that’s all we have time for today, Julie. So thank you so much for your time and energy on this topic! It’s amazing.
Julie: Thanks for having me, Lori. It was really great and I’m really happy to answer questions and I’ll just put out there that I do offer a free 20 minute phone conversation to anyone that can be scheduled at julieskolnick.youcanbook.me which I’m sure you’ll put in the show notes.
Lori: I will, for sure. You bet!
Thank you for joining us for today’s show. For more information including how to subscribe and show notes, please head to our website. That’s SENIAinternational.org/podcast. Until next time, cheers.