2e: Twice Exceptional – Director’s Statement


Tom Ropelewski, Producer/Director has generously allowed 2elearners.org to post his Director’s Statement about his new documentary film “2e: Twice Exceptional.” Through his film, Mr. Ropelewski shares the unique stories of a group of twice exceptional high school students. The film has been awarded “Best Documentary Feature” at the Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF).

Please visit the 2emovie.com site to learn about screenings near you. If you are interested in attending or helping to organize a screening and Q&A session with the director in Baltimore, Maryland please let us know by posting your comments.

As the parent of a “twice-exceptional” teenager (he’s intellectually gifted – that’s the first exception – but with a learning difference – ADHD – that’s the second), I know first-hand about the challenges of trying to understand and nurture a child who at one moment seems wise beyond his years and the next can throw a tantrum like a much younger child.   I know the heartache of speaking with school officials who acknowledged that my son was brilliant but unmanageable.   

But I also know the thrill of being in the presence a unique and lively mind, one that has little patience for a three-minute pop song but can sit through the entirety of Wagner’s Ring cycle and discuss it excitedly afterward.  To this day, he’s never seen the Star Wars trilogy; at age seven he got through about ten minutes of Episode 4 before turning off the TV and running to his room to start building his own Imperial Fleet.

I admit my son’s a challenge, but why can’t everyone see the same brilliant kid I see?  Why do they always focus on the problems instead of the gifts?  And why can’t my son just go with the flow once in a while?  Why does he always have to make everything so hard on himself by insisting on doing things his own way?

The simple answer is that that his brain is “wired” differently.    Basic executive skills (like remembering to turn in his homework on time) that so come easily to other children are real challenges for him.   But studying graduate-level molecular genetics in tenth grade was a piece of cake.

Although the concept of twice-exceptionality has evolved over the past half-century, I hadn’t heard of it until I discovered Bridges Academy.  I had no idea that there was a small but passionate network of educators around the country who were developing curricula that focused on the strengths of these unique students while also helping them address their challenges.   Most importantly, these teachers were helping students identify and develop their talents and passions.  They were defining these kids by their strengths – what they can do, often brilliantly – instead of by their weaknesses, which is the predominant approach of the American public school system.

No federal agency or organization currently gathers statistics about giftedness, but the National Association of Gifted Children estimates that there are approximately three million school children – about 5-7% of the student population — “capable of high performance” and “in need of services or activities not normally provided by the school. “  Almost all funding decisions regarding gifted education are generated at the state and local level.  While “No Child Left Behind” was designed to address students performing below proficient levels, gifted children – and especially the twice-gifted – are usually left out in the cold.

Navigating adolescence is challenging enough for anyone, no matter what path to adulthood you find yourself on.  That challenge is compounded greatly for the young person who finds himself on a path which few, if any, have forged before, as well as for the parents and teachers who are trying their best to nurture and guide them.

It is my hope that 2e: Twice Exceptional will expand the national dialogue about twice-exceptional education and shed light on educators who are developing insightful, effective programs to engage these idiosyncratic kids who may indeed grow up to change the world.

Tom Ropelewski


About Author

Aline Lin, M.A., is the founder of 2eLearners.org and a parent of a 2e student. She is an advocate for 2e learners and has created this online resource to facilitate a conversation for all who share this common interest.

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