An Exceptional Discovery: By Kathryn Sabol
Before coming on board at Dragonfly Transitions, I had the privilege of working at FlexSchool, a unique school serving gifted and twice-exceptional learners. In my role as Head of School, I found myself surrounded by brilliant, creative, unique kids who had struggled in the typical school environment: shut down by busy teachers (too many questions!) and bullied by peers (too socially awkward, too rigid, too dogmatic!) These students, in their strident vulnerability, found a way straight to my heart!
During my first months at Dragonfly, I was pleased to discover that many of our young adults very much resembled my FlexSchool students. In fact, as I reviewed our Dragonfly students’ neuropsych reports and school records, it became clear that I was indeed back in the good company of many twice- and multi-exceptional students!
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of 2e (twice exceptionality), it describes those learners who are intellectually gifted and who also have learning or other challenges such as emotional dysregulation, depression, and/or anxiety. Many 2e learners are on the spectrum, and nearly all of them, in the words of the Columbus Group (1991), have “asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.”
Over these past three months, it has become evident to me that transitional programs such as Dragonfly are exactly what these extraordinary young adults need, as the milieu is perfectly suited to providing the cognitive and emotional support necessary to address the needs of twice-exceptional learners. Critical components of a successful environment for 2e learners include the following:
- Therapeutic support
- A relation-based model
- Learning accommodation and support
- Opportunities for social and emotional development
- Executive functioning coaching and support
- A strength-based, accepting environment
- Focus on positive coping skills and self-regulation
- Community engagement
- Transitional support toward independence and autonomy
All of these factors, inherent in Dragonfly Transitions’ model, contribute to a safe and challenging environment where our twice-exceptional students can thrive. Additionally, providing the opportunity for 2e learners to develop and grow alongside students who are not twice-exceptional has the added benefit of helping them prepare for higher educational and vocational success in the company of a more diverse cohort.
I must admit that when I first moved into my role at Dragonfly, I found it hard to leave my FlexSchool students behind, knowing they were in good hands but wishing I could take part in their launch into young adulthood. My prediction was, and is, that they were meant for great things; all they had to do was find their niche and learn to appreciate (and advocate for) their uniqueness.
Happily, now that I am here I at Dragonfly Transitions, I find myself in a very familiar role. Our academic group offers our students the opportunity to work through executive functioning and motivational issues to prepare for success in higher education and beyond, while our therapists and program staff contribute invaluable support toward personal development. I am proud to find myself involved in this important and meaningful work, working together to help these exceptional young adults find their voice, their purpose, and their place in the world.