10X developer? I know one better: Twice Exceptional

The 2024 Twice Exceptional Conference hosted by Quad Prep featured a comprehensive program including seminars, panels, and discussions led by educational leaders, twice-exceptional advocates, and clinical professionals. Notable speakers included Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, a gifted education expert, and Dr. Ellen Braaten, recipient of the 2024 Nancy Tarshis Fellowship and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. The speaker lineup was diverse, encompassing professionals from various fields, such as media and finance, educators, clinicians, and other influential figures committed to building a more neuroinclusive world – and also me 😀

Quad Prep is dedicated to advancing 2e education and provides a model for others to replicate. Their annual gala is a significant fundraising event that supports their mission. The school was initially founded by Kim Busi and a group of parents to address the needs of twice-exceptional students, combining support for their special needs with nurturing their academic gifts. The Quad Prep has grown considerably since its inception, impacting not just its students but the broader academic community as well.

Overall, the conference and the school’s initiatives highlight their commitment to enhancing educational opportunities for twice-exceptional individuals, encouraging a future that is inclusive and supportive of neurodiversity. So how come I to the picture?

But let me first summarize Dr. Ellen Braaten’s session. For my better understanding of the whole platform, in her keynote, she contributed significantly with her insights on fostering motivation and understanding in children, particularly those who are neurodiverse. Her approach emphasized the importance of nurturing children’s intrinsic motivation and understanding their unique strengths and challenges.

Dr. Braaten’s perspective is centered on the concept that children should be engaged in activities that they enjoy and are good at, rather than being forced into areas that don’t align with their abilities or interests. This approach can help prevent feelings of demotivation and disengagement. She introduced the idea of “ma-laziness,” a term reflecting a state of demotivation that can occur when children are overwhelmed or disengaged, often due to mismatched expectations or societal pressures.

A key aspect of Dr. Braaten’s message was the balance between encouraging children to stick with activities and recognizing when it is appropriate for them to quit. She suggested setting clear goals and expectations for activities, and maintaining open communication to understand a child’s motivation or reasons for wanting to quit. This approach allows children to explore their interests while also learning to make commitments.

Dr. Braaten also highlighted the importance of understanding the root causes of apathy in children, which can stem from high-stress environments, overwhelming schedules, or a lack of clarity in personal interests. She underlined the significance of three elements in fostering intrinsic motivation: aptitude, pleasure, and practice (APP). Aptitude involves understanding a child’s unique strengths and abilities, pleasure focuses on the joy derived from activities, and practice emphasizes the importance of independent exploration and growth.

Her approach to fostering a growth mindset in children involves reframing challenges as opportunities and providing constructive feedback focused on effort and curiosity. By supporting open communication and celebrating their child’s achievements and efforts, parents can empower their children to lead fulfilling lives driven by genuine joy and curiosity.

Dr. Braaten’s insights at the conference aligned closely with her broader work and philosophy, which has been impactful in the field of child psychology and education, particularly regarding twice-exceptional children​​​​.

So, in summary, for me, Dr. Ellen Braaten’s opening keynote at the Twice Exceptional Conference was a significant highlight, offering attendees an exceptional opportunity to delve into her journey around neurodiversity and processing speed impediments. As a renowned expert in the field, Dr. Braaten’s insights are invaluable for those interested in understanding the complexities of twice-exceptional children and the challenges they face, particularly in terms of processing speed. Her extensive work and research in this area make her a vital source of knowledge and guidance for educators, parents, and clinicians alike.

The conference’s setting at the historic Cooper Union stage added an extra layer of significance to the event. This iconic venue has been a platform for many notable figures throughout history, including Abraham Lincoln, whose famed Cooper Union address had a profound impact. Speaking on this stage, Dr. Braaten and other presenters were part of a legacy of influential minds who have shared their ideas in this renowned space. For attendees and speakers alike, being at Cooper Union represented not just a chance to engage in contemporary discussions on education and neurodiversity but also to connect with a rich historical tradition of thought leadership and public discourse. This backdrop provided an inspiring and thought-provoking environment for all involved in the conference​​​​​​.

So, why the title? The concept of a “10X developer,” often used to describe a software developer who is ten times more productive than the average, can be a useful metaphor when thinking about twice-exceptional (2e) individuals. 2e individuals possess a unique combination of exceptional ability alongside a learning difference or disability. This combination often leads to a distinct set of skills and perspectives that can far exceed typical expectations, just as a 10X developer does in the tech world.

Twice-exceptional individuals are capable of remarkable achievements precisely because of their unique cognitive profiles. They often exhibit extraordinary creativity, problem-solving abilities, and innovative thinking. However, their learning differences, such as ADHD or dyslexia, mean they may approach problems and learning in ways that differ from the norm. This divergence can lead to unique insights and breakthroughs that others might overlook.

Understanding and supporting 2e individuals, whether in education or the workplace, requires recognizing and nurturing their extraordinary talents while accommodating and addressing their challenges. When their needs are met, twice-exceptional individuals have the potential to make significant contributions, leveraging their exceptional abilities in tandem with their unique approach to thinking and learning. In many ways, they embody the concept of being ‘one better’ than a 10X developer by combining exceptional talent with a distinctive approach to problem-solving and creativity.

The acknowledgment and appreciation of twice-exceptional individuals is a critical aspect of creating inclusive and productive environments in both educational settings and the professional world. By focusing on their strengths and providing the necessary support for their challenges, we can unlock the incredible potential of these extraordinary minds​​​​.

So, about our session now. I was joined by Humberto Reboredo, Denise Chow, Julie Collins and Marny Rodriguez, to talk about our work and our approach to caregivers, people who are 2e themselves, and more. Our panel was called “Culture of Care in the Workplace: Supporting Employees with Neurodiverse Children at Morgan Stanley“, each of us themselves involved in the “Enable Employee Network”, and supporting various workstreams there – I talked about our internal ‘Coffee Connect’ platform matching people based on common topics for a quick coffee, our Mentorship platform that does the same for longer collaborations, the FSI Autism Hackathon, the Accessibility Hackathon, and more. Also I shared overcompensation and the act of masking that many neurodivergent individuals do to fit in the workplace – and how this carries over to caregivers. “If you make the extra effort you take regarding your children invisible, you might run into the situation that you won’t get help from your colleagues or managers, as they don’t know you need help and you end up burnt out. Speak up – you would be surprised how many people would be willing to help you.”. I also spoke about bad experiences at previous workplaces, the different global workstreams of the network (physical, invisible, caregivers, philanthropy), and my role in the ‘invisible’ workstream, and more. We invited a special company to join us outside the room – we invited Invictus Bakery. They are a company, who is a community partner for us, dedicated to inclusive employment opportunities.

Overall, it was an amazing experiment and I am looking forward to do similar events in the future as well 🙂

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