Disease, Race Riots and the Importance of Action for the Gifted & Twice Exceptional

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My daughter literally took to the streets. It wasn’t how she originally wanted to, in the face of Covid-19 risks, we had to deny her permission to join the D.C. protests. But she and her friends found a way to spread the word and feel some sort of accomplishment while they witnessed the world turn upside-down.

Characteristic traits of gifted and 2e people include their strong belief in right versus wrong, and their compulsory need to identify and solve the world’s problems. So, what can they do now with a pandemic that stumps medical experts, and race riots in an unprecedented political atmosphere in the United States? How can they respond? An impossible dichotomy exists of the intense need to do something and obligatory social distancing. For empaths, helplessness leads to hopelessness. The only path forward is through education, communication and involvement.

Our daughter approached us nearly in tears asking to attend the peaceful protests in D.C. She is a fearless advocate and always has been for several causes. Rounding up friends or even going by herself when no one can accompany her, if there is a cause, she has an opinion and a plan. Gifted and 2e people need expression for their passions and causes. Of utmost importance right now, when we are socially isolated, is to find safe ways to effectuate change and feel as though you can do something.

My daughter and her friends have launched a “chalk campaign” creating protest art on our local streets – sending messages of resistance, hope and remembrance. Sometimes they draw a fist or write “Black Lives Matter” or “Rest in Power.” Sometimes they urge the reader to remember, listing names of victims. While it isn’t their first choice for how to protest, they found a creative way to amplify their voices and spread the word.

With an upsurge in violence at formerly peaceful protests, where danger is inherent not only because of clashing sides, but because of the silent and invisible coronavirus, our twice exceptional kids are feeling exceptionally sidelined and compromised. An ongoing seemingly systematic inability to cause change, counter to the utter need to bring meaning to the world, gifted and twice exceptional kids are set up for existential angst. And here it is; brutality and confusion, mistrust and fear. It seems there is always fear. These two impossible situations; an unprecedented disease and all of its fallout juxtaposed with a cause worth fighting for – each affecting the other in a way that stymies the empath and threatens to silence the advocate.

All the world’s pent up emotion and frustrations from the past four months are bubbling up. Patience is gone, fatigue is rampant, and emotion is at an all-time high. We mourn the loss of life, economic loss, the loss of ventures, and change to pretty much everything we’ve ever known it. We mourn the loss of interaction and freedom but worst of all, I think, we mourn the loss of expression – shutting ourselves away and the unexpected consequence of shutting us up. This is not “the new normal,” it’s the “always abnormal.” Every day, just when we think it can’t get worse, something shocking occurs. This is why, with no end in sight, it is necessary to find creative opportunities and alternate ways to communicate feelings and fears.

Knowing your gifted or 2e child’s profile, approach the subject of all the world’s woes. We cannot ignore what’s going on. If nothing else, your gifted or 2e empath feels the intensity and pressure pervading the world right now. Ask how they are feeling and ask what they are thinking about. Ask what confuses them and discuss what they think should happen. Wonder with them how to make change and brainstorm ideas for sharing your voices. If anyone can think of creative ways to address what’s happening in our world, it’s gifted and 2e kids. Start posting on social media and sharing in emails how you approach these issues with your kids and share their suggestions. Help your kids understand the un-understandable. This is our world and they need the words to express themselves and ask questions and ultimately hold adults accountable. We want the next generation to not be afraid to raise their voices and demand being heard. They must find a way to do this in order to save themselves and the rest of us.

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Julie Skolnick

Julie Skolnick

Julie Skolnick, M.A., J.D., is the Founder of With Understanding Comes Calm, LLC, through which she passionately guides parents of gifted and distractible children, mentors 2e adults, and collaborates with and advises educators and professionals on bringing out the best and raising self-esteem in their students and clients.

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