Superhumans Held Back by Mental Chains: A 2e Teen’s Story
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Twice-exceptional students have few forums to express their lived educational experiences. REEL is pleased to launch “Living and Learning 2e,” a new blog series dedicated to giving twice exceptional children, teens, and young adults a place to share their voices.
Noah B. is our fourth guest blogger. Noah is a twice-exceptional 11th grader at one of the Summit Public Schools in the SF Bay Area. He attended his local public schools in Half Moon Bay before switching to Helios School for 7th and 8th grades, which “turned out to be the best decision I have made.” His passion in life is photography; ever since he tried out his dad’s camera, he was hooked. He also is involved in the “car scene,” which he says is a “surprisingly large and accepting community.” When he is not getting to know new car enthusiasts and photographers, he spends his time doing what he does best: extreme sports.
The Best Teacher You Ever Had
Who was the teacher who really understood you and helped you learn the best?
The best—and strictest—teacher I ever had was my 6th grade history teacher, Mr. Rippberger. He was really good about making sure nobody felt worried about going to his class. He also heard about me having ADHD and actually let me know after one of my classes that he also had ADD and was open to finding a way to help me, not only get my work done, but also improve to the point of not needing reminders. It was probably the first time that I actually noticed my ability to focus and my challenge with blurting out improving. He was never afraid of letting me know when I was talking too much. Whenever someone today asks me how they can help me when I am speaking out of turn, I tell them to just do what he did, which is to be straight forward and tell me what I’m doing, since I’m not always aware of it. Funnily, I learned how to format notes in his class, and I still prefer that method over all the other ones I’ve tried.
From the Inside—What 2e Feels Like
What are things you've experienced in your interior world that the external world might not know about and how has it changed over time?
For me, being a 2e learner felt surprisingly normal, with the exception that the actual rate I was learning was slower than for others, and people kept telling me something was wrong. The problem with my “disability” was that I was not aware of what I was doing wrong. Whether talking too much, talking out of turn, not paying attention to someone, or not being able to hold still, I was never aware of it, meaning I had no way of stopping. This has always conflicted with other people because to them, it appeared almost intentional since when told to stop, I would shortly continue the behavior I was doing before. It would distress me a lot because people would randomly lose their cool or get annoyed at me, for what appeared to me was nothing. At heart I am in no way whatsoever a trouble maker; in fact, I hate causing others trouble with a passion. At some point I realized others would not figure this out on their own, so I slowly began adapting to the situation and making myself easier to understand.
Unlike most people I know, I don't keep secrets if the knowledge could help someone in any way. Even though being an open book may seem like a bad thing, it has, actually, almost completely solved my social problems concerning people disliking me. Back in middle school, I would seem to attract negative attention, be it bullying or something similar. (It got so bad that I had multiple valuable possessions stolen from right in front of me, so I decided to switch schools for 7th grade.) I am not sure exactly why the change helped, but my assumption is that I used to be that kid who seemed to be in his own world, and that nobody who would be angry or insulted if another person bullied me. Since I began being more open about myself, I’m more outgoing; I used to walk around with my head down, never talking to people. Now, I believe people don't have a reason to see me as a target. I don't lie, I don't belong to some “social group” other people might have beef with, and I don't participate in any activities someone might consider dumb or an attack. Since I always give a logical answer when asked a logical question, and help out when someone has a logical problem, I act as a sort of mediator, or neutral party. (Wow that was long, I dislike writing but when it comes to my way of living and mentality on things, I have a lot of thoughts. And they seem to work.)
Advice for Parents and Teachers
What are the top things parents or teachers can do to support 2e learners?
It’s not simple. From my two years of middle school experience at a school dedicated to gifted and 2e learners (shout-out to Helios!!), I have noticed that every one of us needs support in a different way. If we are talking about 2e as a whole, the best solution is to ask what will help best, as what works for one person could do the opposite for another. For instance, for me personally, don’t be afraid to tell me if I need to change what I am doing—that is the best way to help. Many teachers instinctually either feel like they are doing something wrong or insulting me by telling me if I am doing something they don’t think is “right”. Or, they tell me to stop doing something once, and then assume I am defying them when I eventually do it again. Every time someone asks me how they can help, I say the same thing, “Legit, just tell me what I am doing wrong and I will try to fix it.” If I am not aware of my mistake I am not physically capable of fixing it. So please just say exactly what you are thinking, don't sugarcoat it; I probably won't understand what someone means if they say “The birds are chirping too much” or something else with a “hidden” message. All of this goes for both parents and teachers, although I highly recommend not using this advice for anyone other than me, as everyone else I know would not take being told so directly to “shut up” as lightly.
What are you looking forward to in the future or what do you hope will happen next for other 2e students?
In the future I am looking forward to a lot of things. One thing that I do enjoy and look forward to is seeing the face people make when I tell them I’m actually one of those “autistic kids” they were just joking about. Not only is the fact that they don't believe me rather satisfying, but I am always glad to change someone’s perspective on what It means to be 2e. I hope that everywhere I go, I can help others realize that 2e people aren't a joke, but more like superhumans held back by mental chains.
I hope that, as other 2e students learn and grow, they will realize that what used to seem like problems to them, are more like challenges to which the reward is a better, free self. I also believe that we need more awareness on who and what a 2e student is, as too many people are living their lives believing that they are just dumb or don't have what it takes. Those people need help, not to correct their problems, but to help overcome them. Since I was a little kid, I have realized that simply telling kids like me that Einstein was 2e is not going to solve anything if we don't know what or who is 2e right now.
What Else Would You Like People to Know?
I’m Noah Boyer and there is no reason I would ever hide that. In fact, I believe that the way we are hidden from others as if we weren't part of the normal world is counterproductive. Over the years I have become more and more connected to photography, to the point where I will not go anywhere without my camera. I love photography not only because it is a way for me to get out and challenge my creativity, but also because it is like a door into many parts of the world that others aren't even aware of.
For me, a door I chose led me to the car enthusiasts scene, which is a surprisingly large and accepting community. Despite what people might imagine about a community of people who practically live in their garages making their cars as loud and powerful as possible, these people are actually really nice. Even being one of the youngest and newest people to the car scene, and not even owning my own car, no matter where I go these people recognize me as a friend and respect me as an equal. Even while driving around in potentially million dollar cars, taking photos for them feels like nothing more than hanging out with friends.
Of course when I am not getting to know new car enthusiasts and photographers, I spend my time doing what I do best: sports. Preferably extreme sports. I often spend hours outside, pushing myself to my limit while doing parkour, biking, or inline skating. For me it is a way to escape from the boring rhythm of life, and find experiences and places I never dreamed I would discover.