Getting a New Parent Organization Off the Ground

By Linda C. Neumann

March, 2012

In the western suburbs of Chicago it’s not common to encounter the terms twice exceptional or 2e. If the needs of these children are being met, it’s on a small scale, perhaps in isolated pockets. There are no regional or statewide initiatives aimed at identifying or helping this population of students. Parents here looking for information and support are often uncertain of where to turn and how to get the help they need.

Adrienne Osmun, a parent in Naperville, Illinois, School District 203, is taking the first steps to change this situation. She explains, “I’ve been trying to raise awareness at the district level for several years.”  

Osmun finally found her opportunity last fall at a meeting of STAGE 203, a group representing parents of students in District 203 who are academically talented. There Osmun asked what she described as “some very targeted questions” about how the district was supporting 2e students and their unique needs.

Although this was not the  first time Osmun had raised these issues, now it seemed the time was right. Members of STAGE 203’s board asked if she would be willing to start up a parent group specifically aimed at the 2e community.  The board members shared with her their concern about the lack of support for this population and their willingness to back this effort in any way they could.

Osmun set things in motion. “We had an incredible response to the first meeting of STAGE 203 2e Parents,” she said. “Twenty-four parents came representing students from elementary to high school and a diverse set of 2e dynamics.  It really was incredible to hear everyone’s story and see how relieved they were to know that they were not alone on their journey. Immediately, parents were comparing notes, sharing resources, and exploring new ways to support their kids.

The new 2e group is open to anyone who wants to come — whether or not the children are in the gifted program or even in the school district. “Even though I’m not in the school district, I’ve found the group interesting, informative, and beneficial,” says Carol Marino, parent of a twice-exceptional child. “The group is a safe place where parents of 2e children can come together and openly discuss the many issues we face on a day-to-day basis at home, in school, and beyond. Topics range from IEPs and 504s to sports and extracurricular activities, therapists and therapies, books and magazines, learning styles, educational seminars, and more.”

Another parent of a 2e son had this reaction. “I could not believe I was finally hearing parents’ stories that mirrored what my family is going through. I felt relieved that I was not alone. I now have a community of people I can reach out to.  And I have. I reached out to Adrienne because I know she has had much experience working with teachers. Then, when I was looking for advice on parent advocates and tutors, I reached out to the e-mail list and received helpful responses within a day. What a great community Adrienne created!”

Osmun recognizes that the new group is still in its infancy. ”We have only met twice,” she explains, “but already parents with similar concerns, such as Asperger’s, are developing friendships and sharing lessons learned. It really is somewhat of a support group, which I think is the greatest need is at this point.”   

With an eye to the future and, and in Osmun’s words “to give our group some ‘legs,’” the STAGE 203 board decided to create a board position for twice exceptional. Osmun sees this as a way to “solidify our existence and, in the long term, ensure that the group will carry on with or without me.” Osmun’s hope for the group she’s building is that “we will continue to be a great support mechanism through the sharing of resources and ideas, and ultimately develop into a common voice that actively represents 2e students in our district.”

For more information on STAGE 203 2e Parents, contact 2e Parent Group Chairperson Adrienne Osmun at aosmun@wowway.com.

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