Get cozy, put your feet up, have your tablet ready for notes, and click into the Second Annual Bright and Quirky Child Summit coming to a computer near you.
Organized by thematic days, the sessions were curated by Debbie Steinberg Kuntz, who is a family therapist near Seattle and specializes in families with 2e kids, though she prefers calling the population “bright and quirky.”
“Many clients who come into my office have never heard of 2e,” Kuntz says. “Even some experts who’ve been around for decades have never heard of the term. I think of 2e as insider jargon, though it’s a much nicer term than ‘special needs’ and it makes perfect sense once you’re used it. But for the uninitiated, ‘Bright and Quirky’ is descriptive enough to know that we’re talking to them.”
That two-way conversation is very important to Kuntz. Last year, she surveyed the parents and professionals who attended the first summit to find out about their biggest concerns. She organized the responses into themes and found speakers to address those concerns for this year’s summit. “I have efficiency in mind,” she says, “because I know that parents’ time is really valuable. I want them to use their time at the summit wisely.”
With accessibility and efficiency in mind, Kuntz wanted to keep the virtual conference free for 24 hours after each talk airs. “We have moms who put their children to bed and then spend five hours at night doing this,” she says, adding that the best bargain is to buy the All Access Pass for anyone who intends to consume a lot of the conference or use the information for their professional practice or family reference. If you sign up before the kickoff on January 28, you can get the Early Bird Special for $97, which allows you to download any or all of the 30 sessions from the following seven days, as well as receive written transcripts. All Access Pass holders can also opt in for a free three-month trial of The IdeaLab, an online 2e support and learning community where parents and summit experts can interact on an ongoing basis.
So, if you’ve decided to tune in during the live week and now you want to best optimize your Bright and Quirky experience, Kuntz has some suggestions. “A good strategy is to focus your time on the talks that deal with what challenges your child has,” she says.
The first day is dedicated to beginners, people just getting oriented to twice-exceptionality. It features sessions by two well-known speakers: Dan Siegel, who emphasizes the medical and pharmacological aspects of neurodiversity, and Dan Peters, a psychologist who focuses on helping parents navigate through their 2e experience.
Day 2, Kuntz calls “Asperger’s Day.” Among other speakers, Barry Prizant will delve into many of the topics from his best-selling book, Uniquely Human, and Laura Markham will provide helpful advice to parents about keeping it together when their child is falling apart.
A good strategy is to focus your time on the talks that deal with what challenges your child has.
“On the third day,” Kuntz says, “we do schools and learning challenges with Susan Baum and Robin Schader talking about strengths and interests.” With very practical tips, Ken Shuster will guide parents through the labyrinthine process of getting accommodations at public and private schools, including the intimidating IEPs and 504s that have been known to keep parents up at night.
This day has a fifth speaker in Colin Diedrich, who has a PhD in Molecular Virology and Microbiology, despite having endured lifelong and multiple learning disabilities.
“His process from going from LD to PhD is really inspiring,” Kuntz says. “He is a sweet, young guy, and a real success story. He has a lot of golden nuggets to help people to make similar choices that his parents made and have a really good outcome. Throughout all the sessions, we have some people who are education experts in this space and who write books and then we have other people who live the bright and quirky journey and are here to tell us about it. Colin is one of those.”
Day 4 is about social challenges. It features the engaging Temple Grandin, who draws from her own experiences as a neuro-diverse person and will talk about stretching and broadening kids and their outlooks on the world. One of the most worrisome aspects of raising 2e children is the prospect of them making friends and have fulfilling social relationships. Michelle Garcia Winner explains how she uses her social thinking system to coach kids through friendships. A big highlight for Kuntz will be Mike Cantlon, whom Kuntz calls “the grandpa you always wanted.” Cantlon started Camp Satori in Washington State for gifted kids and has something of a cult following.
“He creates a magical environment for kids, a bubble for 2e kids to live in,” Kuntz says. “Every educator should watch his talk.” The day rounds up with Scott Barry Kaufman, who motivates his audiences with the positive nature of “quirkiness” and its flow of creativity.
“Our ADHD day is Day 5,” Kuntz says, and it features Elaine Taylor-Klaus sharing a hands-on session of how to implement change at home to best accommodate a 2e child. “People absolutely adore Seth Perler,” Kuntz says of another presenter. “He has a very tactical approach to help kids get organized, especially kids with executive functioning challenges. This would be a great one to watch with your teen.”
Day 6 is about Anxiety and, along with the entire slate, it includes Denise Pope, who says that we have it all wrong about how we define success for our kids.
Finally, on Day 7, the focus is on parents and how they can help their child flourish without burning out themselves. Dan Siegel returns to give a “prequel” to 2e as he gets deep into the workings of the marvelously complicated and always surprising human brain.
Agreeing with Siegal’s premise, Kuntz says, “there is no immaculate perception. There is no one way of seeing things. We are all uniquely wired and see things uniquely. Even to say that there’s this bell curve and we’ve got the typical people in the middle and our 2e kids are on either side, depending on their advanced or lower abilities, it’s like we’re trying to categorize things so that we can talk about them and think about them. But I think really, there are millions of different ways that we interact with and perceive the world. By that definition, our ideas about 2e will be much, much broader than what we have now.”
By attending conferences like this one and by tuning into to all the sessions, including those not mentioned here, that broader outlook not only on 2e, but on education, on childhood, and on life can start with only a click of the computer.