*This story originally aired October 7, 2013.
Students in the Twice Exceptional, or 2E, program at the Crossroads School work on writing a speech. They have to imagine they are the CEO defending their fast food company.
Inside a small classroom in a portable building, eight students and their teacher are reading together.
“Accordingly the forger was put to death. The utterer of a bad note was put to death the unlawful opener of a letter was put to death.”
That’s from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
Many students don’t read this classic until high school. But these are sixth and seventh graders.
“I think we should add here any child that speaks out of turn is ... put to death. But you know I’ll weep for it, I’ll weep for it.”
These students are bright. They also have at least one disability or special need. They’re considered twice exceptional.
Their instructor is Benjamin Bannon.
“For these children specifically, if they don’t get it, they can be rather unsuccessful whereas other children might be able to manage themselves, they might need help in that.”
He’s with a new program for twice exceptional students at Crossroads. It’s a private school near the Galleria.
Connor Finley is one of his students. He’s 12 years old and he knows his own challenges.
“As well as I have Asperger’s, ADHD and autism. And to top it off I trip a lot because my foot, it’s messed up in the ankle.”
He likes this class a lot better than his old school.
“When I would get angry, because the teacher wouldn’t do something, they would exclude me, like I would start yelling and they would just, they would just, literally, no one would even care, they would just push me and stuff, like all the other kids.”
He says his old gifted and talented program was actually kind of boring.
Teacher Benjamin Bannon has a set schedule to keep himself and the students focused. He also has a unique game to motivate his students: when they behave well, he lets his beard grow.
“IQ of 133 in preschool and you’re making me learn my ABC’s in first and second grade. Are you serious?”
It’s estimated there are about 300,000 students like Connor in the country.
Kim Hymes is with the Council for Exceptional Children.
“It’s important to know that sometimes their disability may mask their giftedness and other times their giftedness may mask their disability.”
Her group pushes for more training so teachers can better recognize students’ talents and needs.
“Just thinking about some [people], you know, Albert Einstein created the theory of relativity. But he also struggled to learn to read.”
Some students at Crossroads are like Einstein when it comes to reading. But they may also be whizzes at math, or talented artists.
Denise Walker is the principal.
“The teaching philosophy would be open — Let’s get to know the child, let’s find out where they are developmentally, let’s find out where they are academically.”
The tailored teaching doesn’t come cheap.
There are scholarships. But full price tuition runs more than $20,000 a year.