A Conversation with Twice-Exceptional Teen Jordan O’Kelley

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At sixteen years old, twice-exceptional teen Jordan O’Kelley is a junior in the Honors College at Cal State LA, where he is majoring in Physics and Journalism, and is employed as a mathematics tutor. But even at this young age, Jordan has become a wonderful advocate for the 2e community and so I wanted to share his work and his journey with you. 

Diagnosed as autistic at age four and identified as gifted at age ten, Jordan’s list of projects includes writing a book of humorous short stories called O’Kelley Legendary Legends of Legend in 4th grade as a way to get out of doing summaries of other books, adapting the book to a series of monologues which he presented as a fundraiser for SENG, and being the subject of a documentary called O’Kelley Legends: 2e Behind the Scenes about the production of the aforementioned monologue show. Jordan also speaks at education conferences about his experiences as a twice-exceptional teen and student. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Jordan a few years ago, and so I loved having this chance to catch up with him. In this conversation, you’ll hear about Jordan’s journey from feeling lonely and isolated in elementary school to being empowered and becoming a self-directed student, what it’s like to be a sixteen year old junior in college, how his family’s advocacy and educational resource The O’Kelley Lab began, and more. If you are raising a twice-exceptional teen, this episode is for you (and also your child)!


About Jordan O’Kelley

Jordan O’Kelley is a sixteen-year-old college junior in the Honors College at Cal State LA, where he is majoring in Physics and Journalism, and is employed as a mathematics tutor. Jordan enrolled in college at age fourteen through Cal State LA’s Early Entrance Program. Diagnosed with autism at four years old, and identified as gifted at age ten, Jordan has become an advocate for 2e (“twice exceptional”) education and neurodiverse individuals.

Jordan has written articles and speaks at education conferences on his experiences in public and private education as a 2e student. He was involved with the creation of The O’Kelley Lab, which seeks to support new therapies and approaches to improve 2e education. He also created a YouTube video, “2e Like Me,” to promote 2e awareness and advocacy. This past summer he was an intern at NASA for the N3 Neurodiversity Network.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • How Jordan experienced his elementary school experience as a 2e student whose gift weren’t being embraced
  • How Jordan developed into a motivated, self-directed learner excited about his future
  • The impetus behind the book Jordan wrote in 4th grade, O’Kelley Legendary Legends of Legend
  • What Jordan’s family’s The O’Kelley Lab is and how it supports families raising twice-exceptional teens and kids
  • The story behind the documentary O’Kelley Legends: 2e Behind the Scenes
  • The role SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) has played in Jordan’s personal story
  • How having dysgraphia inspired Jordan to create his “2e Like Me” video to help support other students who were also struggling
  • Jordan’s advice for other twice-exceptional teens who are struggling with their education
  • What Jordan gained from participating in a summer internship with NASA’s N3 Program


Resources mentioned for twice-exceptional teen Jordan O’Kelley

  • Dr. James T. Webb
  • Please contact Jordan if you’d like to use the “O’Kelley Legends” documentary as a fundraiser.


Special message from our sponsor


Forman School, located in Litchfield, CT, is a coeducational preparatory boarding school for students in grades 9-12. Forman educates bright, motivated students with learning differences, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and executive function delays. Through a diverse curriculum and individualized learning, students are empowered to understand how their brains function and how they learn. Here, students embrace their differences and build a foundation for their future.

Learn more about what sets Forman apart at formanschool.org.


Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

Forman School is a Connecticut coed college prep boarding school for grades nine through 12, dedicated to empowering bright students with learning differences like dyslexia, ADHD, and executive function delays, get more information at Formanschool.org.

Jordan O’Kelley  00:18

I would say it is extremely important for students to be in control of the pace that they’re learning at and in control of what it is that they’re learning. You can’t teach an art student marine. I mean, you could teach them marine biology, I guess if they’re interested in that. But if they don’t want to learn that, and if they’re actively against learning that no matter how long you spend in that classroom, they’re never learning it. And if you’re going marine biology over the course of three years when you can do it in three months, that’s also a problem. And you know, vice versa if you’re doing it for three months and it should take three years. That’s an issue as well.

Debbie Reber  00:57

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. I’m so excited to have Jordan O’Kelley on the podcast today. Jordan is a 16 year old college junior in the Honors College at Cal State Los Angeles, where he is majoring in physics and journalism and is employed as a math tutor. And yes, you heard that right. Jordan is only 16 years old. But even at this young age, twice exceptional Jordan has become a powerful advocate for the community and so I wanted to share his work and his journey with you. Diagnosed with autism at four and identified as gifted at age 10, Jordan’s list of projects includes writing a book of humorous short stories called O’Kelley Legendary Legends of Legend in fourth grade as a way to get out of doing summaries of other books, adapting the book to a series of monologues, which he presented as a fundraiser for saying, and being the subject of a documentary about the production of the monologue show. Jordan also speaks at educational conferences about his experience as a 2e student. I had the pleasure of meeting Jordan a few years ago, and so I loved having this chance to catch up with him. In this conversation, you’ll hear about Jordans journey from feeling lonely and isolated in elementary school, to being empowered and becoming a self directed student, what it’s like to be a 16 year old junior in college, how his family’s advocacy and educational resource the O’Kelley Lab began and much more if you are raising a 2e teen, this episode is for you and also for your teen. Before I get to that, I wanted to share an exciting new opportunity with you. Many of you are familiar with Dr. Nicole Tetreault, the author of Insight Into a Bright Mind and a recurring guest on this show. Well, in addition to being a neuroscientist, speaker, and author, Nicole is also a meditation teacher. And she has offered to run a virtual four to six week meditation class just for the Tilt Parenting community later this spring, as a way to support parents and families. Nicole and I have put together a quick survey to learn more about what would make this meditation class most useful for you. So if you would be interested in this special meditation offering for the tilt community with Nicole on the mindful practices guiding the heart and mind, please take one minute to respond to the survey. You can find it at tiltparenting.com/meditation. That’s tiltparenting.com/meditation. All right, now let’s get to my conversation with Jordan.

Debbie Reber  03:49

Hey, Jordan, welcome to the podcast. Hey, happy to be here. I am looking forward to this. And I really appreciate you doing this when you’re not feeling well today means a lot to me. And I’m just really excited to share your work. You have work, you’re a young person and you’ve already done so much in your life. So I really wanted to share you with my listeners. But I’d love it if you could start us off by just introducing yourself. In your own words. How would you describe yourself?

Jordan O’Kelley 04:16

Well, I’m Jordan Kelley. I’m a 2e or differently wired student who goes to Cal State LA, I am 16 years old, soon to be 17 in February, and I’m a self proclaimed, I’m a 2e advocate is what I’m trying to say.

Debbie Reber  04:34

You are such a powerful voice in advocacy and we will definitely get into all of that. And just as the mother of a 2e 17 year old, I am so grateful for the work that you do and your many contributions to supporting kids like you and the parents raising them. So thank you for that and we will get into that. But I want to talk a little bit about your journey as a young person. So you were diagnosed as autistic when you were four, I believe, and you had an IEP from the time you were in kindergarten on. And then when you were in fourth grade, tell me if I get these dates wrong, but I believe that’s when you are identified as being gifted. So I’d love to know how you really identified how you saw yourself as a student back then when you were in elementary school?

Jordan O’Kelley 05:24

Sure, well, in elementary school, if I had to, like define my time there, I would say I was lonely. You know, I felt different from everyone. Because, in a way, I was different from everyone. And so it was very difficult for me to make friends, I had a full time aide. That was my friend. So elementary school was a very isolating time, and it just wasn’t having a good time there. Learning is hard. And making friends is hard. So if I had to kind of describe myself in elementary school, I would probably say lonely, lonesome.

Debbie Reber  05:58

It’s so interesting. Well, I just as you’re saying that I’m remembering that that was something that, when Asher was in maybe first grade, that that came up at a therapy session, that they felt really proud of who they were. And the other word that came up was lonely. My hunch is that that’s a common experience for young people who don’t quite fit into the box that they’re being asked to fit into.

Jordan O’Kelley 06:22

Exactly, you know, I felt different from everyone. And so I was, I was kind of isolated, I couldn’t really, like I couldn’t figure out how to talk to people my age, it was difficult. That all changed in middle school, because that’s when I went to Bridges and Bridges Academy, for those who don’t know, and they have a whole different education model. And I was with like-minded peers in an environment where I wasn’t completely stressed out about schoolwork, and a plethora of other factors that made my time at Bridges much more enjoyable, because I had friends now, you know, that was where I made my first real friends was at Bridges Academy.

Debbie Reber  07:01

Yes, I’m a big fan of Bridges. That’s where we actually got to meet in person when I visited bridges a few years ago, and so grateful, I wish there were bridges everywhere. I’m wondering, you know, going back even to elementary school, as well. So you were identified as gifted, you felt lonely, like you didn’t quite fit in. Did you know how smart you were at the time? I imagine you were thinking about things in a different way than your peers were. But at the same time, you knew that you had this one on one aid, so was that confusing to you? Like where you fit in?

Jordan O’Kelley  07:36

Well, I mean, it’s hard to kind of give a good answer, because every kid, you know, in elementary school thinks that the coolest guy ever, you know, when I was just a, like a gelatinous little orb, I would say, in the classroom, I always wanted to be I watched Cosmos when I was eight years old. And so that inspired me to go into science and stuff. And I wanted to be a physicist. But as far as I remember, I was not particularly good in any classes in elementary school. In fact, I remember being kind of behind in several classes, most notably mathematics, which is kind of bad if you want to be a physicist, but I didn’t know what was involved in physics at the time. I didn’t feel smart. I mean, as a child, maybe there was like, you know, I probably am smarter. But I would attribute that mostly to just being a child, as a person, like reflecting on it didn’t feel smarter. I felt, you know, kind of dumber than everyone else.

Debbie Reber  08:30

That is a common thread that I hear from so many differently wired, teens, adults, young adults is identifying, you know, having your identity change from the way you felt about yourself as a student when you were little, and then kind of really stepping into your strengths, which obviously Bridges was a great match, and really helping you kind of lean into your strengths because you are in college now. You said you’re 16. So tell us about that. How did that happen? And are you studying physics?

Jordan O’Kelley  08:59

Well, to answer that, I study physics, yeah, Bridges is a fantastic school to be at, they kind of, you know, take the brakes off in that there’s no work for the sake of work at Bridges. You’re learning all the time, but that also makes it so you have a lot of free time, outside of Bridges and Bridges is not a very stressful environment. You know, it’s not taking up 100% of your time. And that enabled me to when I found out about this thing called the early entrance program, which allows students as young as I believe 12 to enter college. I was like, you know, I have the time and the ability, or rather, I didn’t know about the ability but I definitely had the time to at least try for this. I want to see if I can do it. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could really accomplish something that most people wouldn’t. And so you know, I studied for I studied math outside of school, and as it turned out with a with a one on one tutor and as it turned out, despite I’ve been kind of delayed in math, you know, inside of the traditional education system and kind of behind in math, even in bridges, studying with a tutor who would write everything down, who would take notes for me? And who I could talk to and go back. And can you explain that again, in a one on one environment where there wasn’t a whole classroom of kids to teach, I was able to learn all of high school math within a few months, which was surprising to me. And I think it was at about the point that we started graphing curved graphs that I was like, Oh, we’re okay. I’m in the big leagues. Now, that didn’t take long. How did I do that? And so I did that. And then, you know, studied for the other subjects as well. But math was where I really needed to catch up. And I caught up, thankfully, took the PSATs, which was required back then. But now it’s not because the leave California state schools don’t quite have those anymore. So I took PSATs and got a high enough score to get in, you know, I didn’t think I would, you know, I mean, no one ever does, I’m sure, but, and then I got it. And so now I’m a junior in college at the age of 16.

Debbie Reber  11:07

Wow, I have so many questions about that. But I don’t want to spend all your time talking about your college life as a young person. But I would love to know, kind of just generally, what it’s been like being in college? Has it been what you hoped it would be? And are you still as excited about your career goals of being a physicist?

Jordan O’Kelley  11:27

Being in college, I am so glad. You know, I’m so glad I got to skip high school. Because in college, first of all, what they do at this particular program that they don’t do at most colleges, that I think is important is they take you and a bunch of other kids who applied if you get through the PSATs, and the entrance interview, they take you and they put you in the summer program, or they roll you in three classes, kind of like pseudo classes with professors from the program. And they see how you do not just grades wise, but you know, also being able to function in the classroom and stuff. Those were, at the time, I had never taken a class as difficult as any of those classes, you know. And so it was a new challenge for me. And I think it was a new challenge for everyone else in the program. And so you had to kind of band together to get through it, especially the math class, the math class had a professor who I love dearly, he is probably the best teacher I’ve ever had no offense to any of the other teachers who may be listening. He’s unbelievable. Like, he was like, amazing teacher. So extremely difficult. The only time I’ve given my all in a class, like really dedicated myself fully 100% of this class, and got to see. But extremely difficult professor, we had to band together to get through that, you know, and I made some friends that I’ve had for years since then, like, really good friends, the kinds of friends I had had before. So in that environment, I think it is a great way to kind of not only expand your social horizons, but really meet people that you’re going to know for the rest of your life. So that’s something important that the program does. And then also an important thing, ie they give you obviously, its color. So you’re selecting your classes that give you a sense of control over what you’re studying that I feel like you don’t get in other education systems, you know, they trust you to make the right decisions with what classes you’re going to take. That’s crucial to me, because that makes classes way more engaging, you know, if it’s something you’re interested in, and be, you’re the one who picked this class, you know, you have to see it through. And so I think that kind of sense of responsibility and being trusted, like that is crucial to the whole education. And as for how it is studying physics, it’s great. I, you know, I just took a computational physics class, and I thought it was actually really interesting. I didn’t expect to like it, but I liked it.

Debbie Reber  14:01

That’s great. That’s awesome. So one of my questions, and you kind of answered it, but just to go back to it is that you said, you’ve made these incredible friends in college and so much of what I know, I tell Asher and what I know so many parents who have kids who are not thriving in school, we’re always saying Hang on, once you get to college, you’ll find your people you’ll be with the people who care about the things that you care about. It’s not going to feel as oppressive maybe as traditional education. So you have found that to be the case, you’ve kind of found your people there.

Jordan O’Kelley  14:38

Yes, though. I will say I found my people, you know, through the early entrance program, and that was like a very, that was meant to make you kind of make lifelong friends. In essence, I mean, a part of it. From what I understand, and obviously I’ve never had this experience, but from what I understand and what they taught us and one of the classes that was not over the summer, but semester one, which was all about, you know, getting to know people and functioning on a college campus. It can be lonely, especially during a pandemic to go to college because whereas in high school, you’re meeting people all the time, just naturally, you have to go to every class with them. In college, I bet it’s possible to go the whole time without interacting with another student. So I know it can be very lonely. And I read a whole book in that one particular class about someone who went to a nice college but didn’t feel like she deserved to be there. felt like she was less than everyone. And that was a book called Make Your Home Among Strangers. Great book. And so she was very lonely the whole time. So don’t let yourself be that, you know, friends, the early entrance program kind of makes it so they come to you naturally. But the impression I get is that when you get into college, you ‘re not going to just come to you naturally. But if they do come to you, or if you come to them, it’s absolutely lifelong, worth it connections.

Debbie Reber  16:02

That’s great. Great, thank you. It’s such a thoughtful answer. And now a quick break for a word from our sponsor. Forman School is a Connecticut based coed college prep boarding school for grades nine through 12. Forman educates bright motivated students with learning differences like ADHD, dyslexia, and executive function delays. Through a diverse curriculum and individualized learning, students are empowered to understand how their brains function and how they learn. There are abundant opportunities for students to explore in the classroom, on the field in the arts, and more, you can find additional information at formanschool.org. That’s forming school.org. And now back to the show.

Debbie Reber  16:53

We’ll talk more about college another time because I still have more questions. But I really want to talk about the O’Kelley Lab and just all of the various projects you’ve done throughout the course of your life, your young life. And I want to start with what ultimately became the O’Kelley Lab. I know that when you were in kindergarten, you had created an all positive behavior chart, which actually you have made a form of this available for listeners as well. But can you talk about that chart that you created and how that kind of evolved into what became the O’Kelley Lab?

Jordan O’Kelley  17:29

So yes, in kindergarten, I was in class, and my teacher had this behavior chart, the kind of stoplight chart red on top yellow, and then green, little clothes pins with everyone’s name, and she would move them up and down periodically throughout the day, whenever a kid acted out. And I remember being dissatisfied with this. And then, you know, I saw it was making kids cry, like they were upset in the class. And I just thought, as a kindergartner, that’s not right. So I designed my own, a very scrappy drawing from someone who can’t really hold the pencil correctly. But design my own all positive one, where you are rewarded or not rewarded, you know, you never marked down or at a baseline. And so that ended up getting implemented at various schools in a student’s IEP, I believe. And so that kind of started an idea train, I came up with several ideas, after that I wrote a book that was kind of a collection of short stories in order to get out of doing summaries of other books in fourth grade. And so whenever I have ideas, or whatever anyone in my family has ideas that could help people, we put them up on the O’Kelley Lab. And that’s just a website, a place on the internet, where these potentially helpful ideas could go.

Debbie Reber  18:50

I would say they’re very helpful. So I think you’re being a little modest. But I love that you as a kitten or gardener, we’re like there’s, this is wrong. And I have a better way. So let me share that with you. And I think that’s fantastic. You mentioned the book, the collection of stories. So I’d love it if you could talk more about those because that is the route for more projects that I want to get into. But can you talk about the impetus behind the book and your why for that?

Jordan O’Kelley  19:20

Yeah. So in fourth grade, I had a great teacher, you know, it was kind of prior to that teacher, where I was kind of dissatisfied in the classroom, and then a great teacher Miss Mass. And she was the one who recognized that I could be differently wired or twice exceptional in that class. She had us writing summaries of books, she wanted to encourage our students to read and so she would have us write summaries of books weekly, except I interpreted that as read like a 400 page book every week and then write a summary of it. I was like this is impossible, this is not right. And eventually, I just started choosing it with like 12 page books, I did one on Harold and the Purple Crayon. And then eventually, that caught up with my mother. So when I had a talk, I said, I would rather write a book then write summaries of books. And that ended up happening, because Miss Mass is awesome. And so I turned that in a turned on the chapter every week, I should say. And then, after the school year proceeded to completely forget about it until several years later, I think that my memory is a little I’m so bad with dates. But it was, I think, several years later, we decided to actually publish it. And that ended up becoming what we ended up adapting into a monologue show. People would go up and read a monologue, text person, read a monologue, etc, etc. Then we ended up putting on that monologue show after Dr. James Webb passed away, of SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted). You know, I was like, we need to do something to support this organization, ended up putting on the monologue show, raising a few $100 for the organization. proud of that. And then, from there, we ended up making a documentary about the monologue show about the book, and that we’re kind of trying to promote that and get the word out.

Debbie Reber  21:22

It’s very meta, you have the documentary about the monologue show, which is based on a book, I love it. And I got to watch the documentary and it’s so good. It’s called the Kelley Legends 2e: Behind the Scenes. How did you know at what point did you know that you wanted to document this process of putting on this monologue show? How did that happen?

Jordan O’Kelley  21:44

I think not from day one. But pretty early on in the process. My mother just started filming, she films everything she takes, she’s one of those that takes like 20 pictures of the same shot just to make sure she has it. So she films everything. And then we ended up getting cameras in there. And she decided at some point, you know, in there, we should be filming this with real cameras, and make something out of it. And you know, we were all like, okay, that’s sure, whatever. I’m sure that will happen at some point. Lo and behold, it happened. Rather, it didn’t happen. It took a lot of conscious effort from everyone in the family, but especially my mother, my dad, and my sister, Rachel, who kind of got pulled into the project, and then ended up being a massive part of it. I was kind of involved with it. I helped out every now and then

Debbie Reber  22:36

I saw you as kind of, if the documentary has a star, I mean, you are one. It’s really fascinating. And listeners, I’ll make sure that you know how to learn more about the documentary as well, you document your process of being a casting director, right of casting, the students who will be a part of the monologue show, you’ve got casting directors in their coaching you, which was really cool to see. You have casting directors coaching the other students on how to better audition and all of that, I found that all to be fascinating. And I’m wondering, what was that process like for you?

Jordan O’Kelley  23:15

Well, I’ll tell you, I consider myself a cinephile. I’m interested in film. And so I was like, Okay, well, surely this will be easy. I just have to, you know, great these people’s performances. And I get there. And I’m like, I don’t know, the first thing about acting, I don’t know what I’m doing. Now, I would like to think I know a bit more about that. But you know, at the moment, I was like, Oh, this is time to latch on to time to latch on to these casting directors. And so I did. And actually, only one of them is a casting director, the other one just a director, director. And I ended up learning a lot about it as I was doing it, you could actually see the documentary I go from, oh, that was pretty good to actually, you know, starting to kind of give baby steps in terms of feedback. And, you know, I like the way you talk. And so I remember there’s one clip that I find particularly funny where I like the way you put the emphasis on the right words for about 30 seconds before I realized I should just stop talking. Because I don’t know where this sentence is going. And so it was fun to kind of learn the ropes as I was going through the process.

Debbie Reber  24:24

And I’d love to know, you mentioned that, and you talked about this in the film that you wanted to put this show on as a fundraiser for saying and supporting the emotional needs of the gifted in honor of Dr. Webb. And I’d love to just know why SENG is so close to your heart.

Jordan O’Kelley  24:43

Well, I mean, without them, I wouldn’t be where I am. They’re just an important organization for letting parents, especially parents and teachers, but you know, in my experience parents especially what’s going on I am teaching them the ways to make it so your child can actually succeed and thrive. And if it were not for their advice, I don’t know, you know, I don’t know where it would be high school probably. So they’re just so important for so many people. And after Dr. James Webb passed away, I was, I was like, oh, there’s a big hole left in this organization, may as well try to fill it with money. And so I figured they need all the help they can get right now. And they happily accepted it. So I’m happy.

Debbie Reber  25:38

I’m sure, yeah. And listeners if you are new to this world, SENG is a wonderful organization, and we had Dr. Mike Postma, who used to be the executive director on the podcast, and I’ll include a link for that. So you can check it out. But they are such an important organization, because it is, you know, that emotional needs piece is so critical. And so they really do understand our kids, they understand the challenges of being twice exceptional and navigating the world in that way. So that’s so cool that you did that. So I want to shift to some of the other resources that you offer. You actually think you may have done this a few years ago, I remember when you first created the 2e Like Me video. And you really did that for students. Correct?

Jordan O’Kelley  26:30

Yeah, yeah. So kind of piece that I’ve, I haven’t, it hasn’t gone unmentioned. But basically I mentioned that I have dysgraphia. And that means it’s very difficult for me to handwrite things, especially on paper. And so that’s why I would never take notes in math class or anything because you know, writing was physically painful. I would never, I remember getting in trouble a lot, because I wouldn’t write out anything, any of my work in math. And so I would lose points, because they’re like, how did you get this answer? Because I would do it on my head, inaccurately, most of the time, I would do it all in my head. So I have dysgraphia. And that made it very difficult for me in math class, and no one would have ever guessed that it was dysgraphia. Because it looked like you know, I was just not good at math. And so I was like, there there are other people with this issue like me, and they’re going kind of undocumented. And so I ended up making that video on how I overcame that. And the answer was with an iPad, which is not easy to procure, but worth it an iPad, Apple pencil or something similar, you know, I’m sure a tablet would probably be fine. But that made it easy for me to take notes in math. And that was all the difference. I mean, you know, for my entire elementary school career, not a page of notes for my middle school career. Some notes, but not really. For my college career, I could probably fill a textbook with the number of notes I have. So I made that video because I wanted to help students, and the long and short of it is to invest in some technology because you need it. You’re not. It’s not fair if you don’t have it.

Debbie Reber  28:07

Absolutely. In that video, you refer to something called the pips, which stands for pace, influence, purpose, and supports. And you’re such a good advocate for yourself. And now you’re helping other students learn how to advocate for themselves. I’m just wondering, at what point did you feel like I get to be in charge of my education, rather than being told what your education would be?

Jordan O’Kelley  28:36

Elementary school, that wasn’t the case, you know, I felt like I was being kind of pushed through a system that made me a person who knew a set of facts. And then in middle school, I had the support I needed. And I had the time I needed. But it was only in, I believe, seventh grade, that I really decided, I’m going to make use of this, I’m gonna put myself towards something here and started learning outside of class and taking charge and deciding, here’s the pace that I’m going to learn that, here’s what I’m going to learn. And I’m going to learn it all before the SATs. That was when I started making the decisions. And it worked out, you know, it’s so important to have. I’m obviously not an education expert, and I don’t have a doctorate or anything. So this is just me, you know, seat of my pants reasoning. But I would say it is extremely important for students to be in control of the pace that they’re learning at and in control of what it is that they’re learning. You can’t teach an art student marine by mean, you could teach them marine biology, I guess if they’re interested in that. But if they don’t want to learn that and if they’re actively against learning that no matter how long you spend in that classroom I’ve never learned it. And if you’re going marine biology over the course of three years, when you can do it in three months, that’s also a problem. And you know, vice versa, if you’re doing it in three months and it should take three years. That’s an issue as well. So having students being able to set those is really important.

Debbie Reber  30:18

I love the way that you said that something we talk a lot about on this show is being a self directed learner, and self driven, that we can’t make our kids care about things, we can’t make them learn things. And I’m just going to encourage listeners to if this is something you want to explore more, Blake Boles, who is an unschooler I’ve had on the show once or twice to talk about self directed learning. And it is really such a powerful way for twice exceptional students, especially to really have control over their journey. And you’re such a great role model for what that can look like. I’ve just two more questions, or maybe three, I know that there are parents who are going to be listening to the show with their twice exceptional teens, because it could just be really inspiring for teens who maybe aren’t feeling like they’re in control of their education, or that they are capable of pursuing the things they want to pursue, to hear from someone who is successfully doing that. And I’m wondering if you have any advice for a tui teenager who is feeling disengaged or bored, or, like they’re kind of stuck.

Jordan O’Kelley  31:35

It’s not the subjects, you know, human beings, it’s taken us 20,000 years to get to this point, perhaps more. And it, we didn’t do it because it was boring to think about these things, you know, it’s we’re not being taught the right way. And so if you can look it up outside of class, let me give an example of math inside of the classroom. Math is numbers on a chalkboard or whiteboard, that you memorize, write down, put the sum, whatever. And outside of the classroom math is the definition of beauty. Like, it’s, it’s unbelievable, you know, what you can learn off of the internet. My point is, you’re, if you’re bored in the classroom, you’re being educated wrong. And that you should take initiative and challenge yourself, you know, see how far you can get is what really motivated me, see how much you can learn. And you will surprise yourself with how interesting the subjects can be when you really dedicate yourself to them.

Debbie Reber  32:40

That’s great advice. And I track too, what you were saying, because the joy came through that everything is interesting, when it’s relevant to, to the world we live in, right? learning math facts on a whiteboard, maybe that inspires some people, but it’s when you can apply and see how Math is everywhere, right? That it gets really exciting. So I get what you’re saying. That’s very cool. Before we say goodbye, I do want to just ask you about your summer internship that you did with NASA, I think that is something that, certainly my eyes lit up when I saw that you had that opportunity to participate in their N3 program. And I know there are a lot of listeners whose kids are really into STEM and would love to learn more about that. So can you just tell us what that was?

Jordan O’Kelley  33:34

Sure, I’ll preface this by saying I’ve been lucky about a lot of things. You know, I’m lucky to live where I live and have a family that knows about SENG and you know, be in the program. And I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to find out about and participate in the N3 program. You know, it’s NASA’s Neurodiversity Network, it’s N3. And it’s basically a brand new program designed by Dr. Lynn Kaminski of Sonoma State University or I don’t know if it’s designed by her, but it’s definitely run by her. Where students get to work with a NASA scientist on some project that they decide. So if you’re interested in something that involves aeronautics, space, or I guess, administration, I guess, I don’t know, if you’re interested in something that involves space or aeronautics or anything like that. How about working with a NASA scientist about it? You know, that’s amazing. What a great opportunity. And so I got that chance. And you know, obviously, it’s good for a lot of things like, you know, pool resume, oh, you know, lab experience, how great it’s the real beauty of it is that it teaches you what it’s like to work in these fields that you’re actually interested I can be interested in physics all I want. I never knew what it was like to work in the field of physics until I worked with the entry program. And you know what? After doing that, I can say I’m Very comfortable in my decision to major in that I love this field, I wouldn’t change it for the world. And that’s something that’s the sort of assurance, that’s the sort of experience that you could pretty much only get, especially in high school, or you know, at high school age, that’s the sort of experience that you could pretty much only get from a program like this. So apply for it. It’s good for autistic students who are in high school.

Debbie Reber  35:25

That’s great listeners, I’ll have a link to where you can learn more about that in the show notes as well. And I just have to ask you, because you seem to me to be someone who always has a lot going on a lot of projects, even though you’re also a college student, I’m just wondering, what are you most excited about in your life right now?

Jordan O’Kelley  35:45

Hoo boy, most excited about? In terms of projects, you know, always, always waiting for new ones. are waiting. Yeah, I guess it is kind of inevitable, that one’s going to happen and come along, and then we’re going to do it. Right now. We’re just trying to promote the film a lot. And then, you know, I’ve got a new semester coming up. That’s pretty exciting. It’s supposedly going to be in person, but it just got delayed three weeks. So, you know, air quotes in person, but you know, new semesters, a new semester, and, yeah, I’m just excited to see you know, what’s gonna come down the road? Expect more, always more can find it at the O’Kelleylab.com.

Debbie Reber  36:32

That’s a perfect way to close this out. Because I was gonna ask where people can learn more about you? And where are you most active? Is it the website? Are there any social media places where people can engage?

Jordan O’Kelley  36:44

Social media places, I wouldn’t call myself active per se, but there’s stuff there. That’s the Kelley lab on Facebook, Instagram, for sure. Any social media, it’s just the O’Kelley Lab… @theokelleylab. And then you can find all those socials and a bunch of other important things at www.theokelleylab.com. I should clarify the spelling because everyone gets this wrong. www.theokelleylab.com. There’s an E there after two L’s lab.com. And that’s going to have a bunch of resources. Look it up. It’s good. It’s got good things. It’s got Mom, there’s a mom there. Among other things.

Debbie Reber  37:28

There is a mime there. Yes, definitely look it up, listeners are great resources there. And there’s so many things we could have talked about, but I so appreciate you kind of giving us a window into your journey and your world and what you’re up to. And I just so appreciate who you are in the world and the way you really are supporting all of our 2e kids, you’re making such an impact. So thank you so much.

Jordan O’Kelley  37:54

Thank you, you know, happy to oblige. You know, I’d be doing this one way or the other. I love that. Thank you for having me on. My pleasure. Thank you for having me on. And thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to all these wonderful people.

Debbie Reber  38:12

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