By Caroline T. Lubbe.
How do you get out of homework when you’re in the fourth grade and writing feels impossible because of your dysgraphia? You convince your teacher to let you write a book instead. How do you get out of homework when you’re in eighth grade? You write a book of monologues based on your book and then produce your own community fundraiser.
At least, this is what you do when you’re Jordan O’Kelley.
When Jordan was 4 years old, he was identified as autistic. When he was 10 years old, he was recognized as gifted. Jordan’s strengths and challenges are part of his profile as a twice-exceptional or 2e individual.
He wrote his first book, The O’Kelley Legendary Legends of Legend: How I Got Out of Homework in the 4th Grade, as a way of embracing his strengths and to provide an alternative to the monotony of homework for a 2e student. Reading three grade levels ahead of his class, Jordan was frustrated with having to write book reports on fourth grade books. With his teacher’s consent, Jordan wrote each chapter as a family story.
Several years later, in 2018, Jordan met Dr. James Webb, founder of Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, at the annual SENG Conference. Jordan was immediately impressed with the dedication of Dr. Webb in his unwavering advocacy for gifted and 2e individuals and their families. When Dr. Webb died shortly after, Jordan decided to write O’Kelley Legends Monologues and then present the monologues as a stage production to further SENG’s work.
The O’Kelley Legends monologue show premiered as a stage read at the Actors Art Theater in Los Angeles on February 17, 2019. Jordan and his sisters, Macey and Rachel, together with their parents Harri James and Brian O’Kelly, founded The O’Kelley Lab for the family’s creative efforts. They decided to develop and produce a behind-the-scenes film to document the commitment of Jordan and his family and to highlight the support team and community that brings the monologue show to fruition. The result is the documentary, O’Kelley Legends: 2e Behind the Scenes.
Jordan dedicated the production to Dr. Webb and SENG. Notably, SENG recognizes the whole gifted and 2e individual throughout their lifespan in SENG’s mission to empower families and communities to guide gifted and talented individuals to reach their goals: intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
The importance of family and community is emphasized throughout the documentary. Classmates and cast members and their families are featured in the film as well as mentors for key supports in directing, writing, editing, casting, producing, audio, and production design.
This is my biome,
It's what I call home,
All of my time I spent building you
Minecraft parody, theme music to Legendary Legends Monologues
The music for the stage read and the documentary is Minecraft parodies—Minecraft being an activity that was at the center of a number of 2e cast members when they were younger. Creating a 2e biome is more than a video game goal. Many families and caregivers do exactly this in seeking educational and social environments where their neurodivergent can thrive.
Harri James, Jordan’s mother, directed the film, and she documents the process of Jordan’s journey as he creates a neurodivergent-friendly theater production beginning with casting of 2e individuals, followed by coaching, rewriting, dress rehearsals, and the final live performance. Students, family, mentors, and industry professionals are guided by a strength-based approach. The young performers work individually and together with casting and acting mentors as well as 2e supports, such as Mime as Therapy, and with Jordan as the theater production’s director. Terry Hart who developed Mime as Therapy emphasizes the use of “our bodies to portray the thoughts and emotions that we have”.