What comes to mind when you read the phrase, bully pulpit? Some interpret it as a pejorative term, signifying the abuse of a platform, but the term was originally coined by President Teddy Roosevelt for using his office opportunistically for a very noble cause. The irony in this comes to mind for one of our vision therapists, Jennifer Ehrentraut, for whom speaking out about New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law has become a passion.
Though the law has garnered statewide attention, it is a national issue. In fact, it is an international issue, and a timeless one that has been a social factor for as long as societies have existed. For Jen this is personal. She is, by nature, soft-spoken and unassuming. Yet her compassion makes her a natural fit to work hotlines for kids to call when they need someone to talk to.
I made the point the other day that our vision therapy staff is a talented group for whom thinking and stepping outside the box is an everyday occurrence, and this can be said for the practices of many of my colleagues. We’re very proud of Jen for her courage in speaking out, and for telling all who’ll listen that this is a natural extension of her day-to-day work as an optomeric vision therapist helping people who in many instances have been patronized, marginalized, or trivialized by our educational and health-care systems.
Bright Not Broken is an exceptional book about exceptional children. Twice-exceptional, or 2e, is the term used to describe many gifted children and Tyler Clementi, Jen’s cousin, was certainly gifted. Many of these children don’t “fit in” and almost by definition due to their social traits they are susceptible to bullying and victimization while in school (p. 66). Unfortunately, with cyberbullying, the abuse to which these individuals are subjected does not necessarily end during the school day. As the subtitle of the book indicates, these bright kids are stuck. Aside from the specific tools that we give them clinically, we help these individuals through our compassion. We’ve discussed this before in terms of critical empathy and mindfulness as crucial attributes of an effective therapist. In this regard the effective therapist might be considered as twice-exceptional. To the extent this is true, she serves as a role model for the gifted children she works with. And children are discerning enough to know the real thing when they see it.
- Leonard J. Press, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO