Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview with author Etta K. Brown

Interview with Nonfiction Author Etta K. Brown

Today I'm interviewing Author Etta K. Brown. I haven't read her book: Learning disabilities: Understanding the problem and managing the challenges, yet but I'm looking forward to digging into it. Welcome Etta, thank you for taking the time to share with my readers. Could you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in Xenia, a small town in Ohio. I was the fifth of five children and attended The Ohio State University. Initially I became a Dental Hygienist with a degree in education. Because teacher raises and the salary schedule were tied to additional levels of learning, I continued to attend graduate school until I had earned a PhD. With 88 counties in Ohio, and a college in every county (2 or more in some) it was easy to attend graduate classes at night. I finally left school without completing the PhD because of my health.

During the process of moving on the salary schedule I earned certification as a special education teacher, school social worker, and school psychologist.

I have been unmarried since 14 months after my wedding in 1969. Don't ask and I won't tell the quirks and twists in that plot. I have no children, and my favorite pet just passed away, so I am still in mourning for my tom cat two years later. I am partial to cats and hope that I will be able to accept another into my life soon.

I myself am a dog-lover, but I won't hold that against you. We don't have one right now we had to put our last one down about two years ago because of health reasons. She was about 10 years old. Could you tell us about your professional career?

I worked 15 years in a school dental clinic as a dental hygienist teaching dental health education before starting my training in school social work, special education, and school psychology.

It was during my years as a school psychologist that I felt that I had the potential to make the greatest contribution. However, the job description did not allow for me to use any of my skills to help children. After retirement in 2002 I began writing about the subject, and revealed everything that I had always wanted to tell parents about schools and their children but could not without being disloyal to my employers. I am now free of that restriction, and in my book I share an insider’s view of special education that the schools would rather parents did not know.

Special needs children hold a place in my heart too. I have my EE degree with my ND teaching license. However, at the present I'm homeschooling my own daughter. My oldest just graduated in May and my youngest will be a freshman in HS this fall. Teaching is close to my heart. I substitute taught in the PS system from 1987-1992, when my oldest was born. I was able to be in the special needs classroom on occasions and that is where I grew fond of SN children. Could you tell us what are you doing now?

I am retired and starting another book about the dangers of being elderly in America. I am engaged in a legal battle for the rights of an elder brother. It has made me aware of the precautions that I need to take to prevent an unwarranted guardianship for myself.

That sounds like an interesting book. I have elderly parents. I just may have to check that book out when it is complete. Are you a full-time author now?

No, I have become a full time marketer for my first book. If I master this skill, I will start my next book on autism.

That is a subject I'd like to read up on may have to check it out too. Does the Special needs child intrigue you?

Yes, of course. I studied exceptional children for 22 years of graduate school receiving a Masters in Special Education before moving on to School Psychology. I still see special needs children as being worthy of our best efforts. I found them to be as good a student as any other, and they have a sense of self that is to be admired when they are successful in accepting life as it has been dealt to them. The rewards are very gratifying.

Special needs children grew in my heart after I substitute taught in the EMR and Special needs Pre-school classrooms. I have a niece with Downs and she is quite special in our family. Do you write only non-fiction?

I see all my future writing as non-fiction.

There's always a need for good informative books.

Could you tell us a little bit about the featured book?

The book is a how-to-manual for parents. As a reference book it identifies behavioral and learning problems exhibited by the child; how to accommodate them in the classroom; and what can be done at home to help.

Included are summaries of special education laws; the power granted to parents by those laws; how to use them to insure that your child receives an appropriate education. I believe that the book offers strategies and solutions that are immeiately applicable at home and school, and will have an immediate impact upon the academic success of children.

It sounds so good. I can't wait to get started reading it. Who would benefit most from reading this book?

Parents and teachers of children with learning problems are the target audience for the book. Parents are assisted with the prevention of additional learning problems, while advocating for an appropriate education for their children. Teachers are assisted with a more indepth insight into learning disabilities, their causes, prevention and classroom modifications and accommodations.

We're never too old to learn. This sounds so interesting. What spurred you to write this type of book?

As I have told my stories over the years, friends have said, "you should write a book." One day after traveling for awhile, I awakened from sleep and said, "I think I'll write that book today." It took three years.

At the end of the first year when I thought I had written the masterpiece of the century, I began editing my work and found that I had ventilated all my anger and frustration about my career experiences.

I spent the second year editing out all the frustration and anger, and during the third year I manipulated the remaining gems of wisdom into something that I thought someone else would be interested in reading. I pondered often about the worth of what I was writing, but finally concluded that I was making a worthwhile contribution to a problem which is growing at the rate of 10-20% every 10 years. Slowing down the increasing incidence of learning problems in our children will make it all worthwhile.

So this book has been awhile in the making. Have you written any other books?

This is my first book. I have two others planned, but they are non-fiction also. The next objective is to expose the legal fraud associated with guardianships of the elderly, and the overwhelming fraud in elder care.

Now for a few fun questions: What is your favorite activity?

I study metaphysics to keep myself centered, and focused.

Interesting. Always learning that's what matters. Do you have a favorite hobby?

I have mellowed somewhat since the 60s, but I am still somewhat of an advocate for things in which I believe.

Do you have a favorite food?

All things gourmet!

You sound like my kind of person. Any thoughts you'd like to leave with the readers

Yes. Learning disabilities are no longer the mystery that they once were. We now know exactly what learning disabilities are, what causes them, and how they manifest in the classroom. Parenting is the key to protecting the child from his emotional, social, and physical environments that are the primary interference with child development. The most important thing, is that it is never too late to make a difference for a child. They are dynamic beings, and will respond to the kinds of assistance recommended in this book.

Thank you for your time. I have enjoyed learning from this interview. I trust my readers will likewise be informed now. My review will come later. For more information concerning this book go here.

Read my review of the book here.

This work, while written by an academician, is an uncomplicated resource of information addressed to parents who have been introduced to the concept of Special Education for the first time. Overall, this work is a road map of how-to activities which will be of assistance from the beginning to end of the special education process.

Part I is an introduction to the environmental influences since World War II, that are believed to be contributing to the incidence of learning disabilities that is increasing at a rate of 20% every 10 years.

Part II includes a definition and history of special education and its intended role and function in the effort to educate all children. The reader is introduced to the process of determining eligibility for Special Education, and Federal and State Legislation are explored in terms of the parent's rights in the process.

Part III is an exploration of processing disorders as required for a designation of learning disability. Behaviors exhibited in the classroom, a rationale for the behavior, along with modifications and accommodations for the general education classroom are listed. These interventions are applied to the elementary, middle school, and high school environments as an aid in developing the individualized education plan (IEP).


As stated previously, before beginning advocacy for a child’s special education, it would be helpful for parents to be sure that any trauma, injuries, nutrition or health problems have been addressed and the child’s vision and hearing have been checked so that as an advocate, parents are doing or have done their part at home to prepare their child for learning.

Children with learning disabilities represent the largest category of students receiving special education, and the term has become so closely associated with special education that some professionals have actually referred to special education as a form of treatment for learning disabilities, and some parents and teachers have been led to believe that special education will solve their child’s learning problems. This is far from the truth of what special education is and does.

When a child has a learning problem, the special classroom modifies the way the information is presented to the child. If his problem is visual processing, information may be presented so that the stronger auditory senses are utilized. The child then learns more effectively, but that does not mean that the visual processing problem has been cured.

Children with many types of developmental immaturities benefit greatly from the special techniques and assistance received in special education. The law states that identification should occur at an early age and that, for school age children, services should be provided in the least restrictive environment.

Because learning-disabled children do not learn in the same way that the majority of children learn assessment is needed to assist the teacher in determining how they do learn best so that teaching methods can be adapted to their needs. Without this help, the teacher is overwhelmed with challenges for which she may have been ill-prepared in her training program. Add to that an overcrowded classroom of 30 to 35 students and the child with special needs often does not receive the special accommodations that he is rightfully entitled to under the law.

When this scenario exists, the child with a different learning style is often referred to special education, where, ideally, the smaller class size is expected to make it easier to accommodate unique learning needs.

However, approval for the placement of a child in an isolated group should be given only after the parent has visited the class, examined the curriculum and talked with the teacher about special teaching techniques.

Special Class Placement

Data suggests that students with disabilities living in inner-cities are more likely to be placed in restrictive learning environments. In these settings, 41.3 percent of students with disabilities are enrolled in full-time programs that remove students from regular classes for 50 percent or more of the school day, compared to 23.4 percent in non-inner-city areas.

Once placed in these classes, without specific assessment and accommodation of their learning style, they continue to underachieve. As a consequence, they are rarely able to return to an educational setting with their non-disabled peers because they have fallen too far behind academically and are, therefore, condemned to these settings for the remainder of their school experience. Eventually, because school is so meaningless, by middle school truancy becomes a problem and they drop out.

This raises a question. If the child is not going to learn at grade level anyway, why is it that he cannot be accommodated in the general education classroom and at least learn the social skills available through interaction with his classmates? The answer is that teachers sometimes believe the hype given to parents. “He will benefit more from placement in special education.” And theoretically that should be true, but in reality it often is not.

Again, the school district has a logical defense for its actions. It is hard to retain good teachers in some schools where there is limited parental participation; there are a limited number of English-speaking students; these children enter school “unready” to learn, etc.

While this may be true in some instances, and a major problem in others, enrollment statistics are not a problem which should have negative impact upon the education of the individual child. The parent’s objective is to see that their child receives an appropriate education. And if an appropriate education cannot be provided in the home school environment, parents have the right under the law to request that their child be transported, at school district expense, to an environment in which he will receive an appropriate education. And if English is not his primary language, he should be enrolled in a class that will develop his academic skills while he is learning English.

Referral for Special Education

Part of the reason for referral to special education is that the child may present a problem for the classroom teacher because his special needs demand services and accommodations which cannot be provided without special skills. So the teacher utilizes the only option available by referring the child in need to special education.

Another situation that places the child in jeopardy is the law that requires a minimal number of students for special classes. If the number in a given area is 12 and there are only 10 students identified at the child’s school, it becomes easier to find two more students to fill that class requirement than to lose a good teacher and bus the other 10 students to another school.

So, an additional question becomes, does the child “need” special education and is special education “appropriate” for the child even if he is eligible?

With good advocacy parents can weather this storm and achieve an educational program that is “appropriate” for their child in “the least restrictive learning environment.” It is their right under the law. And with good advocacy and involvement in the process, they can claim their rights.


1 comment:

etta brown said...

Hi Amy,
Thanks for the lovely interview. Would you like a copy of the book. I'd be happy to send one out to you.

Learning Disabilities, Understanding the Problem, Managing the Challenges

Also, the book is availalbe for purchase at