Life or Something Like It

A Letter Written for My Younger Self: School-Aged Edition

A Letter Written for My Younger Self: School-Aged Edition

A Letter Written for My Younger Self: School-Aged Edition

A Letter Written for My Younger Self: School-Aged Edition series will be written to heal the broken parts of my inner child. I am a therapist and this is something that I do with my clients, regularly. As I was working through this topic, it dawned on me, that I needed to do this as well.

Let me preface this by saying that I have amazing parents and family. My parents have been married for 61 years. Their love story is one that I hope to get written, on behalf of them, one day. It has not always been sunshine and rainbows. There have been a lot of storms and uncertainty. In the end, however, their love for each other has grown stronger.

What I dealt with, as a child and teenager, has no reflection on their love for me or how I was raised. I am blessed to have a provider and protector in my father. Equally as blessed to have my Oak who has roots that run deep and a can reach even the deepest holes to pull me out when I need it.

Dear School-Aged Brandi,

I want you to know that you are NOT stupid. In fact, the way your brain works is quite fascinating. I will agree that telling time is hard and knowing your right from your left is challenging. You were able to master tying your shoes, eventually and math can sometimes still be a struggle, but you learn some tips and tricks that help things move a bit more quickly. Newsflash of hope: In your mid-thirties, you will “accidentally” learn what the deal is and why you struggle with the issues that you do. A sweet therapist, of one of your children, will notice some things about you. In the kindest of ways, she will mention that there is a name to what you thought was just stupidity. It is called Dyscalculia and a lot of people have it and you will conquer it.

Don’t get me wrong, eventually there will be smartphones and your job will have a lot of numbers you have to get right. On occasion, you will call the wrong person but it is all good. It is not a big deal and people are nicer than you think they will be. They don’t think you are stupid, they just think you dialed the wrong number. It is okay and there is no need to be embarrassed or make excuses.

Heading to Kindergarten

You wanted to stay home with your mama. She wanted you to stay home with her but she had to put you in Kindergarten. Going to school was hard on you both, but you both made it! It was not your teacher’s fault you had never seen a 4 legged dog. How was she supposed to know that? How were you supposed to know that dogs had four legs when you had never seen one? It was an honest mistake. Granted, she should have never told you were stupid but do you remember your Oak came in like a lion. She fought for you, defended you, and taught that teacher a thing or two. Your Oak set the stage for your graduating that year and moving on.

Second Grade

That day, in Ms. Dallas’ class where you couldn’t tell your times table was really hard. Here’s the thing. If Ms. Dallas knew better, she would have done better. She didn’t know that you got your numbers mixed up. She didn’t know that there was a reason for that, however, she shouldn’t have made fun of you. Her making fun of you made the other kids laugh at you and call you names. She certainly should not have kept you in from recess so many times until you got it. I am sure she sees how her calling you names and laughing made the other kids do that as well.

Eventually, you learned and for that, you should be proud of yourself. I am not sure why you chose not to tell your Oak. If you had told her, she would have come to the school and fought for you again. She was never too busy to fight for you. I’m sorry you felt like you had to stay silent and hold that pain inside you. You are safe now. Those times tables are a bitch but girl, you have them down, mostly LOL. Regardless of what they say, you don’t scream out that 8×7=56 in your everyday life. It’s all good and you did it!

Fifth Grade

In 5th grade, it isn’t your fault that you didn’t understand what an adverb was and it wasn’t your fault your teacher got so mad at you. She might have been having a bad day but that is not your fault. You should not have been thrown out of the classroom. You were not trying to cause trouble, you just didn’t understand. Your brain works differently than most peoples brains and that is okay. It is okay to be different. You know, now, the big ones. A noun, verb, adjective, conjunction, and even a gerund and dangling participle. Girl, you can spell, read fast, comprehend what you are reading, and all that fun stuff. To add to the accomplishments, you have graduated 5 of your 7 children through homeschooling. You are a beast. Your teacher just didn’t see that then but that moment in time does not dictate your future.

In Sixth Grade

In 6th grade, the bullying started because you were placed in the “stupid class.” That was so hard for you. Honestly, I am so sorry that you felt singled out, was made fun of, and hurt so deeply. I know when you lined up and were paraded in front of the other kids, your ‘friends’ laughed and pointed at you. There were chants of us going to the “stupid class.” It was embarrassing and hard but you covered up that pain with acting silly and being the class clown. You had almost mastered covering up that pain with laughter but I know on the inside, you were breaking.

I believe that is why you fight so hard for your kids, who are in public school. Those classes are called “special Ed” classes and they are not for stupid people. They are for kids who might need a little extra help in some areas of learning. They are there to help kids, not to hurt them. Again, when you know better, you do better. Guess what? You told your Oak and she went to that school and fought for you, again! She got you out of that class and put you back where you belong. However, what mom did not know is that the “social damage” had already been done. She is a beast of a mama!

Special Ed, Now

Now, several years later, they integrate the kids who need some extra help into the mainstream class. What they do is place collaborative teachers in the mainstream class to just quietly lead, guide, and help where needed. If you were in school, now, you wouldn’t have had to be paraded like that, you can just go to the regular classroom. Isn’t that awesome. The school knew they needed to do better and over the years, then they did better. Is the program perfect? Nope, but it is better!

Middle and High School

After elementary school, middle and high school was nothing but an isolating bully-fest. I am so sorry that you were made fun of for what you wore, your hair, your smile, and basically just breathing. Your peers were not nice to you because they realized that your dad was a police officer and he had busted a lot of those people you went to school with at the time. Your dad did his job and did it well. You were just a byproduct of the bad choices that those “friends” made. None of that is your fault.

In the future, there are still cliques, bullying, and peer pressure. Honestly, it is a little bit slicker and more polished, but it is still the same as if you were still in school. I am really sorry that you didn’t have any friends and that you were made fun of for not wanting to have sex or do drugs. You had values and you stuck to them. I know that it was “assumed” that you would probably get pregnant in high school but the joke is on those people. That was the last thing on my mind. Also, I am sorry that you were made fun of by the clothes you wore because they were not name brand. Your clothes were just fine and you always were clean and looked nice. The fact that those ‘friends’ could not see that is not your fault.


I am sorry you didn’t go to your senior prom. You were so humiliated that no one asked you. Honestly, you could have gone alone but I understand that money was an issue plus you would have been made even more fun of if you went by yourself. It is okay to be sad about that and when your teacher says “go anyway, it will be the greatest regret of your life.” That isn’t true. Girl, there are plenty more things that you will regret but it was sad. Once again, you masked your pain with indifference and humor. You still do that…one day, we need to sit down with each other and have a chat about that little issue.


You did graduate high school, but in true fashion, you were left out again. The local newspaper always does a huge article and lists off all the graduates. Your name was not on the list. I know it was shocking when you start getting phone calls from people asking why you aren’t graduating. I’m not really sure how you got left off, but they did send you a “special” article with your name in it and an apology. Now, did that go out in the mainstream paper? No, but still, they tried to make amends.

You left that school with no friends but you had a diploma. There are pictures of you smiling with your classmates but it was a “let’s get this over with” type of smile. That’s okay, your school years were not easy. Your life began after school. You did not just graduate from high school but you graduated from college as well. Girl, you graduated with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s. That master’s degree you have, you graduated with a 3.97 the first time and a 4.0 the second time.

A Billion Years Later

When Facebook came around, it is amazing how people from your past find you and want to “friend” you because we had the “best” time in school and were the “best” of friends. You did receive a ton of requests and you accepted them all because you finally fit in! They wanted to know what you have been up to and fill you in on their wonderful lives. Your “friends list” grows and grows. Finally, you are accepted and they want a relationship with you. Then, you realize that that is not the truth. Good job in learning to distinguish between a classmate, a true friend, an acquaintance, and so on.

Lasting Friendships

Just so you know, you will make an amazing friend you call Lady. You will also meet someone in the same parenting stage as you, you will reconnect with a college friend who will become your accountability partner, and someone you will meet online that friendship will continue in your real life and not just through a screen. One day, you will have a job and meet a like-minded person. There will be a friend that will pop back up from many churches ago who will be a prayer warrior for you. A friend of your sister’s who will become a sounding board and then become a friend of yours. Then, there will be a friend you meet in the adoption world who gets you on every level. There are so many more people from church that will change your life.

You Did It

The hard stuff, you did it.

Graduating, you did it.

Persevered, you did it.

Survived bullying, you did it.

You became stronger and you are the person that fights for those who are considered “less than.” The lessons you watched from your Oak, you have taken and instituted into everything that you do. Incidentally, your Oak became an AMAZING teacher of kids from hard places. Your dad still fought the good fight and a lot of those people from school attribute their lives to him saving them.

I know, today, you have not learned to love yourself or your differences. There are days when you continue to mask those differences and by the time you can take the masks off, you are exhausted. Please give yourself grace and know that, in the end, you are gonna be okay. Be proud of who you are.



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Dys- Learning Disabilities

Dys- Learning DisabilitiesDys- Learning Disabilities

This is a breakdown of the Dys- learning disabilities. Growing up (up to adulthood, I guess), I only knew of Dyslexia. In that, Dyslexia meant that you saw/spelled a word backward.

Pretty amazing that that is all I thought it encompassed, huh.

Over time and with the help of some excellent therapists, I have learned so much more. By stepping out of the “box” I had created with LDs, I could expand my mind and have many “aha” moments of realization.


According to the National Institute for Learning Disabilities (NILD), “Dys” means difficulty with and “lexia” means words – thus “difficulty with words”. Originally the term “Dyslexia” referred to a specific learning deficit that hindered a person’s ability to read. More recently, however, it has been used as a general term referring to the broad category of language deficits that often includes the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words as well as the ability to read and spell words accurately and fluently. When breakdowns occur in these foundational reading skills, dyslexic students often struggle to understand what they read as well as develop vocabulary at a slower rate.


“Dys” means difficulty with and “calculia” means calculations and mathematics – thus “difficulty with calculations and mathematics”. This term refers to those who struggle with basic number sense and early number concepts as well as have difficulties with math calculations and math reasoning.


“Dys” means difficulty with and “graphia” means writing – thus “difficulty with writing”.  The term dysgraphia refers to more than simply having poor handwriting. This term refers to those who struggle with the motor skills necessary to write thoughts on paper, spelling, and the thinking skills needed for vocabulary retrieval, clarity of thought, grammar, and memory.

Looking Back

In my years in school, this all makes sense. When I was young (even now), I was made fun of terribly in school. Teachers would put me in the hallway, alone. I had to go to a special ed room. There is this clear memory of standing in line, with other children, behind the teacher. She marched us to the special ed class in front of everyone. My “friends” pointed at me while laughing because I was going to the “stupid” room.

That phrase gives me anxiety to this day.

I had to be kept in from recess because I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do. Memorization of math facts in second grade was a nightmare. I had to miss fun outings, sit alone, and worse. I had my name at the bottom of the list of kids who hadn’t learned these facts. Everyone saw. Everyone made fun of me.

Things I struggle with

Telling time on an analog clock is one of those things. If the watch (I no longer wear a look) has no numbers or Roman numerals, then forget it. I can do it, but it takes me a hot minute to think about it.

Directions, just don’t even. I can tell you landmarks because I became an expert at knowing my surroundings. Cardinal directions, ordinal numbers, place numbers, Roman numerals. Hard pass.

My right from my left; nope. Luckily, God created me with this issue, so he gave me a mole on my right hand. Ask me to look to the right and then watch me look/feel for my mole on each hand.

When I have a series of numbers, I flip the two middle numbers. Always. I have messed up balancing checkbooks, appointments, phone numbers, etc. I must write it, say it, write it again, and clarify now.

To get through math, through all grades, I cheated a lot. My mom is a math teacher. She is brilliant, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand, and I felt stupid when I would ask. Seriously, I should know this stuff. She is brilliant and available, yet I would not ask because she would know my secret.

Do you know how long it took me to tie my shoe? Luckily, velcro came on the scene and saved me.

That’s what I thought it was

My secret. As long as I had my mole, knew landmarks, cheated, got a digital watch…no one would know. Sadly, I knew. I have no clue how I managed to do all that I did with my degrees. Pre-Vet has A LOT of math and calculations. I would have little tricks that would help me along the way.

Then Came a Little One

When my little one entered my life, this child was 2.5 yrs old and non-verbal. We knew this child had some issues, so I immediately got Little One into First Steps. Little One got tubes twice and finally learned to talk but with a speech impediment.

No biggie. After Little One graduated from First Steps, I got this child into Home Health. Little One worked hard on speech. Over time, I realized that due to FASD, the memory aspect was fresh every morning. No matter how hard this child worked or worked with Little One, this child would forget everything I taught.

Public School

While we were in the process of adopting another child, we had to put the kids in public school. Little One was in Kindergarten. Guess what? Little One was in the special ed classroom, but not an all-day thing. Just long enough to work on the alphabet and phonics.

Little One finally got it, but the writing was a no-go, and reading was not happening. The sadness of seeing this child struggle was palpable. It brought up many repressed memories I had to trudge through to help Little One.


I pulled this child out of school for many reasons, none of which I will go into because it is his story to tell one day. In doing that, I knew that I needed to get Little One back into speech. We had his hearing checked, and in doing that, Little One was checked for Sensory Processing Disorder. Luckily, all that was good.

Across the hall was the speech team. We met with Alison for a “get to know you” and see if this child qualifies for their program. Well, Little One did. She didn’t ask me how this child was at reading or spelling. There were questions like “does Little One know his right from his left” or “how long did it take Little One to tie his shoes?” I answered them all as honestly as I could.


When it was all said and done, she said Little One qualified for their program’s speech aspect. Then she patted me on the back and said: “we do not diagnose, usually, dyslexia until a child is older.” I was like, alright, that ship didn’t even enter my harbor. She got really quiet and patted me on the back. Quietly, she said, “Your son has severe dyslexia. I knew within 5 minutes of meeting this child.”

I started laughing. Allison was startled at that response, so she kept on patting. While asking if I was okay, I said: “We just discovered my 6th child has single-sided deafness, so this diagnosis for D is just like a teardrop in the ocean.”

After that, I just stated that I thought it was me and could not teach this child. She said that is not the case, that this child learns differently. As we continued talking about the red flags of dyslexia (and dysgraphia), she asked me a few questions about myself.


In a moment of clarity, she looked at me and smiled. She said you realize you are smart and have been able to overcome your learning disability. I must have had a blank moment because I did not comprehend what she even said. She asked me when I was diagnosed with Dyscalculia. I told her that I had never heard of that. That I just thought I was stupid in that area.

Cue emotions.

She explained what that was and that it was crystal clear that that was what I had. Back when I was younger, there was not a name for it. Now there is. I almost felt vindicated. It is what it is. I have compensated for my shortcomings and confusion. So has D.

New Lease

Now, we are armed with knowledge. Little One cannot spell worth a crap. Therefore, I got this child a pocket speller. Little One has all these ideas and thoughts but can’t get them on paper. I bought Dragon Speak so this child could speak out what needed to. Little One has written some awesome things through this program.

We bought an amplifier so Little One could hear what I was saying, and his speech was corrected. Also, we did many years of speech/reading/language therapy. I had this child write books from the Bible. His penmanship is meticulous because this child has worked incredibly hard. Cursive was something I thought this child would not be able to do, but guess what, though? Writing the book of Genesis in cursive has changed that too! We got a dry-erase cursive board, and Little One practiced until this child mastered it.

Little One loves to read, so we get any series that interests this child. Also, Librivox and Audible have been game-changers. Both of these programs have real-lived people (as opposed to the computer voices) reading stories. Little One gets to hear it all, but also gets to listen to their inflections. This has helped his speech tremendously.

Fear is a Liar

I lived in fear. Now, I am armed with Truth and knowledge. Being armed has given me clarity and understanding. Learn all you can about something you are afraid of. You are strong, brave, kind, and good. We no longer live in fear. We are empowered!