Interview with Etta Brown, Author of Understanding Learning Disabilities

Etta Brown is the author of the book, Understanding Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges (Langdon Street Press). We interviewed her to find out more about her new book and her struggles as a published author. If you would like to find out more information about Etta or her book, visit

Welcome to The Writer’s Life, Etta. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

This is my first book. I began writing at the age of 67 and completed the book 3 years later at the age of 70.

I began the book after retirement following 30 years as a School Psychologist. Many friends after listening to my stories would tell me that I should write a book. One morning I got up and decided “I think I’ll start writing that book.”

During the first year of writing I vented all my anger at the system and the failure of education to fully meet the needs of learning disabled children.

During the second year, I edited out all my anger and frustrations, and during the third year I settled in to write a manual which would really be helpful to parents.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Learning Disabilities, the book, is a manual for parents of children with learning disabilities, and is written in three parts. Part I addresses the incidence learning disabilities in our culture, and identifies factors in the environment which contribute to the development of neurological defects which manifest as an inability to learn. Part II introduces parents to how learning disabilities are manifested in the classroom, and how children are identified as eligible for special education. Included is legislation governing special education, tests and testing in the identification process, and the parents’ role in the special education process. Part III of the book identifies methods and techniques for helping the child at home and in the classroom.

My inspiration has been the suffering children who begged during their assessment to be returned to the regular classroom where they could learn something and I was unable to help because there were no other services available. When children were placed in dead-end special classrooms for learning disabilities, they were doomed for the rest of their school years to below standard instruction. On the other hand were the helpless parents who did not feel that they could object to what was happening to their child. So, they gave their permission believing that school personnel knew best.

In studying, the latest federal legislation regarding the education of special children, entitled No Child Left Behind, I found that the federal government has abdicated its responsibility by empowering parents with rights that supersede those of the school. My book addresses the fact that parents are not prepared to assume this responsibility, and my book became a manual that provides the information and insights into the special education process that parents need to be successful in their new role as guarantors of an appropriate education for their children.

I researched this question and found that there are no other books on learning disabilities which share the truth about schools, children and learning as this one does. I assumed the role of child advocate and revealed the information which parents need in order to guarantee an appropriate education for their child. Many authors prepare parents for a subordinate role in working with special education. My book prepares them for a role as collaborator with equal or greater rights in the process. Parents are empowered with information which the school would rather parents did not know. There is a great discrepancy between what the law says schools should do, and the limited funding with which they attempt to do it.

The way Special Education is designed, the professional education team is forced to make decisions that are not in the best interest of the child. Children often receive whatever is available in their school. Consideration is seldom given to what is needed by the child with learning disabilities. This is particularly true of learning disabilities because they are so diverse, and the needs of each child are unique. My book empowers parent to claim the right to an appropriate education even if it is not available in their local school. If it is not available in their school district, the child can be transferred to a location where it is available at no cost to the parent.

The factors in our environment which contribute to the development of learning disabilities is missing from most books. The role of parenting and its impact upon development during the first three months is completely missing.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

This is my first book, written after retirement at the age of 70 years old. I spent the first year venting my anger, over a 30 year period as a School Psychologist, at a system which because of limited operating capitol, is not always able to act in the best interest of children.

When I thought I had finished writing the book, I was editing from grammatical errors, and realized that I was doing therapeutic writing. Then I had to modify it angry ranting and make it meaningful to someone besides myself. That took another year. In the third year I was able to do a professional job of communicating with teachers and parents.

Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

My press kit is being designed and printed. Included are a sell sheet with ISBN numbers, and other identifying data. Author Bio and a one page press release. All will be available on my website

Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

My health presently does not permit me to do public speaking. My health care providers have been charged with the responsibility of making that possible.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I am new to the game of writing, and have not been able to find an agent that is interested in my topic. As time permits I have attempted to market the book myself. This is requiring the kind of learn-as-you-go determination that it took to learn to write in the first place. My limited retirement income precludes the set aside of large sums for marketing expenses.

Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

No media blitz was prepared. No agent that I contacted was interested in the book. This is not going to be a best-selling novel.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Here are the two personal experiences that I plan to write about:

One is staying independent as a senior citizen, and remaining free to complete my transformation into the spiritual dimensions of the female elder. The stages of female evolution are child-mother-crone. The crone is depicted incompletely as the worthless female who can no longer bare children. Unfortunately, the beauty of spiritual completion, transformation, and insights learned are not valued or portrayed when describing the crone. Generally, her new skills are portrayed as those of a witch. I can recognize some of my skills as being consistent with those attributed to the witch, but there is so much more that is not communicated to women entering menopause. I am far from the appearance generally recognized as that of a crone. Here I am at age 67. Sounds like the makings of another book, doesn’t it?

What are you currently working on?

Having vented about the plight of learning disabled children, I have turned to the plight of the elderly in our society that are neglected and exploited. I am working on an expose’ of the probate system which allows attorneys/guardians to rape the estate of senior citizens who are forced into unwanted guardianships. The problem is universal in this country. Elderly people, their insurance companies, and Medicare are manipulated in ways that constitute fraud, and it is all done under the auspices of the probate court.

Holding on to ones assets and remaining independent has become a necessity for me, and it has extended to the intention to help others. An older brother was taken into a very negligent guardianship. While fighting that process I became a rather competent paralegal. Reviews by my attorneys range from first “very good” and then “excellent.” A book is planned about the paralegal experience, and my attorney has offered to collaborate.

Thank you for your interview, Etta. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

I am on the web at

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