Discovering a New Career in Special Education
How Edgar is continuously discovering new knowledge and realities in diagnostics
We often encounter different roads before we discover our destination. Discovering the right career path is a great struggle; it is often fueled by many factors. It may be for personal growth, a hefty income, or a person’s passion. My husband, Edgar Brown, started discovering his passion in diagnostics at the Missouri State Department. Duane Hensley offered Edgar a position as educational diagnostician at the Department of Mental Health for referred children who are failing to show functional behavior at their expected level at home or in school.
During that time, Ed was taking course work for teaching reading. The clinic wasn’t getting enough referral rates. Edgar advised the administrator, who was an educator, to have him be the contact person of schools. With Ed’s effort, the clinic and the school has had a positive relationship.
His experience as a diagnostician taught him a lot in handling issues and problems of students referred to their clinic. One interesting case he handled was the case of Sherry, a beautiful sixteen-year-old junior who could not even read at a first-grade reading level.
Sherry’s family was economically above average and had three older daughters who were very beautiful and outstanding in school. Sherry’s case drew considerable curiosity since she managed to hide her disability until junior year. She used her striking personality and highly developed manipulative skills to elude discovery of her weakness. Sherry was very bright and intelligent. However, the pressure of junior level caused her psychological breakdowns. She disclosed to Edgar her plan on getting pregnant to escape school and her dilemma altogether.
Edgar was able to help Sherry in discovering what is blocking her to read. By thorough examinations, Ed advised the vocational rehabilitation to give special assistance to Sherry so she can possibly learn how to read. In response, the vocational rehabilitation gave him six weeks to prove his hypothesis.
In the end, Edgar succeeded. Using a teaching program developed by Dr. Getman, he was able to find two factors that prevented Sherry from reading. With the help of Edgar and practicing Getman’s exercises, Sherry was able to achieve a fifth-grade reading level.
Another case that stayed in Ed’s memory is that of a brown-eyed four-year-old girl named Kathy. Her examination at the University of Missouri gave conclusions pointing toward autism, profound retardation, and severely emotionally disturbed. During his examination, Edgar used a method usually overlooked by most—asking the patient.
While he closely observed Kathy, he noticed that she kept on pulling at her ears. A lightbulb sparked in Ed’s head. He thought of proving his theory, so he went behind Kathy and clapped his hands loudly while calling her name. There was no response from her. Kathy was profoundly deaf.
When the young girl figured out that her ears weren’t working, her four-year-old mind thought that pulling at them would fix the problem. Her Leiter Intelligence Test Result measured her IQ to be 140 at a young age of four. Edgar advised special assistance at the elementary school where she was to be enrolled. After a few years, Kathy reached fourth grade and was mingling normally with her peers.
Not only has Edgar helped both Sherry and Kathy in discovering their weakness, but he also helped them in discovering their strengths amid their weakness.
The year 1973 was the start of the second phase of Ed’s career. He had finished his education specialist degree and was offered an administrative assistant position at Jasper, Missouri. His duties included guidance, vocational curriculum, and implementation of special education programs.
He worked in a public school where programs were limited and teachers referred students to his office at the slightest sign of a problem. One of which was the case of Jake, a third grader. Jake was falling behind his expected progress and was said to have an attention deficit. The teacher reported that he kept on squirming around, standing up, and asking to be excused to the restroom. What puzzled Ed was that he found no indication of ADHD in his examination of Jake, so he used his usual technique. He asked the child about the problem, and he got the answer he never expected.
“Mr. Brown, it’s my underwear!” said the third grader.
Jake was a big third-grade boy, but his mother hadn’t replaced his first-grade briefs. It was late August, and the weather was still hot and humid. Classrooms without air-conditioning units are very uncomfortable, and Jake experienced the same discomfort and worse, with his undersized briefs.
Discovering a new knowledge and reality, Edgar knew there were probably a lot of students misdiagnosed and placed in special ed programs. Ed did his best to examine his cases carefully so as not to do what other administrators have done.
June 1974 was the end of his administrative assistance at Jasper. It was the end of the school year, and Ed gave a report to the school board on his recommendations regarding the vocational curriculum. Not a few minutes into his report, Mr. Harris, one of the board members, blurted out, “We don’t want any outsiders telling us what to do.” Ed resigned two weeks after the start of the summer break.
After Jasper, Edgar transferred to Neosho, Missouri. He encountered the same problems he had in Jasper—teachers referred students in his office without proper assessment. Ed, on the other hand, tried his best to see each examination properly so as not to misdiagnose. It was hard to prove a child is not handicapped than proving him handicapped.
One case in Neosho was first grader Hosea, who transferred to Missouri from Texas. The teacher’s report stated that Hosea was developmentally delayed because he was still “baby talking.” Discovering the root of the handicap was a challenge, but he found it nonetheless.
In his examination, he found out that Hosea lived with two Spanish-speaking grandparents and a bilingual mother. Hosea was not “baby talking”; it was only due to his Spanish accent. What Hosea needed was special help in overcoming his linguistic problem.
Amid the conflict that occurred between his colleagues, Ed remained firm in his beliefs and was passionate in giving every student the best education that they deserved. Along the way, he acquired a great deal of knowledge and realities.