Brunette-locks & The Three Doors: My Story- The Gift of Dyslexia *accessibility friendly
Tricia Cook, the author, was listening to a podcast from Daily Breath with Deepak Chopra that was talking about traumatic childhood experiences and he said, ‘first on paper, then in the air, and then gone forever’. Till now, Mrs. Cook had never had her experiences cumulatively in one spot- it was mostly in my mind and heart where it doesn’t belong! Plus, she proved she can get her experience into words, then out onto the paper to be shared to help others too!! In this story, Nettie Fermeracle discovers the veil of being imperfect was her ego’s illusion. She experienced the heartache and troubling mind of having a learning difference. Yet, she finds courage and compassion that she needed to when the last door was opened; she gladly accepted the loving invitation of salvation.
Written by -Tricia Cook, MEd., RSP, AOG; https://linktr.ee/tcooktutor
Nettie Fermeracle was born, in the 1970’s, in the historically, well known, eccentric city of New Orleans, Louisiana where daily booze and Jazz flows through the streets. She grew up in Uptown NOLA in a predominately old neighborhood which had broken up streets with continuously dimly lit shadows being below sea level, and the massively large oaks with roots and branches that cover it’s paths above and underground. Nettie was hearing from strangers since a young age that she was a beautiful girl with her curly, brunette locks, and hazel eyes with a darker skin-tone typical of people in the area of Creole descent. Interesting enough, Nettie’s Creole ancestors on her dad’s side had taken the journey that come from France, Haiti to New Orleans in the early 1800’s. Looking in very close in resemblance to her dad; her dad was a rather an upcoming, successful architect during this ‘awakened decade’ of the mid-1970’s. He became known in NOLA for designing supermarkets, warehouses, buildings for local businesses, and homes. Nettie was very proud of her dad and was considered a “daddy’s girl”. Nettie’s mom was a loving mother who had similar but different features of having dark black hair, piercing, stark blue eyes which is more like their Dark Irish decent of her family. Her mom was an exultant housewife. She also had a brother whose four years older named Tom.
Nettie’s family enjoyed their weekends, as dad during the week worked, diligently on his own business becoming an established architectural firm growing progressively with employees, as well as exponentially in income. Of while, her mom was insistent that since dad worked, so hard that they spent time as a family together on the weekends. The Fermeracles enjoyed their weekends of going out to eat savory foods in the French Quarter, partaking in live soulful musicians playing on the streets, flamboyant mimes entertaining the people passing-by, and crazy-wild Saints games at The Dome. Mostly, The Fermeracles spent their time with what would be their life-long friends, who didn’t live but ten blocks away. They were a couple, who meet Nettie’s parents, while they had been in college. They had a son two days younger than Nettie and a daughter two years younger then them both. Many times were spent at the family-friends house: joyously playing in their pool, slyly watching the adults drink their beverages while playing Bridge, and basically just hanging out being crazy. They went to church almost every Sunday where Nettie had learned much about God [not so much Jesus]; however, she was a spiritual child which she knew that was a gift. She prayed every night when her dad would carry her on his shoulders to her bed. She loved God and believed in God.
When Nettie’s family were at home, they played board games, Atari, and mom read to them, on the Fermeracle’s family couch, just about every night from the classic book “The Grimms’ Fairy Tales“. This is where at a young age, Nettie had developed a love for stories about people, nature, and animals, for which she would spend an endless amount of time in the backyard. Their backyard was typical Uptown NOLA concrete backyard with attached courtyard with fountain attached to the mid-sized, modern, brown brick , contemporary home [one not typical NOLA in the least]. In this concrete, exquisite, laid brick setting Nettie somehow truly felt a connection to nature and had created her very own “Secret Garden” along this concrete walkway playground next to the house. Lining the walkways, The Secret Garden was filled with very small beds containing plants such as orange-colored Birds of Paradise, bright-red Tulips, and one large Fig tree in the middle.
Nettie spent her time constantly admiring the brilliant, enormous [at least to her], fig tree for which she loved eating off it’s figs, which she knew was a special gift. Her imagination was wild and imagined that no one could see her garden, except her mom only knew about her garden and her daughter’s “gifts”. There were many other fascinating stories she’d conjured-up in her head; like the giant that lived in the city that would walk around stomping it’s big feet at night, and the mystery of the shadow outlined in the hallway carpet of a dead-person laying. She was heavy into mysteries and stories which she knew was a gift.
Door One: Gaining Strength
Nettie stayed at home with her loving mom till the age of four years, two months old. She was sent to a popular, well-sought preschool not far from the house. She evidently had a late birthday in July; now remember, this was back when schools started in September each year. Nettie had never had been without her mom for very long which caused Nettie separation anxiety for again she was very close to her mom. In Kindergarten, Nettie was behind the other children and the teachers in the prestigious private school where good but not good enough in recognizing nor helping Nettie with a learning difference [To the defense of all the teachers, the definition of a learning disability was defined in the same year she was born].
Nettie was so far behind the peers in her class that she was held back which made her feel angry and abandoned by those who she looked up to and were supposed to help her. Her mom for the next six years continued to “fight for her” along with being on the search to find a proper school that could help her. The major problem here was many of the first-rate schools in NOLA had test to enter these schools and Nettie was a ‘horrible test taker’ this had her feeling like she was letting her parents and herself down. [Nettie in her schooling career was going to five schools in six years. Think about the anger and shame that Nettie must have felt in her heart and mind?].
In those early years of schooling, teachers never let up and wanted to hold her back again; sometimes they would let Nettie’s mom know their frustration with Nettie’s learning and one teacher said, “she is lazy” along with her dad several times eluding to agree with them. As a result, Nettie got tested and diagnosed in 1983 as having CAPD (aka dysphonetic dyslexia- “dyslexia of the ears”) and a Learning Disability (having a average IQ but struggling in Reading and Math). They didn’t mention it being hereditary [her mom has undiagnosed dyseidetic dyslexia and her dad has a language-based learning disability-SLI], but the professionals told her parents, it was caused by her chronic ear infections and the five convulsions that she had when she was a baby.
After being diagnosed, at the age of eight, her parents had gotten her a private tutor that helped her learn to read such books as “Cat In The Hat” for the first time. Even after a diagnosis and, being the 1980’s, the teachers were frustrated, angry too, and showed it by standing over her yelling and having her chair placed up against the teacher’s desk. Likewise, teachers would do the opposite-just ignore her! She found out, the hard lesson, that respect was not always returned nor reciprocated; this crushed her self-esteem at a very young, impressionable age [being highly sensitive-empathetic, intuitive, along with her gift for caring immensely for people, animals, and nature is what made this lesson so hard].
School being as difficult as it was, especially Round-Robin Reading, this gave Nettie stomach and head aches to the point of horrendous migraines and high blood pressure at age eight. She pretended to be sick very often, in order to stay home with her mom. All these life’s lessons and traumatic experiences thus far led Nettie to having anger in Nettie’s heart and mind [that would later need to be replaced with strength]!
Door Two: Gaining Empathy
It turns out that Tom, Nettie’s brother, was tested for his IQ sometime in his schooling at a prestigious school and was a National Merit Scholar [he was headed on the road to becoming a successful Neurosurgeon]. The Fermeracle’s celebrated his gift of being a genius, while Nettie was struggling and experiencing trauma from her learning difference; for instance, her worst experience happened to her in fourth grade. When she brought one of her proudly-written mystery stories to school for her teacher to read, because of her poor handwriting, spelling, and grammar the story was bashed by the teacher along with red marks everywhere on the page. From then on, Nettie decided that she never wanted to write again and learned a major lesson about disparagement.
Nettie was a sensitive girl which had propensity for emotional intensity. The kids knew about the learning difference somehow and mimicked the teacher’s behavior. Nettie for much of her childhood was shunned by kids and made fun of her for being slow. They were sometimes down right cruel. Like also, playing jokes, calling names even her brother called her stupid and that was his nickname for her which made her ‘cry like a baby’ often. He also said to her, ‘you don’t have any friends’ and ‘nobody likes you’ [like most older brothers, I’m sure].
Kids got nicer with age such as in High School, but school never got easier she cheated on an occasion despite being pulled for the LD resource room. Spanish class was the most disheartening for her [she really wanted to learn but couldn’t put a sentence together to save her life] and she almost didn’t graduate high school. Luckily, in the summer of 1992, her mom found her a summer program that taught her organizational, study and test taking skills. She also got some after school help in math that helped her turn her grades around.
She did have a high moment in High School where received the Top Senior Tennis Player award. [it meant the world to her, she still had the award: remember at this time people with learning disabilities weren’t viewed as leaders and didn’t receive many awards]. One the other hand, the thought of not graduating high school brought negative thinking rushing-in along with the preexisting insecurities. [Don’t worry Nettie got extra test time and a quiet room from her SAT, graduated, and got accepted into college.]
Once in her college, she enrolled in Students with Disability Services for continued support such as books on tape, extra test time/quiet space, and tutoring. In their office, they tested her grade level in reading for some reason and she saw the results pop up once she finished: it was a whopping 6.0 grade level. That was devastating for her to be in college and see this numbers in her face; this again brought out her insecurities. She was actually scared they would see them and realize she didn’t belong there. She felt like she was living a lie and the school and sorority would find out she didn’t belong there [her insecurities rearing it’s ugly head]. On top of that, her first semester, she had a 1.6 GPA and even more scared that they would dismiss her, so she buckled down as much as she could with keeping a still rather active social life. Yes…she did rely heavily on her looks, social life, and partying because that’s what she felt she had “going for her” and her ego helping her to survive insecure and unsafe situations in and out of the college classroom. Plus, it’s an old behavior she had learned in high school! Likewise, all these life’s lessons and traumatic experiences thus far led Nettie to having shame in Nettie’s heart and mind [that would later need to be replaced with empathy]!
In her senior year, the second worst experience happened, in the College of Education, where a professor read her paper and due mainly to the disorganization of the paper (regardless of having the the letter from The Students of Disability Services) said, in the hallway, “you have failed my class and ‘if I can help it, you will never be a teacher’.” Likewise, all these life’s lessons and traumatic experiences thus far led Nettie to having hatred in Nettie’s heart and mind [that would later need to be replaced with compassion]!
Despite this threat, she graduated with a Early Childhood Education degree and state teacher certification. She also went onto receive other degrees and certifications, positions, and varied roles in educational experiences with mostly alternative types of education. Nettie then had her eye-set on being an SLP- she took 210 hours ($14,000 dollars later) of SLP undergrad hours of courses. She missed the cut into graduate school by three people- she was fourth on the waiting list. So, she decided to move on from her SLP dreams when she found Montessori. One of her certificates included an AMS Montessori toddler certificate. During her training, she remembers her peers in the first week laughing at her when she had a hard time with fractions; for which, she asked the instructor afterwards for outside help. This isn’t the first time nor last she had experienced laughing more like snickering really [being highly sensitive-might as well been an outright laugh] by a group in her professional adult experiences. In her first year of teaching, Nettie even had Lead Teacher ask her to practice my handwriting during her breaks. There wasn’t a job where she didn’t get told or received a memo from principals or supervisors to have anything sent out to parents, teachers, administration needed to be proofread first by someone else.
After graduated her undergrad, masters as a Reading Specialist; then, she even went on for doctorate in Education. After twenty years in education and two years into her doctorate (10,000 dollars later), she quit the program. Nettie’s reasoning is deductive which means basically the opposite of the “scientific method” inductive reasoning. This doctorate program like many are not interested in second year students writing from someone’s own observations and emotional-intellectual perspectives (11 years an experienced Montessorian), hypothesis, theory and conclusive evidence based on some of the assigned reading.
Basically, she was too “outside of the box” and needed to “spit out” what they were looking to hear from the assigned reading [whole language articles] along with showing as little autonomy as possible. She learned the students that do the readings, verbalize and structurally “spit out” the intended “correct” information, get the best reward and that’s positive comments from the professors for all the peers to see. [Nettie will continue to search and pray for a doctoral program that’s “just right” for her and God will present in the “right” time-if its His Will. She trust Him!]
In her late thirties, she learned, her first most important life-lessons. First of the three, when you come to the point in life-you need transformation, she needed to discover how to become whole through God; especially, He had already given her empathy, empowerment by being strong, having wisdom, knowledge, and peace, bliss & joy, courage and compassion. Second, most important lesson was that her issues of having the learning difference were the reason for the problems; Meaning, the people closest to her were ”mirroring” her insecurities back to help her to uncover and learn about herself to glorify God through in her life’s lessons. Third, she just needed to recognize her power, courage and compassion in herself (awareness), through Him by learning about Him and loving Him. Likewise, all these life’s lessons and traumatic experiences thus far led Nettie to having grief in Nettie’s heart and mind [that would later need to be replaced with compassion]!
Door Three: The Door Opened to Gaining God
Was Nettie perceiving life with a troubled heart of possibly hatred and grief of the mind?
Gradually over time, she had heard so many negative comments, felt like she couldn’t do anything right, and “nobody liked her, everybody hated her” that they became her inner thoughts and believed them. Until this point, Nettie thought Jesus was already in her heart; yet, looking back, she grew up thinking she wasn’t enough or worthy. In turn, the learning difference was lessening her relationship to God in terms of the freedom, power, glory, victory, and unity that was to come into her life during this middle aged years.
Until her mid-adult years, she discovered the veil of being imperfect was her ego’s illusion and not what God had intended for His child because her life is partly her Will too! God, in His Will, uncovered the TRUTH. Similarly, she in unity with Him uncovered how to become blameless, pure, and righteous with grace bringing her closer to God by helping her to discover replacing anger with strength and shame with empathy! In later years, transforming hatred to courage and grief to comprehension was also needed. Nettie had to look into her problems then unto some issues of her childhood. She had learned the importance of prayer, meditation, movement meditation, exercise, daily affirmations and scripture reading! Her affirmations are as the following: I am smart, I can do this, I am Love!Nettie felt like a door had opened; but, she not entirely invited Him fully inside her heart and mind until the “dark night of the soul” situation happened in her life, where she had been placed in a situation of pain, struggle, reevaluation, and self-discovery.
Nettie’s message to you is…do not take things so seriously when Life is Rough- Rejoice in the GRACE, STRENGTH, FAITH, and LOVE of JESUS. In this pivotal years, she was actually was growing in faith and love due learning differences. Her issues of failure, abandonment, rejection, control, victimization due to her learning difference along with the feeling of incompleteness and sadness are gone. Her disappointment and heartache do to failure in her past needed to be forgiven and understood in a deeper sense by accepting Him, so she can heal in courage, compassion, and mainly love for others, and acceptance of the true mercy of God! She discovered how to live a blameless life and realizes the issues HAD TO HAPPEN and ALL her problems with others: being the teachers, school and learning, her brother or the other kids; it really wasn’t them or the difference itself. It was for her greater good and His Kingdom to again her new ability to truly Glorify Him! It was her life’s lesson to the journey of learning to glorify God and her newly found (yet was always there): FREEDOM & VICTORY. The struggles are now her strength and has a child-like empathy.
THE GIFT OF DYSLEXIA & OTHER LEARNING DIFFERENCES
There’s a lot to be said for Maria Montessori’s observations of trusting the universe along with ‘the child’. If we love and trust our children, this becomes their inner thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. When they trust their own brain [and heart], they can experience the “gifts of dyslexia” and learn anything the way they learn best.
People with dyslexia have a sound and language processing problems. They will struggle to connect letters to sounds and, mainly problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words; as well, those with visual processing problems struggle to understand visual information such as letters, shapes, or objects and, mainly problems processing graphic symbols. Related to the absorption and processing of sounds [sounds especially can be omitted from words by the student], students with dyslexia most commonly omit letter sounds, words, phrases in the middle position, then the end, and least commonly the beginning. When they omit, they might do sounds confusions such as repetition(s), substitution(s), addition(s) or delete altogether, on the other hand; transversal and reversal are more common in students with a visual processing problem- have them remember: if it doesn’t look or sound right reread or rewrite till you’re brain feels like “it’s just right” [trust your brain- you are smart, you can do it, and you are love].
People with Dyslexia also have a high coexistence of ADHD (3 types). People with ADHD and Dyslexia have difficulty processing the basic sounds of language (phonemes) and graphic symbols causing fluency struggles. They “stumble over words” due to reading and processing too fast/slow; mainly, in the beginning-ending of word, sentence, paragraph, passage– rest of the time not too fast/slow sometimes it’s “just right” (I call this “varied reading rate”). If varied prosody, reading rate, and expression/intonation objective aren’t met and they still don’t seem to comprehend; mainly, in the beginning-ending of paragraph, passage, etc. have them remember: if it sounds or looks too fast or slow, or robotic, then adjust your prosody and reading rate by rereading so it will be “just right” [trust your brain- you are smart, you can do it, and you are love].
Both, people with just dyslexia and dyslexia along with ADHD are notoriously known for “guessing at words” and stories meaning despite having average/high IQ due to the dyslexia and ADHD tendencies! They both are having natural universal emotions of learning (such as anger, shame which need to be replace with strength and empathy, as well as, remembering calm). The tendencies change according to the reading, hour day, week, etc.. Also, the tendencies way heavily on if they are sick, hungry, tired, or stressed. Reading can make them feel ill with headaches, stomach aches/knots, tight shoulders/neck and even dizzy.
Nettie, the girl in my story, is myself…Patricia Flotte Cook. I am not simple nor slow but rather complex and SAVED- thanks to these life lessons, experiences, and trauma including all the antagonist involved; Thanks to God, my protagonist. I just won’t define by my dyslexia and ADHD [undiagnosed Twice Exceptionality] nor as a Southern-Christian lady, Teacher/Tutor, Educational Consultant, and Mom/Wife; I concentrate serving others through Him by mainly using my gifts of dyslexia which are “getting the whole picture” which includes deep and holistic, list-form thinking, problem-solving, building/constructing abilities, computer skills, gaming strategies, and emotional/intellectual sensitivities.
Also, seeking out endeavors of creative, imaginative, visual, artistic, and visionary skills while taking on inventing, and innovating pursuits. Lastly, excelling at thinking of “outside the box” solutions, seeing a problem from many different sides (average/higher IQ), and strong spatial relationships along with the ability to think in three dimensions. Those that read my story and struggle with learning need to remember the story of Brunette-locks and the Three Doors know what they are and how they are made is “Just Right” and as God had planned!
Dedicated To: God, my friend and honorable
brother who has saved so many lives,
thanks…Ted, and to the rest of my family
and friends whom love and support me
Please feel free to read my poetry book Pleading Disparagement:
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