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Personal Stories

The Good Kid

By: Kelly Huentelman
Kelly Huentelman, M. ED.

The only thing I remember about private school is the day that they asked me to leave. They didn’t really ask me, it was my mom they talked to, and they told her that I had to go. Apparently, they thought I could get more help in the public schools. But if it was help that I received in the public schools than I hope no one ever tries to help me again.

I began going to a public school when I was in the sixth grade and that was the beginning of a seven year nightmare. I did not have the foundational skills needed to do the things that I was expected to do. It didn’t take long before I was getting D’s and F’s in all of my classes. I was removed from science and history classes to take more reading and math. I always thought it was strange that there were only five or six students in some of my classes. None of my friends ever showed up in any of them, except for Greg.

He was the only one of my friends that seemed to be having the same struggles that I was. Greg loved to wrestle and he was good at it. But it didn’t take long before his grades caught up with him and he spent more and more time on the bench. I’m now convinced that Greg had an undiagnosed learning disability. It was our eighth grade year when he committed suicide. I’ll never forget that day, grief counselors, crisis intervention teams, and school psychologists were everywhere. School had always been bad but now it was worse. Greg had made my classes bearable, but with him gone, and his empty desk to look at, I became depressed.

One of the school psychologists noticed my depression and pulled me out of class to talk. He talked with my parents and teachers too. They must have told him how badly I was doing in school, because the next time I went to see him there was a flip chart book sitting on the table. I had no idea what was going on, but it was the beginning of the testing process. By the end of my eighth grade year I was diagnosed with a learning disability. I did not receive any services until I was a freshman in high school where I spent part of my day in LD resource classes.

Oh, how I hated to walk into those classes. By this time I had completely given up. And my parents were probably the only ones who, for some reason, still believed I was a good kid. But no one else could see that, and my attitude was so bad, that I could hardly blame them. I was drinking, smoking, and constantly skipping classes. By the time I was seventeen I found myself lying on a hospital bed with a tube full of black charcoal running down my throat. I had taken half a bottle of Tylenol in an attempt to end the misery. I didn’t really want to die, but I didn’t know how to continue living. But thank God for my mom who kept on praying. And by the grace of God I finished high school.

After high school I ended up working in the mall and attending a junior college. I had no plans of finishing college, I was just killing time. I found more freedom in college but I also found out that this thing called a learning disability was still with me. For some reason I thought I left it back in high school. I was realizing it wasn’t necessarily a school problem but truly a learning problem that would surface in all kinds of situations. I was still depressed and my mom was still praying. One night at a keg party I decided to see if God might have a better plan for me. I had no idea where He would lead me.

I ended up transferring to a four year college where I struggled for years to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology. What a challenge- that was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Just when I thought I could put school behind me and forget about the constant struggle, I felt led to go to graduate school. Worse than that I felt I was supposed to study special education. I decided to take a year off because I was feeling rather confused. How could someone with a learning disability go to school and become someone who teaches others? It didn’t make sense. So I spent a year working as a special education assistant and I fell in love with the kids. I didn’t particularly like working in a school setting, nor did I like some of the teachers, but the kids, I loved the kids. And so I went to school and got my master’s in special education with an endorsement in learning disabilities.

I have shared all of this in hopes that others will know how serious it can be to be a kid growing up with a learning disability. They need somebody who believes that they’re a good kid. They may not always look the part but deep within them is someone who wants to do what is right. I am forever grateful that my parents carried that title for me until I was able to believe it for myself.

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