Welcome To The Kandid Shop!!

Different But Able: A Kandid Chat on Learning Differences!

On this episode, I sat down for a much-needed chat about learning differences with an amazing guest.Ms. Choyce Simmons, is an author, certified grief support specialist, educational therapist, and CEO/Founder of Beautiful Minds LLC.
Key Stats:● One i...

On this episode, I sat down for a much-needed chat about learning differences with an amazing guest.
Ms. Choyce Simmons, is an author, certified grief support specialist, educational therapist, and CEO/Founder of Beautiful Minds LLC.

Key Stats:
● One in five children in the US has learning and attention issues like dyslexia and ADHD.
● Students with learning differences are more than twice as likely to be suspended as those who do not and the dropout rate for students with learning differences is 18.1%, nearly three times the rate of all students.

Key Takeaways:

● Children with learning differences just have differences, not disabilities
● Symptoms of learning differences may include attention issues, poor executive functioning, behavior issues, and difficulty focusing.
● Dyslexia is hereditary, so it's important to know your family's medical history
● BIPOC children may be more often mislabeled with ADHD or a learning difference due to cultural and environmental factors, as well as biases in diagnosis and treatment.
● Labels may be necessary to get the services that a child needs, but parents have the right to call meetings and ask for documents to be amended and changed
● Educators and parents should not treat everyone the same because everyone learns differently and has unique strengths and weaknesses.
● Smaller classroom sizes, co-teachers in classrooms, and individualized curriculums can help reach every child.
● Parents should start early in learning how their children learn and advocating for them.


Guest Contact Info:

Choyce Simmons:


About Guest

Choyce Simmons 
Author, CEO, Certified Grief Support Specialist, Educational Therapist, Mother,
Born with a purpose and a plan. It was after the loss of my mother that my purpose was revealed. My name is Choyce Simmons, author of "Live, Learn, Love, Embracing your Inner You," a book of motivational words and poetry. I am also a co-author of "When Queens Rise," released Dec. 2023. My chapter "From Grief, Through Pain, To Purpose", shares how grief caused me mentally, physically, and emotionally Illness. It gives a message of hope to overcome grief and find hope after loss; as the CEO/Founder of Beautiful Minds, LLC, an Educational Therapy, Advocacy, and Consulting company that assists children with learning differences and their families to navigate special education in both public/private school sectors with grief support services both in an individual/group setting and with the extended professional development services provided; educators in Anne Arundel County Public Schools have access to our grief customized courses. As an expert and Certified Grief Support Specialist, Grief Facilitator with over 7 years of experience and a double  Master’s degree in Human Service Counseling with a concentration in Grief Counseling and a Master’s in Education with a concentration in Educational Therapy; I am grateful to serve families as they overcome grief to live full lives and navigate Special Education to get their children the services and support they deserve.


Intro : "Welcome To The Kandid Shop" by Anthony Nelson aka BUSS





Kandidly Kristin


Kandidly Kristin: All our podcast family it's your girl, Kandidly, Kristin, and this is The Kandid Shop, your number one destination for candid conversations tonight. I am super duper excited to be sitting down for a kandid chat about learning differences with the author, certified grief support specialist, educational therapist, and CEO/Founder of Beautiful Minds LLC, Ms Choyce Simmons.

Welcome, welcome, welcome Choyce back to the kandid shop.

Choyce Simmons: Thank you, thank you! Thank you. So great to be here.

Kandidly Kristin: So Guys Choyce was one of my guests on a previous episode, actually the last episode of my last season on grief and grieving. But I wanted to bring her back for a one-on-one chat because she also helps families with children that have learning differences, and I love ... navigate the Special Education Maze to get their children the services and support they deserve.

Yes. So let's, let's get into it Now.

Y'all know I'm a researcher and a stats person, so I got a couple, so here we go.

One in five children in the US has learning and attention issues like dyslexia and ADHD. A third of students with learning differences have repeated grades.

Students with learning differences are more than twice as likely to be suspended as those who do not. The dropout rate for students with LD or learning differences is 18.1% is nearly three times the rate for all students. More than half, 55% of young adults with LD have been involved with the justice system have and low self-esteem and stigma. Help explain why one in four students with learning differences tell their college, don't tell their college they have a disability. And why only one in 20 young adults with LD receive accommodations in the workplace.,

So, Choyce, the stats that I just read are discouraging. Do you wanna comment on them before we get into the meat of our discussion?

Choyce Simmons: Um, I agree. Yeah. They are discouraging and what's one of the biggest things is there is such a huge percentage of Children as well as adults who go undiagnosed with a learning difference or who are, misdiagnosed with, other disorders or disabilities other than a learning disability such as AD or ADHD.So it's very important that you know As you said, you had to research. You have to know, what it is that you're looking for, number one. But, Understand the importance of getting a proper diagnosis.

Kandidly Kristin: Right. Yep.

So ADHD and dyslexia are the most recognized learning differences, but can you give me and my listeners some others that are maybe not as well known or recognized?

Choyce Simmons: As a learning difference or a learning disability?

Kandidly Kristin: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Choyce Simmons: Yeah. So there are many, types of learning disabilities. First of all, a learning disability for your listeners that do not know, there are three types of main learning disabilities. There's a reading disability, a written language disability, and a math disability.

 These disabilities are also broken down, into seven main types of learning disabilities such as dyslexia, which language-based based learning disability. There are two forms of dyslexia. It can be phonological as well as visual. Now there's also...

Kandidly Kristin: I gotta stop you because you said yes; two, phonological versus visual. I don't know what that means.

So can you break that down please just a little bit?

Choyce Simmons: So, phonological dyslexia is where a person has trouble breaking down words according to their sound. Visual dyslexia is where they don't recognize the sound and their brains struggle to remember what the words look like.

Kandidly Kristin: Got it.

Choyce Simmons: And outside of dyslexia, there's also dysgraphia. Dysgraphia s a learning difference, where there's difficulty with writing. Then you have, dyscalculia and dyscalculia is a struggle with math. And then you have, also auditory processing disorders and language processing disorders: non-verbal and verbal. Some of these learning differences, as I like to call them are disabilities as they are known. They all have, or I will say not all of them, but some of them have similar symptoms to A D H D, which is where some students or people may be misdiagnosed or diagnosed with one and not the other because they do show similar symptoms.

Kandidly Kristin: So you can have multiple learning differences.

Choyce Simmons: You definitely can have multiple learning differences.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay. I wasn't even aware of half of what you just said. Like, seriously like it. Like dyslexia to me was, oh, I flipped the numbers like I made a six or nine, or I made A B D. I was aware that it was broken down into those different subsets.

So how can a parent, know how it shows up in real life? Like you have a kid who may have multiple learning differences. How would it show up in there, I guess, their schooling or their interactions in school?

Choyce Simmons: A child could be diagnosed with ADHD versus a learning difference because children may show signs such as attention issues, poor executive functioning issues, behaviour issues, and having a hard time focusing. Sometimes all of those are also symptoms of A D H D. But when you think about having a learning difference, it not only plays on your physical abilities; that also plays on your mental abilities.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay.

Choyce Simmons: Those are things that parents have to look out for when their child no longer wants to go to school or they don't want to do homework. Or for a child, it takes an extremely long time to do homework. They may have a processing disorder. And how they process the work and the speed that it takes for them to process. Or for a student with dyslexia, who also has memory issues. And so when it comes to how their brains are processing, It may slow them down in completing the work that they need to complete.

Kandidly Kristin: Got it!

Okay, so in your opinion, how are learning differences best diagnosed?

Choyce Simmons: Number one: a parent truly has to advocate for their child in making sure that they get the proper diagnosis. schools do is use different types of testing and evaluations to test the child's psychological ability and processing and learning.

 These tests can be done by school psychologists, clinical psychologists, or, some special educators can also do the testing and evaluating as well. So I recommend that any parent who believes or has any type of feeling that their child is struggling academically, they want to speak with their children's teacher and they want to ask that their child, their children be evaluated.

That's where it starts.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay. And how early should that begin?

Choyce Simmons: Early. The earlier the better. Elementary school because kindergarten, it's kind of tricky when you say kindergarten because that is when you look at five and six-year-olds. And when you look at their attention. It gets kind of tricky because five or six-year-olds are not gonna sit still. And that's where it could be a learning difference, right? But then they will look at it like, you know, maybe this child just has AD or ADHD right? Their attention, they're not able to focus, they're not able to sit still.

 So you can get an evaluation as early as kindergarten. And then as they grow, as they progress in age, and as they progress in grade, then you can, you will get reevaluated to see where they are. But, a parent will want to first send a request to the teacher to discuss their concerns. so that the teacher can begin observing the child so that the teacher can also share work and review the work. And the teacher will also meet with special educators as well as the counsellor and the psychologist and the clinical psychologist as well to begin the evaluation process.

But you want to always put your concerns in writing. So you can speak to your children's teacher, but when you want to begin the process you must document it. It's best to send a letter to the school to have that documented that way there's a record of when you made the request and then that's when the school has to start moving promptly to get these evaluations done, to do all these observations and things like that.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay.

How much do you believe that the teachers that are with these kids eight hours a day, how much do they bear? Some of the weight of connecting with the kids and saying, okay, this child is not Grasping things the way, you know, the majority of the class is and speaking to the parents because when I was growing up, labeling of kids with learning differences was not a good thing.

Especially in the BIPOC or African American community, it kind of sent them down a path, that wasn't in, cuz my mom, my grandma, and my aunt were all teachers and to them, labeling was like the worst thing.

Choyce Simmons: Yes, yes. I agree. And I'm glad you mentioned that because especially in the African American community, we look at labels, and the first thing that we will say, especially if the label is from someone of another color is you're not gonna label my child.

Kandidly Kristin: Right.

Choyce Simmons: And by doing that, we sometimes miss all the signs that are there, I had to learn as well as a parent with a child with a learning difference that I had to remove my feelings of what they were saying and I had to look at all of the pieces that made this big puzzle.

To answer your question, the teachers bear a light. And when we look at these schools, you have sometimes one teacher for 23 or 25 kids. And it's hard for them to miss the mark.

Most teachers, if they're not Educated in special education, may also miss the signs. They may look at it more so not as a learning difference, but as ADHD because what they're seeing is they have a classroom full of kids. They have this one child or two children or say five out of the 25. Three of those five that are not paying attention could be all over the place. Two of 'em are unruly and causing havoc in their classrooms, and all they're trying to do is teach the curriculum that they are required to teach. So sometimes it's missed; some depending on how close the teacher is to the kids. As well as how big the classroom sizes are and the demands of educators.

I learned very early To sympathize with educators and all that They do. And this was pre-pandemic.

Kandidly Kristin: Right?

Choyce Simmons: Pandemic and after the pandemic opened our eyes as parents to what teachers are required in the demands of being an educator.

But for me, before all of that, I volunteered a lot at my child's school. And so I will go into the classrooms, I will see what the teachers were up against, and I would talk to my child and I would let him know if you sit in the back of the classroom, you don't raise your hand, you don't participate; the teacher's not gonna pay attention to you.

Kandidly Kristin: Right.

Choyce Simmons: The teacher's gonna pay attention to those students that, Ooh, ooh, ooh... I got the answer. Those who want to be some know it because those kids show them that they're getting the curriculum that the teacher is teaching.

Kandidly Kristin: Right.

Choyce Simmons: But those kids that are struggling, those kids that are quiet, those kids that have the behavior issues. Sometimes it's missed because The teacher's focus is not necessarily on what is causing them to have such.

Kandidly Kristin: They're just looking at the bad behavior.

Choyce Simmons: Exactly.

Kandidly Kristin: Got it, got it. So I gotta ask, do you, in your personal opinion, believe that BIPOC or black, indigenous people of color children are more often mislabeled with ADHD or a learning difference?

Choyce Simmons: Yes.

Kandidly Kristin: And why do you think that is?

Choyce Simmons: I think it's because of our culture. I think it's because of our environment and what our children, our African-American children bring with them into the classrooms. I think as African Americans, We are all misdiagnosed in some type of way, or treated indifferently when it comes to a diagnosis, whether it's ADHD and learning differences, or cancer. And how we're treated based on those diagnoses. That's my opinion. When it comes to our African American children and how they are diagnosed with learning differences and A D H D, it has also a lot to do with education. And what we as parents know and how we were raised.

We go back to how you said your grandmother and your mother are educators. But I can remember when I was young and I struggled in school and my teacher told my mom that, She was going to keep me back. My mother wouldn't allow that. So my mother showed me advocacy very early on, and, and I didn't realize that at a young age. But I saw her go to battle for me. You're going to test her, you're going to evaluate her. You're gonna show me why you feel like this is why she needs to be held back.

 It doesn't line up, it's not going to happen. I found myself doing the same thing for my son. I had to educate myself. And I had to go into the rooms that I was entering with knowledge. Not with attitude, not fight or emotion. I had to remove my emotions and I had to step into the room asking the questions that I needed to ask.

I had to be specific with the things that I see because, in the beginning for me, I went along with what they were telling me. After all, as parents, we feel like the educators know They know better. This is what you are hired to do. And I'm as a mother, thinking you have my child's best interest at heart because you are the teacher.

Right. But I've realized that not all teachers know. Not all teachers have educated themselves on these differences. Or the signs that a child may have, and sometimes it's just overwhelming for them.

Kandidly Kristin: Yeah. And when you have huge class sizes, it doesn't help.

Choyce Simmons: So you missed the mark.

Kandidly Kristin: You miss all the time and it's unfortunate. So my question to you is, How can school systems across the board do better at meeting the needs of kids with learning differences?

Choyce Simmons: I think every educator needs to be educated on what it is so that they know what they are looking for. I also think that the whole school system needs to change and they need to be, and this is again my opinion... inside of the box, learning does not work for everyone, and I learned that you have to meet a child where they are. You can't expect every child to learn the same way, and you have to understand just as educators as we are trying to teach them, What it is that we want to learn, is just how we have to learn to teach them.

They have to learn how to learn what we're teaching them. And you can't put everybody in the same category and same box. And that's sometimes where the behaviors come from. Because when a child doesn't feel heard, then they're acting out when a child is being overstimulated or understimulated or they're not being taught. They act out because it may be uninterested to them. And so for me, I think the school systems need to change the way they do things and parents need to speak up more. We are one huge community. And I'm a firm believer across the board, whether it's in my home, the community, or in schools, it takes a village and we have to work together as a team and not just one person controlling how everything is done and we're not meeting the needs of every child.

Kandidly Kristin: So let me ask you this. In the perfect world, if you had it, to set up, what would a school system look like that works for every child?

What would it look like? Cause let me tell you what it would look like for me. It would look like smaller class sizes.

Choyce Simmons: Agree with class sizes.

Kandidly Kristin: With children grouped by the way they learn. So some people are visual learners. Some people are auditory learners. Some can read and learn and I think some people need to touch to learn...

Choyce Simmons: some people with their hand kinesthetic, kinesthetic learners.

Kandidly Kristin: Yes.

Choyce Simmons: And that's very important. I'm glad you mentioned that because that is also important for a parent, a child, and an educator, to be able to help that child know what their learning profile is.

Kandidly Kristin: Yes.

Choyce Simmons: What is your learning type? How do you learn? And some people May have all of them but need to use them differently in different areas.

So a student who has dyslexia say for instance, struggles with reading, they struggle with writing, they struggle with spelling, they struggle with language-based learning. So that students may be more hands-on when it comes to needing to do certain assignments.

But at the same time, they may be visual learners when it comes to, you know, you have to know what your learning profile is and what works best for you. I'm a firm believer in using your strengths to build your weaknesses and using your weaknesses to be able to help you identify what your strengths are.

Because sometimes we get caught up with, what we can't do because of our struggle. And then we, lose sight of what we can do. But using your strengths to build your weaknesses and knowing that we are all unique, we all do things differently. We learn differently, we process differently, and we act differently. Even with similarities.

Kandidly Kristin: Right?

Choyce Simmons: And I want kiddos to know that. I want educators to know that and parents to know that, yeah, don't treat everyone the same. Even in the same house, we may have a similar foundation, but how we build on that foundation may look different.

Kandidly Kristin: So I'm going to play devil's advocate because I'm sure people are gonna hear this and be like, well, that'll never work. That'll cost so much money to have a system set up like this. And, you know, because, I believe that the entire curriculum test-based method of learning just doesn't work because here's what I know, some children know the material but don't test well. And some children don't know the material but test well because they memorize it.

So, you know, when we're having these conversations about how can the school systems be better, I get that it is economics. You know, some school systems can put the kind of individualized curriculums and classrooms in place more than others.

And again, we circle back to, you know, marginalized communities where the educational dollars are not the same as other communities.

Choyce Simmons: Correct.

You know. And then you have some communities that do have the money, but it's not allocated the way it's supposed to.

Number one, when you asked me, What will be a perfect school? I think first, I mean, we gotta start with baby steps. But I think, smaller classroom sizes make a huge difference. And, I understand, especially now after we're coming out of the pandemic and we see the struggles with educators staffing, the clinical, fill in the positions for those clinical positions that are needed. We see that now that we're coming out of the pandemic. But it is important to be able to reach every child. And it's just impossible for educators when they have overpopulated classrooms.

Kandidly Kristin: Yes, I agree. I agree 100%. When I was in school, I think there were 15 people in my class.

And that was a lot. Do you know what I mean? But now it's 20-25 and one teacher.

Choyce Simmons: And sometimes they may be a TA in the classroom TA being a teacher assistant. But then that teacher assistant may be assigned as a one-on-one with a student that has a learning difference or a behavioral intervention plan and may need one-on-one. And so that still makes it hard for the teacher, even if there is an extra person in the classroom. So if they were able to have smaller classroom sizes as well as co-teachers in the classroom, in every classroom, I think that that will help smaller groups in teaching kids the way they learn, you know, and don't dismiss them.

Kandidly Kristin: And how about you pay your teachers more? How about that? And then you might not have such a shortage of qualified teachers.

Choyce Simmons: Oh yeah.

Kandidly Kristin: Yeah, like have breakouts where there can be, maybe there's one big class, but then there are breakouts where the kids who learn this way are here and this way here and this way over here. Do you know what I mean?

Choyce Simmons: I do. I do.

Kandidly Kristin: So yeah, ma'am. Talk to me about Beautiful Minds LLC. Tell me the why, the what, and then, the how of what you do.

Choyce Simmons: All right. So, Beautiful Minds LLC is an educational therapy advocacy and consulting company that I started in 2019. Formed this company because I wanted to, as a parent, again with a student with a learning difference weather the storms of special education and learning special education and understand special education. And I have seen the struggles that my child had in the classrooms in public schools. I pulled them from the public and put 'em in private for him to be able to be taught in a way that he needed to learn.

And I have seen that that wasn't happening in the public schools. I'm not knocking public schools. I'm not against public schools. It works for some and it doesn't work for everyone, and it wasn't working for my child. And so, I formed Beautiful Minds as a way for me to not only work with kids with learning differences and be able to help them to see their uniqueness to build them emotionally, physically, and mentally, and learn in a way that was best for them.

Kandidly Kristin: Right.

Choyce Simmons: I also wanted to educate parents and help them to understand that they weren't alone. Because when you go into these meetings, IEP meetings, 5 0 4 meetings, it's a lot. It's emotional. It's, confusing. And you walk in there defeated. You walk out, defeated. And I didn't want other parents to feel the way that I felt, and I felt the most confident when I educated myself. And the more that I learned, I wanted to be able to teach. Other people. So that they also would be able to walk into these meetings, walk into the classrooms of their children, and be confident that their child is going to get the best education for them and they're going to get the support and the accommodations that they need and so that's why I formed it. And yeah. And, I'm just looking for it to continue to grow because I see as I'm helping other people and other families, they are also able to help other families. , and that's what it's about, you know? That's what it's about.

Kandidly Kristin: I love it.

I love it. So somebody's listening to this podcast and they're like, number one, we need to, break down the stigma about having learning differences cause most people have some learning difference and I love that you call it a difference cuz it's not a disability.

It's just different, I just learn differently.

Choyce Simmons: Exactly.

Kandidly Kristin: So somebody reaches out to Beautiful Minds, what can they expect from you? Because, I don't know, A lot of stuff is state-specific, but some things are universal. So what do they get from you? Like a parent that's listening and they hit you up? What can they expect from you?

Choyce Simmons: Understanding, they can expect encouragement. They can expect motivation, they can expect, support, they can expect, someone that they can just lean on and not feel like they are going through this alone.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay.

Choyce Simmons: Everything I do from a beautiful mind's perspective, whether it's from the educational side or whether it's from the grievance side, it's always to encourage those that I work with, that I'm dealing with and knowing that you are not in this alone and that there's someone out there that's going to support you and walk with you along the way.

 No matter if you're in Maryland where I am, if you're in DC, Virginia, or any other state, I take pride in educating myself on the rights of a parent, and the rights that parents have in the area that they are in. As well as the right of their children. That way you know what applies to you. I know the information that I'm giving you applies to you where you are.

And I don't have all the answers, but I do take pride in finding those answers and helping you to find those answers here. Where I am, I serve families in the DMV area, DC Maryland, and Virginia area. And I go to IEP meetings and I sit there in those meetings and I support you. I meet with you before those meetings. We consulted before the meeting. If you need me to help you review your children's IEP to help you get a better understanding of all that mumbo jumbo, all those words that they throw on the paper, you know? Sometimes it's like in, some children's IEPs are huge. Depending on their needs, depending on their accommodations. And so I support you in that way in helping you to understand the I E P, understanding what supports and accommodations and modifications are out there and just given to you what it is that you are lacking as a parent that I'm able to give you as a parent myself, with a child with a learning difference as well as a professional.

Kandidly Kristin: Right now, your company works with parents, with children in public and private schools.

Choyce Simmons: Yes, I do.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay.

 I'm gonna circle back real quick because you pulled your child from public school and put him in private.

Choyce Simmons: I did.

Kandidly Kristin: I wanted to just get a little bit of understanding about why that was. Was that because the public school was not willing or able to accommodate

Choyce Simmons: I did not feel like they were able to accommodate my child. I saw the light leave my child's eyes. And not only was he being bullied by his peers, but he was also being bullied by the educators, by the teachers. And he lost all confidence. It was a struggle to get him up in the mornings, to get him to go to school.

It was hard to encourage him. He didn't trust and believe in the words that I was saying to him because he was hearing so many negative words elsewhere. I pulled him from the public school because I felt like they weren't able to provide him with the education that he needed. After trying, don't get me wrong. Chance after chance after chance, and you just get to a point where it's just like at what point do you realize that it's not working?

Kandidly Kristin: Right?

Choyce Simmons: And before anything was to happen to my child, I felt like I needed to put him in a place that was going to help relight the fire inside of him. He had lost confidence in himself.

As I said, he was no longer motivated. He no longer loved his favourite subjects. He no longer wanted to go to school. It was a struggle as a parent to watch that. And once I would put him in a school that specialized, in teaching kiddos with learning differences. A little at a time the light came back, began to come back on, and it took some time. And he's a senior now, now in high school.

Kandidly Kristin: Um, okay.

Choyce Simmons: And, about to graduate and I've watched his journey because, of course, I'm walking this journey with him. But I see how, how each grade things look different. And not only did he have to find his passion For learning; but again, we had to rebuild his confidence. And we're still working on that because that's part of what I do with beautiful minds. People don't realize that students with learning differences, they're not only struggling academically, but they're also struggling emotionally. They're struggling mentally because they're different. They're learning differently and they look different. They act differently. And that plays a factor, especially in this world that we live in, where everybody wants to be the same. Where social media makes you feel like being different. There's something wrong with you. And so, yes, that's why I did what I did for my child, and I feel like that was the best move ever.

Kandidly Kristin: Yeah. And sometimes you have to do absolutely what's best for your kid and anybody that's listening. That's a takeaway. I mean public schools are amazing. Like I said I've got, generations of public school education. But it's not always or can't always do the best thing for every kid.

Choyce Simmons: Yeah.

Yeah. So, you have to know what their needs are.

Kandidly Kristin: Absolutely.

Choyce Simmons: And if they're not being provided with that, then you have to do what's best for them.

Kandidly Kristin: Absolutely.

And parents that are listening to this: if you don't know the signs, like you, you're looking at your kid in the way that they interact even with their toys or the little books that you give them and you think there's a problem, reach out and get help so you can learn how they learn.

Once you learn how they learn, then you can explain that to

other people.

Choyce Simmons: Yes, exactly.

Kandidly Kristin: So Ms Choyce Simmons, and I love your name by the way.

Choyce Simmons: Thank you.

Kandidly Kristin: Can you give me some last thoughts for my listeners, about learning differences from the parents that are going to listen to this? What would you like to leave them with?

Choyce Simmons: I would like for a parent to know that it's okay that you don't know everything. But also understand that you, as the parents have rights, you have rights as well as your children. They have the right to free education. Sometimes it doesn't seem as if you're getting anywhere within your school systems, but keep pushing. Keep asking questions, and keep going to the people who you need to go to, to get the answers that you get for your children to get what it is that they need. I want people to also understand that any student or person with a learning difference, they don't go away. You just learn the tools to be able to function better within your learning difference. And start early. Don't take no for an answer. I had so many nos that I had to turn them into yeses. I was persistent because my child is my life.

Kandidly Kristin: Right.

Choyce Simmons: So have the understanding that I don't want any parent to think that, they don't have the right to speak up and advocate for their child because they do. And that's exactly what they should do.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay.

Choyce Simmons: But I wanna say to our African American community, don't look at the stereotype. Don't get caught up on the labels. Understand and educate yourself on what you need to know so that you are better able to communicate with the educators and the admins and those people that are in the school that make the decisions in the school system for your children. Fight, but fight fair, if that makes sense.

Kandidly Kristin: Yes, it does. Yeah.

Choyce Simmons: Fight. But fight fair is there's a way that you fight and you don't have to go in there, guns a blazing, ready to cut people up and things like that. You have to know how to fight fair. I don't know if you gonna edit that.

Kandidly Kristin: Oh, you know, I'm not,

Choyce Simmons: but truly you have to fight fair and, know that I say fight fair, but let me, let me be clear on that. You don't have to fight if you know what you need to know and if you know you need the support, get the support.

 I have plenty of parents who have told me once I start working with them, that when I start going to IEP meetings with them, they felt different.

And not only did they feel different, but the people and other people in the room also acted differently. So if there's free support out there, sometimes you have to pay. But it's worth it.

Kandidly Kristin: Yeah, because your kid is worth it and you are their advocate.

Choyce Simmons: So, teach your kid to advocate for them themselves as well as they get older. I will leave them with that as well. Teach your kids to advocate for themselves as well, because we're not always going to be with them and they have to be able to speak up for themselves and tell people whether they're in elementary school, middle school, high school, young adult to old adult.

They have to be able to tell people what their needs are. So if they have a learning difference and they need special accommodations or modifications they need to be able to say that. They need to be able to speak up and ask for help. It is nothing wrong. Yeah. With asking for help. Not your parents and not your kids. There's no shame in asking for help because we can't do it by ourselves.

Kandidly Kristin: Amen. Thank you so much and listen, how can my listeners connect with you and Beautiful Minds?

Choyce Simmons: So you can email me at, I have such a long email address. I don't know why.

Oh gosh. You connect with me via email, which is beautifulmindsllc@gmail.com.You can reach me on Facebook at my name https://www.facebook.com/choyce.simmons.9/ you can also contact me by phone. I'm just a phone call away and yeah, those are easy ways that you can contact me.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay. Oh, Choyce, thank you. Listen, this is such an important conversation. I have a nephew that has a learning difference. My grandson has learning differences. I believe my granddaughter, my youngest granddaughter does too. So, yeah.

Choyce Simmons: And just to tell you, it's hereditary. A lot of people don't know that if one has it, it's because somewhere down our generational line, someone had it. I had it at a younger age. My son's dad had it at a younger age, which ultimately it shows because our child has it. And so know your history, know your family history, your family, medical history. It's also very important.

Kandidly Kristin: Agreed. Thank you. That was awesome. Thank you for that. That was a good reminder because sometimes you have gotta go back and ask grandma, like did you know, I noticed in like your recipe books, there's like things flipped around? They were, you know, dyslexic or whatever, but back then, because of the stigma and the shame around it, people just didn't talk about it.

Choyce Simmons: That is so true. Nor did they like labels.

Kandidly Kristin: Yep, yep.

Because for a long time in the school system, labels weren't a good thing. At least not for African-American children. They weren't Correct. It just kind of put 'em into this short yellow bus box and you know the special education system was not very good. I think it's getting better, but I think the school system, and public school systems as a whole have a long way to go.

Choyce Simmons: They do. And you know, I tell young people and, I'm pretty sure we've heard it as well. It's not what they call you, it's what you answer to. I had to start helping parents to also see that they look at it like, they're not gonna label my child and I'm gonna be a hundred per cent honest with you.

I've told parents if that's the label that they wanna give them for them to get the services that their child needs, then they take that label cuz that's what's written on paper. And you get all the services, accommodation and modifications that your child needs.

Kandidly Kristin: Absolutely.

Choyce Simmons: And understand that there's always going to be a reevaluation and as a parent, you have the right to call any type of meeting if you have any type of concerns. As well as they have the right to ask that documents are amended and changed. So if they start by saying, which is what they did for my child because I was once too a parent that said, you're not gonna label my child because when I told them that he had dyslexia, they said he had ADHD. But I knew that it wasn't that. But then I had to change my thinking. I had to change the way I looked at it. And I also had to look at it like, okay, does he? Maybe they see something that I am not ready to see. So let me see what they're talking about. But let me also make sure I reiterate, and that they understand that this is what I see as a parent. So we're gonna look at both sides. We're not gonna just look at your side. But saying that this is what it takes for him to get the help that he needs in the classroom, then okay.

Kandidly Kristin: Okay.

Choyce Simmons: But when that changes, then documents change.

Kandidly Kristin: Yes. Yes, I agree. Oh my goodness. Thank you so much, ma'am. This has been an amazing chat.

Listen, guys, I know her contact info is long, so you already know. It's all going to be in the show notes with clickable links so you can reach Choyce.

So yeah guys, listen.

Choice Simmons, thank you so much for what you do, with grief and grieving as an educational therapist, that intersection is amazing to me and I appreciate what you do, what you've done for your son and what you are doing for other parents with children, with learning differences people, they're just differences, not disabilities.

Choyce Simmons: That's right. Yes. Thank you so much, Kristin. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me on this topic because it is necessary and it's a topic that we all have to continue to talk about moving forward when it comes to how we educate our children.

Kandidly Kristin: Absolutely.

Choyce Simmons: I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be able to speak to your listeners and educate them and be able to serve them and help them in whatever ways they need help. So thank you.

Kandidly Kristin: All right. So if any of you have children, listen, the children truly are our future. Long after you and I are gone, they'll be here and we want them to be the best versions of themselves. And that starts with how they learn and being able to learn how they learn so they can learn.

Oh, I like that.

Choyce Simmons: Exactly. I love that too.

Kandidly Kristin: Thank you ma'am so very much. And listen, guys, again, Choyce's contact information, and Beautiful Mind's Facebook information will be in the show notes. I want you guys to, don't forget to visit my website at https://www.thekandidshop.com/ and if you're searching for Choyce, don't spell the regular way cuz it's different. So go over, pop over to the website, and check out a few episodes. Choyce was on the grief and grieving episode, which was amazing.

Choyce Simmons: Um, thank you.

Kandidly Kristin: Subscribe to the show, share the show, and make sure you're following the show on Facebook, IG and TikTok @thekandidshoppodcast. And until the next time, y'all know, I want you to do what, keep safe, keep it healthy, and keep it kandid.

Choyce SimmonsProfile Photo

Choyce Simmons

Author, CEO, Certified Grief Support Specialist, Educational Therapist, Mother,

Born with a purpose and a plan. It was after the loss of my mother that my purpose was revealed. My name is Choyce Simmons, author of Live, Learn, Love, Embracing your Inner You, a book of motivational words and poetry. I am also a coauthor of When Queens Rise, releasing Dec. 2023. My chapter "From Grief, Through Pain, To Purpose shares how grief caused me mentally, physically, and emotionally Illness. It gives a message of hope to overcome grief and find hope after loss; as the CEO/Founder of Beautiful Minds, LLC, an Educational Therapy, Advocacy, and Consulting company that assist children with learning differences and their families to navigate special education in both public/private school sectors with grief support services both in an  individual/group setting and with the extended professional development services provided; educators in Anne Arundel County Public Schools have access to our grief customized courses. As an expert and Certified Grief Support Specialist, Grief Facilitator with over 7 years of experience and double  Master’s degree in Human Service Counseling with a concentration in Grief Counseling and Master’s in Education with a concentration in Educational Therapy; I am grateful to serve families as they overcome grief to live full lives, and navigate Speical Education to get their children the services and support they deserve.