Author wasn’t deterred by childhood label

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2008

ATLANTA—Despite being labeled with a learning disability as a child, a Franklin native is enjoying a successful career in Georgia and has just published her first book.

Thirty-year-old Lucinda “Cindy” Brown Lumpkin, the daughter of Joyce Brown and James Hawkins, grew up on Delaware Road in Southampton County just outside of Franklin.

Toward the end of Lumpkin’s fourth-grade year at Hunterdale Elementary School, she was tested and determined eligible for the special-education program. She was reading on a second-grade level.

“I knew that, especially with words and spelling, they didn’t come easy,” she recalled. “My grades were not stable, especially in reading and language arts, but my math (skills) weren’t affected.

“I think I knew I had some challenges, but being as young as I was, I didn’t really have anything at that point to compare it to,” she said.

All Lumpkin knew was that she was put into a different learning group than some of her peers.

But her first year in special education proved to be a positive experience, because of her teacher, Jacqueline Bly.

“She worked with me at the level where I was, instead of piling more skills to learn on top of (things I didn’t know),” Lumpkin said. “She used a lot of different strategies and interventions.”

In regard to her reading, she advanced almost two grade levels in one year.

Lumpkin said that later in middle school she began to understand the difference between herself and her “regular education” peers.

And she spent a lot of time trying not to acknowledge the label of “learning disabled” and avoiding “the stigma” that went along with it.

“I was ashamed,” she said. “I had very low self-esteem.”

Lumpkin struggled with the emotional issues while trying to “learn how to learn.”

After the first semester of her freshman year, she decided she was not going to participate in special education any more, though she acknowledges she wouldn’t advise others to quit the program.

“By legal definition, I still met the criteria to be learning disabled,” Lumpkin said, “but because I was embarrassed and had developed the skills to be an independent learner, I said, ‘I no longer want these services.’”

Lumpkin said it would’ve been easier had she remained in the program, but she managed to forge ahead, studying twice as hard as her peers. She graduated 18th in a class of 174 from Southampton High School in 1996 with a college-prep diploma.

Leaving the special-education program “made the road a little harder, but it was better than being labeled,” she said. “I was trying to forget my experience with special education.”

A summa cum laude graduate of Virginia Union University, Lumpkin was the first in her family to graduate with a four-year degree.

Also a 2001 magna cum laude graduate of Clark Atlanta University, Lumpkin currently is in her third year working in administration as a special education coordinator for South Atlanta High School.

In 2001, she was inspired to write about her challenges and experiences.

“I feel like it was the completion of an emotional and spiritual journey for me,” she said.

“It’s my way to make peace with that little girl who experienced low-self-esteem issues that remained buried for so long.”

Lumpkin hopes her book will be an inspiration to others with learning disabilities, and she wants to raise awareness that being learning disabled doesn’t mean a person is not intelligent.

“It is a general term,” she said. Dyslexia, for example, is a type of learning disorder that would fall under the category of learning disabled.

“LD is a deficit or weakness that is about how the brain stores, retrieves and processes information,” she said.

“Destined For Success” is available from the company Lumpkin co-founded, TRIUMPH Publishing, at, or at for $12.95. TRIUMPH is an acronym for “To Rise is Ultimately My Purpose Hereafter.”

She plans on having a book signing in Franklin, tentatively in April, with the date and place to be announced.

She encourages people with questions or comments to e-mail her at