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A Special Education: One Family's Journey Through the Maze of Learning Disabilities by Dana Buchman
196 pages Perseus February 2006 Hardcover rated 3 out of 5 stars   

A Special Education is the story of one family’s journey into the acceptance of their oldest daughter who was born with “learning differences.” Dana Buchman is living the life of which others can only dream. A fashion designer, she has just been chosen by Liz Claibourne to launch her own dress line. She has recently married to New York lawyer Tom Farber. Then, to top it all off, she gives birth to a beautiful baby girl. As a consummate over-achiever and workaholic, Dana feels able to juggle it all. A high-powered career and roles of wife and mother are just separate parts of her life which she never doubts she can control.

Then she and her husband start noticing small discrepancies in Charlotte’s development; the birth of their second daughter, Amy, when Charlotte is two, shows them even more clearly. When Charlotte is four, testing uncovers various learning needs, ADD, and other issues. And Dana’s life changes. She is getting up at 2 a.m. to work until 4 a.m., is back up in the morning to go to work, take Charlotte to her special school, and trying to meet the needs of Amy and Tom. As a woman accustomed to problem-solving and fixing difficulties, she finds herself learning to accept Charlotte’s learning difficulties.

Although the Buchmans seem to have more resources than many families, especially the financial ones that afford private schools for Charlotte, live-in help and travel vacations, their worries and concerns are those of children and parents everywhere. The stories will be familiar to anyone who has been through it themselves and a lesson for those entering the world of learning difference for the first time.

This is an honest, moving story of a mother’s struggle to come to terms with her daughter’s needs, and her eventual acceptance, even celebration, of her differences as “a different type of gifted.” Dana Buchman is a brave, caring woman to be willing to share the at-times painful passage into the world of learning disabilities and special education. She openly confronts the emotional demons of shame and guilt that so often arise in this situation, and she shows the effects on not only the child with LD but also the family, the relationship between husband and wife, and with the other siblings. All involved ride emotional waves throughout the entire process.

The addition of the last chapter written by Charlotte, now a successful college student, brings the story to its hopeful future. She is a terrific role model for people of all ages with learning differences. All proceeds from the book are being donated to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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