by Dana Buchman
Purchase A Special Education
In 1986, fashion designer Dana Buchman had it all. She gave birth to her first child, Charlotte, and launched her own clothing label. Though the fashion line soon began reaching its appropriate milestones, Buchman and her husband realized that their daughter wasn't reaching hers: Charlotte never crawled—she took her first halting steps at 18 months—and her speech was delayed.
A Special Education is not a catalog of tips for raising a child. But Buchman's memoir, appropriately subtitled "One Family's Journey Through the Maze of Learning Disabilities," will resonate with anyone raising a child with "differences." Charlotte was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD, and fine-motor, visual-motor, and speech difficulties. Buchman's descriptions of the rounds of testing and the hoping for the "Aha, so that's it!" diagnosis will leave many readers thinking "been there, thought that."
As the parent of an ADD/LD child, I was particularly interested in Buchman's exploration of her own learning curve—how a Type-A go-getter had to slow down, how she overcame her embarrassment at having such a child, and how she learned to coach Charlotte rather than do things for her.
"I once thought her problems were the end of the world, and I doubted seriously whether she would be able to live independently some day," writes Buchman. Nonetheless, Charlotte flourished at schools attuned to her needs, moved on to college, and now, at age 19, has a sure sense of herself. In her afterword, Charlotte writes, "Who knows, really, what I will end up doing. That is a long way off. I can only tell you that it will be something that I am passionate about and that I will try my best."