Working with learning disabled students is like solving a variety of intricate jigsaw puzzles on a daily basis. Thankfully I’m part of a team-teaching group, but honestly, some days our collective wisdom is insufficient towards solving the puzzles that embody particular students. So I have great appreciation for the parents who get past the almost unavoidable denial and who launch a relentless quest for the pieces of the puzzle that will unlock a bright future for their child.
Parents on this journey need all the support they can find, and one of the most inspiring and supportive books I have read is Laughing Allegra, by Anne Ford, Henry Ford’s great-granddaughter. The book opens with Allegra’s final competition in the U.S. Figure Skating Association’s Adult Nationals at the age of 30. In a nail biting moment, Anne Ford asks, “How can she do this? How can she stand the pressure?” You find yourself asking the same questions as the author recounts the delays and irregularities in Allegra’s development from infancy through young adulthood. Anne Ford is forthright in describing friends and family who tried unsuccessfully to share early observations and concerns, countless schools that offered suggestions but not admission, the struggle to find appropriate friends, the search for the right doctors, the difficulty being in such a high-achieving, high-profile family.
The message in this book is clear. No amount of money or status can buy a child’s way out of the entanglements of learning disabilities. But the determination and commitment of parents to become their child’s advocate and cheerleader will reap incomparable results.
In addition to the from-the-heart account of Anne Ford’s heartaches and pain as a parent of a learning disabled child, she has offered valuable appendices with lists and resources on topics such as “Mothers and Fathers Understanding Each Other” and “Your Legal Rights.” Through her personal experience and years of chairing the National Center for Learning Disabilities she offers wisdom on everything from helping your child gain financial independence to preparing the way when you are gone. This is an inspiring read for all parents, regardless of whether or not they have a child with learning disabilities.