Fashion designer Dana Buchman refuses to brand her learning-challenged daughter as disabled-and she wants to educate others to do the same
A Lesson From Charlotte
It was only in learning to cope with Charlotte's learning differences,
Buchman says, that she finally came to terms with vulnerabilities of her own.
In the high-pressure world of New York fashion, Buchman had created a persona
she now dubs "Perky Perky"-focused, driven, with all her confusion and
anxiety hidden under layers of armor.
"I began to realize how much we had in common. Recognizing
vulnerability, imperfection, and messiness in Charlotte, I was able to say,
'Hey, I have that too,'" she recalls. "It was easier for me to say that
it was OK that Charlotte wasn't an 'A' student-it was harder for me to say that
Buchman is well aware that most people who read her book won't have the
kinds of resources available to someone with her career and connections.
"One resource that's excellent is the National Center for Learning
Disabilities-their Web site is a national resource that anyone with a computer
can tap into," she says. All the proceeds from A Special Education
will benefit the NCLD.
Another important source of support is other parents of children with
learning differences. "I was all, 'No, not me, I'm fine!' I did talk to
other parents about referrals to specialists, but looking back, I should have
connected more on an emotional level. I think we all can benefit from talking
with each other more about the impact on family life and the impact on us as
Today, Charlotte is happy and successful in her first year at a college
offering specialized programs for students with learning differences. "I'm
so in love and proud and awed by who she is," says Buchman. "Every
week, she's discovering more strengths ... It is unbelievable how much she has
taught all of us. That's what the book is about-the amazing and surprising and
wonderful result of this extremely difficult journey."