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Label Conscious

Fashion designer Dana Buchman refuses to brand her learning-challenged daughter as disabled-and she wants to educate others to do the same
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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 about myself."

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 parents."

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."

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Reviewed on May 08, 2006

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