Summary and book reviews of A Special Education by Dana Buchman

A Special Education

One Family's Journey Through the Maze of Learning Disabilities

by Dana Buchman

A Special Education
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2006, 208 pages
    Mar 2007, 196 pages

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Book Summary

Fashion designer Dana Buchman tells of her daughter Charlotte's severe struggle with learning disabilities and of her own steep learning curve to become the mother Charlotte needs her to be.

Dana Buchman knew almost nothing about "learning differences" when her oldest daughter, Charlotte, was diagnosed with neurological, spatial, and motor skill disabilities as a toddler. Furthermore, from the Ivy League to the launch of her own fashion label, Buchman had encountered few obstacles that couldn't be overcome through hard work and determination. Unfortunately, Buchman's well-developed ability to "fix" things would not serve her in her efforts to deal with Charlotte's disabilities; she would have to develop a new skill set to be able to see Charlotte as a person with unique abilities.

A riveting and intensely personal memoir, A Special Education reveals the long and arduous process of Charlotte's development as well as Buchman's own path to self-discovery. Confessing frequent anxiety, guilt, frustration, and anger, Buchman describes the difficult search to find the right school and care for Charlotte and the strain the process put on her marriage and family life. In addition, Buchman tells of her own struggles with excessive drinking and workaholism - and of finally letting go of her drive to be "perfect."

A moving mother-daughter story, A Special Education is an inspiring account of one mother's journey to acceptance and understanding as well as a family's triumph over daunting circumstances.

Chapter 1
The Wonder Year

Some people, when faced with a major life change, make a conscious effort to slow everything else down. A woman who’s having a child for the first time might decide to lighten her load at work. Someone who is taking on new responsibilities in her job might hold off on starting a family that year.

I have never been one of those people.

For most of my life, I have been a serious doer, undaunted by the notion of having too much on my plate. If anything, I would jump at the chance to juggle more for all the world to see. I had been encouraged early on by my mother and my grandmother to be a high achiever, and I got hooked on the accolades they showered on me. I wanted to be a superwoman, the embodiment of the “having-it-all” feminist ideal that became so popular when I was in college in the 1970s.

A Special Education

If there was ever a year when I got to shine, it was 1986, probably the most action-...

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It was a happy surprise to find Buchman's memoir is surprisingly readable. If her solution had been to throw money and experts at her daughter's "problems" then the book would have been of little interest. However, instead she shows that it was she that had to change in order to recognize her daughter's unique abilities. As a parent, the lesson of meeting one's children at least half way is one many of us can appreciate.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Buchman's forthright memoir (and list of resources) will go far in lightening the pall surrounding children with special needs.

Booklist - Vanessa Bush

Families facing similar issues will appreciate this heartfelt and inspiring book.

Library Journal - Walter J. Cegelka

Kudos to Buchman for her forthright memoir, which should go a long way toward lifting the stigma of learning disabilities. Highly recommended for all public libraries.

Reader Reviews

Judy R.

That's My Child
I loved this book!!! As I read, highlighting significant passages on every page, I clearly saw my daughter. Wow, it helped me TREMENDOUSLY to understand her better! It answered many of my "why's". For me, it was life changing.


I came across this book in the library while taking a course in Special Education to complete my degree in Communication Disorders. I decided to read the book and could not put it down. I went to a mainstream school that stereotyped every student...   Read More

ann gusmus

amazing and heartwarming...
I had to read this book in a day. I was so impressed with the way the author and her daughter worked through their many issues. The love of a mom and the struggles of a child trying to make it with a learning disability - raw emotions from both. I ...   Read More

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