Special Education Impact On Parents

Often in cases of learning disabilities, the strain on parents can be equal to or greater than the challenge for the student. The case of Dana Buchman, a fashion designer wrote a memoir describing her challenge raising a daughter with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.
She describeshow growing up she thought that learning disabilities meant a lack of intelligence, and like many people would unfairly judge those with learning differences because of ignorance that the differences are organic and within the brain, not a conscious decision or lack of character.
It is also a challenge for her because of her own success, things seemed to come very easy to her-she began working in the fashion industry in New York and within six years had her own name on a label for Liz Claiborne.
Because she was so career focuses she didn’t have her first child until she was 35, and describes not really knowing what it would be like to have a child much less a child with a learning disability.
For a successful career person, she describes the incredible stress of all the day-to-day challenges of a new baby along with work and how to balance the two.
She describes the tremendous patience she often lacked but needed to care for her daughter, especially when she had a second child without a disability and the challenge of favoring one over the other.

What it means for us
Buchman, like many of us, had always been a problem-solver in her career and her own life and was used to being able to figure things out and find solutions. Special education does not fit that pattern, and despite many of our past achievements teaching special education students is an entirely new challenge. While not impossible of course, it does require a different way of thinking and patience and will not simply lead to a solution.
Buchman’s daughter is now in college and seems to have overcome her disabilities, but the memoir is a good lesson in the complexity of a special education student. Also to keep in mind that with a student, as teachers we are never working just with the child, but the whole family and understanding the role and stress the child creates for the parent is an important consideration. Several of the book reviews were somewhat upset by the apparent egocentricity of the book. However, again not having a lot of first hand experience myself in this area, I would hesitate to rush to judgment on someone else’s condition and try to empathize with their frustrations, something as a teacher that can be a challenge in a class of 30 or more students.

Aaron Seligman