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Designer Dana Buchman on Raising a Daughter with LD (transcript)


Fashion designer Dana Buchman's book, A Special Education: One Family's Journey Through the Maze of Learning Disabilities written with her daughter Charlotte, describes the gradual discovery of Charlotte's learning disabilities as well as Buchman's own path to self-discovery. NCLD had the privilege of interviewing Dana Buchman when the book was first published. Ms. Buchman was honored for her work in children’s advocacy at NCLD's Annual Benefit Dinner, in 2006.


NCLD: What prompted you to share your story by writing A Special Education: One Family's Journey Through the Maze of Learning Disabilities?


Dana Buchman: I travel around the country a great deal in my work as a designer and I realized, in speaking with many of the women whom I've met in my travels, that a lot of families have children with learning differences. And I felt I had something to say, so it really started from that. Charlotte was beginning her senior year in high school, and I felt I was at the end of my journey, so I did it partly for myself -- because I wanted to look at what she and I had come through -- and part of it was a sincere desire to help other families who were just beginning that journey, to alert them to the things that might come their way.



NCLD: When the other members of your family heard you were going to write a book, how did they react?


DB: [Laughter] Of course I told Charlotte first, and she said, “Great!” and was all for it because she knew we had a story to tell. My husband Tom was skeptical, though; I think he felt it was private family business and couldn't understand why I'd want to tell people. But what's been most gratifying, now that the book is coming out, is that he's seen how it's brought Charlotte and me closer, and has brought him and me closer. It's really been good for the whole family. He gave me a big hug and said, “You were right!”


NCLD: Did you allow your family to read drafts of the book as you were writing it?


DB: As a designer I know when you're working on a project like this, you don't need a crew of editors along the way. Charlotte read pieces of it as I was going along; I kept her updated. [Her younger sister} Annie is a 17-year-old with a busy life of her own, so she just kind of said, “Whatever.” I let Tom read the draft after it was finished but before I sent it off. It was hard for him. It wasn't his book, and it's different if you're not the person doing the revealing. But he's a loving husband of 21 years and he told me that it was okay if it was something I wanted to do. He was very supportive all along the way.


One of the things he told me after he'd read the manuscript was that I was too hard on myself. It was important to be honest, though, and I tried to be as forthcoming as I could with what I feel were the things I didn't do as a mother and the places where I feel like I failed or could have done a lot better. What I worry about the most is that, in the parts where I'm the most self-critical, it doesn't cloud the fact that I absolutely adored Charlotte all along the way. So when I talk about all the tough feelings -- the anxiety, the worry, the shame and then the shame at being ashamed -- I hope it comes through that underlying all of that was tremendous love.