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Laughing Allegra: The Inspiring Story of a Mother's Struggle and Triumph Raising a Daughter with Learning Disabilities

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When Anne Ford, the great-granddaughter of Henry Ford, learned that her daughter Allegra's "differences" were the result of severe learning disabilities (LD), she faced a challenge that neither money nor position could ease. Desperate for answers, she sought out countless doctors, schools, and tutors for help. As she journeyed from denial to acceptance, Anne faced rejection, intolerance, disinterest, and puzzlement from friends, family, and professionals, eventually finding her way to the schools, people, and ...
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Laughing Allegra: The Inspiring Story of a Mother's Struggle and Triumph Raising a Daughter with Learning Disabilities

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Overview

When Anne Ford, the great-granddaughter of Henry Ford, learned that her daughter Allegra's "differences" were the result of severe learning disabilities (LD), she faced a challenge that neither money nor position could ease. Desperate for answers, she sought out countless doctors, schools, and tutors for help. As she journeyed from denial to acceptance, Anne faced rejection, intolerance, disinterest, and puzzlement from friends, family, and professionals, eventually finding her way to the schools, people, and situations that enabled her to raise her family with hope and promise. She became an activist on behalf of children and families faced with LD and, in time, Anne saw her child grow into a vibrant, loving, independent adult with a passion for ice-skating and a commitment to help other children with disabilities.

While Allegra's disabilities are unique (as with each child with LD), the feelings of pain, frustration, shame, and guilt felt by Anne are shared to a varying degree by all parents of a child with LD. As Anne writes, "When Allegra was diagnosed, I needed information to explain her condition and what I could do to help her, but I also needed a guide to the heart...I needed to connect with someone who had been through it already and could offer words of comfort and the most simple reassuring statement a parent can hear: 'Your child will be fine.' I didn't have that, and that is my reason for writing this book, to enlighten parents and give them hope and help guide them on the oftentimes treacherous journey."

In addition to her personal story, Anne includes three invaluable special sections: answers to the most commonly asked questions about LD; a resource guide on where to find help; and a discussion from a mother's perspective on the challenges concerning homework, money, relationships, the workplace, getting around, and planning as the child with LD and the parents age. As for Allegra's thoughts about her mom writing this book, the introduction conveys her message: "I think mom has done well...telling people out there that you CAN get help...I didn't want my life in a book at first [and] we talked it over and thought about it. If it helps other kids then we should do it and so I told my mom OK."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This poignant, intimate portrait of the author's daughter and her constant battle with serious learning disabilities opens an often hidden world and illuminates the many ways learning disabilities shape the lives of entire families. While having the Ford family name has provided Allegra with some advantages (the author is Henry Ford's great-granddaughter), living with a learning disability can be extremely difficult for anyone so diagnosed, and often a proper diagnosis is itself very difficult to come by. As a deeply involved and caring mother and longtime chair of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Ford has seen enormous changes in public understanding and has knowledge about these problems, but there is still much to learn, she says, and every case is unique. She incorporates invaluable information for parents just beginning this lifelong struggle, including "questions parents ask" and her own perspective on some of the hardest issues that will almost certainly arise, in the early years and beyond, about persevering in the search for appropriate schooling, encouraging interpersonal relationships, helping the child establish an independent life when finances are difficult to grasp and employment is hard to maintain, and preparing the child for life when the parents are gone. But above all, this is a personal journey, depicting Allegra's triumphs (she is now 30) and the author's strength throughout years of pain and difficulty. Agent, Phyllis Wender. (May 5) Forecast: The author's credibility and a foreword by bestselling author Levine (A Mind at a Time) will make this popular among parents of the 2.9 million American students currently receiving special education for learning disabilities. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The term "learning disabilities" covers a vast range of challenges. Teachers and parents reading this book today will be both pleased at how far services have come since Anne Ford first struggled with the problem in 1972 and yet how far we still are from serving many of these young people well. To many, learning disabilities are a frustrating but manageable tendency to reverse letters (dyslexia); few realize that the full spectrum includes young people like Allegra who struggle with every abstract concept, Even as adults, they do not wait for change when they buy a magazine with $20 bill. Ford's book is an emotion-filled (and sometimes overly long) memoir more than a handbook, although there are statements worth tacking up as daily reminders: "The relentless focus of a committed parent advocate can be so strong that the disability may be seen as the defining aspect of the child's life." Ford's love for her daughter Allegra is so evident that she is able to voice the questions every parent asks—why me, why my daughter, why can't she attend the same schools as my friends' children? As the great-granddaughter of Henry Ford, Anne Ford and Allegra lived in a very privileged milieu, but she never just dropped her daughter off at the door of an expensive school. She searched relentlessly for explanations and solutions to the disabilities that remain "unexpected and unexplained," and spent more than a decade leading the National Center for Learning Disabilities which now offers an Anne Ford Scholarship. There are several chapters about finances, employment, and relationships for young adults with severe learning disabilities, as well as a thorough list of resources. The new paperbackedition includes an afterword in which Ford discusses the absolute need for honesty when answering siblings' questions or coping with our children's challenges: "We, as parents, must suffocate our own ambitions and give life to theirs." 2003, Newmarket Press, Ages adult.
—Karen Leggett
Library Journal
Fortified with love and wisdom, Ford's recollected experiences provide a superb model for anyone parenting a learning-disabled child. Detailing her daughter Allegra's struggles from the early stages of diagnosis to the present, Ford tells which educational methods worked and which were frustrating. This devoted mother's relentless search for concrete answers and competent educators is truly remarkable. The lesson she shares is to never give up on your child; never stop trying. Ford unflinchingly recalls handling her own painful feelings to reassure any parent troubled by self-pity, guilt, or fear. Most useful is the final section, which includes questions and answers for parents, problem-solving suggestions for learning-disabled young adults, and a list of reliable Internet resources. All told, Ford's memoir is a potential lifeline of experience. She demonstrates time and again that determination tempered with a new definition of success can create balance. Ford's reading is conversational and pleasant throughout; the occasional unprofessionalism during passages of dialog can be overlooked considering the caliber of assistance being offered with such honesty and integrity. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Janis Young, Campbell Cty. P.L., Newport, KY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A gift for all parents…An insightful guide through the challenges and rewards of parenting." —Tom Brokaw

"A painfully honest memoir…Anne Ford's devotion, not her money and prominence, made the difference for her learning disabled daughter." —Detroit Free-Press

"An inspiring story that any parent with a 'special child' can relate to." —Barbara Walters

"Compelling…Strongly recommended." —Library Journal

"This poignant intimate portrait opens an often-hidden world and illuminates many ways learning disabilities shape the lives of entire families." —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557045645
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/19/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Ford's previous books are the acclaimed memoir Laughing Allegra, about raising her severely learning-disabled daughter, and On Their Own: Creating an Independent Future for Your Adult Child with Learning Disabilities and ADHD. She served as Chairman of the Board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities from 1989 to 2001. The daughter of Henry Ford II, she lives in New York City and lectures widely on LD and ADHD issues.

John Richard-Thompson, an award-winning playwright and novelist, collaborates with Anne Ford on her books.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Introduction: A Guide to the Heart xiii
Part I Laughing Allegra
Prologue 3
1 Baby Girl Uzielli 7
2 Why Are You Wandering Off Again? 19
3 A Beautiful Squiggle 30
4 She Doesn't Belong Here 40
5 Summer 47
6 First Day of School 59
7 A Great Gentleman Comes into Our Lives 68
8 Sprinkle a Little Pixie Dust 77
9 Separation 82
10 Graduation Day 92
11 My Mother 96
12 Riverview 107
Photo section
13 Threshold 118
14 Ice 126
An Epilogue: It Can Be Done 133
Part II Questions Parents Ask
Your First Questions 139
Your Legal Rights: Learning How to be a "Difficult" Parent 154
Part III A Mother's Perspective
The Power of Words: Words Should Be Weighed, Not Counted 163
Homework: The Battle Zone 168
Mothers and Fathers: Understanding Each Other 172
On Their Own: Challenges of Life 176
From Here to There: The Challenges of Getting Around 179
Finances: The Challenges of Money 184
Employment: Challenges in the Workplace 186
Getting Along: The Challenges of Relationships 192
When I Am Gone: A Parent's Final Challenge 198
Part IV Resource Guide for Parents
Resources 203
Acknowledgments 225
Index 231
About the Authors 239
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 2, 2011

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    Great!

    This was assigned reading for a class, but I am so glad it was assigned. I really enjoyed the book and learned a lot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2011

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