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

Review

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

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When a child is born, parents are filled with positive dreams for
his or her future. These typically include success in school,
supportive friends, good health and a life filled with joy. If the
child were a painting, it would have bright colors, sharp focus,
every detail in place. But that fairy-tale existence is just that
--- a fable. We are imperfect, and so are children.

And then there are families that get an extra helping of
imperfection. Instead of dreams, they get challenges which can
either pull them together or fracture them. In Anne Ford's case the
"perfect world" dream dissolved when she learned that her daughter
Allegra had learning disabilities. While they were not visible to
the naked eye, what was going on inside Allegra was impeding her
development and her ability to learn. It's never easy to accept a
dark, definitive verdict, especially when it concerns a small
child. To her credit, Anne did. And then she became Allegra's
advocate and cheerleader, as well as her mother.

Few books have moved me as much as LAUGHING ALLEGRA. While the
story of our family is different from Anne's, I do know what
happens when the picture gets blurred. What works about this book
is that Anne writes this memoir with candor and feeling --- right
from the heart. She captures the swirl of emotion that surrounds
this diagnosis, the questions that every parent asks and the path
through what is always uncharted territory, as each child is his or
her own mosaic. At the same time, she offers concrete information
that parents of learning-disabled children need. Most important of
all: Anne Ford shows us, beat by beat, how she helped her daughter
build a world in which she could laugh instead of cower, succeed
instead of fail. She empowered Allegra and along the way empowered
herself as well.

The book is by no means whitewashed with only upbeat anecdotes. In
her writing you can feel the pain that filled many of these years,
as well as the uncertainty. The book took four years to write and
along the way Anne had to dredge up some feelings that readers will
see are still raw. There is no quick patch when you have watched
your child hurting; clearly, she ripped the bandages off to write
this.

Often when people learn that things are not "perfect," there is a
natural feeling of being overwhelmed with the unknown. For parents
who have found themselves either on the cusp of the diagnosis, or
grappling with its meaning, or even those who are further along the
path and want to read how another family grew with this, I
recommend LAUGHING ALLEGRA. I also recommend it for parents of
so-called "normal children," who may want to understand rather than
dismiss the schoolmate their child knows who is different, or
special.

Anne's book stresses that this is a family issue as it affects the
entire family. She was a single mother, but also had a son,
Alessandro, whose role as Allegra's older brother took him on a
journey that he also had not expected. The effect on him is spoken
about with enough depth to ensure that readers realize that that
all people in the family must grapple with the challenge.

One thing to note here. Allegra is now thirty and living
independently. As I read I thought about the great strides that are
being made every day in the diagnosis and treatment of learning
disabilities. Anne and Allegra came to tackle many of the
challenges without the tools that are now in place. This, as much
of any of Anne's stories, can bring parents great hope.

The back of the book has appendices with list of resources and
excellent guidelines on such topics as Questions Parents Ask,
Mothers and Fathers Understanding Each Other and Your Legal Rights.
They are as well-written as the rest of the book, and provide more
nuts and bolts information.

I cannot recommend a book more highly than this. Halfway through I
found myself making lists of people who would enjoy it. I encourage
you to pick it up --- and then spread the word.

Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on January 22, 2011

Laughing Allegra: The Inspiring Story of a Mother's Struggle and Triumph Raising a Daughter With Learning Disabilities
by Anne Ford

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Education, Memoir, Parenting
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Newmarket Press
  • ISBN-10: 155704564X
  • ISBN-13: 9781557045645