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Laughing Allegra



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Blending memoir with self-help, the remarkably honest and inspiring story about the struggle and triumph of raising a child with learning disabilities, by the great-granddaughter of Henry Ford and the Chairman Emeritus of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.




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 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 LD child), 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

  • 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."


"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, inlcuding "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."


- Publishers Weekly



"In this compelling book, the great-granddaughter of Henry Ford shares her experiences of raising a child with significant learning disabilities. The author first describes her journey to understand and accept her daughter's disability within a prominent family, including honest details about overcoming self-pity and anger. Her struggle to access adequate psychological analyses, educational opportunities, and recreational outlets demonstrates the commitment that parents need to serve this population best. Eventually, Ford turned these experiences into activism for families with learning disabled children by serving as chair of the Board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities from 1989 to 2001, where she received countless honors and awards. Also included are sections of frequently asked questions about learning disabilities and an excellent resource guide for parents. Overall, this book provides a candid perspective on learning disabilities that would be found over a cup of coffee than in the education section of a bookstore. Strongly recommended for all public libraries."


- Library Journal



"As a father who has been on this journey, I know Anne's book will touch the lives of every parent who is raising a child with learning differences. Anne encourages and inspires us with Allegra's story, reminding us that all our kids, each in their own way, are nothing short of remarkable."


- Charles R. Schwab



"Anne is the most articulate, dedicated and wonderful champion and messenger for youngsters and adults who don't learn like everybody else."


-G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., Chief, Child Development and Behavior, National Institutes of Child Health and Development (NICHD), National Institute of Health (NIH)



"Laughing Allegra is a wonderful story—complex, painful, courageous, and ultimately joyful."


- Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D., President and CEO, Special Olympics, Inc.



"Laughing Allegra is a parable of all mothers who love their child, in this instance one born with a learning disability, and who search for answers and for ways to ensure that their child has a happy life. As a result of Anne Ford's grit and determination, all mothers and fathers who worry about their child now have a tender and highly practical road map that provides answers, direction, and above all, hope."


- Sally Shaywitz, M.D., author of Overcoming Dyslexia



"Having witnessed Allegra's courageous battle with a learning disability, her continued success as an adult is a testament to her own dedication and that of her mother. Laughing Allegra offers a ray of hope to all parents struggling to ease the burden that learning disabilities place on their children."


- Senator Christopher Dodd



"This is a must read for every mother and father, not just those of us with a 'special' child. Anne Ford shares the heartbreaking lows, the glorious highs and the lonely in-betweens of raising a daughter with a severe learning disability, at a time when few people, and few schools, knew what to do to help, or even tried. You will never look at a child with special needs the same way after knowing what even a granddaughter of great privilege had to endure."


- Judy Woodruff and Al Hunt



"A valuable resource for any parent of a child with learning disabilities, Laughing Allegra also has a compelling and heartfelt story. Written as a guide for other parents of children with learning disabilities, the book should also be of interest to anyone in the field of education."


Pat MacEnulty, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel



"Anne Ford could have lived an easy, frivolous life. Instead, she has devoted herself to caring for a child with a learning disability. As such, she has gained wisdom and knowledge, which she shares with us in an inspiring story that any parent with a 'special child' can relate to."


- Barbara Walters



"This smart and welcome book is a gift for all parents, not just those with children with learning disabilities. Anne Ford is at once a loving mother and an insightful guide through the challenges and rewards of parenting."


- Tom Brokaw

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