“If it weren’t for Charlotte, who wears her emotions and her vulnerability on the outside, unedited, for all the world to see, I might never have learned to express my own feelings. Also, if it weren’t for Charlotte, the whole family—my husband, Tom, my younger daughter, Annie, and I—would have maintained very narrow views of intelligence and success. We wouldn’t have been inspired by Charlotte’s incredible perseverance when the odds were against her or her boundless compassion for others who struggle in life. Nor would we—three Type A go-getters—have learned to slow down and tune in to ourselves and the people close to us through Charlotte’s example. What’s more, we would have missed out on the closeness we have all gained from going through this eye-opening experience together.
That said, I would be lying if I claimed it was easy. It hasn’t been, for any of us. Having [learning disabilities], having a child with LD, or having a sibling with LD is extremely challenging on many levels and, at times, very painful. But the Buddhists say that pain is your teacher, your friend. It’s what brings you to greater awareness in life and, ultimately, to greater happiness, if you’re willing to learn from it. And I’ve been learning that that’s true.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2006 edition of Education Week as New in Print: Disability’s Blessings