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Book Review: On Their Own

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Book Review: On Their Own
Cover image courtesy of Newmarket Press

The Bottom Line

By Anne Ford with John-Richard Thompson; 301 pages. Subtitle: Creating an Independent Future for Your Adult Child With Learning Disabilities and ADHD

Think learning disabilities stop when your child finally makes it out of school? Think again. Anne Ford, who first shared her daughter's story in the book Laughing Allegra, follows her into adulthood now with a look at the way problems with organization, focus and social skills just go on and on and on. Fortunately, parents can help -- once the kids are adults, and before they get there.

About the Guide Rating

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  • Explains how learning challenges continue into adult life
  • Writing style is engaging and easy to follow
  • Gives good, realistic advice on college and employment issues
  • Author speaks as both a parent and a well-connected LD advocate
  • Provides inspiration through interviews of highly successful businessmen with LDs


  • Veers somewhat between restrained and optimistic forecasts for adults with LDs
  • Personal style of the writing makes one wonder what the co-writer did
  • If you'd been hoping you could worry less when your child grew up, this book may offer a rude shock


  • Part I: The Adult With LD
    Chapter 1: "So What Is It?"
    Chapter 2: Signs & Symptoms
    Chapter 3: Allegra: Portrait of My Daughter
  • Part II: Relationships
    Chapter 4: The Parent-Child Bond: Learning to Let Go
    Chapter 5: Brothers & Sisters
    Chapter 6: Friends
  • Chapter 7: Dating
    Chapter 8: Marriage & Parenting
    Part III: After High-School Graduation: The College Student With LD & ADHD
  • Chapter 9: Is College an Option?
    Chapter 10: Before Graduation Day: Transitions from High School
  • Chapter 11: Finding Your Child's Interests
    Chapter 12: LD, ADHD, & the SAT
    Chapter 13: How to Find the Right College
  • Chapter 14: Financial Aid
    Chapter 15: The GED
    Chapter 16: College Students With LD or ADHD
    Chapter 17: The Helicopter Parent
  • Part IV: On the Job: Employing the Adult With LD and ADHD
    Chapter 18: Defining Success
    Chapter 19: Business 101
  • Chapter 20: "Show Me Spark!": Corporate America
    Chapter 21: Motivation
    Part V: Life Concerns for the Adult With LD and ADHD
  • Chapter 22: Staying Healthy
    Chapter 23: Medication and ADHD
    Chapter 24: The Fine Print
    Chapter 25: Estate Planning
  • Part VI: Prominent People With LD: Sir Richard Branson, Gaston Caperton, John Chambers, David Neeleman, Charles Schwab

Guide Review - Book Review: On Their Own

Maybe you had a fantasy that your child's learning disabilities would all be gone by the time adulthood came. Or maybe you figured your child would always be under your thumb and in your home, never desirous of independence. You may even have never dared to look beyond the immediate crisis to imagine the future at all.

So what do you do when the future is now?

Anne Ford, parent of an adult with learning disabilities, has some great suggestions -- about college possibilities more realistic than Ivy League dreams, about job opportunities that appeal to your child's interests and take advantage of corporate benevolence, about strengthening living skills and protecting finances, and about mastering the fine art of helping your adult offspring without hovering. That last one may be the hardest.

For parents of younger kids, who still have time to lay some groundwork for a strong and successful adulthood, Ford interviews five successful businessmen with learning disabilities: Sir Richard Branson, Chairman and CEO, Virgin Group; Gaston Caperton, President, College Board, former Governor of Virginia; John Chambers, President and CEO, Cisco Systems; David Neeleman, Founder and CEO, JetBlue Airways; and Charles Schwab, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Charles Schwab & Co. The moguls share how they overcame their particular changes -- or, maybe more accurately, learned how to maximize the gifts that those differences bring.

The five are unanimous in their belief that parents need to find things their children are enthusiastic about and help them pursue those interests, whether they fit in Mom's and Dad's plans for the future or not. Finding an area of passionate focus may be more important in the long run than passing reading or acing the SATs. On Their Own is a useful guide to helping kids live on their own terms, too.

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