Brooklyn School for Children with Learning Disabilities Hosts Discussion on Family Impact

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Anne Ford and son Al Uzielli Share Insight at Mary McDowell Friends School

Pictured (top row, L to R): Al Uzielli and Debbie Zlotowitz; (bottom row, L to R): John Richard Thompson and Anne Ford.

It is important for parents to understand they are not alone. At Mary McDowell, we understand that our support for children with learning disabilities goes beyond the classroom.

Mary McDowell Friends School (MMFS), a K-12 Quaker school for students with learning disabilities, welcomed more than 120 guests to a presentation by Anne Ford, great granddaughter of Henry Ford who shared insights from her experience of having a child with learning disabilities. The audience included MMFS parents, staff and local community members who came to hear from Ford, her son Al Uzielli and writer John Richard Thompson who co-authored Ford’s three books on the subject. Held at MMFS’s newly expanded Upper School in Brooklyn Heights, the speakers presented their perspectives on the often overlooked experience of a sibling of a child with learning disabilities.

Ford, who became an advocate for families with learning disabilities after her daughter Allegra, now 42, was diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities, spoke about finding herself in uncharted territory but with a singular mission. “I was completely dedicated to finding the best possible resources for my daughter,” she said. “It is often the things parents don’t talk about with each other that need to be shared. Children with learning disabilities have trouble with social skills and dealing with the stigma of their diagnosis.”

Ford then spoke about a rarely addressed challenge; the impact a child’s learning disabilities can have on their siblings, and welcomed her son Al Uzielli to the podium to share his feelings about growing up with his sister Allegra. Uzielli expressed gratitude to his mother for her dedication to the family and perseverance through the process of raising Allegra. He then advised parents in the audience to bring their children who do not have learning disabilities “into the room.” “Keep the lines of communication open, make sure they are informed about their sibling and what is going on around them, ensuring involvement is at a level appropriate for their age and maturity,” Uzielli said.

The program concluded with a Q&A session during which parents shared their own stories and sought advice from Ford on various issues, among them the importance of individual and family therapy, the socialization challenges for a child with learning disabilities and how, and when, parents of children with learning disabilities should “let go” enough to allow their child the age-appropriate freedoms often enjoyed by their peers who do not have learning disabilities.

“We are so grateful to Ms. Ford for sharing her experiences,” said MMFS Head of School, Debbie Zlotowitz. “It is important for parents to understand they are not alone. At Mary McDowell, we understand that our support for children with learning disabilities goes beyond the classroom. This is why we are committed to bringing these types of programs and information into the school, providing information that benefits our parents and other members of the community who may need them.”

The lecture was held as part of MMFS’s Fall Speaker series sponsored by the Parents Association. The series also featured author Dr. Wendy Mogel, a prominent clinical psychologist specialized in parenting issues, earlier in October in a collaborative event sponsored by several Brooklyn schools.

Mary McDowell Friends School is located at 23 Sidney Place, Brooklyn, NY. For more information, please call 718-625-3939 or visit

About Mary McDowell Friends School:
Mary McDowell Friends School, established in 1984, is an independent K-12 Quaker school for students with learning disabilities. Located in the Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the school offers a proven, successful, alternative to mainstream schools providing an innovative academic program combining individualized curricula, enrichment activities and support services. With more than 340 students from all five boroughs of New York City and the New York Metropolitan area, the school’s small class sizes and differentiated educational approach teaches students how to learn, providing them with a foundation for future success. More information about MMFS and its programs can be found at

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