Forman Head of School Adam Man, left, welcomes renowned LD expert, Dr. Richard Lavoie, right, who spoke to new parents recently at the Forman School in Litchfield.

Having a child with a learning disability has an enormous impact on the entire family, according to Dr. Rick Lavoie, a popular author, speaker and consultant. Lavoie spoke recently to new parents at the Forman School about how they must learn to accept their child’s learning disability so they can work together to help the student succeed.

He described the impact that a special needs child has on his family as being like a family of five lying together on a waterbed. “If one is having trouble, then everyone feels it,” Lavoie explained. “You don’t have a special needs child, you have a special needs family,” he said.

Lavoie said parents of special needs children need to use a different approach to parenting from those with kids who don’t struggle. “You need to view, accept and embrace the kid the way he is that day and remember that is no predictor of what he will be,” he said. “Day to day, you need to accept who he is.”

The Forman School, which was founded in 1930 by John and Julie Forman in Litchfield, CT, is a coed, college preparatory boarding and day school for students with learning differences. Lavoie has been working with the Forman School for more than 25 years.

“One thing about children that we need to understand is that kids go to school for a living,” Lavoie said. “It’s their job, but in our culture, it’s their whole identity. When the school is lousy, when the kid is failing, it’s his whole identity. Forman brings these kids together and helps them succeed.”

“This place gets it,” Lavoie admitted. “It understands and deals with adolescents with learning disabilities.” He said he has sent many students to Forman and their lives have changed because of it. “Their secret weapon here is the staff,” Lavoie revealed.

Unlike Forman, Lavoie said most American schools are reluctant to change. “In education, 90 percent of what we know about ADD we’ve learned in the last five years,” he remarked. “Forman is taking that research and applying it in the classroom.”

Lavoie said the two most important words in special education are support and challenge. “You need to challenge them, but also give them supports,” he said. “There is a great magical thing here because the school and the parents work together as equal partners. Forman gets it.”

Lavoie’s humorous, honest and heartfelt style and extensive experience working with special needs students captivated the audience. In his introduction, Head of School Adam Man admitted that Lavoie is one of his very favorite speakers.

Lavoie has served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for more than 40 years and holds three degrees in special education and two honorary doctorates in education from the University of Massachusetts and Mitchell College.

He has also served as a visiting lecturer at many universities, including Harvard, Manhattanville College, University of Alabama, University of Melbourne and Georgetown. Lavoie has the distinction of having delivered the keynote addresses for all three of the major special needs advocacy organizations in the United States: the Learning Disabilities Association, Council for Exceptional Children and Children with Attention Deficit Disorder. He has also appeared on “The Today Show,” “CBS Morning Show,” “Good Morning America” and “ABC Evening News.”

The Forman School is a coeducational college preparatory school exclusively focused on empowering bright students with learning disabilities. Founded in 1930, the school is located in Litchfield, CT.  For more information, visit or call (860) 567-1802.