This episode is brought to you by PAR.
The Feifer Assessment of Writing examines why students may struggle with writing. The FAW and the FAW screening form are available on PARiConnect- PAR’s online assessment platform. Learn more at parinc.com\faw.
Okay, y’all, welcome back. Hope everybody’s doing all right.
I’m back here with another experimental podcast format for you. Today, I’m going to be doing a book review of Overcoming Dyslexia, the 2nd edition. I was pretty excited to find that the 2nd edition had been released. I’ve had the 1st edition on my shelf for many years [00:01:00] and saw during a feedback session, actually, when I was checking on resources that the 2nd edition was out. So, I’m going to try a book review and see how this goes.
As usual with any of these new formats from the past few months, we’d love to hear any feedback about the episode and whether it works for you or not. It’s all an experiment.
So, without further ado, let me jump into my review of Overcoming Dyslexia, 2nd edition by Dr. Sally Shaywitz.
All right. So, just getting started with this book review. I will say overall that I had a really positive impression of the book. But I would like to dig [00:02:00] into some of the details, of course, and give you all an idea of what you can expect with this book, and whether you might want to look into it yourself.
I want to start just with the updates here in the 2nd edition compared to the 1st edition. There is a fair amount of material that is similar, of course, but there are a good number of updates that I think make it worth it, at least for me, to purchase this book.
The 1st edition was published many years ago. And there have been some important advances in research and really in the legal realm around protection for individuals with disabilities. So, even for those two components in and of themselves, I think it’s worth it. But here are some of the other updates that come along with this 2nd edition.
So, Dr. Shaywitz updates [00:03:00] the status of the research on the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia. There is a new chapter on the overlap with ADHD, and anxiety, and dyslexia. I’ll talk a little bit more about that in the review. She does include a good bit of info on how to choose a school and specifically dives into particular private schools that can be helpful for individuals with dyslexia. There is a lot of information on post-secondary education and how dyslexia comes into play there. So if you work with college students or adults, I think there’s a good bit of information that’s new in this edition.
Something that I really enjoyed is that she has a chapter on digital resources and technology. Some apps and [00:04:00] accommodations in the tech realm that can help folks with dyslexia. So that was cool.
And then the last big update in my mind was the inclusion of all the legal information. So, this ends up being one of the lengthier chapters and I think it is helpful. It was helpful to me and certainly, it would be helpful for those trying to advocate for folks with dyslexia particularly through the IEP process and trying to get accommodations on standardized tests.
So those are the major updates in this edition.
If you didn’t read the first edition, I can give a little bit of a summary that will capture a lot of the content in this book. And I don’t mean to misspeak. I mean, there is additional content in this book, but I think the [00:05:00] structure is generally similar to the 1st edition. Either way, here’s just a little overview of the book and what you can expect.
So the first section, Dr. Shaywitz starts with a fairly lengthy amount of content around the history and definition of dyslexia. This is pretty familiar for those of you that read the first edition. She traces it all the way back to the origins and how it came to be, diagnostic status, how we define it, that sort of thing. So, this is helpful. It’s good background information.
She then goes into a section on recognizing and diagnosing dyslexia. This is also a pretty comprehensive section and it dives into specific things to look at, at different points in the lifespan. [00:06:00] It gets very detailed, very granular. I found it helpful as well.
For a clinician who has been assessing dyslexia for a number of years, it might seem fairly basic. But she does include some info on neuroimaging and things like that. It is interesting if maybe not completely fresh for those of us who’ve been doing this for a while.
The next section really goes into intervention and support across the lifespan. So, she really dives in, and I’ll talk about this in just a minute as well, but it gives a lot of specific information on intervention and particularly how parents can help their kids who are struggling with reading. Like I said earlier, it also spans post-secondary intervention and support, which was a nice [00:07:00] addition.
And then the last section to me was a little bit of a hodgepodge. That’s where she has chapters on anxiety, ADHD, and dyslexia. That’s where the technology chapter is, specific accommodations, the legal implications, rights, and protections for individuals with dyslexia. And she also has a chapter, which I thought was cool on examples of successful or famous individuals with dyslexia.
That’s just a short summary of what you’re going to get into here. You can find the table of contents on the preview on Amazon. And so you can dig into that a little more deeply if you’d like. But I really want to spend the bulk of this episode, which will admittedly be a relatively short episode, focused on the pros and cons of [00:08:00] this book as far as I could tell.
Now, generally speaking, I think it was worth it. So, at whatever it is, $15 for the paperback version, definitely worth it.
It probably took me, I’d say 4 to 5 hours to read. I found that I was able to skim quite a bit. There was a fair amount of repetition from the first edition. But the way the book is organized, and the way the typeface is set up, and the font, and the breaks and the text, and so forth, it was easy to find the headings and the important components. But I did find myself often skipping the stories. So, there are a number of stories, which I think parents and individuals with dyslexia would probably find helpful. But all in all, I think the book was worth it. That’s my overall recommendation.
But let’s [00:09:00] dive in a little more specifically to pros and cons, things that worked things, that didn’t work. And these are chronological. So I’ll go through the pros throughout the book as they occurred. And then I’ll go through the cons throughout the book as well.
So, the first thing that I noticed right off the bat when I was reading this book was that she has several sections that she labels with an uppercase caution and creates a little inset to call attention to content that might be questionable. So, this might be research that’s not well validated, it might be a specific piece of advice that she wants you to pay attention to. I like those little visual cues. So jumped out right away as a nice component, just to the way the book was laid out.
Early on, she repeats in several places, the [00:10:00] clues or signs of dyslexia at different ages and developmental stages. It’s clear that she rightfully so has a big belief in identifying dyslexia early on. So, she repeats that information at many points at the beginning of the book so that, again, I think parents, educators, and those kinds of folks would be able to pick up on what they’re looking for and signs that something might be awry. I found this helpful from a clinician standpoint as well. It is familiar from the first 1st edition, but it was helpful.
One thing about this book, just a thread that ran throughout is that this is a very strengths-based book. I really enjoyed that. It encourages parents and others to be mindful of their kids’ strengths in addition to their challenges. And again, that runs throughout from the very beginning all the way to the end. She closes with a chapter of successful or famous individuals [00:11:00] with dyslexia.
From a clinician standpoint, I thought it was nice that Dr. Shaywitz really emphasized the need for a comprehensive evaluation for dyslexia and specifically says that you can’t just diagnose it based on one score. So that was a nice piece of validation for those of us who do testing for dyslexia.
In the midsection, she gives up a very thorough walkthrough of exercises for parents who want to take the DIY approach to reading intervention at home. She spends a lot of time on how exactly to help kids who are struggling at different points of their journey. So different developmental stages, different skills they might be working on. She spends a lot of time.
So, the midsection of this book is really all about intervention. And the [00:12:00] subtext, I think, is that parents and caregivers of kids with dyslexia should hope for the best but plan for the worst as far as school, picking up the responsibility for intervention. And so she really gives a ton of information for parents who want to take the DIY approach.
Speaking of intervention, she does give specific information on the duration and frequency of intervention necessary for kids with dyslexia. I thought that was cool.
There’s a really nice section on explaining dyslexia to the child with several bullet points and how to discuss them. Again, very strengths-based.
In the picking a school chapter, she includes a list of specialized schools for kids with dyslexia. I know this list exists out there on the internet, [00:13:00] but it was nice to see it compiled all in one place. And I was surprised that there are a number of schools. There are way more than I knew of. I just have kind of the top 3 or 4 that I think about in terms of schools specific for kids with learning disorders, but there’s a nice list. And she made sure to include that.
I really enjoyed the emphasis on post-secondary education as well. So as part of that chapter or chapters, there are a few things that jumped out. She provides a checklist for the accommodations that a college student is receiving and how to track implementation or follow through on those accommodations. That was cool.
She gave ideas on the ideal class schedule and specific recommendations for how many classes to take in college. She made some commentary on how to access the disability office. And [00:14:00] for those of you who maybe work in disability offices or know folks that do, I think you’ll really appreciate it. She really showcases the disability offices at different colleges as kind of the linchpin in helping post-secondary individuals get their accommodations.
And lastly, she provided some sample accommodations for college and what they actually look like in practice, which again, I think is nice for those readers who have dyslexia or trying to help someone who does.
Let’s see. A few more.
She has a decent adult education section. It was interesting to me just because I don’t do a ton of adult evaluation anymore. But she had a nice adult education section with specific programs to pursue and steps to take. She provides some commentary on the tiers [00:15:00] of passing the GED, which I admittedly did not know about. There are different tiers of passing, not just a pass-fail.
She talks about how to prepare to take the GED, which again, something I did not know is written at a 10th-grade reading level. So, she really talks through how to navigate that for individuals who maybe aren’t reading at a 10th-grade level. That was nice to read.
The section on technology, for me, I liked that it was included. This is a mixed bag. I didn’t put it as a con, but it is a mixed bag. I’m glad that it’s there, but I kind of hoped for a bit more in this section. I do love technology though, and I was hoping for maybe some fresh ideas on apps that could work well. What I got was maybe validation that the apps and technology that I’ve been recommending [00:16:00] are good, but I was hoping for some fresher ideas. But it is nice to include that information in the book.
She does have a relatively lengthy chapter on the legal system and rights of individuals with disabilities, the history thereof, the recent developments. She goes into the story of, I think it was the LSAT or the LSATs parent company and how they got into a good bit of legal trouble denying accommodations to individuals with learning disorders or dyslexia. So, I thought that was enjoyable if for nothing else, then for the history. But it is, again a nice chapter for those who advocate for individuals with dyslexia.
And then lastly, the thing I want to highlight just to close the pros is, she has some nice appendices and a nice notes section [00:17:00] with specific resources like children’s books that are particularly good for learning reading skills. That’s just one example. And she provides a lot of citations and footnotes in the appendices and notes section about the text and where she got the information and goes the extra mile to explain a lot of the statements in the book.
All in all, there’s a lot to take away from this book.
Let’s take a quick break to hear from our featured partner.
The Feifer Assessment of Writing or FAW is a comprehensive test of written expression that examines why students may struggle with writing. It joins the FAR and the FAM to complete the Feifer Family of diagnostic achievement test batteries all of which examine subtypes of learning disabilities using a brain-behavior perspective. The FAW can identify the possibility of dysgraphia as well as the specific subtype. Also available is the [00:18:00] FAW screening form which can be completed in 20 minutes or less.
Both the FAW and the FAW screening forms are available on PARiConnect- PAR’s online assessment platform, allowing you to get results even faster. Learn more at parinc.com\faw.
All right, let’s get back to the podcast.
I’ll talk through some of the cons and things I did not love. And again, this was just in chronological order. Take it for what you will. And just keep in mind, I was reading this through the eyes of a clinician primarily. Neither of my kids has dyslexia as far as I can tell. And I don’t myself. So this is just through the clinical lens.
One thing that jumped out, I wished that there were end of chapter summaries. I’ve seen many books that do that. And at least for me, that’s helpful to highlight the main points at the end of a chapter.[00:19:00] I saw the inclusion of the historical and scientific data including the imaging, like neuroimaging as maybe not unhelpful, but I don’t know who that’s for. I don’t know if parents really care about that stuff or individuals with dyslexia really care about that. Maybe they do. But just for me, the historical and scientific data was a little heavy. I really wanted to just dig into the identification and intervention- the more practical pieces.
There was really no mention of the relationship between the DSM-5 criteria for a learning disorder and a dyslexia diagnosis. They’re related. I mean, there are kind of… she made fairly vague statements as far as the discrepancy model versus patterns of [00:20:00] strengths and weaknesses and just how we diagnose learning disorders.
Bless her heart and everyone’s heart who’s trying to sort through this. It’s a murky area. So, I can understand not wanting to wade into that. But again, as a clinician, I was hoping for a little bit more on that.
There was a statement related to assessment that caught my eye. And I wrote it down here just as a quote. It says, “You do not need to be the person who administers each test in order to be the one to make a diagnosis of dyslexia.”
Now, while that’s literally true, I think I took a little bit of issue with that. And there wasn’t a whole lot of explanation around what exactly she meant. I took it to mean that someone could maybe look at already existing test data and make a diagnosis. And that’s tough. [00:21:00] I don’t know that I completely agree with that. I think meeting the child and administering the tests is important.
Let’s see, I had some questions just about the… or not question, maybe comment about the chapter on overlap with mental health disorders. I mean, better something than nothing, certainly. But the chapter on the overlap of anxiety and ADHD, I think left a lot to be desired. There could have been a lot more exploration there. The chapter to me felt primarily focused on medication treatment of anxiety and ADHD. There wasn’t a whole lot else to be said there. So I think that’s an area that could be fleshed out a little bit more.
Let’s see. At times she veers [00:22:00] into a little bit of executive functioning coaching-type material.
She does justify by saying that those skills are important in time management. And time management is a big factor involved in reading and dyslexia. But again, to me, I wanted a little bit more or I wanted it to just be cut out completely. It felt like kind of a cursory examination of executive functioning coaching and executive functioning strategies without going into a ton of detail about how to implement those. So, that was one thing that I think could be edited.
And let’s see. Just two more. Very specifically, there’s a point toward the end of the book where she says [00:23:00] that there’s no way to determine how much extra time is needed for an individual. And that it’s really just dependent on the person’s experience.
For me, I think that is very literally true, but it didn’t give a lot of information for those of us who are actually trying to make specific recommendations that are bound by standardized test companies or other entities to make a specific recommendation about the amount of time that someone might need, the amount of extra time.
And then the last thing that I might say just as a con is that there were many times throughout the book where I felt like it was a little salesy for The Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen™ which is, I think obviously an instrument that she developed. This is kind of a double-edged sword. Early intervention and early screening is certainly [00:24:00] very, very valuable and necessary. And she developed a measure that can do that. It popped up a lot. I’ll just say that. I’ll leave it at that, that it popped up a lot throughout the text as an option to conduct early screening with no other alternatives. So, for me, it was just something I noticed.
I personally have not used her dyslexia screener. I would love to hear from anyone who does. So, I can’t comment one way or the other on quality. So just know that as well.
Okay, so that is just like I said, a quick and kind of dirty summary of Overcoming Dyslexia 2nd edition. I did not mean for this to be an in-depth review, but hopefully, gives you enough to know if you would like [00:25:00] to get the book or not.
Like I said, for me, it was definitely worth it to get the 2nd edition above and beyond the 1st edition. I think it’s helpful and just nice peace of mind-wise as well to know that we have the most updated research and legal information. And it is certainly updated with the technology and apps that are out there these days as well.
So, all in all, I liked it. It’s easy to read. There are a lot of personal stories of individuals with dyslexia. Again, it is strengths-based, which I thought was pretty awesome. That definitely dovetails with the way that I approach assessment.
So all in all, I like it. I think it’s a good update to the 1st edition. I would recommend that you get it if you do a fair amount of assessment, if for nothing else, then to be [00:26:00] fairly educated and to be able to give parents some specific recommendations for how to work with where work with their kids. There’s a lot to take away from this one.
Now, as I said at the beginning, this is a new format for the podcast. If you enjoyed it, please let me know. If you didn’t enjoy it, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to do one book review per quarter. Honestly, it was really nice to sit down, read a book and compel myself to do that. I can get wrapped up in podcasts and other resources. So, to actually sit and read the book was nice. So, let me know how this format worked and if you’d like to see more, see something different in a book review, I’d like to keep experimenting with this.
Now at the time of this release, I think [00:27:00] we have one spot left in the Advanced Practice Mastermind Group that will start on January 7th. So this is a group of accountability and support for advanced practice owners who are looking to streamline their processes, hire admin support, or clinical clinicians- that’s a thing, right? hire more clinicians in their practice, stop trading time for money, all those sorts of things.
So, we have a great group assembled. We have one spot left. And again, that starts January the 7th. So you can go to thetestingpsychologists.com/advanced and get more information and sign up for a pre-group phone call to see if it’s a good fit.
All right. I hope y’all are doing well, taking care, getting ready hopefully for some relaxation and downtime over the holidays, and of course, staying [00:28:00] healthy.
All right. Until next time.
The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologists website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental [00:29:00] health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.