Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level

by Sally Shaywitz


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Clear, practical, science-based information and advice for successful results

One in five American children has trouble reading. But they are not stupid or lazy. In Overcoming Dyslexia, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, codirector of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention and a leader in the new research into how the brain works, offers the latest information about reading problems and proven, practical techniques that, along with hard work and the right help, can enable anyone to overcome them. Here are the tools that parents and teachers need to help the dyslexic child, age by age, grade by grade, step by step.

—What dyslexia is and why some intelligent, gifted people read slowly and painfully
—How to identify dyslexia in preschoolers, schoolchildren, young adults, and adults
—How to find the best school and how to work productively with your child’s teacher
—Exercises to help children use the parts of the brain that control reading
—A 20-minute nightly home program to enhance reading
—The 150 most common problem words–a list that can give your child a head start
—Ways to raise and preserve a child’s self-esteem aqnd reveal his strengths
—Stories of successful men and women who are dyslexic

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679781592
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/04/2005
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 38,200
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.16(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Sally Shaywitz, MD, is Professor of Pediatrics at the Yale University School of Medicine and codirector of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention. A member of the National Reading Panel and the Institute of Medicine of the Academy of Sciences, and chosen as one of America’s Top Doctors by Castle Connolly, she lectures regularly throughout the country and has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America and The Today Show.

Read an Excerpt

I now want to gather together all the clues that combined will serve as an early-warning system for recognizing dyslexia. The clues will help you answer the question: Should my son or daughter (or I) be evaluated for dyslexia?

No one wants to be an “alarmist” and put her child through an evaluation for trivial or transient bumps along the road to reading. Evaluations can take time, and those carried out privately can be expensive. But I think we have to remind ourselves that our children are precious, oneof-a-kind individuals and have only one life to live. If we elect not to evaluate a child and that child later proves to have dyslexia, we cannot give those lost years back to him. The human brain is resilient, but there is no question that early intervention and treatment bring about more positive change at a faster pace than an intervention provided to an older child. And then there is the erosion of self-esteem that accrues over the years as a child struggles to read.

Childhood is a time for learning. A child who delays breaking the phonetic code will miss much of the reading practice that is essential to building fluency and vocabulary; as a consequence, he will fall further and further behind in acquiring comprehension skills and knowledge of the world around him. To see this happen to a child is sad, all the more because it is preventable.

Joseph Torgesen, a reading researcher at Florida State University who has carried out many of the critical studies on intervention, has this to say about the need to identify children early on and the cost of waiting: To the extent that we allow children to fall seriously behind at any point during early elementary school, we are moving to a “remedial” rather than a “preventive” model of intervention. Once children fall behind in the growth of critical word reading skills, it may require very intensive interventions to bring them back up to adequate levels of reading accuracy, and reading fluency may be even more difficult to restore because of the large amount of reading practice that is lost by children each month and year that they remain poor readers.

Most parents and teachers delay evaluating a child with reading difficulties because they believe the problems are just temporary, that they wll be outgrown. This is simply not true. Reading poblems are notoutgrown, they are persistent. As the participants in the Connecticut Longitudinal Study have demonstrated, at least three out of four children who read poorly in third grade continue to have reading problems in high school and beyond. What may seem to be tolerable and overlooked in a third grader certainly won’t be in a high schooler or young adult. Without identification and proven interventions, virtually all children who have reading difficulties early on will still struggle with reading when they are adults.

Luckily, parents can play an active role in the early identification of a reading problem. All that is required is an observant parent who knows what she is looking for and who is willing to spend time with her child listening to him speak and read.

The specific signs of dyslexia, both weaknesses and strengths, in any one individual will vary according to the age and educational level of that person. The five-year-old who can’t quite learn his letters becomes the six-year-old who can’t match sounds to letters and the fourteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud and the twenty-four-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly. The threads persist throughout a person’s life. The key is knowing how to recognize them at different periods during development. Therefore, I have gathered the clues together to provide three distinct portraits of dyslexia: first, in early childhood from preschool through first grade; next, in school-age children from second grade on; and, last, in young adults and adults.

Clues to Dyslexia in Early Childhood

The earliest clues involve mostly spoken language. The very first clue to a language (and reading) problem may be delayed language. Once the child begins to speak, look for the following problems:

The Preschool Years

• Trouble learning common nursery rhymes such as “Jack and Jill” and “Humpty Dumpty”
• A lack of appreciation of rhymes
• Mispronounced words; persistent baby talk
• Difficulty in learning (and remembering) names of letters
• Failure to know the letters in his own name

Kindergarten and First Grade

• Failure to understand that words come apart; for example, that batboy can be pulled apart into bat and boy, and, later on, that the word bat can be broken down still further and sounded out as: “b” “aaaa” t
• Inability to learn to associate letters with sounds, such as being unable to connect the letter b with the “b” sound
• Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters; for example, the word big is read as goat
• The inability to read common one-syllable words or to sound out even the simplest of words, such as mat, cat, hop, nap
• Complaints about how hard reading is, or running and hiding when it is time to read
• A history of reading problems in parents or siblings

In addition to the problems of speaking and reading, you should be looking for these indications of strengths in higher-level thinking processes:
• Curiosity
• A great imagination
• The ability to figure things out
• Eager embrace of new ideas
• Getting the gist of things
• A good understanding of new concepts
• Surprising maturity
• A large vocabulary for the age group
• Enjoyment in solving puzzles
• Talent at building models
• Excellent comprehension of stories read or told to him

Clues to Dyslexia From Second Grade On

Problems in Speaking
• Mispronunciation of long, unfamiliar, or complicated words; the fracturing of words–leaving out parts of words or confusing the order of the parts of words; for example, aluminum becomes amulium
• Speech that is not fluent–pausing or hesitating often when speaking, lots of um’s during speech, no glibness
• The use of imprecise language, such as vague references to stuff or things instead of the proper name of an object
• Not being able to find the exact word, such as confusing words that sound alike: saying tornado instead of volcano, substituting lotion for ocean, or humanity for humidity
• The need for time to summon an oral response or the inability to come up with a verbal response quickly when questioned
• Difficulty in remembering isolated pieces of verbal information (rote memory)–trouble remembering dates, names, telephone numbers, random lists

Problems in Reading
• Very slow progress in acquiring reading skills
• The lack of a strategy to read new words
• Trouble reading unknown (new, unfamiliar) words that must be sounded out; making wild stabs or guesses at reading a word; failure to systematically sound out words
• The inability to read small “function” words such as that, an, in
• Stumbling on reading multisyllable words, or the failure to come close to sounding out the full word
• Omitting parts of words when reading; the failure to decode parts within a word, as if someone had chewed a hole in the middle of the word, such as conible for convertible
• A terrific fear of reading out loud; the avoidance of oral reading
• Oral reading filled with substitutions, omissions, and mispronunciations
• Oral reading that is choppy and labored, not smooth or fluent
• Oral reading that lacks inflection and sounds like the reading of a foreign language
• A reliance on context to discern the meaning of what is read
• A better ability to understand words in context than to read isolated single words
• Disproportionately poor performance on multiple choice tests
• The inability to finish tests on time
• The substitution of words with the same meaning for words in the text he can’t pronounce, such as car for automobile
• Disastrous spelling, with words not resembling true spelling; some spellings may be missed by spell check
• Trouble reading mathematics word problems
• Reading that is very slow and tiring
• Homework that never seems to end, or with parents often recruited as readers
• Messy handwriting despite what may be an excellent facility at word processing–nimble fingers
• Extreme difficulty learning a foreign language
• A lack of enjoyment in reading, and the avoidance of reading books or even a sentence
• The avoidance of reading for pleasure, which seems too exhausting
• Reading whose accuracy improves over time, though it continues to lack fluency and is laborious
• Lowered self-esteem, with pain that is not always visible to others
• A history of reading, spelling, and foreign language problems in family members

In addition to signs of a phonologic weakness, there are signs of strengths in higher-level thinking processes:
• Excellent thinking skills: conceptualization, reasoning, imagination, abstraction
• Learning that is accomplished best through meaning rather than rote memorization
• Ability to get the “big picture”
• A high level of understanding of what is read to him
• The ability to read and to understand at a high level overlearned (that is, highly practiced) words in a special area of interest; for example, if his hobby is restoring cars, he may be able to read auto mechanics magazines
• Improvement as an area of interest becomes more specialized and focused, when he develops a miniature vocabulary that he can read
• A surprisingly sophisticated listening vocabulary
• Excellence in areas not dependent on reading, such as math, computers, and visual arts, or excellence in more conceptual (versus factoid-driven) subjects such as philosophy, biology, social studies, neuroscience, and creative writing

Clues to Dyslexia in Young Adults and Adults

Problems in Speaking
• Persistence of earlier oral language difficulties
• The mispronunciation of the names of people and places, and tripping over parts of words
• Difficulty remembering names of people and places and the confusion of names that sound alike
• A struggle to retrieve words: “It was on the tip of my tongue”
• Lack of glibness, especially if put on the spot
• Spoken vocabulary that is smaller than listening vocabulary, and hesitation to say aloud words that might be mispronounced

Problems in Reading
• A childhood history of reading and spelling difficulties
• Word reading becomes more accurate over time but continues to require great effort
• Lack of fluency

Should My Child Be Evaluated for Dyslexia?
• Embarrassment caused by oral reading: the avoidance of Bible study groups, reading at Passover seders, or delivering a written speech
• Trouble reading and pronouncing uncommon, strange, or unique words such as people’s names, street or location names, food dishes on a menu (often resorting to asking the waiter about the special of the day or resorting to saying, “I’ll have what he’s having,” to avoid the embarrassment f not being able to read the menu)
• Persistent reading problems
• The substitution of made-up words during reading for words that cannot be pronounced–for example, metropolitan becomes mitan–and a failure to recognize the word metropolitan when it is seen again or heard in a lecture the next day
• Extreme fatigue from reading
• Slow reading of most materials: books, manuals, subtitles in foreign films
• Penalized by multiple-choice tests
• Unusually long hours spent reading school or work-related materials
• Frequent sacrifice of social life for studying
• A preference for books with figures, charts, or graphics
• A preference for books with fewer words per page or with lots of white showing on a page
• Disinclination to read for pleasure
• Spelling that remains disastrous and a preference for less complicated words in writing that are easier to spell
• Particularly poor performance on rote clerical tasks

Signs of Strengths in Higher-Level Thinking Processes
• The maintenance of strengths noted in the school-age period
• A high learning capability
• A noticeable improvement when given additional time on multiple-choice examinations
• Noticeable excellence when focused on a highly specialized area such as medicine, law, public policy, finance, architecture, or basic science
• Excellence in writing if content and not spelling is important
• A noticeable articulateness in the expression of ideas and feelings
• Exceptional empathy and warmth, and feeling for others
• Success in areas not dependent on rote memory
• A talent for high-level conceptualization and the ability to come up with original insights
• Big-picture thinking
• Inclination to think out of the box
• A noticeable resilience and ability to adapt

These clues across the life span offer a portrait of dyslexia. Examine them carefully, think about them, and determine if any of these clues fit your child, you, or someone else you are close to. Look for clues in the weaknesses and strengths. Identifying the weaknesses makes it possible to spot dyslexia in children before they are expected to read and in adults after they have developed some degree of reading accuracy but are continuing to show the remnants of earlier problems, reading slowly and with great effort.

If you think you or your child has some of these problems, it is important to note how frequent they are and how many there are. You don’t need to worry about isolated clues or ones that appear very rarely. For you to be concerned, the symptoms must be persistent; anyone can mispronounce a word now and then, or confuse similar-sounding words occasionally. What you are looking for is a persistent pattern–the occurrence of a number of these symptoms over a prolonged period of time. That represents a likelihood of dyslexia.

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Overcoming Dyslexia 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a reading tutor and can tell you that this book hits the mark dead center. The author covers it all--the history of dyslexia, the amazing nuclear imaging today that is showing what happens in the brains of dyslexics, and then what to do about it and much, much more. This book is not just for dyslexics, however; it contains a wealth of information for anyone with a child struggling to read or an adult who can't read. Her methods work, because I have used many of them. Finally, if you as a person have always longed to read better (or just read!)or you are a parent who is beaten down, discouraged, having lost hope for your child (because that's exactly the way your child feels as he/she constantly fails to read), this book will give you incredible hope! There is a bright future for the one who struggles with reading...it is definitely fixable! To start fixing it, go invest 10-15 bucks on this book and get started!
Guest More than 1 year ago
We had no clue what dyslexia truly was when our son got diagnosed. This book was recommended by his evaluator and it the the best book ever!! Will carry you through college with your dyslexic child or young adult.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good book, going into not just what dyslexia is, but how our understanding of the mechanics of reading has changed in the last twenty years, especially with advanced brain imaging. But my favorite part was the list of what children should be able to do by different ages. It's a calm way of paying attention without freaking out. Good interview with Shaywitz at www.firstvoicebooks.com/shaywitz.html I also like that one of the best ways to help kids is to read to them when their young, something that too often is shunned as old fashioned, but it's great bonding, stimulating those young brains.
mike100274 More than 1 year ago
I am a special education teacher and all I can say is that this book is the final authority on dyslexia. Most of my classes for my Master's degree referenced this book, so I had to read it! Not only is it incredibly informative, Dr. Shaywitz does a brilliant job of taking that information and making it understandable for parents and lay people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent summary of dyslexia and what we know about it, and how to spot early signs that a child in your life might be dyslexic, particularly in the preschool and primary grades. Discusses specific remediation and intervention strategies. Very readible, the author does not lose the reader using professional jargon. If the chapters on history and physical nature of dyslexia bores you, skip them and go back to them later; the best part of the book is the last 2/3rds.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a comprehensive, informational, educational, and scientific look at the world of learning disabilities. It gives practical information throughout...and really keeps the reader interested! I wish this book came out 10 years ago...I could have been a much more successful teacher if it had. I reccomend it to all parents who think their child may have a reading difficulty, ALL teachers, and anyone who may have had reading problems (get the CD to expedite the reading)! GREAT BOOK!
Guest More than 1 year ago
An unexpected treat; I initially bought this book because I have a niece with reading problems, and was hoping to find some way to help her. I didn't anticipate finding something as comprehensive and personal as this book turned out to be. It took me all the way through, from the science of reading through very practical and detailed advice about what to actually do about reading problems. There is also something very unusual about the tone of this book -- it comes across as very warm, compassionate, and almost initimate. I also liked the discussions with several famous dyslexics including Charles Schwab and John Irving. All in all, a very helpful, very readable book about reading.
mm41 More than 1 year ago
I have a daughter with Dyslexia. This book was recommended to me by her tutor. I must say it explained what Dyslexia is and is not! This is the best book with scienitic research. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Dyslexia!
Mardis10s More than 1 year ago
I am severely dyslexic and am trained to work with Dyslexic children using Mutlisensory Orton Gillingham based training. This book is a fantastic resource. I was very pleased to know the Alphabetic Phonics training I have spent the last year doing has been exactly what I needed to be able to help other dyslexic children. Even with my own experiences living with dyslexia and raising three boys who are also dyslexic I learned a tremendous amount from this book. If you work with kids who are dyslexic, are dyslexic yourself, or have a family member who is dyslexic you need to read this book. I was amazed and relieved to hear the breakthroughs they have made determining the cause of dyslexia. I listened to it as an audio book and plan to listen to it again. There was so much great info!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a reading specialist and found this book to be very informative. Though I borrowed the book, I plan to purchase a copy for myself. It explains dyslexia so thoroughly and gives helpful ways to help people who are living with dyslexia. It also gives many web addresses for further information and resources.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was pure joy! Only wish it had come out earlier. This was one of the best books I have ever read!
mentormom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shaywitz packs this book with tons of information on dyslexia including the science on how the dyslexic brain learns. She also includes the best ways to teach reading for dyslexia and the importance of keeping the dyslexic student's sense of worth intact. She reminds us that people with dyslexia are bright, creative individuals who simply learn in a different way. I love her positive view of dyslexia and her desire to be an advocate for all who suffer with this disability. This is an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand dyslexia. This should be required reading for all elementary teachers who are bound to have students with dyslexia in their classes. Despite my high praise for Shaywitz's work, I do disagree with a few of her ideas. She seems to think parents aren't capable of teaching their kids to read which is absurd. She thinks it is best left to experts. I agree that we need to do our research to be prepared to help students with dyslexia, but I think parents are in the best situation to give their children the one-on-one attention that they need.She also seems to think we should push young kids with intensive phonics. I think it's fine to play with phonics at that age, but I disagree with intensive tutoring that young. While she consistently says it's never too late to help with dyslexia, she also repeatedly says kids are at a great disadvantage if they don't learn to read until later. I understand why she believes that and I can even agree with that to some extent. But I do not believe that kids are at a long term disadvantage if they learn to read later especially if they have been raised and educated in an environment where they have not been ridiculed, where they have had rich exposure to language and reading, and where they have parents who are advocates in helping their children be successful.Shaywitz's book is filled with vital information for all parents and teachers who want to help their struggling students succeed. I truly enjoyed reading her ending where she shared the stories of people who have used their dyslexia to help them enjoy passionate and successful lives.
mbertsch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was very helpful for my family. My son having lots of reading problems because of dyslexia, I read this book in order to help him. I am proud to say he has caught up to his reading level now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. Check out The Worldbuilder series by Charles Dorton if you're looking for a book for a dyslexic kid, but this one contains some pretty useful information for parents as well.
MsCharCP More than 1 year ago
This book is an excellent resource for educators and parents to understand that students don't all learn in one way, but all can learn. It is grounded in brain science and very well written.
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Rebecca Manning More than 1 year ago
This should be required reading for all teachers no matter what age group. Too few teachers recognize the warning signs of dyslexia, which leads to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis of dyslexia, thus condeming students to years of failure in reading, writing, and spelling. Why is this still an issue after years of scientific research as demonstrated by this author.
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