Note:  I am in no way being compensated for this review.

Book Review:  Dyslexia Advocate–How to Advocate for a Child with Dyslexia within the Public School System

Kelli Sandman-Hurley’s book, Dyslexia Advocate, is not a just good book.  It is a very, very good book.  

If you’re helping a student who is struggling with dyslexia, whether you’re a parent or loved one, this book should be on your shelf.

If you are a clinician or learning specialist, I strongly suggest that you recommend this book to every family with whom you work.

Dr. Sandman-Hurley has been able to beautifully weave together the key information we need to have when learning how to advocate for our children with dyslexia. She aggregates the core information you need in one place so that you don’t have to search all over the web. Not only has she pulled the information together into one place but she “wraps” it in really solid and grounded advice and wisdom.

There is so much I like about this book. I often speak of the importance of helping parents “build a map” for understanding how to navigate the crazy, hair-pulling process of getting appropriate services for our dyslexic kids.  Dr. Sandman Hurley does just that.

Keili starts with the basics of dyslexia and why structured, multi-sensory and explicit interventions  are important for our kids.  From the beginning, her writing style reflects her ability to distill complex issues into understandable concepts.

I also like how she structures Chapter 2 regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In this chapter she does a great job outlining many of the basic issues and concepts that you really need to consider. If you were to start with the actual regulations in IDEA, your eyes will likely glaze over pretty quickly and you may got lost in the wonky jargon. However, at some point it is important to do a deeper dive with the regulations so she includes the full regulations in an Appendix in the back of the book.

Chapter 3 is when the value of Dr. Sandman-Hurley’s book really takes off. She provides step by step guidance for getting yourself organized when you suspect your child may have dyslexia. Clearly, especially for parents and others who are just starting in the process, this period can be confusing, upsetting, terrifying, enraging or all of those things at the same time. Having these step by step recommendations (that include examples, by the way) really serves to anchor you and helps you feel a sense of order and control. The record keeping that Kelli recommends also helps you keep the school team accountable for staying on track and providing the appropriate services your child needs by making all interactions explicit and recorded.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Sandman-Hurley devotes over 80 pages (out of 200) to the IEP process. She prepares you well for the sense of being overwhelmed that these IEP planning meetings will likely cause you. Well, she prepares you as best she can anyway. If you don’t have an advocate, walking into that room by yourself and facing anywhere from 5 to 10 people on the school team can be very destabilizing. The amount of information in the evaluation can be confusing and daunting. There are so many things coursing through your head and heart. Let’s keep in mind that this is your CHILD we’re talking about. So the recurrent theme here is prepare, prepare and prepare again.

Kelli does a great job with the basics of understanding the assessment results. You have to keep in mind that psychologists, speech and language pathologists and other assessment experts spend years accruing the education, training and experience necessary to conduct and interpret testing. You should not expect that you will become an expert right away. If you follow Kelli’s advice, it will again serve you well by anchoring you to the basics. Start there and trust that you will become an expert about your own child in time.

My favorite chapter of the book is Chapter 5:  What Does a Good IEP Look Like?

Again, she does a great job of combining clear guidelines, examples and solid advice and wisdom about the IEP development process. Most importantly, Kelli provides many concrete examples of exactly how to write up goals and accommodations. The exact wording is absolutely critical to the creation of a solid set of goals.

So many of us, the school team included, have never been properly trained to create an actionable, realistic IEP.

If for nothing else, it is worth buying this book just for this chapter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie in the process or a professional with 15 years of experience. You will find valuable tips in this section.

In the following two chapters, Kelli discusses how to follow up during the implementation of the IEP and what you should consider if you go with a 504 plan.

She also has compiled an excellent resource section at the end of the book that will prove to be very valuable over time.

Finally I want to comment on Chapter 8: Communicating With the School. Dr. Sandman-Hurley delivers a message that we will likely need to hear frequently. Sometimes things go very smoothly during the IEP process. Everyone works together as a team with the child’s best interest at heart. Far too often though, the process can be contentious. Regardless, using aggressiveness and a blaming tone is not likely to be effective. You’ve got to be persistent, prepared and not intimidated. Not easy to do but it will increase the likelihood of getting what your child needs. You will find that when you acknowledge good work you increase the probability of teamwork and collaboration.

So, I guess I’ve been kinda clear that I really respect Kelli’s work in creating this book. Every parent with a dyslexic child should have a copy. Every learning differences professional should highly recommend this book to all families with dyslexic kids. It’s that good.

You can find this book on Amazon.