Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Official Parent’s Sourcebook on Dysgraphia: Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Official Parent’s Sourcebook on Dysgraphia: a revised and updated directory for the Internet Age: a reference manual for self-directed patient research
By: James N. Parker M.D. and Philip M. Parkers PhD, Editors
Publication: ICON Health Publications
Website for book: Icon Health Publications Dysgraphia page
ISBN: 0597830185
Full retail price:

My Rating: 1 star out of 5

Summary statement: Totally Useless To Me; Not What I Thought It Was

How this book came to me: I purchased this book with my own money from, to read and use within my family.

There are few books on the market written for parents and educators about the learning disability dysgraphia that are currently in print. My interest in this topic is that I am a homeschooling mother of a child who I strongly suspect may have dysgraphia. I wanted to learn more via a non-fiction book from a credible author. The title of this book sounded impressive to me.

I found this book by doing book searches on and at the time I purchased it there were no customer book reviews to help me figure out if this book was a worthwhile one to purchase. Based on the product description provided by the publisher I thought the book sounded worthwhile and paid about double what typical non-fiction books for parents cost. I had high hopes for the book.

I was so excited when the book arrived and I settled in to read it when I was alone and had time to read carefully without interruption. I hoped for some solid information and to learn what studies showed and how the condition is treated and how it can be cured. The first thing I noticed was a lot of white space on the pages and large font, so the editors were stretching to get the book to its 83 pages, it seems to me. Well I figured it would not matter if the book was skimpy if what was there was very useful.

I was instantly deflated when I realized what this book is. This is not a typical non-fiction book where authors write about non-fiction information to inform the reader. The book opens with a very simple definition of dysgraphia which is JUST a quote from the US Government's NIH department. That is the largest piece of information that the authors give us about dysgraphia itself! The authors did not even write that themselves. To learn anything else, have to go digging on our own with the Internet.

The beginning of the book starts off saying that parents of children with a learning disability should be careful where they get their information from and they should not use Internet search engines to find information as the source may not be credible or accurate. Instead what these two editors do is give some websites that publish medical studies and tell you, the parent, to get on the Internet and start searching for online studies to decipher.

If you read the long subtitle very carefully you will see it says "a reference manual for self-directed patient research" and that on the cover the authors are credited as being editors.

Oddly the editors do not give a list of synonyms for the term dysgraphia. Yet on page 16 they tell us to do a search on a website for dysgraphia or a synonym.

The editors have a short blurb about how to find a doctor and how to find a neurologist. Oddly they never explain why a child would need a neurologist, if all children with a dysgraphia label need to consult with a neurologist or what a neurologist actually would do with or for a child with dysgraphia. I found that so strange!

Some of the information is so basic it is insulting. An example is on page 19 it says when you have a list of doctors you think you want your child to see, call them and ask if they take your insurance and if not, ask what they charge. Then if you want to see that doctor to schedule an appointment. DUH!! I found that advice so basic that it was insulting and patronizing. The idea that someone who would do all their own research using the Internet would not know how to phone a doctor and ask about insurance coverage and to make an appointment is just ridiculous.

Additionally other information is thrown in that seems to have nothing to do with the topic of dysgraphia. I can't help but suspect this was added to make the word count longer so this would expand from being a booklet to a book. Pages 30 and 31 give a list of NIH databases that have nothing to do with dysgraphia, such as Cancer, history of medicine and `space life' to name just three.

A number of pages are about the use of prescription medicines but it never tells if all children with dysgraphia need to take medications, what the different medications are and how they help or cure dysgraphia. I was completely confused by that chapter which gives only simple, general information such as tell the doctor what other medications the child is taking and don't be afraid to `bother' the doctor about questions about the prescribed drugs. When I went in search of what medications are used for dysgraphia I could not find any and in fact found a fact sheet on dysgraphia at the West Virginia University School of Medicine's site's fact sheet for dysgraphia that says there are no medications used for the treatment of dysgraphia!!

The editors also included a statement under the title "A Final Warning" to be wary of all alternative treatments yet they don't say much more than that to caution us about certain known alternative treatments like energy healing. I think they should have said something like, "X type of therapy offers to do X service and says it will cure dysgraphia by doing Y but this has not been proven in medical studies to be effective". Now that is useful information. Later on pages 49-57 general explanations of a few `alternative medicine' fields are explained but again no specific information or warnings are given about dysgraphia treatment within these fields. On the Internet I found referneces that massage therapy is used for dysgraphia but that is not on the list of 'alternative' therapies.

I have heard of occupational therapy being used to treat dysgrapia. However that is not mentioned in this book at all, which was bothersome. Also, that is not in the index, which I tried using to double-check that fact.

Another section gives a list of medical schools and suggests that we go to those medical libraries at the medical schools and do research in person. Are you kidding me? Laypeople who are not currently students at those medical schools are, from my experience, not allowed to use those libraries.

What we parents want and need is a good non-fiction book on dysgraphia that tells accurate infomration written for laypeople!

Using some websites given in the book I tried to research some information and didn't find anything of use. The only studies I could find were about people who had some kind of brain trauma that gave them dysgraphia. What I want to know about is children with the learning disability dysgraphia. I also found some abstracts that basically said nothing because they were so vague, so I learned nothing.

Lastly the index is ridiculous. It has a whopping eleven items on it: auditory, cerebral, chronic, comorbidity, dementia, molecular, neural, neuropsychology, phenotype, pulse, and triage. Where are all the other terms and topics mentioned in the book??

I was hugely disappointed by this book as I hoped due to the main title that the book would give the information (as typical non-fiction books do). I feel ripped off at having spent money on this book and am returning it to

So far the most information I've been able to find is from Dianne Craft, however she does not have a book published on this topic. Craft's lecture given at a homeschooling conference gave me hope that some nutritional changes that help children with learning disabilities that are processing disorders combined with occupational therapy that can be done at home can help cure dysgraphia.

(I intentionally made this review long to try to give numerous reasons to explain my disappointment with the book to justify my point of view.)

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carol said...

There's a Yahoo group re: dysgraphia. Lots of information from parents, and some kids, who share their first hand knowledge of what works and what doesn't.

Edge of Design said...

I'm just catching up. I got a chuckle out of your cake story. How nice that your husband does Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those are two of the toughest holidays to prepare for.

christinemm said...

Hi Edge of Design,
Just to clarify on the Christmas. Husband does the cooking and food prep. I do the house cleaning before, decorate the tree (with kids), gift planning, gift shopping and wrapping, interior house decorating (not much), we don't really decorate the outside as DH refuses to help with lights on bushes and I can't do it all. I wash dishes after the meals. We do a big Christmas Eve dinner with my husband's family and big dinner on Christmas day with my family. Oh and I do gingerbread houses with the kids, their own designs (or trains or rockets etc.).

I am very happy that my husband does the cooking but I still have a full plate with all the rest!!

I started my Christmas shopping two weeks ago to try to get it out of the way.

christinemm said...

Carol thanks for the Yahoo Groups info. I don't know why I never considered it before as I have relied on Yahoo Groups so many times in the past for other information and support!!


Andrew Brereton said...

Isn't it infuriating when you open a book like that? I have gone through the same experience with books on cerebral palsy and autism, - so I finished up writing my own!

Rosemary said...

Thanks very much for this very helpful book review. I'm also a homeschooling mom with a child of dysgraphia. I actually have spent many hours in the medical library of my alma mater (University of Toronto) and really it seems there is little solid research yet about what helps or doesn't help dysgraphia. Frustrating.