Jennifer Niskala Apps, Robert F. Newby, and Laura Weiss have assembled an engaging and wide-ranging volume of case studies that is sure to become a valued reference on the bookshelf of anyone involved in the practice of pediatric neuropsychology or the training of future neuropsychologists. This volume provides an overview of the field that is readily accessible to students as well as professionals in other disciplines. To practicing neuropsychologists, this collection of case studies offers both a quick reference for busy clinicians and an opportunity for more in-depth reflection on the neuropsychological profiles and clinical concerns associated with a variety of neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions. This book represents an important contribution to the field. Although a few excellent volumes of case studies have been compiled to span the breadth of adult neuropsychological practice (e.g., Jenni Ogden's Fractured minds: a case study approach to neuropsychology, Robert Heilbronner's Forensic neuropsychology casebook), no other collection of case studies exists that is dedicated exclusively to the diversity of neuropsychological presentations seen in children.
Each case begins with a brief history that gives the reader an individualized perspective on the everyday challenges faced by a child and family affected by a particular condition. Next, the authors present a discussion of the neuropsychological test data, a case conceptualization incorporating the child's history and test findings, and a set of recommendations for intervention. All cases end with several resource sections designed to maximize this volume's practical utility including a glossary of key technical terms, a list of references for professionals, and an assortment of books, websites, and patient advocacy organizations intended for families seeking more information or community support. This format is highly readable and helpful for teaching. It draws the reader into the child's individual story, then provides a concise didactic on the relevant neuropsychological principles and offers detailed suggestions for how to improve that child's quality of life.
The editors group the case studies into three main sections. Part I is titled “Dangers of Childhood” and covers a range of neurological conditions characterized by the editors as “unexpected deviations” in development including prematurity, traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, brain tumors, epilepsy, and hypoxia. Part II focuses on neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, nonverbal learning disability, and autism spectrum disorders. Part III is subtitled “Interesting Questions and Controversies for Our Field” and explores a handful of diagnoses that tend to elicit strong opinions among neuropsychologists, including sensory integration disorder, central auditory processing disorder, and conversion disorder.
Part I deals with several mechanisms for pediatric brain injury but places particular emphasis on TBI and epilepsy, offering four chapters on each. With respect to TBI, these cases lend insight into how presenting concerns evolve depending on the point in development at which the injury occurs. Among the epilepsy chapters, Lynn Bennett Blackburn's two cases are especially instructive in walking the reader through the many factors that could contribute to a child's decline in functioning as well as detailing the functional neuroanatomy of a child's presentation following hemispherotomy. Several cases conclude with brief updates that provide a satisfying capstone on how the children benefited from their evaluations and the resulting interventions.
A highlight of Part II is a series of cases focusing on reading disabilities that provides an informative sampling of the diversity of problems children and adolescents have mastering this essential skill. Molly Drake Shiffler's chapter on double-deficit dyslexia is a standout example of how a case study can effectively illustrate the theory and constructs guiding current approaches to the assessment and treatment of reading disabilities. Other cases in this section (Lindstedt & Zaccariello; Clark) offer a valuable “behind the curtain” explanation of test selection and interpretation. For example, Richard J. Clark provides an interesting discussion of how the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Fourth Edition, Integrated (WISC-IV-I), can be useful in characterizing visual-spatial deficits in nonverbal learning disability (Kaplan, et al., 2004).
When introducing Part III, the editors state their goal to include multiple points of view in the conversation regarding how basic sensory processing may contribute to children's cognitive and behavioral difficulties. Although these cases seem somewhat out of place and disruptive to the overall flow of the volume, the editors explain their decision to include cases describing sensory integration and central auditory processing perspectives as an effort to promote open-mindedness and collaboration across disciplines. The chapters meet the editors' objective of providing an overview of these approaches that emphasizes the psychometric properties of their assessment tools (Sensory Profile) and the validity of their constructs (Dunn, 1999). Authors are careful to note that children with difficulties in these areas frequently have comorbid conditions, making it challenging to determine whether their identified sensory problems are best characterized as an independent diagnosis or a contributing factor to a broader diagnostic picture. For example, Susan Oliff Carneol notes that children who meet criteria for central auditory processing disorder frequently have comorbid language or attention problems that could account for their auditory processing symptoms such as “trouble listening and attending in noisier situations” and “problems carrying out multistep directions.” The inclusion of these cases is valuable to the extent that it expands neuropsychologists' awareness of other disciplines that influence their patients' care.
Another relatively minor concern for the collection as a whole is that the rubric for presenting a variety of scores (i.e., standard scores, T-scores, z-scores, etc.) appears only once per chapter at the bottom of the first table, even though a chapter may contain up to six tables spread across several pages. Similarly, the explanation for interpreting these different scores is buried at the back of an appendix. Although these factors are unlikely to deter practicing neuropsychologists, they do detract somewhat from the goal of presenting cases in a way that is easily digested by students and practitioners from other disciplines.
The editors' passion for the field of pediatric neuropsychology and deep care and concern for each of the children whose lives they describe are clearly evident throughout this book. I expect it will be a well-used reference and teaching tool for many years to come, and I highly recommend it.