The use of Fast ForWord, a CD-Rom and internet-based brain development software was featured in the article “The Brilliant Brain“. This article and many others have picked up on a new still relatively new software developed by scientists with games that target a different cognitive or language skill: memory, sequencing, sound discrimination, pitch, vocabulary, comprehension and grammar. The program provides thousands of combinations of the games customised to one’s abilities. The games require intense concentration but many reports of successful use of the program in the news are fueling the popularity of the software.
According to an article “Fast forward for slow learners” by Denise Ryan (July 23 2007), the Fast ForWord software is the most popular remedial reading and language program and is used by speech pathologists and remedial teachers in more than 5,000 overseas schools and in growing numbers in Australia.
Beyond the use of Fast ForWord program for kids with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, about 6,000 US schools are said to use the brain training program for children as part of the mainstream curriculum in regular schools. In Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong however, exclusive distributor rights to the program were snapped up by BrainFit Studio based out of Singapore, and the program was tested on students without learning difficulties in regular schools in order to accelerate cognitive learning.
Research from the US, in particular, a Stanford University study on the still relatively new software designed for use with dyslexics showed enduring gains from Fast ForWord.
So What is Fast ForWord Language Software? (Source: Florida Center for Reading Research)
According to the Florida Center for Reading Research, Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord Language is a CD-ROM and internet-based, adaptive computer program that draws on 25 years of research on brainplasticity and the neurological basis of language and is a product developed by scientists to provide training in oral language comprehension and other skills critical for success in reading.
The Fast ForWordLanguage product is designed as an immediate, intensive intervention for students in grades K-12 who experience difficulties with oral language skills, ESOL students or students with a learning disability.
The Fast ForWord Language product is said to address the problem that a slow rate of processing for the rapidly successive acoustic cues in speech caused by language impairments. Students who have difficultydistinguishing phonemes at normal speeds of fluent speech may be successful when the speech is acoustically modified and slowed down. Through intensive, frequent exercises with gradual and progressive changes in difficulty, it is supposed that the brain can be “rewired” to process speech at normal speeds. Based on the theory of brain plasticity, or the concept that the brain can change as people learn newskills, the Fast ForWord Language exercises were conceived to retrain the brain inmaking the connection between speech and meaning.
In order to improve the rate of neural processing, the exercises are presented with altered speech sounds that havebeen slowed down and amplified or digitally enhanced to facilitate understanding. A special feature of the software is its ability to adapt to each student’s incoming skill-level and rate of progress. As a student moves through an exercise, the level of difficulty gradually increases and the modified speech sounds gradually change toward natural speech sounds that the student processes at the individual phoneme level, in groups of phonemes, at the word level, and then the sentence level. The adaptive software immediately increases or decreases in difficulty based on the student’s progress, thu screating a program that is challenging and rewarding at the same time.
The Fast ForWord Language product presents seven exercises in an engaging format with a built-in system of rewards to increase student motivation. The exercises use sounds and discrimination tasks to develop the student’s syntactic andsemantic skills. Immediate corrective feedback is given before continuing an exercise. At the end of a set of correct responses, students are rewarded with brief but highly motivating features such as lights and animations, amusing sounds, and fetchingmusical phrases. Because the developers say that the brain is being remapped, the schedule for using the product is frequent and intense.
Students participate incomputer-based individualized sessions 5 days a week, 100 minutes per day, for 4-8 weeks with the guidance of a Fast ForWord trained clinician or educator. The flexibilityof the product permits the student to complete the daily exercises in one session or insessions that are divided throughout the school day. Sessions may also be scheduledbefore and after school, as well as on the weekends and during the summer.
Source: Florida Center for Reading Research; What is Fast ForWord Language Software?
The software is also featured in the article Voice Recognition Software and Dyslexia by Ian Austen at the Dyslexia-Parent.com website
“Fast forward for slow learners” by Denise Ryan (July 23 2007)
“Martha Burns, a US expert in the application of neuroscience to learning, warns governments of the risks of not funding help for such children. “Many children with learning difficulties who are undiagnosed, or are misdiagnosed with behavioural problems, end up in correctional facilities,” she says.
Dr Burns, who has worked as a Chicago speech pathologist and university researcher for 35 years, will visit Melbourne next month. She says speech pathologists now get children to use interactive online learning programs as an adjunct to their programs. Some parents are paying software companies more than $2000 a year for the right for their children to use such programs at home.
One of the latest – and possibly controversial – tools being used by speech pathologists and remedial teachers is an American software program called Fast ForWord.
While it is not the only computer program for students with learning difficulties, it is the most popular. It is used by many speech pathologists and is available in more than 5000 overseas schools and a small but growing number in Australia.
Hundreds of Australian children with reading and language difficulties, including some with autism, attention deficit disorder and dyslexia, have been involved in trials of the program. Many speech pathologists such as Dr Burns have found it helps, but some university researchers say more research is needed.
The program gets students to play computer games daily for about 50 minutes for at least 10 weeks. The speech technology slows down words and draws out syllables so that a child can distinguish the sounds. It then gradually speeds them up again. Through repetition, its promoters claim, the program re-wires the brain so that students become less confused about hearing similar sounds or reading similar words.”
Read also related article Never too old to learn