Category Archives: Articles

Fast ForWord – Results in Australian Schools

Students aged 5-14 years used the Fast ForWord program in a study conducted by Sonic Learning in four Western Australian primary schools.

The students were split into two groups; a test group who received Fast ForWord training and a control group who did not. Both groups were tested before and after the test group had undergone the training. The students were assessed with the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Fourth Edition – Australian Standardised Edition (CELF-4), and the Queensland University Inventory of Literacy (QUIL).

These studies found that the students who received Fast ForWord training showed:

  • Improvement in their Literacy Skills, moving from the 12th to 25th percentile
  • Improvement in their Receptive Language Skills, moving from the 12th to 21st percentile
  • Improvement in their Expressive Language Skills, moving from 10th to 18th percentile.

 

Fast ForWord – School Research

To most of us, it comes as no surprise that the South African education system is in crisis. The national curriculum’s focus on mastering content may come at the expense of developing critical cognitive and language skills which students need to succeed in an academic setting. The latest statistics on literacy among South African scholars seem to reflect this.

Research results released by the University of Pretoria in December of 2017 revealed just how dire the situation has become. They concluded that 8 out of 10 Grade 4 pupils are still not reading at an appropriate level.  South Africa also recently placed last out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. These results highlight the need for an effective large scale intervention strategy in order to improve literacy among South African learners.

By identifying “at risk” learners and applying the Fast ForWord intervention, many schools across the world have equipped their students with the cognitive and language skills necessary to advance learning. Their results have been recorded and show significant increases in reading and language tests, as outlined below.

Students in Western Australia improve reading and language skills

Fast ForWord participants made significantly better gains on a battery of language and literacy tests than a comparison group who received the standard curriculum alone.

High school students improve reading achievement on state tests even after program ends

This study shows impressive long-term results on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) which is administered annually throughout Texas and is closely aligned with the state curricular standards.

Primary school students improve in reading, language arts, and mathematics on state tests

Fast ForWord participants showed significant improvements in their Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores (reading, language arts, and mathematics) when compared with students who did not participate in the Fast ForWord program. These students also experienced continued improvements over the following years.

District-wide English Language Arts scores improve and surpass state average for students achieving above benchmark

In 2008, for the first time in a decade, this school district exceeded the state average for the percentage of fourth graders reading at or above the Basic level on the initial
test.

Students in South Australia improve auditory processing skills

Students showed significant improvements in auditory processing skills after participating in the Fast ForWord program, with the group moving into the normal range on all measures.

Australian students improve NAPLAN assessment results in every area of the curriculum

On every area of the curriculum assessed by the NAPLAN assessment, the average growth from year 3 to year 5 of all the students who had completed Fast ForWord was greater than the average growth of the students who had not completed the program.

With research-based, replicable intervention it is possible that we could increase literacy levels in South African schools on a large scale. Such intervention would also go a long way in redressing the economic injustices of the past, ensuring that each child receives an equal opportunity when it comes to academic success.

To enquire about our special pricing for schools or to sponsor a school near you please contact us.

Lasting Results after Fast ForWord Training

One of the most important considerations when selecting an educational program is whether the program offers lasting results to the students who participate in it. With this in mind, scientists set out to perform longitudinal studies to confirm not only whether the Fast ForWord programme shows the capacity to develop the cognitive skills necessary for academic success but also whether the benefits are retained over time. Their findings were nothing short of remarkable. The results show that students not only retain their improved performance but that they continue to make improvements after the training has been completed.

Fast ForWord participants show improved performance on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test

This study involving 500 high school students from 20 different schools showed that students who participated in the Fast ForWord program achieved impressive results in their TAKS tests and that these results continue to improve for up to 3 years following training.

Fast ForWord participants’ reading achievement continues to improve for up to 18 months following training

In this study, Secondary students showed significant improvements in reading achievement. Students improved from the 13th percentile to the 22nd immediately following their training and continued to improve after training, extending their gains to the 39th percentile.

Fast ForWord participants show significant improvements in their Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores

Primary school students in years 1 – 8 improved in this measure of reading. language arts and mathematics performance. The results show that students who participated in the program scored significantly higher compared to students who did not participate in the program. These students also experienced continued improvements in the years following training.

A school district-wide implementation of Fast ForWord improved student performance on state testing

This study included almost 10 000 students and spans a 9 year period. It showed that following implementation of the Fast ForWord program, the school district improved from having 58% of students achieve above-benchmark to having 73%  of students achieve above benchmark on state testing. They also found that the number of students requiring special education services decreased by 17% over a 5 year period.

For more information or to gain access to a demonstration please contact us.

A New Take on Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a term used to describe difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. The latest edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) refers to the disorder as Specific Learning Disability in Reading and along with this new diagnosis, new research has emerged to explain the underlying causes of this learning difficulty.

Since the development of the fMRI machine (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), we have learned more about the brain than ever before. This technology allows us to make conclusions about brain activity based on increased blood flow to specific areas of the brain when those areas are activated during a task such as reading. Researchers could now tell exactly which brain areas were involved in reading and for the very first time, they could shed light on the root causes of reading difficulties.

So, where do reading difficulties stem from?

fMRI scans were able to determine that the areas of the brain involved in oral language and comprehension are also involved in reading. This lead researchers to re-evaluate the relationship between spoken language and reading and what was once thought of as a visual task, we now think of as primarily an auditory task. This finding has strong implications for Dyslexia in that we now know that in correcting the way in which auditory information is processed, we can assist learners in becoming better readers.

The Fast ForWord approach

In 2007, researchers from Harvard, Rutgers, MIT, Stanford, and Dartmouth Universities conducted a study using fMRI scans on both average and struggling readers. They found that struggling readers show lower levels of activity in the areas of the brain involved in reading. Knowing what we do about the relationship between auditory processing and reading the researchers introduced a temporal training intervention (Fast ForWord) to both the average readers and the struggling readers. The results were remarkable. They found that after 8 weeks of training, both the average and struggling readers showed increased levels of activity in the areas of the brain associated with language and reading. This study was later replicated by researchers at Stanford University adding to the reliability of the results.

For more information or to access the Fast ForWord demo’s please contact us.

The Brain’s Role in Autism

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by Leslie Ferguson, MA, MFA

Scientists are deep in the trenches discovering the factors involved in developing autism and how to effectively “retrain” the brain through intensive interventions.

Director of Neuroscience Education and Adjunct Associate Professor at Northwestern University, Martha S. Burns, Ph.D., recently presented a webinar that provides the very latest information about the brain’s role in autism and how to intervene for favorable results.

The FACTS:

1. Autism is Highly Heritable

This means that autism is frequently, but not always, passed down from one generation to another. Because of the complexity of the human genome (DNA set), gene mutations can also be responsible for a child developing autism even if autism does not run in his or her family.

2. Autism is Not Caused by IQ Deficiency

Two-thirds of those diagnosed with autism possess average or above-average intellectual ability.

3. Genes Overlap

We see a genetic correlation of autism with other disordered traits such as depression and ADHD.

4. Brain Connectivity Problems Precede Autism

Autism does not create brain connectivity problems. Instead, autism stems from an underdeveloped cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for relaying and interpreting messages. There may be other causes as well, such as protein synthesis issues or core brain area dysfunction. For example, a dysfunctional hypothalamus, which regulates sleep, may play a role in the development of autism.

5. There is Still Much to Learn About How and Why Autism Develops

Since every child’s DNA is unique and complex, the causes of autism are difficult to pinpoint.

The INTERVENTION:

1. The Earlier the Diagnosis, the Better

Autism Spectrum Disorder begins to develop in utero. Auditory scans performed on infants show that auditory brainstem response is slower in those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We may be able to use this information to start early, intensive intervention, which benefits children over the long-haul.

2. Behavioral Treatment Must be Adaptable and Individualized

Targeting a child’s specific learning difficulties ensures a higher probability of improvement. Language learning exercises must be repetitive and intensive over time to unlock learning barriers and rewire the brain for language acquisition.

3. Abundant Social Interaction is Vital

Children need plenty of help learning social skills in order to develop appropriate language skills. Time spent interacting with others in different scenarios and interacting with animals is important.

4. Intervention is Crucial During Prime Learning Windows

The brain is most plastic (and able to learn and retain new information) between birth and 4 years of age and again during adolescence. Regular, rigorous learning must occur for children to make significant strides towards language skills improvement all throughout their life, but in particular at those ages.

5. Learning Programs and Behavior Therapy are an Integral Part of Any Autism Intervention.

For children ages 2 ½-4 years-old, Dr. Burns recommends Kiko’s Thinking Time by Kiko Labs. As students get older, she regards the award-winning Fast ForWord program as a powerful learning tool.

Fast ForWord is an Optimal Learning Program for Children Diagnosed with Autism.

Dr. Burns highlights the effectiveness of Fast ForWord for children with autism, specifically how it can improve the language abilities of learners with differing levels of need since it personalizes to each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Fast ForWord was recently commended by the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) for its “continuing improvements,” “updates and enhancements,” and its results—it “enables students with learning disabilities to achieve quick and lasting learning gains.”

Perhaps one of the more impressive aspects of Fast ForWord is its how it addresses both underlying cognitive and literacy skills in children ages five and up. This combination of exercises leads to improvements not only in expressive and receptive language, but also in social skills, attention, and more. 81% of parents reported improvement in a field study.