Fast ForWord™ Improve Reading Skills

 Fast ForWord™ is a computer-based training program that takes advantage of  the plasticity of the brain to retrain auditory processing skills, which are weak.  It can be an effective tool for children with a variety of language or auditory processing weaknesses, including difficulties with: 

When a child's major difficulty is reading, it is important to determine the underlying patterns of strength and weakness.  There are many reasons why a child may be delayed in developing reading skills.  If a qualified diagnostician determines that a child has significant difficulty with phonemic processing, Fast ForWord™ can be helpful in training that skill.

A phoneme is one of the 44 sounds we use in the English language.  For example, there are three phonemes in the word "bath": /b/, /a/, and /th/. 

Some children have difficulty processing individual phonemes as rapidly as they occur in normal speech. Slow speeds of auditory phonemic processing can cause children to hear words as one continuous "chunk" of sounds, and they may not be aware of each discrete phoneme.  They may spell the word "plum" as "pum" because their brain does not register the second consonant.  They may try to "sound out" a word, and even produce each sound correctly, but then not be able to blend the sounds together to recognize the word.

A weakness in phonemic processing can significantly delay the development of comfortable, automatic reading and spelling.  Reading comprehension may be compromised by this delay, because a great deal of energy and attention is focused on decoding individual words, so that less energy is available for understanding whole sentences and paragraphs.

 The following ladder of reading skills suggests that a breakdown at any of the lower levels can affect the higher, more abstract levels of  reading:

                           7.  Understanding (comprehension) of words connected into sentences and paragraphs.

                        6. Understanding of functions of whole words (grammar)

                   5. Understanding of word meanings (vocabulary)

               4. Ability to easily recognize and spell whole words

           3.  Ability to associate letters with speech sounds (phonics)

      2.  Ability to blend and segment individual speech sounds (phonemic processing)

 1.  Ability to perceive speech sounds (phonemes) rapidly.

 Fast ForWord™ builds skills at the first two levels, which are the foundation for all the other levels.  The computer program acoustically modifies and slows down speech.  It  presents seven different reinforced practice activities (the children call them "games") at an easy enough level for the child to be able to recognize phonemes presented  individually or embedded within words.   As this skill improves, the sounds become faster and less modified until the child is able to perceive sounds at the speed of natural speech.  Because sounds, which are clearly perceived, can be more easily separated and blended together, children who have completed Fast ForWord™ usually make dramatic progress in a variety of phonemic processing skills, as measured by standardized testing.

 At this point children are able to profit most quickly and efficiently from direct instruction in phonics, or letter-sound association skills (Level 3).  After Fast ForWord™, it is often appropriate for them to begin (or continue with) a one-to-one or small-group instructional program designed to teach the "code" upon which our system of written language is based.

 Even without this follow-up instruction, parents of children who have completed Fast ForWord™ report a variety of positive outcomes.   Some children begin to read for pleasure for the first time.   Others have reduced their homework time from three or four hours per night to less than an hour.  Other comments have indicated improvement in: