Ron Gillam Fast ForWord Study

February 18, 2010 by Geoff Nixon

Study Compares It To Other Interventions

Ron Gillam, persistent critic of Fast ForWord, has published yet another study that aims to  devalue the efficacy of Fast ForWord.

The scientific community is pretty much agreed now.  After years and years of white papers (700 and counting) and over 200 studies showing great results, the scientists see that the program works.  It delivers real change that can be measured on fMRI scans, in cognitive testing and in academic gains.

Not so for Dr. Ron Gillam.  Dr. Gillam has theories on language interventions and how children learn that predict Fast ForWord to be ineffective.  Early in his career his studies were all about trying to prove that claim and particularly tried to undermine its methodology, its access and improvement of learning and reading difficulties by strengthening central auditory processing disorders or CAPD.

After failing to prove that this program does not work, he is now taking the tack that its proven efficacy is not unique!

This latest study concludes that Fast ForWord worked as well as other language interventions that incorporate the principles of active attention, feedback, rewards and intensity.   Including interventions that cost thousands of dollars to deliver since they involve one-on-one training.

We would argue even here though.  If  post testing were done 9-12 months later the results would look very different.  The cognitive gains from Fast ForWord would be more evident while the students who had interventions that did not create new neural pathways would start to see their gains recede due to the absence of continued extra sessions.

Dr. Gillam uses subtle methods to try to undermine the impacts of Fast ForWord but still struggles!!  In this study, like others, he does not allow supervisors to intervene (this is not how Fast ForWord is recommended for use — mid-course corrections and interventions are almost always required) and he uses tight post-testing not allowing enough time for the full value of Fast ForWord  to develop.

Fast ForWord is a cognitive program that works on fundamental underlying skills that sometimes take a month or two at least to integrate into the learning and reading process to the point that the gains are measurable.  Post testing right away is counter to the whole thrust of the software.  Cognitive gains do not translate into academic gains over night.

And even with these limits, Fast ForWord matched three other approaches that work more directly on the skills being pre and post tested.  Test a certain memory skill, work on that skill for 6 weeks, then test that memory skill again and of course you will see gains.  Test reading comprehension, work on a memory game, then test reading comprehension again and the immediate results may not be so good.   More things have to fall into place for the better memory skills to impact reading comprehension results.

As a Fast ForWord provider, where we see wonderful anecdotal and measurable results time after time, and so we are long past the point of worrying whether Fast ForWord works.  It is interesting to see that its main detractor is actually now at that same place  and is stuck with arguing it is not unique!

Here is a summary and a link to the full article:

A recent article by Ronald Gillam, PhD, CCC-SLP and Diane Frome Loeb, PhD, CCC-SLP, has published findings from a randomized controlled trial studying the effects of neuroplasticity-based training as a method of language intervention.

They found that using principles of neuroplasticity-based training (active attention, feedback, rewards and intensity) is an effective solution for language-based learning struggles.

Their conclusion: “Our results suggest that neural reorganization that promotes language development can result from a variety of interventions in which highly motivated children have multiple opportunities to respond to challenging and accomplish-able tasks within intensive programs.”

http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2010/100119/SchoolAgeLanguageIntervention.htm

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