How to Tell the Difference Between Vision Problems and Dyslexia

Does your child have trouble reading? It’s important that you don’t assume what the problem. Dyslexia and vision issues are different, and they each require specialized treatment. Check out the symptoms of each problem to identify the one affecting your child.

Symptoms of Vision Problems

If your child displays any of the symptoms below, it’s time to schedule a vision test:

  • Eye-rubbing
  • Teary eyes
  • Swelling or redness in around the eyes
  • Crusting or a pus discharge
  • Light-sensitivity
  • Bulging eyes
  • Droopy eyelids
  • White, yellow or gray-white material in the pupil
  • A change in sight ability or the appearance of the eyes*

Symptoms of Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be more difficult to identify as the symptoms vary by the child’s age and developmental stage.

The following symptoms are seen in children in preschool through third grade:

  • Difficulty learning to speak
  • Inability to identify individual letter sounds within words, which causes a switching of the use of similar letters, despite phonics knowledge
  • Difficulty and exhaustion when spelling and reading
  • Inability to memorize facts involving numbers
  • Tendency to replace words with synonyms because of meaning, not the similar appearance of the words

And dyslexic children in fourth grade and higher might show the following:

  • Inability to comprehend text
  • Tendency to memorize rather than understand words and phrases
  • Uncertainty in spelling, and tendency to misspell words copied from existing text
  • Continual misspelling of non-phonetic high-frequency sight words
  • Increasing mistakes when confused, stressed, under time pressure, or in poor health

The symptoms clarify the difference between vision problems and dyslexia: sight problems involve the physical eyes, and dyslexia involves the brain. If you think your child shows symptoms of dyslexia, it’s time to see a doctor. Immediate treatment is essential, and programs like Fast ForWord have proven effective for overcoming this learning challenge.

*WebMD, 2011. “Signs of Vision Problems in Young Kids.”

Neuroplasticity: Helping Struggling Readers, Stroke Patients and More

Neuroplasticity: Helping Struggling ReadersOnce you know about the concept of neuroplasticity, you can talk about it at the next luncheon with your friends. It’s pretty exciting, it’s the latest theory, and it’s the reason why your child can improve her reading ability despite all the negative reinforcement she’s had at school so far.

Neuroplasticity is a characteristic of brain tissue. It means that the brain keeps changing and adapting. It never stays still.

That’s not to say the brain is hyperactive. It’s not. It’s simply working 24/7. Even when you’re sleeping, your brain is reorganizing itself. Amazing, isn’t it?

What are some examples of neuroplasticity? One of them is what happens to someone who has had a stroke. Years ago, if someone had a stroke, that was it. Their life was over. No one knew that anything could be done. Think about all the people who suffered needlessly simply because doctors didn’t understand neuroplasticity. They believed that once there was damage, the brain was always damaged.

Now if someone has a stroke, a program of neurorehabilitation is created for them almost immediately. If the stroke damaged a part of the brain that moved an arm, then a physical therapist is going to do everything he or she can do to get the body to re-train itself to be strong and move again. During this process, what’s happening inside the brain is neuroplasticity. The brain is meeting the new demands placed on it. It’s calling on parts of the brain that may not have been used in the past.

Scientists are looking in many directions to see what will increase recovery after a traumatic brain injury. One new development they discovered was that by increasing levels of progesterone after a stroke, there would be less inflammation, edema and neurons that died. The patient’s ability to move and sense feeling was also improved. This is another example of neuroplasticity, and one where you can see how the brain adapts to its environment again.

Michael Merzenich developed the Fast ForWord™ Program based on the concept of neuroplasticity. By working out the brain with exercises to help with language and learning, the brain can learn how to adapt to dyslexia and other learning disorders.



Why Your Child Should Start Fast ForWord™ as Soon as Possible

Start Fast ForWordBy the time your child gets to early adulthood, some areas of his brain are already fully matured.  This is why your intuition is absolutely correct when you feel it’s so important to give your child every possible learning advantage you can realistically give.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC and at the South China Normal University, scientists are discovering that is it important to give your child lots of opportunities to learn before hitting the age of not just 18 but also 7. They’re finding that the development of the cerebral cortex reaches its highest point at age 7. That’s when the neurons are the thickest.

And it’s also the time when cortical folding becomes stable. No one knows that much yet about this cortical folding – why does it happen? What controls the folding? Is there something that blocks the cortical folding?  But we do know that the cortical folding becomes stable at age 7.

So when your child isn’t reading well, it will benefit him or her to start the Fast ForWord™ program sooner rather than later, especially before the cortical folding has occurred. By stimulating the brain in the surrounding areas, Fast ForWord™ can stimulate the neuron development in that cortical area.

The sooner you can boost your child’s overall brain functions, the sooner your child will be better off – for life.


Source: Neuroimage 2013 Mar 21; 76C:216-224.

Study Shows that Fast ForWord for Adults Can Rehabilitate the Elderly

fast forward for adultsFast ForWord for Adults

A newly published study reported by Science Daily shows that Fast ForWord for adults was able to improve attention and cognitive skills not only immediately after the 8 week protocol, but also 18 months later when measured.

These results confirm the scientists’ belief that cognitive skills are related to temporal processing, or the way the brain keeps time and processes auditory information.  Click here to read ScienceDaily’s report on the study.

The brain keeps learning and adapting at any age, and so the opportunity for significant gains is always possible.  Learn more about how Fast ForWord can help adults.

FAQ: Do I Need a Clinician to Run Fast ForWord for My Child?

Fast ForWord Frequently Asked Questions

“I have heard that only clinicians can monitor Fast ForWord.  If I work with Gemm, who will monitor my son’s program?”

Fast Forword ReadingMany clinicians utilize Fast ForWord within their practices because it is an extremely effective learning intervention. For many years, Fast ForWord was primarily used by clinicians and it became  the first choice for many Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) as an auditory processing disorder treatment. The process was intense — first the SLP conducted a detailed evaluation of the student, and then the student participated in 90-minute clinic sessions 3-4 days a week for 8 weeks.

Fast ForWord was soon adopted by public and private educators within a traditional computer classroom environment. In schools, however, there is no up-front evaluation to determine if a student is a candidate for Fast ForWord. And the protocol time was dropped to 50 minutes to fit into a school period.

Now, in the last 5 years, Gemm Learning has pioneered a virtual learning center model that extends beyond the clinic and classroom to the home using an affordable, convenient hybrid. Our method reconciles the two extremes of the clinic and the classroom — expensive upfront testing versus no testing at all, one-on-one attention in a center versus almost no oversight in a computer lab at school, etc.

At Gemm Learning, we use a consultation, behavioral questionnaire, and Reading Progress Indicator assessment to determine whether a student is a candidate for Fast ForWord. Our program managers are certified Fast ForWord professionals and experienced classroom educators. Once the sessions start, these instructors monitor daily data reports on every aspect of a child’s progress  — time, errors, difficulties, etc. The instructors’ knowledge of the program as well as their collective backgrounds in various classroom settings allow them to provide exceptional support to our diverse student body.

Gemm Learning staff essentially run the program for you remotely. Your role as parent is that of mentor or cheerleader, making sure your child is ready to make a good effort each day. Our role is to help make that happen with our student rewards site, support materials, and more.

If a child does not do well at home, however, then seeking out a local clinician may indeed be a good idea.

Note: the advent of Fast ForWord being available online has helped make Fast ForWord viable for even more families who find it difficult to do the program from the same computer every time.

Learn more about the difference between using Fast ForWord at home or at a clinic. Contact us to find out whether your child could benefit from using Fast ForWord software.