Update Fast ForWord Software? Why Mess With Success?

Fast Forword SoftwareA friend of ours recently relayed a criticism of the Fast ForWord software program in business circles:

“It has not been updated since the mid-1990s when it was launched!  In a world where children have changed (granted, most are getting a daily shot of ADD symptoms with all the added digital media and over scheduling) and computers have advanced, why is that a so-called cutting-edge, cognitive training program is still using algorithms and designs from the 1990s?”

The facts here are (mainly) true, but the implication that Fast ForWord is a stale, neglected software is way off.

Unlike most competing cognitive and reading interventions, where the owners do seem to be tweaking and updating constantly — presumably because the results are not what they would like — the Fast ForWord developers have a different problem.

It’s simple, we told our friend. Fast Forword works.

Would you mess with a software that is so consistently able to rewire learning and reading, and so dramatically change lives?

To some extent it has been “updated.”  New graphics were released 3-4 years ago, and this year a web version of Fast ForWord has been released.  And the software developers have worked hard to create more efficiency in the program.  For instance, it has taken advantage of better computing power to add clarity to its patented processing speech patterns.  It has also taken out or reduced the time taken for reward sequences between exercise trials that stimulate neurotransmitters needed for rewiring.

However, our friend is essentially right.  Fast ForWord has found a successful approach — defined by the adaptivity algorithms, the size of the increments of added speed and complexity that is added, the number of trials to progress to the next step, the mix of cognitive, language and reading skills exercised, and a hundred other variables.

Bottom line, though, is that this program incorporates the same underlying science that was so painstakingly developed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and then become possible to apply with the advent of the personal computer.

And we are thankful!  We love the program, and would not want to see it tampered with for any reason.

Learn more about the history of Fast ForWord brain research. Contact Gemm Learning if you’re ready to try Fast ForWord software.

Fast ForWord Online Available from Gemm Learning

Gemm Learning Launches Web Based Version of Fast ForWord

Anytime, anywhere access improves convenience for students of diverse ages and abilities

With one click, parents working from home can now have instant access the Fast ForWord family of educational software products via the Internet.
Using innovative technology, based on more than 30 years of brain research, Fast ForWord accelerates learning by building brain fitness in four critical areas: memory, attention, auditory processing, and sequencing. As a result, learners can make one to two years of gains in just a few weeks, and maintain an accelerated rate of learning even after the programs end.
By providing online access to the entire Fast ForWord family of products, with no additional hardware or software to install, the web version simplifies the start process for families, and allows students to use different computers one day to the next if needed.
With individualized protocols, developed by our educators after starting assessments and a few days of observation on the program, Gemm Learning can serve a wide spectrum of learners from preschool through high school and adult, including help with reading, auditory processing, dyslexia, attention deficit and other learning disabilities.
Note:   Downloaded software is still available for families preferring to have Fast ForWord on their computer.
The formal name of the online Fast ForWord program is mySciLearn or Fast ForWord on Demand.  If you would like to learn more about this program, call 877-914-4366 to see if it is the right fit for your child.

A baseball lesson for struggling learners

Resolve Underlying Issues To Enable Long Term Success

Fix core issues, rather than tutor symptoms

There are two ways to help a child with a broken wrist learn to hit a baseball:

  • Instruct. Tell him how to keep his eye on the ball, to step into the swing, etc.
  • Fix the broken wrist! 
Both will help, and of course, both are needed.
Meanwhile, in learning, while 10-15% of all children labor with cognitive difficulties, most families chose only one strategy — instruction, either extra help at school and/or at home. 
We all know that the fastest and most reliable way to resolve a problem is to find and address the underlying cause. 
It applies to a broken wrist in baseball, and it applies to weak cognitive skills needed for reading and learning.
A few months of intense brain fitness training can remove impediments to learning once and for all, creating gains in reading, learning efficiency, confidence and focus that will last a lifetime.
Why Not Try To Fix The Issue?
There are reasons many families do not try brain fitness training:
  • Skepticism that a brain can in fact be rewired.
  • Concern about the cost.
  • Concern about schedule — training is rigorous.
Skeptical?  Don’t Be. Brain Plasticity Is Real.
The idea that the brain will respond to exercise, the same way a muscle can be strengthened or trained, should not seem far-fetched.
The amazing capability of the body to heal itself, and of the brain to do all kinds of things, is in the news every day.  For instance, think about Senator Giffords — much of her brain was permanently damaged, but she is gradually rebuilding using other brain tissue. 
With just a little more processing practice — using our Fast ForWord program – many struggling learners can indeed get over the hump, to read and learn comfortably.
Correcting a Problem is an Investment, Not a Cost.
Our program costs $1,320 for three months, then $275 a month after that. Most students spend 5 months with us.
This is not cheap, but our neuroscience based software with “virtual center” service — high touch educator based monitoring, coaching and support — is no small undertaking.
Our goals are bold — getting your child off the tutoring treadmill, reading and learning independence.  While we think the confidence and self-esteem that comes with achieving these goals is priceless, most of the time, it’s a one-time investment that will save thousands of dollars in future tutoring and other costs.
Only 30 Minutes A Day.
As with learning physical skills, our program requires frequency and intensity — 30 minutes a day, five days a week. 
This seems a lot, but while many parents start with us concerned about the protocol time, it turns out that over seven days, families are able to find 30 minutes of five of those days, for something this important. 
This is particularly true once they start to see gains.

Are ADD Drugs Always A Bad Idea?

Ritalin Gone Wrong?

There is a  must read article for any parent with a child on ADD medicine in today’s NY Times by L. Alan Sroufe, a behavioral psychologist. 

He makes the case that parents should rethink using drugs to solve a short term focus issue at school. The article makes the case that there is no medical evidence that these drugs meet any chemical imbalance in the brain — as many neuro-scientists and clinicians have argued as a reason to prescribe these drugs — but rather, these drugs will help anyone taking them perform at a higher level.  They are a band aid for struggling students.

The article further argues that the drugs have no curative powers, and that in fact, over time they lose effectiveness and the  brain develops immunity. Furthermore it reports a long term study that shows there to be no long term benefits from the drugs in terms of academic or behavioral gains.

While this article finally argues that ADD is a product of environmental shaping, it also questions if ADD medicine is ever a good idea.  This seems to be an extreme position.  It is easy for a psychologist to lecture parents about resisting the option of helping their children perform at a higher level at school immediately.  And given that the improved concentration for sure helps grades near term, it seems hard to argue that there is at least not some merit in using ADD medicine, at least for a short period. 

 Natural ADD Treatments, Drug Free

Where Dr. Sroufe does have merit though is in pointing out that there are no long term benefits, only downside from all the side effects.  This refutes the argument that ADD medicine serves some medical purpose.  It does not.  It’s a band-aid to help children focus on material they do not find interesting or to help fight exhaustion.

What is left unsaid in the article is that the most promising way to address ADD is to find the causes of the “lack of interest” in class or the “exhaustion” from the school day, and then treat them. Very often, these issues are caused by auditory processing disorder, which makes listening exhausting (due to inefficiency) and/or uninteresting because the listener is not able to keep up — it’s likened to listening to sound through water.

 Rather than medicate this listening exhaustion or lack of interest in school, there are treatments for auditory processing disorder that improve processing efficiency to remove the source of exhaustion, and to speed up processing, so that more material is picked up in class, making it more interesting.  This almost always improves focus.

And so, while we do not believe ADD medication is always a bad idea, we do feel that any drug regimen should be combined with non-medical interventions, like Fast ForWord, that aim to remediate the underlying learning deficits that are causing the lack of focus in the first place.  As it happens, Fast ForWord has exercises that work on the elements of inattentiveness — distractibility, impulsiveness, stamina – as part of a comprehensive approach to improving learning.

Whether it is Fast ForWord or some other cognitive training,  parents should be aware that to medicate without a longer term plan to address underlying issues is increasingly being understood to be fraught with risk and longer term consequences for the child.   This article represents an important step forward in this regard.

Does Fast ForWord Require Clinician Oversight?

Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions

Question #5.  I have heard that only clinicians can monitor Fast ForWord.  If I work with Gemm Learning, who will monitor my son’s program? 

Many clinicians utilize Fast ForWord within their practices as it is an extremely effective reading and dyslexia treatment, and learning intervention. 

However, Fast ForWord was originally designed to be used independently.  It is adaptive, meaning that it finds the student’s skill level and then responds to correct and incorrect responses, creating an individualized experience for each student.  These powerful algorithms eliminate the need for outside guidance day to day.

That’s not to say that Fast ForWord does not require oversight –it does.  Partly, it’s the personal trainer aspect — success requires consistent participation, helped by having a supervisor in the mix.  Second, many students encounter difficulty with one or more exercises, needing our help to overcome these glitches.  And finally, Fast ForWord has 11 different programs –while progress inside a program is controlled by the software itself, the pathway through the programs differs for each student, depending on student need and goals.

In its early days, Fast ForWord was offered to the public without supervision.  The outcomes were so disappointing, that the software was pulled from the market in favor of a clinician provided service model.

Fast ForWord has been used for over a decade by clinicians in clinic, and by educators in a traditional computer classroom environment.  About six years ago, Gemm Learning pioneered a virtual learning center model that extends beyond the classroom to the home.  Our program managers are certified Fast ForWord professionals and experienced classroom educators.  Their knowledge of the program as well as their collective backgrounds in various classroom settings allows them to provide exceptional support to our diverse student body.