Prompted by a comment from Melanie and quite literally, the hundreds of people that have reached my site using Fast ForWord as their search string, I thought it might just be time to elaborate on the changes I’ve seen in my two kids since doing Fast ForWord this summer.
A quick re-cap for those of you just joining: My two school-aged children did about 70 sessions of Fast ForWord between the beginning of the summer vacation and mid-September of this year. What a fun mom I am! My undiagnosed but borderline ADHD 10-year-old son got about 90% done the Language Module. My 12-year-old, learning disabled, asperger’s daughter got through all of Language and about 75% of the Language to Reading Module.
Changes in the son: He is currently reading the 7th book of the Harry Potter series. So, between mid-July and late October, he has successfully read more than 2,000 pages–understood it, remembered it, and can point out the differences between the book and the movies (actually prefers the books!). Before Fast ForWord his literature of choice was Captain Underpants and Magic Treehouse; so, I would say that is a HUGE leap forward for him. His writing continues to be messy but slightly improved. I have yet to have parent-teacher interviews, so I can’t say for sure, but I based on my observation of how he does his homework, he is better able to concentrate. We still have to do the reading test to find out how much his reading score improved.
Changes in the daughter: She took the reading test between the two modules of Fast ForWord and her reading test score had already gone up by one and a half years after just that first module. I had the IEP meeting (Individualized Education Plan) at the school this past week, and her teacher reports to me that her overall ability has at least doubled since last year: ability to get down to work, to understand what’s being taught, even her output. Her “What I Did on Summer Vacation” essay, while still not up to grade 7 standards of composition, started out at 4 pages long, which pretty much quadruples the length of any of her previous essays. She got 33.5/35 on one math test and 33/44 on another math test in which the class AVERAGE was 32.
Family members have noticed that she is quite a bit calmer since doing Fast ForWord. She’s also started to write stories for herself. They are personal ones, not for sharing, she tells me, so I haven’t looked at the stories, but I did notice that she’s filling up the whole page of a small notebook with quite tidy writing. You know, now that I write that down, it didn’t quite occur to me before how big a shift that is for her. I often write to sort out what I think about things, she has never done that. She has always drawn, or just stewed about stuff inside her head. For her to put down in words the things that she’s thinking and feeling is a REALLY big change.
Now, to qualify this, SOME of the increase in her ability in the classroom is due to the presence of a special ed teacher that can be there constantly to get her back on task. She still has to do the final reading test to see what her overall increase in reading ability is. It also occurred to me that this might be a good time to take her back to the psych-ed guy and ask that he re-assess her working memory and processing speed.
So, there you have it. I know this isn’t as much empirical evidence as you would probably like. I will report that part once I get it. But still, there is no way to prove beyond any doubt that Fast ForWord is the reason for any jumps, even in the empirical tests. My kids aren’t a control group. This is largely going to remain anecdotal.
There’s a scientist quoted in the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” that says he’s not that interested in empirical evidence. He says that if he has a pig in front of him that can talk he doesn’t care how many empirical studies there are that show that pigs can’t talk, he has to account for the one in front of him that can. And, although I’m really not comparing my children to talking pigs, I have seen a great jump in both my kids, that I don’t think can be coincidental. There are certainly other things that could account for the changes, but I believe that what we’re seeing is a growth in brain activity. And that is what Fast ForWord does.
For those of you contemplating doing the program a few things to think about:
1) You have to be consistent. My kids did the program 6 days out of 7, and sometimes twice. Each session was at least 40 minutes long, only interrupted between programs sometimes to get a drink or go to the bathroom. Yes, I was a bit of a tyrant on this point. Don’t do the program if you can’t make that commitment for six weeks. There will be no benefit without putting in the consistent time.
2) You have to be focused. This is especially important for the ADHD ones. There needs to be a quiet space with no other bodies and distractions.
3) You may have to encourage your child with the programs they find most difficult. Reassure them that the most difficult ones are the ones that their brains need the most. It will be hard for a while (and their achievement graph will show this, it will be a bumpy, but overall straight line) and then suddenly, it will be easy (and you will see their achievement graph suddenly show a great leap as suddenly it goes vertical rather than horizontal). This is how the brain works. It takes great effort that seems fruitless for a long time to build that pathway, and then suddenly, it’s like the path is cleared of all the potholes and wrong turns and now you can go down that path unimpeded. It’s a glorious thing to behold once it’s built.
4) Stay in close contact with your provider. Ours gave great guidance when Calvin was stuck on Flying Farm and recognized at a certain point that all the gains he was going to get from the module had already been made. Once they get bored, it’s actually better to move them up to a new program rather than forcing them to finish. Boredom is a killer for this program.
5) In general, boys will move through it more slowly than girls.
If you decide to go ahead and do it, I wish you good luck and happy brain building. Stop by and let me know how it went for you.
PS: If you’re from the States, this is an excellent time to find a Canadian provider as the Canadian dollar is down relative to your currency. It can be quite a savings for you.
PPS: I am not a provider, and make no commissions by recommending the program or certain providers. I am really just a mom trying to find out what works.
Update: I now have a Fast ForWord Page where I’ve listed all my Fast ForWord posts plus some other useful links.