Fast ForWord — Round Two

Because I am the kind of Mom who is all about the fun, I had my two school-aged kids do Fast ForWord over the Christmas holidays. That’s right. I am a mother of a mother.

Fast ForWord, Language to Reading module now has version 2. So, all the stuff I posted describing the games is really just a waste. But the same principles are underlining the new games — sound discernment, language comprehension, processing speed, working memory, attention and focus. The visuals are much flashier (due to Flash technology) and the games a bit more entertaining. Still lots of rewards and the program keeps you 90% successful. There is also the addition of a best score feature for each game, so you can tell if you’re beating your previous high score.

The kids did about 12 sessions each. My 10-year-old son got through 33%, my 12-year-old daughter got through a whopping 75% of the program. So, if I was to take that pace and figure out how long they would have taken to complete the program entirely, my son would have taken just over a month and my daughter less than 3 weeks. That about doubles the pace at which they were completing the modules in the summer.

So, maybe they’re just getting good at Fast ForWord, or maybe they’re getting better at the stuff that Fast ForWord trains.

Hard to tell.

Since I last wrote an update there have been other noted improvements.

My son got his best report card ever (no A’s yet, but several B’s). His handwriting is slightly improved. He got to the third round in the school spelling bee. He finished the Harry Potter series and has moved on to the Narnia series.

My daughter’s report card is also improved although her improvements are mostly from C’s to C+’s. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in her writing ability–sentence structure, paragraph structure, handwriting, punctuation. When I read her writing, I can finally detect a train of thought instead of random thoughts thrown on to a page with a bunch of connectors and commas.  She got to the fourth round of the school spelling bee. She finished her first big book — Twilight. She can actually read quite fast now. She forgot to read the book assigned over Christmas vacation “The Bridge to Terabithia” and then read it in less than 2 hours, which is pretty impressive. Of course, she can still miss some major plot points when she’s reading that fast, especially because it seems like her ongoing issue in many contexts is detecting the main point.

So, overall, there seems to be some marked improvements in several areas. It’s not like waving a magic wand — poof! brain issues gone! Would that were the case. But it’s certainly been one of the most effective therapies we’ve tried.

Update: Go to my Fast ForWord page to get all my postings about Fast ForWord plus some other useful links.

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About Tentative Equinox North

Theatremaker, Homemaker, Thoughtmaker. Great hair, Probably looking forward to my next nap.
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6 Responses to Fast ForWord — Round Two

  1. Dana says:

    Hi-thanks for all the info. about Fast Forward-I’m looking into doing this for my son over the summer when we can really be intensive with it. He is 6 and in 1rst grade and makes straight A’s in every subject except reading and writing where he is barely treading water with reading-just meeting expectations with lots of extra intervention and writing is below grade level-barely legible-much less with the content they want him to be writing. Dont’ know if he is too young for this program? I am starting the “Handwriting without Tears” program with him (I’m a pediatric Physical therapist-so think I can wing it) and he is using an online reading program called Headsprout that is based on the Orton-Gillingham method. I’m in the process of getting the school to test him for dyslexia which runs in my family-the wheels turn slowly and I’m trying to do what I can-let me know if you think this program is too hard for him? thanks-yours was the only parent comments I could dig up about this software!

    • I wouldn’t think six would be too young. There is also a module for pre-readers–can’t remember the name of it offhand. Talk to the provider about what would be most appropriate. I had my four-year-old do the occasional demo of that programme and he quite liked it. A neighbour’s girl tried out the Language Module and the programme is smart enough to change for age and ability too. I think she was just finished grade two at the time she tried it. In some ways, the younger kids are more impressed with the video rewards than the older, cooler kids.

      In my opinion (just my opinion), the improvements in reading and writing come later. The things Fast ForWord improved in terms of processing speed and working memory were the tools my kids needed to get better at those things down the road.

  2. Melani says:

    How much time per day did your children work on Fast ForWord? Did they do 90 minute sessions? I’m considering paying for two of my children (11 & 9 yr olds) and wanted your opinion on time per day vs number of weeks on the program. When paying by the month, it is to the providers advantage that we continue using it for weeks/months on end. I read that 90 minutes per day is minimum for good results. Thank you.

    • @ Melani: In the first module they were on a 40-minute protocol. Once my daughter graduated to the second module, it seemed to be more like an hour.

      In my opinion (based on the experience of my own unique children, yours might be different), 90 minutes is difficult to make the minimum standard. You can have really good results with the 40-minute protocol — we did. Then, if they were just laying about being bored I would send them back to do another round bringing their daily total up to nearly the 90-minute mark. Once in the second round they can just select too, and do only a couple of the games. If they’re going to do that, always make them do the sound sweep game. I think it’s truly the most important in terms of auditory processing and working memory. You also have to judge how well your kids will tolerate it. For an ADHD kid, 90 minutes at one go, is just too much to start with. And once you have to start fighting your kid to do it, or they start resenting it, you’re done for. They need to maintain their motivation.

      It’s not even so much the amount of practice per day as the number of times per week and the focus while doing it. Just like it’s better to do 10 good push-ups than 20 bad ones. And it’s better to do those 10 push-ups 5 days a week rather than 2 days per week.

      It’s massed practice and focused practice that really make the difference. I don’t know if doing a 90-minute protocol would actually result in fewer weeks in the programme. Again, a weightlifting metaphor for you. Once the muscle is fatiqued to failure, if you squeeze another 5 reps out, you’re not actually making yourself stronger. Likewise, the brain can only take so much change in one day. After that point, there is no more progress going to be made that day. Then, it just needs to kind of rest and process all these new pathways it’s building.

      I did hear the 90 minute quote too. I think that originally, it was thought that 90 minutes was the minimum. But they have discovered that less time can still give good results.

      Hope that’s helpful Melani. Please stop by again and let us know how it went for you.

  3. S&L says:

    Thank you for sharing this great journal with all of us. By doing this you have helped answer many questions. We are hoping to start our 12 yr old son on Fast ForWord very soon. Due to his current homework load we thought we’d start with the 40-minute protocol and hopefully have him do more than that whenever possible. Do providers restrict your ability to do more than the minimum?
    I’m curious about the weekly updates/reviews with the FFW provider. We are trying to decide between 3 providers and we are wondering how much weight to give to the weekly reviews. We have found a provider that charges a fixed weekly rate and another that charges hourly. What did your weekly reviews entail and how important a role did the provider play in your children’s success?

    S&L

  4. We weren’t operating under the traditional provider model, as Fast ForWord was offered in our school district, so I don’t know whether there is an additional charge for more access beyond the 40-minute protocol. I would hope not. I’ve heard that providers are often challenged to get people to meet the minimum, so I would think they would be ecstatic to have someone to more than the minimum. It also increases their success rates, so I would hope they wouldn’t penalize you for it.

    Again, as far as the weekly reviews go, we went through the school district provider, so I’m not sure what the various arrangements are. It’s certainly helpful to have someone to interpret the charts and graphs, and personally I wouldn’t want to feel like I was on the clock every time I asked my provider for some guidance or feedback. But that’s just me. I would go for the fixed weekly rate and get my money’s worth.

    I would further caution if you decide to go the fixed rate route — be careful of personality. A couple of times (in other situations, not with Fast ForWord) I’ve paid a fixed rate for a service, but the person providing that service had a fantastic ability to make me feel guilty for making them live up to the service they said they were providing. E.g. “Wow, you have called me at the worst possible time.” “Oh, really? You need me to talk to you again? That’s a little more than I’m used to having to do.” That kind of thing.

    Stop by again, and let us know what you decided and how it went for you.

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