Tools for Educators and Parents: Fast ForWord
A few weeks ago, I got an email asking me to check out a tool for educational professionals and parents: Fast ForWord. The tool is designed to help students learn to read, and increase their reading ability. The system is designed to work with a speech and language provider, of which there is just one in the state of Utah. It works much like a video game, which makes it popular with children.
What is really interesting is that the technique has been clinically proven to work. The system was developed jointly by Rugters University and Northwestern University, and shown to build long connections in the brain between the language hemisphere and other parts of the brain.
What are long connections? Well, think of them as highways between different regions of the brain. Whenever you need to do something complex, like, say, reading. Here you are taking a pictograph (the alphabet), and processing those symbols into letters. Those letters are then processed into phonetic sounds to form a word, and that word needs to be associated with something real and tangible. For the neuro-typical brain, i.e., most brains, this is a simple process because of long connections. The highways are able to move each step to the right place quickly and easily.
The brain of a person with Autism, however, has a problem. They don't have as many of these long connections across the brain, and therefore instead of having a highway, it's more like a dirt road trying to move the information around. By contrast, local connections are huge and massive compared to the neuro-typical brain. So a lot of processing can get done locally, but not a lot can get done across the brain.Continued on the next page