A College Senior Mailed Us a Letter

Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 08:00
  • Carrie Gajowski, MA

Fast ForWord reviewClick the image to read the original letter we received recently from a young man named Caleb.  Thank you, Caleb, for sharing your story! May you be an inspiration to others. 

From 2.2 GPA to 3.5 GPA

My name is Caleb, and I have passed all the levels for Fast ForWord. I'm a college senior at BYU-Idaho. I want to share my story and express my gratitude. Your diligent efforts with your software program improved my life.

In July of 2017, I completed the worst semester of my academic career. I earned a 2.2 GPA and it was, by far, the worst GPA I've ever had in my life. I was discouraged, confused, and frustrated with myself. I'm an accounting major and found that junior year accounting is difficult! Probably the most frustrating thing was that I put in the time to learn the material and earn the grade I desired. I was spending 10-12 hours on campus daily, but I did the worst I've ever done. This was probably the lowest point in my life.

My brother's unexpected success story

In July of 2016, my mother found an academic counselor for my little brother to see, who was 16 at the time. My brother is a very smart person, but struggled with school ever since Kindergarten, specifically with reading, writing, and spelling. He was diagnosed with visual and auditory processing (lrlen Syndrome) disorders and motor problems. Immediately, the academic counselor worked with him. He started doing the Fast ForWord exercises. In eight months' time, my brother went from a 3rd grade to a 6th grade reading level. Amazing progress! Today, my brother is doing even better. He just earned his first 4.0 for the quarter!  Not only did he improve academically, but he has more confidence in himself and his social skills have improved.

My turn using Fast ForWord

After learning about my disastrous semester, my mother encouraged me to see my brother's academic counselor as well. Any other point in my life I think I would have said, "no", but I was so humbled and devastated that I was willing to try anything. I was also diagnosed with visual and auditory processing (lrlen Syndrome) disorders. In some ways, mine was more severe than my brother's.

Starting in the fall of 2017, I went to the Academic Counselor and did the same things my brother had done. I also started the Fast ForWord exercises. It took me four months to complete all five reading levels and both literacy levels. The two most challenging were Sky Rider and Quack Splash (especially Quack Splash!).
When I was frustrated with it one time I almost threw my laptop out the window!

What did Fast ForWord do for me?

Fast ForWord helped me immensely. That same fall semester, I jumped from a 2.2 to a 3.5 GPA. My grade in Intermediate Accounting jumped from C- to A, and Advanced Spreadsheet Application improved from an F to a B. This past winter, I did my internship in South Florida and had an amazing experience. My manager told me I'm the best intern they've ever had, loved my work ethic, attention to detail, and my ability to be teachable.

I give a lot of credit to Scientific Learning. I can't begin to thank them enough for the work they've put into their software. I've done some coding, and it's hard, and I appreciate what they do! I'm so much happier now, and academically I'm excelling. The best part is I'm more efficient with my studies. Now that I don't need as much time to study, I get to enjoy other facets of life. I am less stressed and more relaxed after completing the Fast ForWord exercises. My marriage is even better, and my wife has noticed. My social skills and the ability to understand people have improved as well.

Thank you again for all you have done. It has made all the difference for me, and I'm excited to see where my career and life takes me. Because of you, I now have and will continue to have a higher quality of life!

Read the original letter from Caleb here.

Why Silent Reading Doesn’t Work for Struggling Readers

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 - 08:00
  • Carrie Gajowski, MA

guided oral readingReading fluency is understanding what you read, reading at a natural pace, and reading with expression. How will your students, or your child, become more fluent this year?  It’s tempting to think that reading more is the key.

It turns out that silent reading does not build reading fluency in struggling readers. According to the National Reading Panel, “there is insufficient support from empirical research to suggest that independent, silent reading can be used to help students improve their fluency”. Knowing this, if the student isn’t proficient in reading, should they continue “reading” a not-right selection in the hope of becoming a better reader?

I liken this to me learning how to paint. I have recently started to go to local painting outings. With some coaching/instruction, I am starting to understand the basic techniques. The instructor goes around to everyone to make sure they are doing what is asked of them. The instructor breaks each step down, section by section, and then checks back in with everyone as we progress.

Shouldn’t we do the same with our students — making sure they are reading proficiently, every step of the way, similar to how my painting instructor goes to each student to make sure our technique will get us the end result that we want? If I stayed quiet and fumbled through my painting, would I get better in terms of technique and form? This is similar to having a student stay quiet when they are struggling with reading the text at hand.

This being said, silent reading does have an important place in students’ lives. Once a student is a fluent reader, they should continue reading anything and everything that is available to them at their just-right level. 

Here are the best practices for building reading fluency for those who struggle with reading:

  1. Model fluent reading: Model what reading aloud should sound like. Other adults can also read to them – parents, older adults, siblings, etc.  This way, they can hear what the text should sound like and they can get a better understanding of natural prosody, which involves pausing at ends of sentences, using rising intonation with a question mark, etc. 
  2. Reading aloud: Have your students read aloud and with accuracy, not necessarily speed. Once they become more proficient, their speed will likely improve.
  3. Choral reading (or reading in unison): This is a group activity where you read a passage to your students. They then read it back to you in unison. This provides practice reading aloud in groups and it might also help the students who are less confident reading in front of others.
  4. Reader’s Theater: This is a fun twist on reading aloud where students perform a play for their peers. To participate, each student needs to work with their peers while reading aloud for both expression and meaning. Not only can this help build reading fluency, but it can also help students build teamwork and cooperation.
  5. Compliment when they read fluently: A little bit of praise from you can go a long way. Also, gently point out their struggles so they know what to work on. Reading fluently for some students is hard work. Be sure to encourage them to keep working on it!

Now that you’re aware that silent independent reading doesn’t help struggling readers, what approaches will you incorporate into your literacy block to make this time more effective? Fast ForWord for K-12 now includes a guided reading tool (Reading Assistant) that listens to students as they read aloud, providing a modeled reading, vocabulary support, and help with pronunciation and decoding when students struggle. It’s like a personalized guided reading coach built into a computer, and is particularly effective for students who are not benefiting from silent reading.

Practice, especially the right kind with the right supports, is critical to their success.


Fluency: Instructional Guidelines and Student Activities
Paired (or Partner) Reading
7 Ways to Improve Reading Fluency


Implicit vs. Explicit Instruction: Which is Better for Word Learning?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - 08:00
  • Hallie Smith, MA CCC-SLP

Does traditional or exploratory learning work better?Word learning

As educators, we are constantly faced with the question of how we can best present material so that it is optimally “learnable” for the different students we are trying to reach.

There is considerable evidence both for and against self-directed and exploratory learning, so there is a great opportunity for neuroscience to examine the ground-level differences between these and more traditional methods of instruction and how the brain reacts to each. One of those differences is the subject of current investigation: the divide between explicit and implicit instruction.

By explicit instruction, we mean teaching where the instructor clearly outlines what the learning goals are for the student, and offers clear, unambiguous explanations of the skills and information structures they are presenting.

By implicit instruction, we refer to teaching where the instructor does not outline such goals or make such explanations overtly, but rather simply presents the information or problem to the student and allows the student to make their own conclusions and create their own conceptual structures and assimilate the information in the way that makes the most sense to them.

Which is more effective?

One study out of Vanderbilt University recently looked at this question as it applies to word learning. In this study, principal investigator Laurie Cutting and her team examined 34 adult readers, from 21 to 36 years of age.

The subjects were taught pseudowords—words that are similar to real words but that have no meaning, such as “skoat” or “chote.” Then, through both explicit and implicit instruction, subjects were taught meanings for these words. (In the study, both of these pseudowords were associated with the picture of a dog.)

The goal was to gain a clearer understanding of how people with different skills and capabilities processed short-term instruction, how effectively they learned, and how those differences looked physiologically in the brain.

In the end, the subjects were all able to learn the pseudowords. But, through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers learned that something deeper was actually taking place: subjects previously identified as excellent readers showed little difference between how they processed explicit vs. implicit instruction. Average readers, on the other hand, showed through their fMRIs that they had to work harder to learn through implicit instruction; for them, explicit instruction was the more effective method.

Granted, the study did focus on a group of adults, not school-age learners. Still, the Vanderbilt team’s preliminary results support the idea that, even in group situations where all students have roughly the same degree of previous experience, prior reading ability might be an important element to consider when choosing an instructional approach.



Further reading:

Amy M. Clements-Stephens, April D. Materek, Sarah H. Eason, Hollis S. Scarborough, Kenneth R. Pugh, Sheryl Rimrodth, James J. Pekar, Laurie E. Cutting. Neural circuitry associated with two different approaches to novel word learning. Developmental Cognitive Science.Volume 2, Supplement 1. 15 February 2012. pp. S99-S113.

Related Reading:

The Curious Mind: Interest, Drive, and the Road to Academic Success

Language and the Reading Puzzle: 5 Steps Towards Fluent Reading

Watch From Anywhere: Summer Professional Development

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 08:00
  • Carrie Gajowski, MA

Professional Development webinarsSummer is just about halfway over for most of us!  School is out and students are still on vacation. Take advantage of this time to view (or just listen to) our top webinars on topics such as poverty, auditory processing, dyslexia, English language learning, and autism.  The best part is you can relax and watch them on your laptop, smartphone or tablet, or you can listen to them through your phone as you're doing other things! (I personally enjoy listening to these while hiking!)

See below for our “Best of Webinars”.  Which ones are your favorites?  Let us know by commenting below!

Effects of Poverty on School Success:  Join Dr. Martha Burns (one of our viewers' favorite presenters) as she discusses the complex topic of poverty and school success.  Dr. Burns reviews the latest research on poverty and also provides research on how the Fast ForWord intervention has been found to have a significant impact on academic achievement in children of poverty.  

5 Secrets to Jumpstart Learning in Students of Poverty:  Listen to our special guest, Dr. Eric Jensen, as he discusses more research on students living in poverty and how you can start helping these students immediately.  He covers information on improving working memory, brain-based software interventions and how you create lasting change that will be life-altering for your students.

Autism: New Research and Interventions:  We all know rates of autism are on the rise in today’s world.  Dr. Martha Burns presents the latest research on the underlying neurology of autism and discusses how neuroscience-based interventions such as Fast ForWord have been shown to enhance language, attention, and social skills in children on the autism spectrum.

2015 Dyslexia Research and Remediation:  Listen to Dr. Martha Burns as she discusses the latest research on the processing weaknesses and early indicators in dyslexia.  Dr. Burns also shares information on whether dyslexia is a visual or an auditory issue.  Find out how you can use this information to help your students of all ages.  A demonstration of the Fast ForWord software exercises is also provided to show how these exercises work to address the stealth causes of this reading struggle.

Build the ELL Brain: This was one of our most popular webinars over the last few years!  You don’t want to miss this one if you work with English language learners.  Join Dr. Burns as she explores the ELL brain, the advantages of true bilingualism, and how effective technological adjuncts can build the English brain, quickly, moving ELL students to proficiency.

Effective Literacy Instruction for ELLs and All Students - Words, Fluency, and Meaning:  Dr. Timothy Rasinski (another one of our most popular presenters!) returns to share his knowledge about reading comprehension and fluency.   He shares strategies for improving students’ word knowledge (phonics and vocabulary) and comprehension. 

Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader:  What exactly is happening in the brains of your struggling readers?  Dr. Burns shares the inside scoop on the brain and what is different about the brains of those students who struggle to read and what you can do about it in your classroom, school or district.  She also discusses information about what age the brain is ready to learn/read as well as provides information about any gender differences in regards to language and reading milestones.


3 New Research Findings on Fast ForWord

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 08:00
  • Kristina Birdsong

The prevalence of language and attention-based learning disorders (like dyslexia) among children remains one of the major obstacles facing education. But as new research illuminates their underlying neurological characteristics, the potential for overcoming these obstacles continues to grow. Three recent findings across multiple studies highlight the effectiveness of the Fast ForWord program in improving educational outcomes along with their deeper brain-based correlates through its computerized training.

1. Processing  of “tone doublets” is impaired in children with language issues, and is improved following Fast ForWord training.

Previous research has suggested that many instances of language impairment in children may be rooted in low-level auditory processing disorders. One particular auditory deficiency frequently observed in language-impaired children is difficulty processing rapid sound changes. A recent study has demonstrated that this type of processing can be improved through Fast ForWord’s targeted audiovisual regimen (Heim, Keil, Choudhury, Friedman, Benasich, 2013); (Heim, Choudhury, Benasich, 2015).

In their initial visit, a group of children aged 6 to 9 formally diagnosed with language learning impairment (LLI) as well as a control group of similarly-aged children with no diagnoses were asked to identify sound changes in nonverbal ‘tone doublets’ consisting of a high and low tone played in rapid succession, as well as consonant syllables like ‘ba’ and ‘da’. As they did so, their brain activity was recorded through electroencephalogram (EEG) and event-related-potential (ERP) measurements.

Consistent with prior research, the language-impaired children took longer to identify sound changes and showed lower levels of brain activity. After participating in Fast ForWord’s phoneme identification exercises for an average of 32 days, this group was tested again in a second visit, where their measurements showed a significant increase in brain activity. Children in the control group, who did not undergo the Fast ForWord training, showed much slighter improvement on their second visit, suggesting that the improvement of the test group could not be attributed to practice or familiarization effects.

2. Language and reading assessments improved after Fast ForWord.

There is significant evidence that measurements of brain activity have a strong correlation with observed educational performance. In the aforementioned 2013 study, the language-impaired children also showed significant improvement in their performance on the standardized CELF (Comprehensive Evaluation of Language Fundamentals) language test, with their scores increasing by an average of 10% between the two assessments.

An earlier study in 2008 had demonstrated similar results (Stevens, Fanning, Coch, Sanders, Neville, 2008). Here, a sample group of elementary school-aged children diagnosed with specific language impairment (SLI) were tested alongside two control groups of children with typical language development. Children in all three groups completed the standardized CELF evaluation. They were then presented with audio of two narrated stories playing simultaneously and asked to pay attention to only one of them, while their responses to various verbal and non-verbal stimuli embedded within each story were recorded through ERP to measure selective auditory attention. As expected, both sets of scores were lower for the SLI group, with no significant difference between the two control groups.

After this first assessment, the SLI group and the first control group received Fast ForWord training for six weeks, while the second control group did not. All three groups then participated in another audio listening session before taking another CELF evaluation at the end of the study. The results were extremely promising. Not only did the language-impaired children improve by about 10% over their initial CELF score – the control group that received Fast ForWord training showed a smaller but significant improvement as well. A similar pattern was seen in the ERP measurements of selective auditory attention, suggesting that the two measurements were in fact correlated and that Fast ForWord training can enhance both auditory processing and language performance in language-impaired and typically developing children alike.

3. Fast ForWord training improves brain networks found in children with language learning impairment, specific language impairment or dyslexia.

Although dyslexia is a more specific disorder whose observed symptoms are commonly associated with reading, it is strongly believed to be rooted in phonological processing difficulties – the inability to hear distinct phonemes that can then be visually associated with written letters. Accordingly, a 2003 study found that, compared to non-dyslexic children, those with dyslexia showed lower levels of brain response in their brain’s audio processing areas when asked to look at a succession of written letters and select the ones that rhyme. This was indicated by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of brain activity, with the sharpest differences observed in the temporal left region. After a period where Fast ForWord intervention time was included as part of their regular school day, not only did the dyslexic children’s performance scores improve, but their fMRI scans began to more closely resemble those of the typically developing children, suggesting that the training was actively rewiring their brains' networks to function more effectively in language processing.

Furthermore, a 2015 review of similar studies showed that phonological training improved brain functioning in children with conditions ranging from dyslexia to SLI and general reading difficulties. Of 20 studies surveyed, four used Fast ForWord as their training content. Across all studies, improvements included increased activation of certain brain regions, stronger and faster neural responses, and even an increase of white matter. Follow-ups conducted in several studies also showed that these improvements were maintained even a year after the original intervention. These results suggest that phonological and auditory intervention has the potential for actively rewiring neural networks to function more effectively in language processing, leading to lifelong gains in behavior and educational performance.


Ylinen, S. & Kujala, T. (2015). Neuroscience illuminating the influence of auditory or phonological intervention on language-related deficits.  Frontiers in Psychology, 6. 

Heim, S., Choudhury, N. & Benasich, A. A. (First online: 15 December 2015). Electrocortical Dynamics in Children with a Language-Learning Impairment Before and After Audiovisual Training. Brain Topography.

Heim, S., Keil, A., Choudhury, N., Thomas Friedman, J. & Benasich, A. (2013). Early gamma oscillations during rapid auditory processing in children with a language-learning impairment: Changes in neural mass activity after training.  Neuropsychologia, 51, 990-1001.

Stevens, C., Fanning, J., Coch, D., Sanders, L., & H Neville (2008). Neural mechanisms of selective auditory attention are enhanced by computerized training: Electrophysiological evidence from language-impaired and typically developing children. Brain Research, 1205, 55-69.

Remediation Training Improves Reading Ability of Dyslexic Children


3 Tips For Your Reluctant Reader This Summer

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - 08:00
  • Hallie Smith, MA CCC-SLP

reluctant reader

Summer is fast approaching, and with that, questions about how to keep your child engaged and continuing to learn.  Scientific research suggests that students lose academic abilities over the summer holiday, and failing to practice literacy skills may lead to particular challenges when school starts again in the fall.  If you have a child who is not yet reading, or struggles to read, you undoubtedly want to make sure he or she moves ahead this summer.  Check out these ideas below!

1. Do at least 30 minutes of literacy-related activity 5 days per week.  

Keeping your child engaged in a literacy-related task nearly every day can be fun! Consider a few of the following ways to incorporate reading practice into your everyday summer life:

  • Read a magazine together.  Summer is the perfect time to lounge in a hammock or beach chair with a magazine.  Engage your young reader by finding an appealing, child-friendly magazine. National Geographic for Kids, American Girl magazine, Highlights, and Ranger Rick are great magazines with engaging articles for kids.  Take turns reading sections of the magazine. Talk about the pictures and vocalize what you're thinking to your child, e.g. "I'm wondering what happens to polar bears when the ice caps melt. What do you think?" Showing your child how you think when you read will encourage your child to do the same. 
  • Make bedtime reading a part of your routine.  Many parents would like to keep a bedtime reading routine going all school year, but sometimes the busy-ness of life gets in the way. Summer is a great time to get back to the pre-sleep literacy routine. Take time to read a high interest chapter book together. Let your child lead the way by choosing the chapter book.  For children with lower reading ability, alternating who reads each page can keep both of you engaged. 
  • Do Fast ForWord!  Summer is an ideal time for reluctant and struggling readers to work on the foundational skills that might not get adequate attention in the regular classroom during the school year. Instead of falling behind, your child can make multiple years' growth over the summer, in just 30 minutes/day. 

2. Keep interest in reading activities high.  

We all learn best if we are motivated by and interested in what we are reading and slow or reluctant learners are no exception. What is your child interested in? Which books does he/she like at school?  It’s often just a matter of perusing library or bookstore shelves to find something that is a good fit. The Captain Underpants series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or Magic Treehouse series are fantastic books with wide appeal.  And don't discount the non-fiction options -- a book of basketball facts may not seem very “literary” to you, but it is a fantastic way to get a sports-loving reluctant reader to practice sounding out new words and learning new vocabulary.  Similarly, a kid who would rather be playing Minecraft might enjoy reading a Minecraft book series such as the Diary of a Wimpy Villager.

While structured reading time is important, you can also be creative about incorporating literacy into everyday life.  Read food labels when shopping at the grocery store, read an article from a favorite magazine together, read signs as you drive through town, play rhyming games, leave notes under your child’s pillow, or encourage your child to decode his/her own restaurant menu.  The opportunity for literacy activities are all around; just take the time to intentionally use them to boost your child’s literacy.

3. Play and imagine together.

Parents sometimes mistakenly believe that reading is the only way to improve literacy. However, at its core, literacy is about flexible use of language.  Talking, storytelling, and using your imagination are great ways to build literacy.

For example, use time in the car or at dinner for storytelling.  Tell a story from your childhood, describing characters and situations as vividly as you can -- have you ever been chased by a dog or found a lost dog? What were you good at in school (or not so good at)? When did you meet your best friend and what did you love to do together? What was your favorite activity as a child? When did you get in trouble and why? Turn these moments into juicy stories that encourage your child to listen and return by storytelling in kind. We all have plenty of stories to tell!  This builds language and creativity, contributing to literacy (and family bonding). 

This year, fight summer learning loss by engaging your child in daily activities to improve literacy.  By practicing reading, language, and creative abilities, you’ll set your child on a trajectory of success when it’s time to head back to school in the fall.


Fast ForWord® at Home Scholarship

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 08:00
  • Joanne Gouaux

Fast ForWord at Home ScholarshipLike walking, reading is a major life activity. When your child struggles to read, it feels like running on an uphill treadmill. It is exhausting and overwhelming, with no finish line in sight. Lessons keep moving at school as the days, weeks, and months pass. Despite extending their best effort, struggling readers make more mistakes and have to work longer and harder than an average learner their age.

My son showed signs of difficulty with reading and writing in kindergarten. By the end of 1st grade, things were not improving and with the best of intentions, the school suggested that maybe all he needed was more time. That's when I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but when I learned about Fast ForWord, it made sense. It was unlike anything we had tried before, and my son embraced the idea of working the exercises on a computer. Double win!

I know many families are facing similar challenges and frustrations. I invite you to take action and apply for the first ever Fast ForWord at Home Scholarship, provided by BrainPro.

It's never too late to explore options at any stage of life, especially in childhood. What may have started as a little trouble can quickly pile up and influence school performance, learning, daily activities, and relationships. With hard work, consistent effort, and the right help, your child can become an independent reader.

Related reading:

Debunking Anecdotes – One Parent’s Journey Through a Maze of Misconceptions About Learning Disabilities

Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and the Road to College: Maria’s Story


Dyslexia Legislation is on the Rise. But Why?

Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 08:00
  • Hallie Smith, MA CCC-SLP

dyslexia legislationIn the past few years, more than a dozen states have passed or proposed new laws to raise awareness about dyslexia through increased screening, intervention programs, and teacher training. Delaware, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Kansas, Arkansas, West Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Kentucky are among the states with notable legislative activity, but there’s a movement in nearly every state to legislate educational approaches to tackling the most common learning disability.

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity – led by Co-Directors Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz – is one force behind this trend. The center’s Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative (MDAI) website positions education – and more specifically, dyslexia – as “a civil rights issue” due to the “struggles and marginalization of many dyslexic children.” The mission of the MDAI is to influence policy through the grassroots engagement of educators, legislators, and others. The effort appears to be working, with dyslexia advocacy surging around the country.

Decoding Dyslexia, a “parent-led grassroots movement,” is one example, with a presence in 47 states. Founded in 2012, the movement focuses on raising awareness about dyslexia and changing literacy legislation at the state level.

Then there’s Texas teen Ben Cooper. On behalf of dyslexic learners nationwide, Cooper is lobbying the House of Representatives to adopt HR456, a resolution calling on states and schools “to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.”

In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy has spoken out about his own experience with dyslexia. Malloy is a proponent of universal access to pre-K, in part to ensure early identification of learning disabilities. As Governor, he signed a bill into law that requires future teachers to receive training in dyslexia recognition and intervention.

In Washington, D.C., there’s a new Bipartisan Dyslexia Caucus currently co-chaired by Representatives Julia Brownley (D-California) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana). “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia,” a film directed by James Redford, was screened at the 2012 inaugural event.

The rise in legislation is a hopeful development. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability – about one in five students has it – but not all educators know how to recognize it and help learners with dyslexia succeed in school. 

We now know that dyslexia is neurologically based, and schools have access to effective interventions like the Fast ForWord program – which has been proven to positively impact reading ability in dyslexic children and adults. With only 34 percent of 4th graders scoring at or above Proficient on the 2013 NAEP, enacting early dyslexia identification and intervention is a no-brainer.

Related reading:

Dyslexia – How Far We’ve Come!

Remediation vs. Accommodation: Helping Students with Learning Disabilities Succeed



Meet the 1st Queen of Literacy, Dr. Linda Nash!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - 08:00
  • Hallie Smith, MA CCC-SLP

Dr. Linda NashDr. Linda Nash, Supervisor of Federal Programs/Grants in Cookeville, TN, has been crowned our first Queen of Literacy. She received 24% of all the votes cast (5,472!) and has won an all-expense paid trip to our National Circle of Learning Conference (virtual registration now open)! I caught up with Dr. Nash by phone to learn more about her life as an educator. 

SL: How did you get into education?

Dr. Nash: Education was very important to my parents. Neither of them had a college education and they were probably both smarter than I am. It was never a question of if I was going to school. It was always where we were going and in what we were majoring. I guess I’ve had two careers, one in accounting and one in education. I started out in home economics thinking I would like to be a home ec. teacher and then I changed to business because I needed to work to put my husband through school. Once he finished, I went back to English; however, I had worked for a CPA for many years. I finally decided to go back in education and was a senior English teacher for 18 years.

When I was in accounting, I missed education; and when I was in education, I missed accounting. Now I am the federal program supervisor for my county and I can use both of them.

SL: How did you move from being a teacher to be an administrator? Was that a goal of yours or just something that happened?

Dr. Nash: I started my doctoral work in English. I really thought I wanted to teach English at the university level, and I did do that for a while. I was getting married; and because of the program requirements I would have had to leave home for a year to do residency at the university. I didn’t want to leave my family, so I switched to administration, and I’ve never regretted it. As a distict administrator you’re helping the kids by helping the schools.

SL: How did you become acquainted with Fast ForWord?

Dr. Nash: When I came to the central office as a federal programs supervisor, Dr. Kathleen Airhart was the Director of Schools, and she had had experience with the Fast ForWord program with our special ed students in her prior role as our special ed supervisor. So when I became a federal supervisor she had said to me that Fast ForWord was a great RTI program and wanted me to take a look at it and see if it might be something we might be able to use in our schools, not just with special ed students.

I started doing some investigating, looking at data—not just what you all provided—and looking at schools that had used it. To be honest, we first started using it because the state had a new law that said any 3rd grader who scored below basic on our state test either had to have progress in an intervention or they had to be retained in 3rd grade. We purchased it really to use in our summer school intervention program and then we started using it in all of our elementary schools as an intervention.

Because we’re purchasing subscriptions, we use it during the year as well. During the school year I leave it up to the school how they use it. I have some schools that use it differently than how we use it in summer school. I have two schools in particular that have really been targeting our ESL population because some of the sounds from the English language are missing totally from the Spanish language.

SL: So you were able to see right away from the data that this would be an effective program for your students?

Dr. Nash: Yes. All of the 3rd graders who go to summer school use it. We’re not just putting the kids on the computer for 2 ½ or 3 hours and leaving them. They rotate. They do oral reading in a section, they do vocabulary in a section, and in between they do Fast ForWord. By combining all of those we’ve really had good success in our summer school. It’s a bit harder to discuss in the regular school year because each school uses it differently.

SL: What principles guide you in your work on a day-to-day basis?

Dr. Nash: I think work ethic is number one in anything that you do. Your integrity, coming to work knowing that you’re going to give your all and do a job to the best of your ability. I think that’s with anything. I think with me, federal guidelines, knowing the federal guidelines, being able to decipher them and apply them. For my job I am meeting the compliances that the federal government says we have to meet to spend this money. And more importantly to me, are we good stewards of that money and getting the best effects or getting the best thing for the dollar?  One thing that’s really important to me in my job is to listen to the principals. They know best what they need in their schools and to help them be able to do what they want to do in the compliances of the money that we can spend. I have had the experience of just being told, “No, you can’t do that,” without trying to find a way. Is there a way if we do it this way? What if we change our intent a little bit to meet this guideline? I think being a good listener of the needs of the principals is key.

SL: What have you learned during your career that you would like to share with educators who are just starting out?

Dr. Nash: First and foremost we’re here because of children. We are here so that kids can do their very best with what we can give them and we owe it to them.

One of my grandsons—he is in college now—said one day about a specific teacher he had had, “You know, Granny, if I had had Mr. or Ms. So-and-So for this particular class I might could have done something else in college.” And it broke my heart because I thought to myself, every child deserves the very best teacher for every subject every year. And then that child can decide what they want to do with their education.

I just hope teachers understand the importance of the effect they have on kids on a day-to-day basis, whether we’re using Fast ForWord or whether we’re using a textbook or just whether we’re entering the classroom smiling. 

You've made us smile, Dr. Nash! Thank you for your support.


Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader [Infographic]

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 21:45
  • Hallie Smith, MA CCC-SLP

When a child struggles to learn to read, we often look to social or economic factors, access to books, or the home environment for an explanation. While each of these factors can play a part, treatable brain differences are often part of the equation.

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Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader [Infographic]

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Neuroscience-based interventions like the Fast ForWord program create specialized learning conditions that can rapidly improve reading and cognitive skills in struggling readers. These interventions work because the brain can actually reorganize itself, changing its internal wiring in response to learning. This ability does not “turn off” after infancy as once thought, but remains active throughout our lifetime.

Many struggling readers who have fallen behind or thought it was “too late” have overcome their reading difficulties. The journey to proficiency starts inside the “plastic” brain.

Related reading:

Dyslexia – How Far We’ve Come!

The Neuroplasticity Revolution With Dr. Norman Doidge




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