Fast ForWord

Fast ForWord is a program that was developed following the discoveries by neuroscientist Michael Merzenich and his colleagues at the University of California and Rutgers University.

It is designed to address auditory processing difficulties using distorted speech sounds and tones. Many of the speech sounds use commonly confused phonemes and train the user to differentiate between these. There are various levels of the program available, ranging in complexity from basic to advanced based on the user’s age and abilities, from preschool upwards. They have found favourable results for those with a mild to moderate APD, and can often assist with reading difficuties associated with Auditory Processing.

http://www.youtube.com/learnfasteducation#p/u/9/WulFNyBnAAQ

The Fast ForWord provider in Australia

http://fastforword.rtrk.com.au/?scid=25593&kw=4283543

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Sue Larkey’s tips

Today I signed up to Sue Larkey’s website and received these great tips in my inbox:

10 Essential tips for Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

1.      ASD students don’t have to look at you all the time.
o        Reason: They find looking and listening at the same time
hard to do.

2.      Give them time to answer any of your questions.
o            Reason: They have slower processing time. Sometimes it
can take them up to a minute to formulate the answer in the correct
sequence.

3.      If they feel pressured they will answer with stock standard
answers.
o      Reason: They know it will get them out of trouble quickly.
This may include: “I don’t know”, “yes”, “maybe” and often this
isn’t their true answer!!

4.      They often don’t “generalise” information between people
and places.
o          Reason: Homework for teacher ‘x’ is in the yellow basket
but for teacher ‘y’ it’s to be placed in the green basket.

5.      They find organisation of their school equipment very
difficult.
o          Reason: They are best with one folder with everything
inside. Limit the number of pencils, pens etc.

6.      Limit their choices and be very specific with choices.
o          Reason: They find choices overwhelming and are often
concerned with making wrong choice due to their difficulty with
problem solving.

7.      Be as clear, concise and concrete as possible.
o      Reason: People with ASD have difficulty with abstract
thinking.

8.      Avoid verbal overload.
o          Reason: They are visual learners and verbal information
takes them longer to process and retain.

9.      Avoid verbal arguments by redirecting them to what they
should be doing. Eg “Start your work”.
o      Reason: They often enjoy verbal arguments.

10.  Asperger people need positive feedback to know they are on the
right track.
o      Reason: Because of their fear of failure and they want to
be Mr Perfect.

Brain Science of Aspergers and Autism Pt. 1: Sensory Overload

Shiny Brain by Artem Chernyshevych http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1254880

In this first post on the brain science of Aspergers I want to talk about the theory of neuroscientist Michael Merzenich. Merzenich is one of the world’s leading experts on brain plasticity, and his studies into the causes of Autism and his work on the Fast ForWord software program has revolutionised the lives of many young autistics.

Merzenich discovered that early in a child’s life when the brain is making its early connections, what neuroscientists call the “critical period”, a nerve growth factor (a protein called BDNF or Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor, which is responsible for growing nerve fibres in the brain) is released. Read more of this post

Brain Science of Aspergers and Autism: Introduction

A friend recently asked me what happens in the brain of someone with Aspergers or Autism. There are many studies that have been undertaken by neuroscientists to discover the causes and brain functions that characterise Aspergers.

It has been discovered that it affects not just one area of the brain, but there are various areas that contribute to the features and cognitive functions of Aspergers and Autism. Read more of this post

Strategies for helping with Auditory Processing Disorder

Reposted from http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/ears/central_auditory.html#

“Strategies applied at home and school can ease some of the problem behaviors associated with APD. Because it’s common for kids with CAPD to have difficulty following directions, for example, these tactics might help:

  • Since most kids with APD have difficulty hearing amid noise, it’s very important to reduce the background noise at home and at school.
  • Have your child look at you when you’re speaking.
  • Use simple, expressive sentences.
  • Speak at a slightly slower rate and at a mildly increased volume.
  • Ask your child to repeat the directions back to you and to keep repeating them aloud (to you or to himself or herself) until the directions are completed.
  • For directions that are to be completed at a later time, writing notes, wearing a watch, and maintaining a household routine also help. General organization and scheduling also can be beneficial.

It’s especially important to teach your child to notice noisy environments, for example, and move to quieter places when listening is necessary.

Other strategies that might help:

  • Provide your child with a quiet study place (not the kitchen table).
  • Maintain a peaceful, organized lifestyle.
  • Encourage good eating and sleeping habits.
  • Assign regular and realistic chores, including keeping a neat room and desk.
  • Build your child’s self-esteem.

Be sure to keep in regular contact with school officials about your child’s progress. Kids with APD aren’t typically put in special education programs. Instead, teachers can make it easier by:

  • altering seating plans so the child can sit in the front of the room or with his or her back to the window
  • providing additional aids for study, like an assignment pad or a tape recorder

One of the most important things that both parents and teachers can do is to acknowledge that CAPD is real. Symptoms and behaviors are not within the child’s control. What is within the child’s control is recognizing the problems associated with APD and applying the strategies recommended both at home and school.

A positive, realistic attitude and healthy self-esteem in a child with APD can work wonders. And kids with APD can go on to be just as successful as other classmates. Although some children do grow up to be adults with APD, by using coping strategies as well as techniques learned in speech therapy, they can be very successful adults.”

Auditory Processing Disorder

CUTE TODDLER © Beatricekillam | Dreamstime.com

Many people with Aspergers have difficulty with auditory processing, including myself. A child may appear not to hear parts of a conversation or remember instructions, or they may seem to be ignoring someone talking, even if they are close by. They may appear deaf – but this is nothing to do with hearing, and the child may indeed have normal, or even more sensitive than normal, hearing. Difficulties with auditory processing stem from a malfunction in the transfer of audio signals from the ear to the brain. The Listen and Learn Centre in Melbourne define APD as “a problem in the decoding of language”.

www.auditoryprocessing.com.au  defines APD as follows:

“People who have normal hearing actually hear far more than they perceive. Where hearing is a function of the ear, auditory processing – listening – is a function of the brain. Auditory processing describes the way the brain assigns significance and meaning to the sounds in the environment. Effective auditory processing involves a relatively high speed of information transfer. It also requires a good attention span, a well-functioning memory, and sensitivity to the many subtleties of sound. When parts of this complex system break down or don’t operate efficiently, listening is compromised. All the ensuing problems are collectively known as Auditory Processing Disorders (APD).”

It can mean the child doesn’t always register speech, or that they sometimes misunderstand or misremember something that is being said. It can adversely affect their memory of oral information, which can cause frustration as the child is convinced they have remembered something right when it is wrong, or they may have no glimmer of recollection of something they have been told.

APD affects around 5% of school-aged children, and is often worse in loud environments, for instance at school, as the child has difficulty differentiating what is being said from the background noise. This can lead to difficulties with their schoolwork, and their grades may suffer as a result.

The Listen and Learn Centre also note that APD can lead to the “deterioration of behaviour as a result of poor expressive and receptive communication. As children experience the discouragement of being misunderstood and the frustration of misunderstanding others, they become more disconnected from their environment and the people around them”. The child may learn coping strategies such as lip-reading, but this doesn’t always help them in all cases. It could also be the reason why some people with Aspergers may not be able to detect humour. The Neurosensory Unit has this to say:

“It [the central auditory system] helps us to identify the non-linguistic elements of speech and communication, such as rhythm, timing and pitch that assist in interpreting humour and sarcasm, as well as intent of communication.”

APD can be another reason, in addition to sensory overload, that can cause a child to withdraw from social situations. In fact, it seems that sensory overload can also occur with APD, according to the Listen and Learn Centre:

“The term ‘auditory overload’ is often used to describe what happens to people who have APD. Auditory overload is a sense of being overwhelmed and relates to features of the information being received. If information is highly specific, spoken quickly, lacking in contextual cues, described in unfamiliar language or presented in a noisy environment, it will be very difficult for someone with APD to comprehend the message or follow through with instructions.”

Some children with APD may be seem to have very sensitive hearing, and could hear a pin drop in a quiet room. The team at the Listen and Learn Centre have a theory about this:

“Some children are more attentive to bone conducted sounds. They primarily listen with their body instead of with their ears. These individuals have difficulties in dampening the sound intensity and to filter out irrelevant sounds. This may be one of the reasons why individuals are hyper sensitive to sound as they may have lost the ability to focus and tune out extraneous background noise. In this situation, every noise has the same amount of importance. Capturing a word may be difficult as ambient noise distracts from focusing. As a result, the child misses part of the conversation or instruction being given.”

There is no relationship between intelligence and APD; a very bright child may be having difficulty at school and poor marks, which could puzzle parents or teachers.

In this case changes to the teaching style could help, with more emphasis on visual learning strategies.

There is no cure for APD, but it can be treated with speech therapy, reading recovery or through an Auditory Integration Listening Program

kidshealth.org have some tips and strategies for teaching a child with APD: Strategies