Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
While school is out during the summer, parents often try alternative educational activities for their children. One popular activity is using computerized teaching tutorials. Many parents and professionals are quite excited about two computer tutorial programs, Earobics and Fast ForWord, which are designed to improve auditory processing and phonological skills, common problems in autistic individuals and those with developmental delays. Both programs rely on well-known therapeutic techniques and are based on many years of research and clinical experience. These programs accentuate or stress speech sounds in order to facilitate the person's recognition and identification of sounds. Games are used to present the curricula in a systematic, adaptive manner (e.g., many levels of difficulty within each game).
Earobics. This tutorial program contains six games that are designed to teach a variety of auditory and phonological skills to children between the ages of 4 and 7. Older children with developmental delays may also benefit from this program. Some of the skills taught include: auditory attention, discrimination and memory; phonemic synthesis and identification; sound segmentation; sound-symbol correspondence; and rhyming and phonological awareness. A home version of this program can be purchased for $59. Two professional versions are also available, one for $149 and one for $299. For more information about this program, call Cognitive Concepts at (847) 328-8199. You can also visit their web site at: http://www.cogcon.com
Fast ForWord. This computerized tutorial program has received much publicity over the past two years. Fast ForWord utilizes seven games which are designed to train the brain to process sounds more efficiently and rapidly. The Fast ForWord program has a unique ability to alter the length of the speech sounds so that the child can more easily recognize the sounds. As the child successfully performs the tasks within the games, the speech sounds are gradually shortened until the child can process these sounds in real time. Fast ForWord games are designed to teach perception and identification of phonemes, discrimination between phonemes, auditory memory skills, and word and sentence structure processing.
The Fast ForWord program typically takes for 6- to 8-weeks to complete and is provided by a trained practitioner. The cost of the program varies but is usually between $1,500 to $2,500. You can obtain more information about this program and a list of trained practitioners on the Internet (http://www.fastforword.com) or by calling the Scientific Learning Corporation at (510) 665-9700.