Movin’ on up.

It’s been awhile since our last post but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been hard at work. A few weeks ago, Sulli completed all of the programming for Language v2 and we’ve since moved on to Language to Reading v2. Which basically means he’s accomplished a lot, but things are getting increasingly more difficult.

As I mentioned in my last blog, as we’ve worked through this program, we’ve noticed some games are far easier for Sulli than others. A few games he mastered very quickly and others took much longer.

To date, I’ve mostly shared how Sullivan has benefited from the program (it’s still going amazing) but haven’t dove much into what our time on the computer actually looks like.  I bet you’re curious, right?

First, the transition.

The good news is Sulli had come to really enjoy his daily “computer games” as we call them. Especially towards the end of completing Language v2, his confidence had increased significantly and I truly believe he was beginning to think of the games as fun instead of games for work.

And then we “graduated” to the next level. All of the games are more difficult and he told me daily that he wanted his old games back. I knew it was a growing pain that we would get through and told him he was just getting too smart for those old games and he needed new ones to keep flexing that brain muscle.

So, what’s it like?

Honestly, I think everyone could benefit from these programs as I can’t count how many times, while sitting next to Sulli, I have to think extra hard for the correct answer and frankly would have missed several if I’d been the one clicking the mouse.

Sky Gym is a game in the first level and Jumper Gym is the next step up. In both programs, a tone is played. The tone either goes up in pitch or down in pitch. It started out with one tone and Sulli would click on an up or down arrow indicating the direction of the pitch of the tone. Eventually once he mastered the single tone, it increased to two tones in succession and Sulli choose the appropriate up or down arrow in the order he heard the tones. Additionally in the beginning the length of the tone was stretched (or technically slowed down) a bit.

Since moving on to Jumper Gym, the same premise applies yet it has become increasingly more difficult. I believe we are up five tones now that come in rapid succession and his ears have to quickly differentiate the direction of the pitch for all of the sounds, remember what he heard, and click the arrows accordingly. This game takes an inordinate amount of focused listening to hear and simultaneously distinguish between the direction of the pitch very quickly.

Copy of BRAINGAMES

Ele-bot, which was the last game Sullivan mastered in Language v2 was certainly a challenge. It is a game that deals with a lot of re-ordering of words that make the sentence structure unnatural, and thus, requires an incredible amount of focus to not only hear what was spoken, but then be able to visually match to images on screen.

For example:

“The clown who is chasing the girl who is little is big.” When we first started out, my guess is Sulli was probably hearing “The clown is big” or perhaps “the girl is little”. Well that didn’t cut it in this game (or obviously in life) because there are four images on screen to choose from, all with a combination of big or little clowns, big or little girls, and girls chasing clowns and clowns chasing girls.

Another example would be practicing the negative-passive voice. “The mouse is not being chased by the cat.” Things in the negative have always been a challenge as I’m certain Sulli initially heard “The mouse is being chased by the cat.” As you can imagine, just missing that one word when processing that statement changes it completely and becomes quite problematic for kids in everyday life.

As we’ve moved on to Cosmic Reader from Ele-Bot in this next level, it continues to get more challenging. “The chicken that is leading the sheep that is walking is jumping.” Again, four pictures will be displayed that will all have a chicken and a sheep, but in some the chicken will be jumping, or the sheep is jumping or the sheep or the chicken are leading. It’s confusing even typing it now so I can only imagine that for a kid who has auditory processing issues, this might feel like the Mt. Everest of listening.

He’s getting the hang of it.

While there were certainly some tears of frustration when we graduated the first program and moved to the next, he seems to have now gleaned a comfort level with the new games and has finally stopped talking about the old ones.  Yippee!

I’ve only touched on two of the five games in Language to Reading v2 and even for the ones I’ve covered, I’ve certainly over simplified the totality of what the games actually do. If you are interested in some not-so-light-yet-insightful reading, hop on over to Fast ForWord’s website for a robust listing of case studies or click here for an impressive list of featured reports on the results of the program. You can even request a demo so you can see for yourself how the games work.

2 ½ months.

We are a little more than 2 ½ months into the program and I’m feeling very grateful that we found Fast ForWord. We are still noticing those glorious subtle changes at home and school but when I look how far he’s come in the program itself, I’m confident we will continue to see significant growth on multiple levels. Reflecting on what he was able to accomplish within the program the first couple of weeks vs. now is truly remarkable. It’s only sensible to think that growth will continue to translate to his home and school life as well.

As we wind up the school year, I’m increasingly thankful for Fast ForWord as we head into summer knowing we will be continuing with the program. It will be an excellent program to provide some consistency to his day AND brain.

‘Til next time,

Mama Woz

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It’s Really Happening

Brain exploding

It’s been about three weeks since my last writing. Two of those were stretched over different back-to-back spring breaks. Apparently my son and daughter’s schools didn’t get the memo that coordinated break times do a family good. Ahhh. One can dream.

But there is good news. Despite two weeks of unpredictable schedules, sticking with our 30 minutes a day of Fast ForWord was totally do-able and even became a welcomed part of our day for my son who thrives with structure.

Removing emotion.

It’s been over 7 years since our son was diagnosed with autism. And over the years we’ve tried multiple interventions. Some have been incredible, others … not so much. But with any new intervention, we are always hopeful. Early on into our journey however, there were times were we let that hope sway our evaluation of the intervention. As we’ve become more seasoned autism parents we’ve gotten much better at removing emotion from our assessment. There are only so many hours in the day and dollars in the bank so it’s incredibly important to pay close attention to the effectiveness of anything we implement.

You might remember from my last posting that just a short time after beginning Fast ForWord, I was asking my husband if I was crazy or was I already noticing a difference. We agreed, that while the changes were quite subtle, we were both seeing them.  Well, it’s only gotten better since then.

It’s not just about reading comprehension.

Fast ForWord is billed primarily as a reading comprehension program. And Sullivan most certainly needs help in the reading comprehension department. However, with autism, we have a lot of fish to fry and franking reading comprehension doesn’t top the list. Sullivan still struggles significantly with his expressive language and conversational skills due to the way his brain listens and processes. So the fact that Fast ForWord addresses auditory processing, attention and working memory skills and listening comprehension and following directions carried a TON of weight in our decision to implement the program.

What’s changed?

We are just now starting our 5th week of this 4-month program. I’m not 100% certain where Sullivan is in regard to improvement with reading comprehension. But here’s what I do know:

He is displaying subtle, yet HUGE language gains. How can something be subtle and huge at the same time? Well, with autism, all gains, however seemingly nuanced, are huge. We’ve noticed more ease with his language. It sounds more natural, less robotic, more spontaneous, and his sentence structure has become longer and more complex.

He’s also being a stinkpot. He’s getting into stuff he didn’t used to.  He’s acting sneaky. We are seeing glimmers of his sense of humor. He’s doing more and more things that are common with typically developing 9 year old boys. This is a WIN, guys. His sense of independence is flourishing, as is I’m guessing, the executive function of his brain.

He’s been joyfully grabbing his book that is part of his reading homework independently. He is reading his nightly chapter on his own and writing two sentences about the chapter on his own. We still have to help him get started, but the desire to do this work at all, much less independently, is a big gain. The wheels are spinning a bit faster.  For me it’s too early to critically evaluate his progress in reading comprehension, but we can see the ball is moving in the right direction.

What now?

We keep plugging away. The 30 minutes a day has become part of our routine and it’s become no sweat fitting it into our schedule. As we move through the program, it has highlighted the scatteredness of Sulli’s skills. One of the games he mastered 100% in just two weeks. Another one we are sitting at just 17% completion as we move through week 5. And the rest sit somewhere in between. The games that are easy for him, he loves. The ones that make his brain work harder, he’s not as much of a fan. So as we continue to work, especially with the games that are more challenging for him, I’m eager to see how the brain is making his neuro-pathways more efficient.

But given what we are seeing, just 5 weeks into the program, I’m eager each day for Sulli to do his Fast ForWord work. 5 weeks into a 4-month program and we’ve already seen some pretty significant gains.  With any intervention, progress in a short amount of time is a win.  But when the program only takes 30 minutes a day and can be done from home, that’s a WIN WIN.

Till next time ~ Mama Woz