“A Revolutionary Computer Programme…”

dyslexia-fast forword-neuron learning

One family, three children. The education psychologist was astonished by the positive results. As their father says“They’ve more of an interest in reading. Their comprehension is probably where they have most

Dyslexia, Home Programs, Fast ForWord, Reading Assistantexcelled.They no longer need learning support in school.” This article in The Independent shows what is possible.


Get Your Free Report on Dyslexia

In this report you will learn:

  • The Four Information Processing Skills Students Need to Learn Efficiently.
  • Why Good Language is Essential for Reading Well.
  • Why Phonics Matter AND What Other Essential Skills are Needed
  • Four Proven Neuroscience Principles to develop a “Reading Brain”
  • The latest research from universities such as Harvard and Stanford Universities on Poor Reading and Dyslexia.


Hard work commitment and a revolutionary computer programme helped the four Dunne children cope with dyslexia, writes Emma Nolan

It’s hard to believe that Albert Einstein and Leonardo DaVinci could have anything in common with Tom Cruise. Or even with Richard Branson, but they do. It’s the same thing they all have in common with the Dunne family from Kildare — they all have some form of dyslexia.

It’s estimated that dyslexia affects between six and eight per cent of the population, making it quite common. It is defined as a specific learning difficulty which makes it hard for some people to learn, write and spell correctly, despite their intelligence, motivation and education. John and Mary Dunne’s four children, Denis, 12, Kieran, 11, Brian, 9, and Maria, 7,were each assessed with a specific learning difficulty, making school and home life very difficult for all the family.

But a revolutionary computer programme has turned all their lives around. Because of their dyslexia, it was recommended that each Dunne child get 20 minutes’ reading support in school with a learning-support teacher, so they would not fall behind. “The kids read things differently; sometimes the words on the paper are jumbled up. Their brain doesn’t pick up the smaller words, like “the’ “a” and “and’ whereas they can pick up bigger words. Their reading would have been quite slow too and their comprehension wasn’t good at all. They could read a paragraph but then, because they read it at such a slow pace, you could ask them a question about it and they wouldn’t be able to answer it,” says Mary.   Knowing that the 20 minutes’ support a day wasn’t going to give her children all the assistance they required, Mary looked to the Internet for inspiration, and found a ground- breaking American programme for children with learning disabilities called Fast ForWord.

The programme — which involves a combination of at-home work with special software, plus assessment— helps improve short- and long-term memory, which is essential for word recognition. It improves students’ concentration and attention, allowing them to focus on a task. It also strengthens processing skills and improves sequencing.

Lessons are presented as fun games and as the child’s skills get stronger, the exercises get more complicated. Luckily for the Dunnes, John Kerins of Neuron Learning was running the programme from Cork and was able to give them a demonstration. “He said he’d put it on the computer for two weeks to see how we got on — some kids won’t take to it because it’s sometimes hard and very tedious. You have to sit for 50 minutes at a computer and go through a series of games, every day, five days of the week.(Editor’s note; now the time can be  30  minutes / 3 days a week).  We used to actually do it seven days because we might do a Saturday and Sunday and then take a day off during the week when they had something on after school,” said Mary.

Since beginning the programme, the children have gone from strength to strength. “Their attention has improved so much. I used to have to sit down at the kitchen table with them to do the homework. The next thing, I’d look up and one of them would have disappeared. I couldn’t even get up to cook the dinner because they’d be gone and that’d be it. They’d be all night just sitting looking at it,” recalls Mary. John, their dad, adds: “It’d take them an hour to write a paragraph. And they had this thing of’I can’t think. Whereas now, you give them the same essay and they want to write two pages, and there’s no giving out to them. They’ll actually go making up song lyrics. Denis would be good with his hands. he spends a lot of time chopping up timber and making stuff.”

Dyslexia is not a behavioural disorder but it can lead to disruptive behaviour. John says that Denis can sometimes get distracted: “If he heard a tractor passing, be might have got up out of his seat to have a look at it. But they can focus on things now. For example. yesterday Dennis had to make a paper airplane for school and it had to fly. He must have made three or four and he was still at it this morning. trying to get the paper airplanes to fly Whereas before. he would have made one and taken it to school whether it could fly or not: he says.

Before Fast ForWord, the children relied on their memory rather than on understanding and learning. Mary explains: ‘Maria would come home ‘with her English reader and she would be able to read the parents’ side of the page as well as her own because, when the teacher was reading it in school, she was memorising it— so she would have the whole book off. This was the way they’d get by. I noticed it when the boys were that age as well” John, who believes he is also dyslexic, found he did exactly the same in school doing extremely well during the Junior Cert when he could learn off everything in class. However, at Leaving Cert level, when study had to be done alone and on his own initiative, John was lucky to scrape a pass. Fortunately, his children have had some intervention, They don’t rely on memory as much,” John says. “They’ve more of an interest in reading. Their comprehension is probably where they most excelled. They no longer need learning support in school.”

Fast ForWord is a time-consuming programme. Parents and children have to be willing to put in the hours. John says: “It worked here because Mary put time and effort into it. She did it seven days a week. even over the Christmas holidays.” (Editor’s note, the normal protocol now is 30 minutes for 3 days a week). The children speak very enthusiastically about the programme. Deals says: “It helped me with my spelling and reading and I find my homework a lot easier to do” Brian, who has aspirations to be a spaceman, thought “it was kind of fun”

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What is an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Boy With APD, Fast ForWord

In this short (3 minute) video Dr. Martha Burns clearly explains what an Auditory Processing Disorder is. This video is part of a series on auditory processing disorder (APD), click below to get access to all the resources including an APD screening tool.

She Explains

  1. The difference between processing and hearing
  2. The 3 Key Areas that are affected
  3. The impact on language learners


An Auditory Processing Disorder is not a problem with hearing. So we start with a negative definition, the child hears adequately but the brain is not making use of the auditory information effectively.  

EXAMPLE So what happens is if anyone out there who is listening to this has ever learned a foreign language, the first thing that happens to you is you have a trouble “hearing” perceiving some of the sounds and that is what happens with an auditory processing disorder.

A child has trouble perceiving some of the sounds of the language. So a BA may sound like a DA and a DA may sound like GA or the child may be able to hear those differences in a very quiet room but the second it is noisy, the child’s auditory system becomes overwhelmed and they can’t discern what someone is saying very clearly and the way we can tell if the child is an auditory processing disorder when they are young even before we can test adequately for it, is that they tend to say “ha” or “what” a lot. So mum or dad might say “Billy, run upstairs and get  your coat and close the window, looks like it’s going to rain” and the child would go, “ha”.

It’s not that they didn’t hear again, it’s that (1 – processing speed) they couldn’t process it quickly enough or they (2 – working memory) couldn’t hold all the information in the mind or (3- listening accuracy) wasn’t quite clear enough. So it takes them longer to be able to handle information coming in and it’s also harder for them, it’s more difficult.

Now, what turns out, we have learned from this is that in the beginning what may affect in some children who are vulnerable to language problems, it affects the ability to learn the language.

So they are slow to learn to talk or they make speech sound production errors because they are confusing one sound with another sound. But when they go to learn to read in any language that is what we call an alphabetic language, where each of the letters represents sounds. The children have a devil of a time learning which sound goes with which letters.

There is a whole host of new research on that by one researcher whose name is Bates, another researcher whose name is Terry Phelas, another researcher whose name is Nina Crouse, and they are all starting to converge on being able to demonstrate that children with auditory processing disorder, its a  difficultly not with hearing but with handling the sounds of the language then causes all sorts of difficulties learning to read.

Specifically problems with

(a) phonological processing,

specifically problems with (b) auditory working memory, – holding information you hear in your mind

and then also interestingly, the new research showing that children have trouble with

(c) rapid auditory naming, so even naming quickly and easily is difficult and that translates into problem with reading frequency.

Click to video explainer

How Fast ForWord Can Help Your Students Become Better Learners

Fast ForWord Overview – Neuron English

The Fast ForWord family of products provides learners with computer-delivered exercises that build the cognitive skills required to master English language and learn effectively.

Get access to our demos here:

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Neuron Learning Programs address the cognitive challenges routinely faced by students to process English language information as quickly as it is presented. Fast ForWord exercises the parts of the brain that contribute to memory, attention, processing speed and sequencing. Students think faster, remember more and stay on task more easily after completing the programs. The software helps ensure fluency by systematically developing the critical skills of listening accuracy, phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, vocabulary, spelling, grammar and comprehension.   Transcription: Today’s classroom is more academically diverse than ever and even though schools offer a variety of programs and resources, some learners continue to perform below grade level. So how can teachers accelerate learning for every student? It all starts with the brain; with help students can strengthen foundation learning pathways in the brain dramatically increasing their capacity to learn. That’s exactly what Fast ForWord does, quickly transforming students into better learners across all areas of study. Learners who can absorb information faster pay closer attention and remember more of what they are taught. That’s because Fast ForWord develops not only reading and language skills, but also the cognitive skills of memory, attention, processing & sequencing that are key to learning. No other program for K12 learners develops all this skills at the same time. It’s a targeted workout for the brain. Fast ForWord sets each student on a differentiated learning path based on age and assessment results then it keeps on adapting to the learner with every click of the mouse. Graphical reports let teachers’ see how their students are progressing and quickly pinpoints those who need extra help. At the same time district administrators can easily see student gains at each school and district wide. Does Fast ForWord really work? An independent study commissioned by the Nevada department of education evaluated 24 widely used educational programs and rated Fast ForWord as having the highest impact of all. See for yourself why thousands of schools and colleges are using Fast ForWord as a cost effective way to accelerate student learning. Try a demo today…   Send Me Free Access to the Demos

Fast ForWord Overview

Changes in Brain Function

I have been very interested in how modern brain imaging technologies can teach us things about how children learn and how they struggle to learn and so that’s how I’ve been interested for a while. And then I learned in reading the scientific literature about the work of Tallal and Merzenich that underlies Fast ForWord and scientific learning. I was so impressed by their neuron scientific approach that they had taken to developing this program. I thought it would have been natural to see how the program actually alters children’s brains to go through it.

We looked at these children before they did Fast ForWord. They did Fast ForWord and then we looked at their brain again afterwards and tried to see if they were any changes in brain functions.

The two biggest things that we are following;

First, some part of the brain that children are normally engaged to read were not activated to start within the poor readers and those were now activated, so we saw some part of the brain become normalized to show the activity expecting good readers.

The second, we saw which was perhaps less expected was that many other part of the brain, there are not typically engaged in reading were also turned on as a consequence of the training program.

We are terribly excited by the interaction between education and science. Education is such a struggle in this country and so important for the children. And many scientific methods have not yet been unleashed, you know in a way that is useful for education.

And so that is one of the most exciting things about Fast ForWord, it’s that it’s trying to bridge the gap between science and education. Have education inform the science and science inform the education.

Phonics Bulletin - Fast ForWord

Magazine Article on Research Available

Click Here to Get Your Free                Phonics Bulletin Article

John D. E. Gabrieli, Ph.D.
Grover Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology

Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

We seek to understand the organization of memory, thought, and emotion in the human brain. We want to discover how the healthy brain supports human capacities, such as hippocampal support for declarative memory, amygdala support for emotional memory, and prefrontal cortical support for working memory. We also study how experience alters functional brain organization (brain plasticity). We aim to understand principles of brain organization that are consistent across individuals, and those that vary across people due to age, personality, and other dimensions of individuality. Therefore, we examine brain-behavior relations across the life span, from children through the elderly. We are also interested in learning how disadvantageous variations in brain structure and function underlie diseases and disorders, and have studied developmental disorders (dyslexia, ADHD, autism), age-related disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease), and psychiatric disorders (depression, social phobia, schizophrenia). Further, we want to understand how potential behavioral or pharmacologic treatments alter brain function when they are therapeutically effective.

Our primary methods are brain imaging (functional and structural), and the experimental behavioral study of patients with brain injuries. The majority of our studies involve functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), but we also employ other brain measures as needed to address scientific questions, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), MRI structural volumes, and voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

Much of our research occurs in the Martinos Imaging Center at the McGovern Institute, MIT, which is affiliated with the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging . The Martinos centers are a collaboration among the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts General Hospital , and Harvard Medical School . Our affiliations with these outstanding research institutions promote the opportunity for cutting-edge basic cognitive neuroscience research and translation from basic science to clinical application.

Research You Can Rely On

Steve Miller is an education technology executive with more than 20 years of industry experience. As an academic, he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses and has extensive experience in conducting a sponsored research program in neuroscience and cognitive neuropsychology including a large multi-site research initiatives on the neural basis of brain plasticity and learning.

He has authored or co-authored more than 100 publications including numerous research studies, commercial software programs and U.S. Patents. He is a passionate collaborator with broad business experience in technology transfer and translational research.

He co-founded Scientific Learning an education software company based on the neuroscience of learning. The company started as a technology transfer from UCSF Medical Center and Rutgers University. He has extensive experience in contract research (NIH) as well as a co-developer on at least a dozen software titles.

Click Here to Get Your Free Research Summary

The Ability to Learn


Dr. Merzenich is the brain behind Fast ForWord and the author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. For nearly five decades, he has been a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research.

Dr. Merzenich has published more than 150 articles in leading peer-reviewed journals (such as Science and Nature), received numerous awards and prizes (including the Russ Prize, Ipsen Prize, Zülch Prize, Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award and Purkinje Medal), and been granted nearly 100 patents for his work. He and his work have been highlighted in hundreds of books about the brain, learning, rehabilitation, and plasticity.


Mike Merzenich, Norman Doidge, Fast ForWord

The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge interviews Mike Merzenich.

Click Here to Get Your Free Chapter

What if it were possible to reopen critical-period plasticity, so that adults could pick up languages the way children do, just by being exposed to them? Merzenich had already shown that plasticity extends into adulthood, and that with work—by paying close attention—we can rewire our brains. But now he was asking, could the critical period of effortless learning be extended?




Dr. Michael MerzenichMike has been a pioneer and a leader in demonstrating that the brain function and wiring is sensitive to neural activity. His basic work has elucidated mechanisms underlying this plasticity, and his translational work has illuminated the possible ways medicine can intervene to ameliorate brain disorders… his work has revolutionized the way we view the brain’s plasticity and his latest work in mental disorders illustrates his sincere dedication to alleviate human suffering.” – Dr. John Rubenstein, MD, PhD, distinguished professor in Child Psychiatry at UCSF

Dr. Merzenich’s work is also often covered in the popular press, including the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalTimeWired, Forbes,Discover, and Newsweek. He has appeared extensively on television. He is the scientific consultant and provided the brain assessments and brain training exercises for the Discovery Channel show “Hack My Brain” (which aired in Australia as “Redesign My Brain.”) His work has also been featured on four PBS specials: “The Brain Fitness Program,” “Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound,” “The New Science of Learning,” and “Brain Fitness Frontiers.”

Dr. Merzenich earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Portland and his PhD at Johns Hopkins. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison before becoming a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2007, he retired from his long career at UCSF as Francis A. Sooy Professor and Co-Director of the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1999 and the Institute of Medicine in 2008.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invented the cochlear implant, now distributed by market leader Advanced Bionics. In 1996, Dr. Merzenich was the founding CEO of Scientific Learning Corporation (Nasdaq: SCIL), which markets and distributes software that applies principles of brain plasticity to assist children with language learning and reading.

To learn more about Dr. Merzenich’s work, we recommend his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change your Life.

Soft Wired, Brain Plasticity,

“Soft-Wired is one of the most important books on health and aging ever written…




“Soft-Wired is the most authoritative, useful and entertaining book on the subject of brain plasticity. Written by the scientist who launched the field, this book stands above them all.” — Sandra Blakeslee, New York Times science writer

Fast ForWord on the iPad

The benefits of Fast ForWord® on the tablet you love.

Fast ForWord has always been at the forefront of technology, helping millions of children and adults improve their language, reading and cognitive skills through computerized learning. Now it can reach even more – through the iPad®, the tablet that makes content accessible to learners of all ages and abilities.

New for iPad!

  • More engaging, more accessible: Touch-screen technology and bright, animated graphics make it easier to captivate Kindergarten and College learners alike.
  • More portable: Want to use Fast ForWord in the front of the classroom…At home…In the library? Or all three? iPad portability allows you and your learners to use Fast ForWord wherever you want, whenever you want.
  • More functional: with a username and password, students can access their exercises from any device and switch among them (computer to iPad and vice versa.)

How do I access it?

It’s available now! Download on the App Store

Can I get more info?

Complete this form to download a Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant information packet that includes FAQs about Fast ForWord on the iPad®.

Can I see a demo?

Want to see how Fast ForWord works on the iPad®? Request a demo here.

Can I request pricing?

Would you like pricing* for your school, or for your child? Or are you an existing customer who would like to use Fast ForWord with more learners now that it is on the iPad? Request pricing here.
*Fast ForWord pricing is staying the same. All customers with an active license receive complimentary access to Fast ForWord on the iPad.