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Dyslexia: New Insights

February 28, 2012


What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is an umbrella term that refers to an unexplained difficulty in learning to read and spell despite appropriate learning opportunities. It affects 5-17% of all children. Read on to find out why dyslexia occurs and how it can be overcome.

Where do these difficulties stem from?

Reading experts once believed that reading, spelling and some writing problems resulted from a difficulty in making visual discriminations. However, using brain imaging technology known as fMRIs, neuroscientists have shown that the same areas of the brain involved in oral language and comprehension are in fact involved in reading.

Dr Burns, Associate Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, put this eloquently when she said “…As far as the brain is concerned, reading is language, so if a child’s language abilities can be improved, they’ll find it easier to learn to read…”

So today it is understood that rather than being a primarily visual discrimination task as once thought, reading is principally an auditory task. Children with dyslexia have problems recognising and manipulating the underlying sound structures of words (known as phonological processing) and experience difficulties mapping oral sounds to written language.

How Fast ForWord helps struggling readers

Students are typically taught to read using phonics, the process of learning to associate letters with their sounds. However, if a student’s auditory development is impaired due to chronic ear infections, glue ear or for any other reason when the brain is organising itself for language from 0 – 4 years of age, their brain will have trouble processing sounds properly and therefore developing sound discrimination skills.

For these students, more and more phonics instruction in isolation will act somewhat as a band-aid for their reading, spelling and/or writing problems because they need to develop strong auditory processing skills before building phonics and phonemic awareness skills.

Fast ForWord trains the cognitive skills necessary for reading, spelling and writing, including auditory processing skills (auditory discrimination, speed and fluency) and sequencing while simultaneously developing the foundational reading skills (including phonics, phonemic awareness, reading comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, grammar, syntax and morphology).

The overall goal is to make reading easier and more enjoyable for students so that they actively seek rather than avoid reading activities and feel a sense of success in themselves as a learner.

The scientific evidence

Research continues to show that Fast ForWord is an extremely effective reading development tool.

  • Researchers from prestigious Stanford University conducted research on Dyslexic students before and after participation in the Fast ForWord program. The results of the study were amazing, showing ‘normalisation’ of brain activation patterns and increased activation in the areas of the brain associated with reading, spelling and writing following participation in the Fast ForWord program.
  • In addition, the Nevada Department of Education recently published findings of a large-scale research study conducted between 2006 and 2008 which showed that of the 24 innovative and remedial programs extensively studied, Fast ForWord was the most effective reading intervention tool. The report concludes that the Fast ForWord programs increased student reading achievement by an average of 22.2 percentage points, which was the largest average impact of all programs reviewed in the report.
  • John Gabrieli’s research (2009) discusses the evidence that neuroscience derived technologies such as Fast ForWord, combined with evidence-based teaching practices, could prevent many cases of dyslexia from occurring.


Interested in learning more about the Fast ForWord program? Have a question about learning, neuroscience and/or education? Contact the team of health and education professionals at Sonic Learning.

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