How are the brains of children with autism different?

This posting is for parents interested in "why" and "how" Fast ForWord helps with autism spectrum disorders. Excerpts were taken from the article, New Views into the Science of Educating Children with Autism, by Martha Burns, Ph. D.

How are the Brains of Children with Autism Different?

Emerging technology now points to marked developmental differences in the brain connections of individuals with autism.

  • Jeffrey S. Anderson of the University of Utah and his colleagues have reported on a "cortical underconnectivity theory" of autism, which shows that individuals with autism have trouble connecting sight to sound, sound to meaning, or one thought with another.

  • It appears that the long fiber tracts that process and integrate complex information across vast brain territories are not developing in a typical way.

  • There is also evidence that there is overconnectivity of short fiber tracts that become overused, possibly explaining why individuals with autism show stereotypical but nonpurposeful repetitive behaviors.

How Do These Differences Impact Learning?

  • It now appears that a student with an autism spectrum disorder enters school with some or most of the longer [brain] highways underdeveloped.

  • Their brain detours incoming information to something akin to cul-de-sacs or circular unending off-ramps.

  • Traditional approaches to education simply cannot work because the information cannot be processed adequately.

Understood this way, one student may master an isolated skill like oral reading, but fail to use that skill in an integrated way to learn anything new. Another student, as seen in the "Rain Man" analogy, might be able to calculate rapidly and effortlessly, but be unable to learn algebra or geometry. An individual with autism can become exceptionally proficient in an isolated skill because, without integration, it becomes used exclusively, over and over.

What Can Be Done to Help These Children Make Progress in School?

  • Interventions that drive development of these long interactive fiber tracts hold the greatest promise.

  • Neuroscientists at University of California, San Francisco have been developing and revising game-like exercises specifically designed to drive development of the long left hemisphere fiber tracts essential for language, reading, and mathematics.

  • The suite of 11 programs— the Fast ForWord family of products— systematically targets those specific pathways in ways entertaining to the child.

What are the Exercises Like in Fast ForWord?

Many of the tasks are similar to those used conventionally by speech and language pathologists or reading teachers in the treatment of language, reading and processing disorders. But the Fast ForWord reading intervention programs also include unique speech stimulation exercises acoustically enhanced to conform to the perceptual needs of children with auditory processing problems. In addition, all exercises are performed on a computer, which is very compelling to children on the autism spectrum.

What are the Results?

After Fast ForWord, 83% of the children showed changes in:

  • Receptive and expressive language skills

  • Following directions

  • Understanding humor

  • Using new vocabulary

  • Verbal fluency

  • Response to questions

To learn more about Fast ForWord and how it produces fast, permanent gains, contact us today!


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