Classes for the Ears: Technology Provides a Critical Link to Literacy

Article excerpt

Nine-year old Alejandro De Anda is a happy, enthusiastic boy. He enjoys nature and finds science fascinating. He plays soccer, baseball, and basketball. He sings and plays the piano and drums. And he talks-a lot.

Just a few years ago, however, Alejandro was a very different little boy. My son, like 8 million other students, had difficulty learning to read. From kindergarten on, his struggle to read turned his world upside down. It was not until the summer before Alejandro started third grade that we finally discovered a solution"Glasses for the Ears."

Watching the Struggle

Alejandro's problems in school began when he did not learn the alphabet and numbers in kindergarten. My husband Jose and I thought we could help by giving our son extra help at home. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom. Ten years earlier I had been a teacher in Mexico. My husband was a school principal. Despite our best efforts, Alejandro still struggled.

I thought he might have a learning disability so I requested an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) from his school. Halfway through first grade, the school told me Alejandro was a gifted child but he needed to mature. They said his reading and writing would come along.

Alejandro's inability to read and write deeply affected his self-esteem. The school psychologist told us that our 6-yearold son felt like he did not belong and that we did not love him very much.

By the time Alejandro was in second grade, I was desperate. He still could not read or write. On the SAT-9, a standardized test in California, he scored below grade level in everything except math. I transferred him to Casita Center, a magnet school for math and science in the Vista Unified School District in north San Diego County. He finished second grade there, however, nothing changed. He continued to lag behind his classmates. He found it hard to concentrate and was distracted. He could not complete homework by himself

We continued to work with Alejandro at home. I tutored him with flash cards. I signed him up for a "Reading Aloud" workshop at the library and checked out books with audio tapes. We read 40 or 50 children's books a week.

Catching Sight of a Solution

During this time, I also attended school. The teaching credential I earned in Mexico did not transfer to California, so I enrolled at National University in Vista to earn a teaching credential and master's degree in crosscultural teaching.

In summer 1998,just before Alejandro began third grade, one of my classmates presented a paper on innovations in reading. She told us about a program called Fast ForWord that was being administered just down the coast at the Encinitas Learning Center in Encinitas, California

Developed by Scientific Learning Corporation, Fast ForWord is a patented CD-ROM- based training program for students with language and reading problems. Fast ForWord is often called "Glasses for the Ears" because of its corrective ability in helping improve how a child understands sounds.

Taking a Closer Look

Based on decades of research in neuroscience and neuropsychology, Fast ForWord is a language-training program that rapidly builds skills necessary for listening, thinking, and reading in children. It moves beyond addressing the symptoms of language and reading problems and directly attacks the root cause.

On average, students with language and reading problems make 1- to 2-year gains after only 4-8 weeks of Fast ForWord training.

After listening to my classmate's presentation, I thought the program sounded like something that could help Alejandro. I visited the Encinitas Learning Center and found out more about Fast ForWord. Shortly thereafter, we transferred Alejandro to Buena Vista Elementary in Carlsbad, where Jose is school principal, so we could all be in the same school district on the same academic calendar. In September 1998, Alejandro began third grade and began attending Fast ForWord sessions after school at the Encinitas Learning Center. …