A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that autism diagnoses have risen dramatically over the last three years. After reviewing over 300,000 health and special education records of 8-year-olds in 14 states, the CDC concluded that 1 in 88 children today has some form of autism. The previous estimate was 1 in 110, marking a 78 percent increase from 2002 and 2008.
With autism rates climbing at such an alarming rate, more parents are taking it upon themselves to find innovative educational programs that speak to the unique needs of their children with autism. New online software products like BrainPro® Autism provide support and deliver positive changes in the brain, improving both reading and social skills for students with neurological disorders.
Based on 30 years of research into how the brain learns and works, BrainPro Autism incorporates patented technologies to improve communication skills, specifically expressive and receptive language, in children with autism. The product was developed by Oakland-based Scientific Learning Corp. which markets and distributes the Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ family of products, scientifically-proven intervention programs that apply neuroscience principles to build the fundamental cognitive skills required to read and learn.
Used at home, BrainPro Autism is comprised of games from the Fast ForWord series that improve these skills by exercising the brain while keeping the child engaged. The program also includes progress monitoring and support from a professional consultant who communicates weekly with the child’s parents and team of specialists.
Kerri Burton-Danner, Ph.D., is an Atlanta mom who uses BrainPro Autism with her 9-year-old son, Nathan. Diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 6, Nathan was struggling with basic reading skills and comprehension in school. Danner tried several solutions, but with no success. “Helping him move from simple, early-reader books was a real challenge. He avoided reading them at all costs and was falling behind in content subjects like history and science,” she said.
Burton-Danner uses BrainPro Autism with Nathan for 30 minutes, five days a week. The results have been significant, she said, citing Nathan’s recent willingness to read aloud books that are on his age level. “Even when he stumbled on words, he took the time to sound them out and look for context,” said Burton-Danner, “instead of just guessing.”
Nathan now attacks new words without fear, begs to read books, and carries his newfound confidence over into activities like Cub Scouting. A BrainPro Autism consultant provides weekly feedback to Burton-Danner on her son’s progress. “The biggest breakthrough is that my son can now sense when he’s making improvements,” said Burton-Danner. “That’s a huge confidence builder for him.”
Jasette Moore’s 6-year-old son Jalen has also made remarkable progress with BrainPro Autism. Diagnosed when he was just 2 years old, Jalen wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone in his Richmond, Calif., public school. He spoke in a hushed tone of voice and was uninterested and unengaged during class.
Since he started using the software five times a week, 30 minutes per day, Jalen has gained a sense of awareness and responsibility about his schoolwork, begun participating in class, and advanced to the point of being mainstreamed into traditional classes.
“We’re thrilled that he’s progressed to the point he’s no longer a good fit for the autistic classes. That’s great news,” said Moore. “Jalen is going to traditional first grade classes for half of the day and next year he’ll be there on a full-time basis. He also just won an award at school for reading on grade level.”
The reasons these new programs are having such a positive impact are complex, and due in no small part to recent neuroscience research and advances in technology, explained Dr. Martha Burns, a speech-language pathologist and director of Scientific Learning’s Clinical Specialist Market.
“The game-like exercises in BrainPro Autism strategically target the areas of the brain that are essential for language, reading, and mathematics, but in a way that is still entertaining to the child,” said Burns. “What makes this program unique is that the speech stimuli in the exercises have been 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.”