Dr Con Kafataris, father of six, describes the changes he saw in his son George, aged nine, as phenomenal” after George completed the Fast ForWord program.
It was a little bit of a journey to find Fast ForWord for George but after trying a few avenues, including speech pathology, Dr Kafataris came across the program through a book titled, “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Dr Norman Doidge.
“The science seemed plausible”, said Dr Kafataris, so he decided to give it a go.
What were these “phenomenal” improvements? Listen to the podcast to find out.
Or read more below for the complete podcast transcript.
- Learning difficulties
- Language & learning delay
- ASD (autism spectrum disorder)
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Reading Comprehension
- PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified)
- Following instructions
- Fast ForWord Language program
- Fast ForWord Reading Level 2
- Fast ForWord Reading Level 3
- Reading Assistant
- The Brain That Changes Itself
- Aspect (Autism Spectrum Australia)
Previous podcast episodes on SoundCloud
Episode 32 of The Learning Capacity Podcast
“Phenomenal” improvements for son after Fast ForWord, says Father
Colin Klupiec: This is the Learning Capacity podcast. You're with Colin Klupiec, a warm welcome to you. This podcast is bought to you by LearnFast Australia, improving student learning outcomes with neuroscience programs since 1999.
In this episode we hear the story of Dr. Con Kafataris, father of six, with two children currently working through the Fast ForWord programs.
It was a little bit of a journey to find solutions for his children, but after trying a few avenues including speech pathology, Dr. Kafataris came across Fast ForWord through a book titled, "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Dr. Norman Doidge.
The science seemed plausible so he decided he'd give it a go. In his own words, the changes have been "phenomenal" a truly heart-warming story. Dr. Kafataris, welcome to the conversation.
Dr. Kafataris: No worries, Colin. Thanks for having me.
Colin: It's a great pleasure. You have two of your six children, I believe, who have recently done or are still doing the Fast ForWord program, is that right?
And we're starting Eleni, she's six years old, at the beginning of the Fast ForWord Language program, so yeah. She's starting at the beginning where George started. He's been on it for about six months or so.
Colin: What were the presenting issues that made you realise that something was not quite right, that you had to do something, and how did you go about making a decision with that?
Dr. Kafataris: Well, George has had learning support for probably since he started school. We knew from the time he was about three or four that he could learn, but it seemed that he learned differently, his interests were different. He wasn't socially awkward or anything like that. He never had any problems making friends but just language was delayed.
And so we tried the usual that people try, speech therapy - and he goes to a normal school and he was having learning support there, but unfortunately things were just not progressing.
So I started to look around and look at other options, and that's how we came to know about LearnFast.
Colin: So when you say that things weren't progressing, what kind of things were you expecting from speech pathology? Can you explain to me what kind of things were you particularly looking out for
Dr. Kafataris: Well look, I guess I was really just looking. My focus is, and I'm probably a little bit different than some other parents, I'm not big on academics, because as we all know some people who don't do well at school go on to become very successful in other spheres of life whether it's business, or even science. I mean, look at Albert Einstein.
But kids, they need to read and write and they need to be able to do maths all he time and stuff like that, and those sorts of things, especially the reading and the comprehension, just weren't really happening.
So George could read. He could sound the words out, but his comprehension was relatively non-existent and he would read in a very awkward fashion. The sentence would read like there...was...a man...called...Bill. That would be a sentence that George would read.
And I guess I knew that we weren't going to go anywhere with him if that wasn't addressed
Colin: So did that seem a little bit strange to George as well? Or was he perceiving that as, what's the problem? I think I'm reading normally.
Dr. Kafataris: To George, he didn't see that there was a problem. I mean, he's had a diagnosis. We had him assessed by Aspect and he's had a diagnosis of, they've placed him on the spectrum at some point, at some place but they've called him a high functioning ASD.
He doesn't manifest with the features of autism. He doesn't manifest with the features of Aspergers. So the label they gave him was PDD-NOS, which is pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified.
Colin: Right. I guess that must have been a mouthful for George to try and understand.
Dr. Kafataris: Yeah it was, and, you know, we've always been supportive and really helpful, doing the best we could, but he was nine at the time that we started this program and the school was very supportive too. His friends were great.
But I just knew that if we didn't do something, middle school and high school would become a real challenge.
Colin: So with George's experience then, going through the program, did he notice that anything was changing? Has there been any particular emotional behavioural change within himself?
Dr. Kafataris: Oh yeah, well to give you an idea around where he was at, George was never a really problematic child behaviour-wise. Like I said, he doesn't manifest as autistic kids do and I don't believe that's the right label for him but we just left it at that.
But I knew that he had an issue with learning. But he was also very visual, and so what happened was I ended up and, this is just an aside, but my wife and I are Christians and I was speaking to a group of men about pornography. And in my research I ended up reading the book, "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Dr. Norman Doidge. I'm sure you've heard of it.
Colin: Yes, I have.
Dr. Kafataris: When I was reading it there's a chapter in there about Fast ForWord. And I thought, well, this could be something that could help George.
So I just did a search to see if there was anybody doing Fast ForWord in Australia. I mean, the science made sense and Norman Doidge has explored it really well and I just thought this makes sense. So I checked it out and that's how I came across LearnFast.
And the results have been quite phenomenal, to be perfectly frank.
Colin: Well, how would you put a better description on "phenomenal?" Can you give us something like a concrete example of how that's improved?
Dr. Kafataris: What I really liked about the Fast ForWord was he was able to do something that was visual but also stimulating and was teaching him the basics. Even things like relative pronouns and all of that, the basic grammatical stuff, that he never really got.
And it's not really taught that well at school anyway. It's just assumed that kids pick it up. But when children are like George and they don't learn the way every other kid learns. He didn't pick it up.
And so I started to see that his comprehension levels, like the amount of assistance he needed from me, was dropping substantially.
He actually did two modules in the first three months we had, which was quite substantial and Monique, his supervisor, was really excited about the progress he's made.
And as I've shared with Monique, we've actually got about four emails, messages from both his teachers and the learning support teacher at school talking about the progress George has made. His reading has improved. His speaking has dramatically improved.
He was never non-verbal, but George would only speak when he would need to speak to you. And basically, he would grunt a lot of the time to his teachers.
He wouldn't follow instructions so he would be in parts of the playground he wasn't supposed to be. Within the first three months or four months of doing Fast ForWord all that's changed.
He's now speaking clearly, coherently. They do a daily prayer at school, and he volunteered to do it one day. And the teacher wrote back saying that it was clear, it was lucid, it was understandable, and it was just a great joy to see the progress he's made.
Colin: Coming now to Eleni. Is her situation similar or different?
Dr. Kafataris: Her situation is different in that she's further ahead than what George was. She's in kindergarten, she's further ahead than what George was in kindergarten. Much the same diagnosis in that there's a basic delay, but we don't exactly know what it is.
But in between George and Eleni, we have another daughter that's at the top of her class. So, you know, we don't really...you could argue all day as to where that's come from.
So she's now started the first module, the one that's got Sky Gym and Space Commander and all of those exercises.
She is making steady progress. I think she's done one week, or eight days, and she's made about 20-25% progress in some of the modules. So at this point it's too early, I think, to see, because I didn't really see any improvement in George until he'd finished the first three months.
Which is why we decided to do the second three months because the improvements were so substantial. So just to answer your question, early days for Eleni at this point.
Colin: So looking forward into 2016, can you see a similar sort of approach to the progress next year? I mean, is George going to continue doing it in the same amount? And how do you see Eleni moving into 2016
Dr. Kafataris: Yeah, well, George is now doing the Fast ForWord Reading Assistant module. After speaking with Monique, I just decided to have him do that to really consolidate his reading skills and that's working really well.
I think one of the things that's really helpful with their progress is I've been willing to sit there and do the sessions with them each time. I know not every parent does that, but to me I just couldn't see any point if I was going to invest the money.
So I was actually seeing that changes, not just seeing the computer printouts. I was seeing the changes session by session. But with the Reading Assistant, I've now let George do it on his own where I'll come in only intermittently during the session, to give him a bit of independence.
And he's now reading the books himself. He's really interested in dinosaurs. He knows pretty much everything there is to know about dinosaurs. He's reading books that are meant for all ages, really.
You know, where some of the books are teenage standard and he goes through those books and finds out about which dinosaurs he's interested in. And he'll come and tell me, "Did you know that such and such lived in the Cretaceous period and did you know that these two lived together" and it's just been amazing to watch.
Dr. Kafataris: So I plan to have Eleni go through the same process that George did, and hopefully she'll be able to finish the modules next year.
And we did talk about possibly George doing the later modules again. We'll see how he progresses after the reading assessment.
Colin: You've made mention just before about the investment in the program and you sitting next to George saying that well, since you've spent the money you might as well see it happening.
Some of our listeners might be thinking well, this sounds like a really good news story for you, but I'm not so sure it'll work for me. Particularly given the amount of investment that other people might have to put in. What advice would you give to them?
Dr. Kafataris: Well, I guess, it really boils down to priorities, really. I mean, if we're going to talk about investment, there's the financial investment, which everybody knows. We spend more than that on holiday sometimes, and so to me it was like, I might not get another chance to help my son set himself up for his future.
So the financial investment wasn't a major issue. Then you look at time. Its half an hour five times a week. Well, I gave up watching television programs. Not that I watched a lot of TV anyway.
The good thing about it was flexible. We could do it around our time. We could do it in the morning if we wanted to. One time I took George with me, and the iPad app was a really good app, so when I went to get my car serviced George came with me, we sat and while the car was being serviced we did our Fast ForWord session.
Colin: That's a great use of time.
Dr. Kafataris: Yeah, it really boils down to what's your priority? I would say to people, they've got to figure out what their priority is. If they think Fast ForWord will help their child, and I understand that not every child will benefit.
But if you've been advised that Fast ForWord will benefit your child, then I don't think half an hour five times a week is too big an investment. Especially when the long-term payoff could be lifelong.
Colin: Dr. Kafataris, that's a really great story. Thanks so much for your time.
Dr. Kafataris: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot, Colin.
Colin: You've been listening to the Learning Capacity podcast, brought to you by LearnFast Australia. If you'd like to comment on this podcast, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and to find out more about Fast ForWord, or LearnFast, visit learnfasthome.com.au where you can also subscribe to the blog. Until next time, bye for now.