Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Speech and Hearing Science
Mark Hedrick, Lori Swanson
Deficits in auditory temporal processing, or the ability to process the rapid sequence of auditory stimuli within speech, have been linked to reading and language disorders. It has been suggested that a temporal processing deficit interferes with the development of phonological awareness, a prerequisite to early reading skills. This investigation examined the effects of an intense auditory training program, Fast ForWord (FFW; Scientific Learning Corporation, 1998) designed to increase auditory temporal processing on a group of children with poor reading skills. Two primary research questions were posed. Will children increase temporal processing abilities, as measured through backward masking, immediately following FFW and will temporal processing abilities be sustained six months following FFW? Secondly, will children increase reading, phoneme awareness, and language skills immediately following FFW, and will increases continue six months after FFW? Twenty-six children participated in experimental testing and the FFW program. Thresholds for simultaneous masking and three conditions of backward masking were obtained pre and post FFW, and six months following FFW. Behavioral testing included reading (word attack, word identification, and passage comprehension), phoneme awareness, and expressive and receptive language. A group of children who did not receive FFW training were administered the same tests immediately after FFW and six V months after FFW in order to determine if children with FFW training demonstrated greater developments in reading and language skills. Thirteen children in the experimental group had more than a year delay on the word attack and word identification subtests and 13 children had reading measures that ranged within six months of age-equivalency. The two subgroups in the experimental group differed significantly on all tests of reading, phoneme awareness and language measures with the exception of the Nonword Repetition Task. Backward masking thresholds were not significantly different between the two groups. Immediately following FFW, backward masking thresholds for all conditions improved. Even though masking thresholds improved, there were no increases in reading and only a modest increase on phoneme awareness as measured by the Nonword Repetition Task (R= .05). Both groups demonstrated increases in expressive language skills. Further assessment six months after FFW did not reveal a significant increase in 0-ms gap backing masking thresholds. In addition a control group that did not have the auditory training had significantly similar backward masking thresholds. Previous increases in language skills were not sustained at the end of the school year and there were no significant increases in reading skills. All three groups increased in phoneme awareness based on the NWT, however, only the children in the low average reading group significantly improved scores on the Lindamood Auditory Conceptualization test. This study calls into question the efficacy of an intensive auditory training program to improve reading skills. Although, phonological awareness abilities improved over the course of the school year, there were no improvements in reading abilities. The FFW program is designed to target an increase in auditory temporal processing skills, however, this investigation revealed that immediate improvements in backward masking thresholds do not necessarily precipitate increases in reading abilities.
Valentine, Daniel Thomas, "Changes in backward masking thresholds, reading, phoneme awareness, and language skills following an auditory training program. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2003.