Audiblox is our previous learning program, and has been upgraded to Edublox Online Tutor. This article appeared in the Spring 2006 edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine in the US. By Christine Field:
Can playing with colorful blocks help your child’s learning difficulties?
Yes, according to the people at Audiblox, an intriguing system of cognitive exercises to develop foundational learning skills. Students work on patterning with blocks, which helps develop a myriad of foundational skills, such as concentration, perception, visual and auditory discrimination, and memory. Other techniques, such as paper crumpling and beanbag tossing, round out this interesting program.
Our guest is Barb Little, United States and Canadian representative for Audiblox.
TOS: Tell us how Audiblox was invented.
Barb: The Audiblox program was actually developed as a reading readiness program. Dr. Jan Strydom of South Africa designed a series of cognitive training exercises to help his preschool children prepare for school. Later when working with kids with learning disabilities, he discovered that these same exercises were excellent in helping students overcome their difficulties.
TOS: What kinds of difficulties are addressed with this technique?
Barb: The program is especially beneficial for kids with learning difficulties, especially dyslexia, attention deficit disorders, and auditory, visual, or central processing problems. Parents of students with other disabilities may also want to check into the program to see if it might benefit their student as well. Although we can’t be sure of how much the program will help children with certain problems, we have parents of kids with autism and related problems. We have many parents who are using the program for those kinds of disorders.
TOS: Can the program be used with “normal” kids? Why would you?
Barb: Absolutely, you can use the program with “normal” kids. Because the program was developed as a reading readiness program, the exercises aim to ensure that all the skills necessary for academic success are in place. If a child is weak in just one skill, it can make learning more difficult for that child. By using a cognitive training program for one to two years, we can ensure that all the skills necessary for academic success are in place.
Personally, I use the program with all my children. Every child is created differently. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Each person has areas of strength. For example, some people are very strong kinesthetically but very weak verbally or auditorily. If one modality is much stronger than another, this can make it very difficult for a student to learn in a traditional fashion. The student who is good kinesthetically might be a great athlete, but perhaps he has a hard time expressing himself. If his auditory sense is left undeveloped he will always struggle with his oral and written communication. It is my observation that the person who is most successful in life is the person who is fairly well balanced in his sensory modalities.
So to ensure our children’s abilities to learn, we need to strengthen their weaknesses. To do this, I use Audiblox. It strengthens the child’s weak modalities while ensuring that the child has all the necessary skills in place to make learning easy for him.
TOS: What ages of learner can benefit from Audiblox?
Barb: Students can start as young as 3 years of age. There is no maximum age.
TOS: Is Audiblox backed by research?
Barb: There has been some research in South Africa in the clinic regarding the effects of the reading exercise on fixations and regressions in reading. There is also a school in the United Kingdom that has kept good records on the progress of students using Audiblox. Other than that there is really very little quality research that has been done on the effects of the program. We are hoping that we will be able to do some testing here in the US soon.
TOS: Can the program be used in a group setting?
Barb: Yes and no. The individual program that is available to the general public is not readily adaptable for a group. However, we also have the Schoolblox program that is designed for groups and can be used with children up through the third grade. Although designed for the classroom, it would also be an excellent resource for a homeschool group or co-op.
TOS: How much time does it take to do and how often should it be done?
Barb: As a remedial program it is recommended that the parent use the program for one hour per day five days per week. The program is flexible, however. If you put in more time with your student you will see faster results. If you put in less time, the results will be slower in coming.
When used as a reading readiness program or as an “insurance program” for older students, you can use the program for a half hour per day four to five days per week. (For the youngest students, the 3- and 4-year-olds, you can even start with only 10 minutes per day three days per week.)
Basically, the results are commensurate with the amount of time spent on the program. Generally it takes about 250 hours on Audiblox to remediate an elementary student who is two years behind. For most students it will take 50 weeks of one hour per day five days per week to achieve the 250 hours. If the program is only done about 30 minutes per day, it could take two years on the program. However, if the student can manage to do more than one hour per day at least initially, the progress will be faster.
TOS: How long does it take to see results?
Barb: Usually after about ten hours on the program the parent will see some little thing and they will wonder if it is because of Audiblox. This improvement will often not even be academic in nature, but perhaps the parent will notice that the child is able to do his chores better or perhaps the child seems to be able to listen to instructions better. But usually there is some little thing that the parent notices early in the program. Then after 30 hours on the program we say that all parents should be able to see noticeable improvement in at least one area of schooling. If the parent doesn’t see that progress then we want to know about it. Give us a call or send us an email and we will see if we can find out if there is a mistake being made in the execution of the program or perhaps we need to change the program slightly to help the child more.
TOS: Is it difficult for the parent to learn?
Barb: Absolutely not. Most of the exercises are as easy as learning how to play a new game with your child. The kit comes with a CD that demonstrates the program, and the Right to Read manual describes each of the exercises in minute detail. If the parent needs clarification on any of the exercises, our consultants are always glad to help by phone or email.
TOS: Describe some of the techniques.
Barb: Many of the exercises are done with colored blocks, which are a nonthreatening medium for most children. In one of the most powerful exercises, the parent or tutor builds a sequence of blocks that the student must memorize and then rebuild the formation from memory. If the student is able to replicate the grouping, then the parent adds more blocks to the original pattern to make an even longer sequence. The student must once again memorize and rebuild the longer formation. This exercise builds some of the most essential skills necessary for academic success. Obviously, it builds sequencing skills and memorization skills. In addition to that, it reinforces the concepts of left to right, patterning, base ten, and other skills. This exercise is so powerful that many students say that they can feel the effects on their brain. One child described it by saying it felt like her brain was being put in order.
In another interesting exercise, the parent or tutor reads a pattern of blocks to the student while the student closes his eyes and listens attentively. The tutor may read, “yellow, blue, white, red, green on blue.” Building from memory, the student sets yellow, blue, white and red blocks in a row and then places a green block on top of the blue one. This exercise builds some of the same skills as the preceding one, but this time a spatial element is added. Spatial exercises are also developed by having the student place the blocks in a specific spot in relation to a box. Spatial relations are essential for a student to know the difference between b and d, p and q, or 2 and 5.
These are just a few of the many exercises that the program uses to teach the basic cognitive skills necessary for learning. Each exercise is done for one to seventeen minutes, so the program moves quickly and the child is not likely to be bored. Sedentary exercises are interspersed with active exercises as well.
It is essential that the parent follow the program exactly as written. Each exercise promotes a myriad of skills. If one exercise is omitted because the parent thinks that the student does not need it, she might be overlooking the fact that the exercise teaches other skills that the child does need.
TOS: Does every learner do the same program?
Barb: About 85 percent of the students need to follow the basic program called the Dyslexia Program in the Right to Read book. Another 10 percent will benefit from using one of the specialized programs that are detailed in the Supplemental Manual. Then there is a very small minority that will need a custom-designed program in order to make rapid progress. For this service we charge a monthly fee for as long as the student needs the extra help.
TOS: Ms. Little, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm with us this month. Having met you and your lovely daughter, heard your personal testimony, and seen a demonstration live, I am convinced that these little blocks hold positive promise for our kids!