Murphys-based Mind Matters expands program

A donation from the Wintercreek Foundation is allowing the Mind Matters clinic based in Murphys to expand use of a game-like software program that helps children improve skills needed for a wide range of purposes from academic work to social interaction.

The Murphys clinic has been using the Fast ForWord program for eight years; its cost, however, had limited its availability to clients. Wintercreek Foundation, a local nonprofit that contributes to a variety of local organizations, recently made it possible to expand the program to students at several area elementary schools.

“We saw a need to broaden our reach and thought if the students cannot come to us, then we will go to them,” said Mind Matters Medical Director Dr. Ryan Thompson of the clinic’s collaboration with Hazel Fischer Elementary School in September and Michelson Elementary School in March this year.

Mind Matters is a non-profit medical clinic serving the needs of those with autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Fast ForWord is designed like a typical video game, complete with vibrant colors, bright graphics and lively sound. The program is calibrated to each participant’s specific needs and helps to retrain the way the brain is mapped, according to software literature.

Product materials say that hand-eye coordination elements of the program combined with its audio components open up neural pathways, fostering improved auditory processing speed, memory and listening comprehension.

Staff at Mind Matters say that they’ve seen the program’s benefits and that improved social skills can be another positive byproduct.

“In addition to the gains in language, it is often reported that children are better able to interact with parents, peers and teachers,” said Tasha Unninayar, community and outreach coordinator at Mind Matters.

The software is geared for struggling students who do not qualify for special education programs. Mind Matters selects potential participants based on results from a comprehensive battery of tests, with priority given to students with the greatest need. Eight children at each school site were accepted into the trial program.

“The students that have had the opportunity to work with the Mind Matters staff have demonstrated tremendous academic growth in a very short time,” said Vallecito Union School District Superintendent Don Ogden. “We hope to continue to work closely with the Mind Matters staff in the future.”

As they continue their partnership with the Vallecito Union School District, the staff members at Mind Matters say the are eager to expand the program to additional county schools, but need the funding to do so.

Cheri Tichenor, lead educational support specialist at Mind Matters, said, “The cost to fund this program in one school is about $14,000; Mind Matters is inviting the community to participate and help us realize this goal.”

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