*We received a free Forbrain Headset and a small fee in exchange for this review of the product. However, the opinions expressed are solely our own.*
Over the many years I have homeschooled my two boys with ADHD, we have used several strategies to help them learn. In the early years, we used formal multi-sensory curriculum that used visual, auditory, AND tactile information to teach math, reading, spelling, and science. And we have layered these different techniques for learning into our less formal lessons as well over the years.
When I heard of the Forbrain headset by Sound for Life, which can maximize the use of auditory information during learning for children with ADHD, I knew it we had to try it!
Below I share exactly how the Forbrain headset works, a variety of ways we have used it so far in our learning, and how you could incorporate it into your homeschool. And, I end with how I would envision incorporating it into speech-language therapy if I were still practicing as a speech-language therapist. I see a ton of potential in this area!
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What is the Forbrain Headset?
Forbrain is a specially designed headset that was created based on 30+ years of auditory stimulation research. The goal of using Forbrain is to help children and adults improve their speech, attention and/or verbal and working memory skills. A variety of research studies have shown significant improvements in various cognitive aspects, including visuospatial construction, attention, memory, language, abstract thinking and total cognitive score in the people who participated.
The technology works by supporting the natural auditory feedback loop. The auditory feedback loop is a cycle that naturally happens while we talk. We say something, we listen to what we have said, and then we correct what we said, if needed. We constantly use these three steps without realizing it as we talk throughout each day.
The Forbrain headset uses an attached microphone and bone conduction technology to feed the wearer’s voice directly back to their inner ear through a dynamic filter. This enhances the natural auditory feedback loop.
Bone conduction of sound is 10x faster than the sound traveling through your outer and middle ears. It also helps filter out background noises that are more easily picked up by the outer and middle ears. People with ADHD are often distracted by background noises so this is a key feature that makes this a good tool for teaching children with ADHD.
Forbrain’s dynamic filter further clarifies and strengthens the sound. Filtering the sound makes it easier for the brain to process, which is especially helpful if children have auditory processing challenges. It also improves attention to what we said and strengthens our ability to correct ourselves, if needed. And, the improved attention also improves our ability to think about and remember what we have said. You can hear the difference the dynamic filter makes by checking out the company’s demo page.
The headset also has two secondary components, which expand the possibilities for its use:
1. An additional microphone can be used by a teacher, therapist or parent during training sessions with kids. It allows the adult’s voice to be fed directly through the dynamic filter and bone conductor improving the child’s attention and processing of what is being said.
2. A headphone jack is included that can be used to listen to online videos, again improving attention to and processing of the sound.
There is a nice case that everything fits into for easy transport and storage.
Wearing the Headset
Forbrain was created to be a safe, non-invasive device that’s easy to use at home. I tried the headset before I gave it my 14-year-old son to try. It is lightweight and easy to wear. He agreed that he did not mind wearing it and he hates wearing hats so I think the vast majority of people would tolerate the headset.
The best way I can describe the experience of using it is it sounds like you are listening to a crystal clear recording of your voice in real time. This took some getting used to as I am not a fan of listening to a recording of my voice! But it soon became second nature.
The company recommends the use of the headset with children three years and over for short periods of time each day. They recommend using it daily for 6-8 weeks and then taking a break for a month and seeing how the child performs without it. We decided to use it for 5-10 minutes at a time in the beginning, so we were selective about the learning activities we used it for.
Using Forbrain in Your Homeschool to Improve Attention
Once we were familiar with the headset, it was time to try it in our homeschool! It was easy to incorporate and did not require extra effort or complicated training. We decided to start by having my son wear it while we reviewed his reading comprehension questions.
Our goal was for him to stay focused and alert on the discussion, which can sometimes be challenging with ADHD. We had a good back and forth discussion about the chapters in the book he read (which doesn’t always happen), and he said he liked wearing the headset.
Another easy way to get started with Forbrain in your homeschool would be to have your child read aloud while wearing the headset. This can be especially helpful if your child is still at the stage of sounding out many words. Even older children who are learning to pronounce more difficult words would benefit from hearing themselves clearly.
Using Forbrain to Improve Memory
We also tried Forbrain in our homeschool during our vocabulary work. We are currently using vocabulary cards for our history studies similar to what I talk about in this vocabulary post. And my guy has been struggling remembering the words.
So I had him put on the headset, pull three of his vocabulary cards out, and read each one to me. Then I took the cards and asked him to explain each vocabulary word to me in his own words. He did much better describing each word than he had in the past. So we have continued to use the headset during our vocabulary work throughout each week.
A video I watched of a young woman who used Forbrain while studying out loud for a test confirmed why this worked for my son. She said as she took the test, she could hear her own voice in her brain saying what she had said during her study session. I plan on using the headset more during memory work in our other subjects. I am especially interested in using it to practice Spanish conjugations.
Other ways you could use it with your own children include memorizing speeches or lines for a play or while learning music. I can also imagine the headset would work well during spelling practice. You could use this spelling visualization technique and also have your child practice spelling the words out loud while wearing the headset.
The one memory task we tried with the headset that did not seem improved by it was a word memory game. You start by picking a category. We chose food for the headset trial. And then you take turns saying a word associated with that category that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Before you add the next food, you have to repeat every food that has been said. My guy seemed to need as many reminders of the words as usual and gave up around the letter S, which is pretty typical for him.
Using Forbrain to Verbally Cue Oneself
Last year, we often practiced verbal cueing during math lessons that had lots of steps. We are using a different math program this year and my guy has not needed to use verbal cueing so far this year. However, I can imagine that wearing the Forbrain headset while verbally cueing oneself through any task, especially multi-step math problems would improve performance.
My Thoughts on Forbrain for Speech Therapy
I have not practiced as a speech-language therapist for several years, but when I started exploring Forbrain, my immediate thought was how it could help children with chronic ear infections develop normal speech and language skills. Since the bone conductor bypasses the middle ear, which is the part impacted by ear infections, the headset would allow children to hear their own speech as it really sounds to those around them. And the adult interacting with the child could wear the additional microphone so that their voice sounds clear to the child, too. This would increase the probability of the child continuing to develop speech production and language skills in a normal developmental sequence.
But the possible benefits for speech-language therapy go beyond that. The production of the /r/ sound is often one kids struggle with and to produce it correctly one really has to be able to hear it. Much of speech remediation of the /r/ sound focuses on having kids listen to different productions of the sound and determining which sound correct. Doing this while wearing the Forbrain headset would likely improve a child’s ability to judge sound production. If therapy were able to be shortened by just a few sessions, the cost of the headset would be offset.
Apraxia is a speech production disorder where children have trouble coordinating their muscles consistently to make sounds as they speak. These children rely on the auditory feedback loop to repair speech errors much more than the average person. Since Forbrain supports the auditory feedback loop as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it would be a great tool to try in speech therapy sessions with children with apraxia, too.
Is the Forbrain Headset Worth It?
The big question when making any purchase for our homeschool is whether the cost of the product is worth it. Are we going to get enough bang for our buck? Since the Forbrain headset costs $299, the benefit needs to be high!
I definitely saw enough improvements with attention and memory with my son that we will continue to incorporate the one we received into our homeschool lessons. However, he has come so far in his learning development that I don’t think I would pay for a headset for him. But here are the instances where I definitely think the cost could be worth it:
1. You have a child who has a really hard time attending to lessons.
2. Your child is learning to read and has difficulty sounding out and pronouncing words well.
3. Your child has a really hard time following directions and remembering information presented verbally to him.
4. You have a child who is in speech-language therapy or needs speech-language therapy for articulation, auditory processing, or the organization of language. In fact, in these cases I would think the headset would actually save many people money in the long run by decreasing the number of speech-language therapy sessions needed.
In general, I think the more significant your child’s attention, memory, and/or auditory processing difficulties are, the more likely you are to get your money’s worth from a Forbrain headset.
Through the end of the year, you can get Forbrain at a 10% discount off their online price of $299. Enter discount code IHN10 to receive the 10% off. (Offer ends December 31, 2023.)