THE ARROWSMITH PROGRAM
The Arrowsmith Program took a new surfacing theory about the human brain’s ability to change and actually strengthen itself, built upon it to create a series of cognitive exercises focusing on the individual with learning challenges, and provided a truly successful program that sees those once entrapped by their learning disorders master the education system and their future. Upon completion of the program, students no longer rely on support systems or accommodations. They can fully utilize the potential of their G-d-given brain. It has produced a remarkable proactive change in a once-stagnant educational experience, a virtual transformation and revolution for the learning disabled.
It was a 2007 Toronto Catholic District School Board’s report personifying the progress of students enrolled in a publicly funded Arrowsmith course that set the stage for other schools to follow suit. Word recognition, arithmetic, reading comprehension and reading speed rates by these students increased by an astounding one-and-one-half to triple the amount evident prior to the program’s inception. And amazingly, the majority of participants did not need any further resource support after completing the program.
Lauded in the New York Times bestseller, “The Brain that Changes Itself,” by eminent author Norman Dodge, as the leading authority in learning disabilities and neuroplastic work, the Arrowsmith program’s awareness has grown.
To further the credits, the recently published book by noted author Howard Eaton, Ed., “Brain School – Stories of Children with Learning Disabilities and Attention Disorders who Changed Their Lives by Improving Their Cognitive Functioning,” has captured the essence of the tremendous impact Arrowsmith has had on students. Painting a vibrant portrait of learning success in terms of improved cognitive functioning, the book highlights true-life examples of students in Vancouver, Canada, that demonstrated significant academic prowess while more effectively integrating into life’s activities upon completion of the Arrowsmith exercises.
HITTING HOME: A YESHIVA EXPERIENCE
Of course, it didn’t take long for the frum community, known famously for its tenacity to learning at all levels, to begin to incorporate the wonderful world of Arrowsmith within the confines of its boys’ yeshivos and girls’ school. Recognized educational institutes, such as Toras Emes Academy of North Miami Beach, The Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, Yeshiva Degel HaTorah of Spring Valley, Toronto based Eitz Chaim and Bobov Yeshiva, Yeshiva Tiferes Torah in Lakewood, as well as the Brooklyn-based Bais Yaakov of Boro Park, Beis Chaya Mushka and Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel (Chofetz Chaim) – where parents were actually reimbursed for out-of-the-pocket expenses – have become the precursors of a movement that has literally begun to shake up the entire Jewish school system.
“My writing has really improved. I was looking at my journal entries from just the start of the year and my quality, quantity and neatness have gone through the roof in improvements. I can now do triple what I was able to do…”
”My reading has also improved. I can now read a five hundred page book in five hours and actually enjoy it. I hated reading before I came to Arrowsmith, because it was so hard. But now I can really enjoy reading. I went from below grade level to above grade level in my speed and reading. My punctuation, grammar and spelling have really improved. It is easier for me to let out my thoughts when I am writing…”
”Now in math and English and Chumash I don’t have to write down everything the teacher says. I can remember it! It has also helped me when my friends tell me to meet them somewhere, give me their address or phone number. I can also remember instructions from my parents like clean your room (but I pretend I forgot that!), get your lunch, feed the baby…”
”I know that Arrowsmith has really helped me socially. I would sometimes say the wrong thing because I couldn’t tell what would happen if I did and I couldn’t see how the person would react because I couldn’t read their emotions properly. It has also helped me know how to react to certain situations…”
”Arrowsmith has really helped me understand the main thing that people were trying to say or once I finished a book I would understand the main point of it. My spelling has improved too. I was never the best speller, but now I am a decent speller! I am not like my little brother who is like a dictionary. I am like a normal person and can spell extremely well compared to what I used to be able to do…”
”I am extremely proud of all of the progress I have made and I know that I can still do more in the limited time I have…”
BROADER ATTENTION, YET
Not surprisingly, the Arrowsmith Program could not remain confined to any form of continental or international borders. With the fanfare came the global inquiries, prompting The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning to arrange a visit to the Arrowsmith School in order to study its techniques. Since then, Arrowsmith representatives have been invited to speak at the 19th Annual Learning Disabilities Congress, as well as the 14th Annual Texas Charter School Congress. As if on the waves of a surging and compelling tide, the Universal Academy in Texas has become the first publicly funded school in the United States to offer the program this very year and even far-off schools in remote Australia have expressed piqued interest.
THE GIRL IN THE BACK OF THE CLASSROOM
Remember the girl in the back of the classroom? Remarkable as it seems, thanks to the Arrowsmith Program, you would have to blink long and hard to really begin to recognize her.
“I have seen improvements in math,” she writes. “I have gone from the girl who would sit in the back of the class and after almost every sentence ask my teacher a question because I couldn’t do the work or understand it. Now I can get an 82 on grade 9 math. I can now do the work without having the teacher almost glued to the desk helping me…”
If you are a parent of a child who you thought was doomed to sit in the back of the classroom, either literally or figuratively, urge your principal to participate in Arrowsmith’s upcoming Informative Sessions, followed by a chance to visit and observe an Arrowsmith classroom. If you are a principal, seize the initiative to participate.
For a child with a learning disability, your experience could open up windows of learning opportunity. It could open up windows to the world.