Growing up in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s, Barbara Arrowsmith Young knew firsthand about the heartbreaking challenges of the learning-disabled child: the enormous life tests and the ever-painful barricades to learning. Struggling as a student in university, she discovered the innovative scientific theory surfacing at the time that found that the human brain doeshave the ability to restructure itself. Tenaciously grasping onto it, she worked feverishly to develop a remarkable series of cognitive exercises that actually addressedthe problems underlying her own learning disabilities. Immensely encouraged by her personal success, she persisted in expanding the neuroplastic work over the years, creating programs to address the most common learning disorders, such as auditory processing, attention, dyslexia, fine motor, executive function and non-verbal learning. Todayâ€™s Arrowsmith Program embodies years of research and development, and the evidence is in the success stories of the students.
â€œâ€¦Since I got here (the Arrowsmith Program), I have improved in reading and writing, and people think my writing has improved and I find it easier to make friends. I love writing stories now. It is great. I love it so muchâ€¦â€
Founded in Toronto, Canada, by Arrowsmith Young in the late 1970s, the Arrowsmith Program has several studies documenting success. A follow-up study in 2007 of students who had undergone the Arrowsmith Program in the Toronto Catholic School District demonstrated that rates of learning in regard to word recognition, reading comprehension, reading speed and arithmetic had, in fact, increased by one-and-one-half to triple the rates of learning prior to enrolment in the program.
â€œâ€¦The program is truly remarkable,â€ comments 25-year veteran schoolteacher Sheila Brown Vitullo. â€œIt is giving some traditionally disadvantaged children much brighter futures. They are able to reach their potential and progress alongside their peers in the regular streamâ€¦â€
Since its initial implementation, the Arrowsmith Program has been included in public and private schools across Canada and in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and California in the United States. The success surrounding the Arrowmsith Program has not escaped the yeshiva system either, with familiar names like Eitz Chaim Schools of Toronto, Yeshiva Tiferes Torah (YTT) in Lakewood, The Jewish Education Center in Elizabeth and Yeshiva Degel Hatorah in Spring Valley including the curriculum. At Bais Yaakov of Boro Park and Bais Chaya Mushka in Brooklyn, parents were actually reimbursed for associated expenditures.
â€œâ€¦I have seen changes in math because I am faster at learning it. I have improved in reading and spelling because I can read easier and spell better. I have also improved in reading clocks. I can read Roman numerical clocks. I can also remember things a bit better than beforeâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦I have seen improvements with visualizing. Before Arrowsmith I couldnâ€™t even visualize in my head, but now I can visualize my family. I used to mumble, but now I have noticed that I have stopped. I have also noticed improvements in remembering. Gemara has been much easier for me too. Before, I couldnâ€™t memorize the time-tables, but now I am able to. Also, I think my writing has improved. Now I can understand what I am reading. Before I could not understand what I was reading. My English has really improved. I have noticed that my spelling tests are getting easier. I am interested in chapter books now tooâ€¦â€
â€œThe Woman Who Changed Her Brainâ€ is a book that charts the remarkable journey of the Arrowsmith Programâ€™s founder to apply the principles of neuroplasticity to learning disabilities to ultimately transform the learnerâ€™s capacity to learn and to change the negative experiences of those faced with learning difficulties.