Change — The Amazing Theory Behind the Arrowsmith Program
It was the innovative scientific theory that surfaced during the era of the 1970s, the notion that proudly proclaimed that the brain does have the astonishing ability to change, and improve itself, that drove Barbara Arrowsmith Young to investigate a new method for the learning disabled.
As a gifted young woman with impeding auditory processing difficulties herself, Barbara was painfully familiar with the negative learning experience those like her underwent. This novel premise seemed to hold electrifying promise. It was, in fact, to be the basis — the very blueprint — with which she would rely on to develop a thought-out series of cognitive exercises that would ultimately emancipate her of the crippling learning disabilities that she had personally grappled with for so long. But it was also to be something far grander than anyone could have ever imagined: the wondrous draft with which to forge forward with for the benefit of so many others struggling with similar disadvantages…
For three decades, Barbara Arrowsmith Young has been working feverishly to develop and expand on the amazing assumption of a plastic brain, resulting in a special education program far different from others. Today, the ground-breaking Arrowsmith Program relies on no crutch, focusing on a child’s individual weakness, providing a personalized program of cognitive exercises that seeks to fortify and, ultimately, restructure the brain’s inherent powers. What has actually transpired as a direct result is an unprecedented window of learning opportunities, prospects and gratifying accomplishments — a virtual revolution for the learning disabled!
As the Arrowsmith method began to make its pioneering debut in Toronto, Canada, through the publicly funded Toronto Catholic District School Board, there were those keenly watching, observing, studying, and finally, remarking.
Lauded in the New York Times bestseller, The Brain that Changes Itself by renowned author Norman Dodge, as being the leading expert in neuroplastic work, the Arrowsmith Program’s stature has since been further heightened through the glowing review of the book by the esteemed Scientific American Mind.
A 2007 Toronto Catholic District School Board’s report depicting the extraordinary progress made by students who underwent three to four years of the program’s course reinforced the accolades. In regard to basic tasks, such as word recognition, arithmetic, reading comprehension and reading speed the study found that learning rates actually increased by an astonishing one and one half to triple the amount evident prior to the program’s inception. What underscored the fabulous triumph of the Arrowsmith method was that the majority of students did not need further resource support after completing the curriculum!
Further attracting the attention of educators within domestic borders, as well as within the broader international community, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning arranged to visit the Arrowsmith School in Toronto to learn about its techniques. Since then, Arrowsmith representatives have presented at the 19th Annual Learning Disabilities Worldwide Congress, as well as at the 14th Annual Texas Charter Schools Congress and our own Torah Umesorah Convention. As if on the waves of a surging tide, the Universal Academy in Texas has become the first publicly funded school in the United States to offer the enticing program this year and even schools in far-off Australia have expressed piqued interest.
Arrowsmith and the Yeshiva World
Sensational and spectacular as all the Arrowsmith celebration has become the program’s amalgamation with the Yeshiva World has made Jewish parents ever-so more enthusiastic.
Well-known names in the Jewish school systems, such as Toras Emes Academy of Miami, The Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, and Yeshiva Degel HaTorah of Spring Valley, as well as the Brooklyn-based Bais Yaakov of Boro Park and Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel (Chofetz Chaim) — where parents were actually reimbursed for their expenditures — have become the forerunners of a method that has literally began to take
the frum academic spectrum by storm.
Following suit, Eitz Chaim Schools of Toronto, Yeshiva B’nei Zion (Bobov) of Toronto, Beis Chaya Mushka of Brooklyn and Yeshiva Tireres Torah in Lakewood have satisfactorily implemented Arrowsmith within their individual schools this very year.
Boldly remaining from report to report is the big question: Whom among the yeshiva school system will be next to benefit from the Arrowsmith Program?
Change: Arrowsmith Kids Speak
“I have seen improvement in my reading, writing, Math, English, Gemara, friendships, understanding and remembering where I put my stuff. My reading has improved so much! At first I would never even touch a book, now I can’t stop reading and “have to finish this chapter!” Then I read three more chapters after that! My writing, as you can see, has also gone a long way. The only problem I have is my best writing is written with pencil. I find it much smoother than these pens. I’ll do some pencil writing on the back for an example…I understand Gemara so much better now. Before I had to learn with the tutor every night and now I understand what the Rebbe is saying…”
“I have seen improvement in my memory area because I am able to memorize what my parents say and understand what they’re telling me. I also can remember my lines a lot better in my play, even though I sort of forgot a couple parts of sentences in one part. I don’t think I would be able to memorize the lines before…”
“My family has noticed some changes. Even my piano teacher or neighbors can tell that I have changed. Like now I am more friendly and I’m a lot more confident with myself. I can hold a conversation and listen better. When I am learning Chumash, I don’t get lost because I follow the words. Also my mom has noticed that I am very organized because when I come home from school I get a quick snack and then I go do my homework. I know where I keep all my stuff. All my pens, and pencils are in my pencil case. Either in my homework binder pencil case or at home in my other pencil case. Now I just have to make sure that my room isn’t so messy. I wonder if there is an exercise that will help me make my room more cleaner…Now I can memorize songs, people’s names, and I can remember other words. If I’m listening to a really good song and if I heard the name I can write it down really fast or remember the name. Once I heard a word and then I can remember it for a while…When I’m doing piano I learn a scale and my teacher was like: “Wow how do you do that?” I just tell her I’m not sure because I could never do that before. Now my piano teacher is really impressed and I’m not so shy anymore. Before I didn’t really speak that much because I was so nervous, but now I talk a lot and it is impossible to make me stop. So I have seen tons of improvements so I think this program is actually helping me now!!…”
“I think that I have improved in many things from the time that I started this program. The most impressive thing is my ability to visualize a word in my head in about five seconds. I don’t need to study for spelling tests or Hebrew tests as much anymore. I don’t really lose things as much. My teachers have most likely noticed. The most important improvement is my reading accuracy and reading speed in English and Hebrew. I am getting much more accurate and neat with my hand writing and printing. I have noticed that I have become friendlier and not so shy when I meet someone new…”
’BrainSchool’ — A Fitting Title
The recently published book, Brain School, “Stories of Children with Learning Disabilities and Attention Disorders who Changed their Lives by Improving their Congnitive Functioning” by Howard Eaton, Ed., M., has captured the spirit of and tremendous impact the Arrowsmith Program has made on students.
Painting a vibrant portrait of learning success in terms of improved cognitive functioning on standardized tests, the book highlights true-life examples of students in Vancouver, Canada, who, upon conclusion of the syllabus, were able to demonstrate significant academic prowess while integrating into life’s activities more effectively and without the need for resource support.
Of all the stunning adjectives one might pin to the Arrowsmith Program, this book’s title, Brain School, seems to be an appropriate one. Brilliant monarch to all physical properties of the human body, the brain is the focus of Arrowsmith’s methodology, molding it into the accommodating receptacle of knowledge that is indeed within its grasp, making it into the great catalyst to positively transform a child’s self-esteem, character development, interaction with society at large and a burgeoning future of wonderfully rewarding and incomparably gratifying self- achievement.