Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


Arrowsmith Approach Is To Correct Learning Disabilities

Author: Trina Berlo
Date: Apr 09, 2008

Trina Berlo photo
CEREBRAL WORKOUT Sarah Dollemont, flanked by Jodie Robinson and Timmy Kaster, are students in the Arrowsmith program at Silvercrest Christian School in Wasaga Beach, a program dedicated to correcting learning disabilities.

Silvercrest Christian School is preparing for its third year of Arrowsmith classes, a specialized education program that is said to correct learning disabilities, as opposed to compensating for them.

There are six students currently registered in the program and they agree, although the program is challenging, it works.

On Thursday, the students in Andy Root's Arrowsmith class demonstrated some of the exercises designed to work specific functions of the brain to improve reading and writing skills but also help improve self-esteem.

Nine-year-old Ceilidh McInnis is a first-year Arrowsmith student and last week The Sun found her working on a sub-motor exercise. She is required to do simple math. Starting with a number such as 99, the program requires she add one or two digits quickly hitting the space bar between each calculation. The numbers look as if they are flashing on the screen.

But not all of the exercises resemble traditional lessons. Timmy Kaster, doing an exercise called word, is required to repeat symbols - a triangle, circle and greater-than symbol - over and over again for more than 30 minutes while wearing an eye patch, which strengthens the side of the brain opposite to the eye being used.

Sarah Dollemont is doing an exercise that requires her to listen to a recording.

Emily Robinson, who is identified as having a higher-than-usual number of so-called learning dysfunctions, is demonstrating an exercise called clocks. It involves reading a traditional clock with five hands.

Each hand represents a dimension of time - second, minute, hour but also day and month. The goal is to quickly identify what all the hands represent. Another exercise involves memorizing symbols and choosing them from a computer screen full of ones that look very similar.

Through all the exercises, the brain is learning to translate information that will improve reading and writing skills, although there is not one specific exercise to improve one aspect of learning, explained Root.

The school began an Arrowsmith program in the fall of 2006.

Arrowsmith is a program for people with learning disabilities, focusing on specific areas of the brain where those learning disabilities are located. Students go through intense testing at the beginning of the year in order to figure out what areas of the brain need strengthening. The brain is treated like a muscle.

The goal is to figure out what part of the brain is weak, causing the learning disability, and the exercises are done consistently throughout a period of two to four years, depending on the severity of the learning disability, and the number of areas that need to be worked on.

The Arrowsmith Program is based on the research of Barbara Arrowsmith Young, a Canadian who struggled with her own learning disabilities through school. While at graduate school at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) in Toronto Young's research led her to develop exercises she began doing herself in the 1970s to strengthen her own learning dysfunctions.

The foundation of the Arrowsmith Program is the cognitive exercises Young developed, which are described as a type of physical therapy for the brain.

The results led Young to offer her program through a school in Toronto. Hundreds of students have been through the program since it began in 1978. The program is ideal for students who are in a normal IQ range but struggle with specific problems.

Students' progress is tracked throughout the year and report cards given three times per year.

The Arrowsmith program defines suitable full-time candidates as being of average to above-average intelligence and show signs of five or more learning dysfunctions.

An initial fee of $1,500 is charged for testing and tuition for a year is $13,000.

Silvercrest is holding three upcoming Arrowsmith open houses, one on Thurs., Apr. 17 at 7 p.m. at the school (3267 Mosley St.), Fri., Apr. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Wasaga Beach Public Library and one on Thurs., May 15 at the school.

For more information or to register for the open house call the school at 429-4303. For more information on the Arrowsmith program, visit

Two chances to listen Barbara Arrowsmith Young will appear on Life 100.3 on Mon., Apr. 14 at 8:10 a.m., and The Peak FM Tues., Apr. 15 at 9 a.m.

Reproduced from

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