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Barbara Arrowsmith Young

About Barbara Arrowsmith Young

The genesis of the Arrowsmith Program of cognitive exercises lies in Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s journey of discovery and innovation to overcome her own severe learning disabilities, a description of which appears in the article, Building a Better Brain or in Chapter 2 of the book, “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Dr. Norman Doidge.

Diagnosed in grade one as having a mental block, which today would have been identified as multiple learning disabilities, she read and wrote everything backwards, had trouble processing concepts in language, continuously got lost and was physically uncoordinated. Barbara eventually learnt to read and write from left to right and mask a number of the symptoms of her learning disabilities through heroic effort, however she continued throughout her educational career to have difficulty with specific aspects of learning.

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young holds both a B.A.Sc. in Child Studies from the University of Guelph, and a Master’s degree in School Psychology from the University of Toronto (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education). After her undergraduate studies were completed Barbara worked as the Head Teacher in the lab preschool at the University of Guelph for two years where she began to observe learning differences in preschool children.

In graduate school she came across two lines of research that intrigued her. Luria’s description of specific brain function lead her to a clearer understanding of her own learning problem and the work of Rosenzweig suggested the possibility of improving brain function through specific stimulation, at least in animals. This lead to the creation of the first exercise designed to improve the learning capacity involved in logical reasoning. The results were positive with gains in verbal reasoning, mathematical reasoning and conceptual understanding. This lead to a further exploration of the nature of specific learning capacities and to creating exercises to strengthen them. This is the ongoing work of Arrowsmith School, which can currently identify 19 cognitive areas and has programs designed to strengthen the functioning of each of these.

As the Director of Arrowsmith School and Arrowsmith Program, she continues to develop programs for students with specific learning difficulties. It is her vision that this program be available to all students struggling with specific learning difficulties so they may know the ease and joy of learning and to realize their dreams.

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