Arrowsmith Program

What is the Arrowsmith Program?

Arrowsmith Program refers both to the Arrowsmith Program methodology and also to the affiliated organizations that make the Arrowsmith Program available to public and private schools in Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The Arrowsmith Program is founded on neuroscience research and over 30 years of experience demonstrating that it is possible for students to strengthen the weak cognitive capacities underlying their learning dysfunctions through a program of specific cognitive exercises.

The Arrowsmith Program deals with the root causes of the learning disability rather than managing its symptoms. Students become effective learners without having to compensate for their learning disabilities. Their ability to perform complex tasks is improved when the weak cognitive areas are strengthened.

The program has proven effective for students having difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia.

The Arrowsmith Program has proven successful with students in elementary school through to post-secondary school and with adults. Elementary school students return to a full academic curriculum at their appropriate grade level following the completion of a three or four year program.

The goal is for Arrowsmith students to become effective, confident and self-directed learners for life and to enable them to achieve their goals of academic and career success.

The Typical Student in the Arrowsmith Program…

  1. Is of average or above average intelligence
  2. Has a combination of the learning dysfunctions described on this page.
  3. Does not have severe intellectual, cognitive, emotional or behavioral dis­ orders that would significantly affect his or her ability to participate in the Arrowsmith Program.
  4. Does not have acquired brain injury or an autism spectrum disorder.
  5. Is of elementary, secondary or post-secondary school age.

Learning Dysfunctions:

  1. Motor Symbol Sequencing
  2. Symbol Relations
  3. Memory for Information/Instructions
  4. Predicative Speech
  5. Broca’s Speech Pronunciation
  6. Symbolic Thinking
  7. Symbol Recognition
  8. Lexical Memory
  9. Artifactual Thinking
  10. Supplementary Motor

How Does It Work?
The Arrowsmith Program is delivered in a school setting by trained teachers. The Arrowsmith Program is available only to public and private schools.

The cognitive programs are delivered in three formats:

  1. Computer exercises to strengthen the ability to reason, use logic, and comprehend, as well as exercises for strengthening numeracy skills, reading, and visual memory for symbol patterns and face and landmark recognition
  2. Auditory exercises to improve short and long term auditory memory, phonemic memory, oral and written output and vocabulary development and to increase the ability to hold and process information (working memory)
  3. Pen and paper exercises that improve the cognitive capacities required for motor skills related to the mechanical aspect of writing, skills required for written communication, organization and planning, executive function, and skills required for non-verbal communication

Who Is the Founder?
Barbara Arrowsmith Young3_300pxwThe 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 every­ thing 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.


  1. Interpreting the preliminary outcomes of the arrowsmith Programme: a neuroimaging and behavioural study // Ronan Denyer – Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of British Columbia


For more information on the Arrowsmith Program click here.

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