The Arrowsmith Program Methodology >

The Arrowsmith Program is based on the philosophy that it is possible to treat learning disabilities by identifying and strengthening cognitive capacities.

The Arrowsmith Program is a program of intensive and graduated cognitive exercises that are designed to strengthen the underlying weak cognitive capacities that are the source of the learning disabilities. Each student's program is based on a careful assessment to identify the specific learning difficulties.

Anyone who has taken up an activity that involves developing a skill, whether it is playing a musical instrument or learning a sport like tennis or golf, knows the importance of drills and of doing them properly. The same principle applies to the cognitive exercises that make up the Arrowsmith Program.

Arrowsmith School has developed and successfully used this exercise program for over thirty years. The majority of these students have gone on to realize their academic and personal goals and attribute their successes to our methods.

Our Framework for Results

Can the Arrowsmith Program Benefit Your Child or Student?

Students in the Arrowsmith Program are typically of average or above intelligence but are experiencing problems in school which may include difficulties with reading, writing, mathematics, remembering, understanding, dyslexia or A.D.D. Each student is unique in his or her combination of problem areas and our exercise program is individually designed for each student.

We recommend that parents and educators who find that their child or student is being held back by learning disabilities review the Description of Learning Dysfunctions Addressed. An abbreviated version of this list also appears in our Brochure that can be downloaded. This list covers the only problem areas that are currently addressed by the Arrowsmith Program.

Theory Underlying the Arrowsmith Program

The cognitive exercises that are the foundation of the Arrowsmith Program may be thought of as a type of mental work out for the brain. The goal of the Arrowsmith Program is to strengthen the learning capacities of its students.

The basis of this approach is an understanding of the human brain, its functions and more particularly, its dysfunctions. The Arrowsmith Program's identification of learning dysfunctions is based on the work of the neuropsychologist, A. R. Luria, who investigated the function of specific brain areas.

Luria concluded that complex cognitive activities, such as reading, writing and mathematics, require the interaction of several areas of the brain and that each individual brain area has a very specific role to play. If one brain area that is part of a specific learning activity is impaired, the performance of that learning activity will be impaired in a way particular to the contribution of the weaker brain area. This impairment is the source of a specific learning dysfunction.

The philosophy of the Arrowsmith Program is that these affected cognitive areas can be improved through strenuous cognitive exercises, resulting in increased cognitive capacities and strengthened learning abilities. Our work has shown that when the deficient area is improved, the individual's ability to perform complex tasks such as reading or writing also improves.

In work carried on since 1978, the school's research has identified 19 specific learning dysfunctions which can be addressed by the Arrowsmith Program's methods, including such everyday problems as difficulty with talking and thinking simultaneously, retaining oral information or instructions, problem solving and mental arithmetic.

Each student in the Arrowsmith Program has his or her specific schedule of tasks and exercises to be completed during the course of a day in the Arrowsmith Program. The exercises for each student differ depending upon the dysfunctions requiring treatment.

In one instance, a student with an inability to distinguish between similar sounds, such as "hear" and "fear" will be taught to listen to speech sounds drawn from other languages until he/she is able to accurately hear and reproduce the sounds. Repeated practice strengthens the cognitive capacity to hear and differentiate English speech sounds. The exercises for each dysfunction are repetitive in order to intensely stimulate specific cognitive areas. These exercises are designed to improve the area of weakness.

Many individuals consciously engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as playing chess or doing crosswords, to maintain mental sharpness. The Arrowsmith Program relies on the same general principles. Underfunctioning areas are treated like weak muscles and are intensely stimulated through cognitive exercises to produce strengthened learning capacities in the specific areas that have been identified as weak.

Each exercise has been designed to target a specific area of learning difficulty and each student's program is tailored for that student's particular needs. These include written, visual, auditory and computer exercises. Each student enroled in the Arrowsmith Program is assessed at the end of each year to evaluate progress and the student's program is modified as needed for the subsequent year.

The goal of the Arrowsmith Program is to help students capitalize on their increased learning capacities and eventually reintegrate them into a full academic program at a public or private school at their appropriate grade level following completion of a three to four-year program of Arrowsmith cognitive exercises.