About Us > Introduction

Welcome to the website for Arrowsmith School Toronto

Arrowsmith School is a privately owned co-educational and non-denominational day school that is dedicated to helping students with learning disabilities. 

The Arrowsmith Program of cognitive exercises was first offered to students with learning disabilities in 1978 and Arrowsmith School was established in 1980. Arrowsmith School has operated continuously in Toronto since then and now occupies the two buildings which it owns on St. Clair Avenue West in mid-town Toronto.

Students who come to Arrowsmith School have been struggling in school - some are just starting their schooling but their experience has already shown a pattern of learning problems. Others have been finding school a challenge for years.

Our students all have the fundamental intelligence to manage schoolwork but have been held back by their learning disabilities. The cognitive exercise program at Arrowsmith School is designed to strengthen the learning capacities that underlie the learning difficulties that our students have been experiencing in school.

The links at the right side of this page contain information about the areas of learning difficulty, including a description of the Learning Dysfunctions Addressed by this program and a description our Methodology.

Each new student is fully assessed at Arrowsmith School so that we may identify his or her areas of strength and weakness and design a program of cognitive exercises specifically for that student’s particular learning profile.

Information about the assessment process may be found on the Assessment page of our web site.

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 identifies, intervenes and strengthens the weak cognitive capacities that affect learning.  Students are able to capitalize on their increased learning capacities and after a three or four year program can function without special education assistance or program accommodations. Upon completion of the program some students may require one to two years to gain experience using their newly strengthened cognitive capacities and some students may need tutoring initially to bring academic skills to grade level given the limited amount of time within the program to address academic skill deficits.

If a student is unable to complete the three to four year program, they achieve benefit for every year they are in the program. The Arrowsmith Program is suitable for students across the broad spectrum of mild to severe learning problems.

Our 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. For an overview of the more common problems addressed please read our Chart of Learning Outcomes.

The Arrowsmith Program is founded on two lines of research, one of which established that different areas of the brain working together are responsible for complex mental activities, such as reading or writing, and that a weakness in one area can affect a number of different learning processes.

The other line of research investigated the principle of neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to physically change in response to stimulus and activity, to develop new neuronal/synaptic interconnections and thereby develop and adapt new functions and roles believed to be the physical mechanism of learning. Neuroplasticity refers to structural and functional changes in the brain that are brought about by training and experience.

Research in neuroscience is leading to new insights into the ways in which the brain changes in response to experience and points to the conclusion that the brain is not static but rather is dynamically changing and undergoes such changes throughout one's entire life.

Students with learning disabilities have traditionally been treated with programs designed to compensate for their difficulties - students who have difficulty with handwriting, for example, would be taught to use a keyboard or accommodated with more time to write exams.

The goal of the Arrowsmith Program, by contrast, is to help students strengthen the weak cognitive capacities underlying their learning dysfunctions. The Arrowsmith Program deals with the root causes of the learning disability rather than managing its symptoms.

The Arrowsmith Program is capacity based in that it changes the capacity of the individual to learn, rather than compensatory which tries to work around the problem. Strengthening these weaker capacities increases the overall functioning of these specific cognitive areas allowing them to be used effectively for learning.

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

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

You may read more about the development of the Arrowsmith methodology in the book “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain,” by Barbara Arrowsmith Young.

A number of television programs and interviews have been devoted to the work of Arrowsmith Program. A compilation of these programs describing the methodology of the program is available on our Videos link.

The Arrowsmith Program identifies areas of learning strength and weakness through careful assessment and then designs a program of individualized exercises for each student to target their precise areas of weakness.

You may read more about the learning dysfunctions that this program addresses and their symptoms by visiting the Description of Learning Dysfunctions Addressed on our web site and learn more about our methodology in the Methodology section.

In 1990, President George H. Bush, observing that "a new era of discovery is dawning in brain research" proclaimed the decade beginning January 1, 1990 as the Decade of the Brain. This observation sparked a new level of public interest in cognitive functions that until then had been a subject largely restricted to academics and researchers.

The Scientific American now has a quarterly publication called Scientific American Mind focusing on the workings of the mind and brain and articles on cognitive functioning regularly appear in popular magazines.

Reflecting this growth in public awareness, the Arrowsmith Program is now also attracting academic interest and you may read the Outcome Evaluation of the Arrowsmith Program by Dr. William J. Lancee that followed 79 students at Arrowsmith School over a three year period as well as an earlier Report on a Study of the Arrowsmith Program for Learning Disabilities also by Dr. Lancee. Additional research on the outcomes of the Arrowsmith Program are found on our Research page.

The most recent study referred to above concluded:

“The study, combined with previous research of the program, strongly supports the effectiveness of the Arrowsmith Program for a wide spectrum of learning problems. These results provide hope for parents and teachers, and open up opportunities for children struggling with learning difficulties.”

Thank-you for visiting our web site and we hope that you find it informative and helpful.