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What is an Arrowsmith Assessment?

The Arrowsmith assessment provides an informative perspective of one’s learning experience.  The purpose of the assessment is to measure the underlying cognitive capacities that are responsible for learning and to create an individualized report which identifies one’s unique and specific combination of strengths and weaknesses. For many, an Arrowsmith report is the first time an individual or family comes to understand the underlying causes of one’s learning disability, inconsistent performance, or social and emotional difficulties. 

The Arrowsmith Program Assessment Difference

Based on foundational neuroscientific research, the Arrowsmith Program recognizes learning as the result of the complex interactions of brain networks. These networks are comprised of distributed regions of the brain and each performs its own unique job, what Arrowsmith calls cognitive functions. Everything we do, from reading to solving a math problem, from navigating a new social situation to remembering our responsibilities in the workplace, requires these cognitive functions to be working together. If one or more of these functions are weak, learning becomes difficult.  

A traditional assessment usually seeks to diagnose a learning disability such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, poor executive function, attention problems or auditory processing disorder. The Arrowsmith assessment goes beyond such labels and determines which discrete cognitive functions are weak and therefore leading to these diagnoses. Each function is measured on a 12-point rating scale, which indicates the degree to which a function is operating, and therefore the degree to which it is capable of contributing to a given learning task. 

Upon completion of the assessment, an individualized report is created. This learning profile summaries the individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses by describing each function, its contribution to the learning process, and its rating. It offers a comprehensive understanding of one’s unique cognitive composition and how it impacts the learning experience.  A post-assessment meeting is arranged and with staff guidance, the individual and the family come to understand the learning profile and how it relates to an individual’s learning experience. The learning profile also includes recommendations, including programs offered in Toronto that lead to measurable changes in the individual’s capacity to learn. 

The Arrowsmith Program Assessment is not a traditional psychological or educational assessment and cannot be used to obtain mainstream school accommodations, curriculum modifications or compensations that a conventional assessment might.  Instead, it classifies the nature of one’s strengths and difficulties across a continuum of ability and recommends individualized programming to address the learning difficulty, not compensate for it. 

Assessments at Arrowsmith School 

The Arrowsmith School schedules assessments throughout the calendar year. Typically, in addition to the assessment, individuals also spend time with their peers in the cognitive classroom and during school breaks. 

Janice Jordan, Psychometrist, graduate of the University of Toronto Institute of Child Study and member of the OAMHP (Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals) completes the Assessments at Arrowsmith School. 

The assessment process is approximately 1 to 2 days, depending on the age of the student.

An Arrowsmith assessment is the first step to transforming one’s ability to learn with greater ease and independence.


What others say about the Arrowsmith Assessment

“For the first time, I understand why I do what I do.”  

“It is like an operator’s manual for the brain, each one unique.”  

 “It explains so much of the way our daughter behaves and understands her world.” 

“Suddenly an array of behaviors and challenges had an explanation. The Arrowsmith assessment turned on the lights for us. It also led to a great deal more empathy, understanding and compassion for our son.”


What are the benefits of understanding a student's cognitive profile through an Arrowsmith assessment?

“Teachers and parents find the Arrowsmith cognitive profiles—which offer an explanation of each student’s cognitive, academic, and social differences—easy to understand. For the first time, many of these parents grasp their child’s behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses, and this understanding has led to their increased patience, support, and advocacy for their child. As one  parent said,  “It explains so much why she is the way she is.” Understanding behavior through a cognitive lens leads to compassion, and is the starting point for change.”

Source: ‘The Woman Who Changed Her Brain’ Author, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, 3rd Edition 2019

Learn more about Charlie's family's story

We Check Our Bodies, Why Not Our Brains?

“Why do we not do for our brains what we do for our bodies?” That’s the question that Charlie Bartlett keeps asking.

Charlie’s son Peter went through the Arrowsmith program and was very much helped by it. Critical was the testing that established the young man’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Charlie was with Peter as an Arrowsmith principal in Toronto went over the test results and he was stunned – as was his son – by the accuracy of the test. Suddenly an array of behaviors and challenges had an explanation. “This lady,” the astonished Peter said, “was inside my head.” Charlie was likewise amazed: “The Arrowsmith assessment turned on the lights for us. It also led to a great deal more empathy, understanding and compassion for our son.”

Charlie, who has a background in sales force recruiting, sees a wide variety of uses for cognitive testing. A human resources officer could use the information to slide an employee into work that calls on that individual’s strengths without taxing his or her weaknesses. “Do what you are,” is one of Charlie’s mantras. An individual seeking work could consider a career that deploys his or her cognitive strengths, a rewarding experience for both employee and employer. Armed with a student’s cognitive profile, a teacher could customize a learning program for that student – who would be spared the stigma long attached to learning challenges. “If you would only try harder,” some teachers persist in saying to a pupil struggling in particular subjects. If the teachers had that pupil’s cognitive profile – “a road map to the brain,” as Charlie calls it — they would understand this behavior differently.

Charlie views the cognitive test as an operator’s manual for the brain, each one unique. Should we not all possess such a manual and, if desired, do the cognitive exercises required to address weaknesses or bolster strengths? Many of us get regular medical checkups – to have, say, our blood pressure checked, and if readings depart from the norm we can make changes (alter diet, increase exercise, consider medication). Why not also get a brain checkup?

Source: ‘The Woman Who Changed Her Brain’ Author, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, 3rd Edition 2019

Assessments at Arrowsmith Program Sites  

Arrowsmith Program sites around the world also have trained staff who can administer the Arrowsmith assessment. Find a participating site near you.