What is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is the brain’s ability to change both its physical structure and its functional organization in response to training and experience – to grow dendrites (the branch like structures on the cell body of the neuron which receive signals coming from other neurons), to form new neural connections, to strengthen existing connections, to grow new neurons, to increase neurotransmitters – all of which fundamentally change the brain’s capacity to learn and to function and this can happen throughout the lifespan.
How does the Arrowsmith Program utilize the principles of neuroplasticity?
The premise of the Arrowsmith Program is that the weaker cognitive areas that contribute to learning difficulties can be strengthened through cognitive exercises. Once the source of the learning difficulty is addressed, the learner’s ability to perform complex tasks will also be improved.
What makes the Arrowsmith Program unique from other programs for students with learning difficulties?
The philosophy that the learner is not fixed, but can be modified through the application of the principles of neuroplasticity, sets the Arrowsmith Program apart from the majority of other programs for students with learning difficulties. The Arrowsmith Program is capacity based in that its goal is to change the student’s capacity to learn, rather than compensatory which tries to work around the problem. Strengthening these weaker capacities, it is hypothesized, increases the overall functioning of these specific cognitive areas, allowing them to be used more effectively for learning.
It is essential to first identify each student’s cognitive profile – his or her specific cognitive strengths and weaknesses. This is accomplished through a detailed assessment process and this determines which cognitive exercises each student needs to work on.
The program currently addresses a broad range of cognitive areas from auditory and visual memory, to thinking, problem solving, and reasoning, to numeracy, comprehension, to non-verbal interpretation of situations, to the underlying functions related to literacy and writing, to navigating the physical world.
Traditional approaches for the most part are ‘workarounds’ or compensatory – for example, if you have a poor memory then make an audio recording of your lectures so you can go over the material that you were unable to retain in memory, or if you cannot write, use voice recognition software –and do not address the root cause of the problem but try to find ways around the problem. The difficulty with this approach is that no compensation or work around is fully effective and it takes huge amounts of energy to implement these techniques.
What is the goal of the Arrowsmith Program?
The goal of the Arrowsmith Program is to strengthen the learner’s ability to learn through a range of specific programs so that learning can proceed easily and efficiently.
The Arrowsmith Program does not teach content, but changes the capacity of the learner to learn so that the learner can understand, absorb, retain, process and use the content. This lays the foundation for learning by strengthening critical cognitive functions such as reasoning, thinking, planning, problem solving, visual memory for symbol patterns, auditory memory for facts and instructions, visual memory for objects such as landmarks and faces, number sense, non-verbal problem solving required for effective social interaction, spatial reasoning necessary for navigating one’s way, and learning motor plans involved in writing and reading. This approach allows the learner to proceed through his or her academic and vocational career with strengthened cognitive functioning and to succeed where before they struggled and often failed.
How do I know if the Arrowsmith Program is right for me or my child?
Initially, it is essential to identify each student’s cognitive profile – his or her specific cognitive strengths and weaknesses. This is accomplished through a detailed assessment process and this determines which cognitive exercises each student needs to work on.
Who is the Arrowsmith Program best suited to?
We encourage you to complete the Arrowsmith Program® Cognitive Profile Questionnaire, which is the first step in determining whether the Arrowsmith Program is suitable to help you or someone you know. Also, feel free to attend one of our Parent Information Sessions at Arrowsmith School Toronto or Professional Information Sessions if you would like to learn more. Our student suitability guidelines also provide detailed information.