Community takes interest in unique program for students who have learning disabilities
Guelph Community Christian School is seeing a lot of community interest in its plans to start an Arrowsmith Program at the school, and in its initial days of enrolment the first section of 10 students is almost full.
The idea to start the program, which helps children who have learning disabilities, started when some local families were in touch with the school about the program. The board also saw the success its sister school, Georgetown District Christian School, was having with the program.
Georgetown is in the next district over from Guelph and also a member of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS). They opened an Arrowsmith Program September 2008 and have 20 students enrolled with a waiting list. There are children from Guelph commuting to Georgetown.
“It seems like the timing was right,” says Guelph’s principal Bob Moore.
“When we started to inspect the program it became pretty obvious to me that this program would have been an answer for the students I’ve worked with over the years of teaching that nothing else worked for,” he says.
“Ever since I’ve started working, I’ve been aware that there are children that don’t have the tools, and so one of the things I’ve tried to do as a principal is scan the horizon for the tools, and then I try to incorporate them into our program.”
The program helps students who have learning disabilities get out of the prison of illiteracy, Moore says.
“That’s what part of the Christian mission is, is to get people out of prison.”
The school has a family who recently sold their business and wanted to make a donation towards something that would help the school grow and expand. When Arrowsmith was mentioned they were very excited to contribute.
“The jigsaw puzzle pieces started to fit,” says Moore.
The program is founded on neuroscientific research that students can strengthen weak cognitive capacities through specific exercises. The research includes that areas of the brain work together for intricate mental activities, and the principle of neuroplasticity — that the brain can change and develop new functions and roles.
Barbara Arrowsmith Young started the Arrowsmith Program in 1980. The objective is to develop students’ abilities in the program so that within three or four years they are able to return to a full academic program in a private or public school. About 80 per cent return to their age-appropriate grade level.
The school hosted information sessions about the program Jan. 13 and Jan. 19. For both sessions more chairs had to be put out due to the number of attendees. Over the two sessions, approximately 70 people attended.
There have also been several local media articles about Guelph’s plans to open the Arrowsmith Program. The program was recently featured on CBC Newsworld The Lens and David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things. “We are riding some of that wave also,” says Moore.
Moore says he would like to see schools adopt some of the program’s key modules into the early years for all the children to benefit from.
If the first section of 10 students is full, the school will put additional families on a waiting list and if 10 more are interested a second section may open up. To learn more, call the school at 519-824-8860.
To learn more about the Arrowsmith Program, visit www.arrowsmithschool.org.