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School offers unique program for students with learning disabilities

Written on June 18th, 2007

Last fall Silvercrest Christian School began offering a unique program for students with learning disabilities. The program, called the Arrowsmith Program, has been likened to “physiotherapy for the brain.” It consists in large part of repetitive, cognitive exercises designed to strengthen the weak capacities of the brain underlying the learning dysfunctions.

One of the exercises involves tracing words using green tracing paper and red pens, a color combination supposed to stimulate the brain. Another activity requires the students to wear eye patches for about 20 minutes, also to retrain the brain patterns.

Jennifer Robinson, a parent of two daughters with learning disabilities, approached Silvercrest about the possibility of offering the Arrowsmith Program there. She first read about the program and its founder in Reader’s Digest and had been sending her daughters to the Arrowsmith School in Toronto for about a year.

“After a little investigation, we decided this could really work with what we’re doing,” says Nicole Humby, principal at Silvercrest.

Silvercrest was licensed for the Arrowsmith Program last year, the only school in Simcoe County now to offer the program.

“It has really opened a lot of doors for us in the community,” says Humby. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries.”

Robinson says she has definitely seen progress with her daughters over the two years they’ve been in the program.

Both daughters have a language-based learning disability meaning they have trouble with reading, writing, comprehension and spelling.

“Their reading is better,” says Robinson.

She notes that her daughter Emily, 13, had trouble thinking logically in order to write a story that made sense.

“She would write a story that would go on and on. There would be a beginning but no middle, no end. It would just kind of dwindle.

“The Arrowsmith Program has helped with that. She can think more logically, put her thoughts more into place and figure out how a story should end.”

Both girls’ understanding of word-sounds has also improved, she says.

Emily also sometimes has difficulty reading nonverbal cues in a social situation. For instance, she may not always respond appropriately when someone is crying, says Robinson.

The Arrowsmith Program has addressed some of these challenges as well, says Robinson.

Barbara Arrowsmith Young, who had several learning disabilities of her own, started the Arrowsmith Program in 1980. She developed it by testing the methodology on herself.

The objective is to develop students’ abilities in the program so that within three or four years they’re 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.

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