Change your brain

In Grade 1 at school in Toronto in the 1950’s, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was put in The Turtles reading group and only because calling them The Tortoises didn’t seem nice. Barbara had severe learning difficulties.

In fact the list of things that Barbara could not do was very long – no spatial awareness for starters:

I could not judge where my body was relative to other objects, in particular moving objects coming towards me. You can imagine how badly my school mates did not want me on their sports teams.

She also had serious kinaesthetic problems (she was dreadfully clumsy) and her conceptual learning (reading and counting) was severely impaired. She couldn’t tell the time, tie her own shoelaces or read a map. Learning to drive (eventually) sent shock waves through her Toronto community.

And look at her now. She is beautifully spoken, has written a book on her method of improving the neuro-plasticity of the brain, has started her own school and now has 35 branches of them. She is successful in getting her programme accepted into American and Canadian State Schools where there are specially equipped rooms called Arrowsmith Rooms with teachers whom she has personally trained in her methodology. The woman who changed her brain is her first book on her experiences and her methodology, it tells stories from 30 years of working with people who have followed her programme.

What did she have that enabled this epic turnabout to take place? A verbatim memory, a photographic visual memory and capital M Motivation . With these tools, she developed her own series of mental exercises to improve her brain. She is living proof that it works.

Question time at this session was fascinating. The auditorium was packed with concerned parents, medical personnel and actual sufferers of  a variety of cognitive ailments. There was still a forrest of hands waving for the mike when the session ended. One of the last questions she took asked if our schooling paid enough attention to students with learning problems. Her chilling answer was:

Education neglects the brain

The queue at her book signing was one of the longest at this Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

Read her book – someone you know could benefit. It may even be you.

4 thoughts on “Change your brain

  1. Marion 14 May 2012 / 2:14 pm

    Sounds like a really fascinating session Roberta. I must read the book. As an aside – school reading group names have a life of their own. One of my daughters was in a class where there were Vultures and Fantails amongst others. Potential for playground carnage?

    • robertafsmith 15 May 2012 / 2:46 pm

      That is so funny! Imagine the long term psychological effects of being a fantail when you really wanted to be a vulture. There is a thesis in there somewhere!

  2. littlepixik 14 May 2012 / 5:31 pm

    Sounds extremely interesting!
    My school tale of woe is being put into Reading Recovery at the age of 12 because teachers equated the ability to spell (or not) to reading level. As a 5y/o I had skipped reading groups because I could read better than that already, but I couldn’t spell to save myself – still can’t! 🙂

    • robertafsmith 15 May 2012 / 2:50 pm

      Apparently Barbara couldn’t read or spell or attach words to the right symbol/concept.She only touched on the methods she uses, but the fact that she developed them herself is extraordinary. Definitely a book to have a look at.

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