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General overview

Arrowsmith is a cognitive exercise program for students and adults with specific learning disabilities. 


Barbara Arrowsmith-Young tells her story and how she developed this method for herself in an autobiographical book "The Woman Who Changed Her Brain". In it, she describes her own learning disabilities and the strategies she has developed to overcome them. In view of the progress she has been able to make on herself, she has developed a method and then schools with her program.


Barbara Arrowsmith-Young developed exercises targeting each of the 19 cognitive dysfunctions she had identified. After developing the Arrowsmith program, she opened Toronto's Arrowsmith School in 1980 and began to achieve very good and stable results.

Main objectives of the method
  • Improvement of visual and auditory memory, attention and concentration

  • Improvement of the ability to form concepts for both visual-spatial and linguistic material

  • Improvement of fine motor skills necessary for writing and note-taking

  • Strengthening working memory, information processing speed and cognitive efficiency

  • Improvement of verbal and non-verbal thinking, reasoning and problem solving.

Specificities of the method

The program begins with a detailed assessment of the 19 learning dysfunctions.

The evaluation results in a programme of specialised exercises and computerised programmes with clearly defined and individualised objectives.

The program takes place in a positive, supportive and structured learning environment to develop self-esteem while developing skills, but it is very demanding, requiring a high level of perseverance from students.


The method is not yet available in France, except partially for some exercises offered remotely on the Internet. Outside the English-speaking countries, it is available in Spain, Switzerland and Quebec (see


The majority of students follow the program from grade 4 to grade 7 and, ideally, return to regular classes in grade 8. During these four years, students spend half of the day on Arrowsmith exercises and the rest on their year's curriculum.

Who is this method for ?

The program usually helps students with average or above-average intelligence, but who have a variety of learning disabilities, including problems with reading, writing, mathematics, memorization, comprehension, dyslexia, non-verbal thinking, as well as problems related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, such as difficulty thinking and speaking at the same time; difficulty retaining verbal information or instructions, etc.


This approach is not intended for children with behavioural disorders, head injury or autism spectrum disorders.

What parents say about it

Parents and teachers seem enthusiastic, but scientists criticize too much popularization/simplification of complex neurological principles.

Scientific references

Few scientific references appear on this method.

Any remarks or comments ?

This work is based on a collaborative approach to sharing research and family experience.

If you have any comments, suggestions for modifications or corrections or clarifications to make, please let us know by email at

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