Q and A with Howard Eaton

About Howard Eaton, Ed.M.

Howard Eaton Ed.M. has worked in the fields of Learning Disabilities and Attention Disorders for the past 25 years as a teacher, educational assessor, principal, consultant, university instructor and author. He is the founder and director of three schools that focus on the cognitive remediation of learning disorders and in improving cognitive functioning including the Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre (www.eatonarrowsmithschool.com) in Vancouver and Victoria, and Eaton Cognitive Improvement Centre (www.eatonbrainimprovement.com) in Vancouver. These schools focus on improving cognitive functioning of students through a unique program that is designed to strengthen areas of the brain responsible for reading, writing, mathematics, social perception, reasoning, visual-perceptual, visual-motor, speech, and attention. Eaton also co-founded Magnussen School (www.magnussenschool.com), which focuses on developing an understanding of the emotional and neurodevelopmental profiles of students and matching these profiles with appropriate educational planning and goal setting.

Q&A with Howard Eaton

1. What is your background in the field of Special Education?

I earned a degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia. I then attended Boston University to study Special Education and Learning Disabilities. I earned my regular education and special education teaching certification at Boston University and obtained a Masters Degree in Education. During this time, I trained as an Orton-Gillingham Tutor by Diana Hanbury King at Camp Dunnabeck/Kildonan School in Amenia, New York. After completing my Master’s Degree I started teaching elementary school in Truro, Massachusetts and then moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to teach at a school for children with language-based learning disabilities. I then left teaching to start my own assessment business working with psychologists and other educational assessors testing children and adults for learning disorders. At the same time I was an instructor at the Educational Psychology and Special Education Department at the University of British Columbia. I taught courses on Learning Disabilities to teachers in training for several years. In addition, I co-wrote a self-advocacy and transition curriculum for students with learning disabilities and attention disorders. In January 2005, I started Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.

2. What prompted you to write this book?

I decided to write this book to further improve the academic and social lives of children with learning disabilities and attention disorders. I realized that relatively few parents and educators knew about how the brain can change itself and how this knowledge can be applied to children struggling in school. I want to make parents and teachers aware of what is actually possible for children frustrated with learning. In short, children do not have to spend the rest of their lives coping with the severe cognitive functioning problems that come with learning disabilities and attention disorders.

3. What can readers expect to walk away with?

The reader will understand through Brain School’s 9 stories how significantly the brains of children with learning disabilities and attention disorders can improve cognitive functioning. As well, how this cognitive improvement can result in both academic and social success. This will inspire them to seek cognitive programs, such as the Arrowsmith Program, that improve neurological functioning. This will give the reader a sense of what is actually possible for all children struggling in school. The book will inspire them and give the reader a fascinating look into the human brain.

4. How is Brain School different from others written about education and learning difficulties in children?

Most books about learning disabilities and attention disorders focus on learning strategies that helps children cope with school. Brain School informs parents and teachers that children with these disabilities no longer have to cope with school. The child does not have to just survive through the education system. As far as I know, this is the only book written that follows real case studies of children improving neurological functioning. Children can improve cognitive capacities allowing them to flourish academically without coping strategies and extra assistance in school.

5. What is the relationship between EAS and the book, Brain School?

I founded Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre in January 2005 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The school is designed to improve the cognitive capacities of children with learning disabilities and attention disorders. The school uses the Arrowsmith Program to improve neurological functioning. The book, Brain School, is a result of the significant cognitive improvements I observed in our students in the first three years of the schools existence. I realized that the public needed to know how dramatically our students were improving their cognitive functioning. This is why I began to write Brain School. I had to tell this story.

6. How can children of various socioeconomic backgrounds benefit from the Arrowsmith Program?

The Arrowsmith Program is available to school districts throughout North America. Thus, the Arrowsmith Program can be made available to all socioeconomic backgrounds. The cost of implementing the Arrowsmith Program would likely be recovered by a school district over time as fewer students in a school district would require special education assistants in later grades. For example, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) has found that approximately 70% of the Arrowsmith Program graduates do not require further special education support. This will provide real financial savings for the TCDSB over time. The problem right now is getting school districts to understand the benefits of a program like Arrowsmith.

7. Is there research that supports the effectiveness of the Arrowsmith Program?

There is a significant amount of research on the effectiveness of the Arrowsmith Program. Barbara Arrowsmith Young has been open to research studies that have taken place with the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and with independent researchers such as Dr. William Lancee, Head of Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto. These studies can be reviewed at the Arrowsmith School website (www.arrowsmithschool.org). In addition, the Learning Disabilities Association of Saskatchewan has a study being conducted on the Arrowsmith Program. The most current results of the LDA Saskatchewan study indicate that after one year in the program there is statistically significant progress in achievement skills. I have conducted my own analysis of cognitive improvements of children completing the Arrowsmith Program at Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre. The positive results of my data collection led to the writing of Brain School. Arrowsmith Young is open to more research and is looking for opportunities to work with neuroscientists. One has to remember that research opportunities in neuroscience are just being realized due to new technology that allows scientists to study the brain and more importantly the concept of neuroplasticity. Thus, for the last 25 years these opportunities have not been available to Arrowsmith Young.

8. Is the Arrowsmith Program hard for children with learning disabilities and attention disorders?

If one wants to improve neurological functions of the brain it takes practice and repetition. This is the same for any skill one wants to develop in life. For decades the approach in the field of Learning Disabilities and Attention Disorders is to make it easier for the child academically and socially. Thus, we have created the concept of accommodations, assistive technology and learning strategies. This was due to the fact that the prevailing belief is that the brain cannot change. These learning disorders are lifelong. Research in neuroplasticity is showing that this is not true. The brain can change. The approach with the Arrowsmith Program is that children can learn to understand that their brain can improve cognitive functioning. As with any skill that is hard to learn, the reward of that hard work is realized once mastery is achieved. This is the case for children in the Arrowsmith Program.

9. Why doesn’t Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre also teach Science and Social Studies? Why just Math and English?

It is important to realize that Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre and the Arrowsmith School in Toronto are the only facilities that have a full day Arrowsmith Program. The students spend 75% of the day working on the Arrowsmith Program and then do Math and English for the other 25%. In all other cases the Arrowsmith Program is incorporated into only 50% of the student’s academic day. For example, this is what is taking place at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Thus, the Arrowsmith Program can be implemented with more academics. Though, it is important to realize that at a certain time in a student’s education it is more effective to first address their cognitive functioning weaknesses. This will give the student with a learning disabilities time to develop the cognitive capacities to understand more effectively the Science or Social Studies curriculum. This would be the same for a Math or English curriculum. Too often children with learning disabilities are trying to learn material that they cannot conceptualize. They do not have the cognitive functions that make it neurologically effective to understand a specific curriculum. Thus, they are just trying to remember information rather than understand it. At Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre the students are focused on improving the cognitive functions necessary to find success in all the academic subjects. As a result, our data is showing that when students leave the full-time Arrowsmith Program at Eaton Arrowsmith Learning Centre they are transitioning well into these academic subjects.

10. Where can I get a copy of Brain School and how much should I expect to pay?

The book retails for $22 (plus tax/shipping). The book can be purchased through Amazon.caAmazon.comBarnes & Noble and for retailers at Ingram Books. A list of local retailers is available on the Brain School website.

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