Testimonials – Arrowsmith School Students

Testimonials – Arrowsmith School Students

Arrowsmith Toronto Student Testimonials

Jonathon

(letter from a parent of a child in the Arrowsmith Program in the Toronto Catholic District School Board to his son’s homeroom teacher)

It has been my intention to send you and the school a formal thank you for your dedication and help to our family and more so for our son Jonathon.

As you are aware Jonathon was designated early on as Learning Disabled (LD). We were very concerned for our son’s future based on his progress to the grade Four (4) level. As you may recall Jonathon was not able to tell time, could not read the simplest of words or retain the most basic of ideas after reading very short or simple passages. As well, if there were any more than two (2) or three (3) simple math questions on any one page he was overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks.

The most disturbing concern of all was what all of this was doing to our son’s self esteem. He was one of the most well behaved children anyone had known and this situation was transforming him into a troublesome child. Worst of all he was aware of his own problems and was becoming increasingly more frustrated because there didn’t seem to be any solution.

We were introduced to the Arrowsmith program when Jonathon entered the fifth (5) grade and there has been no looking back since that day. Within just one month Jonathon could tell some time and over the next few months we watched as Jonathon began to make amazing progress.

The most important issue to us as the parents was to watch this confused and lost child begin to transform back into the kind of person we had known before he realized he wasn’t the same as everyone else. We watched as he regained his personal pride and no longer felt like he was a loser (his words). Jonathon was now coming home from school and was doing his homework without being asked and was able to understand it.

Before long Jonathon was participating in more of the regular programs with the other children at his grade level. As you may recall when he began the Arrowsmith program in grade five (5) his overall competency was barely a grade one (1) level. When Jonathon reached grade eight (8) we had our son back. He had exceeded our expectations in every sense.

Now to the reason I have finally decided to take the time to write to you and the school. Today I picked up Jonathon from the high school he is now attending. When he entered the car he was excited to discuss the day’s activities. He quickly revealed he had received the results of a test he had written a few days earlier. He had achieved an 88% on the test. Needless to say I was as excited as he was. This however is no longer an unusual occurrence in Jonathon’s routine in high school.

When Jonathon left Grade school we were well aware that Jonathon’s work had only begun and a great deal of organization on his part was going to be required. As parents we work tirelessly to help him understand how to use what he had learned at your school.

Jonathon’s transformation to high school was almost flawless, he had regained enough of his self-esteem that he felt like anyone else who was starting at a new school. This was a fresh start and a new beginning for him.

Jonathon finished grade 9 with a 77% average and as of today is averaging about 72%. Jonathon’s average in almost all of his programs are in the high 80′s or 90′s. His only problem left to date is dealing with the final exams, they are still an area of concern for him, the exam marks bring his average down. Jonathon however is the one now dealing with this situation on his own. I go back to the reason I started this letter today. Jonathon had realized he needed some help in his programming, math and science courses after he had done very poorly on an earlier test he had completed, he had only earned a 38%. He, on his own went to his teachers and requested help. He and the teachers worked out a schedule of help and on the next two tests he achieved a 75% and 88%. This is just a couple of examples of how he is dealing with his education on his own. Jonathon wrote the Grade Ten Literacy test this year and passed it the first time, he made it his business to get extra help and prepare for this test on his own.

Jonathon entered high school at an applied level in grade 9. He is now taking two academic courses, History and Science, and maintaining 70% + marks. Of note was the big end of the year Science project Jonathon completed in Grade nine, his final mark for this project was 100%.

I could go on and on however I believe the most important message that needs to be heard is the Arrowsmith program gave my son his future back. I am truly thankful for your dedication and commitment to the Arrowsmith program and the children in your care.

It is my hope that this program will always be there to help other children in need and hopefully the School Board will continue to see the value of a program that helps out children to become self sufficient and self reliant.

Mark

My son Mark is 12 year of age and has just completed Grade 6. He received an L.D. designation in January of ’99, when he was in Gr. 5. But, previous to that he had had a lot of difficulty in Grades 3 and 4 with concentration. He achieved below his level. His assignments weren’t done.. His schoolwork suffered, as did his personal relationships. His Gr. 4 teacher called him lazy and he hated going to school. He had many, many fights with that teacher and other boys. He was a constant visitor in the principal’s office – at least once a week. In Gr. 5, his teacher was more empathetic and committed to helping him learn. Mark had already been diagnosed as LD, and he was waiting for an IPRC in our system. But, he was in regular curriculum, and he couldn’t keep up. Together we did hours of homework every night, but he just didn’t seem to retain anything he had learned. After that, we’d start in on the reading assignments. By bedtime, Mark was worn out and miserable. Many nights he’d be crying because he just couldn’t do everything. And many projects simply weren’t done. He had difficulty falling asleep and would show up at my bedside at midnight or 1:00 AM, saying that he can’t sleep.

The teacher reduced the volume of his homework and that helped, but he remained very anxious and depressed that he couldn’t do ‘stuff’ that other less bright children could. In January of ’99, he got his LD designation and joined the Arrowsmith group in Feb. of that year. At first he thought it was like playing hookey, but not for long. He worked hard in Arrowsmith, and the work was challenging. He felt proud of himself when he completed it. It was strange, but other things started changing for him. Some of these were skills – like being able to hand write cursively. Others changes were seen in his demeanor and nature. He calmed down and could sleep at night. He liked going to school again and looked forward to it. In fact, he was excited about it. He was happy again. The program was canceled in the fall and Mark returned to regular Gr. 6 class and regular curriculum. He was depressed about losing Arrowsmith and didn’t understand why ‘they’ would take it away. As the homework and assignments for Grade 6 came his way, the anxiety returned and the sleeplessness. Happily, Arrowsmith was reinstated in January, and he quickly got into the program. He worked hard and completed SUP MOTOR in total. This year, another milestone development happened for him. He began to read for pleasure. This started in March of this year and hasn’t stopped. He finally gets the ‘main idea’ of the story, retains it and processes it. Now the whole rich world of literature and imagination are open to him. And he’s catching up for lost time. School ended a week ago, and he’s still reading…I think the Arrowsmith program works small miracles in helping LD kids achieve and experience all that knowledge that simply defied them before. Being bright children, they crave this knowledge and once they receive it, they blossom before your eyes. I hope that it is available to all LD children in the very near future and I’m thankful for the time that my child has spent in the program.

Gregory

Arrowsmith School has provided programming and support that meets the needs of our uniquely challenged child when no other service provider would or could. Our experience with the Arrowsmith program has given us hope that our child will meaningfully and positively contribute to our community in the future.

Gregory is currently ten years of age and has been a full-time student of the Arrowsmith program for the past fifteen months. Prior to Arrowsmith, Gregory attended school in the Toronto Catholic District School Board from junior kindergarten on through to the start of grade 3. His learning difficulties throughout that period were assessed as developmental. Maturity would somehow resolve the glaring difficulties experienced by a very gifted child who could not adjust to the demands of his programming either socially or academically. Gregory was often brutalised in the schoolyard because of his inept social skills. He also struggled greatly to complete the academic expectations. Years of misdiagnosis and inadequate programming culminated in a personal crisis for our son in grade 3. Gregory could not sleep at night and constantly avoided going to school in any way possible.

His fear of writing had grown so intense that he would drop pencils on the floor and proceed to spend as much time as possible under his desk in search of his misplaced writing instrument. His teacher could and would not continue to instruct him and the school was at a loss on appropriate programming. With little in the way of adequate diagnosis, we enrolled him in a private school where the teacher student ratio would be one to ten. This well-regarded academic school accepted our gifted child after a lengthy interview process. They were confident that their programming would greatly assist Gregory in overcoming his intense anxiety towards academic achievement. We were asked to remove him from the school after only 25 days. He could not control his fear of writing and his avoidance behaviour had become even more intense. This was a point of despair for our son and our family as we struggled to understand the conditions and find appropriate programming.

Gregory has multiple exceptionalities. He has anxiety, severe learning disabilities, attention deficit, and he is also very bright.

The Arrowsmith approach has helped Gregory immensely. His academics have improved significantly. His reading have improved from level 1 to level 4. All of the areas that he has worked on have improved. Improvements have also occurred in his most debilitating disability, writing. He is now volunteering to take notes for his group. The anxiety that was associated with writing is improving. I quote Gregory “Arrowsmith has helped me a lot with my writing, I feel less frustrated when I write”.

We notice many areas of improvements. The most significant area being self-image. Gregory entered Arrowsmith feeling defeated. His self-esteem had been deeply bruised. He was very frustrated and had learned to distrust teachers because of the mixed signals being sent. On one hand teachers were applauding his ‘brightness’ and depth of knowledge while on the other hand he was being punished for being distracted, disruptive and not writing. By grade 3 Gregory started defying authority and would not take constructive direction from teachers.

The concept behind the Arrowsmith program is clearly working with our child. The individualised Arrowsmith program, which has been designed from extensive testing, is significantly and positively influencing Gregory’s confidence. Arrowsmith’s (Barbara Young’s) belief that weak cognitive or learning capabilities can be strengthened through brain-based programming is well illustrated by the improvements in our son thus far. The dedicated team at Arrowsmith has successfully gained Gregory’s trust.

  • Gregory is more tolerant when his behaviour is being re-directed.
  • He is taking more initiative in managing his feelings of frustration.
  • His tolerance level has improved. We have noted this with school assignments and his siblings
  • There has been an increase in his ability to organise himself.
  • He remembers and executes a series of steps (wash, brush, put on your pyjamas, put your clothes away and come back downstairs). Last year half way upstairs he would forget what he was supposed to be doing, and would end up playing on the steps. He can now remain focused and on task.
  • Gregory had difficulty finding the words to express his feelings, and when rushed to explain, he invariably would get overly emotional, frustrated and feeling exasperated. This is changing as a result of the Arrowsmith program. Gregory is trying to identify and articulate his feelings.
  • He is starting to become more aware of social skills. He has difficulty reading social cues and is not readily accepted by groups. His strength is with one-on one relationships. His new ability to be part of the Arrowsmith class is something that Gregory finds very enriching. One of his favourite activities is the lunchtime excursions to the park with his classmates. This would have been a horrifying experience previously.
  • Helping with chores is not as overwhelming as it used to be. He can now enter a messy family room and tidy it up; he organises and sequences the necessary steps to accomplish ‘tidy up time’.

Gregory still faces many challenges, but the success that he has experienced with Arrowsmith has increased his willingness and ability to work at strengthening his disabilities. He has asked to return to Arrowsmith. He feels empowered and we have a program that directly matches the needs of our unique and wonderful son.

Aaron

Aaron had been in various special education programs since the fifth grade. As he finished grade 10 last year, it became increasingly clear that he would not graduate unless his learning disabilities were addressed. In addition to his learning difficulties, his self-esteem was at an all time low and his dependence on his parents had increased to an all time high. Fortunately, Arrowsmith School has turned things around for him. Aaron is now on a track that will most certainly give him the opportunity to graduate high school in a timely manner. The most significant academic change has been a 31 point increase in his Regent’s high school competency math test score bringing it to a passing level. While in the past he had difficulty grasping his school work, now he is keeping up in his regular classes. In addition, his reading comprehension has significantly increased as a result of the program at Arrowsmith School.

Aaron is now more independent than ever. He takes two buses by himself as he travels between school and home. His success however, is not unique.

Matthew

When Matthew was diagnosed as being “learning disabled” and in need of treatment, his parents considered the many different types of therapy available in Toronto, and chose to send him to Arrowsmith School.

Matthew’s parents wrote:

“At the time, Matthew’s future looked bleak. He had struggled without success at the grade 10 level and was unable to handle the workload. His self-esteem was very low, and after repeating both grade 9 and grade 10, he could not face the prospect of more academic failures. Matthew began a learning program designed for his specific needs and did not attempt any academic work during his first year at Arrowsmith School. The work that he performed was very demanding, requiring a great deal of time, energy and patience.

Initially he felt discouraged, but gradually things began to change as he was able to measure his progress against the original test results. During his second year, an academic component was added and Matthew found that he was able to understand and handle assignments that had previously been impossible for him. After approximately three years, Matthew completed grade 12 with a high academic standing and was accepted into a program at college. Matthew has been very successful in his chosen career. He believes that the improvement in his self-esteem which resulted from realizing he could overcome his learning disabilities was an important aspect of the program. He states that his success would not have been possible without the treatment he received at Arrowsmith School.”

Deborah

When Deborah was not quite two years old, she could cut perfect circles out of construction paper. But when her mother tried to prepare her for kindergarten, she refused to print her name.

“I thought it was just a stubborn quirk,” says the mother of the now 13-year-old Deborah. “And believe me, she has lots of them!”

Those “stubborn quirks” didn’t disguise Deborah’s innate intelligence. She walked, talked and rode tricycles and bicycles long before the norm. Entering junior kindergarten at age four, she was tested and found to be advanced by a year and a half mentally, socially and emotionally. She was quickly moved into senior kindergarten.

Expected to catch up with more mature classmates by the end of the school year, Deborah, according to her teachers, matched older pupils’ abilities and development much sooner. But her accomplishments masked immense frustration.

“Through all of first, second and third grade, nobody guessed she could ‘read’ the little storybooks because she’d memorized the words that went with the pictures,” says Ruth. “Underneath, she was struggling – a lot.”

Precisely because she possessed superior intelligence (her IQ is 139), Deborah invented a host of compensatory strategies to work around the tasks she found impossible, such as reading. But as she grew older and her schoolwork became harder and more complex, these strategies were increasingly less effective.

At the beginning of fourth grade, Deborah began fighting simple homework assignments. Almost every night saw her in tears at the challenge of writing a simple sentence. “I got impatient and a bit angry with her,” Ruth recalls. “I knew she was bright, yet here she was, struggling with this simple little chore.”

Part of the problem, too, lay in the fact that Deborah is a reticent, quiet child. “She won’t tell you what’s wrong,” Ruth says. “It wasn’t until she started having migraines and dizzy spells in the middle of fourth grade that we found she had a teacher who was totally bad for her.” After many rounds of testing and investigating, she was finally discovered to be learning-disabled. The prognosis was not encouraging.

Her mother was told that Deborah would never read for pleasure, but because she was so bright, she would manage to read what she needed to get through college. University examinations would have to be conducted orally, but, “they make these exceptions these days,” declared the tester.

The diagnosis reduced a great many of Deborah’s tensions, according to her father. At last she knew why there were some things she simply couldn’t do, no matter how hard she tried. Her mother gave Deborah’s teachers and principal a list of suggestions from the psychologist who had diagnosed Deborah’s learning disabilities. It was not well received.

“They were all very polite, but I could see they thought I was just another neurotic mother,” says her mother. A special education teacher heard Deborah read a brief paragraph and then told her she didn’t really have a problem, nearly destroying all the child’s new self-esteem. “That made it a ‘stubbornness’ thing once again,” her mother says. Toward the end of Deborah’s fifth-grade year, her mother was at her wits’ end and Deborah was miserable. She was learning nothing and her physical problems had returned. “This has come to a showdown,” declared the teacher who had tried to force her to recopy a story perfectly for the 15th time.

Through a friend who knew of other children with similar problems, Deborah’s parents learned of the Arrowsmith program. A program that specializes in the identification and treatment of learning disabilities.

Extensive testing revealed that Deborah was indeed of superior intelligence. Five separate, severe learning dysfunctions, however, kept her from using that intelligence for academic skills and forced her to use those time- and energy-consuming compensations. Deborah’s worst problem was a severe motor symbol sequencing disorder which meant that all information that had to be expressed in writing was scrambled. All her life, from the time her mother had tried to teach her to print at age four, she had been frustrated because she couldn’t express herself in the ways our society requires.

A severe visual symbol recognition dysfunction kept Deborah from remembering and recognizing words or symbols, such as numbers or musical notes. She had to study a word 10 or 20 times before she could memorize and repeat it, severely limiting her ability to read and spell.

Nor could Deborah grasp the relationships between ideas, due to her severe symbolic reasoning dysfunction. She couldn’t grasp the ‘why’ of mathematics or grammar. In general, she had difficulty reasoning logically.

Though less severe, her predicative speech handicap kept Deborah from rehearsing information and actions inside her head and expressing herself in well-structured sentences. She also couldn’t learn the steps in a mathematical process.

Deborah had trouble using phonic skills in learning to read words because of her speech pronunciation dysfunction. She also mispronounced some words and found learning foreign languages difficult.

During the year at Arrowsmith, Deborah worked extremely hard in spite of depression brought on by years of failure. And as her disabilities were addressed, her depression lessened.

Elaine

The life of a single mother is never an easy one, especially if the system tells her that her child’s problems are her fault. Joanne, a psychiatrist, found herself in exactly that position when her daughter, Elaine, began having math troubles in third grade. By sixth grade, the situation hadn’t improved.

“I watched Elaine keep score in a game we were playing. When she had to write ’62′ she’d put the two under the six, not next to it,” Joanne recalls. “I knew she had a problem. But the school psychologist who assessed her just told me I hadn’t spent enough time with her teaching her the times tables.”

Over her mother’s objections, Elaine was scheduled for a special alternative school program that relied on the self- discipline of its students. “I knew Elaine couldn’t handle it,” Joanne says. “In the previous six years in school, she’d never been able to settle to a routine of organizing her homework efficiently. She put off the things she hated, like math, until last, and of course by then had forgotten entirely how to do the problems. I knew this new program would be a disaster. But no one believed me.”

Schoolwork wasn’t Elaine’s only problem. She was a shy, quiet child who never joined in conversations, but smiled and giggled a lot, mostly to cover her social ineptitude. “She had managed to invent a lot of covering strategies,” says Joanne. “And she had a tendency to be very narrow-minded about her interests. She never wanted to try new things.”

Elaine also had handicaps that led to friction in daily life. “Though her intentions were good, she couldn’t remember being told to do things. I’d say, ‘Elaine, clean your room, then go do the dishes.’ She’d forget. It was easy to call her lazy and irresponsible,” says Joanne. Because of her lack of verbal skills, Elaine had few friends. “She couldn’t speak up for herself,” says Joanne. “By sixth grade, the only way she could handle kids who bothered her was by beating them up. She couldn’t put them in their place verbally. She even ran away from school a few times.”

Finally, Joanne started to look for help outside the public education system. She found it, in a brochure from Arrowsmith.

When tested Elaine was found to have a severe motor symbol sequencing dysfunction which led to her ‘careless’ math errors and sloppy handwriting. She was able to work around this handicap a great deal, though, because she tested high in symbol recognition and could read well. This made it more difficult for traditional testing to identify her learning disabilities. Elaine’s poor symbolic reasoning ability was responsible for her communication problems. A predicative speech disorder made grasping the meaning of sentences or using them to express herself difficult. She couldn’t do arithmetic in her head or learn her addition and times tables due to her supplementary motor disability. And a left frontal lobe disorder led to behavior which was often inappropriate as well as difficulty organizing herself and developing strategies for problem solving.

In spite of all this Elaine had been previously assessed as having a general IQ of 133. Non- verbal testing revealed an even higher score, close to 145. With that kind of mental ability it’s easy to think this child didn’t have any problems. The test scores revealed something else to Joanne — she’d been right all along. “I had always thought there was some kind of a brain dysfunction,” she says. “Now I knew for sure.”

Elaine spent the next two years attending Arrowsmith full- time. Her mother noticed results within the first few months. “She finally learned the times tables – and then she checked herself the next morning to make sure she retained the information. I said, ‘O.K., she’s fixed!’,” says Joanne. She did her homework enthusiastically, and because she could communicate better, began to make some friends.

Joanne and Elaine’s relationship began to improve as well. “I realized she couldn’t express her emotions,” Joanne says. “She had the feelings, but because of her dysfunctions she couldn’t find the words to describe them. This is no longer a problem.”

At the end of her second year at Arrowsmith, Elaine was helping her friends choose clothes. She picked up the two years of math she had missed in a one-month review in ninth grade when she reentered public school. She relates better to her mother and behaves more like a mature 14-year-old instead of a young child. And last summer she navigated her mother and herself on a car trip across the U.S. and calculated the mileage, mostly in her head.

Sarah

Sarah was two years old when her mother noticed that she had problems with her language skills.

By kindergarten, her mother started to look for help for her daughter. Sarah spoke individual words, but never sentences.

When Sarah was seven years old, a private psychologist diagnosed her troubles as a maturational lag and told her mother not to worry, that time would take care of everything. Seeing no progress, Sarah’s mother had her tested several times over the next few years, both in school and at the Hospital for Sick Children. The tests, she found, were consistent only in their inconsistency. “We were told she was an overachieving retardate and an underachieving genius and everything else in between.”

After many years of struggle and investigating, her mother found the solution to Sarah’s problems: Arrowsmith School. Specialized testing revealed that Sarah’s learning disabilities affected her ability to handle the symbols of language, like writing. She had a very low capacity to remember words she heard and connect meaning to them, and an inability to put words into sentences. In addition, she had trouble understanding relationships between concepts.

After only a few short months the change in Sarah was evident. Upon viewing a television news clip of Ethiopian refugees Sarah was able to ask her mother who those children were and where did they come from. Most importantly, she was able to remember the word “Ethiopia” with no repetition from her mother. “Before, I could have repeated it until I was blue in the face and she wouldn’t have remembered anything,” says her mother. After three years at Arrowsmith School, Sarah entered school as a ninth grader and confidently tackled a Chekhov short story for her first literature assignment. Her most significant result, however, is her development as a happy, social, verbal individual.

Yitzchak

Yitzchak had been in various special education programs since the fifth grade. As he finished grade 10 last year, it became increasingly clear that he would not graduate unless his learning disabilities were addressed. In addition to his learning difficulties, his self-esteem was at an all time low and his dependence on his parents had increased to an all time high.

Fortunately, Arrowsmith School has turned things around for him. Yitzchak is now on a track that will most certainly give him the opportunity to graduate high school in a timely manner. The most significant academic change has been a 31 point increase in his Regent’s high school competency math test score bringing it to a passing level. While in the past he had difficulty grasping his school work, now he is keeping up in his regular classes. In addition, his reading comprehension has significantly increased as a result of the program at Arrowsmith School.

Yitzchak is now more independent than ever. He takes two buses by himself as he travels between school and home. His success however, is not unique.

All of the students at Arrowsmith School are being helped on an individual basis because each student has their own unique disability. Unlike Special Education programs, Arrowsmith School does not try to have the students learn to cope with their dysfunctions, rather, it strives to alleviate them.

Tanya

Tanya as two years old when her mother noticed that she had problems with her language skills.

By kindergarten, her mother Ginny started to look for help for her daughter. Tanya spoke individual words, but never sentences.

When Tanya was seven years old, a private psychologist diagnosed her troubles as a maturational lag and told Ginny not to worry, that time would take care of everything. Seeing no progress, Ginny had her child tested several times over the next few years, both in school and at the Hospital for Sick Children. The tests, she found, were consistent only in their inconsistency. “We were told she was an overachieving retardate and an underachieving genius and everything else in between.”

After many years of struggle and investigating, Ginny found the solution to Tanya’s problems: Arrowsmith School. Specialized testing revealed that Tanya’s learning disabilities affected her ability to handle the symbols of language, like writing. She had a very low capacity to remember words she heard and connect meaning to them, and an inability to put words into sentences. In addition, she had trouble understanding relationships between concepts.

After only a few short months the change in Tanya was evident. Upon viewing a television news clip of Ethiopian refugees Tanya was able to ask her mother who those children were and where did they come from. Most importantly, she was able to remember the word “Ethiopia” with no repetition from her mother. “Before, I could have repeated it until I was blue in the face and she wouldn’t have remembered anything,” says Ginny.

After three years of extensive treatment at Arrowsmith School, Tanya re-entered regular school as a ninth grader and confidently tackled a Chekhov short story for her first literature assignment. Her most significant result, however, is her development as a happy, social, verbal individual.

Dream of Architecture Becomes a Reality

As a young boy I had an ambition to be an architect. But as I progressed through the school system I realized I was only capable of 60% averages in school. Many of my friends and classmates thought I was stupid but often were amazed by my few moments of insight. But I was no great scholar in school and had problems understanding many of the subjects.

When I was 16 I started to act up in school. I was also failing. This coincided with my parents’ difficulties and separation. During this time I failed grade 12 three times. I figured that I should quit school and work.

I worked at two jobs for two years, the post office and pipe making. This helped create character and give me direction. I learnt everything there was to know about pipe making and realized that I was not using my brain enough. I knew that if I could work 2 jobs for two years, I could do anything. So I decided why not go for the highest of my dreams, and become an architect. I clung onto that idea and began preparing myself to enter university. While still working I contacted several architects and asked them for advice on how to reach my goal. One suggestion was to go to a career counselling center before I went any further. I did just that and had a series of tests done.

It seemed to the psychologist at the career center that there would be some difficulty in attaining my goal. The major obstacle was my IQ on one test which was 90. This obviously was not enough for university. Another test I completed suggested that I had a potential IQ of 130. The psychologist recommended the Arrowsmith program to deal with my learning disabilities and someone to address my emotional problems.

Finding out about Arrowsmith was a chance of a lifetime. This program helped me eliminate, deal with and clean-up many problems. I had an IQ of 90 on one test and 124 on another, several learning problems, emotional problems, a troubled family life, very limited social skills, and food allergies. To paraphrase a friend of the family, “I was a washout.”

When I first came to Arrowsmith I had a long list of learning dysfunctions, a severe motor symbol sequencing problem, a severe memory problem, in mechanical reasoning I was at the 50%ile, a severe auditory discrimination dysfunction, a moderate reasoning problem, and a moderate Broca’s speech pronunciation problem. Also, we found that I had a predicative speech problem much later. As well there was an emotional problem that had to be dealt with at the same time.

The first year at Arrowsmith I managed to eliminate my reasoning problem but made little progress in other areas such as motor, memory and auditory discrimination. However, I did make a connection between my diet and my inability to work effectively on my dysfunctions. The Arrowsmith staff were resourceful in referring me to a food allergy specialist. After four months of seeing the allergist there were big gains in the progress at Arrowsmith. My emotional behavior improved as well. I successfully eliminated my motor problem and increased my mechanical reasoning to the 80%ile. Being compulsive by nature I wanted to push ahead and attend university but before I could do this I needed a grade 13 diploma.

I spent a year at Arrowsmith preparing myself for university by working on my dysfunctions, gaining the necessary study skills, and gaining a grade 13 diploma.

After successfully completing my second year architecture at the University of Toronto I decided to take a year off from school to finally rid myself of the burden of the few remaining learning problems that I had not completely dealt with previously.

I have now graduated from Architecture and am well along in accumulating the three years internship prerequisite for writing the exams to become a licensed architect.

A Business Career

My dysfunctions started to show up when I was in grade 2. I started the year in the bottom of the reading class. It was hard for me to read. I could not keep up and so in grade 3 I was placed in a special reading class. I was tested at a grade one reading level.

I failed grade three and continued in the special reading class until I started coming to Arrowsmith in grade 8. My writing was very bad, almost impossible to read. My social life was limited; I had hardly any friends. Most of my friends were two years younger than I was. My spelling was very, very bad. I could not remember phone numbers and if I wrote them down my dad could not read them. I could never think inside my head. I always lost my place when reading or trying to copy something. I could never win an argument. I could never play hockey because I got flustered with the puck when I got it. I could only catch over one side when I was playing football.

After 2 years at Arrowsmith I could write much better and spell. I could think inside my head. My social life improved greatly. I could argue with a lot of people and win. Playing hockey became easier because I could figure out what to do with the puck. When playing football, I could catch over both sides of my body.

NOTE: This boy was followed by an independent psychologist who assessed him prior to treatment and at the end of each year of treatment at Arrowsmith. When tested prior to treatment the psychologist stated that this boy should enroll in a vocational school due to the severity of his learning disabilities. Final testing, after 2 years of treatment, showed very major improvement and it was recommended by the psychologist that he attend an academic high school.

One year after completing the Arrowsmith program this student wrote the following letter while attending grade 10 in an academic program:

I am writing this letter to tell you that I am glad that I went to Arrowsmith because it helped me in many ways. I can now talk to teachers at my new school and tell them what is on my mind.

I have many friends at school and I owe most of this to your special school. I think that everyone who has some learning problems should go to this school.

I enclose a report of my final marks for last term. I was pleasantly surprised to see the marks so high. This has never happened before in my life. I found all my subjects last term to be fairly easy except typing and gym. In typing I noticed that there is still a bit of my motor problem left but it is much better than it was. In gym I lacked skills because I did not take a grade 9 gym class.

I found math was much easier. In English I noticed that my memory had improved to the extent that if I memorize something the night before, it firstly does not take me very long, and secondly I retain it and don’t feel so scared when I walk into class when I have a test the next day.

In closing I would just like to thank you for helping me so much and would like to see your program in all the schools around the world.

My marks are:
English 70%
Mathematics 81%
Phys. Ed. 60%
Typing 50%

Subsequently this student successfully completed a business program at college and has entered into a business career.

A Career in Journalism

It was in my 18th year that things began to change for me. Looking back, I can only describe my life to that date as existence, struggling along trying to survive in what was for me a continuously confusing world.

With graduation from grade 13 looming before me, I spent a great deal of energy trying not to think about the future, because I really hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do with the next 60 or 70 years of my life.

My father wisely suggested I receive some career counselling. The career counsellor I selected pinpointed learning disabilities and recommended the Arrowsmith program. That was the most fortunate stroke of good luck I have ever had in my life.

This, after thirteen years of schooling, where I was subjected to numerous tests, all of which measured my high intelligence, but not my problem. Those tests did me the disfavor of revealing that I was bright without revealing discrepancies in the scores that might point to problems – areas where abilities did not match the overall intellectual level. Thus I was told if only I worked harder I would do better in school.

I had grown up with the syndrome I call the “can do better kid.” This child is always told she is not functioning at the level she should, and she can do better.

It makes me very angry in retrospect, because of the damage it inflicted on my personality. I was not responsible for poor marks in mathematics and history, or for poor penmanship. But, because I was accepted as being quite bright, I was labelled as lazy because all my marks were not at the top of the class.

I turned this inward, until I really did believe I was slacking off. But I kept searching for another answer, because others’ opinions of me did not match what I really felt about myself – that I was trying as hard as I could.

I needed to resolve this inner conflict between what I believed and what others told me about myself. Deep down I hoped there was another answer, if I could only find it.

So, at the age of six, I stood outside the room where hearing tests were being conducted, and prayed fervently that they would find a problem. I remember this clearly, as well as my disappointment when they said I was just fine.

And at the age of 15, I was the one to insist on getting tested for glasses, because I had detected a slight change in my vision. Perhaps, I thought, this would explain that “can do better” label I had suffered with all my life. But, although I was fitted for glasses, they did nothing to improve my problem.

It was in grade 10 that I started having serious schooling problems, and almost dropped out. Nothing measured up to what I hoped it would be, and I just couldn’t understand why. I was at times bored, at times frustrated with simple things, and I was always socially isolated.

Social problems were an integral part of my learning dysfunctions. My difficulty with reasoning, which is the prime factor in understanding mathematics or history, made it impossible for me to understand the many nuances in social interactions.

I had few friends, because I was afraid of people. I didn’t understand them. The process by which an individual runs together events in history, and finds a pattern in them, is the same process by which that person puts together information learned in a social setting and sums up her companions.

Without that tool, it is impossible to know at any point what other people are up to. It is also impossible to understand when others are teasing; or, similarly, when they mean to do you harm. It is like having all the pieces of the puzzle available, but not ever knowing how they fit together.

And it is easier to be alone, than to risk being laughed at. My social behavior was also inappropriate; all the jokes came out wrong, and my comments were made unwisely and at the wrong time.

The day I was told I had a learning disability was the day my life began to change. That sounds rather dramatic, but words cannot express how much my work at Arrowsmith changed my life. No one in my entire existence up to that point had so clearly identified what I was struggling with.

I worked harder than I have ever done in my life, or probably ever will. I applied a discipline to myself that I never thought I was capable of, even when it seemed I would go mad with the boredom of it all. Once I began to see the results of my labor, however, motivation was no longer greatly needed. For me, this came about three months after starting the program.

One day, I became aware that everything looked different. It is hard to describe, but it seemed like my perception of the world had become sharper. Shapes, textures and colors were clearer and had a luster to them I had not noticed before. I remember literally walking down a street staring at everything, feeling a wonder I thought I had lost, and full to bursting with a joy that is indescribable.

My days after that were precious; as jokes came faster, learning became easier and my world opened up, life finally looked as if it might be worth living after all.

I remember the day I cracked my first joke – and it came out right! My family is very witty, but jokes never happened easily for me. I had them straight in my head, but they came out wrong. They only started being funny after the work at Arrowsmith.

It was a combination of motor and symbolic reasoning dysfunctions that prevented me from being funny. Those two disabilities interfered with the mechanism that transfers information from the brain out through the mouth, or through the hand in writing and in being able to grasp meaning.

My poor penmanship was an indication of the problem. Not interacting well in a social setting was another, with far more serious consequences.

Of course, personality problems do not disappear, and there are things I still am working on now, several years after the year I spent at Arrowsmith. But now I have the mental resources to work on them, because I understand what is wrong. It is the difference between hearing what was said and really comprehending the information, in all its nuances and complexities. After that year at Arrowsmith, I had the facility to apply ideas to my life, and solve problems – really solve them, where before they merely bewildered me.

The most important thing is, I now have an effective ability to learn. I have lost my teenage years – they can never be recalled, and I needed to relearn many things that were never absorbed over the years. This included the nuances of social interaction as well as book learning.

I now have the capacity to learn – efficiently, completely, and discriminatingly, choosing those ideas that are important to me, and discarding useless information. I have the capacity to choose, to set my own standards, and to have confidence in myself, that what I absorb is reliable and will not disappear into a mist somehow.

My brain is sharper than it has ever been, my jokes are funny – and my special gifts are no longer weighted down by deficiencies in other areas.

My life did not take a drastic turn; I continued to enjoy most those subjects in which I excelled. Always good at writing, I have chosen journalism as my life’s profession. But my days have changed more than I can ever describe, in the way I approach and understand things.

I now have some close and lifelong friendships, whereas before I had none; I have been involved in several positive romantic relationships, where before I never knew whether a man was on the level or not; and I now have a satisfying career, which I chose because I can now sum up my assets and decide which ones I wish to highlight.

In other words, I have control – over my life, over what is done to me, and over where I will be in the future. Many people take this as a given in their lives; I never had that pleasure. Until Arrowsmith.

Life for me now is filled with the usual ups and down, pleasures and disappointments. It is a very ordinary life that, ten years ago, was extraordinary in its misery and confusion.

I know this all sounds rather unreal; but then the problem I was coping with, although shared by many people in this society, is one that creates a feeling of unreality. My story sounds dramatic, but is not exaggerated; it is hard to convey just how important to my future the experience at Arrowsmith was.

All I can say is, I am not sure I would still be functioning today, if I had not received that help ten years ago. I’m sure at some point I would have given up. It is a triumph hard won, through lots of effort and the courage to believe in myself.

I like today, and I like myself. I owe my life, and my future to Arrowsmith and myself.

Rosalind

When Rosalind was not quite two years old, she could cut perfect circles out of construction paper. But when her mother tried to prepare her for kindergarten, she refused to print her name.

“I thought it was just a stubborn quirk,” says Ruth, mother of the now 13-year-old Rosalind. “And believe me, she has lots of them!”

Those “stubborn quirks” didn’t disguise Rosalind’s innate intelligence. She walked, talked and rode tricycles and bicycles long before the norm. Entering junior kindergarten at age four, she was tested and found to be advanced by a year and a half mentally, socially and emotionally. She was quickly moved into senior kindergarten.

Expected to catch up with more mature classmates by the end of the school year, Rosalind, according to her teachers, matched older pupils’ abilities and development much sooner. But her accomplishments masked immense frustration.

“Through all of first, second and third grade, nobody guessed she could ‘read’ the little storybooks because she’d memorized the words that went with the pictures,” says Ruth. “Underneath, she was struggling – a lot.”

Precisely because she possessed superior intelligence (her IQ is 139), Rosalind invented a host of compensatory strategies to work around the tasks she found impossible, such as reading. But as she grew older and her schoolwork became harder and more complex, these strategies were increasingly less effective.

At the beginning of fourth grade, Rosalind began fighting simple homework assignments. Almost every night saw her in tears at the challenge of writing a simple sentence. “I got impatient and a bit angry with her,” Ruth recalls. “I knew she was bright, yet here she was, struggling with this simple little chore.”

Part of the problem, too, lay in the fact that Rosalind is a reticent, quiet child. “She won’t tell you what’s wrong,” Ruth says. “It wasn’t until she started having migraines and dizzy spells in the middle of fourth grade that we found she had a teacher who was totally bad for her.”

After many rounds of testing and investigating, she was finally discovered to be learning-disabled. The prognosis was not encouraging.

Ruth was told that Rosalind would never read for pleasure, but because she was so bright, she would manage to read what she needed to get through college. University examinations would have to be conducted orally, but, “they make these exceptions these days,” declared the tester.

The diagnosis reduced a great many of Rosalind’s tensions, according to her father. At last she knew why there were some things she simply couldn’t do, no matter how hard she tried.

Ruth gave Rosalind’s teachers and principal a list of suggestions from the psychologist who had diagnosed Rosalind’s learning disabilities. It was not well received.

“They were all very polite, but I could see they thought I was just another neurotic mother,” says Ruth. A special education teacher heard Rosalind read a brief paragraph and then told her she didn’t really have a problem, nearly destroying all the child’s new self-esteem. “That made it a ‘stubbornness’ thing once again,” says Ruth.

Toward the end of Rosalind’s fifth-grade year, Ruth was at her wits’ end and Rosalind was miserable. She was learning nothing and her physical problems had returned. “This has come to a showdown,” declared the teacher who had tried to force her to recopy a story perfectly for the 15th time.

Through a friend who knew of other children with similar problems, Rosalind’s parents learned of the Arrowsmith program. A program that specializes in the identification and treatment of learning disabilities.

Extensive testing revealed that Rosalind was indeed of superior intelligence. Five separate, severe learning dysfunctions, however, kept her from using that intelligence for academic skills and forced her to use those time- and energy-consuming compensations.

Rosalind’s worst problem was a severe motor symbol sequencing disorder which meant that all information that had to be expressed in writing was scrambled. All her life, from the time her mother had tried to teach her to print at age four, she had been frustrated because she couldn’t express herself in the ways our society requires.

A severe visual symbol recognition dysfunction kept Rosalind from remembering and recognizing words or symbols, such as numbers or musical notes. She had to study a word 10 or 20 times before she could memorize and repeat it, severely limiting her ability to read and spell.

Nor could Rosalind grasp the relationships between ideas, due to her severe symbolic reasoning dysfunction. She couldn’t grasp the ‘why’ of mathematics or grammar. In general, she had difficulty reasoning logically.

Though less severe, her predicative speech handicap kept Rosalind from rehearsing information and actions inside her head and expressing herself in well-structured sentences. She also couldn’t learn the steps in a mathematical process.

Rosalind had trouble using phonic skills in learning to read words because of her speech pronunciation dysfunction. She also mispronounced some words and found learning foreign languages difficult.

During the year at Arrowsmith, Rosalind worked extremely hard in spite of depression brought on by years of failure. And as her disabilities were addressed, her depression lessened.

Maia

The life of a single mother is never an easy one, especially if the system tells her that her child’s problems are her fault. Bryn, a psychiatrist, found herself in exactly that position when her daughter, Maia, began having math troubles in third grade. By sixth grade, the situation hadn’t improved.

“I watched Maia keep score in a game we were playing. When she had to write ’62′ she’d put the two under the six, not next to it,” Bryn recalls. “I knew she had a problem. But the school psychologist who assessed her just told me I hadn’t spent enough time with her teaching her the times tables.”

Over her mother’s objections, Maia was scheduled for a special alternative school program that relied on the self- discipline of its students. “I knew Maia couldn’t handle it,” Bryn says. “In the previous six years in school, she’d never been able to settle to a routine of organizing her homework efficiently. She put off the things she hated, like math, until last, and of course by then had forgotten entirely how to do the problems. I knew this new program would be a disaster. But no one believed me.”

Schoolwork wasn’t Maia’s only problem. She was a shy, quiet child who never joined in conversations, but smiled and giggled a lot, mostly to cover her social ineptitude. “She had managed to invent a lot of covering strategies,” says Bryn. “And she had a tendency to be very narrow-minded about her interests. She never wanted to try new things.”

Maia also had handicaps that led to friction in daily life. “Though her intentions were good, she couldn’t remember being told to do things. I’d say, ‘Maia, clean your room, then go do the dishes.’ She’d forget. It was easy to call her lazy and irresponsible,” says Bryn.

Because of her lack of verbal skills, Maia had few friends. “She couldn’t speak up for herself,” says Bryn. “By sixth grade, the only way she could handle kids who bothered her was by beating them up. She couldn’t put them in their place verbally. She even ran away from school a few times.”

Finally, Bryn started to look for help outside the public education system. She found it, in a brochure from Arrowsmith.

When tested Maia was found to have a severe motor symbol sequencing dysfunction which led to her ‘careless’ math errors and sloppy handwriting. She was able to work around this handicap a great deal, though, because she tested high in symbol recognition and could read well. This made it more difficult for traditional testing to identify her learning disabilities.

Maia’s poor symbolic reasoning ability was responsible for her communication problems. A predicative speech disorder made grasping the meaning of sentences or using them to express herself difficult. She couldn’t do arithmetic in her head or learn her addition and times tables due to her supplementary motor disability. And a left frontal lobe disorder led to behavior which was often inappropriate as well as difficulty organizing herself and developing strategies for problem solving.

In spite of all this Maia had been previously assessed as having a general IQ of 133. Non- verbal testing revealed an even higher score, close to 145. With that kind of mental ability it’s easy to think this child didn’t have any problems.

The test scores revealed something else to Bryn — she’d been right all along. “I had always thought there was some kind of a brain dysfunction,” she says. “Now I knew for sure.”

Maia spent the next two years attending Arrowsmith full- time. Her mother noticed results within the first few months. “She finally learned the times tables – and then she checked herself the next morning to make sure she retained the information. I said, ‘O.K., she’s fixed!’,” says Bryn. She did her homework enthusiastically, and because she could communicate better, began to make some friends.

Bryn and Maia’s relationship began to improve as well. “I realized she couldn’t express her emotions,” Bryn says. “She had the feelings, but because of her dysfunctions she couldn’t find the words to describe them. This is no longer a problem.”

At the end of her second year at Arrowsmith, Maia was helping her friends choose clothes. She picked up the two years of math she had missed in a one-month review in ninth grade when she reentered public school. She relates better to her mother and behaves more like a mature 14-year-old instead of a young child. And last summer she navigated her mother and herself on a car trip across the U.S. and calculated the mileage, mostly in her head.

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