Learning Problems?
No longer for life.

Arrowsmith's approach to LEARNING PROBLEMS image
We don't focus on the symptoms.  We take a deeper look at what is causing the problems.

We have known for a long time that learning in all parts of the curriculum is a complex task that requires several areas of the brain to be functioning strongly. That's why we measure the strength of 16 brain functions during the assessment. We then prioritize your program to work on the most important ones first. When the person begins their program we know if they are struggling with learning because of difficulties with:

  • remembering what a letter or word looks like 
  • remembering a series of words they have heard
  • controlling eye movements that makes the letters on the page appear to swim
  • discriminating between the sounds of similar words
  • blending sounds together
  • understanding the relationship between ideas or concepts
  • unable to hold numbers in their mind
  • unable to understand non verbal cues
Each of these characteristics of 'dyslexia', ADHD, Autism, Auditory Processing Disorder, is an indication that there is an underlying cognitive area which is not performing strongly enough to support efficient learning.  Each of these areas can be identified, exercised and strengthened.  The result is the person becomes able to learn and function in the community without compensations.  Here is a questionnaire to help you work out which areas of your brain might need some exercise.

Watch Barbara Arrowsmith, the founder of this program's  TedEx talk

Motor Symbol Sequencing

Motor Symbol Sequencing

The motor symbol sequencing function gives us the ability to learn and produce a written sequence of symbols such as a word, sentence or equation.

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Symbol Relations

Symbol Relations

This area of our brain lets us understand the relationship among two or more ideas.

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Memory for Auditory Information

Memory for Auditory Information

These parts of the brain allow us to notice and remember information that we have been told.

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Broca's Speech Pronunciation

Broca's Speech Pronunciation

This part of the brain gives us the ability to pronounce syllables and integrate them into the consistent pronunciation of a word.

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Symbolic Thinking

Symbolic Thinking

This is the ability to develop and maintain plans and strategies through the use of language.

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Symbol Recognition

Symbol Recognition

This area of the brain gives us the ability to visually recognise and remember a word or symbol.

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Non Verbal Thinking

Non Verbal Thinking

This is the ability to notice and interpret non-verbal information and plan and problem solve non-verbally.

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Quantitative Sense

Quantitative Sense

This part of our brain gives us the ability to carry out internal sequential mental operations such as mental mathematics.

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Where do I start?

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Full time

Strengthen the most cognitive areas you can as quickly as you can

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Part Time

Many people choose to enrol in 1 - 2 units per year.

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Cognitive Enhancement

Do you want to be the best you can be?

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Online or Onsite?

We offer all models.

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6-10 week Intensive Cognitive Enhancement

Ideal for students who need change fast

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What does learning need? imageWhat does learning need? imageWhat does learning need? image
It's more than just opportunity and well designed learning experiences.

Each part of our brain has a very specific function. For a person to be able to read, for example, the areas of the brain that identify and remember what a letter and whole word look like (visual memory), have the ability to hear and blend sounds into words ( c + a + t = cat) (phonological awareness), have a lexical memory (vocabulary) that is able to remember each word, have the ability to control the movement of the eyes so they move across the page smoothly (fine muscle control), feeding the view of the letters and or words into the brain in the correct order, the ability to understand what it is the words mean (comprehension), and the ability to put concepts together to make meaning. If just one of these areas is not working so well then reading becomes very difficult or next to impossible.

5 -15% of the population, have this problem - that's 2 - 3 children in every class of 20. This could mean that they are unable to remember instructions, understand words that are used, control their pencil when writing or recognise the symbols or words that they knew yesterday. At school, children are confused and unhappy because they try but cannot succeed or understand what the teacher wants them to do. Unfortunately they can get labelled as being lazy, not trying, or inattentive.

This may result in the diagnosis of a learning or attentional disorder such as dyslexia, ADD, dysgraphia, poor executive functioning, poor memory, acalculia or auditory processing disorder.

If they are labelled as having a learning problem the usual interventions only teach the child how to manage or compensate for their learning problem - they do not address the underlying cause of it.

Adolescence is a time when many students with learning disorders really suffer. They know they are not keeping up with their peers. Some cope emotionally with struggling at the bottom of the class, but many don't. They deserve to have the opportunity to reach their potential.

Adults might be smart but feel they have never done as well as they should have. They might be stuck in a meaningless job, or running their own business but struggling with the paperwork. They might be exhausted every night after their efforts to do what should be easy.

Research shows that there is a much higher rate of anxiety in people with learning disorders than in the general population. They tend to have less stable incomes and less fulfilling personal relationships. These are all reasons to consider the Arrowsmith Program for learning problems as soon as possible.

Each person's learning profile is unique and the Arrowsmith Program is also unique in that it assesses the strength of each cognitive area known to contribute to learning. An individualised, structured program that aims to strengthen the identified weaker cognitive processes is then created. Once these cognitive areas are exercised and strengthened the area can function as it is supposed to and the person can manage without the need for any compensations. The learning problem is resolved.

They can begin to dream realistically about what they want to achieve in their life. Isn't that what we all want for our loved ones?

If learning is a problem for you or someone you know:

for a no obligation chat about how the Arrowsmith Program can help.
cognitive enhancement image
Do you want to be the best you can be?

The Symbol Relations area of our brain is the area that simultaneously processes multiple pieces of information. When it is working well it allows us to:
  • process concepts across all academic areas,  
  • understand and grasp what we read and hear, 
  • gain insight, 
  • reason logically, 
  • see connections between ideas, 
  • understand cause and effect,
  • be flexible in our thinking and problem solving,
  • make rational and considered decisions,
  • grasp the meaning of language deeply and 
  • reason mathematically.
Given the unique role of this area stimulation to, and enhancement of, this function has broad overarching impacts on cognition/thinking.
The gains from strengthening this function are lifelong and generalizable to all aspects of learning that require comprehension and conceptual understanding or reasoning.
In particular, once this area is strengthened to a superior level of functioning students will be able to understand and analyze complex abstract relationships, think critically, and comprehend at a conceptual level. These are critical abilities for living in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.
Cognitive enhancement also has a direct positive impact on the success rates of graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study. STEM skills are becoming more important as the use of technology increases. Having a strength in this cognitive function will enable students to perform consistently at a high level when reasoning mathematically, thinking critically and connecting complex ideas. They will be able to synthesize multiple pieces of information so they understand what it means as a whole as well as why it has this meaning.
There are no assessments for this area - instead we have a highly structured process for you to work through. This is the unit that will benefit everyone.

What are the criteria for students entering the Arrowsmith Program?

Students who come to the Arrowsmith Program are of generally of average to above average intelligence but are having difficulty learning academic and social skills efficiently and independently. The Arrowsmith Program addresses a wide range of specific learning difficulties (often referred to as 'learning disabilities') such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, auditory and/or visual processing disorders, attention difficulties and non-verbal learning difficulties. The Arrowsmith Program is also designed for individuals who do not have identified specific learning difficulties but are challenged with issues such as organisation, processing, problem solving, communication, memory, and independence.
There are also students who just want to do better in life.  They enrol in the Cognitive Enhancement cognitive unit - Symbol Relations.  This unit strengthens the ability to take mulitple sources of information into account quickly when making a decision, reading or learning.  It is a great unit to do just by itself.

Which students are suitable?

Find out if the Arrowsmith Program is suitable for you/your child, by completing the Arrowsmith Program® Cognitive Profile Questionnaire. Whilst it does not guarantee your enrolment, it will allow you to work out whether the learning issues you/your child experience could be addressed through the Arrowsmith Program. Should you/your child be within the low average, average or above average range of intellectual functioning and are experiencing the types of issues described in this checklist, you/your child are likely candidates for the Program.  

We will be happy to answer your questions and, if appropriate, can arrange an assessment for you/your child. Call Joanne on 0410045134.

What age are the students?

The students in an Arrowsmith School range in age from six to over 70. Parents of children under six are encouraged to contact the Cognitive Strengthening Centre when their child is old enough to be considered ready for participation.

Do you have adult students?

Absolutely.  These are often our most motivated students as they have goals they want to meet.  Adults understand the pain of having a learning disorder and do not want to remain disadvantaged by something they can overcome.  

Other adults want to strengthen their cognitive ability so they can do exceptionally well in university or to prepare for a promotion at work.  

Is the program suitable for people with Autism or Intellectual Disability?

The Arrowsmith Program is developed for individuals struggling with specific learning difficulties (SLD) referred to as learning disabilities in North America. The standard definition of SLD is that the individual has an average or above average full-scale intelligence score, and has a specific difficulty in an area related to learning or academic skill acquisition. The Program is designed and therefore most suited for individuals within the average to above average range of intelligence.

Diagnoses such as Developmental or Intellectual Delay may indicate an impairment of general intellect and function, and students with these conditions have needs that are more significant than a student with a specific learning difficulty. It may also be, however, that these students have a range of learning disorders that has resulted in a mis-diagnosis. The Cognitive Strengthening Centre is committed to ensuring that every student who could benefit from participation in the Arrowsmith Program is considered and evaluated carefully and fairly to ensure there is no exclusion of people from the program as a result of an incorrect diagnosis.

Individuals with learning difficulties who also have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have benefitted from the Arrowsmith Program.  The Program will enable these individuals to address the cognitive learning needs which so often accompany autism.  Our most recently published research specifically discusses people with autism in the Arrowsmith Program.

Does the program help with attentional disorders?

The Arrowsmith Program has been very successful in addressing attentional difficulties. Many individuals with specific learning difficulties (often referred to as 'learning disabilities') experience attentional issues which can arise from different underlying causes. In many cases these issues are a result of a combination of specific learning difficulties making it hard for the student to sustain attention in specific learning situations; others are related to specific learning difficulties related to regulating attention.

As an example, if a person has difficulty remembering what the teacher has said to them, it is highly likely they will be seen as 'not paying attention'.  If this is complicated by an inability to understand language then your ordinary 10 year old will begin to 'misbehave' in class. It is only the child saying, in the only way they can, 'this situation is not working for me and I don't know what's wrong and I'm worried about it'. Over a period of time, the child might gain the reputation of being unable to concentrate and thus the diagnosis of ADD is considered.

These types of attentional difficulties are specifically identified during the assessment and addressed by the exercises.  As the cognitive areas strengthen, the behaviours that indicate they are a problem, fade.  Many children on ADD medication are able to come off it after their program has finished because the underlying cause of their symptoms has been addressed.

Do you accept enrolments during the year?

The Cognitive Strengthening Centre accepts enrolment during the year subject to availability.  Each student's program is totally individualised so they are not disadvantaged by their starting date.

Are beginning students assessed?

All students enrolling in the full time and part time programs are assessed. The assessment takes 5 - 6 hours to complete so is generally done over at least two sessions.  
Neither the Motor Symbol Sequencing nor the Cognitive Enhancement programs require a full initial assessment - only an evaluation.
Please discuss the assessment process with Joanne on 04100 451 34.

What's the initial assessment for and how much does it cost?

The assessment identifies each individual’s learning profile.  It takes 5  - 6 hours to do and is generally done over at least two sessions.  The raw data is sent to Canada and a few days later comes back as a very detailed report with an individualized program to address the particular range of specific learning difficulties that the individual has.  
Each person's cognitive profile is different, so each person's cognitive program is different, and exactly suitable for the person. We then have a meeting to discuss the way forward for the person.

The assessment costs $2250 at the beginning of the year. $1750 of this pays for the license fee and is credited to the cost of the first cognitive area enrolled in. As the year progresses the license fee becomes cheaper and so does the assessment.  Each student is re-assessed at the end of the year to measure progress. Once enrolled in the program on an ongoing basis, there are no additional assessment costs.

Please note the assessment is not used as the basis for determining suitability for the Arrowsmith Program; suitability is determined through discussion with yourself and Joanne (0410045134). Or, you can work it out yourself by doing this questionnaire.

Who does the assessment and analyses the results?

The assessment of students is done by an Arrowsmith Program trained teacher  at the Cognitive Strengthening Centre. The results are then sent to the Arrowsmith School in Toronto for scoring, analyzing and the creation of a tailored program for the person.
Once we receive the report we will contact you and arrange a meeting to discuss the results with you.  You will have every opportunity to ask questions and to decide the right way forward for you or your child.

Can I access the Program online?

The Arrowsmith Program has become available online as well as onsite since the COVID outbreak.  Students participate in the Arrowsmith exercises online or within a classroom setting and under the supervision of an Arrowsmith Program trained instructor who is in ongoing correspondence with the Arrowsmith Program. Enrolled students are able to do extra sessions of the computer based programs on their own at home.
Arrowsmith and the Cognitive Strengthening Centre are committed to maintaining the integrity of the program and to monitoring each student’s experience closely. This means that students who are enrolled in the online version must login with a teacher at negotiated times each week.

When and where can I be assessed?

Each student is given a full Arrowsmith cognitive asessment by the Arrowsmith teacher when they enrol into the program.  Teachers are trained by Arrowsmith in the assessment process and the tests are scored and analysed at Arrowsmith Program Toronto.

The assessment is made up of tests designed to measure the strength of specific cognitive functions that impact learning. This enables Arrowsmith Program to identify each student’s learning profile of cognitive strengths and weaknesses and provides the basis for designing individual programs for each student.

The assessment is available in onsite and online versions.

Please note the assessment is not used as the basis for determining suitability for the  Program. Suitability is determined through the pre-screening discussion between the family and the Cognitive Strengthening Centre.  You can also work it out yourself by doing this questionnaire.

How long does the Arrowsmith Program take to work?

Neuroplastic change is slow but profound. The student and their family should notice change in the person after three months of the program. There are more subtle changes that may be noticeable before then.
The majority of students with learning difficulties will require a three-to-four year program of full time attendance to address all of their learning issues fully. If a student is unable to complete the three-to-four year full time program, they achieve benefit each year they are in the program or by participating on a part time basis.
You will notice that the student becomes able to learn independently, effectively and efficiently. This is the essential difference between the Arrowsmith Program and other interventions for learning disorders. The majority of our graduates no longer have problems learning. In fact, research shows that the students, who were previously labelled as having a learning disability and expected to learn at a slow rate, learn at twice the expected rate for an average student per year once they have addressed and strengthened the cognitive areas initially identified as being problematic.
As teachers we see this outcome frequently.  

Do students maintain their changes?

Students who have been followed up 30 years after completion of the program have maintained their improvements. Once the improvements are in place, it is thought that the person maintains their gain by using the cognitive area in everyday functioning.

How many students are there in each class?

The student to teacher ratio in an Arrowsmith classroom is 10:1.

How is attendance at the Program organised?

Students can attend the Arrowsmith Program on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time students attend on 4-5 days per week. Part-time students can negotiate their attendance pattern providing several requirements are met. They must come at least twice a week and may not do more than two hours of work on each cognitive area per day. The aim is always to maximise the best conditions for neuroplastic change to occur.

The Motor Symbol Sequencing program can be done at home. This program develops the ability to write, express thought in speech, read, and spell consistently. Students doing the MSS program work at home and visit the Centre once per fortnight (at a negotiated time) for monitoring their progress and adjustment of their program.
  • 7/460 Roberts Road, Subiaco WA, Australia

Past Events

Barbara Arrowsmith online30 Jun 2021Online Event
Building a Better Brain for Success: Neuroplasticity and Learning24 Mar 2021Online Event
https://at-home.arrowsmithprogram.com/virtual-world-tour-2021-feb17 Feb 2021Online Event
Virtual Tour by Barbara Arrowsmith Young22 Jul 2020Online Event
Barbara Arrowsmith presents in Perth11 Feb 2020The Octagon Theatre, University of WA
Open night at Fremantle Education Centre Arrowsmith Program22 Jan 2019Corner Cantonment and Parry Street Fremantle
Open night at Fremantle Education Centre Arrowsmith Program21 Nov 2018Fremantle Education Centre
Debbie Gilmore speaks15 Aug 2018Fremantle Education Centre
Open night at Fremantle Education Centre Arrowsmith Program03 May 2018Corner Parry and Cantonment Streets, Fremantle
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About me image
I started professional life as a Psychologist working with children and families in Burnie on the North-West coast of Tasmania.  There seemed to be an endless stream of children, mainly ten year old boys, marching through my clinic who were having trouble with learning.  My job was to discount intellectual disability as the cause of their struggles, and diagnose them with learning disability.  At the time we didn’t know what else to do except recommend a very structured learning program and lots of moral support as the child progressed through the education system.  What puzzled me, however, was that when I looked at the child’s historical school reports there were comments that indicated learning problems were evident right back to kindergarten.  Regardless of this, early intervention had not been organised for the children.

Roll on a few years and my children were old enough for me to return to the workforce and I decided to become an early years teacher so I could identify and provide early intervention for those children who were showing the early signs of learning difficulties. The aim was to refer them for speech pathology and occupational therapy. I was a bit shocked when I discovered the very low level of understanding of learning and learning problems amongst teachers. Parents were being told ‘he’s a boy’, ‘he’ll grow out of it’, ‘he’s a second child’, ‘girls always struggle with maths when these things are very untrue. Thinking it was my own lack of experience in the field, that there was something I didn’t understand, I enrolled in a Master’s degree to find out some more, and found that even at that level of study there was very little teaching about or understanding of the sorts of developmental issues that indicated a learning problem was imminent for the child. It seemed that the education system is only set up for those people who don’t have a problem with learning. Yet there are credible estimates that 15% of the population do have such a problem.

Then I saw an advertisement for a position as an Arrowsmith Teacher. I hadn’t heard of the Arrowsmith program before and was more than a little sceptical about it. It seemed to promise that learning disorders could be overcome! Parents have been promised this before only to find little or no change in their child’s learning and I didn’t want to be part of an organisation that promised but did not deliver. In addition, the claims of fundamental change being made to the person’s learning capacity were entirely against everything I had ever learned. I was, however, intrigued and investigated further. The research that had been done was really compelling and I was amazed by the seemingly miraculous changes in people’s lives that had occurred. This was something I wanted to know more about!

I applied for the position, was selected and trained as an Arrowsmith Teacher. Finally, I had found something I could dedicate myself to. Initially it was the social justice aspect of the program that appealed to me. I believe that all students have a right to receive the education they need to become independent in our literate and numerate society and this program maximises the chances of doing that for people with learning disorders.

As I’ve continued, however, I have become very aware of the pain that learning disorders cause. Children think they are ‘dumb’ because they can’t learn and might withdraw or become ‘behaviourally challenged’. Adolescents develop mental health issues because they struggle so much at school and are told – ‘just concentrate a bit more/ try harder’ as though it is their fault that they cannot learn, not the fault of the teacher who cannot teach them. Adults have missed out on reaching their potential because they are either not as literate and numerate as they need to be, or their executive functioning is not well enough developed for them to plan, manage themselves and understand the workplace.

All of these things are now unnecessary, because now we know what to do to help people with these problems.

The Arrowsmith Program helps people strengthen their cognitive skills and overcome their learning disorders so they can start to participate fully in our literate and numerate society. It is a privilege to facilitate it for people and a delight to watch them progress as their brain changes to make them more capable, stronger learners. It is incredible to me to walk beside someone and watch as they develop their underlying cognitive skills and become more aware of the world, gain independence and enable their potential.

I invite you to contact me to talk about whether this program is suitable for you or someone you love.

For more information or a no obligation chat:

Alternatively, you could do our questionnaire to see if the Arrowsmith Program could be suitable for you.

The Cognitive Strengthening Centre acknowledges the First Nations people of this land and pays our respects to their culture, people and Elders past, present and future.