Skip to main content

“These mountains you were carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” ~ Najwa Zebian

Children with learning disabilities work hard. In fact, they are working too hard. Their brains, built to learn, are working infinitely harder than the brains of peers without learning disabilities

So, what about dyslexia - is it a learning disability and what’s wrong with the traditional method of diagnosing and “accommodating” it? 

In one study, children with dyslexia were reported to be using their brain five times harder than those without. Why? Because the networks responsible for reading were not doing their jobs This makes the process inefficient, sometimes impossible. This also makes the brain exhausted; and the child exhausted as a result. 

It's important to understand that learning disabilities are not indicative of intelligence. On the contrary, many with dyslexia or other learning disabilities are very bright. However, if there is a weakness in specific brain processes or “cognitive functions”, struggles with learning can be the result. Thankfully, that struggle does not need to be permanent. Arrowsmith presents an alternative to that exhausted brain: building a stronger brain. 

With that in mind, in this blog we’re going to explore the traditional diagnosis and accommodations associated with dyslexia, and how, through the power of neuroplasticity, dyslexia can be overcome. 

What is the Traditional Diagnosis of Dyslexia? 

Dyslexia is a known brain disorder and defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM V) as: “an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding and poor spelling abilities.”   

Dyslexia primarily affects an individual’s ability to read, spell and sometimes write. 

Traditionally, dyslexia is believed to be ‘lifelong’. Rather than addressing the cause and helping individuals overcome dyslexia, individuals are instead given accommodations - such as extra time on tests, audio versions of texts, or speech-to-text software - to help them work around their learning disability.

Arrowsmith Understands Dyslexia Differently 

Arrowsmith describes it like this: 

Dyslexia is a symptom of one or more weak cognitive functions. The functions impacted may include eye tracking of letters, visual memory of symbol patterns, memory for words, phonological awareness, and conceptual understanding. When these functions are weak, essential skills such as reading (or writing, or mathematics) are difficult to acquire.

Like fingerprints, each of us have our own cognitive makeup. This means that each person with dyslexia will be uniquely different, even when they might have the same diagnosis. That’s because there are many different faces of dyslexia

This explains why some children with dyslexia respond to a phonics-based reading program, but not all. Those “non-responders” or even those slow to respond, will have an underlying phonological or Broca’s deficit, so cannot rely on this capacity to access a phonics-based approach.

This also explains why some with dyslexia eventually learn to read – with herculean effort, and hours and hours of remedial intervention. It is unlikely that they will ever deeply enjoy reading, feel relaxed by it, or choose to do it for pleasure.

Are you interested in discovering your unique cognitive profile? Take our 30-minute cognitive profile questionnaire to start the journey of gaining a better understanding of your brain’s unique strengths and weaknesses through a cognitive lens.


So, is Dyslexia a Lifelong Condition?

Simply put, it doesn’t have to be. Despite the common belief that struggles associated with dyslexia and other learning disabilities are permanent, Arrowsmith has been proving this wrong for decades. 

Our brains can change. By harnessing the power of neuroplasticity we can target and improve the specific cognitive functions that are at the core of those dyslexic symptoms.

Of course, if our brains are so distinctive, so too must be the method of improving them. To understand each person’s dyslexia, we must first understand their unique learning profile. This enables a program of specific cognitive exercises to be calibrated: truly individualized program design. One size does not fit all. 

What does this mean for people with dyslexia? It means their brains change, cognitive functions are enhanced, and in turn, learning proceeds in the way it was designed to do. 

Research indicates that with stronger cognitive capacities in these key networks, the brain doesn’t have to work as hard; it takes in, learns, understands, remembers and applies information efficiently.

Children with dyslexia do not need to suffer trying to make sense of the written word, spend years in remedial programming, or develop avoidance tactics in school. Adults do not need to see reading as a chore, give up academic or professional ambitions, or never know the fulfillment of the world contained in literature. 

The solution is to understand their unique, complex profile and then, transform it. 

My husband and I smile as we watch our daughter hide under the covers reading books with her flashlight.  This was the young girl who a year ago in grade 1 couldn’t recognize the letters in her name or all the letters in the alphabet and who had been identified as having a significant reading disability. 

The Arrowsmith assessment identified that all the cognitive functions related to reading were weak. Fast forward a year after working on strengthening the cognitive functions related to reading, and you never see Anna without a book in her hands.” ~ Helen, mother of Anna (a participant in the Arrowsmith Program)

Are you interested in learning more about how this can work for you or your child? Get in touch with an Arrowsmith Provider today and explore the possibilities of strengthening your brain and overcoming dyslexia. 




Shelley Woon
Post by Shelley Woon
November 30, 2023
Shelley, a passionate educator, brings a solution focused and collaborative perspective to each situation which is informed by her 30+ years of engaging with students, families and community partners. She values the brain-learning connection and is eager to assist others in developing an understanding of a neuroplastic approach in unlocking potential, particularly for those struggling with learning difficulties. She is thrilled to be an integral part of the dynamic and innovative Arrowsmith community. She holds a Master of Education in Leadership, and Supervisory Officer and Principal qualifications, along with Specialists in Special Education and Reading.