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Traditionally, students struggling with learning disabilities are given a label. Some of the most common labels include dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, non-verbal learning difficulties and auditory processing challenges. 

The issue with these labels is that they don’t identify the source of the learning problem so lead to approaches dealing with the surface level symptoms and working around the problem rather than finding solutions and changing the learner.

Arrowsmith, on the other hand, provides a solution. It dives below the label to focus on the root of the learning disability. Our philosophy is that the learner is not fixed, meaning, we design individualized programs to modify the learner through the application of the principles of neuroplasticity. 

Our goal is to change the student’s capacity to learn, rather than implement compensatory methods that try to work around the problem. By strengthening weaker cognitive capacities, we are able to increase the overall functioning of cognition so that the brain can be used more effectively for learning. 

With that in mind, in this blog we take a look at why it’s important to go beyond the label and how by doing so, along with the implementation of a cognitive program, students can change their brain and improve their learning outcomes. 

This blog is a summary of our recent webinar, Going beyond the label of learning difficulties by strengthening your child's capacity to learn. If you would like to dive into this topic in more detail, the webinar is available on demand now for free. 

Beyond the label of learning difficulties - Webinar

The role cognitive functions play in learning disabilities

When it comes to learning, reading, writing, math, science and problem solving they all have one thing in common. All of these complex tasks involve a range of specific cognitive functions and are impacted by our brain’s unique cognitive profile. 

When students struggle in these areas, they typically go through a psychoeducational assessment and are then giving a label such as:

  • Dyslexia

  • Auditory processing

  • Dysgraphia

  • Non-verbal learning

  • Dyscalculia

  • Executive function

  • Auditory memory

  • Logical reasoning

  • Visual memory

The problem is that each one of these diagnoses can be the result of weaknesses in a range of different cognitive functions. For example, you might meet three students diagnosed with dyslexia and each could have a completely different cognitive profile underlying the diagnosis. 

Rather than a focus on labels, here at Arrowsmith we believe it’s critical to treat each individual in terms of their unique cognitive strengths and weaknesses. 

If we look at dyslexia through a cognitive lens, then we find that dyslexia is a combination of several cognitive functions, including: Auditory Speech Discrimination, Lexical Memory, Motor Symbol Sequencing, Symbol Recognition, Broca’s Speech Pronunciation and Symbol Relations.

Reading challenges like dyslexia are caused when brain networks, or cognitive functions responsible for reading, are underperforming. 

Here at Arrowsmith, we give students the opportunity to transform their learning capacity and fundamentally address issues like dyslexia. We go ‘beyond the label’. Our brains can change. Arrowsmith uses the brain’s neuroplastic potential to strengthen weak functions that are at the core of dyslexia (and other learning disabilities). 

Most importantly, everyone’s brain is different. No one size fits all. That’s why Arrowsmith builds individualized programs to meet the needs of every student’s unique cognitive profile

How the Arrowsmith Cognitive Assessment goes beyond the label

Arrowsmith’s Cognitive Assessment enables us to go beyond the label to create individualized cognitive programs that use the principles of neuroplasticity to change the brain and improve a student’s capacity to learn. 

Unlike traditional psychoeducational assessments that generate a diagnosis (label), the Arrowsmith Cognitive Assessment isn’t focused on a label. Instead, we focus on each individual’s cognitive profile so that we can customize the program of cognitive exercises needed to strengthen their cognitive capacities. 

In this process, we generate an initial learning profile, recommend a cognitive program to strengthen the weaker areas and then re-assess students at the end of each year to measure their cognitive growth. 

Are you interested in learning more about how Arrowsmith goes beyond the label and instead focuses on the individual cognitive profile? Get in touch with the Arrowsmith team of neuroplasticity experts today



Jason Kinsey
Post by Jason Kinsey
February 20, 2023
After receiving his B. Ed. in 2000 from Nipissing University, Jason gained experience in both Northern Ontario and Atlanta, Georgia before joining Arrowsmith School. Jason’s life trajectory was permanently changed after becoming aware of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s revolutionary means of addressing learning difficulties. Since 2008, Jason has been fortunate to work with students and their families to help open doors that otherwise may have remained closed. Whether it has been in the classroom as a cognitive teacher, as a principal, or in Admissions, he has learned that being able to speak with families that are just discovering Arrowsmith for the first time is an absolute pleasure. Jason shares, “To be able to answer questions and let students and families know that, yes, we can help, is just about one of the best feelings in helping to carry Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s work forward.” Jason is thankful that his own children have benefited from attending Arrowsmith – the Brain Change School.