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When a child is diagnosed with a learning disability, or learning difficulty, they are typically given a label. 

For example, a label of dyslexia may be applied to individuals who struggle with reading, while dyscalculia might be applied to those who struggle with math. Others may be diagnosed with ADHD, an auditory processing disorder or a non-verbal learning problem.

What these labels do is organize a series of symptoms into a common category. What they don’t do, however, is identify the underlying cause that is giving rise to the specific symptoms the child is experiencing. 

The label places certain behaviours into categories to help us understand them, but this does not identify or explain the underlying mechanism driving these behaviours.

Why labels don’t help us identify, and resolve, the underlying cause of learning disabilities

If you think about physical illness, nobody is diagnosed with a runny nose or a sore throat. Those are the symptoms of what might be the virus that causes the common cold, or possibly sinusitis, or hay fever, or even COVID-19 - each of which requires a different treatment. 

Yet if three children are each diagnosed with dyslexia, they often receive the same intervention involving some type of reading support. This one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t take into account each individual brain behind the symptoms. 

Similarly, children labelled as having the same learning difficulty - such as ADHD, dysgraphia, executive functioning or working memory problems - may be struggling because of a very different combination of difficulties in the way that their brains learn and process information. 

Learners are diverse in their cognitive profile of strengths and needs, so each individual learner requires a tailored intervention to best serve them.

At Arrowsmith, we believe that until we identify what is driving the symptoms or set of behaviours for each individual within a diagnostic label, treatment will be limited in its effectiveness as it is not targeting the underlying source of the problem.

At Arrowsmith, we work to understand each student’s unique learning difficulties. Rather than giving them a label, we identify their individual cognitive profile and the specific cognitive weaknesses that are causing their symptoms or behaviours. We go under the label, using what we now know about the brain.

Arrowsmith’s individualized cognitive programs target each student's areas of difficulty and address the root cause of the problem. The outcome? Students overcome a range of learning difficulties, no matter the initial label and ultimately leave that label behind as they strengthen their cognitive abilities.

Don’t just target the symptoms when you can address the underlying cause. To help you do just that, the Arrowsmith Cognitive Assessment has been built to give you an in-depth understanding of your child’s unique learning profile based on the strengths and weaknesses of their cognitive capabilities.


Tara Bonner
Post by Tara Bonner
December 20, 2022
Tara Bonner collaborates with professionals and educators worldwide, envisioning the convergence of learning and neuroscience. Tara has witnessed that cognitive programming can be a transformative force not just for struggling learners, but for all seeking to experience learning with ease and joy. She's honored to be part of these discussions and an organization that's revolutionizing education by putting the "Brain in Education."