A new way to help kids with learning difficulties

A MELBOURNE advocacy group is appealing to local Jewish schools to take on a Canadian program that tackles learning difficulties such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder and dyspraxia.

“Students with learning disabilities have traditionally been treated with programs designed to compensate for their difficulties,” said Sharon Rechtman, founder of the Arrowsmith Parents Advocacy Group.

“Students who have difficulty with handwriting, for example, would be taught to use a keyboard or accommodated with more time to write exams. The goal of the Arrowsmith Program, by contrast, is to help students strengthen the weak cognitive capacities underlying their learning dysfunctions. The program deals with the root causes of the learning disability rather than managing its symptoms.”

Created by Canadian educator Barbara Arrowsmith Young, the program uses the principles of neuroplasticity, tailored to the cognitive profile of each student. Typically taking three to four years, students spend four lessons of each school day in the program to provide the repetition and intensity required to make significant and lasting changes to their brain.

It has proven effective for students who have difficulty in a number of areas including reading, writing, mathematics, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, processing speed and dyslexia.

“Jewish schools in the US have introduced Arrowsmith to support kids with learning difficulties, and the Australian Catholic Education Office is providing Arrowsmith. But this is not happening in Jewish schools in Australia,” said Rechtman, whose son was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2012 and who, despite being an intelligent child and receiving multiple private interventions, still struggles in a classroom.

“Children with learning difficulties are smart kids who can excel in mainstream class given the right form of intervention,” said Rechtman. “But they are falling through the cracks because their learning style is not suited to most mainstream school systems.”

Urging local Jewish schools to consider the program, the group is offering support with funding and introductions to students who have completed the program.

“After exploring dozens of therapies and talking to numerous parents and specialists I have found that the most consistent and long-lasting success comes from those who have undertaken the Arrowsmith Program. I want the same results for my son and others like him,” said Rechtman.

A pilot Arrowsmith program was launched this year at two Catholic primary schools in Melbourne. Rechtman said she was aware of 53 families who missed out on places and a further 50 Australian families who have moved to Canada so their children can attend the Arrowsmith program.

Barbara Arrowsmith will be presenting “Neuroplasticity and its use in the Arrowsmith Program” at the Hawthorn Arts Centre August 25, 7.30-9pm. To book tickets: www.hawthornartscentre.com.au/event/woman-changed-brain-2.  For further information on the advocacy group, contact [email protected] or visit www.facebook.com/Arrowsmith ProgramAdvocacyMelbourne.