If you have a learning disabled child I don’t have to tell you about the myriad direct and indirect related challenges and associated frustrations. No doubt, you know them all too well.
I wish, however, you could have been there at several recent Arrowsmith Principals’ Events where principals, teachers, parents and students of Jewish schools such as Toras Emes Academy of N. Miami Beach, The Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, NJ, Yeshiva Degel HaTorah of Spring Valley, and Brooklyn-based Bais Yaakov of Boro Park and Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel (Chofetz Chaim) that have implemented the program described its remarkable implications. Had you been there, you would have been significantly heartened and inspired about the possibilities for a learning disabled child just by having felt the unbelievable – almost tangible – euphoria prevalent among participants.
At the Principal’s Breakfast in March of this year participants heard incredible testimonials from principals, parents, teachers and students about the Arrowsmith method. Following a vibrant discourse given by Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz, Associate Dean of The Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth about the method that professionals across the spectrum are hailing as a virtual breakthrough for the learning disabled, Rabbi Ari Mintz, Menahel of Yeshiva Gedola Bais Yisroel took the podium. Highlighting the pressing responsibility that principals have in addressing learning problems by searching for successful approaches in dealing with them, he urged educators to explore the Arrowsmith option.
Following these and other stirring words by numerous professionals, Rabbi Yissachar Weiner, Menahel of Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel, shared his first encounter with the Arrowsmith method – the unique remedial syllabus that relies on the wondrous notion that the brain has the intrinsic ability to correct itself. As he began reading the second chapter of Dr. Norman Doidge’s New York Times best-seller, The Brain that Changes Itself, Rabbi Weiner became enthralled. Arrowsmith was portrayed as the leading expert in learning disabilities and neuroplastic work! As impressive as Arrowsmith was in the printed word, however, Rabbi Wiener found that after actually implementing the program, nothing could duplicate the winning streak it made for itself among the boys in his yeshiva. Children who prior to Arrowsmith’s intervention had been continuously failing were now improving above and beyond expectations in attention span, social skills, retention of information, reading and even comprehension of Gemara! The enthusiasm and keen passion spurred on by this initial conference did not ebb or fade as the weeks passed.
In April an Information Session was held in Elizabeth, N.J. At that event, speaker after speaker praised the work and far-reaching results that Arrowsmith generated, echoing the all-encompassing consensus: this novel learning program has not just captured the rapt attention of the mainstream educational system, it has won the steadfast enthusiasm of the yeshiva and girl school system as well!
Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz, passionately explained that the Arrowsmith Program rectifies the fundamental learning difficulties with a collection of nineteen cognitive exercise curriculums. Aside from that, it actually teaches the brain how to perform, affecting an incredible turnaround for students who thereafter can enter a regular classroom situation minus the usual compensatory support or program modification.
What gave exceptional life to the talk were cases in point where Rabbi Teitz, along with other principals illustrated the dramatic impact the program had on individual students who exhibited marked improvement in standardized testing after being schooled through the Arrowsmith method of cognitive exercises.
In a similar vein, in May, principals from areas all around the state of Florida met at a session hosted by Rabbi Kalman Baumann, Principal of Toras Emes Academy in North Miami Beach. There, both Rabbi Baumann and veteran respected Toras Emes teacher Rabbi Elchonon Goldenberg paid tribute to the Arrowsmith Program. In glowing terms they described their students’ increasing score rates on standardized tests and new focus abilities that enhance their academic progress in the classrooms.
Indeed, had you been at the above celebratory events, you would have not been surprised that many of the yeshiva and girl school principals who were present voiced an avid interest in implementing the Arrowsmith Program into their individual core curriculums, prompting forthcoming plans to include it for the 2010-2011 academic year. Among the schools initiating programs are Yeshiva Tiferes Torah in Lakewood and Eitz Chaim in Toronto, Canada on both boys’ and girls’ campuses.
As a result of reimbursement provided to parents of children in Brooklyn by New York City Board of Education, a number of Brooklyn schools are investigating the possibility of providing the program on-site to their students in the coming fall. Among them are Mirrer Yeshiva, Lev Bais Yaakov, Barkai Yeshiva, Yeshiva of Crown Heights and Beis Chaya Mushka. Bais Yaakov High School of Bensonhurst hopes to launch a separate Arrowsmith Program division for girls and women of the community.
Of course, nothing could be more impressive than hearing a first-hand account of the impact Arrowsmith has had than from the very students themselves.
“I have seen improvements in many areas. Before I started this program, in math class I would try and try to get the right answer but now I can get the right answer with ease. My writing is way neater than it used to be. My focus is way better too. Now I can sit in class and listen to a full conversation without zooming out like I used to. But the best improvement for me is confidence. I used to sit in the corner of the class and try not to get called upon to give answers. Now I can’t wait to be called upon in class. Because of Arrowsmith I can do so many things that I couldn’t do before. I love school now. I feel really smart and this program has really helped me.”
“Before I came to Arrowsmith I was really out of it and couldn’t focus on anything my high school teacher was saying. Whenever my teacher would give out instructions, all I heard was gibberish and couldn’t catch what he was saying. I would go up to the teacher later and he would tell me face to face what to do for the second time. Even when the teacher said it a bunch of times I would still never catch a word. The odd time I would pick up what to do, but I still couldn’t work because I was distracted. Because of my attention problem I would get anywhere from 40 to no more than 60% if I was lucky. When my mom told me about Arrowsmith I really thought it made sense how it could help a lot of problems I had with learning.”
“I have been in Arrowsmith for one and a half years and I found I can talk much better than I used to. My focus is better and the other day I found that I can read a paragraph and actually know what I read. Arrowsmith has helped other things other than school too. For example, I can play a guitar and deciding what notes to play next and quicker than before. I was a very bad decision maker and still am not perfect, but nothing like I was before I came to this program. Another bad thing I noticed is my memory. Before I could barely remember what happened or what I was talking about 5 minutes ago. Now it is not a huge deal. I think the biggest thing that helped what I had a big problem with was finding things like my supplies before going to school and finding the ketchup in the fridge. I would be right in front of me and I wouldn’t notice it was there. I don’t have a problem with that at all anymore.”
If you have a learning disabled child or are involved with one, no doubt you would have been heartened by the various events and impressive testimonials given about the Arrowsmith Program, had you been there. The astounding facts are on the table now. You owe it to yourself and – more importantly – to your child to find out more and see if your school can pick up the keen momentum it has created among the broader Jewish educational system. .
For more information on the Arrowsmith Program see www.arrowsmithschool.org.