The following story is a first-person account from an Eaton Arrowsmith parent. It shows the impact the school can have on children with learning disabilities from the perspective of a family that has experienced the life-changing program firsthand.
My daughter is a cheerful, kind, fun and helpful girl with a beautiful soul. She is a joy to be with, if you’re not in a rush or don’t need to get things done immediately. Unfortunately, in real life, there are deadlines to meet, classes to attend, meals to cook and errands to run, so this can be a challenge for everyday life. Communication is an uphill battle and I always have to account for extra time to explain situations or combat meltdowns and stubbornness, so it can be a struggle to leave the house each day.
Struggling at school
When my daughter was 7, we tried to teach her to count by 5s. However, no matter how much time and effort we put in, she could not memorize the sequence. She did not understand the concept since she could not see the pattern. She was assessed and diagnosed with a Mathematics disorder.
Upon receiving this news, we faced a disastrous Grade 3. She was placed in a split class – with a new and inexperienced teacher, unfamiliar with teaching both primary and split classes – and there were a few students that required extra attention in class. Our quiet and cheerful girl, who needed a lot of academic support, ended up being neglected in class. Unfortunately, it was an unproductive year for her and she did not learn much.
In Grade 4, we got her in a program designed for students with moderate to severe learning disabilities. During the first year in this program, we saw an improvement in her anxiety levels and self-confidence, and she made good, close-knit friends. We were happy about the switch of schools.
As she started her second year, I noticed that while her confidence had increased, she wasn’t really progressing academically. I learned that she would most likely need an extended support program with an adapted and/or modified curriculum until high school, and would likely graduate high school without a diploma.
She might be able to survive in high school with all these modifications, adaptations and remediations, but what would happen when she entered into the real world?
Introduction to Eaton Arrowsmith
One of her ex-schoolmates started school at Eaton Arrowsmith (EA) in September 2017, and I learned about the school and the philosophy behind their approach from her parents.
My husband and I were blown away with how differently EA approaches learning disabilities, so we were inspired to learn more about the school, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s vision, and about brain science and neuroplasticity. After more research, we knew this was the right next step for her.
It was a quick, but firm, decision: we first heard about EA and attended their open house in October; scheduled a one-on-one information session with EA in November; arranged for her to try out the school in December; and made the final decision to join Eaton Arrowsmith for the January 2018 term. We are convinced that the impact of this school, and what they do for students with cognitive weaknesses, will last a lifetime. As Barbara Arrowsmith-Young says in her book, “a regular classroom is where you go to learn things, the cognitive classroom gets the brain ready to learn.”
Due to her cognitive weakness, she can be very inflexible when under stress. She has now learned a self-talk method to break down tasks in a way where she can accomplish them one by one. Now, she can also express her needs through words.
The relationship between her and her younger sister has improved tremendously since she started at EA. In the past, they would play only for a short period of time, before she lost interest, didn’t understand the game, or didn’t follow the rules. Also, these play times usually ended with a quarrel. Now, however, my girls can spend all of Saturday morning playing harmoniously, and even request to camp out in each other’s rooms consistently. It is so heartwarming to see my daughters finally bond in a fun and enjoyable way.
I truly believe we made the right decision in sending her to Eaton Arrowsmith. She works hard and constantly sees herself improving, which continues to increase her confidence. She is treasured by the loving teachers and staff at EA, and I feel hopeful for her future. I anticipate the day that she opens her wings and truly flies.
This post is sponsored by one of our community builders, Eaton Arrowsmith
At Eaton Arrowsmith we teach our students a series of exercises to help them strengthen their brains and address the cognitive weaknesses that cause their specific learning difficulties. We operate on the principle of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to be strengthened over time with targeted training. This sets us apart from other learning intervention programs. www.eatonarrowsmith.com
Kelly is the Managing Editor for VancouverMom and Director of Corporate Development for Crisp Media. She can't function without her morning coffee and hates making school lunches - especially when she forgets its hot lunch day. When not out enjoying the city with her husband and two daughters she can be found on her laptop at a cafe working on her novel.