Anyone who has ever wondered why some tasks are easy to learn, while others require effort or are nearly impossible will be awed and inspired by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s THE WOMAN WHO CHANGED HER BRAIN: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation (Free Press; May 1, 2012; $26.00). Detailing the brain’s incredible ability to change and overcome learning problems, this remarkable book deepens our understanding of the workings of the brain and its profound impact on how we participate in the world.
Imagine having a brain that is capable and incapable at the same time. When Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was a child, her learning disabilities were so severe that she read and wrote everything backward, couldn’t process concepts in language or tell time and continuously got lost. Her teachers labeled her slow or stubborn. But relying on her excellent memory and iron will, she nevertheless made it to graduate school, where she chanced upon various lines of research. With much reading and an intuitive understanding of the brain’s functioning, she invented a series of cognitive exercises to “fix” her own brain. Though it was thought that this kind of transformation was impossible until Dr. Eric Kandel won the Nobel Prize in 2000, the exercises worked. This was in 1978, long before the concept of “neuroplasticity” was widely understood. Since then, she has gone on to help countless children and adults overcome mild to severe learning disabilities by rewiring their brains.
Combining Barbara’s own dramatic personal story with case histories from her three decades as a researcher and educator, THE WOMAN WHO CHANGED HER BRAIN unravels the mystery of how our brain mediates our functioning in the world. We have always thought that “our brain shapes us” but Barbara demonstrates how “we can shape our brains.”
Must reading for anyone interested in learning and the brain and especially parents, educators, medical practitioners, and anyone who knows the heartache associated with learning problems, THE WOMAN WHO CHANGED HER BRAIN is a book that will alter the way people think about their mind, and quite possibly change lives.
Barbara Arrowsmith-Young holds both a B.A.Sc. in Child Studies from the University of Guelph, and a Master’s degree in School Psychology from the University of Toronto (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education). She is the Director of the Arrowsmith School and Arrowsmith Program, which has identified 19 cognitive areas of potential learning dysfunction and offers programs to strengthen the performance of each of them. The program originated in Toronto in 1978 and today is implemented in 35 schools in Canada and the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, California, and South Carolina.
It is her vision that this program be available to all struggling students so that no child will have to contend with a learning disability, no child will feel the emotional impact of one, and no child will ever be stigmatized as someone with a learning disability.