Arrowsmith School

co-educational day school for children with specific learning disabilities school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Arrowsmith School is a private school in Toronto, Ontario. It is for children in Grades 1 to 12 that have learning disabilities[1] The Arrowsmith School was first founded in Toronto in 1980. It was founded by Barbara Arrowsmith Young. A second location was opened in May 2005 in Peterborough, Ontario. The Eaton Arrowsmith School is modelled on the Toronto school. It was founded by Howard Eaton. That school was opened in 2005 in Vancouver, British Columbia. It has two other schools in Canada and one in the United States.

Arrowsmith School
245 St. Clair Avenue West

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Coordinates43°41′08″N 79°24′20″W / 43.6856°N 79.4056°W / 43.6856; -79.4056
School typePrivate, Co-educational day school for children with specific learning disabilities
Founded1980 (1980)
PrincipalBarbara Arrowsmith Young
Grades1 – 12

The school uses a program known as the Arrowsmith Program. This program was created by Arrowsmith Young in 1978. She created it from exercises that she had created for herself in 1977. She has said that they helped her to overcome her own learning difficulties. Her own problems with learning disability are talked about in her 2012 book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. She says that her way of doing things is based on research into neuroplasticity. Her research suggests that the brain is always changing and rewiring itself.[2] The program has been used into other public and private schools in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[3] Several cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists do not think is is a good program.[4]



Barbara Arrowsmith Young founded the original Toronto school in 1980 with her and her then-husband, Joshua Cohen. They created it to teach learning disabled children. They taught the children by using the program and exercises that Arrowsmith Young had begun creating for herself in 1978. She said the program helped her to overcome her own learning difficulties.[5] In Arrowsmith Young's 2012 book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, she said she used her middle name for the school in honor of her paternal grandmother As a young girl, her grandmother had been one of the pioneer settlers of Creston, British Columbia. The Toronto school grew slowly over time. In 1991, she and Cohen chose to open a second school in Brooklyn, New York and stop using the school in Toronto.By 1994 the New York school had closed. The marriage of Arrowsmith Young and Cohen had also ended. She returned to Toronto and re-opened the school there.

The school later moved to its present location in the Forest Hill neighborhood of Toronto.[6] Barbara Arrowsmith Young is still the director and owner of the school. She is also the owner and director of a second branch of the school in Peterborough, Ontario. It was opened in 2005.[3] Both branches have had a growing numbers of students from outside Canada. This happened after Arrowsmith Young's 2012 speaking tour to New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. This tour was for her to talk about her book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. In October 2012, about one third of the students the Peterborough branch were from other countries. Seven students were from Australia, one student was from the United Arab Emirates and one student was from the United States).[7]

In 2005 Howard Eaton opened the Eaton Arrowsmith School in Vancouver. It is modelled on the Arrowsmith School in Toronto. The Eaton Arrowmith School opened branches in British Columbia at Victoria in 2009 and White Rock in 2012.[8] Eaton opened a branch in the United States at Redmond, Washington. This school, the Eaton Arrowsmith Academy, opened in September 2014.[9] Eaton is the owner and director of all four Eaton Arrowsmith schools.

Skepticism and criticism


In his 2008 book The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge, a Canadian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst wrote an entire chapter about Arrowsmith Young and the Arrowsmith Program. In it he writes about Arrowsmith Young dealing with her learning disabilities and how she created the program. He also includes some small case histories of children and adults who he says were helped by the program. No actual data to support this was presented.[10] He says that what she has done was "an important discovery." He also said that it had "major implications for education".[5] However, he also says that the Arrowsmith Program has been controversial. There has been a large amount of doubt and criticism from several psychologists, neuroscientists and learning experts. The main reason for this is the lack of scientific evidence that the program does what it says it does. and on its underlying rationale which its critics say represents an oversimplification and misapplication of neuroscientific concepts.[4]

In Canada, neuroscientist Adele Diamond and cognitive psychologist Linda Siegel were on a 2008 CBC documentary about the Arrowsmith program. It was filmed at the Arrowsmith School in Toronto. Siegel was very critical about the program. Part of what she said about the program was removed before it was broadcast after Arrowsmith Young's lawyers threatened the CBC with a lawsuit for libel.[11][a] Siegel was wrote a 2003 report to the Vancouver School Board (VSB) about The Arrowsmith program. At the time, VSB was running a three-year trial of the program, Siegel's report had a large effect in the VSB's decision to end the program.[12]

  1. According to the producer of the documentary, two sentences from Siegel were removed: "I think the Arrowsmith Program is a fraud. I think they're taking money from people and not showing any improvement in any kind of any objective way." The rest of her commentary was not changed.[11]


  1. "What are Specific Learning Difficulties: About Dyslexia". British Dyslexia Association. Archived from the original on 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2014-04-22.
  2. Arrowsmith-Young, Barbara (May 2012). The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-0793-2.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Arrowsmith Providers | Arrowsmith". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Can a controversial learning program transform brains?". The Globe and Mail. 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Doidge, Norman (2008-08-07). The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 978-0-14-103887-2.
  6. George, Lianne (7 November 2008). "Dumbed down", Maclean's. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  7. McCormick, Rob (9 October 2012). "Global reach at school for learning disabled" Archived 2015-06-06 at the Wayback Machine. Peterborough Examiner. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  8. About us. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  9. Shen, Molly (25 November 2014). "New take on learning disabilities: change the brain" Archived 2014-11-28 at the Wayback Machine. KOMO News. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  10. Clark, Elaine and Pompa, Janiece L. (2011). "Advances in Neuroscience and Reading Disabilities". The Oxford Handbook of School Psychology, pp. 183–184. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195369807
  11. 11.0 11.1 Hill, M. F. (29 December 2008). "Education expert calling her lawyer". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  12. Eaton, Howard (2013). "Siegel's Study: Points For Comment" Archived 2014-12-03 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 9 June 2015.