Brehm Arrowsmith Program

Brehm Arrowsmith Program

A powerful partnership has been forged.

Brehm Preparatory School has joined forces with the Arrowsmith Program to become an even more powerful force for positive change in the lives of students with complex learning disabilities and differences.

Brehm – at its family-style Carbondale boarding school environment – has a 30-year history of empowering these students to recognize and optimize their full potential. Arrowsmith Program has more than 30 years of experience demonstrating that it is possible for students to strengthen the weak cognitive capacities underlying their learning dysfunctions through a program of specific cognitive exercises.

The genesis of the Arrowsmith Methodology lies in its founder’s, Barbara Arrowsmith Young, journey of discovery and innovation to overcome her own severe learning disabilities, a detailed description of which appears in her book, “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain.”

Brehm has implemented the Arrowsmith Program as part of its full complement of programming.

“Since 1982, Brehm has been successfully teaching students with language-based and complex learning disabilities to ‘learn how to learn’ through a holistic, individualized special education environment, and we’ve been successful because we have never remained static,” said Dr. Brian Brown, Executive Director of Brehm. “We have continually grown and evolved as a program to meet the needs of our students.”

“Brehm has always strived to keep up on the latest research and cutting-edge practices to best serve our students and their families,” he said. “That’s how we discovered the Arrowsmith Program, which is a perfect fit for Brehm.  The Arrowsmith Program complements our existing program and will enhance our ability to make a difference in so many children’s lives.”

According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, one out of every five people in the United States has a learning disability. So, the need for programs that benefit these students is great. 1

“Educators no longer can afford to work in a vacuum. We must work together to pool our knowledge and do what is right for those with learning disabilities,” Brown said.

The Arrowsmith Program is founded on two lines of research. One line of research established that different areas of the brain working together are responsible for complex mental activities, such as reading or writing, and that a weakness in one area can affect a number of different learning processes. The other line of research investigated the principle of neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to physically change in response to stimulus and activity.

Recent research in neuroscience demonstrates that the brain is not static, but rather is dynamically changing and undergoes such changes throughout one’s entire life. The Arrowsmith Program has proven successful with students in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools, and for individuals into adulthood, evidence that neuroplasticity can be realized across the lifespan.

The Arrowsmith Program does not teach students how to compensate for their specific learning dysfunctions. Instead, the program focuses on strengthening the underlying weak cognitive area, thereby improving the ability of that area to contribute to the learning activity. It addresses the root cause of the learning disability rather than managing its symptoms.

Brehm will offer Arrowsmith Program classes to selected students who attend a minimum of four classes a day, five days a week, as well as evening exercises beginning this fall.

The Arrowsmith Program supports the brain’s ability to strengthen weaker cognition through a program of specific intensive cognitive exercises. These intensive specific cognitive exercises build new neuronal/synaptic interconnections. As the brain responds to these exercises, changes occur so that different areas of the brain learn to work together in order to perform complex mental activities such as reading and/or writing. Over time, the student becomes a more effective learner due to the alterations in the pathways of the brain, rather than as a result of learning compensatory strategies that ultimately do not alter the root of the problem. The Arrowsmith Program has a record of dramatically minimizing difficulties in reading, writing, mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia.

Our Arrowsmith instructors have undergone three weeks of intensive training in order to implement the program. Arrowsmith provides on-going support and assessment of student progress and refines the individual student’s program based on their progress.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be starting up at Brehm Preparatory School,” said Elizabeth Archer, program and research coordinator for the Arrowsmith Program. “This will be the first site in the state of Illinois to be taking on the program, and Arrowsmith is looking forward to working closely with Brehm in the coming school year.”

We encourage you to further research this program if interested. More information can be obtained on their Web page: or by reading The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.

In order to participate in the Arrowsmith Program at Brehm Preparatory School:

  • Student must meet the admissions criteria of Brehm School and be enrolled as a Brehm student
  • Student is age 11-adult
  • Commitment of parents and student to participate in the Arrowsmith Program for up to three years (this may be two years depending on progress)
  • Student is of average or above average intelligence, yet has demonstrated difficulty in academic and/or social situations due to the combination of his/her cognitive strengths and weaknesses or has a combination of the learning dysfunctions that are described in the Descriptions of 19 Learning Dysfunctions
  • Student understands and accepts that participation in the Arrowsmith Program will preclude graduation requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is there an additional cost?

No; however, since there is a two year commitment it will result in a super senior year and possible enrollment in OPTIONS so that your child can acquire the credits needed for graduation and build the academic and social skills that will maximize opportunities after graduation. Changes due to neuroplasticy should allow them to be more available for this instruction.

What are the next steps I need to take if I am interested in enrolling my child?
  1. Read through the
  2. Read the research on neuroplasticity of the brain
  3. Arrowsmith lists schools using the program – call and speak with those schools
  4. Set up a phone conference with Dr. Brian Brown and Terri Douglas to determine enrollment
3. Can you guarantee progress?

No; however our own research into the program, neuroplasticity, and inquiries and visits to schools using the program have substantiated that this is a viable therapy that could make the difference in independent living for more cognitively impaired students or improve cognitive availability of students with a “swiss cheese” profile to meet the academic demands of post-secondary education.

4. How do I know if my child is appropriate for the Arrowsmith program?

Students with average intellect have been reported to make significant gains that close the gaps in academic weaknesses after completing the program. Students who are more cognitively challenged are reported to make significant gains, but not close the gaps in academic weaknesses. It is critical that the student has an investment in the program since progress is maximized through attention and completion of tasks. Social gains have been reported with mixed results; thus, the program may or may not be appropriate for students on the autism spectrum.

5. How will I know if my child is making progress?

Students in the program are monitored daily by Arrowsmith. Arrowsmith uses the data to make sure that a student is constantly receiving therapy that is challenging but achievable. Brehm will be testing students using a variety of standardized measures dependent on student profiles: Woodcock Cognitive and academic test batteries; Gray Silent Reading Test; Speech and Language Testing (Language processing and pragmatics).

6. What if I only want my child to attend the program for one year?

The Arrowsmith program protocol requires a commitment for 2-4 years. More cognitively impaired students may require more time to achieve lasting results. If your child is showing significant progress in the program, the expectation is that your child solidifies and improves their gains through a two year commitment. If your child is not showing significant gains, parents may choose to withdraw their child from the Arrowsmith program.

7. Will my child be able to acquire credits to graduate if he/she are in the Arrowsmith program?

Yes; however, while in the Arrowsmith program he/she will not be able to acquire more than three credits as compared to the typical seven credits earned yearly: two of which are core classes and one elective or any combination thereof depending on the student’s ability to handle the cognitive stress of the program. As stated in question one, participation in the program will result in an additional year(s). If your child is in junior high or a super senior, credits will not be an issue.

8. How will the Arrowsmith program be scheduled for high school students?

In an attempt to keep each student mainstreamed into the educational and social experience at Brehm, your child will alternate between Arrowsmith classes, core classes, and elective. For example: 1st hour Arrowsmith, 2nd hour Literature, 3rd hour PE, 4th hour Arrowsmith, Lunch, 5th hour Arrrowsmith, 6th hour math, 7th hour Arrowsmith. This would be for a student who is more alert in the afternoon.

9. Will my child need support completing homework?

Your child will have 70 minutes of homework each day for Arrowsmith. This work can be broken into different time periods. For example he/she can do 30 minutes in advisement daily, and then 40 more minutes during study hall time. Students are to do the homework independently, but may need assistance to stay focused. Homework that results from core classes will be modified according to the student’s ability to complete it within the study time structured into the day. He/she will not be expected to do an additional study hall. He/She may receive a tutor for core class homework. However, Arrowsmith homework will take precedence over core class homework.


Posted on

August 21, 2014