Challenging the brain with cognitive intervention

Learning disability interventions typically give students tools to help them cope in school and life. But Eaton Arrowsmith School (EA) works to strengthen the underlying causes of a child’s disability so they can achieve goals and live independently.  

“Our exercises target areas in the brain that cause specific academic or social weaknesses and seek to strengthen those areas so they can do their jobs properly," says Luciana Holmes, EA’s head cognitive teacher.

EA uses the Arrowsmith Program, which was developed by Canadian educator, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young. It’s a program for children with learning disabilities, but it doesn’t involve cognitive crutches or work-arounds like technology or extra time on tests. Instead, EA focuses on addressing the neurological causes of learning disabilities.

"We all understand that if you don't use something, you lose it," Holmes says. "It's the same with the brain. Arrowsmith Program exercises are designed to challenge weaker parts of the brain. They work to strengthen those areas and prevent other, stronger areas, from jumping in to compensate."

Holmes and her colleagues create motivations and reward systems for students as they progress through their programs. These include both individual and team incentives and emphasize success.

"We also practice mindfulness so students become more self-aware and analytical in their thoughts,” Holmes says. “It’s amazing to watch because they start to motivate themselves."

EA offers hope to children who struggle in school and who have experienced ridicule, bullying, and negative feedback in the mainstream education system.

"This is a safe place," Holmes says. "We provide a supportive environment to help children open up and work hard to build better lives for themselves."

EA also supports students as they transition back into the mainstream school system.

“We work closely with receiving schools to make sure students get the help they need during the transition. Mainstream schools are very cooperative and understanding," Holmes says.

According to her, most children find the transition smooth and are very excited when they start to see their new strengths in action at school.  

“Because of their hard work at EA, students are able to absorb and understand academic information and make stronger social connections,” Holmes says. “And the changes only become more noticeable with each passing year.”

For more information about Eaton Arrowsmith School or the Arrowsmith Program, call 604.538.1710, email, visit the website at, or take an interactive tour of one of our schools. Eaton Arrowsmith can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.