This story is so inspiring, I gotta share it. My take away message? Life is filled with lots of possibilities as long as you believe in yourself, and persevere. And it’s important for us teachers and parents to instill that in our children, our future.
Also, our brain is indeed one powerful tool. It’s one of God’s greatest gift to us, therefore use it wisely.
Here’s Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s inspiring story.
“It’s the kind of memory that stays with you. When she was in first grade, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s Ontario primary school teacher told her mother – in her presence – that she had some kind of “mental block”, and would never be able to learn. Now that she has helped more than 4,000 learning-disabled children overcome precisely that kind of diagnosis, of course, she can laugh at it. But she didn’t at the time.
Arrowsmith-Young, now 61, talks fluently and passionately and with great erudition. She has a masters degree in school psychology. She has just published a groundbreaking, widely praised and enthralling book called The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. But back at school – indeed, up until she was in her mid-20s – she was desperate. Tormented and often depressed. She didn’t know what was wrong.
On the one hand, she was brilliant. She had near-total auditory and visual memory. “I could listen to the six o’clock news, and reproduce it word-for-word at 11pm. I could open a book, read the first sentence, the second, the third, visualise them. I could memorise whole exercise books.” On the other hand, she was a dolt. “I didn’t understand anything,” she says. “Meaning just never crystallised. Everything was fragmented, disconnected.”
She disguised her numerous learning disabilities by working 20 hours a day: “I used to hide in the bathroom when the security guards came around the college library at night, then come back out and carry on.”
The breakthrough came when she was 26. A fellow student gave her a book by a Russian neuro-psychologist, Aleksandr Luria: The Man with a Shattered World. The book contained Luria’s research and reflections on the writings of a highly intelligent Russian soldier, Lyova Zazetsky, who had been shot in the brain at the battle of Smolensk in 1943, and recorded in great detail his subsequent disabilities.
The rest, as they say, is history. She founded her first school in Toronto in 1980; she now has 35 in Canada and the US, most run under strict licence. She and her staff have devised cognitive exercises that have proved spectacularly effective in helping 19 distinct cognitive functions essential to reading, writing, maths, general comprehension, logical reasoning, visual memory or auditory processing.
Here’s the full story.