The woman who changed her brain
Barbara Arrowsmith at her Arrowsmith School in Toronto. She teaches techniques she herself used to overcome a range of severe and unusual learning disabilities.
September 7th, 2012
09:13 AM ET

The woman who changed her brain

By Michael Schulder, CNN

(CNN) - Barbara Arrowsmith spent the first 26 years of her life unable to read a clock.

She spent the first 26 years of her life having to read and reread sentences dozens of times before she had a clue what they meant.

Barbara Arrowsmith had so many severe learning disabilities as a child that she would lay her school books neatly on her bed and cry over them until she had no more tears left. Then she would get to work. Barbara did have an excellent memory. That was her survival tool.

[1:49] "I had a verbatim auditory memory, so I could memorize things that I heard. And I had a photographic visual memory. So I really got by on memory and also on tremendous drive."

But she had physical disabilities that compounded her problems. The left side of young Barbara Arrowsmith’s body didn’t know where it was in space. So she got hurt so often her mother predicted she wouldn't live past the age of five.

[5:57] "The whole left side of my body was - tended to be quite bruised and I would never have any idea where I got those bruises. I have lots of scars on that side of my body as a result of accidents."

Nobody knew how to address Barbara Arrowsmith’s learning and physical challenges. So she fixed herself. She created exercises to change her brain – and now – the brains of the children who have the good fortune to enter the Arrowsmith School in Toronto.

Listen to the amazing journey of Barbara Arrowsmith in her own words. She is “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain.”

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Filed under: CNN Profiles • Health • Science • Voices
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Post Hypnotic Press

    I'm a big fan of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young and her work. I just wanted to let people know that this book is also available in audio: http://www.posthypnoticpress.com/pages/on-sale-now-item?r=XF38W8ZC8Q&send_to=%2F

    September 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mary

    This woman describes the same thing stroke victims can go through.
    I had a stroke during surgery in my early 40's.. it was a hit and miss type event.. leaving me with lacunes here and there.It effected my memory, my ability to understand speech with my eyes closed. I had some aphasia.. inability to concentrate, etc.
    Anyway.. My point is ..YES YOU CAN change your brain.. I fought and fought it. Never willing to give in to it.. Wanting to be my self again..
    Most Doctors said to get used to it.. I said there was no way I would .. So I did games, and mental challenges ..Thats why I have a computer.. so I could use it to play memory type games..
    Never give up.. Fight it.. Work on it..
    Your brain is NOT hard wired..
    It can get better.And I am totally shocked that this story is made to sound like her situation is unique.. Stroke victims go through the very same thing. Right down to the depression and the frustration of it.
    So no disrespect to her at all. Its a hard hard struggle that she went through.. But thousands are dealing with this every day...

    September 9, 2012 at 4:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Stan

    Thank you Barbara! I am quite above average intelligence, with many striking talents, etc. Some people call me a genius (which isn't true... not yet... 😉 ) But, I'm very frustrated about some aspects of my mind/brain functioning, and the effects this has in parts of my life. Really frustrated/demoralized. I got some great ideas and inspiration from you. I know I can make this work... stop being demoralized, and get crackin on those areas of weakness. THANKS!!!

    September 9, 2012 at 3:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Reggie Williams

    Pretty simple. Use it or lose it...

    September 9, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. elvinmerij

    I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). As a kid, even though I could read ok, I had to re-read each chapter several times because my OCD 'thing' kept making me feel like I wasn't reading it good enough. It just didn't feel right. And if I re-read it and the re-reading didn't satisfy the OCD, I had to do it again in EXACTLY the same incorrect way, to "cancel" it, and then re-read it a 3rd time. And if that didn't feel right I had to do it a 4th time, repeating the way I felt when I read it the 3rd time, so as to cancel the 3rd time, and try to successfully read it on the 5th try. And if that didn't 'feel' right, I had to do a 6th 'incorrect' read, going for a 7th perfect read ...
    ... etcetera.

    As you can imagine, pure hell. And long long periods of reading. Well, basically it took me 3 or 4 times as long to read my assigned reading as the other kids in the class. I always did poorly in class. Hated school.

    I still have OCD in my 50s. It still makes life miserable. I guess everybody has their own challenge. Sigh.

    September 9, 2012 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
    • larry schloss

      Why don't you consult a Neurologist or a Psychiatrist for the OCD? Today they have great meds for OCD and your life could improve. Very little side effects, if you are fearful of meds. I've had OCD for over 50 years, and the meds really help me.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. weareserenitysisters

    I had brain injury and lost a scholarship – I worked damn hard to get the brain back – but I did not have a 10th of what she had – THANK GOD for your perseverance! The world is a better place!

    September 9, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jayne

    Wow, some of you guys are real jerks!

    September 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Praveen

      Yeah...I agree. The wonders of anonymity of the Internet!

      September 15, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Gapster

    For learning disabilities, check out the GAPS diet. It works wonders for people with many mental and physical disorders. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has done the world a great service in developing the GAPS diet!

    September 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gordio

      Oh jeez...

      September 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rebecca

    Did anyone notice that she knew the meaning of 'stupid' ?

    September 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tony Miltich

    LearningRx uses mental exercises to change the brain permanently much like the results in this story. It's not magic but some real hard "exercise" based on brain plasticity. Works with kids & adults; reading problems to strokes. A very thorough program and you don't have to go to Toronto...no passport!

    September 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • willie

      maybe some brain salad surgery.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • willie

      and what would you do with a brain if you had one...asked glenda the good witch

      September 9, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  11. Beam48

    Barbara Arrowsmith ...thank you for this! I have dyslexia and when I was in school they hadn't heard of such a thing...at least not until I was a senior in high school and by then it was a little too late. I had to teach myself to read AFTER I graduated from high school. Not that I couldn't read...just mixed things up badly when I read and didn't realize it. I also felt stupid most of my life too. Directions were a channel for me also. I didn't know my right from my left until I was in my late teens then still would look to see which wrist my watch was on to know that was my left. I had a terrible time with remembering numbers and names. When we moved to the town I am living in now in my senior year of high school I had to have my address and phone number written on a little piece of paper in my purse and sneak peeks at it to be able to fill out the school forums because I couldn't remember my phone number or address. I switch numbers around alot too. School was a horrible struggle for me also. I would read a chapter we were going to be tested on over and over and over and still flunk it not understanding why. My teachers at least knew I was trying and doing the best I could. Later when I found out I had a learning disability and would try to tell people, they would look at me and say I didn't look retarded or brain damage. :/ I never said I was retarded OR brain damaged but that is what people think having an LD means. 😦 Or they just think you are lazy and not trying like you said.

    Some years ago I read in a science magazine about the 'plastic brain' which just means we are capable forever learning new things. That our learning doesn't stop at some certain age. With that in mind, I have continued working on my weak areas and find at age 51, I am able now to better remember numbers. Something I couldn't do as a teenager. My spelling has also improved though I still cannot 'hear' sounds in words and match them to the right letter. I have to learn to spell by sight alone. Its been a real struggle for sure and nothing compared to what you went through. I also do better expressing myself through writing rather then talking!

    When I was a kid in school I basically walked around in my own little world because I really didn't understand what was going on around me. At some point in time it was like my brain woke up! And I started understanding things.

    You have given hope to countless people. I hope I get a chance to read your book. 🙂

    September 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kids

      My daughter had it ( severe dyslexia ) and like you it was not a word the layman heard in those days.I wondered why she wrote things and perceived some things backwards. Fortunately, we've made rapid progress in understanding and identifying some afflictions of the brain. Sadly, as a parent I had no idea what was going on and the memory of her suffering scholastically, self-esteem- wise and (most heart breaking) socially. Some memories of rage, perplexity and anguish contrasted with ultimate patience and love at all costs from her mother is something I'll carry with me till
      my dying days. I hope the new generations will make the world a better place.

      September 9, 2012 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Amie

      You write very well. You express yourself perfectly. Well done.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:30 am | Report abuse |
    • J Marie

      I had dyslexia as a child (and still do a little bit.) I wrote letter backwards, spelling was horrible, reading very slow and I always failed math. I learned Transcendental Meditation when I was 16 and that year I got an A in math and was able to pass my typing class. It really helped my brain. Years later I discovered the brain research on this meditation and it is astounding—how it creates EEG coherence and integration between all the hemispheres. It seems like it would be a good adjunct tool for Barbara's training and might speed it up.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Merrillee

    Surely the goal of * every * woman is to change brains?
    (with a man)

    September 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lindy

      Huh? Explain please.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caihlyn

      Huh? Are you out of your brain?

      September 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. more lies

    There is no such thing as Photographic memory, she is lying out of her ass. If she has photographic memory she should go and prove it in the world memory championships.

    September 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Imminent

      Awe, are you still mad you can't remember anything? It's okay, we all understand you're still frustrated that you don't believe you have ANY abilities. Doctors say low self esteem can be really tough to get over. You hang in there little guy and you'll get there...one day.

      September 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
      • Fozzyspeak

        Pot meet kettle.

        September 9, 2012 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Geeshgirl

      Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

      September 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beam48

      Yea there is such a thing as a photographic memory. Do a search on it.

      September 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • john

        It's called an eidetic memory. Some people call it a photographic memory, but this leads to some wrong conclusions about how our memories are stored and accessed. The brain doesn't take photos.

        September 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      "no more lies": there are thing in this world we are not aware of because we have not experienced them ourselves..... does not mean they do not exist. When you criticize, judge a person like this, you are setting yourself up for judgement that you can not imagine..... I watched my employer, a physician, stand over a book, closing his eyes for several seconds, then opening that book to a certain page to explain what he had just seen in an exam room..... an infant with a genetic defect. He had not read that book since med school some 30 years prior...... had never seen this genetic defect ever before...... tell me there is no photographic memory.......... wish you well in your life.... one who has seen......

      September 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • kelly

      Where did you get the idea that there is no such thing as a photographic memory?

      September 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • TG

      Yes, there is a such a thing as a photographic memory. Stephen Wiltshire, an autistic man, after flying around the New York area in a plane for only 20 minutes, was able to duplicate this on a drawing in detail on a canvas.(Mail Online, Oct 29, 2009)

      Our Creator, Jehovah God, made man with the capacity to have not only a perfect memory, but a perfect body. In the near future, this will be a reality for those who are "meek" (Matt 5:5), living on a paradise earth forever.(Rev 21:3-5)

      September 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stimpy

      Your moniker fits. You are also an idiot.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      So, tell us Mr brain scientist, how does it work then?

      You know, no one knew how stupid you were until you posted this crap right here in public. Please tell your Mom that you have been scolded online and that she should supervise you a little more closely.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caihlyn

      Perhaps she meant "eidetic memory" and simply used the more collquial expression "photographic memory" so less educated people would understand her. As you lack the flexibility to understand one's meaning aside from their choice of words you must be having some learning issues yourself.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • jean

      It may not be correct to refer to it as photographic, but it is similar. I lost my short term memory recall after a concussion during college. In order to finish, I had to find ways to compensate at test time. To prepare for tests, I would divide a sheet into six or eight section. Each section contained something different (one for definitions, one with equations, one with a diagram of a process, etc.). At test time, all I needed to do was picture this sheet in my mind and find the appropriate section. My brain couldn't remember the jumble of facts and details, but it could remember the picture of the sheet. I was able to graduate with honors despite the lack of a fully functional memory. Call it whatever you may, but it worked for me.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
      • Chris


        Thank you for explaining how you learned. I am fascinated with what you've described. I work with Deaf English language learners. Could you tell us more about your visual techniques?

        Thank you,

        September 9, 2012 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Wonder Woman

      You're an ass. O f course there IS such a thing as a photographic memory. I have it. In school, if I couldn't' remember the answer, I could mentally refer to my notes and read the page to find the answer – all in my head.

      Maybe YOU should do a bit more reading and educate yourself before making inane comments.

      September 8, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • McIver3

      There are people with photographic memories. I know of at least two of them. One sat next to me in law school. He read the case studies once and he could recite from memory the facts and opinions. He never opened his book in class and at first the professors thought he was dumb. Until he aced all of his tests. Another I worked with. He read things once and could remember everything he read. The brain is incredible. We have only figured out a small percentage of what our brains are capable of.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. cuss

    hahaha. of course! i think basically you summed up the comments section of the entire www!

    September 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Beth

    found this video that explained more – http://www.arrowsmithschool.org/arrowsmithprogram-background/video-thecircle.html

    Can't wait to apply some of this

    September 8, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  16. SixDegrees

    She'd make a better donor. Her current one isn't occupied, and it's never been used.

    September 8, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  17. sherman

    love it! and it works for everything that could ever be wrong with us!!!!! – way to go Barb – way to report CNN!!

    September 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  18. Cat Parenti Hammad

    My daughter now 30 was born with severe disabilities and not expected to live. Through neurological re-patterning of the brain + a wholistic lifestyle, although still disabled, has her own business and is a global speaker on spirituality. Many Blessings to you Barbara Arrowsmith.

    September 8, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  19. sbul

    All mental health therapy is designed to change the brain. Medications change the brain, drugs change the brain, trauma changes the brain and we have learned that meditation changes the brain as well. What I want to know and this article does not give any information on is: what was her techniques? How did she do it? Seeing the pictures on this page makes me think she may have used "neurofeedback" which can also change the brain. But again. lousy journalism as the article does not give any specifics so it sounds like it is an advertisement to get people to "buy her product" . Disappointing article.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      Uhhhhhhmmmmmm. there is a soundcloud link right there so you can listen to her talk about it. Durrrrrr. Try using your brain instead of lashing out at the journalist providing you with the information that you are too lazy to find when it's right there in front of your face. Sheeeesh.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Tyler Moody

      Hi sbul – hit the play button on the audio player just below the picture to hear her story. You can also download the file to take it with you, and/or look for CNN Profiles in Stitcher, iTunes or your favorite podcast app.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • edgybutsoft

      So, you want everything for free, is that it? Wake up. You are in the real world now and there is no "free lunch".

      September 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beam48

      Listen to the audio..she explains it. Also explains it in her book.

      September 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      Aren't we cynical? Here try this, http://www.arrowsmithschool.org

      September 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Sr. June Thomas, OSH

    I wonder what this work has for people whose brains were previously normal but who have had strokes or other brain injuries.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      I had the same thought after reading about this program. Please email me if you learn about other uses for this program. I am a retired Montessori teacher and Speech language Pathologist and have been interested in Luria and his research for decades.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Post Hypnotic Press

      I don't know if her specific program works for stroke victims, but there is evidence out there that on can use cognitive exercises to help recover brain function after a stroke. Here's one link on this topic: http://www.neuroaid.com/en/blog/post-stroke-disabilities/cognitive-rehabilitation-after-a-stroke/

      September 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  21. buckshot

    The headline is somewhat misleading. First thing that came to mind was she actually had a braim tramsplant

    September 8, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • roadkillrob

      Because modern medicine is capable of changing brains now?

      September 8, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      I can't imagine why you would assume that the article was referring to a brain-transplant.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Jef

      LOL, I hope your just funning us.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  22. If people only knew

    People are very capable to change everything about them and so change their world. Good for you!

    September 8, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  23. Me

    Some math courses are difficult because of the way math theories are phrased, and the fact that people who are good at math tend to not be so great at language oriented tasks. I spent one term editing the math book we were using and with a few extra commas it made a lot more sense. But ask a mathematician to say something in plain English and you will almost always be met with resistance. Part of this is arrogance because they think math is so great and more efficient than English, and part of this is the fact that they aren't actually proficient in English.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Beverly Carter

      I could not agree with you more! Add to that (no pun intended) the fact that math is taught in the most disjointed, haphazard way, and it becomes a perfect recipe for failure. This is algebra–boom! This is geometry–boom! Yeah, but what ARE they? What are they used for? Tell me why! To this day, I am still terrified of math! But I am a whiz at English! Mathematicians regard math as a language in itself. They understand their symbols and squiggles and feel smug that so few others can.

      September 8, 2012 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
    • nobetteroff

      I would add that teaching Latin in all public schools, starting in elementary, would resolve many comprehension problems. If children first learn word roots, prefixes, and suffixes in Latin, I believe the rest, including math would come more easily.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
      • Doug

        I agree with you. I took Latin in 9th grade (junior high school, where I was raised). I attribute language skills it developed in me to my success as a technical editor (and other success along the way). I also believe taking another foreign language helped, and it probably did not make a difference as to which one. I took two years of French. That I can read with comprehension and write with clarity are foundational skills that've enabled much of every other achievmenet. I thank God I grew up in a time and place where public education actually got the job done.

        September 8, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
        • Lindy

          Wow, I'm impressed. I took 5 years of Latin and French in high school and certainly can't read proficiently in either.

          September 8, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Actually, there is a high correlation between math and verbals skills. Students who score well on the verbal part of the SAT are more likely to score well on the math part. It is also human nature to concentrate on what you are best at. Students who excel at math and science are more likely to take courses in those fields and fewer humanities courses. Students with excellent verbal skills are less likely to take advanced math courses. It is also human nature for anyone, English or math experts to be a little bit arrogant.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
      • Maya

        The SAT is a poor indicator of innate ability. Someone with average math and verbal ability can do as well as one with superior ability with the proper training. That's why SAT prep courses and private SAT tutors exist.

        September 8, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
        • Kelly

          My use of SAT scores was just an example of the correlation between verbal and mathematic skills. You will also find this correlation with students who have not prepped for SAT tested or other tests.

          September 8, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Lynn

      I think this is very insightful. I hope you have shared your work (adding commas and making the language more clear) with other equally frustrated teachers and learners of math.

      September 8, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • strayze

      Mathematics is a language that deals with relating. Perhaps the problem some have with math is their unrealistic fear of the subject, or for women, society's expectation for women to "dumb down".

      September 8, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  24. Me

    I had pretty bad dyscalculia as a kid. I struggled with arithmetic and multiplication and I had no mental number line. I couldn't do mental math for the life of me even though I started learning math much earlier than most kids. The school tortured me with the same timed tests over and over again, that I never got any better at, and I essentially ended up traumatized and with a deep loathing of math. But I understood more complex mathematical concepts, and I really liked science, so when I got to college, I enrolled myself in the lowest math course they had, fractions. I had a horrible instructor and spent 10 hours three days a week reading the book and doing the homework and I got a C. I then moved on to algebra, which I didn't find any easier, but I didn't find it more difficult either. Then trig, which I did very well at and got an A in. Long story short, I got three associate degrees, one in mathematics, one in physics, and the other in engineering, and I got a BS in engineering. When I got up into the higher mathematics courses I found I wasn't any worse than anyone else, and a lot of the people who were good with arithmetic struggled with the more complex mathematical theories. But I still had trouble with simple mental arithmetic and usually used my fingers. When I had a learning assessment done I was below average in "math facts" which is arithmetic but in the "very superior" range in advanced mathematics. In other words, quantum physics is easier for me than figuring out how much to tip a waiter.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
  25. jean

    Bravo. I had a similar experience after suffering a concussion. I had completed two years of college prior to the concussion, and after a break I decided to return. I registered for the courses, brought the books home and then remembered that I couldn't remember anymore. I cried. Instead of giving up and withdrawing, I just worked harder and came up with memory aids/tricks that worked well for me. I was able to graduate with honors despite the lack of a fully functional memory. It can be done.

    September 8, 2012 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  26. Joel

    Your mind is software. Reprogram it. _Awesome_.

    September 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  27. AlienShark

    This woman is amazing. Her story should be taught in classrooms across the world. This is an example of what happens when people stop making excuses for themselves and persevere through difficulty.

    September 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  28. poodle2

    Thank you for your compassionate interview of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young. Arrowsmith has just opened a school in the Seattle area at Gateway Christian Schools in Poulsbo, WA. We're so fortunate to finally have more options for parents and students, and to be able to finally expand the conversation beyond accommodations. Barbara has given the word "hope" new meaning for children who learn differently. I encourage parents, grandparents and caregivers to read her book and if possible visit a nearby school for a first hand look (schools are listed on their website). Seeing the program in action was life changing for me.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  29. DD

    Kudos for never, ever, ever giving up.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Beth

    Please research coconut oil and the effects it can have on the brain. Especially memory! I can't tell you for sure yet, but I think it has helped (maybe even cured) the epilespy I have lived with for more than thirty years.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • delores

      memory was not her problem, processing was the problem so I don't think coconut oil would help.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
      • James

        delores, you hit the "nail on the head" !!

        September 8, 2012 at 5:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Maya

      Is this crackpot day? Coconut oil cannot cure learning disabilities. This isn't some problem caused by lack of concentration due to lack of sleep and poor nutrition. And it can't cure epilepsy either. It isn't all that uncommon for adults with epilepsy to go for indefinite periods without a seizure even without medication. Not everyone's symptoms behave the same.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  31. cheryl welch

    Brains/people learn differently. If teachers understood this more, there would be fewer instances of kids failing and not fitting in. Some folks are auditory learners, others are visual, and some have to move around (kinesthetic) to think! Everyone is different which is why teachers should incorporate all modes during teaching. Students need to be helped and encouraged to discover how they best learn so that they can optimize what happens to them in and out of the classroom; after all, they will be using their brains to learn for the rest of their lives. Hebb's axiom in neuroscience says that 'neurons that fire together, wire together'. What this means is that when we do something repeatedly, the neurons cause each other to fire and create a 'web' for that experience. In order to change negative web firings, we need to create new webs by repeating an experience. This is true of learning also. You have to repeat something enough times to 'set' that web pattern of firing. Exercise to the same song everyday and you will never be able to hear that song without traveling back to that room and those exercises. The brain is amazing and neuroplasticity is reason for all folks with TBI to hope and never stop trying.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • illmatar

      Teachers DO understand this...and they receive more data and more training by the year that say differentiate instruction (using ALL teaching styles to reach any learning style) is the ONLY way to go. Despite this, in an effort to keep teachers "accountable" because they are all lazy and only out for themselves, politicians have pushed what they call "learning calendars" into the classroom. What that means is they expect every teacher, in every school, to be teaching the exact same thing at the same moment.

      As if children were robots that all learn at the same speed.

      Got a slow reader? Too bad! A kid that needs more help? Keep moving...nothing to see here. How's about a kid that learns with hands-on stuff? Nope...no time for projects anyway. Besides, we wouldn't want learning to be...ya know...fun.

      Heck...all it takes is a bee in the room or someone throwing up to set a whole class behind but that's too bad. If the calendar says the class should be on page 34 and you are only on page 32 then the administrators can write you up. With all the focus on "merit" pay that can mean a teacher's own kids suffer.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • Del

        Due to the federal government dictating education curriculum,and many layers of management, without a clue,making political moves instead of decisions for teachers and children.

        September 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
        • Kelly

          The federal government does not dictate curricula, look at your local government if you have problems with was is being taught. I think a federal curricum would be a good idea. Children in Texas should not suffer because they have too many people there who don't understand science.

          September 8, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
      • Del

        Due to the federal government dictating education curriculum,and many layers of management, without a clue,making political moves instead of decisions for teachers and children.THIS after I corrected my email entry:Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

        September 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
      • Weeze

        Great response...right on!

        September 7, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
      • Me

        Yeah well let me tell you something. Elementary school teacher might know that but university instructors don't. I got tired of having heated discussions with instructors who do not understand how my brain works. In most instances, it was futile. Universities don't actually hire instructor based on their ability to teach. They hire them based on how many papers they have published. In most instances they receive almost not formal education in teaching or learning styles. In many instances they are not actually qualified to teach the subjects they are teaching, and are cramming before class.

        September 8, 2012 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
        • Maya

          Maybe that's because university professors teach classes of 100 and should not have to change everything just to accommodate YOU.

          In the real world, you have to learn to adapt.

          September 8, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
        • cheryl welch

          That is exactly the problem! I could not agree more, yet I cannot find anyone at the university who thinks professors should have some 'training'. Amazing to me. For those of us who spend years studying education and pedagogy, it seems arrogant that non-teachers are so sure that they know how to teach without ever learning a thing about it. Like there's nothing to it!

          September 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Randy McLeod

        Some teachers DON'T understand this. Matter of fact, some are in for the paycheck and the heck with the kids. Especially in Florida, where the teachers are not getting their fair share of state funds are quitting and moving to other states for better pay.

        September 8, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • closer3

      I'm sorry you have had such horrible experiences with teachers. In our district, we have had so many in-services on the brain and learning modalities, that I doubt there is a single teacher who uses fewer than two for anything. I know I teach in one of the largest and most progressive districts in the U.S. Perhaps you live in a rural area or haven't been in a school for quite some time as most of us have SmartBoards so kids are getting visual and auditory at the very least.

      September 8, 2012 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
    • SSampson

      Teachers DO understand this – they have for years.... Unfortunately it is impossible to teach one class 10 different ways. This is true of any 'group' instruction – The Education system itself is configured to teach in ways that serve the majority. Logistically it would be impossible to do it any other way unless the community itself is willing to spend the dollars.

      Of course standardized testing doesn't help.....neither do some testing methods.... I hated University exams because I couldn't write fast enough (hand cramps due to crush injury) – It wasn't the content, it was the clock.... and yet in those days there was no desire to offer different methods... I am now semi-retired – doing my PhD – and the University is willing to adapt to my problem –

      I know this is different than the articles learning issue, but it does demonstrate the willingness of the system to adapt if they can...

      September 8, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  32. cheryl welch

    Brains/people learn differently. If teachers understood this more, there would be fewer instances of kids failing and not fitting in. Some folks are auditory learners, others are visual, and some have to move around (kinesthetic) to think! Everyone is different which is why teachers should incorporate all modes during teaching. Students need to be helped and encouraged to discover how they best learn so that they can optimize what happens to them in and out of the classroom; after all, they will be using their brains to learn for the rest of their lives. Hebb's axiom in neuroscience says that 'brains that fire together, wire together'. What this means is that when we do something repeatedly, the neurons cause each other to fire and create a 'web' for that experience. In order to change negative web firings, we need to create new webs by repeating an experience. This is true of learning also. You have to repeat something enough times to 'set' that web pattern of firing. Exercise to the same song everyday and you will never be able to hear that song without traveling back to that room and those exercises. The brain is amazing and neuroplasticity is reason for all folks with TBI to hope and never stop trying.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Really?

    Who the f do you think you are? You disgust me, and you should be ashamed of yourself for your treatment of people.

    September 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill.x

      chill dude

      September 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eliana

      Who are you addressing that statement to? Barbara Arrowsmith? It sounds like you are really angry at someone else?

      September 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  34. LJ

    I'm a Canadian and my son was in the Arrowsmith program for nearly 5 years, from Grades 1 to 6. I can't say enough good things about it. They were the only ones who could answer the questions of why can't my son read? why can't he remember anything? why does he refuse to write anything down? Not only could they tell me why, they told me they could do something about it, and they did. None of the other doctors, educators, or child psychologists I consulted were of much help at all. They wanted accommodations for his issues, drugs to make him compliant, whereas I wanted solutions. My son is now in his final year of high school, reads well above grade level, and will graduate! Check out the website http://www.arrowsmithschool.org.

    September 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Christine

    Mankind (and womankind) know so little about the brain and how it works. I think they say we use 5% of our brain?
    I was not so interested in the brain until 1999 when I had a massive brain tumor (meningioma). It was a life transforming experience. After becoming infantile – failing to eat, feed animal friends, pay bills, quitting my job of 20 years, and becoming a bitch, according to my friends (frontal lobe tumor where personality is!) then after the surgery I snapped back to the old me of 15 years before the tumor started growing. It seemed miraculous, though it took a few days for simple math skills to come back, friends had to teach me how to use email and the internet all over, but life was good! Now 12 years after the surgery, for the past several years I have noticed I now transpose letters when typing, I also think one thing and say something completely different. For instance I will think 'I want to do that on Tues' but I will say 'I want to do that on Wed'. I am certain I said TUES, just what I was thinking, but I am told no, I SAID WED. It happens relatively often and is very frustrating for everyone, often causing fights because I feel like I KNOW what I said. I've now come to believe what others tell me I say. I think some wires must have gotten crossed during my brain surgery 🙂 I've learned to live with it. Anyone else have any experiences like this, or brain surgery with odd side effects. I'm not complaining. I'd glad to be alive. I am fascinated with the brain now – and how it works, and does not always work correctly 🙂

    September 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • neoritter

      Part of that misunderstanding is that the myth and completely false fact that we use only 5% of our brain keeps getting spread around. People use all of their brain, all sections of it are fired off at one point or another and usage at any one time is well over 5, 10, or 15% (depending on the myth you heard).

      September 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Hi, Christine! What an amazing journey you've been on. If it makes you feel any better, I just hit my mid-30's and have the exect same thing happening. My friends say they do as well. I blame it on lack of sleep, and/or not focussing 100% on what I'm saying. Best wishes for you!

      September 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • BS

      That thing about us only using x% of our brain is complete tripe.

      September 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maria

      Hi Christine, I had a frontal lobe meningioma (5.4 centimeters!) and had a similar experience. I like your characterization of the experience as transformative...so true! Some things are better, some not. Overall I'm the same person, but different! 🙂

      September 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Jokesterer

    Her memory goes to 11.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Don't kill Yourself

    I had an accident in the 60's as a young teen. TBI wasn't even diagnosed in that term. They just called it a concussion.
    Upon returning to school, I literally was in tears because I couldn't understand simple math problems I knew before.
    Reading became insane. I was clueless. I gave up and thought I was dumb. It added all kinds of anxiety problems,
    maximum low self esteem, suicidal attempts. In the late 80's, they announced the ancient Chinese were right-
    the brain heals ( however- new neural pathways, etc.). It took about 30 years to feel all together, reading like
    a hungry animal, a thousand times more confident and most of all, being more empathetic. Along the way,I never
    lost spurts of belief in myself ( I have no idea why). It blossomed the most in Grad School) around 28yrs old.).
    Still, some failed relationships caused me to drink, and that was the ugliest, most harmful detour to healing.
    Once that was out of the way, it was an all out open road. I feel I can die happy, having traveled the road
    to understanding myself and the seemingly chaotic inner workings of inside the clock we know as life ( in general).
    Hang in there folks, things may get better beyond your wildest.

    September 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • tresbelle

      II am so glad your suicide attempts were unsuccessful! Thank you for sharing.

      September 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Manjunath

    Was really good. Barbara spoke so well on somethings that we struggle on day to day tasks.

    September 7, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Mike

    I think this is the first time I've seen someone that admitted to having some of the same problems I have. I spent my 6th grade science class helping my teacher with her masters degree by sitting in a seperate room playing some educational video game (it was a problem solving game with different robots, and you had to program the different robots to solve puzzles... no idea what it was called) and listening to the lessons from that other room. I couldn't see the blackboard, and never did any homework, but always aced my tests because I could remember, word for word, her lessons when I read the questions. I've also always been able to remember just about anything that I read out loud to myself. But reading things "in my head" was always difficult... I'd find myself staring at a page, or a math problem, for several minutes, re-reading it over and over before I figured out what it was trying to say. I could see the words and symbols, but they wouldn't go together to form ideas... they just appeared to be random until I'd worked at it for a while. This continued to get worse as I got older, to the point that by 10th grade, I was taking upwards of 2 hours to finish a 20 question Geometry test, just because I had trouble "reading" the problems.

    So, basically, I'd really like more information on how she "fixed" herself. I still have some problems with reading (it's gotten better through perseverence, but it's still difficult), and my memory isn't what it used to be which, like the article says, is what I've used to get by all this time.

    September 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Schulder

      Mike: this is Michael, the host of this podcast. Barbara's book "The Woman Who Changed Her Brain" has much more detail about the methods she developed that worked for her. She was also featured in a popular book about breakthroughs in brain plasticity by Norman Doidge, MD called "The Brain that Changes Itself" where you might be able to find other good contacts. The field is developing so rapidly - I hope you find a method that works for you.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • Cindy

        Is Barbara's book available as an audio book for individuals who would benefit from it, but, like her, have difficulty reading?

        September 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Tyler Moody

    Thanks for letting us know about the volume, a new file has been uploaded with the gain boosted a bit to help. Hopefully that does the trick. Don't forget you can take CNN Profiles with you by downloading the file to your smart phone or ipod, and looking for the podcast in iTunes and Stitcher. Oh, and SoundCloud has their own mobile app too. Just look for CNN.

    September 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teri

      Any chance any of these will ever be closed captioned??? Some lose so much news when hearing is impared.

      September 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
      • Tyler Moody

        Thanks for asking Teri. We'll look into the possibility of transcripts. There are also various freeware versions of audio to text programs that might work for you.

        September 7, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Soraya

    Yes please volume. Also how can we get information on her program?

    September 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael Schulder

      Soraya - this is Michael, the host of the podcast.
      The information on Barbara's school in Toronto is here: http://www.arrowsmithschool.org/
      I hope that helps.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Lindsey

    On the right side, with the volume symbol.

    September 7, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Adam

    volume control!!!!! where is it!!!!!

    September 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Adam


    September 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |