OPTIONS ArrowsmithA Powerful Partnership Formed
OPTIONS Transitions to Independence is proud to be affiliated with the Arrowsmith Program, partnering to provide an even greater force for positive change in the lives of our students with complex learning disabilities and differences.
For more than 20 years, OPTIONS has been empowering post-secondary young adults to recognize and optimize their full potentials. The Arrowsmith Program has more than 30 years of experience demonstrating how it is possible for individuals to “rewire” the brain and strengthen the weak cognitive capacities underlying learning dysfunctions. By joining these two powerful programs, thrilling opportunities are available for young adults with complex learning disabilities. OPTIONS Transitions to Independence and its affiliate, Brehm School, are currently the only boarding programs in the world implementing the Arrowsmith Program.
The Arrowsmith Program methodology began to develop in 1978, as the founder, Barbara Arrowsmith Young, embarked on her own journey of discovery and innovation to overcome the severe learning disabilities that she faced. Barbara’s inspiring story is detailed in her book, “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain.”
OPTIONS has been providing services for post-secondary students since 1990. OPTIONS grew out of Brehm Preparatory School and the recognition of various needs for post-secondary students on the part of students, families and staff. Through the years, OPTIONS has developed evidence-based programs and an environment that fosters growth towards independence for students with complex learning disabilities. OPTIONS holistic model addresses the educational, vocational, independent living, social and emotional needs of young adults. The OPTIONS team understands that, although independence is different for every individual, the greatest level of independence possible is the desired outcome for students and their families. This need on the part of our students and understanding on the part of the OPTIONS team, combined with our process of annual analysis of outcomes and strategic planning, has driven growth and development at OPTIONS and has led to the partnership with Arrowsmith.
Dr. Brian Brown, Executive Director of OPTIONS and Brehm, explains, “OPTIONS and Brehm have always striven to keep up on the latest research and cutting-edge practices to best serve our students and their families. That’s how we discovered the Arrowsmith Program, which is a perfect fit for us. The Arrowsmith Program complements our existing programs and enhances our ability to make differences in the lives of our students.”
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 individuals is great.
The Arrowsmith Program is founded on two lines of research, one of which established that different areas of the brain working together are responsible for complex mental activities (such as reading, writing, and processing), and that a weakness in one brain 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 stimuli and activity, to develop new neuronal/synaptic interconnections, and thereby develop and adapt new functions and roles believed to be the physical mechanism of learning. Neuroplasticity refers to structural and functional changes in the brain that are brought about by training and experience.
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, as well as for individuals into adulthood, providing evidence that neuroplasticity can be realized across the lifespan.
Because the brain was formerly thought to be “hard-wired,” individuals with learning disabilities have traditionally been treated with programs designed to compensate for their difficulties through modifications and accommodations. The Arrowsmith Program, by contrast, is applying what neuroscience now knows about the brain, and is helping each participant strengthen (“re-wire”) the weak cognitive areas underlying his/her learning dysfunctions. This improves the ability of the strengthened area(s) to contribute to learning activities. In other words, Arrowsmith is dealing with the root causes of the learning disability.
The Arrowsmith Program has been tailored to the changeable nature of the brain by providing individualized assessments of nineteen different cognitive areas, then implementing a tailored program of specific, intensive mental strengthening exercises. These cognitive exercises build new neural/synaptic interconnections, resulting in increased cognitive and learning abilities. As the brain responds to these exercises and cognitive capacity improves, the individual’s ability to perform complex tasks such as reading, writing, processing and communicating improves. It is important to note that each person will need to be taught the specific skills that he or she was previously unable to effectively learn due to specific learning dysfunctions. Over time, the individual becomes a more effective life-long, independent 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 time-tested 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. An additional and exciting hallmark of the program also includes the retention of gains made.
OPTIONS Arrowsmith instructors have undergone intensive training in order to implement the program. As students participate, Arrowsmith provides on-going support and assessment of student progress and refines the individual’s program based on his or her progress.
In order to participate in the OPTIONS Arrowsmith Program, students must
- Meet the admissions criteria of OPTIONS and be enrolled.
- Have a commitment to participate in OPTIONS Arrowsmith for a minimum of two years (may be three years, depending on progress).
- Understand and accept that that participation in the Arrowsmith Program will preclude participation in some portions of regular OPTIONS programming, such as community college participation, internship participation and/or participation in OPTIONS classes.
- Demonstrate a willingness to be engaged in the processes and committed to be consistent in his or her efforts to complete the work required through the Arrowsmith Program. Sustained engagement is essential to student progress and benefit.
- Demonstrate difficulty in academic and/or social situations due to the combination of his/her cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Students appropriate for the OPTIONS Arrowsmith Program should demonstrate one or more of the learning dysfunctions that are described on the website, under “Descriptions of 19 Learning Dysfunctions.”
We encourage you to further research the Arrowsmith Program. More information can be obtained at www.arrowsmithschool.org and by reading “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain,” by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.