Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Arrowsmith and NILD

     Arrowsmith school is a full time day school program.  Part time studies are also offered, as an after school program. NILD educational therapy is a supplement to school, not an attempt at full time learning or a replacement for a basic education.  Arrowsmith school is also very expensive, at approximately $26 800 per year per student.  They do not admit students who:

  • suffer from emotional or behavioural disorders that would significantly affect his or her ability to participate in the Arrowsmith Program.
  • suffer from acquired brain injury or severe intellectual or cognitive disorders such as universal global delay, mental retardation, developmental delay, Down Syndrome, Autism, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

     NILD therapy varies, slightly, in price from therapist to therapist, but is generally offered at a cost of $60 for initial student supplies, and $45-$65 per 80 minute session, twice per week (approximately $4600 per student per school year, but fluctuates depending on Province and number of sessions each student participates in, with a guarantee of at least 60 sessions per academic year).
* Please note that students applying to Eaton Arrowsmith School do not need to have a diagnosed learning disability in order to be accepted. For NILD therapy, clients need to have, or be in the process of obtaining, a psycho-educational evaluation to be enrolled.

     For us at NILD, that diagnosis is critical, to identify what the problems are, where the deficits lie, and so we know what we are hoping to enhance.  How can you help specifically, if you only diagnose generally?  Testing is important as it gives us a starting line to work from, monitor, and assess so we know where therapy is helping/working and where things need to be adjusted or changed.  Base lines are necessary so we can begin to build data that represents the benefits of NILD educational therapy, rather than guess work or personal opinion.

     Like NILD, Arrowsmith school requires specific assessment to identify specific learning dysfunctions, however, they use their own specialized and unique assessment tools to determine the deficits of the student and, concurrently, to develop an ideal learning program. 

     Learning disabilities can be “overcome”, if you will, in that the student can learn to function within his or her deficits but I do not believe one should claim that through educational therapy they can be completely taken away and removed, though that would be the obvious hope.  I read no empirical evidence that states that learning disabilities can be “cured”.  NILD educational therapy was developed as a means of treating underlying causes of learning difficulties instead of treating symptoms. Arrowsmith school appears to embrace this same goal but through different techniques.   

     In the Arrowsmith program, disabilities, or under-functioning areas of the brain, are likened to weak muscles which benefit from intense mental stimulation.  As with NILD educational therapy, exercises (referred to in NILD as techniques) have been designed to target specific learning deficit areas, utilizing a deficit specific program.  As of yet, NILD does not include any computer exercises specifically, though experienced therapists are encouraged to incorporate tools that are not NILD specific to enhance the program and achieve our goals.  

     Similarly, each student is tested at the end of each year (educational therapists perform intake tests, mid-year tests and end of year testing) to assess both progress and modification, if necessary.  This includes teaching the student new strategies and learning skills and utilizing the increased mental capacities, enabling the student to become an independent learner capable of effectively directing his or her future studies.

     Arrowsmith most recently added MindUP, by Goldie Hawn, to their curriculum. Hawn founded and funds The Hawn Foundation, which teaches the Buddhist technique of mindfulness training; where first through eighth graders are instructed in mindful awareness techniques and positive thinking skills, then tested for changes in behavior, social and emotional competence, and moral development.  A study by the University of British Columbia indicated that children who participated in the program increased significantly in the areas of optimism and positive emotions, while decreasing aggression.  Hawn realizes that many parents oppose bringing Buddhist methods into public schools, and stated: ‘There will always be people who see this as scary, or as some kind of Eastern philosophy that they don't want for their kids.’ Hawn adds, ‘Mindfulness gives kids a tool for understanding how their brain works, for having more self-control.” 

     Each Eaton Arrowsmith School cognitive classroom may have two teachers and twelve students. NILD educational therapy, unless done as a group, is one on one, twice a week, for 80 minutes per session with minimal homework to be done by the student at home.  Group therapy is done only with students with matching disabilities.

     According to the website, the focus of Eaton Arrowsmith School is cognitive remediation of neurodevelopmental weaknesses, and thus the majority of the academic day is spent working on cognitive exercises.

     NILD educational therapy seeks to teach students new strategies for thinking and learning, increase mental capacity with the ultimate goal of aiding the student in promoting self-monitoring skills, instilling confidence and fostering independence.  

Kristina Campbell, B.A., P.C.E.T.
iLs practitioner (AOTA)
certified Irlen screener, IM certified

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