Let’s Not Go Back to Normal 

I’m one of those people who actually enjoy change. Before I joined the Arrowsmith Program, I tried a few careers: river rafting guide, ice climbing instructor, dogsledding guide, community youth worker. And then I settled into the Peterborough Arrowsmith campus for 9 years, which also coincided with big personal changes like marriage and children. But when an opportunity to really shake things up came my way, I uprooted my family and moved them across the world to join the Confident Brains team in Phuket, Thailand. Six months later, I became the head of that team, and 1 year after that COVID-19 changed everything. 

When you’re not initiating it, change is much less appealing. We’ve all had to make huge alterations to our routines, plans, and expectations over the past few months. This level of uncertainty and anxiety about our own health, the health of our loved ones, our jobs, and the future of…well… everything is emotionally and physically taxing, to say the least. There is also the guilt of being one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to be on the frontlines, who has a home to shelter in, insurance, food, and good health in general. 

It’s been three months since we took a big leap into online learning. And for the most part, it’s working. Really working. We’re hearing from parents and students that learning at home suits many of them better, that Arrowsmith is uniquely set-up to function in a virtual environment. And in a time when many special needs students in a traditional education system are really struggling without the scaffolding of learning support, accommodations, and technology, expanding the accessibility of Arrowsmith so that students can join from anywhere in the world is a powerful change. It took a pandemic for us to make this shift. But, as many wise people have pointed out, this great global pause can be an opportunity, a chance to take stock, evaluate our priorities, and decide what we want to add back into our lives. Now that many regions are starting to cautiously open up, and we give in to the urge to “return to normal”, let’s pause for a moment longer. Maybe there are parts of normal we want to leave behind?

For many of our students, pre-Arrowsmith normal meant coping with dyslexia, or feeling slow and frustrated and not knowing why, or zoning out in class because you just couldn’t process what was happening around you. We know that it doesn’t have to be this way. The Arrowsmith Program’s ability to strengthen cognitive weaknesses can make a dramatic difference for so many people. But it means refusing to accept that this “normal” is all that’s possible. It means taking a risk to leave “normal” behind and make this investment in yourself or for your child. 

It also means being able to access the program. Last night, I had a conversation with the parents of two boys. Both parents are successful doctors and they can’t afford Arrowsmith. The cost of relocating to attend a program elsewhere is prohibitive for most of the planet, even for people who can afford it and want it. We know there is great value in all of our programs but we are aware of how much more of a difference we could make if Arrowsmith were even more accessible. 

By quickly shifting to online learning models, Arrowsmith has done more evolving in the last few months than we have in the last decade. So when we think about moving forward, I want us to go even further. Can we find ways to keep improving and iterating so that it can be accessible and affordable to even more students? Can we get it into the general school curriculum? Develop it as a phone or tablet app that maintains the important instructor connection? How do we make cognitive training even more effective? 

Let’s keep evolving and adapting. Let’s leave some of these old, “normal” expectations of what is possible behind. We owe it to our students and their families. They were amazing before the pandemic complicated life.  They have already been through and sacrificed so much to grab hold of this opportunity to change their lives for the better. Now, they are truly making the most of a situation that is difficult for everyone. They are demonstrating the resilience and adaptability that likely brought them to Arrowsmith in the first place. Let’s build on that and bring Arrowsmith to even more people. 

Eddie – Our Symbol Relations Superstar 

On the last day of his 2019 Brain Training Summer Camp, Eddie, age 9, woke up and declared to his mother, Michele, that he was going to master the next level of the Symbol Relations exercise. Michele was encouraging but cautious. She’d watched her son make big gains over the last six weeks, but she could see her son was tired, and she worried this goal might be out of his reach. She didn’t want him to be disappointed. “I said, ‘Well mate, that’s a great thing to work for. I’m really proud of you but it’s our last day.” But Eddie set off for camp determined, focused, and confident, a marked difference from pre-Arrowsmith Eddie. 


He was 4 and a half and heading into kindergarten when Michele noticed that he struggled to pick up simple concepts like the alphabet. In contrast, his younger brother by two years was learning at the same rate. To help Eddie cope with school, Michele started doing lots of phonics and extra learning exercises. That worked for a while but by the time Eddie was 6 and in reception she started to think, “Yikes, we’re working really really hard and it’s coming so much easier to the other children. We’re just putting in so much effort.” Michele talked to Eddie’s teacher and decided to get him assessed. Eddie’s parents are lamb farmers in rural Australia, so they traveled three and a half hours into the nearest big city to see an educational psychologist who told them Eddie was showing early signs of dyslexia.

His school was supportive but they couldn’t offer a lot of extra resources, so Michele and her husband worked really hard to learn how to help their son. “We spent the next two years doing so much extra tuition at home and at school. We would go over his maths in the morning just to give him a head’s up as to what he would be doing. He might have 10 spelling words to do and he’d get really upset about them so I’d always ask the teacher for them on Friday night so we could have the weekend to get a few more practices in. It wouldn’t really make any difference but you feel like you’re doing something. We were doing so much just to get through the regular day of school… just to get him to stay there. He was just scraping by… not even really scraping by. If we didn’t do it, we just knew the situation would be much, much worse.” 


By Year 2, it got worse. As school expectations increased, Eddie’s response was to zone out and stare off into space. “He just found school very very overwhelming. I think he probably found life overwhelming full stop,” remembers Michele. “We were thinking, crikey, we don’t have any more cards up our sleeves. We couldn’t think of what else we could be doing to change this scenario. My husband would say to me – you know he goes to school until he’s 18, you’re going to have to keep this up for a while. This is going to be a tough road. We’re only still grasping those basics and life gets harder…” Michele started to wonder if they just had to accept Eddie’s limitations, but she kept hoping some answer would turn up. Cue Arrowsmith. 

Eddie’s father heard about the Arrowsmith Program on a podcast. He and Michele were intrigued but didn’t know how they’d manage to access the program in rural Australia, let alone fly to Canada for six weeks. They got in touch with the Toronto school and eventually learned about the Motor Symbol Sequencing Remote Program, which was introduced in 2017. They didn’t hesitate. “Sign us up! We want a piece of this!” recalls Michele, laughing. Arrowsmith sent over the material and Eddie started one hour of work a day, six days a week with a teacher in Canada. It was hard going but they started seeing changes early on. 


Reading was one of the first big improvements. “He would even struggle to use his own finger to go across the page so I would use my finger to help him track,” says Michele. “But after a few months, he said, ‘Mum, I don’t need your finger!’ And he just started reading with no finger or anything and he hasn’t used any prompts to read ever since. He can just read a book perfectly. It is amazing!” 

It’s taken longer to see changes in Eddie’s writing, which was illegible to everyone, including Eddie. “He’d write in one continuous stream as the ideas came into his head,” said Michele. “He’d get halfway on one word and start writing the next word so there was no possible way anybody could make sense.” Michele is noticeably relieved when she explains that now, “While it’s not textbook perfect, it’s now clear, the right size, and it just looks like writing! We can all read it!” Eddie’s also remembering spelling words and spelling rules. He doesn’t fight homework anymore. “What parent doesn’t love that?” she exclaims. 


While the whole family was excited about these changes, they were also aware that Motor Symbol Sequencing was only one of the many Arrowsmith exercises that could help Eddie. They had been looking at finding a way to go to Canada for the intensive program when they heard about the opening of the Phuket Campus in Thailand, much closer to home. Once again, Eddie’s parents didn’t hesitate; they signed him up for the 2019 Brain Training Summer Camp, which focused on Symbol Relations, and planned a family vacation. Eddie was excited but nervous. From doing the remote program, he knew it was going to be hard work. Students are in the class six hours a day, five days a week.  

The instructors told Michele she would probably see changes in Eddie halfway through the program. “They were right,” says Michele, with a smile on her face. She recounts how Eddie’s reading transformed. “Before, Ed would just read, he wouldn’t really enjoy the story that much.” During the camp, that shifted dramatically. “He’d start giggling through the page, and he’d go, ‘Mum, stop I just want to tell you about this part of the story’ and there’d be a funny joke or there would be something amusing and he’d want to share it with us. To hear my child really comprehending and enjoying the reading process was really really special. And then the last three weeks he just read a book nearly every night.”

Michele also noticed Eddie having much more mature conversations with the family, and navigating complex restaurant menus that would have stumped him before. One night at a restaurant, they saw another camp student and his mom. “Normally, I would talk to his friends for him and he would just stand there beside me. I would have to say, Eddie, there’s so and so, make sure you look them in the eye, say hello, maybe you could ask them about so and so…” This time, without prompting, Eddie stopped and said, “Hey, your spaghetti looks really nice. Have a nice evening tonight.” As they walked out of the restaurant, Eddie looked at Michele and said, “MOM, that’s clocks!” Michele was floored. “He was totally aware that he had a whole new ability to relate to somebody. He would have never done that before. That was just amazing. And if you want nothing else for your children, the ability to be able to communicate and have relationships – that’s the only thing that matters.”


But on his last day of camp, all that mattered for Eddie was mastering another level of Symbol Relations. After Michele said goodbye for the morning he went into overdrive. With literally minutes left to spare, he completed 5 sets of his work within mastery criteria and shot up out of his chair, arms raised in joy. As he lined up to leave the classroom for lunch, Eddie was so excited he was shaking. When Michele and his brother came into view, Eddie ran towards them, shouting out that he had mastered. They met in a teary, happy group hug. “That just shows, not only does this change areas of their brain, but it teaches them so many skills – persistence, determination – that are so important for everybody. That feeling of empowerment and achievement was nearly as good as the brain training.” 

Reflecting back, Michele sees another benefit to her Confident Brains Arrowsmith experience. “When you have a child that has a difficulty, you’re so used to advocating for and explaining your child all the time. And that was just the most amazing thing about Robert and LJ and Matt and the staff – I didn’t have to feel like I had to do anything. It was just the most fabulous school experience and clearly, Eddie picked up on that as well. Everything couldn’t have been any more different from home and yet we felt so happy, confident, reassured. You could see all the kids felt that too. They felt supported. They were all doing something new and different. They all had a chance to start fresh in a supportive environment and that was incredible.”


Eddie went back to Australia with the confidence of a superhero and is continuing with the remote program. Michele says the changes just keep on coming. She and her husband end most days sharing a story about something Eddie did that he wouldn’t have done before; how he spoke to someone or how he understood a joke or really concentrated while doing something. Michele tears up when she explains, “They might look like subtle changes but they’re actually enormous changes. I think all parents look forward and think – how is your child going to be when they’re an adult? Will they have respectful relationships? Will they be able to find a partner and have good friends? Raise their own children and hold down a job that they love? And I really had those doubts about Ed. I really was worried that wouldn’t be possible for him. It [Arrowsmith] has totally changed Eddie’s life. I no longer sit at home and think any of these things. I can just see that his life is on a totally different path to what it was. It’s phenomenal.

Michele is often contacted by other parents who are considering Arrowsmith. Her advice: “The first thing to do is to educate yourself and understand neuroplasticity and the science behind it. When you get a good grasp of that, and you do believe in that science, then you have a clearer pathway forward.” But Michele is also frank about the reality of learning disabilities. “Your child has a disability that they can’t grow out of, they can’t change, unless you want to do something about it. Anything that gives me a direction forward, that gives me an opportunity, where the science sounds plausible, that makes common sense to me, that has many reputable different people supporting these views – why wouldn’t you give it a go?” 


Michele and Eddie were very much looking forward to returning to Phuket for camp this summer, but with those plans derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, Eddie will be joining the new At-Home Cognitive Intensive Program online. According to Michele, Eddie would prefer to do the program in person but he is “excited to catch up with his Thailand teachers, which is a beautiful complement to the teaching staff and Confident Brains.” 



What is Symbol Relations?

Now that we’re offering the At-Home Cognitive Intensive Program, which targets the Symbol Relations function, you may be wondering about this cognitive capacity and the exercise we use to make it stronger. Many of our students say this exercise, more commonly known as “Clocks”, is one of their favorites and almost everyone has a story about how it improved life in some way. That’s because Clocks is a masterpiece in terms of brain training.

Why Clocks?

Photo by Black ice

Reading an analog clock was one of the many things Barbara Arrowsmith-Young struggled with as a young woman. We now know that being able to tell the time is an important indicator skill. As Howard Eaton, founder of the Eaton Arrowsmith schools, noted, if a child can’t read a clock face, “it often means they will also struggle with reading comprehension and math problem solving, as these achievement abilities also require the ability to analyze and synthesize many concepts simultaneously.”  Barbara experienced those problems, plus many of the classic signs of a weak Symbol Relations function, including:

  • difficulty keeping up with the speed of lectures or following conversations
  • an inability to understand anything that isn’t literal: jokes, sarcasm, and riddles 
  • needing extra time and repetition to complete tasks
  • an overwhelming sense of uncertainty 

During her graduate research, Barbara read about the work of Aleksandr Luria, a Russian neuropsychologist. She was struck by his work with Lyova Zazetsky, a soldier with a brain injury that left him with severe gaps in his ability to make sense of the world. To Barbara, those gaps felt eerily familiar. Zazetsky had been wounded by a bullet to the head. It damaged the left occipito-parietal region of his brain, an area that operates as an intersection, connecting and processing information coming from the outside world and other parts of the brain. Like Barbara, post-injury Zazetsky struggled to tell time on an analog clock. She began to suspect that her own left occipito-parietal region, what we now call the Symbol Relations area, wasn’t functioning well either. 




“Diagram showing the lobes of the brain CRUK 308.svg” by Cancer Research UK is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0




Then Barbara found the work of Mark Rosenzweig, an American psychologist whose research showed that rats could physically rewire their brains in response to stimulation. With this revelation Barbara wondered if she could devise an exercise that could stimulate and rewire the occipito-parietal region of a human brain. If rats could do it, why couldn’t humans? Cue the first version of Clocks, a series of hand-written clock-face flashcard exercises. Barbara experimented on herself. 

The Fog Lifted

In her memoir, she recalls, “I would do the exercise every day for up to twelve hours a day, and as I got better, I made

the flashcards more complex. I cannot describe my exhilaration when I began to feel the result of all this work. Points of logic became clear to me, and elements of grammar now made sense, as did math. Conversations that I had always had to replay to comprehend now unfolded in real-time. The fog dissipated then lifted. It was gone for good.” 


Those hand-written flashcards evolved into a computer program that’s helped thousands of students live better lives. You can read some of their stories on our blog.

A Confident Brains student works on “Colcks” with his family cheering him on silently

Alessandro Marchi –  A Brain Boost Story 

By all accounts, Alessandro Marchi has a great life. The 50 year-old Italian runs his own successful music production company, has a lovely family, and has lived as an expat, most recently in Singapore and Thailand, for over 20 years. But Alessandro knew things could be better. “For me, the worst thing you could ask me to do is read out loud. I had an undiagnosed dyslexia problem. I knew that my whole life, but I never addressed it.” He also struggled with writing. As a child in Italy, he intuitively wrote with his left hand, but “when I was about to start primary school, they made me write with my right hand. When I got to grade 6 they made me go back to my left hand. My writing was horrible, of course. It was something I learned to live with.” Like many people who grew up when learning differences weren’t on the radar, Alessandro learned to cope, and cope well. 


When he learned about the Arrowsmith program available at United World College Thailand, the school his children attend, he was wary at first. Looking into it, he began to wonder, “If it helps people with learning challenges, what will it do to people who are in the so-called ‘normal range’? I saw many children benefiting from the program, and I thought, ‘What if I had a go? Would it help me?’ ” 

When Confident Brains opened an adult program, Alessandro thought, “Why not invest six months in myself and try this thing?” He ended up enrolling in a full year for three sessions a day. The assessment results surprised but galvanized him. “It’s shocking at first but then you think, certainly, there’s a chance to improve these things. At that moment, I didn’t know what to expect but I trusted that it would have a positive impact.” 


A few months in, he felt that impact. Although he was able to avoid reading out loud in public, he couldn’t say no when his kids asked for a bedtime story. Stumbling through words and misreading, he described it as, “a painful experience for me and for them.” One night, his kids asked him to read for them. “Pages into the story, I realized I WAS READING ALOUD with no difficulties! I was reading a whole story aloud… and well!” he recalls, laughing. “I was in disbelief. I didn’t say anything. Maybe this is a fluke.” It  wasn’t. It took Alessandro a few days of reading more easily to process the shift. “It was completely night and day. I realized how big this was for me, how big of a burden had lifted. I was so impressed that it was happening. That was definitely when I realized, ok, this [Arrowsmith] is really helping me.” 


With this boost, he worked even harder. “I had a very gung-ho approach. It was like going to the gym for me. I enjoyed it very much. I was competing with myself, my own limitations. Trying to do as much as possible every day. It’s a time and financial commitment so I wanted to see the most coming from it.”


As a Formula One fan, he really enjoyed the Symbol Relations exercise. “You feel like you’re a fighter pilot or formula one driver. You need to make a perfect lap in order to master. You make one single mistake, and you spoil the whole lap.” Alessandro began to notice more changes. “It’s as if you’ve received a boost. If you’re running, you can run faster. It’s easier. The organization of my thought and speech is much more fluid. It’s easier to find the words. I am more strategic. I think before I act. My learning is faster. I’m much more precise in my music playing. There is more clarity.” His wife, Sonia, noticed subtle differences too. “He’s less frustrated overall. A bit nicer to be around. Less frustrated about little things.” 


He occasionally thinks about how life would have been different if he’d had access to something like Arrowsmith as a child. “Oh my goodness. It’s the big what if. I would be a completely different person.” Still, Alessandro is happy he found it later in life. “I’m grateful for doing something for myself, for giving myself this opportunity. That’s the thing about Arrowsmith. Once you discover there is incredible potential, the question you ask immediately is, ‘why are people not going crazy for this thing?’ It really can straighten up your thought process. It’s for everyone. It’s a very effective brain gym.”


Asked if he would try reading out loud in public now, Alessandro recalls a memory of going to a seminar and being asked to read in front of the audience. “I knew it was over my limits. I said, ‘Sorry, I’m dyslexic, I would never do that.’” Today he feels differently. “I would give it a shot. I would be nervous speaking in front of an audience. It would scare the s— out of me but I would give it a shot.”


Ella Cahill’s Story – Finding Answers to Lifelong Learning Difficulties

If you met Ella Cahill you would probably be surprised to hear she’s suffered with learning difficulties her whole life. The sweet Australian 22-year-old makes friends easily and shines in social gatherings but she felt completely defeated when it came to reading, writing, math, and time management, even though she attended private school since kindergarten and had the help of tutors and extensive learning support. “If there was a program, my mom found it and I did it, at significant cost to my parents, but I remained slow at everything I did, especially anything timed,” says Ella. “I never submitted an assignment on time nor finished an exam within the given time frame. I felt dumb my whole school life.” But now, ten months into a full-year Arrowsmith program at Confident Brains, she says, “I feel like I’m a race car.”

Like many people with non-specific learning difficulties, Ella grew up longing for a diagnosis, like dyslexia, that would explain her troubles. When thorough testing didn’t provide any answers, other than showing that in fact, she had a high IQ, she worked harder and blamed herself. “My self-esteem in so many ways was damaged from feeling stupid and not being able to do easy tasks like simple mental maths. Then not being able to get to the bottom of why frustrated me more.” In order to receive extra time in her final exams, Ella needed yearly testing by an Educational Psychologist to show cause. However, each year her IQ increased, eventually landing a couple of points off the gifted range. “This only added to my frustration as I felt like my experience didn’t reflect this number.”

Having already repeated Year 6 and taken two years to finish Year 12, Ella hit a low after her first year of university. Despite loving her studies in landscape architecture, she couldn’t get through her course work and all the group tasks stressed her out. Her mother had been suggesting Arrowsmith for years, so when a university break aligned with a 6-Week Cognitive Intensive Program at Confident Brains, Ella flew to Phuket. She expected to finish the program and be back for the start of the new semester.

“After speaking to other students who had made life-changing gains, I realized I needed to do a year. As much as the 6-Week Program was incredible and definitely helped, I needed to work on some other areas that were only available full time.”

The Arrowsmith assessment process was one of the factors that convinced Ella to commit to a full-time program. “Whereas other programs weren’t as specific and didn’t pinpoint exactly the problems I had, the testing really covered everything, and then the program was completely tailored to my weaknesses.” The results gave Ella a huge sense of relief and hope. “This is what I’ve been dealing with all my life. This is my brain on paper. It was so comforting to get to the exact bottom of what was going on in my brain. Why I could do this, and couldn’t do this, and see how things linked up.” Armed with this new knowledge and a customized learning plan, Ella threw herself into the program.

One of her earliest improvements was becoming more organized. In the past, getting ready in the morning was hectic, and regardless of how many alarms Ella set, she was always late. A few weeks into the program, one of her housemates pointed out that mornings were smoother. “I wasn’t running around, grabbing a t-shirt, grabbing my shoes. I had my vitamins, had my shower, and just got ready and it wasn’t as difficult. I wouldn’t forget things. That was definitely a significant change.”

Ella also quickly made huge progress with her reading rate. In her final year of high school, she’d seen a behavioral optometrist, who picked up that she was reading at a Year 2 or 3 level. She was 16. “I hated reading. I would skip lines, then nothing made sense so I would re-read it. Although I’m musical, I gave up the piano because I couldn’t read the Leger lines. An E looked like a G. I would never borrow a book from the library because I was ashamed that I would just have to keep renewing it.” Six months into the program, she noticed reading was getting easier. “I can just read so quickly now, without any struggles and I have so much more confidence.”

Ella also embraced the unique setting and advantages of the Confident Brains School, which is located at the Thanyapura Sport and Wellness Centre, one of Asia’s premier training facilities. “If I had done my Arrowsmith program in Melbourne, it would have been so boring,” she says, laughing. “Being at Thanyapura and having access to all the health and sports classes, the support of great nutrition, the incredible food – it was just a dream. I did yoga and meditation classes every day. I completely immersed myself in it and it really nourished me in so many ways. To be able to do a brain training program and have the holistic combination of fitness, health, and nutrition just accelerated the process of neural growth.”

That growth showed up in less obvious ways too. When her parents visited in February, they offered to take some of her things back home with them to make her load lighter in June, when she completed the program. To her mother’s shock and delight, she quickly filtered through her belongings, figuring out what she would and wouldn’t need for the next few months. “I know I would’ve struggled with that before,” says Ella. “I remember when I had to pack to go to Phuket for a year and I was so stressed. Packing took days and often wasn’t completed before a flight.”

That packing practice came in handy in late March when it became apparent that Ella would have to return to Australia to ride out the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite short notice and anxiety-inducing news unfolding, Ella calmly accepted that her stay in Phuket was ending sooner than she hoped, and packed up quickly. “I did it within a timeframe that wouldn’t have happened before.” She’s now safe at home with her family in Melbourne, finishing up her last three months through online learning with Confident Brains and still maintaining her fitness through Thanyapura’s online classes.

Ella wasn’t expecting major gains in this last stretch of the program, but she recently made an exciting breakthrough, thanks to Google docs and Robert Lee, her perceptive teacher.

“I always struggled with writing. I could never get my ideas out. I’d been getting good marks in this Arrowsmith writing exercise, but Robert (Lee) kept on saying you’ve got to produce a bit more work. I didn’t know what else I could do. When we moved online using Google docs he could see what I was typing and how quickly I was typing. He picked up that I write one sentence, think for another two minutes, and write one sentence, instead of formulating the whole idea in my head, then writing. He really sat with me over facetime, coaching me through this writing process. Keep going, keep the ideas flowing. I was running this marathon. One day was really hard, and I was so frustrated, but I had this insane breakthrough. Now I can formulate a whole story of what I want to say in my head and just type it. It’s just this continuous flow without any pausing or lag. That was just always how I’d written and I always just thought, ‘I’m slow” but it actually correlated to an area in my brain where I couldn’t hold information and manipulate it. That wouldn’t have been picked up on if we hadn’t moved to Google docs. It was really cool.”

Now that she’s reading and writing fluidly, Ella is excited to go back to university. She’s also keen to share her Confident Brains experience. “After having done the Arrowsmith program and knowing that it’s helped me so significantly and that it could help so many more people, I definitely want to talk to everyone about it!” she says, chuckling. When schools open up again, she’s planning to reach out to her former teachers and offer to give talks about the Arrowsmith Program. “It should be in every school. It should be so much more accessible. I feel there must be more people like me, who are frustrated, who get a range of grades like I did, anything from an A+ to a D. It should be available to every student, even if they don’t have problems with learning. It’s still so beneficial to train and grow your brain, to reach your full potential. I really hope that in the future, it’s in every school.”

While Ella has made concrete improvements in her writing, reading, maths and time management, the biggest and most important shift may be in the way she thinks about herself. Reflecting on what she’s learned about herself over the past 10 months, she pauses, and starts to cry.

“I just didn’t have a lot of confidence. I always questioned everything I did. Everything in school was just so tough. I just thought that I was stupid. And then to go to Arrowsmith and have the full testing, to see and understand my brain and the reasons why I struggled. It was a huge breakthrough. I feel a lot more confident in myself, not just in my ability to do maths or read. It’s so much more. I’m so grateful to have this experience and make significant changes. Otherwise, I know I would have continued to struggle for the rest of my life. I now have confidence in my own brain; I feel like I can truly live up to my IQ.”

Blog: Overcoming Learning Challenges During Challenging Times: A Coronavirus Story

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1583826750614{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Like many schools in Asia, and now around the world, we’re keeping a close eye on COVID-19 updates. With the Thai Ministry of Education mandating quarantines for people coming into the country from affected areas, three students and one teacher from the Arrowsmith classroom had to study from home for two weeks. While it was initially daunting, teachers, students and parents have not just survived but thrived. One of the students even returned and promptly mastered a higher level of the Symbol Relations exercise!

A simple set-up made it possible: laptop, Google hangouts, a webcam and headphones.

Kru LJ Cheng, working from home, was in frequent contact with the quarantined students. He gave feedback and instruction through Google slides, hangouts, text messages, voice calls, and video streaming. Kru Joel Fisher has been taking care of the classroom students and checking in with the quarantined families a few times a day.

For the students in quarantine, it’s taking more discipline and commitment to overcome the distractions of home and workspaces with stunning views! Bravo to their parents who were supervising and trying to manage their own work as well.

A few of the Arrowsmith students at UWC Thailand got a classroom view upgrade recently.

Andrea Edwards: “It was a seamless transition! It’s never going to be smooth sailing having your children at home in this scenario, but the @uwcthailand Arrowsmith teachers have been amazing. We’re really impressed with the boys. They got on with the work that needed doing without too much moaning!”

Another parent was impressed with how quickly the teachers responded to this learning challenge. “They were efficient with setting up not only the [Arrowsmith] program but taking the lead and working my child’s mainstream classes too. The timetable and expectations were set out clearly with regular contact time, including emotional support [because] they knew it could be hard to achieve without being in the classroom.”

Well done, everyone! Great to have you all healthy and back at school.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Behind the Scenes of Brain Training Mastery

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We recently celebrated a big student milestone. A few weeks ago, Tenzin Hebben completed the highest level – Level 10 – of the Symbol Relations exercise! Fewer than 50 students in the history of the Arrowsmith Program have completed this level of cognitive training because it requires not only motivation, but unwavering commitment and fierce determination.

When Tenzin completed level 10 it represented far more than finishing a level of brain training. It took him hundreds of hours of dedicated work. When he first started Arrowsmith, he found the most basic levels challenging, and he feigned low motivation as a solution to feelings of hopelessness.

For Tenzin, getting to this proud moment in the photo you see here meant harnessing the perseverance to acquire strengths that he had never been able to unlock before. AND it involved doing this repeatedly! Completing this level also requires a deep sense of faith in yourself, and/or deep trust in those (teachers and family members) who are saying it will be possible. Achieving this level means you have have surpassed “impossible” goals to the point where doing so has become a matter of habit — the Arrowsmith M.O., and an extremely valuable life lesson.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

fMRI Research: Arrowsmith Program

There is a lot of buzz in neuroeducation circles these days. In October 2019 the most recent study regarding the Arrowsmith cognitive training program was published in the peer reviewed journal: Learning.

The study is the first publication of fMRI-based studies that have been taking place over the past several years. There are many more studies that are still awaiting publication, but we now have our first official observations of why the Arrowsmith Program has been so effective since its development in the late 1970’s.

The results are very positive and they demonstrate that the Arrowsmith Program can have a profound positive impact on the ability to learn. It confirms what practitioners have known for decades—the Arrowsmith Program can fundamentally improve the ability to learn.


fMRI research confirms the Arrowsmith Program can effectively strengthen weak neurological functions that are thought to underlie diagnosis such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, processing disorders and ADHD. The brain scan studies allow researchers to observe why students who complete the Arrowsmith have such profound life changing experiences.

Decades of Independent Studies

This is the first fMRI-based study to be peer reviewed and published. However, the Arrowsmith Program has a long history of research and independent studies spanning 3 decades. Studies have shown that completing the Arrowsmith Program can increase cognitive abilities by more than 30%. Studies also show that students in the Arrowsmith Program experience a reduction in depression and anxiety, increases in academic and social abilities, and they require little or no learning support after the program is complete.

New Phase of Research

The Arrowsmith Program, based in Canada, has recently announced a global research initiative aimed at taking a deeper look into the program that is available in 100+ schools in 10 countries. This research initiative includes projects in Canada, USA, Spain and Eastern Europe. It is truly an exciting time in the field of neuro-education. Long-held notions that learning disabilities are untreatable are beginning to unravel. As we deepen our understanding of the brain and ideas about neuroscience become more accepted, options for people who suffer from learning disabilities will become even more effective and widely available. A future where specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and ADHD, are fully treatable is now on the horizon.

More information on research related to the Arrowsmith Program, including original studies is available at https://arrowsmithschool.org/research/

The Arrowsmith Program is available in Asia through Confident Brains Pte Ltd. confidentbrains.com  INFO@CONFIDENTBRAINS.COM



The Greatest Day in Sports History Just Happened: What it means for people with learning challenges


Athletics’ last great barrier has been broken

Eliud Kipchoge, Kenyan athlete, ran the marathon distance of 42.2km in under 2 hours. Until recently, the idea that a human being could break the 2-hour mark was labeled impossible, or that it would not be accomplished for generations. Kipchobe’s time was 1:59:40.

The accomplishment ranks among the greatest achievements in sports history. It completes a list of amazing human accomplishments in line with Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile, and Jim Hines’ first 100m sprint in under 10 seconds.  To put it in perspective, Kipchobe’s time is nearly an hour faster than the first gold metal marathon time in the modern Olympics. The achievement cements Kipchobe’s place as the greatest marathon runner of all time.

Photo credit: Herbert Neubauer

The latest of a string of recent achievements

The accomplishment is part of a flood of incredible advancements in the running world.  The recent generation of marathon runners have loped nearly 4 minutes off the world marathon record. The 5 fastest marathons in history have been run in the last 13 months, and Brigid Kosgei obliterated the 16-year-old women’s record just one day after Kipchoge’s sub 2-hour feat.


Why is this happening?

Is it the shoes? Nike has created a shoe called the Vapourfly, complete with highly refined technology and carbon fiber plates that are claimed to improve running efficiency by at least 4%.  Kipchoge and the rest of the runners who have established the five fastest marathon times, as well as new world record holder Brigid Kosgei were all wearing some version of the new shoes from Nike during their runs.


There is certainly much discussion as to whether the shoes constitute an unfair advantage. However, most human accomplishments involve some level of technology and application of scientific understanding.


What 1:59:40 means for people with Learning Challenges

Running the marathon distance in under 2 hours has ignited the running world and put a spotlight on a sport that has not been in vogue in decades. When someone achieves something that was previously thought impossible, it sparks an awakening of sorts. It gives people permission to broaden their view and rethink what else may be possible. This idea of breaking new barriers and expanding the realm of what is possible will trickle out far beyond the running world. It will forge a place in our collective consciousness that will allow us understand that things can always get better.

The world of learning disabilities can often appear very bleak, especially to those who suffer directly. It can be a world of damning labels, frustrating diagnosis, and no sense of hope for the future. Being diagnosed with a learning disability can feel like a “death sentence”. They can appear as a barrier that cannot be overcome.

Fortunately, impossible barriers can be redefined and broken. People are often told that learning disabilities are permanent and there are few solutions. We now know there is technology and specific teaching methods that can be used to fully address learning disabilities such as dyslexia. A learning disability no longer has to be a “death sentence”.

Eliud Kipchoge as demonstrated that under the right conditions (and with help from technology) impossible barriers can be broken. His accomplishment serves as a reminder that the impossible can be made possible, and it is worth perusing goals that are currently beyond the horizon.  For people with learning challenges, it is a reminder that we should question perceived barriers, keep searching for solutions, and demand that the existing technology is available to everyone.

The goal of a world where learning disabilities can be fully treated, and people can unleash the full potential of their brain is now on the horizon.

[Confident Brains School providing the Arrowsmith Program serves children and adults with learning challenges. The Arrowsmith Program has been used to fully and permanently address the underlying cause of learning difficulties for more than 40 years. Arrowsmith Program originated in Canada and is now available in South East Asia through Confident Brains Pte Ltd. Contact: INFO@CONFIDENTBRAINS.COM]


Review: Limitless Mind, Jo Boaler

[Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dwkTs3IQBY]

Limitless Mind

If parents, educators and managers read only one book on how to maximize potential and improve lives, Limitless Mind should be it. Author Jo Boaler provides a plain language explanation of the latest developments in neuroscience and how we can use it to unlock the true potential of the human brain.

Limitless Mind is the most powerful book on unlocking human potential in years. It goes beyond theoretical explanations, and presents practical steps to living in a way that is not limited by talent, natural giftedness or genetic traits. In fact, as Boaler explains, the idea that some people are born with or without natural abilities is damaging and form the perspective of neuroscience, not true.

This book is the current high water mark demonstrating how the lessons from neuroscience can help us to shape and enhance our lives for the better. It demonstrates how everyone can be good at math, or how everyone can develop their creativity. It is filled with liberating ideas and practical advice from the cutting edge of what we understand about the human brain.


What others have said about Limitless Mind

“Boaler is one of those rare and remarkable educators who not only know the secret of great teaching but also know how to give that gift to others.”  CAROL DWECK, author of Mindset

“Jo Boaler is one of the most creative and innovative educators today. Limitless Mind marries cutting-edge brain science with her experience in the classroom, not only proving that each of us has limitless potential but offering strategies for how we can achieve it.” LAURENE POWELL JOBS

Unlocking Our True Potential

Traditional education systems and teaching approaches can do more harm than good when it comes to helping students reach their full potential. Limitless Mind illustrates how the lessons from neuroscience can allow us to move beyond traditional ways of thinking to take part in a journey of truly endless potential.

The book features the Arrowsmith Program that uses the concepts found in neuroscience to allow people with learning difficulties to unlock their true potential and work toward unlimited academic and social success. Whether suffering from specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, or wanting to improve social or academic abilities, the Arrowsmith Program, has meaningful and permanent solutions. Solutions that are effective regardless of age or current ability.

Jo Boaler takes a deep dive into the limitless qualities of the human brain. She provides an explanation for why some people demonstrate talent, and helps us to understand how the world’s greatest minds were created, not born.

The amount of neuroscience research available can be overwhelming and difficult to understand the real-life implications. Jo Boaler brings to light the critical findings of the latest neuroscience  and describes practical ways that it can be used to change lives for the better.

Just reading the book will provide a sense of what is it like to live without barriers.

If you want your child to increase their true success and overcome the inherent challenges of a fast-paced competitive world, Limitless Mind is an essential read.

The Arrowsmith Cognitive Training Program is provided in South East Asia and Korea by Confident Brains Pte Ltd.

About Jo Boaler (from Amazon.com )

Dr. Jo Boaler is a professor of education and equity at Stanford University and the faculty director of youcubed—an education resource that has reached over 230 million students. She is the author of the first MOOC on mathematics teaching and learning, as well as nine mathematics books and numerous research articles. Her work has been published in the New York TimesTIME magazine, The TelegraphThe AtlanticThe Wall Street Journal, and many other news outlets. She was named by the BBC as one of eight educators “changing the face of education.” She lives in Stanford, California.