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The Woman Who Changed Her Brain

Neuroplasticity – “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.”

Can We Change Our Brains?

“I still meet people today, children, individuals struggling with learning problems. And their still being told what I was told in 1957, that they need to learn with their limitations, they don’t dare to dream.” – Barbara Arrowsmith Young

Our brains can be changed. This isn’t new information – at least not anymore, but for a time there was a belief that once your brain was formed that it couldn’t change. With breakthrough studies in Neuroplasticity, individuals with learning disabilities are able to retrain their brain to do things that were believed to be impossible before.

I first heard of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young from a friend who had a child with intense learning difficulties. Using Barbara’s methods she was able to stop sending her child to an extremely expensive school and had breakthrough’s in their lives both physically, emotionally and financially. For years they felt imprisoned by the fact that they had no other option than to send their son to a special school, but with some brain retraining they got their lives back.

In Barbara’s story she recounts how difficult it was for her to learn. The problem was so severe that she tried to take her own life. Eventually she stumbled upon a book that led her to understanding herself better and started her down the path to retraining her brain and eventually taking control of her life.

Watch the video below to learn more about how Barbara transformed her life through retraining her brain.

Barbara’s Bio from the Ted Website

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young is the Creator and Director of Arrowsmith School and Arrowsmith Program, and the author of the international best-selling book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain ( She holds a B.A.Sc. in Child Studies from the University of Guelph, and a Master’s degree in School Psychology from the University of Toronto (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education). Arrowsmith-Young is recognized as the creator of one of the first practical applications of the principles of neuroplasticity to the treatment of learning disorders. Her program is implemented in 54 schools internationally.

The Brain That Changes Itself

I was sitting at a coffee shop when a friend walked in and he was holding the book, “The Brain that Changes Itself“. I asked him about it and he started telling me about the fascinating study of neuroplasticity. I was so intrigued that I went out and purchased a copy for myself. In the first few chapters we are told of a woman who was given medicine during pregnancy that caused her to lose the ability to balance. She was called a “wobbler” and this condition can be debilitating. However, with some retraining of her brain she was able to get her balance back and her life back. I was fascinated.

Stories like this remind me of comic book characters like Daredevil – the young boy who was blinded and so his other senses became so enhanced he can almost see like a bat with sonar. When I read “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison he also talks about how over the years as he forced himself to do things that were uncomfortable for him, that he had less signs of Asperger’s Syndrome. Even more fascinating to me was that as he became more “normal”, (which what is normal?) he had less of the ability to do complex math and other things that came easy to him when he was less “socialized.” These are his words, not mine.

I think for so long there has been a belief that being born a different way is a negative thing, but I believe times are changing and we can start to see the value in people because of their differences, not in spite of their differences.


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