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Online instruction has been a huge challenge for children with learning difficulties. This is even more so during this pandemic, as schools and programs designed for in-person instruction quickly adapt to offer remote learning. Children with learning difficulties are being left behind as having them engage online is proving to be very difficult. One parent looking at our online offerings told us during an admissions call that, for her child, remote learning has been a “disaster!” So, why would Eaton Arrowsmith School Online (EAS0) be any different?

Since May 2020, EASO has enrolled over 140 students from around the world into online programs! These students have engaged in intensive 8-week programs, 4 hour a week programs, and now half-day programs that run over the course of the school year (2020-2021). The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. 

These students are engaged in their work, mastering challenging cognitive tasks daily and improving neurological functioning. Why is this the case? Why is the Arrowsmith Program online successful for children with learning difficulties whereas other online instructional options have failed or been a real struggle?

Below are the top 8 reasons why the Arrowsmith Program online is engaging students (both children and adults) with learning difficulties and helping improve their cognitive capacities. These improved cognitive capacities provide greater opportunities for academic and social success. And ironically, increase the likelihood that they can now succeed in online academic instruction.

We know that your child’s brain can improve functioning

There is nothing more important than having a teacher who believes that your child has an amazing brain that can improve its capacity to engage in the world. As a teacher, many years ago, I would sit in school lunchrooms and hear some teachers say about specific children with learning difficulties, “he is no rocket scientist,” “she will always struggle with Math,” or “can’t wait for that kid to be out of my class.” Your child needs teachers who believe your child can learn and grow if given the right tasks. Once your child is in front of that teacher, whether in a school or online, there is no telling what they will achieve!

Arrowsmith Program instructors know about how the brain works and specifically how to engage your child on tasks that are challenging yet doable

Your child will be enrolled with a trained Arrowsmith Program instructor who has had training on how the brain works, and how specific areas of the brain can be strengthened. Knowledge is powerful, and there is nothing more powerful than understanding that we all have different neurological capacities, that we all need different starting points on tasks given to us, and that we will all progress differently. This gives the instructor understanding, compassion and patience as they work with children with learning difficulties. The child feels this understanding and is willing to take risks that they may not have taken before.

Your child is in a community of students who all want to improve their chances of school success

I cannot imagine how terrifying it would be to be in an online classroom and feel like you are unable to understand the information being taught in real-time. Well, I suppose I can imagine, as I was diagnosed with Severe Developmental Dyslexia back in the 1970s. I know what it was like to feel confused in class, so I can imagine what that would be like online, and I can imagine it would be even more terrifying because the only people who could help me would be my parents. The last thing I would have wanted as a child is to have my parent try to re-teach information to me, but I also would not have wanted to stand out to my peers in class as being the one who didn’t understand. In an Eaton Arrowsmith School Online classroom all the other children also have a history of learning difficulties. They get what it is like to not get it. There is kindness, understanding and safety.

Your child is only given tasks they can achieve on their own

A critical and longstanding neuropsychological concept in effective instruction is a term called the Zone of Proximal Development. Unfortunately, in school, children with learning difficulties are not presented with concepts that are within their Zone of Proximal Development. Instead, they are presented with concepts that are too challenging for them to understand. They cannot learn the information without a huge amount of support, re-teaching, or simplification. In an in-person classroom, this is often provided by the teacher or aide. In online instruction however, these students are often left wondering what is going on and what to do next, and in fear that there is no help available to them. At EASO the tasks given to your child are always within their Zone of Proximal Development. They are introduced to a task, they can engage in that task without extensive oversight, and over time they can master that task and move onto more challenging tasks.

Your child sets achievable goals – this is key to increasing motivation and engagement

We are asking your child to set goals that they feel are achievable. This creates a level of insight into their own capabilities that they can use to challenge themselves. We might nudge them to a more challenging goal at times, but if they set it, they are motivated to achieve it. This has a positive effect on engagement as there is no greater feeling than achieving one’s own goals.

Your child is given novel tasks to enhance attention or engagement

There is nothing so demotivating as working on tasks that one can do easily. In special education, the term “dumbing down the curriculum” is often used to describe how children with learning difficulties are not given challenging tasks. Challenging tasks are deemed unkind or unnecessary because the child has learning problems and many feel that this means the child should not have to face any difficulty. This is not the best approach! Instead, a child needs novel tasks, that they can do on their own within their Zone of Proximal Development as noted above. Novel tasks are key to brain change. The brain needs novelty to keep focused or engaged. The Arrowsmith Program is wonderful at providing this type of task and appropriately challenges the brain on a minute by minute basis.

Your child is rewarded for their accomplishments

After having achieved mastery on an Arrowsmith Program task, there is nothing like seeing your computer screen light up with congratulatory comments, the online classroom cheering you on for your success, and having your parents receive an email from the Arrowsmith Program instructor about your accomplishment. Even better for your child is knowing that this achievement was due to their effort, and not through the “dumbing down” of the task or over-coaching of the teacher. They earned it, all on their own. Our students experience pride in their work and a feeling of being capable of independent achievement that many have not experienced before.

Your child is given constant feedback

Feedback in our lives is crucial. This is one reason your child might have found online instruction so problematic at home. It may have been hard to get feedback from the teacher as classes might be too large, or your child may have struggled or been embarrassed to ask for help. At EASO the classes are kept small, and teachers are constantly monitoring their students’ engagement with tablets connected by the Cloud to their program. An instructor can tell quickly if engagement is down for a specific child and request a private meeting with the child to reduce any embarrassment or concern the child might have. As well, the child’s own computer will give them feedback on their performance on the Arrowsmith Program. Thus, they can self-monitor their own engagement, performance and how close they might be to mastering a level and moving to a novel challenge.

Eaton Arrowsmith School Online is unique due to these 8 reasons when compared to other online offerings your child might have experienced already through their own school. If that is not enough of a reason to believe it will not be a “freakin disaster” think about why your child is doing the program. They are working on improving their cognitive capacities! They are working to improve memory, reasoning, processing speed and attention. The Arrowsmith Program has been available for 40 years and has conducted independent research for over 20 years. The evidence is clear – the Arrowsmith Program is improving the cognitive and achievement outcomes of children and adults who engage in it. Now it is available online! Don’t miss out.

Howard Eaton, Ed.M.


Eaton Arrowsmith School Online