The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: How I Left My Learning Disability Behind and Other Stories of Cognitive Transformation

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: How I Left My Learning Disability Behind and Other Stories of Cognitive Transformation

by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young
  • english-from-canada
  • health
  • science

The incredible story and miraculous work of a remarkable woman. Though she began life severely learning disabled, built herself a better brain and a brain training program that has helped thousands of others do the same.

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was born with severe learning disabilities that caused teachers to label her slow, stubborn — or worse. As a child, she read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, continually got lost, and was physically uncoordinated. She could make no sense of an analogue clock. But by relying on her formidable memory and iron will, she made her way to graduate school, where she chanced upon research that inspired her to invent cognitive exercises to “fix” her own brain. The Woman Who Changed Her Brain interweaves her personal tale with riveting case histories from her more than thirty years of working with both children and adults. Discoveries in neuroscience have conclusively demonstrated that, by engaging in certain mental tasks or activities, we actually change the structure of our brains—from the cells themselves to the connections between cells. The capability of nerve cells to change is known as neuroplasticity, and Arrowsmith-Young has been putting it into practice for decades.

With great inventiveness, after combining two lines of research, Barbara developed unusual cognitive calisthenics that radically increased the functioning of her weakened brain areas to normal and, in some areas, even above-normal levels. Barbara founded Arrowsmith School in Toronto in 1980 and then the Arrowsmith Program to train teachers and to implement this highly effective methodology in schools all over North America. Her work is revealed as one of the first examples of neuroplasticity’s extensive and practical application. The idea that self-improvement can happen in the brain has now caught fire.

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain powerfully and poignantly illustrates how the lives of children and adults struggling with learning disorders can be dramatically transformed. This remarkable book by a brilliant pathbreaker deepens our understanding of how the brain works and of the brain’s profound impact on how we participate in the world. Our brains shape us, but this book offers clear and hopeful evidence of the corollary: we can shape our brains.


Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, author

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young is the Director of Arrowsmith School and Arrowsmith Program. She holds both 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).


  • A groundbreaking, widely praised and enthralling book. - The Guardian (UK) Link to review
  • If you or anyone you know has a learning disability, you will be riveted by the author's journey. - The Huffington Post Link to review
  • Barbara’s story… is truly heroic, on par with the achievements of Helen Keller… [she] has been able to describe, in a poignant and often unforgettable way, what it feels like to have a devastating learning disorder – but also what it’s like to leave it behind. - Norman Doidge, M.D., author of The Brain That Changes Itself

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Westwood Creative Artists



rights sold: Audio (Post Hypnotic Press [Unabridged]), Australia - New Zealand (HarperCollins Australia), China (complex: Business Weekly Publications), Korea (Korea Price Information Corp.), North America (Free Press - Simon & Schuster), Poland (Wroclawskie Wydawnictwo Naukowe), Spain (Marban Libros), UK (Square Peg - Random House)

rights available: World

Additional Information

number of pages: 288

publication date: 05/01/2012

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book