Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Slings and Arrowsmiths

By Tim Hannan

A well-promoted intervention for children with learning disorders lacks reliable evidence for its efficacy.

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The recent visit to Australia by Barbara Arrowsmith Young elicited a flurry of media interest in the Arrowsmith Program, with expressions of enthusiasm for its objectives, praise for its uptake by Australian schools, and the gratitude of parents of children with learning disorders. Yet amid the anecdotes offered by its practitioners and the testimonials of parents, little attention was paid to the striking lack of quality evidence for the efficacy of the Arrowsmith Program.

Young, the founder of an independent school in Toronto, claims that traditional interventions merely attempt to compensate for children’s difficulties by modifying the curriculum, while the Arrowsmith Program is designed to strengthen the cognitive skills that underlie these difficulties. Full details of the program are not available to external agencies or researchers, but it’s stated that the program addresses the “nineteen specific areas of learning dysfunction” that Young believes give rise to learning disorders.

Offered at a number of independent schools in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, the program was introduced into several Catholic schools in NSW in recent years. It claims to treat difficulties in remarkably diverse areas of cognitive functioning, including reading, writing, arithmetic, auditory processing, visual processing, attention, non-verbal...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.