The Woman Who Changed Her Brain By Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

In The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, we begin with the story of Barbara Arrowsmith as she grows up in an environment that she doesn’t understand. She later diagnoses herself with 17 learning difficulties that help explain her struggles to understand schoolwork and even the simplest conversations. After discovering the work of Dr. Luria with brain damaged soldiers in post-World War II Russia, Barbara starts developing exercises to rewire her own brain. After fixing herself, Barbara begins helping other frustrated children and adults overcome their learning difficulties and eventually starts a school that does nothing but focus on brain exercises. The rest of the book mainly consists of chapters dealing with each type of learning difficulty that Barbara has come across (19 in all), and testimonials from children and adults that the exercises have helped.

After describing the first exercises she developed for herself (flash cards to tell time on a clock), she writes:

What had happened? The part of my brain that was supposed to make sense of the relationship between symbols – most famously in my case, the hands of a clock – had been barely functioning. The work I did with flash cards activated that moribund part of my brain, getting the neurons to fire in order to forge new neural pathways. This part of my brain had been asleep for the first twenty-six years of my life, and the clock exercise had woken up.

And what about my other issues… This became my quest: to use what I’d learned from this experiment to wake up other areas of my brain.

What I have learned by doing this work for some thirty-four years is this: just as our brains shape us, we can shape our brains. (p. 8)

This book helped me to understand a world where daily life is a huge challenge for those with learning difficulties. It gave me more empathy for those in my life who struggle with challenges and the hope that change is possible.

Who would I recommend this too? Anyone that experiences learning difficulties or lives with someone who does.