December 27, 2022

How to Rewire Your Brain with Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young overheard her first-grade teacher telling her mom, “Barbara really isn’t going to amount to much.”

Growing up, Barbara struggled to learn to read and write. Back then, there was no such term as “learning difficulty” — the understanding was that your brain was fixed forever. To Barbara, it felt like a life sentence.

Today, she is known as “the woman who changed her brain.” After years of living with a diagnosed “mental block,” Barbara set out to understand why parts of her brain weren’t functioning the way they should.

What she discovered changed her understanding of the brain entirely, and she knew it was her life’s work to help others overcome the learning difficulties that might be holding them back.

The Arrowsmith Program is helping thousands of people worldwide reduce the factors in their life causing negative neuroplasticity so they can become effective, confident, and self-directed learners.

Learn more about The Arrowsmith Program by visiting their website. Be sure to take the free questionnaire to get a snapshot of your own cognitive profile.

I help people struggling with learning difficulties regularly in my group coaching program for adult ADHDers. Click the link below to learn more.




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Kristen Carder 0:07
Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B.

Hey, what’s up this is Kristen Carter and you’re listening to the I have ADHD podcast episode number 191. I am medicated, I am caffeinated and I am ready to roll. Today’s episode is going to blow your mind ADHD or so get ready for it buckle up. I’m speaking with Barbara Aerosmith. Young who is known to those in the field of neuroscience as the woman who changed her brain. Now, I’m going to tell you all about Barbara and we’re going to have the most beautiful conversation you’re going to learn so much. But I want to first tell you, this is a full circle moment for me, because about 15 years ago, I owned a learning center which implemented a brain training curriculum. And I used to read books on neuroscience because I’m dorky like that. And I read this fascinating book by Norman Deutsch called the brain that changes itself. I go into detail about this book in Episode 30 of this podcast, which is on neuroplasticity, which we’ll be speaking about today.

But anyway, in George’s book, there’s a chapter about a woman named Barbara Young who had healed her brain of severe learning disabilities through cognitive training exercises, much like the ones I was implementing with my students at the time. Fast forward to a few months ago, Barbara’s team reached out to me to pitch her as a guest on this podcast, and I nearly fell out of my chair. Seriously, what is this life that I get to live that heroes and innovators that I’ve read about for years are wanting to have conversations and feature their work on this podcast, it’s blowing my mind. It’s a full circle all coming together kind of experience. And I am jumping for joy because Barbara’s story. And the work that she does is so compelling. And you might even want to take advantage of her program, which I’m going to tell you all about. And the reason why I think it’s so important for you to hear from Barbara is that I know that so many ADHD ears also have learning difficulties, you might be dyslexic or have auditory processing disorder or some other learning difference. And I want you to know that these types of difficulties can be trained and improved. And finally, finally, finally, I have someone to recommend to you who is implementing training programs all over the world to help people with learning differences improve the way that their brains work. So it each dear, you have hope your brain is willing to change and improve. And we know this because in the last 50 years, scientists have discovered that the brain is able to change both its physical structure and its functional organization in response to training and experience. So it’s willing to grow dendrites and to form new neural connections and to strengthen existing connections, to grow new neurons and to increase neurotransmitters all of which fundamentally change the brain’s capacity to learn and to function. And this can happen throughout the lifespan.

My favorite phrase when it comes to neuroplasticity is that the brain is willing to change from the cradle to the grave. Meaning it doesn’t matter what time of life you are in whether you are a child or a teen adult or an older adult, your brain is still willing to change from the cradle to the grave. It’s never too late for you and Barbara is going to share her story which to be honest, I was holding back tears as she was sharing it. And she’s going to explain how her program can help someone like you and someone like me. She’s developed a program called Aerosmith, that is helping people to change their brains.

Barbara holds multiple degrees and has received several awards including the 2019 leaders and legends Innovation Award from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education from the University of Toronto. She’s the director of Aerosmith school and Aerosmith programs, and she continues to develop programs for students with specific learning difficulties. It is her vision that this program be available to all students struggling with specific learning difficulties, so that they may know the ease and joy of learning and to realize their dreams. So please join me in welcoming Barbara Aerosmith Young. What I would love to start with is would you please share a little bit about your story because it’s so compelling and I know There are a lot of my listeners, they’re in all different parts of the world, all different ends of the neurodivergent spectrum. And some feel as though change is not possible for them. And I think what your story does and the work that you do, but your story in particular, what it does is it shines a light that anyone’s brain can change. And that is thrilling. Go ahead.

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young 5:25
Yeah, I would agree. I think, you know, our understanding of neuroplasticity and the fact that we can leverage if we understand the principles we can actually leverage neuroplasticity is probably, in my lifetime, the most exciting development because it can address all sorts of challenges or problems that before we thought were immutable, unchangeable, fixed. So my story started many years ago in the 1950s, I, when I started school, the it was a time of what I call the pre neural plastic paradigm. So the belief that time when I started grade one was your brain was fixed. So if there’s any difficulty you just needed to learn to live with it, so and there wasn’t even a concept, there wasn’t even the term learning disability. Now, I prefer learning difficulty in the southern hemisphere, they use the term learning difficulty because it is a difficulty. It’s a challenge. But I don’t like disability. So just kind of state that at the beginning, but there wasn’t even that concept. So in grade one, I was struggling to learn how to read, to learn how to write numbers, I mean, numbers meant nothing to me. So if you gave me 12 and 15, to add, I might add the five and then the one and then the two, and then the one, you know, it’s just it was random. And then the next time I might add them up in nother order, I still have some of my notebooks from then with all the big x’s, the red x’s, you know, you remember those red x’s in the notebooks, and then a comment with a teacher, you know, if you know, Barbara would pay more attention, maybe she do better. You know, those things that, you know, the teachers were? Well, meaning I actually got the strap in grade one, like, in those days, you know, children got the strap. Because I think, you know, my teacher, I was just a conundrum to her, she did not understand. And she thought I was doing things willfully. Like, let me tell you, I wasn’t that clever to be able to do these things, willfully. So I wrote everything backwards, I read everything backwards. You know, and I just truly didn’t get school I didn’t understand. And in those days, they had reading groups. So you know, they had the squirrels, the rabbits in the turtles? Well, I don’t know, the, you know, the adults thought that us kids didn’t really understand that you didn’t want to be in that turtle group. But, you know, I was definitely I was in the turtles, I struggled. I didn’t know at that time that parts of my brain weren’t performing in the ways they were designed to perform. All I knew was school was incredibly challenging. You know, I didn’t skip out the door to go to school, I dragged my feet and my school was right across from my house, right. So I can look out the living room window and, and see the school across the street. A couple of times, my teacher had to dismiss the class for early recess, because I was having a meltdown, right? Like, I was trying my little heart out. But I wasn’t being successful. And at that time, my diagnosis was a mental block. So I overheard my grade one teacher tell my mother, Barbara has a mental block. And being quite literal. At that age, I actually thought I had, you know, children’s cube in my head, like I thought I had a block

Speaker 3 8:30
that was making learning difficult. And later I learned No, I didn’t have a piece of wood in my head. But I did have blockages I mean, in for lack of a better description, in that parts of my brain weren’t doing what they were designed to do. And you know, what, you know, sort of struck terror into my heart, I heard, you know, my teacher, tell my mother that, you know, Barbara is not going to really amount to much that all of her schooling is going to be a struggle. And I really felt in grade one, I was given a life sentence that, you know, it’s almost like, well, you might as well stop here, because there’s, there’s not much of a future. So most of grade one I spent in the washroom and I think it worked really well for me and for my teacher. So I put up my hand and go off to the washroom. And my teacher would let me be there for half an hour, 45 minutes, because it was easier and I have compassion for her. She was a new teacher, you know, again, this is in the 50s trying to do the best she could with very limited understanding of learning difficulties. And she just, she didn’t understand me. So you know, I’ve obviously got out of grade one, and continued through my schooling. I say the one thing that she did get right is all of my schooling was a struggle. Like, I can’t, if I think back of my schooling, I can’t think of a moment of joy, where learning, you know, was exciting. Because it was an incredible struggle like I later I was to understand that I had multiple learning difficulties, not just one Unlike, and, you know whether we want to put labels, I mean, I’m not a big fan for me. I mean, I think labels are useful, you know, if you have diabetes, you need to understand it, because it’s a medical condition, and it has certain things that one must do to be able to thrive, as you mentioned earlier and to live your best life. So, no, I think in the learning difficulty field, labels tend to be used too broadly, right? Like everybody, we get a new label, and everybody goes into that, that category. So then it’s not really discriminative for how do we address those individuals. But you know, because there wasn’t a term, you know, I was called Slow mental block, you know, all those nice terms that were used way back then. And my mother was an educator, right? So in grade one, she decided her daughter was going to learn how to read and write and do arithmetic. So given the school was across the street, I came home at lunch to flashcards, right? I mean, I did, I did get food. Also, she was a nutritionist, too. So she made sure I was well fed. But you know, the flashcards were up with letters and numbers, and then after school, so I joke that I became a workaholic in grade one. But that’s what it took. So eventually, I learned how to read. And eventually I learned how to write. And I deep gratitude for, you know what my mother did, I wasn’t really happy at the time. But she ensured that I had the basic skills and numbers and I learned, you know, that if she sat on the couch in a certain position with the window behind her, I could see the answer on the backside of the flashcard. Like, like children with learning challenges, you find sensations. But my mother, my mother was pretty clever, right? So she would put her thumb over the answer on the back. So I was forwarded. But you know, I think about all the kind of heroic effort and work arounds that I created just to get through school and I had a really good auditory memory and a really good visual memory. And I think I developed them even more. So that was my, my coping mechanism, I would memorize my notebooks, right. And actually, I could, by the end of the process, I think I put myself in the Zen state at the beginning, I would cry my heart and I would kneel down in my bed in my bedroom, I put all my notebooks out. And I will just cry until there was no tears left. And I think I think I really put myself into a Zen state, right, like clearing out that emotion. And then I would, you know, read and visualize the first few sentences, close my eyes, see them, then the next two, and then match them up. And it might take me a couple of hours. By the end, I could look at the first sentence, close my eyes, and I could go through my whole notebook. So you know, I had the strength there, which individuals with learning difficulties often have strengths. But I think I really develop that. And so on an exam, I would look at the question, and I would try to first of all, did I understand the question, but then I tried to make a match. Okay, I think I saw something like this on page 25 of my notebook. So I flipped through. And then I do a data dump, I put down what I memorized. And sometimes I got 100%, because I did a really good match. And sometimes I got 10%. Because actually, I didn’t understand the question, you know, so what I wrote down, didn’t answer it in. And again, though, my teachers that well, she could get 100% here, and here, she got 10%, she must not have studied well, I studied just as hard for that 10% as I did for the 100%. So that was you know, that was, you know, my, my journey. And it didn’t just affect me academically, but also socially, because I didn’t really understand I didn’t comprehend Well, right. So that part of the brain that attaches meaning to things. So what I would do, if I was in a discussion with people, I would smile a lot, I would listen, and I would memorize, and then I’d walk away like a little tape recorder. And I would play that conversation over and over again. And it might, you know, be for a couple of hours, and they say, Oh, I think that’s what that person was saying. But that person hadn’t waited the two hours for me to get it. So I was not part of human discourse. You know, I just I wasn’t, you know, I could maybe relate to one person at a time, you know, if it was, you know, sort of moved at the speed that I could move at. So, you know, I struggled academically I struggled socially. And then I had what I call a kinesthetic problem. So the whole left side of my body was it was like it was a alien being. And it’s really was a somatosensory cortex. And my right hemisphere didn’t provide the sensory feedback to tell my body where it was in space. And it also didn’t register the location of pain. So I could put my hand on a hot burner, and if I wasn’t looking, I would feel pain like I registered pain, but your brain normally tells you, you know, mediately like lift that hand off the burner. My brain just told me Oh, you got a lot of pain going on somewhere. I remember once you know, trying to close the drawer and feeling pain and thinking what’s going on it looked at in my hand was in the drawer, right? That’s why it wasn’t closing. But my brain didn’t register the location of the sensation. So my mother used to joke that I’d be dead by the age of five, because I was so uncoordinated. So I wasn’t good in sports, like so I kind of had the trifecta, like I was really good academically, I had challenges socially. And I was the last child chosen for any sports team. And I understand I was no asset. To that, you know, team, if a baseball came at me, I want to run in the other direction, because I was afraid, would hit me somewhere, and I couldn’t judge. So you know, and then when I started to drive a car, if I didn’t know where the left side of my body was in space, I didn’t know where the left side of that car was. So my car ended up kind of dinged and dented, you know, on on the left side, lots accents, I’ve got scars on my forehead scars in different parts of my body, you know, where I, you know, connected my body to things that I shouldn’t have connected to, because I didn’t know where I was in space. So that’s was kind of the, you know, the early days of, of my journey, and, again, being very lucky with my mother who was an educator, but and my father was a scientist, right, and an inventor. And he had this belief that he instilled in me, he said, if there’s a problem in the world, and there’s no solution, he said, It’s your responsibility to hunt for a solution. And then he said, if the rest of the world tells you, it’s not possible, don’t listen. He said, This is how science goes forward, beyond conventional wisdom. And I feel like he sent me on a quest, you know, I had no idea.

Speaker 3 16:43
You know what I up for it. But that resonated with me. And it was when I was 26 years old. I was studying at the University of Toronto, in School Psychology, no accident. Again, I was trying to understand what was wrong with me, which led me to study child development and undergraduate and school psychology in graduate school. And someone handed me a book that changed my life. And it was Luria, the Russian neuropsychologist, who’s one of the pillars of the work that I created, and foundations, it was called The Man with a shattered world. And it told the story, Oliver Sacks wrote the introduction, it told the story of a Russian soldier, Leo vizzes, at ski, who in remembers 1943, in World War Two, in Russia, at a battle had a very localized head wound, you know, piece of shrapnel in his brain. And so this book was Laurie explaining what was going on with this man’s brain. And this esky was keeping a journal talking about his challenges and struggles. And when I read his desk, his journal, I thought, I could be writing the same journal like, I knew I didn’t have a piece of shrapnel in my brain. But everything he described, like I struggled with relational words, like smaller than, greater than, you know, less than more than, you know, anything that’s relational before and after, you know, under and above, like, I, my notebooks would be filled with drawings, because I use my right hemisphere, to translate language into images to try to understand language and to see this man after the injury had the same troubles. He couldn’t tell time after the injury. I mean, before he was studying mathematics, I mean, he could absolutely tell time, I was now 2526, I still couldn’t read a clock, I still couldn’t interpret the hour hand and minute hand, I was really happy when digital watches came because you didn’t have to see that relationship. So this was my aha moment where, you know, to solve a problem, you have to understand what is the nature of the problem? And now interest is my brain like there’s something in my brain clearly I know, I don’t have shrapnel but something isn’t working. And then what do I do about it? And at the same time, I was reading research coming out of Berkeley and Mark Rosen swags work looking at neuroplasticity with rats, and discovering that you put rats in a stimulating environment with lots of toys to play with. Their brains actually changed physiologically and functionally, they grew more dendrites and more synaptic connections, more neurotransmitters, increased size of capillaries, more glial cells. So I thought, come on, if rats can change their brains, surely, there’s human neuroplasticity. And I went to my professors I was studying for my masters and all of them to a one said, Well, your brain was fixed, like maybe there’s plasticity up to LH 11 Maybe 12. But you’re past that. So you know, there isn’t and then they said, and learning difficulties don’t have anything to do with the brain. So you know, they’re they’re two factors here. Well, this was in where was it in the late 70s. Right. So that was a belief at that time. And so I thought, okay, my I listened to what my father said, if the world tells you you can’t do this, don’t listen. I thought, okay, if I can understand What the brain area does by looking at Lori’s books, and I read some of those books 100 times because I still have the comprehension problem with highlighters and drawing diagrams. And if you look at my books, they’re a mess. And then looking at rows and tracks work and thinking, How do I stimulate or work just like, you know, like a muscle, but work that part of the brain. So I set on that quest that my father suggested many, many years earlier, and started creating cognitive exercises for myself. And the first one was with clocks, because, again, it wasn’t that I wanted to tell time, I want to make my brain process relationships. And it’s, you know, we hear that comment, you know, anytime we do anything, our brain changes. And that’s true, but I’m talking about really significant change in the brain that sustainable. So I don’t know how many 1000s of hours I worked on this exercise that I created for myself. And at a certain point, I got really, really fast, I was able to read a two handed clock, which was great, but didn’t feel any change in my world, right? So I thought I have to make it more complex. And that’s one of the principles to drive neuroplastic changes complexity. So I added another hand, right? So a second hand, right? So now I’m getting really fast and accurate at reading three hand clocks. And that was great. So now I can read a clock with a second hand. But again, I wasn’t really feeling cognitive change. I said, What do I do? So I said, I’m going to add a fraction of a second. So now I’ve got four hands. And it was after I finished that level that my whole universe changed. That’s when I knew that was human neuroplasticity, it was like, an A lot of students talk about this, like blinders came off. It was like I was seeing the world through a fog. And all of a sudden, that fog lifted, I could listen to people in real time and understand what they were saying. They asked me a question, I could understand it and answer it. I could watch things on TV, like 60 minutes before I had a friend watch it with me to interpret it for me. Now I could listen to it and understand, like I was living in real time worse before I talked about living in lag time, and understanding these things. As things happen. So I was part of human discourse, for the first time in my life that was so profound, beyond now I could understand mathematics. And now I could read philosophy and understand that, but I can actually understand people, and I can have relationships with people. And to me what was also fascinating, because I have a really strong visual memory every night as I went to sleep, images would play in my mind’s eye from age four, and five, and six, and seven. And I’d say, oh, my gosh, that’s why this happened. Because with this difficulty, there’s no cause and effect, there’s no cause and effect, you can’t make that connection. And it was like, you know, I described my psyche being very fractured and fragmented, I was a very fractured and fragmented soul. And it felt like, through this process, like those pieces started to come together, in a whole human being, it was remarkable, it would never have thought, you know, and to me that it’s just reinforced the power of our brain. It’s not just academics, but it’s our whole understanding of self and our understanding of our world and our relationship to it. So and then when I saw the results, and I addressed that clumsy part, that kinesthetic, I now no longer bang into things, I’m no longer danger to myself, the left side of my body functions, and I have a spatial problem, I get lost everywhere, I created an exercise for that I don’t get lost. And then I thought, I have to take this workout into the world. It’s great that it helped me, I want to help other people. And that was the birth of this work. And we’re now I think, in 13, or 14 countries in 100 educational organizations. And my vision is, I just want to make this accessible all around the world to everyone.

Kristen Carder 23:48
I can’t wait to get to that part because I can’t wait to connect my listeners with the work that you’re doing. But I want to take it back to the exercises that you were doing with the clocks. Can you help us to understand how does that unlock so much in your brain? Were there other exercises involved? Or was it just strengthening that particular location in the brain? Like what was the connection between that exercise and so much change?

Speaker 3 24:19
Yeah, so I think it’s the nature of that part of the brain that this exercise works on. It’s called an association area, which means it has a unique place in the brain, and it’s called a tertiary area. So it has an abundance of connections with the rest of the brain. So some some of my work. The exercise is very localized, like it’s very specific to you know, specific areas of the brain or a specific cognitive function. Because this one is working on and association areas stimulation there has a more generalized effect across the brain. That’s what I hypothesize what we’re seeing and we’re doing Imaging Research and working with researchers both in Canada and the United States. And what we’re seeing is significant networks with that one exercise change. So the default mode network, which is you know, that kind of prefrontal cortex, it’s, it’s a big picture thinking it’s gives us insight into ourselves, the connections within that network strengthen, and the connections between that network and other networks strengthen. And then the other network that strengthens is the salience network. And the salience network has like the limbic system as part of it. So it’s really critical. When you’re attaching like, can we have a physiological feeling and an emotion kind of arises and attaching that to what’s happening in the external world, so really getting a handle and understanding of your emotional responses. And then the other network that is strengthening is the executive control network. So the frontal parietal network, so these three networks, which are really critical for understanding ourselves, understanding other people, empathy, moral reasoning, understanding relationships, the connectivity is strengthening, both within the network because there’s within that network there multiple areas, and between networks. And one of the thoughts is that the default mode network is sort of more that internal like that, you know, when we’re thinking about ourselves, that internal processing, and the salience network is a toggle in the sense so it, it it regulates, do I need to go out into the external world and engage with the external world or kind of the still in that internal world? So it says, like, what’s salient? What’s critical? Like, you know, is there something out here that I should be paying attention? And then when it switches, it activates? The executive control network says, okay, based on all this information, what action should I take in the world? And certainly, we see, you know, individuals that go through this program has a significant impact on attention as well, it’s not the only thing that can cause challenges with attention. But if those three networks aren’t switching properly and aren’t working properly, attention isn’t going to be regulated Well, right. It’s going to be scattered, like if things don’t have salience, you know, the butterfly in the room has the same importance as you know, the the problem that they’re trying to solve. So, you know, it has, as I said, has significant impact in in those cases where this is what’s driving the attentional issues, because we know attention is incredibly complex. It’s not just one thing that drives attentional difficulties.

Kristen Carder 27:29
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Speaker 3 29:04
But the idea of each of the exercises I created is, you first start with the brain first start with a deep understanding of what is the nature of that function that you’re trying to change. And that’s where Luria was brilliant. I mean, I’ve not found anybody even today that had the depth of insight into into the brain and its functions that he did. So if you kind of start with that deep understanding, then you think, what do I need to do to make that work? Right? Like, you know, like, what do I need to do and I believe there multiple ways to get that function working. I’ve picked specific ones for my work, and we’ve done lots of research. So they’re, they’re working, but I believe other people can find other ways and have found other ways in to stimulate function. And then because I’m a bit of a research geek, we track everything we do. Like it’s not good enough to say okay, I have a theory and a hypothesis and I think this will work Then I need to build the data to ensure and we’ve got so much data now, we actually see also reduction in cortisol as students go through this work, because having a learning difficulty is stressful, you know, you can’t kind of leave your brain behind, like, everywhere you go, your brain goes with you. And if there’s a difficulty there, and how you perceive something or understand something, it’s stressful. And for me, no matter how much my parents, you know, said, I love you, and you’re amazing. When I walked into the classroom, that was not my experience. And that’s where I spent most of my time. So, you know, I ended up with an autoimmune disorder. And I, years ago, again, went to my professors, I said, I think this is because of my learning difficulty. No, no, no, no. Well, now the research shows, yes, there’s a higher incidence of autoimmune disorders, if you have a learning difficulty, because, you know, all that cortisol, the endocrine system, you know, it’s not a good combination. And we’ve shown, the students love this part of the study, because I got to spit right at the beginning study, at the end of the study, because we measured saliva, and there was a reduction of cortisol and, and their mindset shifted like, so we looked at mindset, right? Like they, they developed an open growth mindset, because they were growing their brains, it’s kind of hard not to have a growth mindset, their sense of well being changed, their happiness changed. So they were reporting all these changes, and physiologically, their body was mirroring those changes with the reduction of cortisol. So yeah, that’s why I’m so passionate about this work is, you know, it, you know, has wide implications. And we’re doing a study right now in Australia, with individuals with addiction challenges with drug and alcohol addiction, and it’s a treatment center in Queensland in Australia, and these are young adults, and I was very honored to be able to visit last May, and get to meet the individuals. And it’s again, with that exercise, if you can’t do cause and effect, you can’t benefit from the therapeutic process. So I could have been in therapy forever. And, you know, I probably would have been accused of being resistant, right like that I wasn’t, but I just couldn’t make those connections. So what we’re seeing is we work on that part of the brain that can make these connections, these individuals can benefit from the therapeutic process, and they can also do consequential thinking, where if I do this, then that might be the consequence. And maybe maybe I shouldn’t start down that that path. So, you know, one of the things I love in this work is, there’s so many possibilities, right? In terms of, you know, we all have a brain, and what happens, you know, if we enhance that amazing organ that we carry with us everywhere,

Kristen Carder 32:43
I’m just thrilled to hear every single word that is coming out of your mouth right now. And especially, I just kind of want to simplify it for my listeners, because listener with ADHD comes difficulty with your executive function. And executive functions include nonverbal working memory, which is the mind’s eye correct. And then verbal working memory, which is the mind’s voice. Prioritizing, planning, processing speed can often be affected auditory processing, those specific brain functions are things that your program would help with correct. I want to just make it very simple for the ADHD listener

Speaker 3 33:24
at 100%. Absolutely. And I was just looking at research data from a study we did this past summer, all of those things shift as a result of that first exercise that I created. And we’ve just now developed what I call an independent check in model more for adults to access because a lot of times adults can’t come into a fixed set of hours so they can do this work more independently. And then every two weeks they check in with a facilitator to you know, answer questions. But as I said, Yes, all of those things change, because it’s the part of the brain that mediates all of those things that were changing. Yes.

Kristen Carder 34:01
It’s so helpful to hear these words. Because when so many of us were diagnosed with ADHD. It was a process in which we were told, like, Okay, you have ADHD, here’s a medication, go about your business be on your way. We often are not told what it means, what’s involved, how to help what we might face as as struggles and how we can use different tools to improve. And so I know because I spent, you know, almost a decade actually doing brain training work with students in my town, which was just such a blessing to be able to do. I know that these areas of the brain are able to change but I’ve never found a program that I could refer just like global clients to you know, so now as an ADHD coach, I work with people all over the world. And I often get Questions regarding my, I call it my previous life when I was working with, you know, students doing brain training work, which was so fun, and I haven’t had anything to refer them to. So tell us about your program, how people can connect to it. And you know how it might serve the ADHD community?

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young 35:18
Absolutely. So all the things

Kristen Carder 35:19
are like seven questions,

Speaker 3 35:23
if I forget all, or restate some of them, but so if I start, you know, in terms of attention, like at that point, so the things that my program can benefit is, if it’s cognitive, right, and and if it’s in the neocortex, because they’re definitely from my research and understanding, there could be some potential issues that are subcortical. Right. And so that’s those are the ones that probably medication is what’s going to be required. And my work doesn’t address those, but majority of them, I believe, the work addresses so there’s what we call a cognitive load in cases where a student has multiple areas are underperforming like me, like where I had multiple areas. And so, the responses to exert a lot more brain effort and processing to do things that should be more automatic, and then the brain goes refractory, what happens is it gets exhausted, and you kind of get what they call rolling brownouts, right, where

Kristen Carder 36:23
That’s where overwhelm like being really overwhelmed and exhausted and kind of hung over from like your, your day’s work or something like that.

Speaker 3 36:32
Exactly. So in that case, the attentional issues are strictly driven by that cognitive load or cognitive overwhelm. And we have programs for 19 different cognitive areas, we have an assessment process. And there’s also a free questionnaire if people want to do that on our website that will give them a report based on their responses to say, Okay, it looks like this, these might be the areas that are causing you some difficulty. So as we strengthen those cognitive functions, it lightens the load. And then they don’t need to put that extra effort into processing or retaining or whatever those areas are. So then attention doesn’t become is no longer a problem. And then we work with individuals where it’s the prefrontal cortex, either right or left hemisphere. And part of the job of the prefrontal cortex is to regulate goal oriented attention, right? Like, it’s sort of, I’ve got a goal here, I want to accomplish it, what are the steps to accomplish it, and then as I’m moving along, it’s also the part of the brain that allows you to kind of reflect, okay, this isn’t working, so I have to modify it. But it’s a part of the brain that says, Oh, that like pretty, pretty thing over here isn’t something I should really be paying attention to, it brings the brain back to the task at hand. And you know, so it’s a really important part of the brain that regulates and controls attention. And we have programs for the prefrontal cortex, both in the right and left hemisphere. And as that strengthen, what we see is the brain now can regulate attention. And, you know, we have students that come into the program all around the world, and a number of them come in on medication. And I would say, I think the last statistic we looked at is, by the end of the program, about 75%, are off medication, because now the brain is regulating attention. And I have nothing against medication, I mean, if it’s needed is needed. But if we can get the brain to regulate the attention without medication, that is, I think, very promising. So and then there could be emotional reasons why people you know, you know, there’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stress, where it’s just too painful to stay present, in those cases that needs a good therapist, a good therapeutic process, right? So it’s kind of I don’t see attention as uni dimensional, it’s really understanding what is what is driving those behaviors that we’re seeing. But those first two cognitive load and prefrontal cortex, our program absolutely can address that. And you know, what, I would encourage people to go ahead and take that questionnaire, see, does it resonate with you in terms of that, and you can, you know, after you take the questionnaire, there’s, you know, an email, you can contact us. We’ve got people that are really happy to talk and explore and see, do we have something that could be of benefit, and then the program is around the world. It’s may not be, you know, my goal is to have it in every city in the world is not. So there might be a program close to somebody there might not and COVID, one of the upsides of COVID for us was because all of our programs were in person, we trained educators around the world, and therapists to offer it in their physical locations. COVID shut those physical locations down in three weeks, we were up and online. And we’ve now tracked data for the past two and a half years and we’re getting the exact same results of the in person as the online as I told you, I’m a big data geek, mainly because we’re not teaching curriculum, we’re providing cognitive programs with, you know, we’ve got mastery motivation built in, we’ve got goal setting, like all the good things that keep somebody motivated on on track. So now this work is accessible, you know, in the location where there may not be a physical location, like that’s my commitment, I, I’m kind of a development pusher of development to find different ways to get this workout and accessible. So you know, on our website, we list all the places we are in the world, there’s contact details, if there’s something near you, or you can always contact us and start a conversation. And we have many, many options, many options. And you know, I listened to individuals, and sometimes we don’t have that option yet, maybe that’s something that I have to develop. And sometimes I drive my team a little nuts, because they say, we already have enough development work. But but you know, beside my computer here, in my study, have a picture of a five year old student who came to me gosh, in the 1990s. And at that point, my work didn’t go down to that age, right. You know, I think I was starting around age 10. And the parents said, Please, please, you know, can you help our daughter? And I thought, Oh, you don’t, but I thought, Okay, I will try. So I, I modified the exercises to bring them down. And she’s now a medical doctor here in Toronto. And so the picture is there to remind me, pushing the boundaries, pushing the boundaries, you know, again, it’s like, you know, that that what I learned from my father, you know, it’s, it’s never resting in what’s done is always look out there to what next? What’s possible. What else can we do?

Kristen Carder 41:46
Wow, wow, how long are people in your program? On average? How long does someone stay in the program?

Speaker 3 41:55
So it really depends on if it’s a school age student that’s coming, that’s got multiple learning difficulties, it’s anywhere from a two to four year program. So they do their schooling with us. And the bulk of their day is working on cognitive programs, and then we put them back out into the regular school system at the appropriate grade. And even though they’ve only had math and English, they do really, really well, because their brain now can process it can understand it can learn, it can retain remember, they pick up all the other curriculum. So that’s if it’s with a learning difficulty, adults that just want to, you know, maybe Hone an area or sharpen an area, you know, we recommend doing it over kind of the the 10 month span, but within the first, you know, like two months, they’ll start to see cognitive change. And it’s, then it’s really, how far did they want to go, like, I’ve got levels that start at a little bit below average, because we work with people that you know, have a challenge in an area. And then I have levels that go up to exceptional ability. So the idea is not just stop where this is functioning at an average level. So a lot of people opt to go up to those, you know, kind of exceptional levels, because they want to then go out and use that that capacity. And to me what’s exciting. People say, Okay, well, when I stopped going to the gym, my muscles atrophy does the same thing happened to my brain, and it really doesn’t, because I believe what’s different is, you start to use that, you know, those new functions like the, they just start to get stimulation by being used within the neural network. Whereas before, they were a drag on the network, because they were underperforming. So they were making that network have to work really, too hard to compensate. Now that area is engaged and fully functioning within that network and getting it stimulation, like we’ve tracked people 40 years out of the program, and there’s no drop off of function.

Kristen Carder 43:46
40 years. Yes. Yeah. I always loved answering that question for people as well, with the with the brain training program that I was implementing, because I answered it the same way where when you stop going to the gym, and you’re just sitting in a cubicle all day. And you know, you’re not using any of the muscles that you were using when you’re going to the gym. It’s not the same with the brain. Because once everything is engaged, you’re using it, you’re using your memory, you’re using your attention, you’re using your process, all of it is working together all day long. And so those systems are, you know, able to carry so much more than they were ever able to before.

Speaker 3 44:31
Absolutely. I mean, it’s, it’s, I feel so blessed that I’m doing the work that I’m doing in the field that I’m doing. I feel like you know, Star Trek the new frontier, I feel like the brain the brain is the new frontier, right? And, like every day, we’re learning more. I mean, it’s so, so exciting and, and I think as we said earlier on I think like human neuroplasticity is, for me the most exciting development in AI In my lifetime, it’s so promising I have a because of the autoimmune, I’ve got a chronic pain condition. And, you know, I reached out to people doing neuroplasticity work in pain, and it’s been a game changer for me, because a lot of our pain is, you know, it’s the tracks that get laid down in our brain. You know, it’s just, it’s so hopeful and promising.

Kristen Carder 45:24
That’s incredible. Is there anything that we’re leaving out here, Barbara, that we can touch on before we kind of wrap it up?

Speaker 3 45:32
One of the things that I think it’s important in understanding neuroplasticity is that it’s actually a neutral concept, like neuroplasticity just means your brain can change. And our brain can change in positive ways. And it can change in negative ways, right? So one of the things I just encourage people is reducing stress, like however, they can reduce stress in their life, because we know stress, prolonged stress, I mean, we all have stress at various points. But if you’re living in, you know, stress for month after month, after month, without having any mechanism to break that cycle, it actually can lead to deep pruning in the brain, right, like, you know, that is the negative side of, of neuroplasticity. So I think things that we can all do in our life is keep a gratitude journal, like, we know, actually, five minutes a day of giving gratitude actually has a protective effect on the brain, which like, five minutes giving gratitude, that’s pretty amazing. You know, going out and walking in nature, like, you know, the things that are accessible. I guess, if you live in New York City, maybe it’s a little harder to go to Central Park, you’ve got it, you know, and we know how important sleep is right? You know, these things that we do have control over, we may not all have access to cognitive programs, I’m trying to change that. But we do have access to things that reduce stress in our lives. Exercise, like there’s so much research now on the benefit of especially aerobic exercise, you know, it stimulates brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is like a repair mechanism in the brain. So I’d really encourage people to look at their lives, and where are the things that they can do, that are positive for their brains and their their brain health, meditation, I mean, there’s, again, research on meditation, you know, that it increases gray matter that it you know, they compare elderly people that have meditated for years versus people that haven’t, you know, that shrinkage that happens over time doesn’t happen, and people in the brain, you know, that meditate. So, I would just encourage people to kind of take control of those aspects of their lives, to protect this incredible asset that we have, which is our brain and then if there’s an opportunity, you know, to add in cognitive programming, I’m I’m all for it and encourage it. We know this idea as we age, how important cognitive reserve is, you know, that just like, you know, kind of building a muscle in the brain to stave off maybe the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it may not prevent it, if one is predisposed to getting that condition. But you know, if it gives you four or five, good years of cognition, that’s significant, and there’s no medication that will will do that. So it’s really kind of, I think, you know, looking at one’s life, and how can we reduce the negative factors that drive negative neuroplasticity? And how can we increase the factors that that we have control over that drive, positive neuroplasticity, so I would send that challenge out to all your listeners, I love

Kristen Carder 48:33
that. And I love how you made the distinction that so much of what is in our control is actually free. And I think that’s really, really important because, you know, having listeners in varying places in the world and socio economic standing, it’s just really important that we understand all of us that it doesn’t have to cost money. We can meditate for free, we can go for a walk or run for free. We can access nature for free, some of us have to go farther than others, but it is there for us, right? There are so many things that we can do for free. And that’s really important. I think a lot of times we feel out of control, like we don’t have, you know, if we’re living in poverty, we don’t have control over, you know, our brains functioning, and yet, there’s so much that we can do that doesn’t cost any money. Barbara, tell us how to get in touch with you or your program. How can we find out more information about what you do? The first

Speaker 3 49:32
port of call would be our website, which has tons of detailed information, so it’s Aerosmith, program.ca Because we’re in Canada, there’s that free questionnaire that I mentioned is on there. I really encourage people because you kind of get like a snapshot of your your cognitive profile, lots of videos, lots of research, you know, there’s something for everyone that wants to dig in. And then there’ll be an email address to reach out I think it’s called quite Students at Aerosmith, program.ca, but you’ll you’ll see it on the website. And there will definitely be people that will respond to your questions. As I said, there’s a wealth of information. And they’re actually two books not written by me. There’s the brain pioneer and brain school written by an educator on the west coast of Canada, that he’s, he’s generously given us free downloads, really great resources on this kind of work. So I encourage people, if they’re interested, you know, download that there are other books there as well, you have to actually purchase. But these are, these are two great resources, you know, to get sort of some more insight and understanding in into this kind of work. And we do we really welcome people to contact us. And also we have a list on our website of all the locations where we are around the world, but it’s not limited now that we have online programs, you can access those programs, no matter where you are in the world.

Kristen Carder 51:00
Such an exciting, exciting time. Thank you so much. I just appreciate your time. I’m so thrilled to be able to speak with you. And the work that you’re doing is so groundbreaking. It is just it’s incredible. And I’m so so happy to be able to have you share with my listeners today.

Speaker 3 51:19
Well, thank you, it’s been a real pleasure. And I thank you for the work that you’re doing because I think it’s really really critical and really important. That Thank you.

Kristen Carder 51:30
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