Programs for Children with Cognitive Impairment and Learning Disabilities

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I have had several queries about helping children with learning disabilities so I thought I would consolidate everything I have learned here. Please be aware that I am not an expert on learning disabilities nor do I have any experience with children with learning disabilities. I am deeply fascinated by the brain, the depth of its capabilities and its remarkable potential for recovery. This interest has led to the discovery of various programs designed to help children with learning disabilities. These programs have demonstrated some promising results and while I share them here, I do urge that you dig deeper for your own answers and to make your own conclusions.

* These programs should not replace the professional advice of a specialist.

Before reading on, I urge you to read the story of Pedro, a 65 year old man who suffered a massive stroke that destroyed 97% of the nerves from the cerebral cortex to the spine. Despite the extensive damage to his brain, Pedro was able to make a full recovery with the help of his son who designed a specialised rehabilitation program for him. At 65 years old, Pedro demonstrated the brain’s amazing potential for recovery. I truly believe that with time, patience, repetition and appropriate sensory stimulation, we can do a lot for our children with cognitive impairment and learning disabilities.

The Mind-Body Connection

There is a deep connection between the mind and body where movement and brain development are intertwined. More and more, we are observing how frequent, early movements in infants correlate with academic learning later on.

These are some programs for children with learning disabilities that focus on movement:

Michael Merzenich – FastForword Program

Michael Merzenich is a professor emeritus neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco who has made numerous contributions to the field of neuroscience. One of the programs he helped develop was the FastForword Program which is a computer training program designed for children with learning disabilities (reading and language difficulties, including some with autism, attention deficit disorder and dyslexia). Through game play and repetition, the program helps these children re-wire their brains.

Does it work? These were the results from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne:

  • children who had medical problems, showed no improvement.
  • children with auditory processing problems made two to three-year gains on standardised tests after two to three months.
  • autistic children made six-month gains in their language development based on standardised tests within three months.
  • some language-disordered children made a 12-month gain in a few months.

Despite the positive results from some centers that the use of the FastForword program helped children with learning disabilities, the research supporting the program seems inconclusive.

See: Psycholinguistics/Case Study: FastForward

Fast Forword Program:

Past articles on Michael Merzenich:

Barbara Arrowsmith

Learning Disabilities - Arrowsmith Program

The Arrowsmith program is a school designed for children with learning disabilities. What was most interesting about it is that its creator, Barbara Arrowsmith, grew up with severe learning disabilities and she learned to overcome her disabilities with intense brain training exercises that she designed for herself.

BrainRx – Ken Gibson

The Brain Rx program, also known as LearningRx, was created by Dr Ken Gibson. It is a personalised one-to-one brain training program designed to help children improve their cognitive skills and learning potential. It is also recommended for children with dyslexia, ADHD, poor memory skills and other learning problems.

Right Brain Education


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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