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Unique Special Education Program Coming To West Virginia

Meet Jason and Shanna Thompson, and their daughters11-year-old Zosza and eight-year-old Nila. When Nila was just four, her parents noticed a problem with her learning. She had severe dyslexia, which caused big struggles in school and even depression.

"She was not reading a thing. She didn't know how to attack language and reading. She didn't know how to approach it," Shanna Thompson said.

Then, by a stroke of luck, Shanna heard about the Arrowsmith Program, a unique method in schools across the world to help kids with learning challenges. The problem. the Thompsons lived in Charleston and the closest Arrowsmith Program was in Virginia. So Shanna made the leap, moving she and her daughters there..and enrolling them in Arrowsmith. Shanna says it wasn't long before she noticed a huge difference for her younger daughter, Nila.

"She was not reading anything in September. My mom sent us a book in December, and she sat down and read it. She'd never seen the book and she just started reading. Now, we can't stop her! She just reads everything that she sees. It's been an amazing transition," Thompson said.

Leaders with the Arrowsmith Program say those are the kinds of results they've been seeing for 30 years.

"We've literally been able to change the trajectory of their lives. They go from not being able to cope in school or being depressed, not being able to learn efficiently to changing the way their brain is able to function and integrate to learn material," said Jessica Poulin, Arrowsmith managing director.

That's why Thompson fought to get Arrowsmith in West Virginia and this fall, it will be be offered at the Charleston Montessori School.

"Without the Arrowsmith Program, they could be in our Montessori classrooms, but they could not fully access the materials and learn as much as will be possible after we get the Arrowsmith Program," said Susanna Coffield, Charleston Montessori School director.

The Arrowsmith Program uses a unique approach, much different than traditional special education. Instead of working around a child's struggles, it actually tackles the weaknesses head on.

"The exercises are based in neuroscience and they target the weak areas of the brain to help strengthen those areas and increase the capacity of those brain areas so learning can be easier and more efficient for individuals that are struggling with either learning disabilities or learning difficulties," said Poulin.

Now, Charleston Montessori and families like the Thompsons are thrilled other families in the mountain state will have access to Arrowsmith and can't wait to see other young lives changed.

The Arrowsmith Program will start at Charleston Montessori school in September, allowing Shanna Thompson and her daughters to move back home. If you'd like to learn more, you can call the school at (304) 340-9000.

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