Memoir Mondays: The Woman Who Changed Her Brain

Memoirs have the power to move us, connect with us and allow us to share life changing experiences with people we’d otherwise never have the chance to know. Every Monday, we’re pleased to feature a memoir and open a window to someone else’s life.


The Woman Who Changed Her Brain is the incredible story and miraculous work of a remarkable woman.  Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was born with severe learning disabilities. As a child, she read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, and was physically uncoordinated.  While she had near-total auditory and visual memory – she could memorize and recite whole books – she couldn’t grasp the meaning of what she heard or read.

At age 26, Barbara discovered the work of Russian neuro-psychologist Aleksandr Luria, who researched a soldier that had been shot in the brain and shared similar disabilities. For the first time, Barbara says, “I recognised somebody describing exactly what I experienced. His expressions were the same: living life in a fog. His difficulties were the same: he couldn’t tell the time from a clock, he couldn’t understand bigger and smaller without drawing pictures, he couldn’t tell the difference between the sentences ‘The boy chases the dog’ and ‘The dog chases the boy.’ I began to see that maybe an area of my brain wasn’t working.”

Barbara started devising exercises for different parts of her brain. For example, she drew 100 two-handed clock faces on cards, each one telling a different time, and wrote the time each told on the back of the card. After four months of 8 to 10 hour training, Barbara discovered a change – she could watch the news or read the first 10 pages of a book and understand it.  She continued to expand and refine her exercises, eventually opening the Arrowsmith School to train teachers and implement her program in schools all over North America.

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain is an inspiring story of hope and a testament to tenacity.

Watch the book trailer here: