Debra and Robert Gilmore
Sydney teen Robert Gilmore had learning difficulties and despite his best efforts, he continued to fall behind. Frustrated and embarrassed at not being able to keep up with his peers Robert began to lose interest in school and started skipping classes, reports The Catholic Archdiocese of Sysdney.
"That was last year. Today he is a new person," says his mother, Debra Gilmore.
The Head of Diverse Learning for the Archdiocese of Sydney's Catholic Education Office (CEO), Debra was so concerned about her son's learning difficulties that after spending two years researching Canada's Arrowsmith program for children with learning disabilities, she took 12 months leave and enrolled Robert at one of the Toronto District Catholic School Board's schools where the program is offered.
Now 17, Robert has spent the past 10 months in Canada at a school where students with learning disabilities embark on a two-year program designed to build and strengthen the brain's cognitive processes, expand capacity for verbal and non-verbal thinking as well as strengthen memory and processing speeds and improve fine motor skills necessary for writing and note-taking.
The program is set to be introduced into Sydney Catholic schools, The Australian reported last week.
"From day one, there was a change in Rob's attitude. From being a boy who would sometimes refuse to go to school and was frustrated and unhappy, he arrived home full of excitement," Debra says.
"'The kids get me; the teachers get me. All the kids have difficulties like I do and it's okay. He also said he couldn't wait to go to school the next morning and then burst out laughing, saying: 'I can't believe I'm saying that!.'"
After eight weeks at the school, Debra says the change in her son was even more remarkable. Instead of trying to hide his learning disability and slip under the radar, as he'd done at school in Sydney, he had a newfound confidence and outlook.
"Before he began the program in Canada, Rob had convinced himself he was stupid and would never amount to anything. Frustrated and depressed, he was unhappy and in despair. But just two months into the school, he was a new person," Debra says.
FULL STORY Canadian program helps change life of Aussie teen (C-Mail)
Brain-training program for Catholic schools (CathNews)