This profile was prepared when Helena Todd was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Helena created the Cognition, Development, and Learning (CDA) Method to treat learning disorders in those disadvantaged and understimulated children who demonstrate normal intellectual coefficients but significant neurocognitive deficits. Helena's scientifically accepted CDA Method is based on the notion that intellectual development cannot be separated from social or emotional growth. Her multidisciplinary professional team–including psychologists, phono audiologists, special education teachers, and neurologists–works with parents and schoolteachers to apply the method in the classroom and monitor the children's progress. The CDA approach involves parents and teachers in failing students' social and emotional development to counteract the negative effects poverty often has on intellectual growth. Helena's program provides learning-disabled children whose families cannot afford costly individual therapy their first opportunity to remain in school and receive the focused assistance they require. Early detection of special needs children and the enhancement of their intellectual, emotional, and social potential prepares these at-risk children to face the obstacles poor communities present. The CDA Method provides teachers and parents with the tools to understand and address their children's behavioral problems early on. As such, Helena is lobbying public and private Chilean interests to invest in her fine-tuned prevention methods as an alternative to new institutions (like state-run homes, jails, and psychiatric hospitals) that only deal with the cognitively disabled once they become problems. The CDA Method is a proven cognitive model that can be applied to almost any classroom setting in which nonacademic factors threaten children's scholastic development.