What are Mental Images

We use mental images every day but seldom know how to make the best use of them. People often ask me what mental images are and I will explain.   For example how do we find things (like our house or our car), how do we recognize11.hold-book-up-when-reading_small people we know (our spouse, parents or children), how do we find the ingredients for a meal, etc  These are all everyday things that we take for granted.

A bit like breathing, if you are reading this you can agree that you are breathing, but only a few people have been taught about the effects on you of how you breathe, for example how to breathe in a way that reduces your anxiety.

In just the same way almost everyone is creating mental images, and having little idea about how they are using them and the effects on their mind, body and spirit.  Some people can create glorious multi-colour pictures like a high definition TV, others get black and white pictures, others get cartoons and some may just know what something looks like but can really “see” it.  All of these are fine and like so many things if you start to pay more attention to them they get clearer.  The group that don’t think they see pictures may have such fast pictures that they can’t keep them still to look at an image, e.g. they just “know” what colour their car but don’t see a still image.  Of course some people have nasty images that can be quite unhelpful or disturbing.  The important thing to know is that you can learn to control your images, good or bad, just as simply as you control your breath and with a little practice get them to be perfect for you.

Empowering Learning specializes in how to maximize the use of mental images in thinking and learning.  Take a look at:

Why is mental imagery ignored in schools

If you or your child have great mental images of pictures and are struggling with spelling, this is very typical with creative children, just click here.





Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jamie is spot on

strengthssmallJamie is spot on (see attached);  people with dyslexia really do look at things differently and are invariably big picture thinkers. There is massive evidence being documented about this now from exceptional scientific brains in adults to astounding children. For instance look at Thomas G West’s book Seeing What Others Cannot See, which is full of examples of adults. These people have fabulous skills for all sorts of things with a great focus on creativity, imagination and visual thinking. Jamie sees problems and solutions differently and for example agrees that he knows what a dish is going to look like in advance of making it.

The Guardian article, Jamie is Right: Dyslexic people do think differently can be found here:

A significant problem is the word Dyslexia, that is derived from the Greek word, dys, meaning poor or inadequate, and the word lexis, meaning words or language. But this gives no space for exceptional advanced skills.  For people who think differently we need a different way of teaching that uses their great visual strengths, rather than purely the auditory aspects of literacy, that don’t favor big picture thinkers and aren’t accurate for English anyway.  There are 4 aspects to literacy: a mental image of what the word looks like, what it should like, what it means and above all to be in an effective calm state to learn.  Teaching children when they are stressed will guarantee they can’t remember what they are being taught. 

Inventing the word Perpectius, to mean genius level ability to see different perspectives simultaneously,  would be more accurate and shift away from locking these brilliant visual brains into literacy problems. 

If you want to learn more about how to take a different perspective on Dyslexia go to www.empoweringlearning.co.uk or sign-up here: http://www.tiahl.org/spelling/

#madebydyslexia #perspectius    #empoweringlearning



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why is mental imagery ignored in schools

elephanMental imagery is a key part of learning, but nobody mentions it in schools.

Mental images are quite simply the images we hold in our heads.  All these pictures are held in your Occipital Lobe, the part of your brain just above the dent where your skull meets your spine.

When we were born we have few mental images, and neuroscience has told us that the occipital lobe stores more and more pictures as we grown up that can be roughly categorised as faces, objects, locations and no doubt many more topics that are unique to the individual such as sports techniques, gaming strategies and favourite holidays.

Part of successful recall of images is to be able to take a good “picture” of something you want to recall. For instance if you lose a bunch of keys you may not have an image. Next time you put your keys down take a picture in your mind of where you left them, complete with the background.  When next you are on the hunt recall that picture in your mind and you will find your search easier.  Whenever you are looking for something just picturing it will assist you. In addition, taking a picture of for example locking the front door before you leave and where you parked the car will even assist you  in reducing some symptoms of OCD.

“Visual thinking is a tremendous advantage.”

But we don’t even mention mental imagery in schools although every school is committed to multi-sensory teaching and learning and mental imagery is a vital part of visual learning. So we don’t talk about mental images in schools, but it is explicitly mentioned in the National Curriculum – it can’t be right that we don’t teach teachers about the key role mental imagery has in learning!

We would be pleased to tell you how mental imagery can be developed for every aspect of learning including literacy, numeracy, concentration and so much more. Just email olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk

#jumpstartingliteracy #empoweringlearning

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Attention Dyslexic Parents

Do you struggle with literacy and now you maybe see your child going down the same route of frustration; this I know is heartbreaking.  You recall feeling terrible and stupid when you were in school and maybe even being bullied – it was just horrible.  Things that others found easy you may have found almost impossible.

This happened to me – I couldn’t spell, in fact I have a school report from when I was 16 that said “it would be helpful if Olive could learn to spell”. I could read but I couldn’t remember anything I read, and that I can tell you is really boring, I never read all those wonderful children stories.  I had been in the same school since I was 4 and clearly whatever they had tried hadn’t worked, however hard I tried. Clearly they weren’t teaching me in a way that worked for my brain; sound familiar?

But we know that Dyslexics are very able, even exceptional in their chosen field.  So two of the Empowering Learning Master Trainers have put together a short on-line programme to explain how good spellers spell.  It tells you how invaluable being able to create mental images is for learning; but you already know that because you are probably creative, imaginative people.  Then it shows you how to use this strength to create mental images of words and hey presto you can start to learn how to spell like other less creative people have accidentally done.  And the real benefit is you don’t need to talk with anyone, you can just learn from a few on-line videos and we are available to help with any questions.

Does this sound too easy?  It is, and is now available to everyone. I was really annoyed that nobody taught me how to do this when I was young and its never too late.  I now love reading and have personally written 4 books – an incredible turn around.

Just click here and discover for yourself. 



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My child’s school report is scary


“My child’s school report is frankly scary.  I know he is bright, creative and imaginative but his report card says he is disinterested, unfocused, disruptive and dropping way behind his peers in literacy. His reading seems to be getting a bit better, after lots of hard work and repetition but his spelling and handwriting is really atrocious. At parents evening there was talk about Dyslexia and that rung real alarm bells, because that is what happened to his dad in school”.

Does this all sound familiar and what do you do next?  You may have suspected something like this but now it is black and white panic is setting in.

At Empowering Learning we have a very different perspective, so just park all the deficits for a moment to read the following paragraphs.

What is your child good at? And think how is he so good at that and so poor at other things? Ask him about what he is good at and how he does it.  For example:

  • In sport is he a great goal scorer
  • Can he build lego, ikea furniture or other construction toys without looking at the instructions?
  • Does he have an amazing recall of past events or places you have visited?
  • Are you the parent of one of our gifted and talented children who find literacy hard (apparently 50% share this challenge).

All of these require him to have good mental images, those pictures you hold in your mind.  You can even watch Richard Branson on youtube (#made by dyslexia) clearly looking up when talking about an idea, business opportunities etc  and seeing them in his mind’s eye.

So you can discover whether your child has great mental images, by just asking him about something that interests him and you will probably see him look up picturing it as he is telling you about it.

The only problem your child has is that he hasn’t developed the skills to convert this strengths into picturing words and numbers for literacy and numeracy.  These are just skills to learn not brain defects and they can be taught in just a couple of hours, through our jumpstartingliteracy and numeracy process.

In addition if you are bewildered as to why your child can read better than he can spell, that’s great news he are almost half way there. He can recognize words and now just needs the neural pathways to use these same words for spelling.

Contact us olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk to get more information about this amazingly quick process.

(apologies – this is just as appropriate to boys as girls, but difficult to write)


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘What to do when your learner does not know what to do’. Using visualisation and mental imagery to enhance learning. 

UntitledEast of East Anglia Patoss, Thursday 13th July
Exciting Opportunity to hear Olive Hickmott speak

Dyslexia Outreach base,
Taverham High School 
(Hockey Club building),
Norwich, NR8 6HP

Tea and Cake from 3:30 pm,  Talk from 4:00 – 5:30 pm

This is an opportunity to learn from Olive about her unique approach to teaching spelling to learners with dyslexia and related literacy barriers. Olive speaks across the country and we are delighted to welcome her to Norwich for an end of term session.

Learning happens through all our senses and to be an effective learner we need to know how to optimally use all these senses. Those who learn differently often have very good skills for visual learning but struggle to translate this into academic results. This up to date and well researched practical session will include resilience, helping learners to visualise and create mental imagery to enhance learning. You will hear a variety of effective ways of engaging disaffected learners and enabling them to learn.

Olive and her team have developed a powerful set of tools, many from Neurolinguistic Programming which have proved highly successful over a number of years. These tools should be in all teachers’ and parents’ toolkit

Olive has trained people from all over the world to Practitioner Level. Come along and hear the success stories that she has helped create; it will help you to know what to do when you don’t know what to do with your learners.

Olive fundamentally believes in empowering people to heal themselves, by using their own resources,  letting go of blocks and enabling their growth. Olive helps people understand their own experience, learn simple tools to facilitate change and watch them create the future they want.

Olive is the creator of the New Perspectives series of books, CDs and training programmes. Olive is the author of Seeing Spells Achieving and Bridges to Success – how to transform Learning Difficulties.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gifted and talented

giftedRecently I was puzzling over the difference between those identified as gifted and talented and those with learning differences/difficulties.  I believe that many if not all of the students we meet, at Empowering Learning, could well be identified as gifted and talented.

Then I discovered that “There is a widespread phenomenon, that as many as 50% of gifted kids, hate writing”. Teaching these children to spell visually in whole words is often very simple.

So I ran a short video to explain, which you can access here. In addition below is my checklist for identifying strengths displayed by neuro-divergent learners. See how many of these you think your student/child has and brighten up their day.

This article also has some useful tips, I found during my inquiry.


Some of the strengths displayed by neuro-divergent learners.
By Olive Hickmott, Empowering Learning UK

Creativity, imagination and generation of new ideas

  • Painters, artists, designers, musicians, film makers, photographers, writers, comedians, etc, etc – there is reputedly a design house in New York that only employs those with these skills.
  • Artistic talents are abundant and new ideas appear at lightning speed, sometimes too fast for others to keep up with them!
  • Inquisitive, creates new designs, even wacky solutions, thinking out of the box.

Problem solving

  • Thrive on solving problems, puzzles, jigsaw, chess and strategy games. With an interesting problem to solve they won’t be able to drop it until they have found a solution.
  • Original ideas: Will find creative ways around their learning challenges.
  • Understands cause and effect, likes to get things right.

Hyperfocus, Drive and Energy

  • Hyperfocussing enables learners to have single-minded focus on what they consider to be an interesting task or subject.
  • Concentration on small detail and any changes in detail. Those who focus on minutiae can switch off their peripheral vision, avoiding overload.
  • Given an interesting project to work on, they are completely absorbed, there is no stopping them!


  • In order to overcome challenges experienced within a conventional learning environment, some will develop a high level of resilience that allows them to focus on their strengths and excel.

Ability to see things from different perspectives, sometimes at the same time.

  • Can not only imagine what physical objects look like from different perspectives, including cross sections, they can see, without any difficulty, the other side of an argument, business opportunities that others may not see, etc.
  • Olive Hickmott has coined the term “Perspectius”, meaning an exceptional ability to see different perspectives simultaneously.

Spatial awareness

  • Ability to turn 2D images into 3D images, e.g. reads maps, charts and images easily, when looking at an Ordnance Survey map, which is flat, some people can turn the 2D contour lines into a 3D image of the mountains and hills in their mind’s eye.

Memory, collecting, concentrating and connecting facts

  • Exceptional memory, especially long term
  • Noticing patterns in things that others may not see.
  • A quick thinker, with high speed ability to make connections between different facts.
  • This enables them to make unusual and unique insights very quickly, without going through a more traditional, slower linear process.

Thinking and learning visually

  • Thinking in still pictures and videos – This is invaluable for rapid recall and is particularly useful when working in the media.
  • Extraordinary ability to recall visual memories from movies, video games or actual events.
  • Drawing in advance of age
  • Understands pictures more than words.

Exceptional interpersonal skills.

  • Their creative verbal communications with rich and interesting advanced vocabulary. May have been developed to make up for their lack of ability with written communication.
  • Compassion; tremendous powers to connect with other people and in addition an advanced ability to empathise and see different perspectives.
  • Intuition; they can guide themselves by just knowing, seeing through any façade to the essence of things and people. With intuition goes being highly sensitive, warm hearted, they see inside people and tend to share their suffering.
  • Sense of humour; many love to laugh and may have a knack of making others laugh too.

High intelligence.

  • Many people with dyslexia present with above average intelligence.
  • Clarity and radical authenticity; A compulsion to be authentic and express their true selves that maybe others find it hard to hear. Saying exactly how it is.  They see things as they really are, have a strong instinct to question and dismiss information that conflicts with their instincts.
  • Demonstrates strong opinions / feelings

Exceptional number skills

  • Ability to quickly perform complex mental calculations.
  • May have incredible recall of large amount of data such as dates, timetables and facts and figures around anything that they are interested in.

The bigger picture

  • Needs to understand the bigger picture and the reasons why, searching out the rationale behind an instruction, needing to verify that it has an authentic purpose or will work to change it.
  • Asks “big questions”, “life’s larger questions”, challenging questions and questions about how things work.
  • They believe that everything should be given creative thought, rigid ritualistic systems are considered anarchic. Their insights fuel “system busting”.
  • That “something special, a unique way of looking at the world, a perspective that others just don’t understand, until they meet another – it takes one to recognise one.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment