The Parents Heartache

p20_catching fast picturesTrying to help children who learn differently – both to you, as a parent, and to the average child in their class – can be an enormous heartache and source of frustration for both parents and teachers, not to mention their children. My heart goes out to all those parents I meet who have no idea how and why their children are struggling so much and who have not even heard of “mental imagery.”

As parents strive to do the very best for their children, they encounter various questions on social media such as:
“I am new to dyslexia; what do I do now?”
“My child is struggling; at what age should I press for a diagnosis?”
“I can see my child facing the same challenges I did, and I feel so guilty.”
“Whom do I need to contact to make some real progress?”

To those, I say: “Learning differently doesn’t mean you have learning difficulties. We can empower you with new knowledge and skills.”

Let’s assume just for a moment that there is nothing wrong with these students; there is no condition to assess, no “deficit” to find; only to discover their neurodivergent strengths and how best to use them.  Perhaps the questions we should be asking are: How we can best teach a neurodivergent population? Or: How can we change the way we teach to include our brightest children? These questions were first poised in 1911 by Hans Asperger who “instead of seeing the children in his care as flawed, broken, or sick, believed they were suffering from neglect by a culture that had failed to provide them with the teaching methods suited to their individual style of learning. He had an uncanny knack for spotting signs of potential in every boy or girl, no matter how difficult or rebellious they were alleged to be.”  We must urgently address this fundamental question that has largely been overlooked, since that time. We need vital help from students, parents and teachers to bring about change.

Working as a family is essential to success.  You will learn how you can best investigate your children’s skills even before they go to school and indeed before they learn to talk. Curiosity encourages the development of a healthy, mutual learning environment where students feel empowered to grow. Moreover, this allows whole families to learn and grow together.  When students learn a new strategy, they have to practice to become an expert. Any new skill you are developing requires practice. In some instances, however, young people may choose not to do this for a variety of reasons.  Although they do not want to fail again, they may also not want to let down or show up friends or other family members, who share the same challenge. When working with students, I ask them to identify who else they can now teach, to reinforce the learning and encourage people to help each other.

The ability to successfully learn new skills is fundamental to the existence of every living creature. As we grow up, we continually acquire new talents naturally, often with little education. Parents of these neurodivergent students often marvel at how their child knows about things nobody has taught them. However, their natural capabilities can pull them in a different direction where traditional learning poses a much tougher challenge. When  neurodivergent students don’t naturally acquire these required skills and conventions, the world becomes more confusing, and they may often be identified as being “learning disabled.” I have lost count of how many parents, who, after a short explanation of mental imagery, exclaim: “This makes so much sense”.

This is an extract from “The Elephants in the Classroom: uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning“.  To find out more, order your own copy here, or more than 10 copies here or on or

#parents #neurodivergent #learningdifferences #asperger #familysupport #learning #learningdisabled #students #mentalimagery #learning #curiosity

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Big Picture Visual Thinkers

UntitledNeurodivergent students are often big-picture thinkers, permanently curious, always wanting to know why, with their heads full of amazing mental images.  For example, to picture a giraffe, a big picture thinker may think of a whole herd of giraffes roaming across the savanna, with a multitude of other animals.  Also known as visual-spatial intelligence, this occurs when students possess the ability to visualise the picture accurately and modify their surroundings based on their perceptions.

Unfortunately, lack of control of their mental images can lead to confusion, anxiety, internal chaos, closing down and even withdrawal from the world. The latter is the last thing we want for these students, who have such great talents to offer us.

When neurodivergent students manage to avoid this confusion, they develop creative and imaginative skills, which are mainly rooted in their ability to create and use mental images in all sorts of areas of their lives, including art, design, sports and entrepreneurship.

Developing the skills to control mental images is such a relief; as one teenager said, “I have up to 100 images at any one time and when it becomes too much I just fall down a hole in my mind, for a few moments – known as zoning off in my family. You can’t help me with that can you?” 10 minutes later he was making changes as he learnt how to control his images, with a look of wonder on his face.

This is an extract from “The Elephants in the Classroom: uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learningTo find out more invaluable tips and relevant information go to or or and order your own copy. 

#neurodiversity #learningdifferences



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Labour’s proposed National Education Service

Today I was listening to and encouraged by a live stream from a labour party conference on education.  The mission set out by Angela Rayner and Jeremy Corben sounded great in many aspects, but of course, labour is not in power.  I must add that I don’t hold political views and just want the best for our children. Here is a link to the recording that starts at 59 mins:

They talked about several topics that really resonated with the work we are doing at Empowering Learning, for example:

  • The funding for education in schools and in particular the budgets to support neurodiverse students.
  • The emphasis on primary education and pre-school support for students and their families.
  • The focus on enabling talented and disadvantaged pupils to succeed, with much focus on unlocking the potential in every child.
  • A more rounded education including the arts and fostering creativity to address many of our modern-day challenges.
  • The social justice about education for all building on the students strengths.

I realise that my work on mental imagery is just a small cog in the bigger picture, but bringing this into the classroom for the very young is a vital cog in them developing successful learning strategies.

There was so much commonality with my new book, The Elephants in the Classroom: uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning, I am today sending Angela Rayner, MP, a copy for consideration with the National Education Service.

To learn more do take a look at:  The Elephants In The Classroom; uncovering every students’ natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning £14.95. Available on Amazon at

or view  where you will see other resources too.

#classroom #labourparty #mentalimagery #theelephantsintheclassroom #talents #empoweringlearning #angelarayner #education

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Shouldn’t dyslexia assessments include mental imagery

7.keep-pictures-still-smallEvery child we have met, who is diagnosed as Dyslexic, isn’t visualising words. in fact, children who aren’t visualising words will most likely be diagnosed dyslexic.

Why? Because you can’t be a fluent reader without developing the skill to perform word recognition, which needs you to have mental images of words, especially in English.

A recent survey of a year 7 class told us that, in the student’s opinion:

  • 28% were poor at spelling, 12% poor at reading, 31% poor at numeracy.
  • Of those who were poor at reading, 31% were not visualising words, 100% were creative and 46% didn’t remember what they read
  • Of those who were poor at spelling, 48% also had bad handwriting, 48% were not visualising words in English, 24% couldn’t keep the words still
  • Of the good spellers, 84% pictured words, 15% were not sure – they were probably so good it was not a conscious skill.

This creates a nightmare for understanding their secondary education. These figures say to me it is a “no brainer”; let’s teach children this simple skill when they are 3-6 years old and see whether the high-level of literacy challenges can be reversed.

So let’s look at this the other way around. The quick way to discover if someone has dyslexic symptoms is to check if they have mental images of words. If they don’t have mental images of words this is a dyslexic symptom so teach this skill and then see if they really are dyslexic.

To learn more do take a look at:  The Elephants In The Classroom; uncovering every students’ natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning £14.95. Available on Amazon at

or view  where you will see other resources too.

#dyslexia #dyslexic #english # empoweringlearning #visualising #wordrecognition #fluentreading

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Reading flat on the table makes things worse

Many people will read this title and be perplexed. Think about your own experience of reading, where is the book, newspaper or magazine? When you are relaxed and reading fluently, you normally have the material propped up, so why do most primary schools insist that children who are learning to read have the book flat on the table. I can see the logic when someone is helping you but neuroscience says this isn’t helpful.

This is why: when we look down we are accessing our emotions. If we feel bad about reading this only makes things worse, accessing emotions like “I can’t do this”, “I am stupid”, “this is impossible”, “I’m sad”. When we look up however, we are accessing our visual skills which are vital for reading.

So try the 3 point reading test with the child or student:

1. Try reading aloud when looking down at the material.

2. Prop the book up a bit and repeat

3. Hold the book right up like reading a newspaper and repeat.

Check with the student what the difference is for them and allow them to continue with that position. Once they have built more confidence they will be able to look down a little.

Reading flat on the table is unnatural, puts more unnecessary strain on struggling students, who may find letters being distorted or moving around, especially if they have dyslexic symptoms. Looking down eliminates mental imagery and increases emotions, making matters worse. Reading with work propped up will help increase fluency.

Do respond to this blog with your experiences.

To learn more do take a look at:  The Elephants In The Classroom; uncovering every students’ natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning £14.95. Available on Amazon at

or view  where you will see other resources too.

#neuroscience #mental imagery #reading #emotions #iamsad #confidence #dyslexic

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Visual skills for Neurodivergent Learners

11.hold-book-up-when-reading_smallI am speaking at the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire Patoss group meeting on 5th June in Letchworth.  Click here for details.  While so many learners struggle with literacy, numeracy, concentration or sensory overload they often have good visual skills.  Come to this short talk and learn how you can help your neurodivergent learners, quickly and easily through mental imagery.

If you can’t make the event or it is sold out you can go to for more details of Empowering Learning or purchase our new book “The Elephants in the Classroom” to understand this vital area of learning.

Do take a look at:  The Elephants In The Classroom; uncovering every students’ natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning £14.95. Available on Amazon at

or view  where you will see other resources too.

#mentalimagery #theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #literacy #numeracy #patoss #hertfordshire #neurdivergent #visual


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How can reading be better than spelling?

wfasmallParents often ask me this question: How can my child read a word but can’t spell the same word?  Children can have a reading age of say 12 years old with a spelling age of say 5.

Neuroscience has the answer for bewildered parents. As a child learns to read and progresses from phonics (breaking down the word) to word recognition they are actually holding an image of the word in their word form area, sometimes called the brain’s letter-box.  So if all goes well, once they have seen a new word 3/4 times it will be in the word form area and then they will simply recognise it: not the shape of the word but the whole word. The word form area literally holds an image of the word. When a student is reading aloud, you can easily tell the words that are in their word form area as they recognise them, and pronounce them without hesitation.  New words need to be broken down and blended to read, often with a bit of assistance to get the correct pronunciation, in English.

So now what happens with spelling? In English the student needs to access the work form area, see an image of the word and then copy the letters down.  Sounds easy but many children go back to phonics to try and spell the word, that simply doesn’t work in English – for example, phone would be spelt fon or fone. On the other hand, if you are spelling in Italian, an exempla phonetic language, using sounds to create written words would be fine.

To resolve this problem that often leads to a diagnosis of Dyslexia, you simply teach students, quickly and easily how to access the words they have already stored in the word form area.  It normally takes about 1.5 hours to learn how to do it and then practice is needed like mastering any new skill.  I know you will think that 1.5 hours is unbelievable, but brain plasticity really helps here and the younger the child is the better.

Elephants in the Classroom mockup 6To learn more you will find 2 books at, Bridges to Success and The Elephants in the Classroom.

If you are outside the UK go to The Elephants In The Classroom (New Perspectives) £14.95.

#brainplasticity #phone #phonetic #english #neuroscience #dyslexia #phonics #theelephantsintheclassroom #newperspectives


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