Neurodiversity Celebration Week Continued: Exceptional Interpersonal Skills

EPIC students can create verbal communications with a rich and interesting advanced vocabulary; many have developed these skills to compensate for their lack of ability with written communication. They can have tremendous powers to connect with other people and when talking will very often be getting their triggers from mental images.

Most EPIC students may have a great sense of humour; many love to laugh and may have a knack for making others laugh, too; hopefully, people are laughing with them, not at them.

Many EPIC students demonstrate strong opinions/feelings, with clarity and obvious authenticity. They exhibit a compulsion to be authentic, exhibit ethical values and express their true selves which others may find difficult to hear. See quote from Greta Thunberg about Asperger’s[i]; however, they are fond of telling you exactly how it is.  They see things as they really are and have a strong instinct to question and dismiss information that conflicts with their instincts. Searching out the rationale behind an instruction, helps them verify that it has an authentic purpose, or they will work to change it.

Many EPIC students bond strongly with plants and animals, enjoying the peaceful nature, as long as their anxiety is not triggered.

[1] Greta Thunberg , the 16 year-old climate activist demonstrates this perfectly “Asperger’s is what makes me different, and being different is a gift.  I don’t easily fall for lies, I can see through things”

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #verbalcommunications #neurodiversity #neurodiversitycelebrationweek #aspergers #gretathunberg

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week Continued: Visual-Spatial Thinking and Learning

EPIC students think and learn in still pictures and/or moving videos, often possessing an extraordinary ability to recall visual memories from movies, video games or actual events.  This technique is invaluable for rapid recall and particularly useful when working in the media. They need to develop the skill to switch between still and moving images, depending on how they are using the images. Attention to visual details is invaluable in all forms of media continuity.

Some EPIC students may have the ability to turn 2D images into 3D images, e.g. they can read maps, charts and graphs easily. When looking at an Ordnance Survey map, which is flat, some people can readily turn the 2D contour lines into 3D images of mountains and hills in their mind’s eye.

As an example, you can read in Bridges to Success about David on page 25, who was a dyslexic trainee mountain guide.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #visual-spatial #neurodiversity #neurodiversitycelebrationweek

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week Continued: Seeing the Bigger Picture

EPIC students ask “big questions,” “life’s larger questions,” which are often challenging questions. They are curious about how things work. To aid their memory, EPIC students seem to need to have an understanding of the bigger picture, which is often accompanied by an insatiable appetite to understand the underlying reasons for every situation. They see the whole elephant in the cartoon, not just the individual parts.

They also believe that the application of creative thought best tackles problems. Rigid, ritualistic systems are considered just boring, archaic and outdated; EPIC insights fuel “system busting.” 

I was working with a boy in GCSE year who loved history. I asked him what he had learnt in the last year and what made it essential.  I was astonished at his understanding of the importance of history; his ability to see the bigger picture and grasp how it related to all aspects of life today with a deep understanding and an ability to explain and translate the concepts.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #biggerpicture #neurodiversity #neurodiversitycelebrationweek

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week Continued: Hyperfocus, Drive and Energy

Hyperfocus enables EPIC students to exhibit a single-minded concentration on what they consider to be an interesting task or subject. Given an exciting project to work on, they are entirely absorbed, there is no stopping them! Hyperfocus can be a valuable skill in, say, the IT industry, when they are older.

EPIC students can concentrate on small details and any changes in detail.  Focusing on minutiae, usually visual, can enable EPIC students to switch off peripheral vision, and block out everything else to avoid sensory overload. This is a lifesaver for those on the ASD spectrum, and a great skill for anyone working in a noisy environment.

Of course, for topics they are less interested in, EPIC students may struggle to be motivated to carry out a task they consider boring. One way around this may be to focus on the bigger question of WHY such activity is essential.

Focusing on something they really want to do provides EPIC students with more energy and commitment to the topic.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #hyperfocus #drive #energy #neurodiversity #neurodiversitycelebrationweek

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week Continued: Taking Different Perspectives

They can not only imagine what physical objects look like from different perspectives, including cross-sections, they can slice and dice buildings in their mind’s eye to, for example, check internal layout, connections for utilities services, and load-bearing walls. I created the word “Perspectius”, to mean genius-level ability to see different perspectives simultaneously, as it seemed an apt description for many EPIC students. 

They can also picture, without any difficulty, the other side of a business opportunity or argument that others may not see. A great skill for an adult, in for example government, but it can be infuriating for families, when a child always, “takes the underdog’s view.”

EPIC is used in The Elephants in the Classroom, to describe our students who are exceptionally perceptive, imaginative and creative. All of our students are EPIC with neurodivergent thinking and learning stills.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #perspectius #differentperspectives #neurodiversitycelebration

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week Continued: Instagram[i] for the brain

Some EPIC students have the ability to create stories from a mass of information and draw that story in cartoon form for everyone to appreciate. The translation between auditory and visual representations is invaluable for remembering any story.  But this is a much more advanced skill to be able to draw together the story in real time, as someone is speaking, and present it physically on a wallchart, perhaps at a conference – the output is referred to as sketch notes. Caroline Chapple who produced many of the cartoons in this book is an expert in this area.

There has been much research into the science of drawing and memory and “there are several ways that teachers can incorporate drawing to enrich learning. Importantly, the benefits of drawing were not dependent on the students’ level of artistic talent, suggesting that this strategy may work for all students, not just those who are able to draw well[ii].”

[i] A metaphor: Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook, Inc.

[ii] Youki Terada,published in Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, The Science of Drawing and Memory.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #instagram #instagramforthebrain #carolinechapple

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week: Problem Solving


Many EPIC students thrive on solving various problems and puzzles. As you might expect, they enjoy jigsaws, chess and strategy games.  They can find creative ways around most things, even their learning challenges. They create original ideas often devising really wacky ideas, thinking differently, unconventionally or seeing things from a new perspective; which can be summed up as “thinking outside of the box” or maybe even “failing to find the box.”

Once they commit to solving an interesting problem, they can’t drop it until they have found a solution – the “right” solution in their eyes. They may sometimes have to reluctantly compromise their perfectionist streaks, in the interests of completion. Insightful problem solving, can enable you to come up with a startlingly new idea, demonstrating “system-busting” skills.

In Chapter 2 of the Elephants in the Classroom – My Corporate Career Section, you may recall my skill for solving complex problems in the medical diagnosis system.  This skill is common to many IT professionals. I also find the whole area of neurodiversity something that needs better understanding – this is impossible for me to give up on.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #newperspective #problemsolving

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week: Creativity, imagination and generation of new ideas

EPIC students can have exceptional artistic talent. They may be envied by painters, artists, designers, musicians, photographers, writers and comedians. They understand pictures more than words – hence the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words.” They may develop careers in the film industry, playing scenes forwards and even backwards in their imagination.  They can also edit and re-run scenes before having to commit to the cutting room floor. Directors can jump into the character and know how to play the scene and then instantaneously stand back in their minds to see how the audience responds. 

They may have new ideas appearing at lightning speed, sometimes too fast for others to keep up with them!  Several companies now deliberately recruit EPIC employees, including Microsoft, GCHQ, NASA (see their research[i]), the armed forces and even a design house in New York that only employs those with these skills.

Fashion designers can easily imagine a dress that doesn’t exist, going on to design it, working out how to construct it, and finishing the job. 

Architects possess similar skills for imagining and constructing buildings, slicing and dicing in their mind’s eye, to see the internal layouts and often designing whole towns.

For some their drawing skills are often in advance of their developmental age.  Others get frustrated by not being able to transfer onto paper their great imagery, and won’t draw.

Whilst talking with Archie he suddenly announced, when I asked him to picture a giraffe, that he could choose to see a real coloured picture, if he had encountered a real one, or a hand drawing if he had seen one in books or on the TV; a skill in itself.
In addition, he had a split screen in his memory, with one main picture, plus a row of pictures along the bottom of the screen so he could flick through them like using a mobile phone screen. (We called this skill his flip screen.)
When it came to checking how he could use this skill for misspelt words, I gave him the idea to cross out a misspelt word and put a big tick across the correct ones. Almost instantly, the correct one was large and the other incorrect spellings suddenly appeared, each with a cross on them.
Wonderful creativity and generalisations. 

Many people are familiar with being able to visualise goals and get such clear images that they actualy manifest their desires.  Being able to visulaise a healthy outcome can be really helpful to aiding your recovery from a health challenge.

If you notice a child laughing out of context that may well be due to him seeing mental images he finds very amusing.

Don was making progress with literacy, and he suddenly broke out into peals of laughter. His dad asked him to concentrate, but he couldn’t stop laughing. I asked him what mental images he was seeing. He managed to answer in between giggles “Tennis,” “doubles” and finally “there are two Alsatians playing tennis with two Cockerpoos!” By this time, we were all laughing. What a lovely creative brain Don has.


[i] We are born creative geniuses and the education system dumbs us down, according to NASA scientists.  NASA had contacted Dr George Land and Beth Jarman to develop a highly specialized test that would give it the means to effectively measure the creative potential of NASA’s rocket scientists and engineers. The test turned out to be very successful for NASA’s purposes, but the scientists were left with a few questions: Where does creativity come from? Are some people born with it or is it learned? Or does it come from our experience?  The scientists then gave the test to 1,600 children between the ages of 4 and 5. What they found shocked them. https://ideapod.com/born-creative-geniuses-education-system-dumbs-us-according-nasa-scientists/. Here are the results:

Age 4-5: 98% genius creativity
Age 10: 30% genius creativity
Age 15: 12% genius creativity
Adult: 2% genius creativity

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
This is an extract from my latest book:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery You will find more examples in
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#creativegenius #theelephantsintheclassroom #empoweringlearning #NASA #creativity #genius

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week: Types of Mental Images

There are three types of mental images – things we have seen before and can recall, things we want to create and images that just come to us in a sort of knowing. Let me explain this in more detail.

  • Things you have seen before are called Visual Recall or visual memory. Visual recall enables us to recognise people we know, objects, locations, events, experiences and so much more.  This activity in your brain is centered in the occipital lobe.  In addition, there is an area on the edge of the occipital lobe called the Word Form Area, where we hold words we have seen before, to enable us to achieve word recognition in less than 150msecs (less than a heartbeat), once we have seen the word once or twice.

Visual Constructs are the things we want to create and the font of imagination. These are the pictures you dream up in your head; the things you would like to do, such as creating imaginary friends or a new dinosaur, telling stories, seeing how jigsaw puzzle pieces fit, planning the best moves in chess, picturing success in sports or just being able to learn to walk again after an injury.  Note, that people with exceptional visual recall can be slightly apprehensive about visual constructs, as they don’t have a ready-made picture for a new experience.

Archie had been to the same shoe shop several times and got used to the experience.  When Archie’s mum discovered it had closed down, she told Archie that they would need to go to a new one.  Terror came across his face, and a meltdown took over.  It seems that these EPIC kids have such great mental images of the past that the future without solid pictures terrifies them.  She then got together some pictures of the new shop from the inside and the outside and introduced them before going on a trip. 

I remember asking a young adult how she would go about redecorating her room.  She then gave me the following brilliant description.  I would think of the room, fade out all the furniture and the coloured walls – “so old school now,” she said.  Then she imagined, a swatch of carpet samples and wood flooring.  She went through the possibilities and selected the perfect flooring.  She did the same with the walls, choosing from an imaginary colour palette; some to be painted and one to be wallpapered.  Then she rolled in the furniture and furnishings that appealed to her.  She could change things around and eventually picture a perfect outcome, and she could imagine walking into the room and feeling comfortable and proud of her achievements.   She did all of this as a cascade of mental images in seconds; a fabulous skill for an interior designer or window dresser. 

Jimmy came to me with several challenges in school; one was that he couldn’t concentrate during science lessons.  I enquired about the difference between a science lesson and a maths lesson, which he adored.  The usual “I dunno” was the response. I said that I knew he had good mental images and asked what he saw in a science lesson.  “Oh,” he said sheepishly, “I am playing on a PlayStation game in my head.”  “Wow that’s clever,” was my response. “How long does it last?” I asked.  “About 20 minutes,” was his reply.    “Tell me, how big is the television screen you are running it on?” “That would be a 36-inch flat-screen TV,” he replied with great pride.  “And can you see the teacher past the TV set?” I enquired, “Not really” was his answer. In order to clarify I checked, “You are playing a PlayStation game on a huge TV set right in front of you during science lessons. And when the teacher asks you a question you haven’t got a clue as to what she was talking about.”  “I guess” was his answer. “Do you do the same in maths lessons?” “Well, the TV is smaller, so I can hear the teacher and I do calculations at the same time.  This short intervention provided many answers regarding his behaviour, and he realised that he had a conscious choice as to whether he engaged with the class. 

Finally, there are those pictures that just come to your mind.  Some people call these psychic pictures; they are things you just know, and you don’t understand why, especially when it’s about someone you are close to, or “tuned in to,” picking up on their thoughts. These pictures feed understanding of another person, and can be a great skill as long as they don’t overwhelm a sensitive person. Students need to learn how to control them to avoid creating a feeling of being unsafe; be able to turn them off, dispose of unpleasant ones, sort excess information, filter them and stop overload.  The clarity of just knowing can we such a relief, when you are quiet and tuned in your intuition.   Storytelling and guided imagery encourage an individual’s thoughts, urging him to make his own connections.  

Freddy knew when his mum picked him up from school whether or not she was happy. If she was stressed, she would be ungrounded and talking quickly. Freddy could pick up on his mother’s mood before he even saw her. A fantastic skill, for an 8-year-old, but if mum was unhappy, he would often be unhappy too.

All of these types of pictures can be still or moving like a video, reflecting the past or imagining the future.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
My latest books are:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery and
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelepahntsintheclassroom #neurodiversitycelebrationweek #empoweringlearning #olivehickmott #neurodivergent #mentalimages #visualrecall #visualconstruct #psychicpictures

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week: “Visual thinking is a tremendous advantage” Temple Grandin

Dr Temple Grandin has designed one-third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She has autism with incredible skills to visualise the best environment for animals, so they remain calm, by putting herself into their world through her vivid imagination.   

We tend to think everyone sees things in the same way we do. But wait, have you ever had the experience of going to a movie with a friend and discussing it afterwards? It can seem like you have seen two entirely different movies! “People throughout the world are on a continuum of visualisation skills ranging from next to none, to seeing vague, generalised pictures, to seeing semi-specific pictures, to seeing, as in my case, in very specific pictures,” said Temple Grandin.  Sometimes images can be very clear; at other times, you just “know” what something looks like, maybe the images stem from your conscious awareness.  Ask yourself, “What are your mental images like?” 

Ask students to describe something or someone they are familiar with. They will naturally start describing their images whether or not they are consciously aware of them.  Be careful to avoid picture envy, if other peoples’ pictures are better than yours. You will learn much with just a few simple questions, such as asking students to explain their favourite activities or places. With practice, they will be more consciously aware of their images, and you may be able to improve yours too.

Here are some examples of what is possible:

On YouTube there is a remarkable video of Stephen Wiltshire, the “Human Camera,”[i] reproducing all the buildings of Rome in great detail after just one trip over the city in a plane.

Elite sportsmen and women have been using visualisation skills for decades to hone their performance skills.

Boris was a pole vaulter.  Pole vaulting is a very complex skill that employs excellent visualisation skills.  For example, you need to be able to accurately space your run-up, carry the pole, place the end correctly in the cup, know precisely how to ‘climb’ the pole, launch yourself over the cross-bar and land safely.  Athletes will practice this many, many times in their head during training and competition.

One of the most astounding applications for mental imagery is in recovery from a physical injury like a broken leg or operation, and anyone can do this. 

When you are lying in a hospital bed in pain, getting up and moving around seem to be tough tasks.  Ben had to have lots of help from the nurses or physio each time he wanted to move or get out of bed. I sat down next to his bed and asked him to visualise getting up and walking across the room.  He repeated it several times until he could do it without any discomfort, as a mental exercise in his mind. A few minutes later, while taking the necessary safety precautions, he got out of bed and walked across the ward unaided!

Architects and designers can slice and dice buildings easily in their imaginations, seeing them from different angles, even converting 2D to 3D in seconds and designing new products. In short, they are picturing what others cannot see.

As another example, this time from Bridges to Success, seeing what others do not see. Glen, a very senior Director in an electronics company, could look at a printed circuit board and point out any mistakes in seconds.  Again, it was like watching Superman peer over the top of his glasses and run a laser across all the circuits.  The only problem was it all happened so fast he had no idea how he came to the decision.  His staff wanted more information, but it was gone and he seemed unable to slow down the processing to offer any useful advice.  He also realised that all his working instructions were destroyed instantly, he simply said, “Well, it would be too much information to hold in my head, so I just get rid of them.”  Once he explained this to his team, they could call on his skills and accept his comments.

My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Please register here to follow my blog at http://www.olivehickmott.co.uk
You will find other useful information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
My latest books are:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery and
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#theelepahntsintheclassroom #neurodiversitycelebrationweek #empoweringlearning #olivehickmott #neurodivergent #celebration #drtemplegrandin #stephenwiltsire


[i] Stephen Wiltshire videos on YouTube. Start with The Human Camera   

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