Dyslexic kids just can’t do phonics

That isn’t the way their brains work.  They are creative big-picture thinkers and breaking words do into tiny bits just doesn’t make any sense to them.  When these same children manage to accidentally start recognising words,  the skill all fluent readers have, words then have meaning. Word recognition must be included in any reading programme, because the last thing we want is to have children stuck in phonics, for life.

Evidence shows that drilling children in phonics may have improved reading levels for many but it is a hard slog, with loads of repetition, to reach the eventual goal of word recognition, whilst leaving many by the wayside feeling embarrassed, stupid, exhausted and frustrated.  Worse still they maybe bullied and there are concerns about mental health, with overload of the frontal cortex.  Word recognition is carried out in the Word Form Area at the back of the brain adjacent to the Occipital lobe; a much more restful activity.

When you come to spelling only 46% of the English language is spelled correctly according to phonics, unlike languages like Italian that is an exemplar for phonics.  In addition, it is impossible to spell homophones correctly with just an auditory queue.

So why are our children not explicitly taught to pictures words at the same time as learning phonics?  I asked a county’s Chief Educational Psychologist this question many years ago: “Why don’t we tell every parent that those who are good at literacy can picture words in their mental images?”  She refused the answer.  The reality is that we are not teaching out teachers the simple skills to check and develop a student’s mental images, preferably from school entry or before, and secondly, she didn’t have this skill. Teaching these skills only takes minutes.

Teachers can take a quick course as home study during the summer holidays and be geared up to teach phonics and mental imagery in parallel from the start of the new term.  The school will save money on special support, whilst improving the children’s confidence and their results.

Let’s get real and teach these skills to every child entering school in September 2018, and read here to see just what would be possible by the time they enter year 1.



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#The Doctor Who Gave up Drugs

Thanks to the #BBC for Dr Chris Van Tulleken taking about the drugs we give to our children, from a very young age. I really recommend you catch up the #BBC  #The Doctor who gave up drugs:  Series 2 episode 1: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4jjq3.  Dr Chris explored pain relief medicine for the very young and behavioral medication for ADHD. He included eminent experts and I was particularly struck by the following quotes:

  • “We are establishing a pattern of behavior in our kids that whatever is wrong, can be treated by medication.” Dr Heath.
  • “Everything is grey and dull – the fun is sucked out of him” a mother and ADHD child.
  • “Although there are some short-term gains, there is very little evidence of any long-term benefits of medication for #ADHD.”

We watched #Professor Susan Bogels from Amsterdam, running a #mindful #meditation programme for several ADHD children.  Chris’ comment was “Who would ever take on the challenge to teach kids with ADHD mindful meditation.”  But the results were very impressive in creating a calm environment both in and outside of the children.

#Empowering #Learning also takes on this challenge for students with a very similar and complementary approach, teaching students to become grounded. We also teach students how to get their mental images under control, that reduces their anxiety and distractibility, which is a valuable addition to mindfulness. Don’t forget that these students have great skills of imagination so we don’t want them to lose their strengths, we want to offer them stills to keep them under control when necessary.

I should be pleased to help you with your students or family members: Just give me a call on 07970-854388 or email olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk.

#empoweringlearning #adhd #medication #mindfullness #mindful




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Attention parents of very young children

There is a strong connection between the mental images we hold in our head and learning difficulties – at last, people are starting to discuss the topic and the need for developing mental images of words was mentioned several times at the recent Internationp18_fast pictures with words smallal British Dyslexia Association Conference.

Few people acknowledge this connection and teachers are not taught about how to work with a student’s mental imagery as part of their training.

Don’t worry, we have been ahead of the ‘curve’ on this one with 15 years experience of working with students’ mental images when diagnosed with Dyslexia, ADHD, Aspergers and Autism.  The common thread we work on is learning how to control your own mental images, pictures words, numbers, improve memory, reduce stress and so much more.

We have a free teleclass on Thursday 3rdMay at 12:00 especially to discuss how to develop these skills in children under 7, before they get confused in school.  If you are a parent of a small child, of a teacher in reception year, do join us with your questions about how you can help our creative, imaginative children use their great visual skills to excel.

Click the link here to register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8257940744445002243

You can also listen to our last teleseminar on the topic here:

#empoweringlearning #britishdyslexiaassociation #dyslexia #ADHD #3rdmay #autism #aspergers

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Neurodivergent Creativity with EPIC Students

CreativityThis is an extract from my new book. Request your copy of 2 FREE chapters here.:  Why Bright Creative Kids are being Left Behind ….and what can you do to change this?  Neurodiversity through the Lens of Mental Imagery

Let me remind you about my definition of EPIC students. They are exceptionally perceptive, imaginative and creative. They are typically thinking and learning in neurodivergent ways, across a very wide spectrum, that may not match the way they are being generally taught.   These are the children who show what you might think of as  Early Onset Greatness.

We have studied children and adults with exceptional strengths and explored how they do what they do well, whilst often being challenged by learning differences. 

Some EPIC students can abound in artistic talent; enjoyed by painters, artists, designers, musicians, photographers, writers and comedians. They may develop careers in the film industry playing scenes forwards and even backward in their imagination.  They can also edit and re-run scenes before having to commit to the cutting room floor.

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 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, work out how to construct it, and finish the job.

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

For some their drawing skills are often in advance of their developmental age, understanding pictures more than they do words.  Others get frustrated by not being able to transfer onto paper their great imagery they won’t draw.

For example,  whilst talking with Archie he suddenly announced that when I asked him to picture a giraffe, he could choose to see a real picture, if he had encountered a real one, perhaps he had seen one in a zoo, or a hand drawing if he had just 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 his flip screen).

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Mental Images and Learning Difficulties

11.hold-book-up-when-reading_smallPeople often ask what mental images are and here is a simple explanation.  Mental imagery is normal, just like breathing, and they are quite simply the images we hold in our head.  All these images, presented as either pictures or videos, are held in your occipital lobe, the part of your brain just above the “dent” at the top of your neck where your skull meets your spine.

Scroll down for your FREE copy.

We use mental images every minute of every day, often outside of our conscious awareness, but we seldom know how to make the best use of them. For example, how do you find things like your house or your car?  How do you recognize people you know your spouse, parents or children?  How do you find the ingredients for a meal?  How do you plan what to wear and where to find your clothes?  People take mental images for granted yet know next to nothing about them.

We believe it will help every parent and child to understand how mental imagery is used in the learning process, from a child’s earliest days and certainly before they reach school age.

My own practice and the work of other Empowering LearningTM Practitioners has helped me piece together the vital role of mental imagery in the whole learning process.  Each of the learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, Autism all have connections with mental imagery.  Now we know these connections, it is time to enable children before the age of 5 years old to learn these simple skills and avoid a lifetime of confusion.

This is an extract from my new book. Request your copy of 2 FREE chapters here.:  Why Bright Creative Kids are being Left Behind ….and what can you do to change this?  Neurodiversity through the Lens of Mental Imagery

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Barking up the Wrong Tree

Barking2Has anyone noticed the actual problem with idioms and highly visual children?  Children with Dyslexia, ADHD, Aspergers and Autism are likely to have excellent visual strengths so mentioning an idiom to them sends them off into trying to sort out expressions like : Barking up the wrong tree!

Here is an extract from my new book: Why Bright Creative Kids Get Left Behind….and How to Change this.      Neurodiversity through the Lens of Mental Imagery…pre-publication, get 2 FREE chapters  here.

An idiom a common word or phrase with a culturally understood meaning that differs from what its composite words’ denotations would suggest. For example, an English speaker would understand the phrase “kick the bucket” to mean “to die” – and also to actually kick a bucket.  Idioms are a big challenge to many highly visual students. Reflecting on this through the lens of mental imagery, I realised what the problem is.  Idioms are very visual, here are a few examples, that will send a visual thinker off into the wrong train of thought:

A hot potato                                               A penny for your thoughts

Actions speak louder than words          At the drop of a hat

Back to the drawing board                      Ball is in your court

Cut corners                                                Be glad to see the back of

Beat around the bush.                             Best of both worlds

Best thing since sliced bread                  Bite off more than you can chew

Blessing in disguise                                  Burn the midnight oil

Can’t judge a book by its cover              Caught between two stools

Costs an arm and a leg                             Cross that bridge when you come to it

Cry over spilt milk                                     Curiosity killed the cat

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To do mental maths you need mental images of numbers

numbersWhen I was a small child I was great at mental maths, I took my GCSE a year early (that was unheard of in those days) and packed in 3 “A” level Maths in the next 2 years.  I was pretty dreadful at literacy but great at maths and nobody ever asked me how I did it.  I then did a degree in Maths and became a Software Engineer.  Still nobody asked me how I did it – I had always had good mental images of pictures and numbers, but none of words.

Years later I found out the key to success in mental arithmetic, you need mental images of numbers – its quite obvious really, but nobody tells you.  So to all those children who are struggling with maths, including learning those monotonous times tables, learn to visualise numbers and all maths will become so much easier.

I and our international network of #empoweringlearning coaches teach people every day these simple skills.  I can assure you that mental maths will always be difficult, whatever scheme you use, if you are not visualising numbers – after all its called mental maths isn’t it? So why don’t we ask small children if they can picture numbers, it would save masses of time and much heartache – if they are not picturing numbers we can teach them simple and easily.

Topics like rotating images will probably be one of the subjects in maths that is easy, because you can picture the images moving around.  On the other hand algbra, with things like 2x+3y seems as if it is from another planet, to someone who normally thinks in pictures.  Try thinking of it as 2 cats plus 3 dogs and it will be easier, as however hard you try you can’t make cats into dogs.

Please add your tips for making maths easy for a visual brain.

Do contact us if you need assistance olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk

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