Is your mind deluged with thoughts?

exhaustedHave you ever thought of counting how many thoughts are currently active in your head?  Try it now and see roughly how many you have: 5, 50, 500 or just too many to count. And whose thoughts are they – yours or someone else’s?

These are the typical symptoms normally associated with ADHD and Autism; where the student received a cacophony of intrusive thoughts, visual and auditory, all at the same time, competing for his attention, with nobody is in charge. Actually, it is very prevalent in today’s busy world for many more people.  This experience is exhausting and even trying to focus on just one thing, that you are really interested in,  puts extreme pressure on you, amongst all the chatter.  The expression a wandering mind is very apt for ADHD when a series of images connect to each other at terrific speed. With Autism they tend to come crashing in from all angles. Sometimes this experience can be outside of conscious awareness, so you may know that there are hundreds of thoughts going on, but you don’t even know what or whose they are. Does this sound familiar?

I often ask students to start by picturing a cat or a dog, checking they aren’t frightened of either. One day I goofed up and forgot to check before I asked Amy to picture a cat. She gripped the arms of the chair so tightly her knuckles went white, and she looked terrified. I asked her what was happening. She said she had a video of 100 cats on a single screen and they were all fighting! So, I started asking her what she could do. Did some of them need food? Could she let some out into the garden, etc. until she calmed down and just had one sitting on a lovely velvet cushion? She was now in control and could make progress. Can you imagine what her experience would have been like in school if someone had mentioned cats?  Thank goodness, I didn’t ask her to picture a lion!!

This is an extract from my new book, The Elephant in the Classroom: Uncovering Every Student’s Natural Power of Mental Imagery to Enhance Learning.  You can get 2 free chapters on this page

#ADHD #AUTISM #mentalimagery #theelephantintheclassroom


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Monday morning learning tips

11am Every Monday morning I run a Facebook live for 15-20 mins to give you and your students some tips about literacy, numeracy, concentration, memory, learning and thinking through mental imagery and so much more. Just a quick call and you will come away with some new ideas. Just go to at 11am and join us. I look forward to seeing you.

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My child can’t sleep

animal cat face close up feline

There are dozens of reasons why children can’t sleep but I should like to give you a couple of gems to try out.  Firstly, is the problem that they can’t get to sleep or is it that they don’t stay asleep; very different questions.

If they can’t get to sleep it may be there very active mind that is keeping them awake, dancing from one exciting topic to another. Some people will tell you to ban electronic equipment an hour before going to sleep, which helps,  but grounding is invaluable.  You can imagine roots coming out of your feet down into the ground and to calm your brain notice how many thoughts are circulating currently, vying for your attention.  Then move your conscious awareness down from your head, slowly into your gut.  Now notice how many thoughts are in your head; more often than not the number will have greatly reduced.  Of course, animals help you ground too!

For those that don’t stay asleep, there is an important fact to explore.  Regularly every night we nearly wake up, often about every 1-2 hours. Just after going to sleep the cycle can be as short as 30 mins. If the world is the same as when we went to sleep we just drift off again without realising.  If something has changed; like the light being switch off, radio off, etc we will wake up again and panic about what is going on. Of course, if you do this several times a night you will be exhausted and sleep deprived, as the whole cycle is repeated.  So just make sure everything in a child’s room is the same when they go to sleep as an hour later.

There are many more tips, but these we have found are a good place to start.

#sleep #can’tsleep #grounding

Olive Hickmott

Photo by Pixabay on

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Why do children get multiple diagnoses of different learning difficulties?

brain-linesWhen I started my journey into learning differences I was shocked to find that so many children and adults had multiple diagnoses; for example,  dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD or ADHD and ASD.  My thought was that there must be something going on here that we are missing.

Having literacy problems all my life, and a successful corporate career I started with the NLP spelling strategy; developed it and learned how to teach it to those with severe literacy challenges and diagnosed as Dyslexic.  Since those days, of the thousands of dyslexics we have worked with, 100% of them are not visualising words reliably, the skill that all those good at literacy use unconsciously.  This has been backed up by years of neuroscience.

I have a maths degree and was always good at mental arithmetic. I found that those struggling with very basic maths are not visualising numbers, essential for the way we are teaching maths to very young children, under the age of 7.

Then I looked at some of the ADHD population and found that they had loads of mental images all competing for attention, as they made superfast connections between various facts, A > B > C > D > …..Z   This is an amazing skill but can cause a major distraction in the classroom, as they leap from one topic to another through some tenuous link.  It leaves the audience in total confusion as they try to piece together how the student came to that conclusion.

When it comes to the Autism Spectrum, students are simply deluged in so many mental images, completely out of any control or structure, this in itself causes more anxiety and overwhelm.  When it is all too much it triggers meltdowns or withdrawal from the world.

A common theme that underlies all learning difficulties is Mental Images.  They are a fantastic strength for creativity, design, problem-solving, etc. but out of control mental images can be a nightmare and overwhelming. And then you need to check the environment;  being creative is great for storytelling and design but when it comes to a science lesson creativity probably needs to be turned down.

I believe, that we must teach our very youngest children, under the age of 7, how to use their images, how to control them, plus how to create images of words and numbers for literacy and numeracy.  We know how to do this, it is just a matter of inviting parents and teachers to understand the vital skills of mental imagery.

#nlp #dyslexia #mental images #ADHD #Autism #dyspraxia

If you want to learn more go to, download 2 chapters of my new book “Why Bright Kids Get left behind” or take a look at some of the other great resources.

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New Perspectives on ADHD

ADHD backwards

Empowering Learning launched a new Masterclass initiative with Penny Perry, Cheryl Winter and Olive Hickmott – A blended learning programme to help you take new perspectives on ADHD. These highly informative sessions explained some hidden facts about ADHD, enabling you and your children or students to have happier lives. Our objective is to give parents and teachers some simple new perspectives, ideas that they can offer to students and monitor progress.  Our major focus is to reduce anxiety, focus on strengths, help students to effectively use mental imagery to supercharge their learning, for literacy, numeracy, concentration and all aspects of thinking and learning. The short programme contains:

  • 4 short online teleseminars
  • A dedicated private Facebook page with additional resources
  • The Facebook page also allows people to exchange ideas, ask questions and report back on progress.
  • On-going support.

Sign up here for the Masterclasses: New perspectives for ADHD.  Just £20 for all 4x50mins  sessions plus a facebook group for additional resources and comments/questions.

Here is some of the feedback we have had:

“I’ve found them incredibly useful and I really appreciate your support, thank you all!”

“I think that your book Bridges to Success, is really good at highlighting that children are ungrounded by other children’s emotions &/or distractions – yes, this can be like a domino effect in a class, I’ve noticed”.

“I was late to the live classes, but have found the last two useful and interesting.”

“Thank ladies this is just what I needed to hear, I am going to listen to Bridges to Success on the train!!”

#newperspectives  #adhd  #empoweringlearning #Bridgestosuccess #masterclasses

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Learning Differently doesn’t mean you have learning difficulties

People learn differently; it is part of being human and it would be very boring if we were all the same.

Talk to your friends and relatives and ask them how they do simple everyday tasks. How do they remember their way to school/work, how do they remember a phone number, how do they solve a puzzle, how do they remember a shopping list. It is really interesting to see how people differ in learning and thinking.

But who is right, there is no real right or wrong, it is just a question of what works for you.

But when it comes to literacy, according to the government there is only one way; you must learn phonics, whatever the language. For a perfectly phonic language like Italian this is reasonable but for English it is very hard when most words don’t sound like they are spelt.

If you told an artist that there was only one way to paint a landscape they might just laugh at your ignorance.

So why, when people learn differently to the way they are being taught in school, do they become labelled as having a learning difficulty or worse still they are learning disabled.

To learn more go to

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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: Misunderstood Greatness….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 spilled milk                                Curiosity killed the cat


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