Made by Dyslexia – Dyslexia Awareness

Made by Dyslexia has done a great job bringing together excellent material called Connect the Spots to inspire people to be more optimistic about Dyslexia – but we have to remember that this is a great challenge and very worthwhile for parents, students and teachers alike. When everyone fully understands dyslexic skills, the students and the education system will be a far happier place. Early identification and intervention is, of course, essential before the child gets depressed with their abilities and loses their self-esteem.

I agree and support so much of the material, especially that Dyslexic skills are the skills we need for the future; these people have so much to offer to the world. I too remember “Popcorn reading is a death sentence”, [John Clark, Schenck School], that causes significant anxiety and trauma. The material is full of exceptional nuggets from famous dyslexics, specialist teachers and children.

However, there are a few topics below that would rapidly improve the Dyslexic experience, and enable these children to find education more accessible.

  1. Fantastic mental imagery underpins almost all Dyslexic strengths. The curriculum neglects this aspect of cognition vital for education and teacher training. I should like to know whether the speakers, who mention a multi-sensory approach, actually understands visual learning, not just visual teaching. For people with Dyslexia, visual learning must not be confused with visual instruction. With the correct tuition, students can quickly develop their Word Form Area (WFA), improving word recognition and spelling. The WFA is adjacent to the occipital lobe that holds all our mental images. Those children who have excellent reading and poor spelling, [just like Aristotle], have 1000s of words stored in their WFA, all they need to do is build the neural pathways to find them for spelling. There is no reason why they will always be slow readers if they have migrated from phonics to using their WFA.
  2. When a child is highly creative, can see different perspectives and has a high-speed problem-solving brain, they can also have uncontrolled mental imagery that creates multiple images and fast-moving videos. These images are one way that students get letters and numbers moving on the page, leading to anxiety and exhaustion. Simple grounding and breathing exercises create calmness, reduces their pressure, stabilises their imagery and reduces distraction.
  3. All of the late Sir Ken Robinson’s work on Finding your Element, Creative schools and self -directed learning plus NASA’s research on creativity all shine a light on visual learning. When we ensure every child is using their visual thinking skills and knows how to learn through their visual memory, the need for identification might even disappear, one day
  4. Big picture thinking goes well with whole word recognition – phonics that is primarily bits of words has no visual queues for people with Dyslexia. Correct teaching of whole-word recognition won’t “blow up Dyslexics” .  They love it; it supports their visual strengths and fantastic visual memory.
  5. Phonics – As Maggie Aderin-Pocock said, “Dyslexics have a hard time with a rule-based approach”. The English language is littered with rules and words that break the rules. It is much easier for them to visualise words, using their natural strengths. Hart Stuck said that phonics means they don’t have to memorise words – but visual memory is what they are good at! they just need to learn how to do it. The English language has a deep orthographic depth, making a phonics only strategy limiting.
  6. Memory – Mental imagery is a vital part of the memory for all aspects of the curriculum.
  7. Slow processing – people with high-speed mental images may be taking the “scenic route” to process questions, so they are not really slow but very busy.
  8. Getting all teachers to look at the content and not the spelling or punctuation is a tall but worthy order – rules are easier to mark
  9. It is easy to learn times tables when they are taught visually from the youngest age with visual queues such as dice and counters.
  10. Learning to use mental imagery for words, numbers, etc. won’t inhibit their visual skills, and will enhance them.

I am a reformed dyslexic who visualised numbers all my life (I have a maths degree) but had very poor literacy. Nobody told me that visualising words was essential for fluent literacy, so you can progress from phonics for new words to word recognition or better still run them in parallel. I refused to accept the status quo that people with Dyslexia could not be taught literacy through mental imagery.

I can’t entirely agree that Dyslexia is genetic, although it might appear like that. We need to look at what is behind that. What geneticists might be seeing is highly visual creative people, many of whom may develop Dyslexia when they are not taught in a way that works for them, capitalising on their strengths.  As a postscript,  I didn’t have dyslexic parents, although my brother, when young did do perfect mirror writing because he was bored. I have met many identical twins where one is dyslexic, and the other isn’t. Plasticity of the brain is all-important here, showing how students can learn to use their WFA, even if they missed out at a younger age.

We need teachers to understand how people learn, what is going on inside their head, so they understand visual learning, not visual teaching. They need to realise “the reason why they are not memorising their spelling words” [Hart Stuck]. But the reason is not just Dyslexia, nobody has taught them how to. It is very easy to do at the age of 4. I had to wait until I was 50.

I like the Made by Dyslexia pledge and would like to add to it something about supporting visual learning, that is the route of many dyslexic strengths.

#madebydyslexia #dyslexia #mentalimagery #strengths #connectthespots #empoweringlearning

Olive Hickmott
olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Web-site: http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk
Youtube channel for free videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/olivehickmott

You can read more about using visualisation, breathing and grounding techniques to enable learning and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning. Available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

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ADHD / Dyslexia Awareness month starts today – here are 3 secrets

ADHHD/Dyslexia secrets

To start our month of great Dyslexia and ADHD success stories, I want to give you the 3 secrets we have discovered to significantly address poor literacy, inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, drowsiness, irritability and low self-esteem. These will be demonstrated with actual stories throughout the month, starting October 1st, from myself and other Empowering Learning Practitioners.

ADHD and Dyslexia are generally looked at as a problem, with maybe challenging unmanageable, hard to control students; all focused on behaviors that are identified by parents and teachers. 

The Empowering Learning approach is to work from the student’s strengths and to learn from the students about their experiences. There are a few little know facts that those diagnosed with or suspected ADHD/Dyslexia, often have:
* very extensive mental imagery and those with Dyslexia are not using their mental imagery for words
* poor breathing, sleep and grounding
* anxiety, trauma, feeling unsafe and a highly stressed Autonomic Nervous system (ANS).
All of these can both be a cause and an effect of ADHD/Dyslexic symptoms

During October you will hear how improving these 3 factors have changed the experiences of individuals. All you need to do is to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/olivehickmott and you will receive a reminder every day at 10am UK time. At this time I will be available to answer your questions on-line, below the video.

#ADHD #Dyslexia #Dyslexic #mentalimagery #breathing #grounding #anxiety #trauma #ANS

Olive Hickmott
olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk

You can read more about using visualisation, breathing and grounding techniques to enable learning and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning. Available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

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Learning to thrive with Dyslexia / ADHD.

Great stories of success for many ex-struggling learners. Tune into my YouTube channel, posted at 11am every day during October. Maximun of 5 mins each.

October is ADHD awareness month plus Dyslexia awareness week is 5-11th. Empowering Learning is contributing to these events in a very positive way, with success stories from Practitioners, clients and any who have discovered Empowering Learning Resources.

You will hear about:
* how breathing and grounding help reduce stress
* how visualising words can be achieved in minutes
* how to calm a racing brain
* how students have reduced distraction, impulsivity and hyperactivity
* how to organize mental imagery
* Improving your memory
* Skills for any neurodiversity.

We were thinking that everyone needs good news stories about possibilities and how they can make progress, at this current time, so tune in every day and get just a little inspiration.

If you have any more stories to add mail your contributions to cheryl@cherylwintercoaching.co.uk or call Cheryl on 07980-423431Or me at olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk 07970-854388

You can read more about using visualisation andgrounding techniques to enable learning and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning. Available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

#dyslexia #ADHD #neurodiversity #theelephantsintheclassroom #memory #distraction #impulsivity #hyperactivity

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The Role of Mental Imagery in Learning, for Dyslexia and ADHD

I am delighted to be running a webinar for The Bell House on Monday 28th September 2020, 7pm.

Find out more about how to Alleviate and prevent much of the confusion that threatens to overwhelm students with dyslexia and / or ADHD.

Here is the link to book your free place: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-role-of-mental-imagery-in-learning-for-dyslexia-and-adhd-tickets-120621685709

Olive Hickmott
olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk

You can read more about using visualisation techniques to enable learning and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning. Available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

#theelephantsintheclassroom #dyslexia #ADHD #mentalimagery

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The Guardian piece on Dyslexia Wars 16.9.2020

Children are not discovering an essential skill for learning.

In response to the piece, on Dyslexia Wars in the Guardian on 19.6.2020, there is still no appreciation that not all children learn in the same way.   Bright, creative, imaginative children with poor literacy or Dyslexia typically have good mental images for pictures. However, they have not discovered an essential skill of how to use their mental images for word recognition and spelling; we mustn’t leave this to chance.

There is a straightforward way to identify Dyslexia and its FREE.  Has a child learned to visualise words?   100% of those I have met diagnosed with Dyslexia or with poor literacy are not reliably visualising words. The answer is simple and would reduce inequality:  it only takes minutes to teach the skill, and after practice, they can catch up with their peers.

It isn’t the child, the teachers’ or the parents’ fault. It is the National Curriculum and the Early Years Framework that has no mention of visual learning and how to teach it well.  Each child’s literacy problems may appear different until you notice that none are visualising words. Also, other associated learning differences have a component of uncontrolled visual learning, especially ADHD, Dyscalculia and Autism.

Most schools would say they are committed to multisensory teaching and learning, but teachers are trained to teach and not how a child learns. Neuroscience shows how the brain’s Word Form Area retains word images.  Focusing on the most commonly used words, will, of course, help, but only 1 is a noun (mum) that triggers word recognition.

When children are continually told they can’t do something is it any wonder that their stress levels rocket and they think “I am stupid”, or worse. One of the common symptoms of letters moving on the page can be simply controlled by reducing stress

The deep autographic depth of the English language plus the need to cope with homophones and silent letters necessitates both word recognition and phonics.  Following these parallel strands in nursery and primary years, would reduce the cost of special support by several million and alleviate the stress on parents and students, who can’t do phonics. Even Maggie Snowling, revered Professor of Psychology at Oxford University, said in a recent interview how her dyslexic son had asked her to stop sounding out words, so he could read the letters.

Not every child learns the same way; it is time we taught to their visual strengths.

Here is the link to the extensive Guardian article. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/sep/17/battle-over-dyslexia-warwickshire-staffordshire

Olive Hickmott
olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk

You can read more about using visualisation techniques to enable learning and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning. Available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

#Dyslexia #visuallearning #empoweringlearing #guardian #theelephantsintheclassroom

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Recover your Energy for FREE

Has Covid-19 left you feeling exhausted and drained of energy? Some people may just be exhausted as a result of the lock-down. These recordings may really help you. Recover your energy was originally written for those with Chronic Fatigue or ME and we made this talking book for those who are too tired to read.

However re-reading it recently it seems just as appropriate to those people who have had Covid-19 and left feeling exhausted, called Long Covid, I believe. So I am offering the recordings for free to anyone they can assist, in a spirit of exploration and curiosity. You will find the download links below.

Do not listen to this whilst driving a car or operating machinery. ind yourself some quick moments, sit back and enjoy the story, without thinking it though and just see what you feel like afterwards.

Journeying through this book will enable you to activate your own “internal team” to recover your energy. Recover your energy is written in a lighthearted way because story telling is the easiest way to teach the skills you need to improve your health. It is a lighthearted treatment of very profound emotional, physical and energetic manifestations. You will learn to clear what is affecting your recovery, understand your own personal energy system and set it up for health, wellness and vitality.

Recover your energy is intended to enhance any conventional medical practice or complimentary medicine, not replace it. If you have any concerns do, of course, consult your doctor. Recover your Energy empowers the individual to take action, using the resources they already possess, to positively affect their health and aid their recovery.

Take a look at the testimonials below, some people have found it extraordinarily beneficial, some people have missed the point or how we talk with our subconscious and not benefited. Of course, we don’t know yet how it will help with the Covid-19 audience, but it is FREE and worth a try. Do let me know what you have achieved.

Before progressing, you have no doubt heard in the media about good breathing. To help you adopt good gentle nose/diaphragmatc breathing listen to this 5-minute video: https://youtu.be/DgO-vlCDuHg

Musical Introduction

Chapter 1: Running on Empty

Chapter 2: What Green Goblins do Best

Chapter 3: Edward the Electrician

Chapter 4: Maisey Investigates

Chapter 5: Maisey re-educates the Captain

Chapter 6: Edward re-connects the mains

Chapter 7: What will the future hold?

Chapter 8: What’s been holding me stuck?

Chapter 9: Maisey has an Idea

Chapter 10: Clowning around

Chapter 11: Releasing unwanted memories

Chapter 12: A compelling Future

Chapter 13: Reviewing my journey

Thank you for Listening.
Olive Hickmott
Olive@empoweringhealth.co.uk

You can order a paper copy of the book, a CD of the meditations and a double CD of this complete recording  Available here . The book is also available from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

Testimonials from Amazon:

Trevor Fred Jones5.0 out of 5 stars Give it a go!Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 May 2012Verified PurchaseThis book is written in the style of a fairy story as “stories have direct access to the healing part of the mind” and contains within it a series of highly imaginative visualisations involving such things as magical magnets for removing negative energies, and healing waterfalls in which we are invited to individually wash each and every part of our body.

If you are looking for a balanced and sober explanation of ME or chronic fatigue, and conventional strategies for dealing with this condition, then this book will leave you feeling exasperated.

If, on the other hand, you are able and willing to suspend sceptical disbelief and enter into the spirit of the book by reading and engaging in the visualisations with an open, joyful, and playful mind; then you may find, as I did, that the results achieved far surpass your expectations. It really does seem extraordinary that these visualisations, so ridiculous and far-fetched from a certain point of view, can have the effect of dissipating an experience of fatigue that only moments previously had felt as solid as granite.

Natalia G4.0 out of 5 stars This book will energize youReviewed in the United Kingdom on 31 December 2013Verified PurchaseHello everyone,

I bought this book on Kindle because I experienced the power of the NLP tools in the past and was looking for ways to get myself out of the rut. I must say that it helped me put myself into a more positive frame of mind and the processes are directing me to make positive changes.

Now, there are some reviews that have said they did not like the characters etc. etc., remember this book is not a piece of literature designed to impress you. It is a book designed to speak to your subconscious and help you let go of unproductive patters. The author said that reading this book will energize, and it did exactly that.

In no way I will say it is a miracle, but to anyone looking for help I will say that this book is helpful.

Mark Newey5.0 out of 5 stars Real life solution for Chronic Fatigue etcReviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 January 2010Verified PurchaseOlive’s book is a delightful and easy read using the power of story or metaphor to simplify the message. However, make no mistake, the simplicity of the story, in no way weakens the power of the book. Energetic NLP is something that anybody can use at home to restore their natural energy levels. This is real self help material; it works. Olive has loads of successful stories of people who have sued her techniques and literally changed their lives. If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, ME etc, then this book is for you.

Amazon Customer4.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tinReviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 August 2010Verified PurchaseI bought this book when I was in hospital for serious heart and lung problems.As a Master NLP Practitioner and also someone whose disease means exhaustion and loss of breath,it seemed to hold the promise of more control over my body.
I worked through the exercises and not only felt relaxed but re-stimulated to regain my sense of my life direction.For those unfamiliar with NLP and the power of metaphors and stories,the book may well seem childish.It is anything but.The techniques begin to put you back at cause from having been at effect.It effectively de-mystifies health and proves that everyone has control over their thoughts and instructions to their unconscious mind.
Many seriously ill people believe that they have to surrender their health to doctors and hospitals.This could not be further from the truth.See the doctors as a vital part of your health team and know that you are directing the healing process via your dialgue with yourself.
I shall be recommending this book to my coaching and therapy clients.

#recoveryourenergy #exhausted #covid-19 #empoweringhealth #fatigue #ME

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School’s Out……

I had the pleasure of meeting Naomi Fisher on-line at a recent conference entitled “Freedom to Learn 2020”. Her presentation was fascinating, considering the arguments and research for self-directed education. Much of what she said is covered in this article from the Psychologist.

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Olive Hickmott
http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk

#naomifisher #selfdirectededucation

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What is Grounding, why is it so important and what’s the connection with Learning and breathing

  1. Listen to this brief 20 mins recording: https://youtu.be/TQ7xB8Mgn08

Grounding is something that many people don’t know about and why it is so important for learning and so much more. This session will explain what grounding is, in answer to those people who look at me somewhat surprised and think it is something to do with being sent to your bedroom for misbehaving.

With so much happening at the moment, at such a fast pace, it is difficult to remain grounded and not exhausted. So join us for a quick session on the importance of grounding, what grounding is and how to stay grounded when you want.

2. Then explore Grounding and Learning : https://youtu.be/IS3BtyW0RzA

Being ungrounded when trying to learn or remember anything, looks roughly like this: loads of windows open, no structure, unable to concentrate, a bit wobbly and mounting confusion. Sound familiar? Whether you are a parent, a teacher or a student understanding this connection will make so much sense; and why didn’t anyone tell you this before – few people know. People tell me that “grounding is possibly the most vital component of the whole Empowering Learning toolbox of skills, everyone should know about this”.

You can learn why grounding is so important for everyone’s learning, especially any neurodivergent students, who may come with a variety of diagnoses such as ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, etc. You can learn the skills simply and easily for yourself, with just a bit of practice and no cost.

And if you want to learn simple processes for yourself, check out the recordings from my book Bridges to Success, with credit to Art Giser:
Preparing to change: https://youtu.be/z5Y7Br4HimY
Grounding Yourself: https://youtu.be/1H49eGTjjZI
Grounding the physical environment: https://youtu.be/6hosDecAMTc
Releasing blocks: https://youtu.be/UAkCPjfM8vw

Since publishing these we have learned how calm, gentle breathing improves grounding. Do refer my other videos for breathing.

Olive Hickmott
olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk

You can read more about these visualisation techniques and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UKKindle.

#Neurodivergent #empoweringlearning #theelephantsintheclassroom #mentalimagery #grounding #breathing #visualisation #ADHD #ASD #Dyslexia #dyspraxia

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Would you like your child to really enjoy reading?

Do you have a bookworm in the house? This child is just loving completing a David Walliams book in 24 hours. We know that children who are fluent readers like this have:

* mastered holding thousands of words in their mind, so that they just recognise words
* only have to break down a very few unusual words
* are reading for meaning rather than obsessing over each individual word
* are probably creating pictures in their mind’s eye, to aid their memory, of what the story was about.
* holding the book up that aids being totally relaxed
* is totally engrossed without any parental pressure.

These are visual skills and come naturally to some children. But if your child doesn’t get these skills they are totally teachable and very quickly when you use the right strategy that matches their visual skills. Just drop me a mail and prepare to be amazed as you discover what is possible.

Whether your child has been home schooled since Covid-19, or back in school, or you are moving to home education, you and your child can learn these skills quickly and easily and they are fun.

Olive Hickmott
olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk

You can read more about using visualisation techniques to enable learning and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning. Available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

#empoweringlearning #theelephantsintheclassroom #homeeducation #davidwalliams #homeschooling #homeeducation #visualskills

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A reformed Dyslexic – growing up in the dark

Reprinted from Chapter 2: The Elephants in the Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning

My real passion is to alleviate and prevent much of the confusion that threatens to overwhelm students. Teachers and parents of children under 7 years old need to incorporate visualisation into any and all forms of teaching and learning, especially literacy and numeracy. Nobody showed me how to use my visual brain for literacy – something that has affected my entire life. It would have been simply turning on what had been turned off.

Allow me the indulgence of sharing my own story in this regard.

I call myself a reformed dyslexic, because I struggled in school with literacy, long before dyslexia was commonly understood in schools. Had I been born later, I would probably have been labelled dyslexic. I have subsequently learned for myself those vital missing skills that have in turn inspired my efforts to help others. My hyperactive brain could have also got me diagnosed with ADHD and a splash of Asperger’s.  I am now an avid reader which has helped me to learn and reduce any number of other symptoms. My curiosity prompted me to discover why some EPIC students are successful while others struggle. From my perspective, there are very different experiences of mental imagery that dramatically affect every learner. 

I live in a permanent state of curiosity, with a ‘jigsaw-puzzle’ brain that people around me might find challenging but which has, I believe, the potential to be quite powerful. My mind can make intuitive leaps and see connections in things that others may keep separate. I see things clearly that others do not see. Things are obvious to me – I don’t know why – perhaps because of fast connections, insights or something else. There is nothing special about me, my brain likes understanding ‘why’ and connecting things, like huge jigsaw puzzles, in several dimensions. I see the same skills in many of my students. For someone who is neurodivergent, the biggest challenge is to present this knowledge in a way others can cope with and take action.
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School – Trying to Learn in the Dark

Entering the school system, in the UK, at age 4, my literacy was progressing, fitfully. By the age of seven, I was really struggling. My report at 16 says: “Hampered by lack of vocabulary and atrocious spelling, she has an inability to express herself clearly. It really would help if Olive could learn to spell.” I had been in the same school for 12 years and was generally a good but often shy student. It took me another 40 years to discover the secret of why literacy, in English, seemed so tricky. Having no mental images of words was like trying to read and write in the dark. I realised then that schools take no responsibility for their teaching methods negatively affecting their students’ ability to spell or read fluently.  I was expected to fix this, and I had no idea how to do it. I now regret, missing out on all that fabulous children’s literature, for I could read to myself, but I couldn’t remember anything I read. As a result, I found reading boring, and I only read those things I had to, rather than for pleasure. 

Also, I can remember, as if it were yesterday, with a clear picture of the room, being told I was tone-deaf and being told to leave the music class immediately. I was only around ten years old, and I was rejected without knowing why.  How many EPIC students are moved down a set without any explanation? This feeling resonates with what many of our EPIC students experience today about literacy, numeracy and so many other subjects.  They can’t do it, and they have no idea why. My spirits were kept up by excelling at sports and being good at maths, so maths is the degree I completed. 

A teacher once told my mother that my brain was far too fast for my hand, which was nearly accurate.  Whilst reading this book, you may notice I have a very different perspective on many things, which is a common and positive dyslexic trait. I have written this book to share these different approaches with students, their parents and their teachers.

I now feel privileged not to have been given any label in the past, although I knew my literacy skills were well below average. I recall wanting to disappear into the floor when we were reading aloud in class – dreading my turn coming around. I never read for pleasure until I was nearly 40 when I wanted to read to our son. How could I contemplate reading anything for fun when I found it such a nightmare? For me, it was extremely difficult to remember what I had read and, when putting a book down, a bookmark was essential. I also studied French for years and never managed to achieve ‘O’ level. Now, whose idea was it to teach me another language, when I couldn’t spell in my first language?

However, I did GCSE and A Levels Maths a year early, which was almost unheard of in the 1970s, thanks partly to my excellent mental images of numbers. I then graduated from Sussex University with an honours degree in mathematics.

Just like my clients, I was the child who always asked “Why should we do this?” and “How does that work?”  I have learned so much from clients, and come to understand more about what each brain wants and needs in order to make learning easier, and decipher what is happening for the student.  I don’t pretend to know all the answers for every learning difficulty as I am also continually learning, but I hope the understanding you will gain from this book will give you many new perspectives to try.

My Corporate Career

University was followed by a successful career as a software engineer, first developing systems for medical blood analysis which had 150 software programs all interacting with thousands of patient records. When looking for a software bug, I remember developing the strange knack of being almost able to dialogue with the programmes, asking which could have changed those data bits incorrectly – visualising the components in my head, trying them out and fixing what didn’t work – all using clear mental images.

I progressed from engineer to department manager and finally research and development director in a hi-tech data communications company. I was involved in the early days of the Internet, managing up to 100 software engineers, hardware engineers, authors and a customer support staff.  One of the excellent skills I possessed was to be able to see problems and challenges from very different perspectives; a useful skill when working in a complex global company. The downside, of course, is that you can be overwhelmed by seeing too many different perspectives to make a decision.

When, years later, I first discovered that good spellers could see words in their head, I was dumbfounded that I had never thought of trying this. I was furious that no one had told me about this skill, which others had taken for granted.  I then turned this into a passion for offering others these skills. 

Revisiting my own Education

Living in a permanent state of curiosity, I challenge the status quo and want to know why things are the way they are.  A neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) training programme introduced me to visualising words in just 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes set me off on this new journey of discovery and ultimately changed my life. Picture visualisation works efficiently for most people, but many need to develop new skills for words and numbers. Having discovered how people who are good at spelling do it, I worked out a method to teach others to achieve the same exceptional success rates.  I needed to help them resolve areas of confusion, such as letters jumping around on the page, being overwhelmed, stressed out or having low self-esteem, before they could all achieve what they wanted.  Then I moved onto the rest of literacy, for example, reading, comprehension and handwriting. I even discovered how I made maths easy for myself when others struggled. Above all, I needed to make teaching these skills person-centred, easy for the student, the teacher and a parent home educating. My consulting practice, Empowering Learning,TM was born in 2002 and continues, today, to train people around the globe.

With a bit of help from inspirational authors like Temple Grandin’s brilliant account of her own experiences, I figured out how to help students improve concentration while avoiding sensory overload, fidgeting, zoning-out and so many other impediments.

As is my wont, I looked outside the box to discover what neurodiversity, neuroscience and metacognition could contribute to the story and found limited but valuable research. For example, most people believe that everyone’s symptoms are different, especially on the autistic spectrum. I agree with researchers that even with dyslexia, different people are affected to varying degrees. But exploring the bigger picture, including dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, Asperger’s, 48XXYY and autism, I discovered a theme running through all of them and that theme is how we use mental imagery for thinking and learning. It is common to almost all neurodivergent skills and is, of course, the reason for this book. 

As my journey continued, I realised I could now overcome some of the challenges I had assumed that I had no control over, and the process of change was really gratifying. I also realised that I had always been able to visualise numbers (hence the maths degree) but had never imagined visualising words.

What did I need from my teachers? I was great at mental arithmetic because I was easily visualising numbers and all I needed was a teacher who asked me how I did maths so quickly and who would then help me to learn how to add words to my pictures; Unleashing trapped potential.  These skills would have prevented me from growing up riddled with anxiety and stress about literacy.

What I Realise Now

I realise now I had very fast-moving images of pictures, often moving so rapidly I couldn’t recall them. I had no mental images of words and yet good mental images of numbers for mental arithmetic.  As a result of learning how to use mental imagery for words, I let go of my crippling confusion over spelling and reading. I love reading now, whereas it used to send me to sleep and my spelling is patchy.  The area I have never caught up with involves all the technical details of English, such as sentence construction, styles of writing, etc., all of which should have become embedded at a young age.  I was too busy just trying to spell each word.

My story is like so many of those with whom I work – they have fabulous visual skills, neither they nor others appreciate. Nobody has taught them how to optimise these skills to visualise numbers, letters, whole words, sentences and stories; keeping them still or moving them at will and moving pictures around to see different perspectives. I am always distressed to meet so many adults who have been made to feel ashamed of their spelling and reading and are too traumatised even to discuss it.  

After understanding how to help people explore their mental images and learning how to teach these simple skills, I moved onto really understanding how neurodivergent people use their mental images for all manner of different activities, often in situations far superior to my own experiences.  I added brain research, personal energy, motivation to change, the concept of growth mind-sets and family coaching, all in an effort to facilitate learning.

I have seen time and time again, that if students are prepared to practice, as I have, to change a long-established habit, they can overcome the confusing and debilitating symptoms, in minutes or hours, thus escaping the trauma of failure.

I didn’t value my visual skills as a child. Now I realise the gift I had been given – to see many different perspectives simultaneously and make extraordinary connections at high speed – was the very skill that made words so confusing, as they “flew past” in a blur. Like many other people, I had taken my positive skills for granted and not realised that it wasn’t second nature to everyone. These skills are invaluable to me. I employ them many times, every day, especially when coaching individuals, to really understand another person’s experience. I am now very appreciative of these valuable gifts and wouldn’t be without them. All my clients have outstanding gifts, but they often don’t realise their own exceptional and diverse skills.

I have always worked as an outsider, without specialist training in education or an official professional position from which to explain or defend and shape my perspectives. I have focused on primary research relying on stories, anecdotes, first-person accounts and my own experiences to help me develop this approach. I listen to affected EPIC students; they are the experts, and without their valuable assistance, these insights would not have been possible. I have come to trust them more than I do many conventional academic theories. My observations and experiences have enabled me to develop techniques that complement conventional approaches. As a result, I can empower individuals to take action, using resources they already possess in order to positively affect their health and offset any learning challenges.

Olive Hickmott
olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk

You can read more about using visualisation techniques to enable learning and more case studies in the book The Elephants in The Classroom – uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning. Available here ,  and also from Amazon USAAmazon UK.

#empoweringlearning #theelephantsintheclassroom #homeeducation #breakthroughliteracy #dyslexic #dyslexia

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