Recently, when we asked a little girl if she could picture a cat, she looked terrified as she pictured 50 cats all fighting. Can you imagine what it is like for this little girl in the classroom when anyone mentions cats. This is the picture that her memory was giving her and she appeared to have no control over the images. We didn’t go onto other animals for fear of her becoming completely overloaded and terrified.
It is well know that people’s mental imagery can frighten them. I met a little boy recently, who at the mention of a lion jumped up and hid behind his chair. Afterwards he told us that the lion was only inches from his face, so his reaction was very understandable.
When children are very creative they will have very clear mental images which is a fabulous skill, but one that they need to learn how to control. All you need to do is to talk with someone about the qualities of their picture. How far away or near, how large or small, moving or still, how bright or dull, etc. Talk them through adjusting the pictures so they are comfortable – the best place will probably be up a little from your eye-line and to the left or the right about 30 cm or 3 feet away from your eyes.
Just help them play with their own mental images. For example see if the 50 cats would like some food to calm them down, see if some of them would like to go to sleep, see if you can ask some of them to leave the room, take a picture of them and look at the picture. We asked the little boy with the lion if he can move it further away and get it looking in the other direction. All of this taps into their imagination and will help an individual get control over their mental images whilst being great fun too.
This type of exercise will improve your memory and improve many learning difficulties. People with Dyslexia often can’t keep images still and those with ADHD may even have multiple television screens to watch, like you see walking into a TV shop; this makes concentration very hard. You will learn an enormous amount about why people behave the way they do by simply asking them about their internal images. For further information about how we learn visually through mental imagery go to http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk.