How a child simply improved literacy

CreativitysmallThis is just part of the advocacy report for a child recently, in just one coaching session.

XXX is an exceptional visualiser with a very creative brain.

It is always a special day when I have the privilege to work with someone as visually talented as Xxx, with excellent mental images available to him. It is clear that Xxx is a visual thinker and that is the primary way he learns, by creating his own pictures (visual learning), not necessarily using any he is shown (visual teaching).  Students like Xxx have extraordinary mental images available to them and are big-picture thinkers – they need to see where the information they are learning fits into the big picture.  In his case, these skills have translated into artistic skills he can share with others, which is lovely.  On YYY, I helped him to recognise his own visual skills and to hone them to be in the best location for him.  One of the first things I noticed was that when he thinks in pictures he gets a lot of information and it is generally moving, that is very distracting and stopped him staying grounded.

As far as Xxx’s literacy skills are concerned, he hadn’t realised that he could use his visual skills for spelling and reading as well as imagery.  Xxx very quickly picked up the skills to visualise words first with nouns and then with non-nouns.  In the early days, he may need reminding to look up slightly to the left and “see” words and stay grounded so the letters don’t move around. If he gets stressed and letters move on the page he simply needs to breathe, reground and he knows how to do this with his feet on the ground. Like many students he has an advanced visual skill to move pictures/objects around in his minds’ eye; moving letters around, out of conscious awareness,  to try and make them fit simply doesn’t work. I have also taught him how to picture homophones by using a little sketch, to recall which is which.

His reading is good and will improve as he learns how to recognise more words.  Initially keeping the book/work propped up will help him read more fluently and reduce anxiety.  His mum will be practising with him building up his vocabulary of longer and longer nouns to start with and then non-nouns, not rushing ahead to too longer words too soon that will only increase his anxiety as he develops this new skill.   He is also learning to copy down from the board without looking at the paper to increase his speed and reliably to collect all the information.  He will quickly develop the skills to keep the lines straight and make it really neat.

His concentration is largely effected by getting too much information to answer a question, say “which is your favourite car?”  He has hundreds of pictures of cars coming into his visual field and then being discarded.  He managed to move them onto a wall planner but they were still an endless stream.  It is really important that he stays grounded to develop control of his mental images, rather than them controlling him.  Uncontrolled mental images in school cause all sorts of problems like taking a lot of time to answer a question (busy searching through possibilities), distraction and swaying around on your chair (staying ungrounded as you are overwhelmed by information). This has all been discovered by enquiring as to what is behind various behaviours.  Grounding and organising mental images to make sure they slow down and are not too near his face is helping here and needs more practice.

Once he has mastered literacy we will move onto learning to use mental imagery for other topics such as maths, getting his ideas onto paper, remembering what he has read, foreign languages, comprehension, sequencing, etc.


When I published The Elephants in the Classroom, there was always going to be room for more elephants to pop up.  It seems that mouth breathing so stresses your body, it is behind much of the anxiety and is needed for grounding the skills mentioned in  “The Elephants in the Classroom: uncovering every student’s natural power of mental imagery to enhance learning“. To find out more, order your own copy here, or more than 10 copies here or on or

#visualteaching #visuallearning #theelephantsintheclassrooom #neurodiversity #nosebreathing #breathing #mentalimages #nouns #nonnouns

About olivehickmott

I am a Forensic Learning coach, showing people how they can improve their own learning and change their health. Working with creative neurodivergent students is a joy, as they learn new skills to overcome many of their learning challenges.
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