Discover the Elephants in your Classroom

Elephants in the Classroom mockup 6Below is an Author Interview for my recent book that you will find interesting: Published in ANLP’s Rapport Magazine recently.

Lack of knowledge about how students learn visually contributes to many learning difficulties for neurodivergent thinkers.

You may have heard of the NLP Spelling Strategy. A premise of NLP is to try new ideas and if they don’t work, to explore why and develop them further. Empowering Learning expanded the use of mental imagery in the spelling strategy to apply to everyone struggling with literacy, including all those dyslexics who thought that they would never be able to spell or read.

Since then Olive Hickmott has made further discoveries to explain how mental imagery contributes to other neurodivergent ways of thinking and learning such as those seen in Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, Asperger’s, sensory overload and autism.  She has recently published  The Elephants in the Classroom that talks directly to parents and teachers, providing a much-needed new perspective on the explosion of learning difficulties in our classrooms. You will learn simple skills to empower you and to make many aspects of learning more accessible, based on the student’s strengths.

Assessors, coaches, tutors, teachers, parents and Sencos/INCOs are all doing a great job in what is often the most trying of circumstances. There are increasing numbers of children diagnosed with special educational needs, more on the waiting list, with parents clamouring for assistance and at the same time reducing resources in all school activities.

But there is an Elephant in the Classroom, that everyone knows about but few people talk about –  not ‘connecting the dots’. This particular elephant could save you a lot of special needs budget and enable children with poor literacy, poor numeracy, poor concentration or sensory overload, to miraculously change when you understand more about their experience. These are the problems that hold students back from achieving what they want and may lead to them developing fear, anxiety and even mental health issues alongside extreme behaviour.

To their credit, schools are generally committed to multi-sensory teaching and learning but don’t explicitly know how students employ the critical skills of mental imagery – this is visual learning. Lack of knowledge about how students learn visually contributes to many learning difficulties for those neurodivergent thinkers and learners. Those unfortunate enough to struggle with these challenges are some of our most talented students, with tremendous unrecognised potential – a paradox that is the essence of this book. Mental imagery is a topic that is a natural skill for everyone. Without mental imagery we wouldn’t recognise our parents, find our way home or recognise our belongings, for example; life would be very complicated.

As you see in the diagram below, another couple of elephants run alongside mental imagery in our classroom:

  • Understanding and celebrating the strengths of neurodivergent thinkers and how they can be flipped to assist with challenges.
  • Feeling safe and grounded in your environment and comfortable in your own skin. Without these, mental imagery will not work effectively.


Once your mental images are under control, rather than controlling you, the whole world of learning opens up another dimension. Since publication, Olive has also explored how our breathing patterns can interfere with feeling safe and grounded – yet another elephant in the classroom.

Empowering LearningTM, focuses on the skills someone wants to learn, not the labels they have attached. This approach offers a functional breakdown, tailored to the individual, which avoids some of the downsides of focusing on generic labels. To best help struggling students, this book helps you to identify the specific symptom or function they find difficult, find the root cause and work from there – defined as Functional Learning. In the same way, medics are exploring functional medicine and neurologists are exploring functional neurology.

The Elephants in the Classroom joins the dots between gifts, mental imagery and behaviours, anxiety, sensory overload and trauma. Then it explains how to control your mental imagery to be an invaluable skill for all sorts of academic work.

Hundreds of thousands of children are growing up, plagued by poor literacy, poor numeracy, the inability to concentrate, sensory overload, lack of focus and other problems that hold them back. The Elephants in the Classroom explains how these students, often with gifted with exceptional creative skills, can learn to control their mental images to make learning so much easier. Visual learning skills can be explored by parents at any age and readily taught, especially in primary school. Slightly adjusting how we educate children will allow them to maximise their learning experience. Although mental imagery is a natural skill for everyone, its contribution to learning is often overlooked.

If you want to feel comfortable with the elephants in your classroom, do read The Elephants in the Classroom, available from Amazon and where we also have a special offer for bulk purchases.  Also, you can join where her blog gives any further updates. We are attempting to provide every primary school in the UK a FREE copy to assist them in teaching neurodivergent students. You can contribute to our no profit fundraiser (through at


Here is the original article as published in ANLP’s Rapport Magazine.

Author 64 Elephants Olive Hickmott 44


And from Professor Jonathan Glazzard, this review on Amazon

1 October 2019
This is an excellent book. It includes lots of practical advice for teachers and the content on mental imagery and neuroscience is really thought-provoking. Hickmott writes clearly and the book is accessible. The case studies illuminate the key points and bring the book to life. I will certainly use this book with my student teachers.


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 need for grounding 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





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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