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 cues 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 cues 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 root of many dyslexic strengths.

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

Olive Hickmott
Youtube channel for free videos:

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.


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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