Good morning this is a story about neurodivergent teddy.
This is part of my series of learning to thrive with dyslexia and adhd
I want to tell you a story about a little boy called Freddie who came to see me. In case you’re wondering almost all my students are called Freddie. He was about eight years old and was running about all over the place. He wouldn’t sit still and looking at words was a real no-go area for him, so i resorted to picking up my teddy bear and introducing him to Freddie.
I got a post-it pad, wrote ear on one sheet and stuck that on teddy’s ear and said that’s his ear. Then I stuck the word nose on his nose. I was starting to get some attention from Freddie, just because of the teddy; no other reason at all. Then I went onto his arm. By this time he was getting really into this I stuck more post-its on him he really liked the one on his belly; that really entertained him, so we went all over teddy and covered him with post-its. It is really useful that leg, eye, head, foot, paw etc are all single syllables words that relate to objects. He was watching and really paying attention which was really great quite a miracle for his parents.
Then I gave him one of the post-its and a blank one and asked him if he could copy it down. He started to and it was all over the place but after about four attempts he got something that looked like arm so that was really great. We finished the session there and his parents were absolutely dumbfounded as he hadn’t done anything like this before the best thing about it all was that a couple of weeks later when his mum phones me up and says. “I don’t think you’re going to guess what he did next. So i asked her to tell me….
He came home from school one day and he looked very serious at me and said “Mum we’ve got a problem” mum said “let’s sit down and talk about it what’s your problem”
He looked very focused and said “the other boys have bugs in their pockets”. At this point mum was wondering what sort of bugs these were. He says “yes they are bugs” and mum says “what do the bugs do?” He says every time one of the boys wants to spell a word the bug gets the word out on a post-it and throws it up into the air and they just write down how to spell the word
“It’s as simple as that.” Mum said “that sounds really good” but Freddie replied “but I haven’t got any bugs in my pocket so we have a problem.”
She then started discussing the bugs and had great fun with his story. He then developed doing more and more with literacy so on reflection what did that story tell me about what we teach and how we teach it?
Firstly we make it fun, next we taught him to recognize whole words. He wasn’t trying to break them down because they are only short words and for creative imaginative people whole words are much easier than breaking down into small phonemes which isn’t a great strategy
for the big picture thinkers. They love whole words that they can see; ears, feet, nose etc. and that’s all learnt from the neuroscience. Words are associated with objects so when they think of an ear. He thought of teddy’s ear with ear written on it. I got him looking up to see the words into his visual field.
Goodness knows where Freddie got the little story from. I didn’t teach him that. He made up his own way to do it and had fun it’s amazing progression into what you can do with a skill that you’ve learned in just half an hour. He was very much calmer. I didn’t want to do too much in one go. I wanted him to get really good at what he had managed to learn learning in his own time and not pushing through to non-object words yet; this is a principle of self-directed education. Writing in capitals to start with was helpful. Capital letters don’t turn around like lowercase p’s q’s b’s and d’s. Using capitals, they don’t make another letter.
I’ve been teaching word recognition for years but this was the first time I tried this version, adapting to where the student was all in a 30-minute session. Quite remarkable.
This was Olive Hickmott, talking about Freddie. You’ll find more success stories in her books the latest of which is the elephants in the classroom.
Thank you for listening.
My name is Olive Hickmott; I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
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The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery.
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties
Recover Your energy- this book will energise you
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