Visual Thinking 101_18 Losing my visual pictures

My real passion is to alleviate and prevent much of the confusion that threatens to overwhelm students. Teachers and parents of children under 7 years old need to incorporate visualisation into any and all forms of teaching and learning, especially literacy and numeracy. Nobody showed me how to use my visual brain for literacy – something that has affected my entire life. It would have been simply turning on what had been turned off.

I call myself a reformed dyslexic, because I struggled in school with literacy, long before dyslexia was commonly noticed in schools. Had I been born later, I would probably have been labelled dyslexic. I have subsequently learned for myself those vital missing skills that have in turn inspired my efforts to help others. My hyperactive brain could have also got me diagnosed with ADHD and a splash of Asperger’s.  I am now an avid reader which has helped me to learn and reduce any number of other symptoms. My curiosity prompted me to discover why some talented students are successful while others struggle. From my perspective, there are very different experiences of visual thinking and mental imagery that dramatically affect every learner. 

I live in a permanent state of curiosity, with a ‘jigsaw-puzzle’ brain that people around me might find challenging but which has, I believe, the potential to be quite powerful. My mind can make intuitive leaps and see connections in things that others may keep separate. I see things clearly that others do not see. Things are obvious to me – I don’t know why – perhaps because of fast connections, insights or something else. There is nothing special about me, my brain likes understanding ‘why’ and connecting things, like huge jigsaw puzzles, in several dimensions – I am just a visual spatial thinker. I see the same skills in many of my students. For someone who is neurodivergent, the biggest challenge is to present this knowledge in a way others can cope with and take action.

School – Trying to Learn in the Dark

Entering the school system, in the UK, at age 4, my literacy was progressing, fitfully. By the age of seven, I was really struggling. I had also lost my ability to visualise anything. My report at 16 says: “Hampered by lack of vocabulary and atrocious spelling, she has an inability to express herself clearly. It really would help if Olive could learn to spell.” I had been in the same school for 12 years and was generally a good but often shy student. It took me another 40 years to discover the secret of why literacy, in English, seemed so tricky. Having no mental images of words was like trying to read and write in the dark. I realised then that schools take no responsibility for their teaching methods negatively affecting their students’ ability to spell or read fluently. Especially nowadays when the curriculum is so prescriptive. I was expected to fix this, and I had no idea how to do it. I now regret, missing out on all that fabulous children’s literature, for I could read to myself, but I couldn’t remember anything I read. As a result, I found reading boring, and I only read those things I had to, rather than for pleasure. 

A teacher once told my mother that my brain was far too fast for my hand, which was nearly accurate, and would probably be called ADHD now.  You may notice I have a very different perspective on many things, which is a common and positive dyslexic trait. I write to share these different approaches with students, their parents and their teachers.

I now feel privileged not to have been given any label in the past, although I knew my literacy skills were well below average. I recall wanting to disappear into the floor when we were reading aloud in class – dreading my turn coming around. I never read for pleasure until I was nearly 40 when I wanted to read to our son. How could I contemplate reading anything for fun when I found it such a nightmare? I also studied French for years and never managed to achieve ‘O’ level. Now, whose idea was it to teach me another language, when I couldn’t spell or read in my first language?

However, I did GCSE and A Levels Maths a year early, which was almost unheard of in the 1970s, thanks partly to my excellent mental images of numbers. I then graduated from Sussex University with an honors degree in mathematics and became a software engineer. Computer programmers are often visual spatial thinkers.

If you would like to know more about how this all works, do join one of my free on-line live classes, Ready for a new strategy for Dyslexia. Just click the link below.

For all available resources, look up When building on skills and encouraging creativity you will find their strengths increase and learning difficulties reduce.

Click above to book your place now at one of the free coaching sessions.

My name is Olive Hickmott, I am a health and learning coach, specialising in working with neurodivergent students. I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me
Here you will find my learning platform for some of my training programmes and free live webinars
You will find other useful information and Practitioner Training at
Here is my YouTube channel for more free resources:
My latest books are:
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

#olivehickmott #visualthinking #empoweringlearning #neurodivergent #mentalimagery #GCSE #ADHD #Dyslexia #maths #cantvisualise #reading


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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