Have you been told that Dyslexia is genetic?j

family of four walking at the street

Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

I have met many parents who feel guilty thinking that Dyslexia is genetic and then proved that it isn’t.

Let’s start with me, dyslexic and neither of my parents nor my brother was. In fact, they were excellent readers and spellers. Now I still have dyslexic traits but I learnt to spell and read a few years ago using my visual skills. Does this make me a reformed dyslexic? Then I met a pair of identical twins, and then a pair of non-identical twins, one highly dyslexic, the other with no signs at all. So how could this be genetic?

But what I did notice was that they all had highly visual parents, and seemed to have passed on their skills to their children – they had exceptional mental imagery and attention to detail, in fields of art, engineering, design, etc.   Now if you have exceptional visual skills (memory, recall, thinking in pictures), and you are anxious then your mental images may start disappearing, fracturing or running around too fast to see. These are the same mental images you need for words, to enable you to recognise words and spell well in the English language.

So the aspect that may be genetic is thinking in pictures but it doesn’t have to lead to Dyslexia. And as I often quoted “learning differences should not lead to learning difficulties”. 

The first thing to do is reduce the anxiety (we all know that we can’t remember anything when stressed) and then teach people to recognise words, just the same as recognising signs, your name, etc.  It is really easy.

This is one of the blocks that is keeping dyslexics stuck in a “no hope” paradigm.  There are many others so do come and join us for our free “Dyslexia for a new decade” series of teleseminars.

Alternatively,  you can take a look at my latest book, The Elephants in the Classroom, and discover the 27 other contradictions that are holding back so many children.

#theelephantsintheclassroom #dyslexia #genetic #newdecadefordyslexia


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Skills for neurodivergent students – Jan 13th

Would you like to know more about the tool-box we have developed for assisting Dyslexic, ADHD and Autistic students, based on their strengths?

Olive Hickmott is an Author, Trainer and Forensic Learning Coach.  She has been an expert in how neurodivergent children best learn and it is not being taught as if they are neurotypical.  She is an international expert in how children learn visually and how neglecting these strengths contributes to Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Aspergers and Autism.  The most serious consequence is that many develop stress, anxiety, self-harm, are traumatised, bullied as they drift into a host of mental health symptoms.
Empowering Learning has skills to change this in primary school, and neurodivergent learning coaches to work alongside hard-pressed teachers and SENCOs, to minimise learning difficulties before children progress to senior school.  Learning differences should not lead to learning difficulties. 
Olive is speaking at The White Horse, Bourne End, HP1 2RH 9:30-11:30 Jan 13th, £10. Do come and join us and gain some different perspectives for what you can do quickly and easily to assist neurodivergent students. She will be summarising her vision of a new decade for Dyslexia and how we could make Hertfordshire a Dyslexia-free county.
#olivehickmott #empoweringlearning #dyslexia #dyscalculia #ADHD #autism #SENCOs #neurodivergent #mentalhealth
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Transformational Breath Workshop

As you know I have been teaching those with overactive brains and anxiety how to calm them (see masterclass entitles breathing and ADHD). Now I would like to introduce Sophie Lefevre, creator of Breathe and Heal, who uses breathe differently.

She is super excited about my upcoming Conscious Connected Breathing workshop on 12th January because it will allow you to release the past on a physical level as well as on a mental and emotional one. With release comes LIGHTNESS and in that space of being light, we can create the best version of ourselves and feel a deeper CONNECTION to life.

We are always surprised that many people have never heard about Breathwork, yet when they experience it for themselves they wish they’d learnt it before.

When we start to breathe more fully, we bring vitality and health in our life. We also bring clarity and alignment with ourselves.

If you would like some of that and more, then come breathe with me in Kingston-upon-Thames on Sunday 12th January at 2.30pm.

It may be that you:
• Are craving time to set your intentions for 2020
• Have been thinking about aspects of your life you would like to transform
• Want to be more intentional so that your life flows better
• Need to take time for yourself to reboot and energise your body

Her upcoming Transformational Breath® workshop will give you the space to do all of that, and kick start 2020 with Clarity.

Transformational Breath® is a self-healing tool you can use any time to help you manage those moments where everything may seem too much.

This workshop will teach you a pattern of Conscious Breathing that is natural, safe and healthy which has been demonstrated to have many benefits, including increased energy, better immune response and increased ability to deal with stress in a healthy way.

In this 3-hours workshop, you will:
• Learn Transformational Breath® to take it home with you
• Set your most powerful intention for 2020
• Breathe into your intention and let it go to allow it to manifest
• Change your breathing pattern to enhance your Physical, Mental & Emotional as well as Spiritual Health

You will leave:
• Empowered
• Motivated
• Relaxed
• Light and Joyful
• Connected to yourself in a way you have never been before

And most of all you will leave with a tool you can practice at home to maintain a high level of Health and Clarity daily.

This technique is better understood when experienced. As the list of benefits is endless (yes it truly is!) she shortlisted some of her favourites:
• Physically, it stimulates the lymphatic system and allows the body to detoxify. Who wouldn’t want that after the end of year festivities?
• It activates your diaphragm which stimulates the functions of your organs.
• It oxygenates your blood cells and integrates unresolved emotions.
• Mentally & emotionally, it brings clarity and lightens you up.
• Spiritually, it gives you an enhanced awareness of who you are. It plugs you back to yourself.

She fell in love with this technique the first time She experienced it. She had no expectation, she didn’t have a clue what I was in for and it totally blew her away. Sharing breathwork has become her passion.

You can pay via paypal.me/SophieLefevre, just £50, or do a bank transfer (please email sophie@breatheandheal.org for details).

She looks forward to welcoming you and teaching you the most powerful self-healing and empowering tool she has ever come across.

In the meantime, a msg from Sohpie Lefevre:  The end of 2019 comes with a sense of closure. I is sharing with you a little exercise that will help you clear 2019. It will only take a few minutes of your time and is well worth it.

–       Take a few minutes to write down all the things you want to let go of in 2019, all the people you want to forgive, all the stuff you want to release. No need to think much, just jot it down and let it flow!

–       Go outside, say “thank you” to your list and burn it (responsibly burn it ;-))

–       Then notice how you feel and smile

–       Now you’re ready to make 2020 your best year yet


#breathing #sophielefevre #transformationalbreath










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Changing views on Dyslexia

from thisThe APM Report below sheds some very interesting light on how people’s opinions are starting to change about reading instruction.  America Public Media (APM) Reports strive to raise awareness, trigger debate and prompt positive change via non-partisan, independent investigation and documentary journalism.

With the arrival of a new year and a new decade, I want to build on and respond to many of the points made about Dyslexia in this report and how this relates to the Empowering Learning approach. This is an offer to you to take a different perspective on Dyslexia, challenging the ideas of the old decades and setting our children free to learn in the way that best suits their skills.  Entitled Changing Dyslexia for a new decade, I have scheduled 9 free teleclasses, with various colleagues, at 8pm every Wednesday evening, for each specific topic, starting with:

  • It is not phonics or word recognition, it is both, plus Julia Barker and June Baker (recording available – special price for all modules)
  • Grounding and good breathing to reduce anxiety and create a learning state, plus Cheryl Winter (recording available – special price for all modules).
  • Developing visual skills for learning anything, plus Cheryl Winter (recording available – special price for all modules)
  • How best to support neurodivergent students in school, with several EL Practitioners
  • Feb 5th: Moving to Fluency – Reading comprehension, different languages, inefficient ways to teach word recognition, guessing words, with Yvonne Fox.
  • Feb 12th: Kids who go into overwhelm, with Anne Smith
  • Feb 19th: Spelling can’t be left out, hearing problems
  • March 4th: The close links between dyslexia and mental health plus Emma Hossack

Click here to obtain a full set of recordings.

To join these free teleseminars, just click below. There will be question time in each module and you will benefit from listening to them in their chronological order. Recordings will be available at a small cost. https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5784478301114656258


If you want to get a preview of some of this material, take a look at 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  Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

#empoweringlearning #APMReports #spelling #reading #dyslexiaforanewdecade #dyslexia #phonics #wordrecognition

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Learning differences should not lead to mental health challenges

How can we best serve our neurodivergent students, their families and schools?  How can we stop them drifting into mental health challenges?

Olive Hickmott is an Author, Trainer, Speaker and Forensic Learning Coach.  She has been an expert in how neurodivergent children best learn and it is not being taught as if they are neurotypical.  She is an international expert in how children learn visually and how neglecting these strengths contributes to Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Aspergers and Autism.  The most serious consequence is that many develop stress, anxiety, self-harm, are traumatised, bullied as they drift into a host of mental health symptoms.
Empowering Learning has skills to change this in primary school, and coaches to work alongside hard-pressed teachers and SENCOs, to minimise learning difficulties before children progress to senior school.  Learning differences should not lead to learning difficulties and tip into mental health issues. 
In 2020, she has the initiative to help primary schools with Neurodivergent Learning Coaches. If you want your child or school involved email olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk
Come and listen to Olive Hickmott 9:30am, at The White Horse, Bourne End, HP1 2RH, for £10, a summary of her latest book, The Elephants in the Classroom plus unlimited coffee and biscuits.
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How can we best serve neurodivergent students, their families and schools?

p81 kids on pebblessmallWhat would it be like if every primary school had a Neurodivergent School Coach (NSC), who championed appropriate teaching and learning for neurodivergent students?

With the current growth of learning differences/difficulties, the existing solution of assessment and teaching neurodivergent students as if they are neurotypical is unsustainable.  This proposal is to teach students new skills, that match their learning preferences thus reducing the cost of SEN assessment and long-term support.

Why: Teachers are experts in teaching, Neurodivergent School Coaches are experts in how neurodivergent children learn and how they can best access lessons. Our understanding of neurodiversity is gathering pace and it is impossible for teachers to keep up, whilst dealing with the pressures of a school day. This is particularly true for primary schools, where missing appropriate techniques at a young age has a lifelong effect on every individual. This role would be in addition to the Senco role, that is largely focused on implementing government processes, procedures and dealing with a mountain of reactive tasks.

How: We are envisioning that each school would have the benefits of a part-time NSC who is a coach with expertise in how these students learn. Their role will be to teach children, parents and teachers the same skills for continuity in and out of school. They will run specific projects in the school to address the highest need, for example:

  • Identify and explore students’ strengths and enable staff to teach to these strengths
  • Ensure that even very young children are taught skills to improve concentration and left/right brain coordination (including good breathing, sleeping and grounding) and maximise their use of visual learning whilst releasing anxiety and stress to minimise the propensity of learning differences creating mental health problems.
  • Co-ordinate a mental imagery week in school, where we help students incorporate mental imagery in all their work and check their abilities to visualise words.
  • Teach to their strengths using mental imagery for literacy, numeracy and so much more.
  • Assist teachers and parents to  take a curious view of behavioural challenges
  • Learn from students and develop child-centred support for children in their reality, through the “right” questions.
  • Teach brain-based skills to students to, for example, reduce anxiety, increase confidence and develop a growth mindset.
  • Call out students getting things right. “A student who is appreciated will always do more than expected”.

Who: The NSC will have a real thirst for continually learning and implementing new skills, that fit every child, with an open mind, remembering that every child may think and learn differently.  As school budgets are currently stretched past breaking-point, we are looking for creative ways to fund this role, that in the long term will save so much money, anxiety, poor behaviour etc.


Making neurodiversity teaching and learning a priority will achieve the following:

  • Students understanding how they best think and learn and the factors that affect them
  • Students understanding how they can reduce their own anxiety
  • Reduced SEN costs
  • Better educated children
  • >95% reading and maths success in SATs by the completion of year 6
  • Minimum levels of anxiety by the completion of year 6
  • A legacy in school for future years, that is self-generating amongst students.

For a preview of this very different approach, take a look at this video about teaching literacy to dyslexic students.

We are looking for positive feedback to this proposal and mechanisms for moving it forward in 2020.

Olive Hickmott is an author, trainer and coach with a worldwide network of professionals with their own skills in addition to those gained through her Empowering Learning programmes.  Recently she sent out 100 free copies of her recent book “The Elephants in the Classroom” to primary schools throughout the country, funded by a birthday fundraiser.  You can still contribute at www.empoweringlearning.co.uk by clicking the link on the left-hand side of the page, as we move into fundraising for the NSCs.

You are encouraged to mail Olive at olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk with your contributions to this project.

#neurodivergent #behaviour #anxiety #empoweruinglearning #neurotypical #schoolcoach #SEN


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Where SEN meets mental health challenges

MH1Recently I was asked to talk to some Hertfordshire teachers and Sencos about this topic, that was very well received. I summarised the content it in just 30 minutes in my on-line monthly webinar for Dyslexia, ADHD and neurodivergent questions.

The topics covered were:

  1. How SEN can develop into mental health challenges.
  2. The role of mental imagery in learning
  3. Some of the mysteries, contradictions and strengths of neurodiversity
  4. The connections with mental health
  5. The simple skills you and your child can learn.

Here is the link, for the recording:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3595103259003792391

To do a bit of pre-reading take a look at my recent book,  The Elephants in the Classroom.

This webinar is completely FREE but if you want to contribute to our fundraiser to supply complimentary copies of the Elephants in the Classroom to every primary school, in the UK, there is a link in the left-hand column of www.tiahl.org.

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  Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

#mentalhealth #theelephantsintheclassroom #ADHD #Dyslexia #hertfordshire

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