Neurodivergent Creativity with EPIC Students

CreativityThis is an extract from my new book. Request your copy of 2 FREE chapters here.:  Why Bright Creative Kids are being Left Behind ….and what can you do to change this?  Neurodiversity through the Lens of Mental Imagery

Let me remind you about my definition of EPIC students. They are exceptionally perceptive, imaginative and creative. They are typically thinking and learning in neurodivergent ways, across a very wide spectrum, that may not match the way they are being generally taught.   These are the children who show what you might think of as  Early Onset Greatness.

We have studied children and adults with exceptional strengths and explored how they do what they do well, whilst often being challenged by learning differences. 

Some EPIC students can abound in artistic talent; enjoyed by painters, artists, designers, musicians, photographers, writers and comedians. They may develop careers in the film industry playing scenes forwards and even backward in their imagination.  They can also edit and re-run scenes before having to commit to the cutting room floor.

They may have new ideas appearing at lightning speed, sometimes too fast for others to keep up with them!  Several companies now deliberately recruit EPIC employees, including Microsoft, GCHQ and even a design house in New York that only employs those with these skills.

Fashion designers can easily imagine a dress that doesn’t exist, going on to design it, work out how to construct it, and finish the job.

Architects possess similar skills for imagining and constructing buildings, slicing and dicing, to see the internal layouts and often designing whole towns in their mind’s eye.

For some their drawing skills are often in advance of their developmental age, understanding pictures more than they do words.  Others get frustrated by not being able to transfer onto paper their great imagery they won’t draw.

For example,  whilst talking with Archie he suddenly announced that when I asked him to picture a giraffe, he could choose to see a real picture, if he had encountered a real one, perhaps he had seen one in a zoo, or a hand drawing if he had just seen one in books or on the TV; a skill in itself.  In addition, he had a split screen in his memory, with one main picture, plus a row of pictures along the bottom of the screen so he could flick through them like using a mobile phone screen. (We called this his flip screen).

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Mental Images and Learning Difficulties

11.hold-book-up-when-reading_smallPeople often ask what mental images are and here is a simple explanation.  Mental imagery is normal, just like breathing, and they are quite simply the images we hold in our head.  All these images, presented as either pictures or videos, are held in your occipital lobe, the part of your brain just above the “dent” at the top of your neck where your skull meets your spine.

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We use mental images every minute of every day, often outside of our conscious awareness, but we seldom know how to make the best use of them. For example, how do you find things like your house or your car?  How do you recognize people you know your spouse, parents or children?  How do you find the ingredients for a meal?  How do you plan what to wear and where to find your clothes?  People take mental images for granted yet know next to nothing about them.

We believe it will help every parent and child to understand how mental imagery is used in the learning process, from a child’s earliest days and certainly before they reach school age.

My own practice and the work of other Empowering LearningTM Practitioners has helped me piece together the vital role of mental imagery in the whole learning process.  Each of the learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, Autism all have connections with mental imagery.  Now we know these connections, it is time to enable children before the age of 5 years old to learn these simple skills and avoid a lifetime of confusion.

This is an extract from my new book. Request your copy of 2 FREE chapters here.:  Why Bright Creative Kids are being Left Behind ….and what can you do to change this?  Neurodiversity through the Lens of Mental Imagery

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Barking up the Wrong Tree

Barking2Has anyone noticed the actual problem with idioms and highly visual children?  Children with Dyslexia, ADHD, Aspergers and Autism are likely to have excellent visual strengths so mentioning an idiom to them sends them off into trying to sort out expressions like : Barking up the wrong tree!

Here is an extract from my new book: Why Bright Creative Kids Get Left Behind….and How to Change this.      Neurodiversity through the Lens of Mental Imagery…pre-publication, get 2 FREE chapters  here.

An idiom a common word or phrase with a culturally understood meaning that differs from what its composite words’ denotations would suggest. For example, an English speaker would understand the phrase “kick the bucket” to mean “to die” – and also to actually kick a bucket.  Idioms are a big challenge to many highly visual students. Reflecting on this through the lens of mental imagery, I realised what the problem is.  Idioms are very visual, here are a few examples, that will send a visual thinker off into the wrong train of thought:

A hot potato                                               A penny for your thoughts

Actions speak louder than words          At the drop of a hat

Back to the drawing board                      Ball is in your court

Cut corners                                                Be glad to see the back of

Beat around the bush.                             Best of both worlds

Best thing since sliced bread                  Bite off more than you can chew

Blessing in disguise                                  Burn the midnight oil

Can’t judge a book by its cover              Caught between two stools

Costs an arm and a leg                             Cross that bridge when you come to it

Cry over spilt milk                                     Curiosity killed the cat

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To do mental maths you need mental images of numbers

numbersWhen I was a small child I was great at mental maths, I took my GCSE a year early (that was unheard of in those days) and packed in 3 “A” level Maths in the next 2 years.  I was pretty dreadful at literacy but great at maths and nobody ever asked me how I did it.  I then did a degree in Maths and became a Software Engineer.  Still nobody asked me how I did it – I had always had good mental images of pictures and numbers, but none of words.

Years later I found out the key to success in mental arithmetic, you need mental images of numbers – its quite obvious really, but nobody tells you.  So to all those children who are struggling with maths, including learning those monotonous times tables, learn to visualise numbers and all maths will become so much easier.

I and our international network of #empoweringlearning coaches teach people every day these simple skills.  I can assure you that mental maths will always be difficult, whatever scheme you use, if you are not visualising numbers – after all its called mental maths isn’t it? So why don’t we ask small children if they can picture numbers, it would save masses of time and much heartache – if they are not picturing numbers we can teach them simple and easily.

Topics like rotating images will probably be one of the subjects in maths that is easy, because you can picture the images moving around.  On the other hand algbra, with things like 2x+3y seems as if it is from another planet, to someone who normally thinks in pictures.  Try thinking of it as 2 cats plus 3 dogs and it will be easier, as however hard you try you can’t make cats into dogs.

Please add your tips for making maths easy for a visual brain.

Do contact us if you need assistance

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Neurodiversity Revolution ..#g2

Excellent article about the real strengths of neurodiversity, in particular Autism in this article. It talks about how business is catching on to the possibilities of people who think differently. I love the quote, that “if you’ve got a team of people on a project and they are all neurotypical, and the project encounters a problem, the chances are that those 20 people will all come up with the same kind of answer. Bring in someone with a totally different cognitive process and a completely different perspective and they’ll come up with something different. And that’s invaluable.” I have been saying for years “we need people who think and act differently, to solve the major challenges we face today.” You can see these skills even in young children and it is our job to help them succeed in their missions.

Do read the full article; thank you John Harris

#neurodiversity  #autism  #neurotypical #g2 #guardian

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Dyslexics don’t need to have poor literacy

somebrainssmallI know this title may offend some people but this is Dyslexia Awareness Week and this little fact ought to be widely known.  I do hope I get some well thought through responses that I can reply to.

There are many definitions of Dyslexia with variations on the theme of “trouble with fluent spelling and reading”, which I can go along with.  However some are finished up with the words such as “despite appropriate teaching”.  I must challenge this one, because these students are quite capable of reading and spelling visually, it is just the way we are teaching them and phonics that is confusing them.  They are big picture thinkers, who find it much easier to learn when they can picture the bigger picture, like the whole word, rather than having to deal with what they think of as meaningless bits of words.  Simply, these people are not getting appropriate teaching for their method of learning.

More recently assessments have now focused on the students capabilities with phonics as leading to a definition of Dyslexia.  Why is that even correct.  I for one can read perfectly well and have never learnt phonics.

Now, there is no denying that these students think and learn differently, with exceptional strengths, nothing to do with literacy – latterly called neurodovergent skills and recognised by #madebydyslexia, #geniuswithin amoungst others.  Indeed,  cares whether they can spell or read, when such exceptional brains go on to solve major problems like global warming. But for those in school literacy is a major source of anxiety, stress, bullying and even worse.

One of the problems is the word Dyslexia, because that is derived from the Greek word dys- “bad, abnormal, difficult” + lexis “word.”  If they were called EPIC, it would be easier to contemplate EPIC students without the literacy challenges.  As we know that the appropriate way for these students is to learn using their visual strengths, #empoweringlearning, with word recognition for reading and visualising words for spelling, maybe the word Dyslexia is what should be challenged.

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#Great Spatial Awareness and #Dyslexia or #ADHD

spatialDo you have the ability to turn 2D images into 3D images in your mind’s eye?

For example when looking at an ordnance survey map, which is flat, can you turn the 2D contour lines into 3D images of mountains and hills?  Some #Dyslexic or #ADHD, in fact many with #Neurodivergent thinking and learning patterns have this great skill; just one of the skills shared by #madebydyslexia.

Do you have the skill when proofreading something, that the incorrect words jump out of the 2D paper into a 3D picture of the word in error?

Can you look at a house and imagine you can cut it open a bit like a dolls house and look at all the rooms inside.

These are great spatial skills for all sorts of applications. But, if you are struggling with reading, and you get every word on the page jumping out – it’s a nightmare version of this skill. If you want to know how to select 2D or 3D as you wish, do contact

#empoweringlearning #visualkids #dyslexia #adhd





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