Improving handwriting

On the subject of writing, I have collected some diverse examples of things people do and simple ways they can improve their handwriting:

  • Some people prefer to write in capital letters – in business, this is taken as shouting. Some put capital letters in the middle of a word.
  • Some leave out the spaces between words.
  • People with poor handwriting may believe there is something wrong with their hand, arm, elbow, brain etc. and there is nothing that can be done.
  • Some write badly, consciously or unconsciously, to cover up bad spelling.
  • Children with poor literacy will copy, one letter at a time from the board in school. This is slow, they lose their place, make mistakes and get a stiff neck too.
  • In English, we have three sets of lettering; capitals, lower case and joined up. Different schools have different strategies about which to teach at what age.

p140_letter-animals_smallYoung children, who don’t develop the ability to visualise letters won’t know which way round they should be and may start to develop Dyslexic tendencies before the age of seven.  They can only do this because they haven’t learnt to visualise them the right way round and keep them still.  The lower case letters, p, q, b and d are all mirror images of exactly the same letter.  Lucky children grow out of it while others never do.  This really can’t be left to chance.

There are some interesting facts about capital letters worth considering, particularly so that you may understand more fully why some children, in fact, prefer capitals.  When young people read cartoon books, it is often not just for the pictures, but because the speech bubbles are often in capital letters.  Most keyboards are uppercase and many young people manage computers well.  Capital letters are more distinct than lower case and, if you suffer from letters moving or shaking on the page, no capital letters can turn around and make another letter.  Additionally, nearly half of them can flip around horizontally without causing problems e.g. A, H, I, X.  Others turn around in the vertical plane, for example B and C.  So even if the young person in question is in the habit of turning letters around, they would not notice the difference with these.  Some people prefer joined up writing because that gives the word more stability and joined up letters don’t turn around.  However, books aren’t normally written in joined up writing.  There are hundreds of fonts and some have the letters formed completely differently, e.g. a and a.  My strategy is to let people start, at least initially, with whatever form of writing they prefer, in order to help them gain confidence.

10.don't-slump_smallTo begin improving a child’s handwriting, first look at the physiology of the child.  If they are looking down, maybe collapsed on the desk, they will be in their emotions and internal dialogue, probably telling themselves “your handwriting is terrible”.  Confirming how bad they are at writing will create poor handwriting; we do like to be right!  Next help them learn this “magical” skill:

  • Hold up a card with good clear writing on it and ask the young person to copy down the words, without looking at the paper on which they’re writing.
  • You want it written exactly the same as on the card, not converted into their own handwriting. Once their brain gets what you are requesting, they will probably produce better handwriting than normal, even without looking at the paper!
  • This is an ideal skill to assist with copying down from the board and improving handwriting. It is fast, causes less stress and, with a little practice, should produce neat results.  I personally used this strategy all through school and University.  The non-writing hand can be used as a marker, moving down the page as the individual writes to keep lines even.  By copying what is seen, writing will dramatically improve.
  • The next step is to visualise a word and write it, again without looking at the paper. Prior to this, the individual needs to get grounded and be sitting still, so the words are seen clearly – slouching means images can’t be seen easily.  With practice and increased confidence, the individual should be able to look up and down as they wish, knowing where to find those words which are causing uncertainty.
  • You can, of course, add in some BrainGym[i] exercises such as lazy 8 or alphabet 8 to improve the fluency of writing and brain integration.
  • Remember: Look up. See the word.  Write it down.

If you struggle to get words on paper, but really know what you want to say, check what is actually happening.  Some people construct a sentence in their head, then realise that they can’t spell a few words, so make another sentence and discover another couple of words they can’t spell.  Doing this rapidly creates a “brain freeze” where you are unable to put any words on paper.  We had a post-graduate student explain that this is what used to happen before she learnt to spell visually.  Now she is a successful lecturer and her literacy difficulties belong to the past.  As your spelling and writing improves brain freezes will disappear too.

This is an extract from Bridges to Success – How to Transform Learning Difficulties, available in  physical form or on Kindle at

[i] Dennison, Paul E. and Gail E., Brain Gym, Edu-Kinesthetics Inc, 1992


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Special needs pupils being failed by the system ‘on verge of crisis’

For someone who works with bright, creative children and their families who think and learn in neurodivergent ways, the attached article is deeply saddening.

In summary:

  1. Children with special needs are being failed
  2. The system is “on the verge of crisis” as the demand for specialist support soars and even less money is available.
  3. Parents and the education system are funding hugely costly court cases, that the parents normally win, in order to secure some sort of provision.

It is time that mental imagery is taught in primary school, as is a vital part of all learning and should be included in any school curriculum, being the key to visual learning.  School are good at teaching visually but have not been trained in how children learn visually and what can go wrong :

  1. The great majority of these cases, (doubling this year), are about literacy and numeracy challenges.  This is often caused by the national insistence that there is only one way to teaching children literacy and numeracy, whereas those good at literacy are visualising words and those good at numeracy are visualising numbers, that the government refuses to acknowledge.
  2. The stress levels in families and school are high, compounding the challenges for children who feel unsafe in their daily learning environment.
  3. Homeschooling is on the increase, as the last resort for many parents.

For literacy challenges, children can be quickly and easily taught to visualise words, in minutes, not months, for numeracy the same is true for visualising numbers. For other neurodivergent skills, learning how to control mental images is a great benefit reducing much anxiety.

#guardian #neurodiversity # dyslexia #specialneeds #crisis #homeschooling #literacy #stress #government

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Which words should be the first to spell

High-frequency words should not be the first words to learn. Read on to understand why.

Readin10.don't-slump_smallg goes through 2 basic steps:

  1. Phonics is used to break down a word and then blend it together and pronounce it.  Sometimes because of the quirks of the English language, you may need help as to how to pronounce it.
  2. After breaking down a new word 2-3 times you should be able to just recognise it because you have a mental image of the word in your Word Form Area; this is called word recognition. But this last step, where you just know the word without breaking it down, isn’t explicitly taught; it is left to chance.

Some children will get permanently stuck in breaking down every word (step 1), while others can’t even master step 1, particularly most Dyslexics. If you can’t master phonics there is little point in repeating it over and over again and expect a different result.

However, these children have other strengths to visualise pictures, so with just a little tuition, they can learn how to picture words by word recognition. In effect, they are jumpstarting step 2.

It is easier to create mental images of nouns first as they are visual words. High-frequency words have very few nouns, especially for the youngest children. Never start by teaching words a child can’t read through word recognition. (We have the brain research to prove how difficult that would be).

For spelling, mental images of words are essential in English where only 46% of words are spelt phonetically correct; we have homophones, silent letters, etc, etc.  Whereas Italian is a phonetic language so you just write how the word sounds.

For Maths you need mental images of numbers, how else are you going to mental arithmetic; the clue is in the title. For comprehension how you need mental images of the text so that you can remember it. For Art, you need mental images of what you are going to draw. And so it goes on, so why aren’t schools checking a child’s mental images in Reception Class; Empowering Learning practitioners are doing this with families and some schools.  Using mental imagery will not only assist with literacy, numeracy, comprehension etc but also increased confidence, reduced stress and distraction.

To learn more just go to Empowering Learning, at and join one of our free on-line classes, look at the resources available and start to learn about the vital skill of how mental images effects learning and often manifests in learning difficulties.

All of the above is covered by various research.

#empoweringlearning  #maths #literacy #numeracy #distration

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When kids aren’t in their bodies, how do we get them back?

no-problem-studying-dec15_colour_smallThe first rule is that we have to do everything we can to help them feel safe in their bodies.  I am sure you feel that your children are safe but they can be struggling with a lot of anxiety from school, from home, from friends.  So the golden rule is to help them feel safe; whether it’s crossing the road, doing their homework, climbing the stairs, getting dressed, going to the toilet, being in a familiar environment.  In other words in everything they do.

The next rule is to learn how to get yourself grounded.  In today’s world, most parents are flying around dealing with 101 things, apart from their challenging children who may be pressing all their buttons.  There are many different ways to get grounded with exercise, meditation, music, aromatherapy oils, etc.  My favourite is to pretend you are a tree, get firmly connected to the ground through your feet, right down to the centre of the earth.  Let any stress drift out of your feet for just a few seconds, notice the difference in yourself, your children and even any dogs you have. Don’t expect an instant solution so spend a little time working on it to calm yourself and your family.   You can also add meditation or a little mindfulness that they may be learning in school.  We have many more we can teach you if you need more assistance.

One way to test whether a child is grounded is to give them a little push and see how wobbly they are; ITS ONLY A LITTLE PUSH AND MAKE SURE YOUR HAND IS PLACED TO CATCH THEM.  With a little practice, they can become as solid as a rock. It is also great to do this lying down before going to sleep.

I know that this may seem too simple, but grounding is free, “it is your membership card to planet earth” and has all sorts of benefits for both health and learning.

Do leave your comments below.

This is a preview extract from my new book, “Misunderstood Greatness”.  You can sign up for 2 free chapters here:

Olive Hickmott

#empoweringlearning  #earthing  #grounding  #dyslexia  #ADHD #Autism #Aspergers


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When kids aren’t in their bodies, what are they doing?

UntitledBefore I go further from my last post, being grounded does NOT mean being sent to your bedroom for a period of time, it means being in your body, in the present and fully engaged; not drifting around reliving past experiences or panicking about the future.  You are a physical person living in a physical world, yet you have the ability to “travel” away from your body in thoughts, daydreams, listening to stories, watching films/TV. Being ungrounded and out of your body has advantages for creativity, etc. but it can have negative effects on your physical health and learning abilities.

Before I explore further, I want to explain why you should be interested in connecting the dots between grounding and symptoms you see with specific learning difficulties.

  1. Being ungrounded creates a mixture of exceptional skills and debilitating symptoms – one is a reflection of the other.
  2. We can all be ungrounded from time to time, when stressed, getting out of an unpleasant experience, and maybe even exhibit superhuman skills.
  3. Being ungrounded enables us to create massive amounts of mental imagery (and sometimes auditory too) – ideal for problem-solving, design, etc.  But out of control mental imagery destroys concentration and focus on the here and now and can easily trip students into sensory overload. I am sure you have all been told “easily distrated”, “can’t concentrate”.
  4. For fluent reading word recognition is necessary, that is only available when the student has developed their Word Form Area and are grounded.  This then gives them access to seeing mental images of words, for word recognition and also spelling.  Comprehension adds another layer of mental imagery to assist you in remembering what you have read.
  5. Mental arithmetic also needs to control the mental images of numbers.
  6. All of this confusion comes out in anxiety, fear, feeling unsafe in your own skin, a failure or stupid.
  7. Sensory Overload gives rise to many more symptoms like overwhelm, fear, panic, shutting down, supersensitive hearing (like being able to hear electricity running in the mains cables), not wanting to look at people, unstable on your feet, clumsy and uncoordinated.

To help them feel as safe as possible, they may disconnect from the world, gaze into outer space, reduce eye contact, close down their peripheral vision and even stop speaking.

Then we see various very familiar diagnoses being mentioned of Specific Learning Difficulties. So if this knowledge resonates with you, grounding is the first step and getting the child to get in control of their own pictures, even at a pre-verbal stage.

The 3rd post in this series will give you the simple tools to try out for yourself.

Do leave your comments below.  This is a preview extract from my new book, “Misunderstood Greatness”.  You can sign up for 2 free chapters here:

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When kids aren’t in their bodies, how do we expect them to learn anything?


freddy smallChildren and adults can be ungrounded and not in their bodies for all sorts of reasons – stress, anxiety, overwhelm, traumatic experiences (including pre, during or after birth), early adoption, emergency c-section, living in an ungrounded environment, the list goes on.

Just, not being grounded, can cause disconnection, overload, chaos etc, giving rise to many health and learning difficulties and it is so easy to improve.

Learned people have come up with all sorts of solutions and therapies ranging from diet, nutrition, behavioural therapy, functional medicine, breathing techniques, integrated medicine, mindfulness, meditation,……… These are all great, and a fundamental truth that contributes to almost all of the learning challenges is being ungrounded.  I am one of the few people that acknowledge that grounding or earthing as those in the USA often refer to this, is such a significant factor.

Dr Robert Mellilo’s exceptional work creating the “Balanced Brain Centres” with “Disconnected Kids” has identified the common brain development contributors to Dyslexia,  ADHD, Autism etc. I have gone done a similar path recognizing grounding and mental imagery as vital keys to successful learning.   Quoting from Robert Mellilo’s book “Children with Functional Disconnection Syndrome * are different from other children because they feel different from other children.  They are disconnected from their bodies. Most children with FDS do not feel their own bodies very well. They have no sense of themselves in space or a sense of feeling grounded.  They appear clumsy or uncoordinated and having poor timing and rhythm.  They have poor or abnormal muscle tone, which is displayed through poor posture and/or an awkward gait. Eye movements are not like other children’s. They appear to be gazing into space or have a lazy eye”   *FDS identified for  Dyslexics, ADHDers, Aspergers, Autistic, etc.  Indeed anyone who is disconnected from their body will immediately have difficulties functioning successfully.

As a young child, the most significant sensory stimulus is gravity, because it occurs 24 x 7 and is essential to determine where our bodies are in space (called proprioception) and to enable us to keep our balance.

Students, teachers and parents can all learn simple grounding exercises that are akin to super quick mindfulness techniques.  Grounding is free, and everyone can do it.  It has been well researched by Clinton Ober, Stephen Sinatra and Martin Zucker, who have created some products to assist people, which are useful in themselves but people can most often just learn these skills for themselves.

Tomorrow, a post will help you connect the dots between grounding and various specific learning difficulties.  The 3rd post in this series will give you the simple tools to try out for yourself.

Do leave your comments below.  This is a preview extract from my new book, “Misunderstood Greatness”.  You can sign up for 2 free chapters here:

Olive Hickmott

#empoweringlearning  #earthing  #grounding  #dyslexia  #ADHD #Autism #Aspergers #Mellilo





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Dyslexic kids just can’t do phonics

That isn’t the way their brains work.  They are creative big-picture thinkers and breaking words do into tiny bits just doesn’t make any sense to them.  When these same children manage to accidentally start recognising words,  the skill all fluent readers have, words then have meaning. Word recognition must be included in any reading programme, because the last thing we want is to have children stuck in phonics, for life.

Evidence shows that drilling children in phonics may have improved reading levels for many but it is a hard slog, with loads of repetition, to reach the eventual goal of word recognition, whilst leaving many by the wayside feeling embarrassed, stupid, exhausted and frustrated.  Worse still they maybe bullied and there are concerns about mental health, with overload of the frontal cortex.  Word recognition is carried out in the Word Form Area at the back of the brain adjacent to the Occipital lobe; a much more restful activity.

When you come to spelling only 46% of the English language is spelled correctly according to phonics, unlike languages like Italian that is an exemplar for phonics.  In addition, it is impossible to spell homophones correctly with just an auditory queue.

So why are our children not explicitly taught to pictures words at the same time as learning phonics?  I asked a county’s Chief Educational Psychologist this question many years ago: “Why don’t we tell every parent that those who are good at literacy can picture words in their mental images?”  She refused the answer.  The reality is that we are not teaching out teachers the simple skills to check and develop a student’s mental images, preferably from school entry or before, and secondly, she didn’t have this skill. Teaching these skills only takes minutes.

Teachers can take a quick course as home study during the summer holidays and be geared up to teach phonics and mental imagery in parallel from the start of the new term.  The school will save money on special support, whilst improving the children’s confidence and their results.

Let’s get real and teach these skills to every child entering school in September 2018, and read here to see just what would be possible by the time they enter year 1.



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