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Using Mind Maps as a Learning Support for Dyslexic Children

In this blog post, we speak with Nailah Harry from Infinite Me about her use of mind maps to overcome her own dyslexia and how she now uses mapping as a learning support for dyslexic children.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Nailah and I am a dyslexic adult and managing director of Infinite Me. I have a BSc in Psychology and Counselling studies, I am passionate about dyslexia, mind maps, and… of course, starbucks. Having dyslexia means that there are certain things that I have always struggled with, such as poor working memory, poor concentration skills and a slow reading rate. It was at university when I realised that I was struggling more than I should have been with certain tasks. Subsequently I had a dyslexia screening test and found out that I had mild dyslexia. The diagnosis initially turned my world upside down and my self-esteem plummeted. So many questions went through my mind, am I stupid? Why can’t I retain information the same way as my peers? Will I ever succeed?! For a while these negative thought patterns got the best of me and I wallowed in my perceived stupidity.

However, I self taught myself some new skills and developed existing skills that I already had, and applied them to the things that I struggled with most. Now my aim is to help children who have similar struggles to overcome them. Infinite Me is a learning support service for children who have dyslexia or are displaying traits of dyslexia, we aim to provide children with a holistic learning experience. We provide memory skills groups, self esteem groups reading groups and bespoke tuition.

How were you first introduced to mind mapping?

My dad first introduced me to mind mapping and memory techniques when i was around 7 to help me with my school work. These were primarily fun activities that we used to flex our mind mapping skills. In those days mind mapping was relatively new, and Tony Buzan was asking for children to send him examples of mind maps that would be displayed in his book, my sister and I eagerly got to work on our mind maps for Mr Buzan. Unfortunately we did not feature in his book which as you can imagine to a keen 7 year old mind mapper was as devastating as being told that Santa isn’t real. Although I would have been disappointed about that particular incident it was still the perfect way to engage me as such a young child. The practice of regularly creating new mind maps laid a solid foundation for mind mapping to become a natural process for me. However, years later in typical rebellious teenage fashion I lost interest in some of the things that my parents taught me, and started doing my own things (Those “things” shall remain nameless!!) and I neglected mind maps for the majority of my high school life… much to my detriment! The absence of mind maps in my school life was evident, and because of my dyslexia (which was undetected throughout the whole of my Secondary education) would explain my difficulty in retaining information, or that I had to work twice as hard as others to get half as far as others. After some astonishingly bad AS results I had to make a decision about which direction my educational future was going to take, so in desperation, I picked up some colouring pencils and started drawing.

What do you perceive to be the greatest benefit of mapping?

For me, the greatest benefit of mind mapping is the fact that it is an amazing way to visually jolt my memory into action with all the colours and pictures that I draw myself, it has helped me to develop my memory, in ways that I could only have dreamed of before. It has helped me remember entire essays and exam questions with easy recall. Ultimately giving me power over my dyslexia and memory struggles. without a doubt it is the key to a lot of my successes.

How do you use mapping in your day to day work?

My learning support group starts next week and I will be using mind mapping with children, not just children who have dyslexia but any child who wishes to improve their memory. The aim of Infinite Me is to help all children who require additional help with their school work. Therefore I will be using mind mapping with children empowering and teaching them how to become independent learners. It will be a tool to show children how to plan their work effectively, memorise speeches, and display their ideas. I believe that mind mapping is a tool that many children can utilise to be successful.

Personally I use mind mapping in my day to day life for lists, brainstorming and to reduce the number of words I have to deal with, I am a visual thinker and a visual learner so mind maps are perfect to organise my thoughts.

What sort of responses do you expect to see from children who you have introduced to mind mapping?

I expect that the children will respond in a manner that will ultimately progress their learning. It is often recommended that children with dyslexia should utilise mind maps in order to help them take notes, and to help them with their memory. The vivid colours and pictures are ideal for visual learners, and the fact that there are actually fewer words on a mind map than conventional linear notes. I expect that children will respond with enthusiasm as they have the freedom to express themselves freely through mind maps. I expect that their memory and subsequenttly their confidence will vastly improve in their school life, as it did mine after using mind maps.

Huge thanks to Nailah for sharing her experiences and perspectives with us and we wish her the best of luck with her new support groups! You can connect with Nailah and Infinite Me via Twitter, by clicking here.

If you would like to share your experiences with mind maps with Biggerplate, please get in touch via Twitter, or by commenting below.

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Barney is Community Manager at Biggerplate and shares user stories, mind mapping tips, and other news and updates from our global member community!
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