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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Mind mapping can help dyslexics
boy looking at blackboard
Various techniques are used to help children with dyslexia
test hello test
By Georgina Kenyon
A visual memory technique that is causing waves throughout the computer world is also helping dyslexics write and achieve high marks at school and university.

Mind mapping is a graphical thought organisation technique that helps memory and note-taking from lectures as well as stimulating creative thought, supporters say.

Mind mapping is currently trendy within computer programming circles in the United States for organising data.

A highly trained mind and memory, which can be achieved through games like chess, can add up to two years on to your life span

Philip Chambers, world mind-mapping champion
But it is also very welcome news for dyslexics, as it can consist solely of images.

Philip Chambers, current world mind-mapping champion and an accelerated-learning trainer at Learning Technologies in Staines, Middlesex, UK, said mind maps used more of the brain's resources.

"While traditional learning such as taking notes uses very few of the brain's resources, mind maps encompass all the skills, combining logic, words, colour and pictures," he said.

Mr Chambers said the term mind mapping was first coined by Tony Buzan in 1974 in his book and BBC TV series called Use Your Head.

"But it has taken many years for it to gain acceptance in education circles," he added.

To create a mind map you first start with a blank sheet of paper on which you draw a picture of the topic you are trying to learn in the centre.

Accelerate learning

Then you draw up to nine tapering lines representing themes or words radiating out from the central image.

Off these lines, you draw another series of lines, each representing an associated idea. Colours and symbols and arrows to link associated ideas should also be drawn on the page.

It is this technique that has allowed dyslexics such as Elaine Colliar, 32, who is a mind-mapping champion and a Scottish accelerated-learning trainer, to achieve at school and university far beyond her expectations.

"Mind mapping helped me circumvent my dyslexia," said Ms Colliar, who was first introduced to the technique by an art teacher at school.

"At school, I was looking at very average results in my final exams until I was introduced to mind mapping.

"Dyslexia is often likened to a circuit board where one component is missing.

child writing
"Dyslexics have to devise a new strategy to wire that circuit board completely. And mind mapping can assist dyslexics as it can consist solely of images."

Once Ms Colliar gained confidence that she could memorise information using images, she slowly incorporated more and more words into her mind maps.

"The more scientists learn about the brain, the more we learn about its infinite plasticity," Ms Colliar added. "If there is a challenge to one part of the brain, we can learn to revive other parts to make all sections of the mind work together."

Ms Colliar is now teaching mind mapping to students.

Out of a group of 13 students she tutored through A-levels, four were dyslexic. Now all students are at university.

Learning secrets

Philip Chambers says the secret to his success as world mind-mapping champion lies in combining Buzan's technique with what he has learnt more recently about memory.

To make sure something you have learnt is retained in long-term memory, he says it needs to be revised five times - a day after you first learnt it, then a week later, a month later and then three months later.

"Less and less do scientists believe the mind is organised into left and right-hand sides of the brain.

"Rather, the brain is seen now as a black box and there are various skills that are present in that box."

"But not only is mind mapping good for dyslexic people to learn. Many scientific studies have also shown that a highly trained mind and memory which can be achieved through games like chess, can add up to two years on to your life span," he said.

There are 30 mind-mapping centres in the UK, with the European headquarters based in Poole.

See also:

20 Mar 01 | Education
Jet pilot technology for dyslexia
22 Dec 00 | Education
Schools' special needs 'deluge'
16 Mar 01 | Education
Scientists find cause of dyslexia
20 Jan 00 | Education
Rose-tinted help with reading
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