NLP and Dyslexia; Beyond the Spelling Strategy

On the NLP Practitioner training course, most trainers will use Robert Dilts’ Spelling Strategy as one of the examples of how all, everyday activities are the result of an unconscious internal strategy or program. The Spelling Strategy is brilliantly simple and was the result of Dilts, previously a poor speller himself, using the NLP model to establish a more effective process for his own use. When good spellers were then modelled, this same strategy proved to be consistent amongst most proficient spellers. The result has been that thousands of students, of all ages, have been able to be better spellers once they have been taught this process.

So, the questions that I asked myself, when working with a large group of teenagers, most of whom had a diagnosis of dyslexia, was why wasn’t it ALWAYS working? For those with very severe symptoms, simply teaching them this strategy wasn’t producing the same results as when teaching students who were simply ‘bad spellers’. This question led me to my first NLP Conference in 2010, where I heard Olive Hickmott speak, the developer of The Empowering Learning: Jumpstarting Literacy & Numeracy process, on the subject of ‘NLP and Learning Difficulties’.

Olive has dyslexia and she was blown away by the Spelling Strategy on the NLP course she attended. She was able to improve her own spelling using it, but like myself, found it didn’t work for everyone. Her ‘incurable curiosity’, as she puts it, led her to delve deeper into the ineffective strategies that those with dyslexia were using when trying to spell. She asked questions that went deeper and uncovered more about the emotional state and also gleaned more detail around the quality of their visual modality.

These questions uncovered a simple fact; many students with dyslexia have undeveloped or uncontrollable mental imagery skills. For those students, learning this skill is essential before they can learn The Spelling Strategy. This new dimension has been incredible to witness as every student with dyslexia, once they have the appropriate metacognition around their mental imagery skills, emotional state and learning strategies, can alter their spelling strategy accordingly…with amazing results! In fact, mental imagery has been proven to be the corner stone of most literacy skills, not just spelling, and can be extended to then improve other areas such as reading and remembering what was read. Going further, this process has been shown to help students with dyscalculia and even dysgraphia, as mental imagery is in fact vital for ALL learning strategies.

This process has now been developed into a full blown system for coaching leaners with difficulties. With the fantastic addition to the team of Paula Montie, an NLP Trainer and retired primary school Head Teacher, it has become a comprehensive programme that is suitable for both an NLP and non-NLP audience. To date there are almost 600 practitioners worldwide and over 40 primary schools in the UK and Ireland have adopted the process either in learning support or across the whole school.

If, like Olive and myself, you are passionate about helping students to achieve their potential, or you have a learning difficulty yourself, come and hear us speak about this ground-breaking process and discover how mental imagery can accelerate the capacity to learn for ALL students.

By Sara Haboubi and Olive Hickmott