In the 1980’s Robert Dilts (a key figure in the NLP world), used NLP strategy elicitation techniques to model proficient spellers. He found there was a common strategy and this became the foundation of the NLP Spelling Strategy (http://www.nlpu.com/Articles/artic10.htm) This strategy has been taught in most NLP courses since then and as a result many NLP Practitioners have helped thousands of people to improve their spelling dramatically.
But what about those for whom it hasn’t worked? Whilst working with students at risk of dropping out at a local secondary school, I was assigned 40 students with various labels and diagnoses. I was extremely confident that I could help them with their literacy by, amongst other techniques, teaching them the Spelling Strategy. It worked for some but there were still many for whom it just simply didn’t work….what was I missing?
Thankfully that year I attended the NLP Conference in London and was lucky enough to hear Olive Hickmott of Empowering Learning UK deliver her NLP and Learning Difficulties talk. To say I was blown away is an understatement. Olive had learnt the same Spelling Strategy as I had on the NLP course she had attended. Only the difference was that Olive herself has Dyslexia, so this was a real bombshell as she had never visualised words before; numbers yes, but not words. She immediately went out to her local special needs school and started working with students with Dyslexia. She found the same as most of us – the Spelling Strategy worked with many but there were always a few for whom it just didn’t. Her ‘anything is possible’ attitude led her to become insatiably curious as to why some students couldn’t ‘get it’ and she discovered that there are two main reasons why the strategy may not work:
- Students could not get into a positive enough state, particularly those who had never had a positive learning experience before.
- Even if they were visualising the words the Submodalities (qualities of the picture) were preventing them for ‘seeing’ the words clearly.
So, being Olive, she jumped to what was to her the obvious solution: teach students a simple technique for getting into the optimal learning state quickly and check the quality of the students’ mental imagery.
These two additional steps ensured that by truly understanding the student’s own unique experience their spelling strategies could be adjusted accordingly.
She then had a genius idea: rather than teach any word, be sure to begin with concrete nouns. This way existing stored mental images of the object could be used to access the visual cortex within the brain. Once this part of the brain has been ‘lit up’ the word can then be learned by having it written on the image. What this effectively does is ‘jumpstart’ the sector of the brain required for storing visual images, including words and numbers. This means that the three sectors for successful reading and spelling are being co-activated: the meaning of the word, the visual representation of the letters and the sound of the word. By firing the neurons from these sectors simultaneously they wire together to form a complete packet of information, easily learnt and recalled.
Then an amazing thing happened. Not only was there improvement in spelling, students’ overall learning experiences began to change for the better. Concentration, memory and overall results in other subjects improved once a student learnt how to access this optimal learning state and control their mental imagery. For some, it was as if a key had been found to unlock what was already in there but couldn’t be accessed, and for others it was the vital first step that had been missing from their learning strategies.
Since then Olive joined forces with myself and Paula Montie, a retired primary school principal with over 30 years’ experience working with students. Together we created The Jumpstarting Literacy and Numeracy™ Course, a comprehensive programme that gives attendees the skills to help bridge the learning gap for many students who have been struggling to learn. It has been piloted with enormous success in schools and used with hundreds of private clients and families. Even though this 2 day programme is a stand-alone course for teachers and parents, it is a fantastic addition to your NLP Practitioner training. When working with learners of any age this programme gives you the tools to really help a student achieve more than they could ever have imagined.
Sara Haboubi is an NLP and Time Line Therapy Trainer and has been delivering trainings since 2003. She worked with The School Completion Programme for six years, helping students with behavioural and learning issues where she first applied the techniques she learned from Olive. She completed her MA in Adult Learning and Development with NUI Galway in 2013 where she used the Jumpstarting Programme as the basis of her research.