x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dyslexic children benefit from visual lessons, mind guru tells Dubai teachers

Tony Buzan, creator of the mind mapping memorisation technique tells teachers visual learning, not note-taking, is the key to teaching children with learning difficulties.

Tony Buzan, Founder and President of Think Buzan, leads parents and teachers on Mind Mapping educational workshop, at the Rashid Hospital Library auditorium.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Tony Buzan, Founder and President of Think Buzan, leads parents and teachers on Mind Mapping educational workshop, at the Rashid Hospital Library auditorium. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Children with learning difficulties should be taught visually and not through note-taking lessons, an author on mental literacy told special education teachers today.

Tony Buzan, creator of the mind mapping memorisation technique, which uses spider diagrams to represent information, encouraged school teachers attending his workshops at the Rashid Hospital auditorium not to restrict children with linear writing tasks.

"Using words with one colour is antithetical to the way the brain learns," said Mr Buzan, who was invited to give the session by the Lexicon Reading Centre, a support centre for children with learning difficulties.

"The brain learns with images, associations and multi-senses. Normal note-taking compounds learning difficulties."

He said allowing the children to create mind maps and learn with imagery - a method he began promoting in the 1970s through his books and a show on BBC television - would be more advantageous for children with dyslexia.

His system involves using colours and starting with a central image on any given topic then continuing in a non-linear form by using symbols, lines, codes and associating words.

"The mind map is a representation and manifestation of the human language," he said.

Mr Buzan said a child uses about 1,000 to 2,500 words of his vocabulary in a month. "But through images they actually know millions of words."

Abir Ballan, mother of an 8-year-old boy with dyslexia, said she noticed her son paid more attention when he was learning with visuals.

"He does find it tedious to write so many words," said Ms Ballan, who was attending the session. "I've started using a similar technique to mind mapping where he represents reading material as diagrams.

"This year, his class teacher has given him the freedom to express himself by drawing and using different colours while writing. That has helped significantly."

That was not always the case for Ms Ballan, who says she did not experience the same level of teacher training at other schools her son attended. "Some of the teachers are not only not qualified but they completely misunderstand the child. My child is intelligent but he needs a different approach to learning."

The mind-mapping technique has its critics, who say it is difficult to remodel teaching methods around visual representation and that it can be time consuming for a curriculum-bound education system.

Rudolf Stockling, director of the assessment and evaluation unit at the Lexicon Reading Centre, which specialises in addressing learning difficulties such as dyslexia, said they try to provide training at schools to help teachers diversify and individualise the learning process.

"Mind mapping involves a lot of brainstorming and helps children get better in thinking process and what they want to say," said Mr Stockling.

"Of course it is just a tool that can be used to assist children with learning difficulties and not a solution.

"But it does take the pressure out of the purely mechanical part of writing, which children with dyslexia struggle with. Mind mapping makes it easier for them to get through the curriculum."

aahmed@thenational.ae