2. One-to-one programmes


Our one-to-one programmes are tailored to meet each person's individual needs and can be scheduled to fit into your life. The literacy programme generally takes 30 hours of one-to-one intervention and maths or ADD/ADHD requires further 15-20 hours one-to one. Following the one-to-one is approximately 50 hours of work to be done at home. We generally see a dramatic change already within the initial 30 hours of work.
Below is an outline of what happens in a traditional one-to-one programme.

Mastery of

Focus

The first and most important key element in our success is our unique focusing technique. 

Because a problem with paying attention is the key common factor in all the learning difficulties we deal with, focusing is the most important tool in our tool-kit.

There are essentially two skills that we teach and practice in terms of mastering focusing:
  1. You learn how to focus.
  2. You learn what happens - and how to notice - when you lose your focus.

Focus allows us to take in and put out accurate information

Why - and how - is focus broken

The non-verbal thinker’s mind has two modes of operating - a bit like a television with two channels. One mode (focus or orientation) allows the person’s mind to receive accurate information about the real world in which they find themselves, while the other mode (non-focus or disorientation) allows their mind to observe self generated imagery - a bit like watching a video running in their mind. This imagery can be very similar to the real world and in fact non-verbal thinkers are often so skilled in generating this imagery, that they may not even notice that they have "changed channels". They can mistake this virtual reality for the real one and that can explain why they may read and re-read a sentence and every time miss out or mis-read the same word. Their focus is broken every time they see the "missing" word which shifts them into looking at a"virtual" page without the word, instead of the real one in front of them. If we accept that both individual letters (like b/d) and words can break focus in this way, it becomes clear why spelling sometimes doesn’t stick. If we are not looking at the actual word in front of us, but instead at a virtual image of it - generated by our own imagination - then we can never acieve certainty about how it is spelled. Our imagination is not stable and consistent like the word on the page.

Learning how to focus

Most of us assume that fousing is a skill that we all develop equally. Children are certainly generally expected to be able to do this by the time they start school. However, if we look closer, some children have clearly not mastered this skill. This is therefore the first thing we make sure is in place, with a process we callorientation counselling. This can take as little as ten minutes and is literally the cornerstone of our programme’s success. We have two different ways to achieve focus and we have given each method it’s own name. One we call "being on point" and the other we call "alignment" or "focus". I refer to both methods as focusing for the simple reason that people can normally better relate to that experience.

Noticing when focus is lost

The second step in mastering focusing is to recognise when focus is lost and what happens as a result of that. We go through exercises designed to highlight the connection between losing focus and making mistakes. The student begins to realise that just before making mistakes in reading, writing, and spelling, they lose their focus. Gradually they realise that the key to avoid mistakes is to maintain focus as much as they can. This essentially defines the difference between a dyslexic and a non-dyslexic; a non-dyslexic can establish focus when they begin reading or writing - and effortlessly maintain their focus throughout their reading or writing. This is what the dyslexic can not do - until we have taught them how to focus andeliminated the triggers that break their focus.

Focus is NOT the same as concentration

There is a subtle but significant difference between focusing and concentrating. The key difference in experience is that concentration takes a lot of effort, while focus is practically efforless. One way to describe concentration is that it involves forced and sustained focus, which takes a lot of effort for the non-verbal thinker - in fact it is practically impossible for them to sustain concentration. Because the non-verbal thinker has to break their focus in order to process information - by running various scenarios in their mental "virtual reality" - they have to lose their focus regularly. Our focusing methods allows for this by simply noticing when focus is lost and then re-establishing focus; concentration tries not to lose focus at all. The non-verbal thinker needs to juggle the two modes - focus for taking in information and non-focus for assimilating the information. Concentration is for the non-verbal thinker a bit like trying to breathe by only inhaling and never exhaling. Both inhaling and exhaling are needed in order to complete the process of breathing; both focus and non-focus are needed to properly master new information.


We always begin with mastering the Alphabet

Letters break focus

Letters generally break the focus of a non-verbal thinker. The reason for this is that when the non-verbal thinker first encountered letters, he could not use their logic to make sense of them. There is no obvious consistent logic that links the shape,name and sound of a letter. This simply has to be mastered without applying logic.

Mastery goes beyond learning

When we learn to ride a bicycle, we learn through real life interaction with the bicycle. Through trial and error, applying focus and learning from our mistakes, we eventually develop the skill of riding a bicycle. Once this skill is aquired, it stays with us for the rest of our lives, whether we apply it regularly or not. Even if we do not touch a bicycle for 20 years, we will quickly be able to polish up our bicycle skills once we start riding again. This is because we have mastered the skill of bicycling. What we master, stays with us for the rest of our lives. This is exactly what we need to do with the alphabet, punctuation marks and spelling. We need to master these foundation elements of writing and reading, so they are instantly and effortlessly available to us for the rest of our lives. The non-verbal learner can achieve this through making the actual interaction with the letters into a real world experience, just like we do with a bicycle. This is what plasticine allows us to do.

Plasticine used for multi-sensory learning

The student creates all the letters of the alphabet as three dimensional objects and uses focus to connect their shape with their name. We are not concerned with thesounds of letters at this stage, because we are aiming for certainty. It is easier to link the shape of the letter to its name rather than the sound because a letter only has one name and most letters only have one shape. The various sounds a letter makes can be as many as six, so it is harder to establish a simple link of certainty with the sound. Once the student has established a solid link between the shape and the name of a letter, the various sounds become much easier to attach. 

Stopping letters from breaking focus

We look for any signs of broken focus and when a letter is found which breaks the student’s focus, we work on that letter.
If a letter breaks focus, we find the trigger and remove it - which stops it from breaking focus. 

What is a trigger?

A trigger is anything that breaks the student’s focus. It can be caused by confusion with other letters (b-d-p-q, u-n-m-h, etc.), or because of images that the non-verbal thinker had attached to the letter to make sense of it (a-apple, d-dog, s-snake). While attaching this kind of imagery to the letters may help the non-verbal thinker to memorise the letters in the first place, they become a liability when the letters are to be used in words. It is easy to see how this becomes a problem when the non-verbal thinker moves on to reading. If every word with the letter A makes the reader think of an apple and every word with an S in it reminds the reader of a snake, reading will require a lot more processing power and effort. Simply filtering out all the irrelevant mental images will require huge effort, when practically every word is peppered with a mutlitude of irrelevant images. This can make the non-verbal thinker appear much slower than a verbal thinker when reading, even though they have a mind which can process much more data and much quicker than the verbal thinkers.

Why does a mental image break focus?

The moment the non-verbal thinker sees a mental image in his mind, his focus is broken - even if that image was there only for a fraction of a second. This is a bit like if a single frame image is inserted into a film sequence. We might not be able to consciously register the content of the single frame, but we would probably register a flicker - which can be enough to break our focus. Added to this is the fact that the non-verbal thinker has to "change channels" in his mind in order to see a mental image at all, even if it is only a "single frame". So the moment an A makes him "see" an apple in his mind, he is no longer focused (viewing his "reality channel"), but has lost his focus (switched to his "virtual reality channel"). 

Lost focus can make you lose a lot of time

Once a non verbal thinker has engaged his imagination there is no telling when he will switch back to his "reality channel", or re-establish focus.

Removing triggers from letters

The solution to all of this is to remove all the irrelevant mental images from the alphabet, whether they are other letters or some other image that the letter "reminds" the reader of. Once all mental images have been removed from the Alphabet, the student will be able to maintain focus effortlessly when looking at and reciting the Alphabet - both forwards or backwards.

Mastery of Sound

Once the student has mastered focusing and the shapes and names of letters, we move on to mastering letter sounds.
We fine-tune hearing using focus and a purpose designed sound, and then we move on to master the sounds of letters.

Auditory processing problems

When focus is lost, any and all of our five senses can get distorted. When hearing is distorted, the student may never have heard certain sounds accurately and therefore they will not be able to reproduce that particular sound accurately. Each person has their own unique set of auditory processing difficulties, but the same solution applies in all cases. When the student is focused, hearing is accurate. Once the student can hear accurately, reproducing the sound will be much easier immediately.


Mastery of Punctuation

Once the Alphabet has been mastered, we move on to punctuation marks.
We master the shape. name and meaning of each punctuation mark. We primarily aim to recognise them while reading and depending on the student’s ability and interest, we may also master the usage of punctuation in writing. This normally takes less than an hour to complete.

Punctuation marks for reading

Punctuation needs to be mastered as well as the letters of the Alphabet. We begin looking at the "stop signs" in reading: Full stop, comma, question mark, exclamation mark, semicolon, colon and dash. We look at how long stop each of them commands. We them move on to the other punctuation marks and master their names and possibly their usage. When this has been achieved, we have de-triggered all the basic building blocks of literacy. This will already improve reading ability and fluency, because we have now removed about half of all the triggers the student is likely to encounter in reading. 


The remaining triggers are in words. We have identified just under 220 common "trigger-words" in the English language and even though they are only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousand of words that exist in the language, they still make up about 75% of all you read - no matter 
what you are reading. This is because they are the most common words in the language.
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