It’s funny how a marketing idea can spark important conversations.* When we challenged ourselves to come up with a list of learning hacks for our LinkedIn Summer of Sharing campaign, it got me thinking about how I would approach this, as someone with a neurodiverse brain.
I’m dyslexic AND dyspraxic. Conventional learning doesn’t come as easily to me as it does for more neurotypical people, in any situation, regardless of whether it's during the holidays or not. I can sometimes struggle with memory, comprehension and in general trying to make sense of my brain.
As we brainstormed ways to help us learn and work smarter when holiday cover bites, I thought about the tools and hacks I use, and how they could also benefit other people.
(*All marketing conversations are important to us – honest!)
Accepting and embracing our neurodiversity
Being neurodiverse in a neurotypical world is tough. When the world thinks one way and you think another, it can be difficult to compete or be seen as equal to anyone not facing the same challenges.
The first thing to realise is that being neurodiverse isn’t a problem. It doesn’t make us stupid because we don’t understand things in a conventional way. It’s just a different way of thinking. Mindset and wording, I find, are important when embracing our differences.
Another great way to help reduce any stigma attached is to think about the positives. For example, being Dyslexic means I am highly creative and often think outside the box. It also carries advantages such as determination and resilience, as well as empathy and patience. Neurodivergent brains carry a lot of valuable tools.
Once our mindset is sorted, it's onto figuring out solutions. Helping others to understand how we process things and ways in which they can help is also crucial. I find explaining to people that I think in a different way really helps. I can go into more detail and explain that e.g. I find reading difficult, I can’t tell the time on an analogue clock, and I need a lot of visual prompts when given instructions.
Ask me to do the laundry and, unless I can visualise it or you give me detailed instructions, there’s a risk I’ll forget all about it, or worse shrink it. Helping people to understand how I process information can make the difference between a pile of freshly washed, pomegranate-scented jumpers or dirty clothes that never make it into the wash.
Figuring out our own personal learning solutions
Being a creative person – a Graphic Designer at RTS – I have found various learning techniques and solutions to help. They may seem a bit out there but have genuinely helped me in a world which demands fast learning.
Let me walk you through a couple.
Firstly, when it comes to memory – one of my biggest struggles – I have developed a ‘mind castle’. A bit ‘Sherlock Holmes’ you might say. This is a visual place in my imagination where I store facts. It also doesn’t have to be a castle, sometimes it can be a house, a beach, a garden, I digress. This can help to memorise literally anything, like a food order.
Imagine this: you enter a house, on the front door is a sign that reads ‘food order’. You open the door and in the porch, there is a coat rack, which smells like olives and feta. Continue into the house and you’ll find sourdough bread on the staircase. And so on. As you walk through your ‘mind house’, you can promptly order a feta and olive sourdough sandwich – all from a visual memory. As a very visual person, I love setting up these little memory destinations.
When it comes to learning new things, I use YouTube and Tik Tok which have tonnes of short videos on literally any topic. Videos always work best for me as I struggle with reading comprehension, and they don’t require too much energy.
You’ll also never catch me without a whiteboard or my notebook, ready to write down ideas and improve my understanding. I can return to these later, making lists and – the best bit – rub each task away one by one. This makes complicated projects seem less overwhelming.
Next up – how to avoid distractions. I use different focus hacks like listening to brown noise, playing with fidget toys, doodling and sometimes ASMR to boost my concentration. These help to calm down my brain and focus.
Embracing neurodiversity and developing a tool kit of learning solutions is a great step towards increasing our learning efficiency and mindset. Learning with Dyslexia is tricky but using creative solutions for learning, comprehension and memory is a super positive way to create healthy, sustainable outcomes.
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