Major themes

Why engage with themes

If you know the reason you are interested in gaining information, reading becomes more fruitful. 

Scanning through different topics, or themes, is a way of deciding what you are interested in.

The book icons show which book(s) hold the primary text on a theme. 

Comments about Key Themes is an opportunity to scan through the ideas in this series and decide what you want to know about. In the books indicated by the icons, use the contents and the index to find relevant places.

The Useful Preface of each book has a section: Reading to Find Out about a Theme.  In the section, there are two lists of themes:

    1) those relevant to the particular book;

    2) a list of major themes in the rest of the series.

Summary of Themes in the Series is the complete collection of lists (2), i.e. ‘major themes in the rest of the series’.

Full List of Themes gives the more detailed lists (1) from each book.



This section is an opportunity to scan through the ideas in this series and decide what you want to know about.

Jot down any ideas that catch your attention.


You only have one mind to think with and to do all sorts of processing; even as you use assistive technology, it is still the same mind that you use. 

Having dyslexia/ SpLD has wide ranging impacts of people’s lives, to mention just a few:

  • organisation
  • shopping
  • driving
  • hobbies
  • maintaining good relations at work, within families
  • dealing with the internet and IT
  • seeking professional advice.

It is important that non-dyslexic/ SpLD people understand how dyslexic/ SpLDs function and that dyslexic/ SpLD people are given the opportunity to function at their full potential with minimal interference from their dyslexia/ SpLD.


Objective observation is at the heart of making progress in dealing with the effects of dyslexia/ SpLD.

Nothing will change until it is seen clearly, without any emotional overtones.

Objective observation happens when there is a curiosity to recognise the facts of events, with no judgemental overtones.

Much of learning is towards specific goals with stages in progress towards achieving them.  Some routes to the goals are well recognised and wobbles along the way are expected to settle down so that the goal is achieved. 

Other routes don’t look so straightforward and the wobbles are deemed mistakes and they can become loaded with emotional content.  With objective observation, such mistakes are opportunities for finding out more about the way an individual processes information.  They are to be welcomed and turned to good advantage in the progress towards the accepted goal.

Anyone helping a dyslexic/ SpLD person will need to let go of their own expectations about the ways to proceed and will need to find a way to interact without being judgemental.

Having dyslexia/ SpLD is something that happens in some people’s brains; they did not intend it to happen, neither did any of the adults in a child’s growing up.  Trying to hide the behaviour arising from dyslexia/ SpLD only means it will take longer to find the strategies around the problems.


Most people just use their minds without exploring how it works. 

Dyslexic/ SpLD people have sections of their processing that don’t always give the most helpful results, and, as a dyslexic/ SpLD person, being able to select how your mind is working can make a significant difference to your effectiveness, confidence and self-esteem.

It is possible to find out how your mind likes to process thoughts and information, and to test whether you are making the best use of your thinking strategies.


Working memory has 4 chunks, units, of storage.  Information is stored in a chunk so long as it is linked together. When there is a break in the linking, the next chunk is used.  However, the new information replaces what was already in this next chunk, ; the new is not added to the already present. 

If no links are made, then only 4 pieces of information are in working memory at a time.

When links are made, the amount held by one chunk is increased many times over.

Limited working-memory capacity is one of the common features of dyslexia/ SpLD.  The capacity is increased when an individual knows how to link information together.


A baby has a mass of neural connections in their brains at birth.  The connections increase for several months after birth.  When two neurons fire together, the probability that they will fire together next time increases and preferential networks get nourished and established.  Connections that don’t get used are not nourished and they die.  The building of some connections and the disappearance of others is part of learning and neuronal pruning.

Specific learning difficulties, or differences, arise when the learning that happens for most children is not happening effectively for others.  It becomes a disadvantage when too much has been wrongly learnt.

Working with dyslexic/ SpLD people has shown that they learn in non-standard ways, i.e. the neurons in their brains can connect to provide the right learning, but they do so in a different way.

Attention needs to be paid to a much broader spectrum of learning options, so that the right conditions exist for the neurons can fire and wire together in a way that produces useful learning for the dyslexic/ SpLD population.


Knowing how anyone’s mind works best and allowing them to use their best processes – their Thinking Preferences – is an important part of providing the broader spectrum of learning options, as mentioned in Theme Entry: Neurons Firing Together, Wire Together.

Thinking preferences can also be effectively used to link information together so that working-memory capacity can be greatly increased.

There are two stages in learning and processing information when using the right thinking preferences is very important: 1) the input stage of receiving information and 2) the feedback stage of committing information, knowledge and skills to long-term memory.  Of particular importance are: the use of the best sense for a person and the use of a rationale, framework or schema for the information.


Kinaesthetic thinking uses processes that are based on information about your body: what you are being told by touch and joint positions: i.e. what position your body  is in; what its condition is; where it is in space.  This information is also remembered as part of your experiences in life.

Kinaesthetic thinking is part of the way we use this information about our bodies in our thinking.  For some people, it is a major contributor to the way they process information. 

It is often left out of teaching practices. 

Dyslexic/ SpLD, kinaesthetic thinkers are not well catered for in education or the workplace; so they are not able to function at their best. 

There are many ways that kinaesthetic thinking can be included in education and the work-place.  Kinaesthetic thinkers need to recognise how they can use their kinaesthetic thinking to their advantage.


Some dyslexic/ SpLD people do not process information when they do not know how it fits together.  They are not able to store it in working memory long for enough the context to emerge.

Knowing the rationale or framework or schema of a subject or new information is particularly important when information is first received and when it is being stored, or stabilised, in long-term memory.


Educational aids usually involve verbal and visual strategies, that is they are using thinking that is based on language and vision.  These are just two options that can be used for processing information and for learning.

The other sense-based systems for thinking use: touch, smell and taste.  Touch is part of kinaesthetic thinking. 

Smell and taste are very significant for some people.  They have not been explored in this series of books, but many of the suggestions could be adapted to use with smell and taste.

Most people don’t have to think how their minds use the various senses; they minds are able to switch when necessary.  The switching often has to be done deliberately by dyslexic/ SpLD people.


Other factors that can make a difference to the effectiveness of someone’s thinking:

  • whether someone thinks in a linear fashion, one idea completed followed by the next, or spatially, many simultaneous ideas held in mind together
  • what motivation captures a person’s interest – Myers Briggs Personality Type and Multiple Intelligences are used as frameworks for discussion in this series of books.

A person may have strong patterns of thinking that don’t fit any of the suggested patterns: it is important to record these and see how they can be used to good effect.


A very useful processing strategy is to have a collection of questions for which you want answers.

The questions provide a framework for the mind to link information together; they can provide a task list or a priority list.

They provide clarity about what is involved in a big project.

They can show where no further work is needed.

Being able to sit back and produce a set of useful questions is a skill worth having.


Most of the VITAL teaching that caters for dyslexic/ SpLD people is good practice for everyone.  It is cost effective to put this teaching into place in all educational institutions.  Doing so would:

  • reduce the cost of supporting dyslexic/ SpLD people, financially and in staff resources
  • increase skills for everyone
  • decrease the problems experienced by dyslexic/ SpLD people
  • increase confidence and self-esteem of dyslexic/ SpLD people allowing them to contribute more effectively by using their full potential.

The social attitudes that allow dyslexic/ SpLD people to be part of a diverse society also allow others to feel that their differences are acknowledged and respected, which would be to the benefit of society as a whole.


We are proposing a way to cater for dyslexic/ SpLD learners in whole class situations by providing the approaches that are VITAL for them and good practice for all.

Deliberate, overt teaching of learning and thinking processes is a major componemt of the new paradigm.  This teaching is necessary because rote learning and subliminal learning cannot be assumed to be productive for dyslexic/ SpLD learners.  There are many aspects of learning and thinking that other learners pick up as by-products of other subjects.  Everyone’s skills would be improved if these aspects were taught in their own right.

In the new paradigm, an individual person’s capabilities are at the heart of their learning processes and they gradually gain agency for their own learning. 

A person can work with a flexible learning and thinking profile of strengths and weaknesses.

A range of learning processes are deliberately taught and overtly used throughout education so that a learner can select the best way to learn knowledge and skills or achieve a task.  The range includes:

  • many mind techniques
  • thinking options: styles of thinking and elements of thinking
  • choosing thinking preferences
  • maintaining clear thinking
  • establishing clear goals and priorities
  • the stages of learning.

Once deliberately taught, the learning processes can easily be overtly practiced while students learn other subjects.


SpLD covers: dyslexia, dyspraxia, AD(H)D and dyscalculia.  These are not static or slowly changing syndromes like short- or long-sightedness.  There is no prescription that will fix the problems for about a couple of years until a new prescription is needed.

You can learn strategies to deal with the effects of your dyslexia/ SpLD; you can use thinking processes to enable you to use your full potential in whatever you are doing.

Your later learning does not remove the muddle, the pitfalls, of dyslexia/ SpLD that got established in early stages of learning, whether that learning was during childhood, teenage years or adulthood.

At any time in life something can trip you into being as dyslexic/ SpLD as ever.  The trigger can have happy connections as well as negative ones.  The challenge is to deal with the impacts as well as possible.


The individual profile of dyslexia/ SpLD has four parts:

  • how you think well
  • how you pause
  • what the pitfalls of your dyslexia/ SpLD are
  • what accommodations you need to function at your best.

The reason for knowing your profile is that you can be in charge of how you go about any task; you have choices about dealing with your dyslexia/ SpLD instead of being governed by it.

Knowing your profile allows you to negotiate with others around you so that life flows more smoothly for you and them.


As a dyslexic/ SpLD person, you can develop a regime for managing your dyslexic/ SpLD pitfalls as they arise in day to day events.

You are using your profile in very practical ways, with the difference that you can’t negotiate accommodations for events before it happens.

When a pitfall of your dyslexia/ SpLD happens, you can use the various elements of your profile, but if you don’t know how you want to get out of the pitfall, you can just find yourself back in it.  Being able to identify your goal as you get out of the pitfall gives you a chance to stay out of the pitfall.



The Useful Preface of each book has a section: Reading to Find Out about a Theme.  In the section, there are two lists of themes: 1) those relevant to the particular book; 2) a list of major themes in the rest of the series.

This section is the complete collection of lists (2), i.e. ‘major themes in the rest of the series’.


  • Individual, personal profile of dyslexia/ SpLD
  • Regime for managing dyslexia/ SpLD

  • Organisation and problem solving
  • Time and time management
  • Space, place and direction
  • Study and employment

  • Other people involved
  • Teaching, dialogue and indirect communication
  • Policies and systems
  • Foundations of knowledge and skills
  • Input and output modes: reading, listening, doing, taking and making notes, writing, speaking and taking‑action
  • Social situations: exams, group work, driving, travel, job applications, eating out and finances

  • their persistence
  • the manifest behaviours

  • teaching younger children
  • a new paradigm for teaching programmes


The Useful Preface of each book has a section: Reading to Find Out about a Theme.  In the section, there are two lists of themes: 1) those relevant to the particular book; 2) a list of major themes in the rest of the series.

This section gives the more detailed lists (1) from each book.


  • Finding your voice
    • Objective observation
    • Living confidently
      • Collecting together a regime for managing dyslexia/ SpLD
      • Building an individual, personal profile
      • Gaining insights
    • Using the mind well
    • Thinking preferences
    • Pausing and maintaining clear thinking

  • Organisation 
    • Using your strengths
    • Recognising hazards and obstacles
  • Creating satisfying systems for organising   
    • Time and time management
    • Space, place and directions
    • Everyday life
      • Tasks, projects, events
      • Objects
      • Remembering decisions
      • Paperwork, emails, etc.
      • Throwing away or deleting
    • Study peripherals
      • Navigating course structures
    • Employment
      • Navigating employment structures
    • Making choices
    • Relating to other people

  • The individuality of dyslexic/ SpLD people 
  • Exploring with each dyslexic/ SpLD person 
    • learning needs
    • thinking strengths
    • core issues of problems and solutions
  • Different means of assisting dyslexic/ SpLD people 
    • teaching
    • conversation and dialogue
    • indirect communication, e.g. written materials or online or signs
  • A wide range of people who assist through contact 
    • their roles
    • what can go wrong when the impacts of dyslexia/ SpLD are ignored
    • the approaches they can adopt to help dyslexic/ SpLD people learn knowledge and skills as effectively as possible with minimum impact from their dyslexia/ SpLD
  • People who put in place the policies and systems that facilitate the practices which are VITAL for dyslexic/ SpLDs and GOOD for all.
  • People who publicise best practice for dyslexic/ SpLD people 
  • Fundamental aspects of learning knowledge and skills that assist dyslexic/ SpLD people to 
    • learn and recall them
    • use and develop them
  • Strategies for the major forms of communication and the problems that can occur 
    • Input modes:
      • reading
      • listening
      • doing (kinaesthetic)
    • output modes:
      • writing
      • speaking
      • taking-action (kinaesthetic)
  • The problems and strategies for 
    • making notes
    • exams
    • group work: meetings; seminars; debates
    • driving
    • social situations: travel; job application; eating out; finances

  • Problems of dyslexia/ SpLD 
    • Persistence of dyslexia/ SpLD
    • Variations
    • Recognising pitfalls: hazards and obstacles
    • Accommodation
    • Comparison with non-dyslexia/ SpLD
    • General behaviour patterns of dyslexia/ SpLD
    • Adulthood and childhood problems for:
      • Dyslexia
      • Dyspraxia
      • AD(H)D
      • Dyscalculia
  • Avoiding the problems of dyslexia/ SpLD 
    • Childhood
      • Teachers and parents
      • Evidence of problems
      • 1-1 support
      • Classroom support
    • Research and teaching programmes
      • Cognitive profile
      • Skills
      • Confidence
      • Overlap of SpLDs
      • Research models of SpLD
      • New paradigm
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