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Lisa Birtles

5 reasons why children struggle with literacy and how NLP can help

Posted by Lisa Birtles

1193 Days Ago


5 Reasons Why Children Struggle with Literacy and how NLP can help

Every child is different and unique. In NLP terms, every child has a different map of the world.  This is why traditional teaching methods are not always successful in engaging every child, and why national scales and achievement targets are not always helpful since children learn and develop at different rates.  Of course league tables benchmark averages, but in NLP we don’t do average – only excellence!

At NLP4Kids through our work with children and young people of all ages we have identified 5 key reasons why some struggle with literacy:

1. UK teacher training programmes fall short

In her book “Bridges to Success” Olive Hickmott, herself dyslexic but undiagnosed until long after she had finished school, notes that teachers are taught how to teach using multi-sensory activities, but they don’t necessarily learn how to teach children to learn in a multi-sensory way.

At NLP4Kids we spend many hours in our workshops and 1:1s with children simply getting in touch with all of their senses and helping them to recognise which one(s) are strongest for them. We know that a child with a strong VISUAL preference will benefit from using different strategies to develop their literacy skills than a child with a strong AUDITORY preference.  

So, in practice getting that magical 10 out of 10 for a spelling test might be achieved by looking at the spellings and the shape of the letters and whole words for a visual child, whereas saying or singing them might be better for an auditory child.  A kinaesthetic (feelings) child usually benefits from air-writing, writing in sand or on a steamed-up mirror.

With older children and teenagers who have to study for tests and exams, an understanding of their sensory preferences and learning styles can help them to select a study strategy that is more effective.  This might mean that instead of sitting in their bedroom condensing class notes onto postcards (visual strategy) they might choose instead to dictate their notes into their smartphone and listen to them again later (auditory strategy). 

2. Children just want to have fun 

Let’s be honest – just how exciting is grammar and punctuation to a seven year old?!  Many children just don’t see the point, or where their learning is going. 

At NLP4Kids we have found it helpful to have children set well-formed goals for themselves by identifying what will be better/easier when they can read and write with confidence.  Some of the responses we get from our small clients include: “My teacher won’t tell me off”  “I can read the text boxes on my computer game without asking my mum” or “I can go out to play when I know my spellings”.  That way they see what’s in it for them.

Since we also recognize that 9-year old boys may not be that enthused by punctuating random sentences, we take time to find out their interests and hobbies so that we can tailor our exercises to something they can actually get excited about!  This has seen us researching words and terminology associated with rugby, judo and even dinosaurs in order to create a spelling list that our young clients care about, want to learn and might actually use in their creative writing!

3. Inability to concentrate or focus 

Time and again parents receive the school report that says “Billy would do better if he stopped fidgeting and distracting the person next to him”.   For some children this behaviour can be a symptom of a yet undiagnosed specific learning difficulty e.g. dyslexia.  The good news is that whatever the reason at NLP4Kids we have had huge success with teaching children how to increase their focus and get grounded.

Using simple, fun techniques we can help even the most distracted and fidgety of kids to calm themselves an remain focussed within less than a minute.  We also teach their parents so they can do this together at home. Grounding techniques we have found to be most effective include short guided meditations, breathing exercises and hypnotherapy or the use of hypnotic language.  Storytelling and utilisation are also incredibly helpful. For children who get “stuck” or stressed whilst focusing on their literacy work we explore ways to change state and become more resourceful.  It’s not unusual during one of my therapy sessions to find me and my young client doing crazy dancing or MindGym exercises in the middle of our sessions!

It’s a small tweak really but we have found that with greater concentration and focus come improvements in literacy and all aspects of learning proving that effective learning always requires a holistic approach.

4. Lack of confidence or self-belief

Put simply, when children can’t learn to read, they cannot read to learn.  Almost every other school subject relies on reading for children to progress. 

We help children recognise their interests, strengths and achievements by using re-framing. We also use our specialist knowledge of language patterns to challenge and change the limiting beliefs that children build up about themselves such as “I am rubbish at spelling”.

Instead of focusing on what they think they can’t do, we first work with what they can do to build their trust and confidence.


5. A specific reason

For some children, there may be a specific reason why they are struggling with literacy e.g. dyslexia. 

Many of us at NLP4Kids have also trained as Empowering Learning TM Practitioners, which enables us to combine our NLP expertise with techniques and exercises designed to work with a child’s strengths and preferences to develop their literacy skills.  We regularly work with children with specific learning difficulties and have had good success with our approach.  We can also point parents in the direction of more specialist forms of assessment and support should these be needed.

There are many reasons why children (and adults) struggle with literacy.  These are just a few.  That’s why NLP4Kids works so well.  We take the time to get to know each unique individual and work with them in a creative and enjoyable way to build their belief, confidence and skills. 

To learn more contact Lisa:

Lisa@nlp4kids.org

07815 057975

Lisa Birtles

Article written by Lisa Birtles - Oldham

I am pleased to offer 1:1 NLP based coaching and therapy sessions for children and young people from age 5 upwards to help them overcome a wide range of challenges such as low confidence or self-esteem, bullying, worrying about school, struggles with literacy and a variety of behavioural issues e.g. anger... [read more]

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