In my last post, I mentioned mind mapping as a way to organize your thoughts or brainstorm ideas. It’s a concept that I find is being utilized more, in both educational and business settings. If you’ve been to any kind of training seminar lately, the trainer most likely used mind mapping as a means of brainstorming new ideas. Mind mapping is also being taught in schools, so there’s a possibility that your child may already be familiar with the concept.
If mind mapping (or concept mapping) is a new idea for you, let me explain what it is: a mind map uses pictures, drawings, and diagrams to represent thoughts and ideas. Shapes, lines, and colors may be used to link ideas, differentiate ideas, or otherwise organize thoughts. Here are some examples. As you can see, a mind map can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.
I often find that when I mention an idea such as this to a client – a concept that they’re already familiar with – they tend to dismiss it. Sort of an “I already know about that, tell me something new” attitude. The truth is, that you may have experienced mind mapping as part of a group project once, or your child may have actually done one once with a teacher, but unless this is something that you’ve tried repeatedly, you haven’t really scratched the surface.
Mind maps are powerful things for anyone, but especially for people with Attention Deficit Disorder. The written word can be our weakness. We may or may not be good readers (although there is a good likelihood that we have an above average vocabulary). Even if we have excellent reading comprehension, though, the truth is that too many words on a page is overwhelming for us.
Have you ever wondered why some of my words are in color and others are not? It’s to help those with AD/HD find the key words in what I have to say. I’ve been told that I am “verbose” when I write; I take too long and too many words to say what I mean. Maybe that’s true, but I do that in order to be as clear as I can about what I want to say.
As a person with Attention Deficit Disorder, I’m not often understood right away. Asking me to make it shorter makes it less likely that I will say what I mean. So, I write more than might be considered “enough”, and I end up with something that looks pretty intimidating to anyone with AD/HD. The colors are my way of hitting the highlights; making it easier to understand.
That’s part of what mind maps do; they provide that “picture worth a thousand words”. Mind maps are much more powerful than just that, though. Mind maps spark creativity, and help the mind make leaps and connections between ideas that might not have occurred otherwise.
I’ve said more than once that an ADD mind leaps from one thing to another. Think about visiting a website that you like; they may have an article on something that you’re interested in, so you click on the hyper link. You find something else interesting on that site, with another hyper link, so you click on that one. Can you see where I’m going with this? You may end up far away from the topic you started with, but somehow, they’re all connected. The ADD mind does this naturally, and faster than you can imagine. A mind map is a way to facilitate, document, and help make sense of this process.
Mind maps also increase comprehension and retention. A picture is read by the mind and understood much faster than words. It also makes it easier to recall, especially for visual learners. Don’t assume, though, that only visual learners will benefit from the use of mind maps. Kinesthetic learners can also learn more effectively with mind maps, because the act of drawing is more of a physical, right brain activity than writing.
Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to a teleclass taught by Dr. Ned Hallowell, M.D. Dr. Hallowell is one of the foremost people in the field of Attention Deficit Disorder, and the author of “Driven to Distraction”, a classic in the field. Dr. Hallowell had a great deal of good information to share, but one that I want to highlight here is that he believes that it is imperative that people with AD/HD have a “creative, productive outlet” in their lives. In fact, he thinks that it is vital to their mental health.
I’m sure that what Dr. Hallowell had in mind was something both pleasurable and productive; he happens to write books as his creative outlet. I’m not sure that mind maps as a means for studying fall into that category; OK, I’m sure they don’t. However, I firmly believe that if you absolutely have to do something, you should make it as pleasurable as you can. It makes what you have to do more appealing. That’s why we all love scented laundry detergents and household cleaners that smell like sunshine (whatever that smells like). I also believe that you should make things fun whenever you can; lots of colors and funny drawings work for me.
So, if you’ve got to do homework, if you have to put together an outline or a report, make it as pleasurable as you can. Designate an area in the house as “homework central”. Buy one of those easels that trainers use and a bunch of markers. Get big ones with lots of different colors. Then use mind mapping as the way to get the job done. Don’t just try it once or twice; use it for lots of things, all kinds of things. You might be surprised at how much more productive you are. And hey, if you’re having fun, too – what could be wrong with that?