The Memory Issue
Dyslexia affects people in different ways; it’s because dyslexia covers a range of processing issues and these can be unique for each person. Please don’t think it’s just about getting words and letters jumbled up or not being able to read.
One of the issues that people with dyslexia may experience is a problem with processing memory. This is the type of dyslexia I have. It means that if I receive a set of instructions verbally or in writing it takes me a long time to store those instructions and retrieve that information.
Be On Message
I remember at school, when I was still very young, a teacher once asked me to deliver a message to another teacher. I left the classroom, proud that I had been trusted with this important task. But by the time I reached the other classroom I had to slow down, and work out what the message was. I couldn’t remember it. I was worried that I might get into trouble if I went back and admitted I had forgotten. In the pressure of the moment I came up with a pretty good solution. I recalled what I could remember about the circumstances that had led up to this situation. I was able to think of the reason why she’d had to send me out on this mission. It’s because she had run out of glue, after that it was simple, I just gave the other teacher the message in my own words and I returned with the glue.
Maybe you’ve found something similar happen to you? Perhaps you were trying to follow a recipe and you found yourself having to keep referring to the instructions multiple times. Perhaps this made a mess if you had to keep picking up the recipe book with hands that you’d been using to mix the ingredients.
Have You Got A Sticky Mind?
These two stories, one about glue, the other about sticking recipe sheets to your hands, are appropriate because what we’re talking about here are instructions not sticking in your brain!
The Briefing Issue
It can also be a problem when you’re learning to drive. Especially when it comes to dealing with briefings. A briefing is when the instructor explains what you’re going to be doing in the car. You sit and listen as they clearly explain a manoeuvre or how to deal with a situation you are about to encounter. Then when the moment comes for you to perform, you freeze, and you have to ask the instructor to go over what they just said again, and again, and again, until the instructor probably tells you that you should just give it a go and then you feel terrible. It will seem as though you haven’t listened to a word you’re instructor has been saying, because you still don’t have any memory of what was said.
It can be very distressing. Enough to make you want to give up completely. So I’m going to share some strategies that will help you deal with this. By the way if you’re reading and thinking, ‘But, I have that problem and I’m not dyslexic’, then you’re going to find this useful anyway, and I’d actually suggest that it might be worthwhile getting tested for dyslexia, as you may be surprised by the result, and suddenly lots of things will start to make sense.
Briefings Aren’t For You
The first step is to be totally honest with your instructor that you don’t learn well from briefings. Instructors have lots of students and instructors can be dyslexic as well; you’re lucky if they are, because they make great teachers! But you have to keep reminding them, especially in the early stages of your time with them, that you don’t learn well from briefings. Believe it or not, there are lots of people in the world with a memory like a tape recorder. They can go back and retrieve, word for word, exactly what they’ve been told. If your mind doesn’t work like that then a standard briefing is not for you. Ask for an alternative.
Make use of mind maps. It’s best if you take an active part in creating your mind map. A mind map reveals how incredibly powerful the human mind is. If you’ve never made a mind map yourself before, you’ll discover that you know more than you think. The mind map allows you to tap into your existing knowledge. It’s simple. You start with a blank sheet of paper. Write down a topic in the middle, draw a circle around it and then draw a spoke from that circle, think of it like a branch. At the end of the branch write an associated phrase or keyword that links to the topic. Then do a brainstorm. Keep drawing branches and stems off the branches and jot down your ideas. As you get into it, one thought will trigger another and pretty soon you’ll have a detailed representation of everything you know. You’re much more likely to remember it, because you had an active part in creating it.
If your instructor won’t help you with a mind map, or if you really can’t think of anything to put on your mind map, then ask your instructor to record the briefing for you. Many instructors have dashcams in their cars, you could ask for them to turn the audio on and send you the recording of the lesson, or ask them to let you record it on your phone. Listening back to the recording and making notes can be a pain, but there is software that makes it less of a chore. Sonocent Audio Notetaker is a good one, it allows you to edit audio like you edit text and lets you store notes and pictures alongside the audio recording.
YouTube is Your Friend
After a lesson, if you think you may have forgotten something, go straight onto YouTube and look up the topic you were dealing with. There are so many helpful videos and seeing the information presented visually may help you understand it much better and this will help you to remember as well. YouTube is your friend.
Read All About It
Read about the topic in advance. If you take active steps to discover the knowledge yourself, you’re much more likely to form connections to what the instructor is telling you and therefore, you’ll be much more likely to remember it. The same applies to learning through YouTube videos, but reading can sometimes be a quicker way of getting the information you want, plus you can read as slowly as you want until you understand and unlike YouTube, you can read a book on the topic quietly, with no distractions from social media or ads popping up to interrupt your concentration. If reading is difficult for you, try reading out loud or recording yourself as you read. This helps to make sure you don’t skip over anything, and it will actually help you develop your vocabulary because it will make you aware of words you don’t know. If you discover an unfamiliar word while you’re reading, look it up and find out how to pronounce it. If you have trouble recalling what you’ve read, try the mind map technique as well, as this will help you get to the knowledge that you’ve gained and it will help you find your own way to express an idea.
Having done your own research you may have still have some questions. If you bring your questions to the lesson, rather than passively receiving a standard briefing you’ll be participating in a conversation about the topic and this is a much more active way to learn. You’re more likely to remember what the instructor says and it also makes your driving instructor’s job easier, because they won’t have to start from scratch. They will be able to teach you what you don’t know and coach you on what you already know. This is bound to speed up your learning.
It’s Good To Talk
If you know someone who can drive, talk to them about what’s coming up on your next lesson. Try to find someone you trust, who you regard as a safe and experienced driver. People love to talk about what they know and most will happily share their knowledge with you. Sometimes you’ll find that what they say is not always correct, so try to pick the brains of more than one person and get different perspectives. For years people who struggle with reading have been using this strategy, it’s very effective and can deepen your knowledge more effectively than any other method. Remember, before reading and writing was invented, knowledge used to be passed on through the generations through word of mouth. It’s a tried and tested way.
Tell Me A Story
When your instructor talks about an abstract topic, ask them to clarify by giving examples. Say your instructor told you that it’s important to leave a gap between you and the car in front that allows you to see the tyres and the tarmac. You may have heard your instructor say ‘Remember Tyres and Tarmac’ when you’ve stopped too close. However, you don’t understand why. So ask for an example that illustrates why that’s important. A common reason for leaving the gap is if the car in front brakes down, you won’t get stuck behind it, it will also help to prevent you blocking junctions and it could save you from injury and damage in the event that another driver hit you from behind. Alternatively, you might get treated to an exciting story like, ‘You should always leave at least that much space, what if the driver in front is a kidnapper, you’ll need at least that much room to take evasive action!” Perhaps that story is a bit far fetched and dramatic, but if you imagine that scenario it will help you remember to do it.
Be In The Moment
Lot’s of the time, the reason why you’ve not retained information is because the mind has wandered and you didn’t actually hear what was said in the first place because of that. If you find your thoughts going off in all directions while you’re trying to listen then it’s worth doing some mindfulness training. Look up Eckhart Tolle, the author of the ‘The Power of Now’. Eckhart explains that most of the time we are depriving ourselves of the joy of the present moment by focusing on either the future or the past. He has lots of YouTube videos on his channel as well. His teachings have a calming effect and you might find him particularly helpful if you have ADHD. Living just for the moment can be truly life enhancing. Becoming more present helps with everything and it will definitely help you to be a much better driver.
Instructor or Coach?
The way we learn to drive is changing. In the past we were told what to do by a driving instructor and all we had to do was learn the sequence of instructions like a machine. The modern way is much more tailored to your own unique learning style and this means. If you’ve got an understanding instructor, they will alter their teaching to suit you. It’s not just dyslexia that can affect your ability to concentrate and learn. Stresses from other areas in life can stand in the way and can have an adverse effect on your driving as well. These days driving instructors are trained to take account of this. We aren’t really driving instructors anymore, we are actually driver coaches. This means that, more and more we will get you to find your own answers and help you discover how to be a safe independent driver.
If you employ the techniques in this article, it will help you to partner with your driving coach in achieving this goal and if you apply these techniques to all your learning, it will help to make your brain more sticky and will keep your recipe cards much more clean as well!