Mind Maps: For Neuro-diversity and Beyond

As part of my role with Lexxic I have the pleasure of providing tailored coaching to individuals with neuro-diverse conditions. One of the first strategies I like to share are mind maps. I like to share mind maps early on as they are an amazing strategy for a number of tasks. For example, they can be used in the following ways:

·      To support understanding and retention of information;

·      Note-taking;

·      Brainstorming;

·      Structuring written work;

·      Planning and breaking down tasks;

·      Organising workload.

In my opinion, mind maps are underrated. I remember being taught them at school where the learning objective of the exercise was to learn how to create mind maps. Not how to really use them as a strategy for tasks, but simply as a physical description of how the map is drawn. This is of course, very useful information to have, therefore it is a very good place to start.

How to Create Mind Maps

To create a mind map, all you need is a piece of paper and a pencil or pen. In the middle of your page you write down the central concept of your mind map and put a circle round it. Then you draw a branch off and write down another related concept. In my example below, my main concept is Neuro-diversity. My first related branch is dyslexia. I have then added other branches for some other conditions.

I can also continue to add branches to each section, for example, I have added some of the strengths and difficulties for dyslexia below.

What I am building here is a visual picture of my concept. I can easily see the bigger picture and how concepts are related to each other. Because I have made it visual and have actively engaged with the information, I am much more likely to understand and remember it.

Advancing your Mind Maps

Once you get to grips with the basics there are some things that may support your mind mapping skills.

The first is use of colour. Let’s say you are using a mind map to take notes at a meeting. If you circle all of your action points in green, you can see at a glance exactly what is required of you, without having to re-read your map.

The second is use of sticky notes. If you are not sure how the concepts relate at first, or you don’t like scoring things out on your page, you can re-arrange sticky notes until you are happy with the layout. You can also move these from paper to a whiteboard or wall when working on team or long-term projects.

The third is use of assistive technology. There is a variety of mind mapping software available for PCs, Macs and mobile devices that will allow the electronic creation of mind maps. This provides all the editing benefits that come with using electronic systems, as well as some added features to improve the way mind maps can be used.

I would encourage you to try mind maps if you do not already use them, even if you do not experience any neuro-diverse difficulties. They are particularly useful for visual or hands-on (kinaesthetic learners). It may require a little practise to note-take during a fast paced meeting at first, but as you develop your skill in using them you will be able to create them fluently and apply them to many more tasks.

By Mellissa Warrender, Junior Assistant Psychologist.
First Published 28 May, 2019 on LinkedIn.

Abigail Hayward