Working with Brain Injuries and Autism: an SEN Advisor's View

Helen Simon realised the power of Inspiration and visual learning during her studies, when she received Inspiration as part of her DSA assessment for dyslexia. Now an SEN advisory teacher, Helen advocates for Inspiration 11 to be used from primary school age through to higher education, particularly to assist children with challenges in education. Watch the video and read more below to learn about the work Helen does.


What sort of tasks do you think Inspiration is useful for?

At primary level it’s mainly writing tasks, planning the writing and what keywords need to be in it. Then when we start getting into secondary school, the mind mapping comes into its own in science lessons about how to plan the experiment, how to do the methods, the conclusion, etc.

I think it's particularly worked with a lot of my autistic students for planning. Some of them find change and flexibility of mind difficult and don’t understand, for example, why they can't wear their winter coat anymore. And if the diary is changing, or the school trip is changing, that can be managed with a diagram in Inspiration because they can see it, they can talk through it and they can talk through the language. I've got a lot of speech therapists working with it now and they love it as well.

Also, the brain injured children have a lot of therapy teams, so during the week, they might have three different therapists working with them that could feed into their planning mind map. So, everybody within the team can then see the mind map and what the outcomes at the end of it are going to be. It’s also good that if you're planning and things change, you’re able to move the mind map around easily. It's not a fixed thing.

I've worked with big therapy teams, particularly for those children who are in wheelchairs with a lot of physical challenges, as well as the mental challenge, and the team says, “we want the child to engage in a physiotherapy programme, but we're finding it really hard”. So, I say if you put it all into a mind map that shows ‘this is what we want you to do on Tuesday, and this is how it's going to fit in’, the child realises they can do it and the team realises they can use it with lots of different students. A lot of people, like physiotherapists and occupational therapists, could be using it.

What are the outcomes of using Inspiration for students?

I've seen nothing but positive improvements in all areas. I think giving it to younger people, they learn to use it so by the time they go to secondary school, it's brilliant because they come up with their own ideas for using it. By the time they get to college, they can work with somebody and then go away and become independently able to do the task or the activity themselves. Also, say a student has a map to help them pack their bag, they then actually become more comfortable because they've got the right gear in the right bag on the right day. They do become more self-confident; they do become more independent. And I think if something goes wrong, then instead of blaming someone, they can take responsibility for following their mind map. So again, the outcomes have been really positive, across the board in all sorts of different areas.

Are there particular tools you like to use with Inspiration? 

Inspiration is very adaptable because I can layer it with different types of software. So, students can use their speech recognition software to fill in the symbols, whether it's Dragon or Siri. It doesn't have to be typed. I've also got a predictive text software that I use for children that are really struggling with language, which you can use with Inspiration as well. It's a very adaptable tool. It's amazing.

Example mind map:

Packing my bag for school mind map checklist

Do you think Inspiration is an easy software to learn to use?
I do and the reason I prefer it to other mind mapping software is it's very visual. You just click on what you want and move it. So, I think it’s supportive of anybody who's a visual learner. For learners who struggle with processing speeds and who take a long time to formulate their ideas, I think mind mapping really helps.

How do you personally use Inspiration?
I mostly use Inspiration for planning and to write assistive technology assessment reports. I go in and spend the morning with a child and make notes, and then come back and put those notes into Inspiration. I also used it a huge amount when I was planning my masters and my dissertation. So, all my research I do on Inspiration and if I've got a long email to write, I'll use it then too.

Anything that you want to add?
I think that we need to use Inspiration in primary schools. I'm an advocate for that and I think if it was into more schools at an earlier stage, it would support a huge number of people.

If you would like to learn more about Inspiration 11, click here, and for more user case studies, click here.

Inspiration is an approved product for the Disabled Student Allowance.