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Information & Advice

...for Students

...for Staff

...on Assistive Technology


Assistive Technology - Mind Maps




This information refers to dyslexic people, but may be useful for all types of neuro-diversity.

Mind Map of this page. Click on the boxes below to travel to the various sections of this page.

Mind Map of This Page



Many students at university have certain gaps in their skills. This could include spelling, grammar and punctuation. Or it may be that organisation or time-keeping are not your strength. McLoughlin et al (2002) talk about three types of strategy to use to overcome difficulties at university:


This document will cover types of compensatory strategies that may help support the difficulties you experience. Some students who have had dyslexia, dyspraxia or other learning differences identified may be eligible for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) in the UK. In such cases, support software and hardware may be made available to them. In any case, they should contact the University’s Disability Unit, Learning Support Team or equivalent.



This document will outline some of the technology available. In some cases, it is very expensive. Where possible, lower tech (and usually less expensive) suggestions will be given.


There are some simple steps that you can take, for example through using software already available to you. The following two pieces of equipment may have features that you can use:


Mobile phone – you could use it for a ‘to do list’ and to set reminders. Often, phones allow you to set an alarm to go off at a certain time. This could be used to remind you of appointments. You could also see if your phone allows you to store pictures, as you could use photographs for your contacts. This may be useful if you have difficulty remembering names.


Customising Windows - the latest version of Windows allows you to customise the desktop. For more information on this, see Abilitynet. The area entitled ‘My computer, my way’ has lots of information on how to adjust settings on your computer to suit your own needs. (


Abilitynet have also produced a useful document entitled: ‘Dyslexia and Computing’


General outline of different types of software

Some examples of the software available:




For general information about how to produce a mindmap (see note-taking page)


The main uses of mindmapping software include:


Low tech/ low cost

You can use paper to jot down your ideas. It may look something like this, a set of ideas about 'what I need support for' :




Mindmapping software

Mindmapping is useful software for dyslexic students and others who struggle with organising ideas and planning written work. It may be used to:

Students can read an essay question, and then create an electronic mind map by brainstorming their ideas straight onto the screen, starting with the main idea surrounded by key points and then supporting details. These can range from simple one word responses to more complex phrases and ideas. In some software, single word ideas can then be transferred into a linear form and used as paragraph headings and prompts and focus points for essays. The headings may or may not be removed after the draft stage. It is possible to complete an entire essay by expanding each heading into a sentence and then a paragraph. By working in this way ideas can be kept in a logical order and paragraphs can remain focused on specific points. This avoids the writer going off at tangents as new ideas flow into their heads more quickly than the typing speed. Additional ideas can always be added to the mind map when they occur.

In addition to writing essays, mindmapping software can also be used for revision and other study purposes. When creating the mind maps, students can change colours to highlight different ideas and importance levels; they can create different-shaped boxes or introduce pictures from an extensive library of choices to help facilitate memory. This is especially useful for those who prefer a visual reminder of information. The extensive selection of colours and shapes are particularly helpful for creating easily accessible notes and/or creating a more visual method of writing up and recording lecture information. There are a number of alternative mind mapping programs available and much depends on preference of layout and ease of use.


High tech/ low cost

There is a piece of free-to-download software available called Freemind. This is available from:

(December 2006)


Below is a very simple starting point, created in Freemind:


There are some very brief online instructions to getting started with Freemind. As it is a shared, internet resource, it is constantly being adapted and developed. At present (December 2006), it does not allow the facility to convert your ideas into a linear list of subheadings, but it does have all of the features of many mindmap pieces of software, for example adding links, colour coding and adding notes to each point.

Freemind Instructions



High tech/ high cost

Other mindmapping software packages include features such as converting your mindmap to an outline document, which can be used as the basis for writing in word-processing software. They are easily exported to other software, for example MS Office packages. Generally, they cost between around £80-£180 for a single licence.


Some examples of commonly used assistive software are listed below with an annotated summary of features (based on comments available from




Inspiration website

Inspiration Version 8 Instructions


Mind Manager (business and education versions available)

 (there is no native version for MAC platforms)


Mind Genius (business and education versions available)


It is sometimes possible to download free trials of the software from the sites listed above.


Other sources of information about mindmapping computer software:



McLoughlin et al (2002) The Adult Dyslexic: interventions and outcomes

London: Whurr