In The Mind is Flat, Nick Chater uses our flawed intuitions about how we see to question the veracity of the intuition that we have a cognitive subconscious. My review will focus on what Mr. Chater calls “the grand illusion”; our belief that we see much more than we do. Our thoughts and actions are dependent on our perceptions. What we have perceived in the past influences our present perceptions as our current perceptions continue to create who we are and how we will perceive in the future. Illusions can cause us to believe that we are seeing what we know cannot be true. I cannot express this better than the author’s words. Continue reading
When an adult with a visual problem comes to the office they usually present with symptoms. When a child with visual problems comes to the office, they rarely report symptoms. This is true for children who have other issues which they readily make known. These children, however, frequently show signs that their vision is inadequate for the demands of the classroom. The most common sign is the one most easily overlooked; they avoid tasks that are visually difficult or uncomfortable. Since there are other reasons that a child may avoid these tasks, the possibility that the primary cause is visual may not be considered.
Taking a good history is critical, but it is difficult when children are young and when they have not experienced seeing any other way. It may also be that the change has developed gradually as the visual demands have increased. Adults who develop visual problems usually recognize the change. Open-ended questions such as “do your eyes bother you or do you have any problems seeing?” invariably result in a simple, impulsive response of “no”. But specific questions may cause them to answer an equally misleading “yes”. Fortunately, the history continues throughout the exam. Observations are often made during the evaluation that enable the doctor to predict what the child experiences. When this is confirmed, doctor-patient-parent communication is enhanced.
Children come into the office every week who have not complained but have visual problems that are affecting their ability to perform to their potential. The experience of a young lady who came into the office last week prompted me to share this information. She reported, in retrospect, that she has had visual problems that have made reading difficult since she started reading. She did well in school until her junior year when the reading demand increased and her grades plummeted. That summer, an occupational therapist helped her discover that her symptoms were reduced when she put a dark blue overlay on the print. Prior to this, she assumed that everyone saw print as she did – moving on the page – but that it did not impair their reading. While the overlay helps, she still has poor tracking and reads slowly. She is an excellent candidate to have her defective visual skills treated through optometric vision therapy, but she was leaving for college exactly two weeks after our appointment.
The reading demands of college, despite accommodations, are going to be a challenge. How different this story could have been if this problem was diagnosed and treated early in elementary school.
It is fortunate when children realize that they can read better when they use a finger or ruler under the print and are willing to do so, but this would not be necessary if they had adequate visual skills. And, no one can read efficiently when they must use props to help them keep their place. The act of reading should be subconscious. It should not waste attention that is required to process information, using that attention to keep our place or to move our finger under the words to see the print word-by-word. Some adaptations, like getting close to read or write, while a natural response, make the task more difficult, more stressful, and more fatiguing.
The Convergence Insufficiency Symptom Survey (CISS) was developed by a National Institutes of Health research team. Its scores correlate well with the presence of visual problems related to reading. Children who score 15 or above should have an examination which includes the evaluation of focusing, eye teaming, tracking, and visual information processing. I recommend the same for children who are receiving special assistance or accommodations in school, those children who are not performing to the expectations of their parents and teachers, and for any child whose parents’ intuition tells them that something is not right. Understandably, these populations have a high incidence of visual problems. We should not miss the children who are working hard to do adequate work who should be doing well with much less effort.
Vision screenings and most examinations do not assess these skills. Examinations for children typically assess their visual acuity at far and their eye health. You should find out before you schedule an appointment if the examination will include an assessment of these skills. You can look at the office’s website, contact their office, or find out if they are a member of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) or the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF). You are more likely to find an optometrist who specializes in this area than an ophthalmologist.
Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
We cannot avoid forecasting. Everything that we do is based on what we expect the outcome to be. Some forecasting is short-term and primarily preconscious such as planning a movement while taking into consideration the positions and movements of others around you. We have been making these kinds of predictions for millions of years and we apply the same processes to skills for which we have not evolved such as driving. Continue reading
“The Decline of Comprehension-Based Silent Reading Efficiency in the United States: A Comparison of Current Data with Performance in 1960” appeared in Reading Research Quarterly in 2016. While there are endless debates about reading pedagogy, there is consensus that the best way to assess silent reading efficiency is by measuring eye movements. Continue reading
Vanessa Potter experienced a brain injury from a sudden inflammatory response triggered by a rare autoimmune disease. Within two days she went completely blind and lost much of her feeling and motor skills. She regained her sensation and motor abilities and partially regained her sight during an extended period of recovery. Continue reading
2011 International Conference on Plastic Vision
Edited by Jennifer K. E. Steeves and Laurence R. Harris
The term “plasticity” in neuroscience means that the brain can change and discoveries over the last couple of decades have proven that we retain a degree of neuroplasticity into old age. This volume is a collection of papers from the presentations at the meeting. None of the scientists are optometrists but all of their research relates to vision development and vision therapy. Visual skills and the processing of visual information develop through experience and can be modified through directed, intensive rehearsal. This happens as people improve at a craft, hobby, music, art, job, or sport. Visual skills and visual processing can also be developed through vision therapy. The following excerpts are taken directly from the scientific papers. Continue reading
We have used technology to evaluate eye movements for decades. RightEye is revolutionary technology for recording and analyzing the movements of each eye while tracking targets presented on the screen of a specialized lap top computer. Sensors within the lap top monitor the position of the head and eyes while tests are administered that would normally be assessed and recorded primarily through observation. Movements are recorded as the patient follows targets that move horizontally, vertically, and in circles. Eye movements are also tracked as the patient shifts gaze between targets that are separated horizontally, targets that are separated vertically, and while reading material that is appropriate for their reading level. This assesses their eye movements at their most efficient level of reading. The movements are recorded and compared to norms.
These movements, which are critical for efficient visual function, cannot be assessed with this degree of precision without RightEye technology. The analysis displays the movements graphically. It also allows the movements to be replayed so the movements can be observed in the sequence in which they occurred. This information augments our ability to determine the degree to which eye movements are contributing to problems in reading, attention, and comfort and to develop effective treatment plans.
Vision is a sense, but like touch, controlled movements are critical. We must Look to See. The quality of our eye movements determines the quality of our visual input. Input that is not clear and coordinated binocularly (convergence insufficiency), input that is missing because it is skipped, and input that is out of sequence compromises visual processing and its interpretation. Testing visual perception, reading, or attention and making decisions based on the results can be misdirected without a thorough evaluation of ocular motor skills.
Reading is complex. Many visual skills are involved which must be coordinated with language skills, phonics, and prior knowledge. Poor readers often skip words, read words out of sequence, misread words, and experience garbled input due to poor focus or the lack of precise binocular alignment. Their visual processing speed may also be slow and out of synchronization with their other abilities. Their visual system may not have adequate stamina to maintain visual efficiency for extended periods of time. Visualization is necessary to develop sight vocabulary and to simulate real experiences from the words on the page and to store the simulation for future retrieval. These visual skills are not innate. There is innate potential but the skills must be developed and rehearsed to become automatic and applied. Ineffective visual function can rob attentional resources needed for comprehension, referencing, and storage and to make reading enjoyable and interesting.
Faulty visual skills cause faulty rehearsal interfering with the progress anticipated based on a child’s intelligence and environment. This can lead to the child’s frustration and frustrate those who are working with him, all of whom care and all of whom appear to be doing the right things. Visual skills that are inadequate for school, work, and avocations have been developed through optometric vision therapy for decades. RightEye builds on this background as efficient visual skills become increasingly important in the visually intensive world of the 21st century.