when it quacks like a duck…
Great news, friends! Vision and reading are unrelated! This according to a study recently published by the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University Medical Center. The senior study author Guinevere Eden tells us “Until now, there was still this uncertainty where some people were saying, ‘I know it’s controversial but I still believe that vision is contributing to these kids’ reading problem.’ We now have a finding that really speaks to an understanding that visual system function shouldn’t have a role in diagnosis or treatment.” Good to know. If you’re interested, they’re also selling Unicorn rides to Mars to anyone who can pay with dragon horns or pixie dust.
Although I’m tempted to launch into a sarcastic rant on how infuriating this article is, instead I’d like to simply demonstrate why these Georgetown University folks may have overlooked a few things.
Good readers move their eyes efficiently from left to right, accurately capturing the images, also known as words, sequentially to form sentences and ideas. If the eyeballs are doing a poor job at collecting information due to a lack of coordination or control, and the brain is using that poor information, what type of product might we expect? Probably poor as well.
Check this out. This graphic below demonstrates eye movements when travelling across a line of text. The arrow represents the direction the eyes are moving as they read the text. Smooth and efficient movements from left to right. This reader will understand this sentence as “The boy was the star”
But now let’s create a vision difficulty, say something simple like a saccadic dysfunction. Saccades, for those of you not intimately involved in Vision Therapy, are simply the “jumps” our eyes make from one point to the next. In terms of reading, it would be jumping from word to word. If our saccades are inefficient or beyond our control at times, our eye movements may look more like this.
With deference to the Georgetown University bunch, let’s just pretend that the second student may have reading challenges due to their eye movements. Is it possible that they are reading a word or two backwards? I mean literally reading it backwards, with eye movements moving from right to left? Perhaps instead of this sentence reading “The boy was the star” the child with a saccadic dysfunction may read this as “The boy saw the rats”? If you watch closely, our second student is actually catching the words was and star in a backwards motion and mechanically reading from right to left for those split seconds. This is not only indicative of poor eye movements but it also changes the entire meaning of the sentence. These type movements can happen so fast, and are so beyond control, that the emerging reader likely is unaware they are occurring. Multiply this problem over several subjects, several classes, and a few years of academic study and what do you get? Probably a very frustrated reader and perhaps a defeated child. Is this Dyslexia? Maybe. Is it a visually related learning issue? Maybe. Is it a reason to dismiss vision altogether as a possible contributor to the overall issue. Of course not.
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…