myths and realities…
Again we’ve encountered a myth, an article the work of a sensationalist writer armed with more rhetoric than research, regurgitating falsehoods less appealing than yesterday’s breakfast, with hopes that the microcosmic pebble kicked will somehow cause a landslide of change. The song is the same, sung as off key as ever – every note skewing facts and twisting realities – prospecting for an over eager public stance towards crucifying the cause. Naive, unenlightened, self serving propaganda is rather unimpressive, particularly when served cold, with a side of ignorance. All of this in the name of yet another California school district slipping lower and lower on the spectrum fiduciary responsibility, whose main spokespeople seem more interested in cutting off the head, than curing the headache.
Many of us fired back, taking a moment to adjust the lens through which they see life, hoping against hope that perhaps this time enlightenment would be theirs. Dr. Press articulated a wonderful rebuttal in the VisionHelp blog, demonstrating once again that the high road is ours, despite the daggers, arrows, and bullets clearly designed to deter, dissuade, or detour our progress. Dr. Charles Boulet is himself poised to travel the high road, writing a response of his own to be published in the coming days. Simply put, Optometry chooses to educate because we can help, others choose to denigrate because they cannot.
In a generous and hopefully non-assuming fashion, let’s inject some logical thought into some illogical assertions, with a goal of converting myth into reality.
Myth #1 – Vision and Reading Are Unrelated – As any normally sighted person who’s attempted to read while blindfolded will attest, the task is next to impossible. If you can’t put your eyes on it, you can’t read it. Your eyes are your windows to the world, your vehicle for interpretation, your camera for photographing; and since our brains cannot absorb written ideas by osmosis, our pictures are necessary. Whether you buy the idea that vision plays a small or large role in reading, our blindfold experiment proves that vision has to exist in order for reading to occur. By virtue of the need of open eyes, we identify vision playing some role in reading. which for the moment establishes the relationship. Vision and reading are related.
Myth #2 – If You Can See It, You Can Read It – With the blindfold removed the picture reappears, guaranteeing reading abilities, right? Wrong. Haec cogitatio est praemissa tot fabulas ad visionem (Latin for this thought is the premise for so many myths related to vision) The Latin is there plain as day for you to see and as clear as anything else on this page, but you cannot read it – unless by some fluke you read Latin fluently. The English words you understand are printed just as clearly as the Latin you couldn’t; the main difference being interpretive skills. Your eyes took a picture of the English words and sent them to your brain for interpretation, and in turn, your brain offered them meaning. With the Latin words, no interpretation was available due to a lack of experience, but you can see the Latin words just fine. There is more to reading than just seeing clearly.
Myth #3 – Reading Fluency Is Unrelated To Tracking Ability – As any Optometrist, Vision Therapist, astute Vision Therapy patient and even Ophthalmologist will testify, this one is actually part truth. Tracking, by definition, is the ability to constantly and continuously align the eyes on a moving target. Since very few elementary school students desire to, or are asked to, read their text while it is flying across the room, tracking becomes a secondary or even tertiary concern. Reading usually does not require anyone follow a moving target. Reading is truly based in saccadic ability (jumping from one point to the next – such as word to word) and fixation ability (steadying the eyes on a fixed target); the latter of which is neurologically linked to tracking, but requires zero movement. On a deeper level, the jumps from word to word (saccades) are controlled by a completely different neurological process than tracking. Apples and oranges.
Semantics can often be a matter of splitting hairs, and some may argue that is the case here. However, since we think and communicate in language, the choice of words becomes important in detecting the facts, and understanding the myths and realities. I believe the language used separates those who understand the truth from those who do not.
Myth #4 – There Is No Research – When I was a boy, I believed the red cars went faster than the rest, based on absolutely nothing. Now some 30 years later through my own evolution, the thought makes me laugh, and the boyhood impression is something of the past. Thirty years ago there may not have been research on VT’s efficacy, but now there is. It can be found here, here, here and here. Like the red cars, it’s time to outgrow our old ideas, and replace them with more current facts which are based in reality.
Myth # 5 – Vision Therapy Doesn’t Work – There will always be a faction of the population that believes this, the same as there will be groups believing Elvis is still alive, martians live in Area 51, and Neil Armstrong’s televised landing on the moon was nothing more than an elaborate hoax. Anyone taking a serious look at Vision Therapy though will discover the logic, the premise, and the method behind it; further understanding that our eyes capture pictures of the world for our brain to process, and are an integral piece in our understanding of the world. If this were untrue, a blind person would have no problem reading the printed word, driving a car, or throwing a baseball around in the backyard. These tasks require an accurate visual picture in order to create an appropriate response, making them impossible to the blind – and challenging to those sighted folks who cannot accurately determine the where, the what and the why through their vision. Vision Therapy teaches us not only how to move our eyes more efficiently, but also how to understand what we see, and even what to look for.
If you’re still not sold on the impacts of vision on learning and life, perhaps you can admit there is at least enough information available to research yourself, rather than just believing the naysayers because they say you should. Knowledge is power, and with the knowledge of what VT can really do, I believe I know the conclusion you will reach through your research.
In the end I suppose we will never convince everyone, though many individuals and organizations remain dedicated to trying. The outspoken naysayers remain ready to pounce, quoting outdated or non-existent material, and keeping themselves out of touch with progress. Vision Therapy works, and works very well. Many of the most intelligent people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, emailing, working alongside, or caring for as patients are all the evidence necessary. Maybe the pure absurdity of the article written in Los Angeles will help show a few more people that benefits of Vision Therapy are real, and the naysayers are just blowing smoke.
We can only hope.