Square vs. Diamond
Written by Guest Blogger: Jessica Zwilling, COVT
How many times have you encountered this dialogue in your VT room?
Therapist: What is this? (pointing to the shape on the left)
Patient: It’s a square!
Therapist: That’s right! Now, what’s this? (pointing to the shape on the right)
Patient: A diamond!
Many of us may give a quick correction, showing the patient a square and a diamond side by side, so that we can move on with the prescribed parquetry block activity. The patient is able to match the shape, color, and orientation on and off the parquetry card pattern. So what’s the big deal? That was exactly my thought at the start of my journey in the VT room.
In my early days as a VT assistant, my first boss, Edward L. Goldstein, would walk into the VT room with his mug of coffee to make his rounds, and all the kids would sit up straight and double their efforts. (Side note: The same thing happens to my students when one of the nuns walks through my music class. Maybe I need to start wearing costumes for better classroom control?) Dr. Goldstein’s ears perked up when he heard a kid calling a square a diamond. He would then focus all of his attention on that child at that moment, and we all knew that child would not be getting any other activities done that session.
The dialogue between Dr. Goldstein and the patient went something like this:
Dr.G: What’s your name?
Dr.G: If I turn you upside down on your head, will you still be Bobby?
Pt: Umm, yes?
Dr.G: If I spin you around backwards, will you still be Bobby?
Pt: Yeah, I guess.
Dr.G: So, if I turn this square sideways, will it still be a square?
Pt: Well yeah……… but now it looks like a diamond.
Now, Dr. Goldstein would be rolling up his sleeves with a smile and a gleam in his eye. He would sit across the table from the patient, having the befuddled kid count sides and corners on the square and the diamond and talk about the angles. Then, they would move on to the chalkboard so that Dr. Goldstein could draw some diagrams to prove his point. They looked something like this:
The child was asked to tell which guy would get to the middle first if they both ran at the same time. Of course, we always had the clever kid that would explain that one guy was faster because he had better shoes, but for the most part, the newly enlightened child would understand the difference in the angles. And that child would never mislabel a square or diamond ever, ever again.
For a long time, I thought it was just plain crazy to spend an entire session talking about the differences between a square and a diamond. Although, you could do that, back when the average duration of therapy was 60+ sessions. (I’ll save that topic for another time.) I now know and appreciate what Dr. Goldstein was doing, and I giggle with delight when I encounter that situation in VT. He took the time to help the child figure it out for himself. He guided with questions instead of answers. He demonstrated that it is infinitely more important to understand the “why” rather than the “what.” More importantly, he did it in such a simple, clever way, seizing the small opportunities to make a big difference. Did that child do anything that session to improve his binocular vision? Not really. But he did come away from that session with so much more.
Vision is learned. Vision is understanding what we see. Therefore, it is our job to teach the patient how to understand what they see. Although, I did not realize it at the time, thank you, Dr. Goldstein, for making my first 6 years in the VT room the most inspiring.
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. -Dr. William Arthur Ward