The Sands of Time
If there is one commodity that remains non-negotiable, it has to be time. It cannot be extended, recovered, manipulated or rolled back. The clock is ticking, so to speak; a fact that is true for all of us. If given a choice, most people would probably like to slow time down, perhaps to spend more time enjoying life. You know, spend a few extra minutes with their grandchildren, maybe even to stop and smell the roses. Time ticks on though and we’re all getting older – minute by minute.
Time remains an important aspect of Vision Therapy too, although for reasons that may be less obvious than the need for steady fixations or even good peripheral awareness. Understanding how to use time to your advantage may be one key element in advancing from a good Vision Therapist to a great one; and unfortunately, not understanding can be the difference between success and failure.
Many Vision Therapists when working on visual motor and visual perceptual skills will utilize some form of the Socratic Method, which in a nutshell, means we ask open-ended questions for the purpose of stimulating lateral and critical thinking, idea analysis, problem solving, and self discovery. It’s intent is to build pathways and enhance the opportunity for new connections. But what would happen if you ask the most carefully worded question designed to inspire thought, to illuminate previously dimmed cognitive light bulbs, to open perceptual doors, and most importantly to begin the transformation of a patient’s life from distress to success – and it doesn’t work? Your question is beautiful, articulate, and as close to perfect as it could possibly be – and is clearly unsuccessful.
Our understanding of how conversations naturally ebb and flow would suggest that we wait for the patient to formulate an answer. But for how long? Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Five seconds. Ten seconds. Fifteen. Twenty. No answers, just blank stares. Do you keep waiting, returning the stare? We’re trained to set the patient up for success, not failure. Thirty seconds pass. Still no answer. Waiting. Thinking. Waiting. Thinking. If we give in and offer clues to the answer, will the patient pick up on the idea that they may not be connecting the dots fast enough, perhaps further affecting their confidence level? Their process is happening right before us, but when does that process become defeat? When do we realize that we set this situation up and – oh no! – we’re on the hook right with this poor patient! Is there a way to step in with a gentle nudge?
It’s a tough call, especially in a setting designed to applaud effort over outcome. Is it beyond the realm of possibility to wait a full 60 seconds for a patient to solve the perceptual challenge in front of them? 90 seconds full of effort? I suppose it really depends on the situation. Since I’ve never found a book or manual explaining how long to wait or the best plan in these situations (finding said scripture would result in my performing cartwheels down the hallway) perhaps because the question is impossible to answer, a lot of my managing is done by feel. Knowing my patients, their abilities and their challenges, building upon previously explored visual-perceptual concepts, how far I can push the envelope with their thinking, and most of all, understanding how to backtrack without giving the appearance that we are warding off failure. Applaud the effort!
All this to say, I really don’t have a “one size fits all” answer. I am always aware, though, that the longer it takes for a patient to construct a thought, the more likely they may also begin thinking that “the quickest answer is the best answer”, and that they are falling short. Not true at all. When solidifying the process, speed is irrelevant. Learning can be very similar to growing. Sometimes our bodies grow quickly and sometimes more slowly. Just because you’re not as tall today as those around you, does not mean you’ve failed growth. It just means you’re not finished yet. Most days, slowing down to refine the process is a good thing. And when confronted with this type of situation, never forget those three little words…
Take your time.
I’ll save my cartwheels for another day.
Posted on July 14, 2014, in From My Perspective... and tagged Asking Questions, Cartwheels, Changing Lives, journal of behavioral optometry, Process over Product, Socratic Method, Time, Time Management, VT Room Ideas. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.