Visual Processing – Part 3 – The Road Not Taken
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood,
And looked down one as far as I could,
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there,
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay,
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
A big part of working and reworking visual processing, at least for me, has always been rooted in the therapist’s observation skills. While that may sound fairly routine, and even mundane, assuredly it holds some truth. Observation is about more than moving plastic cards back and forth while a patient talks to you about their depth perception, it’s about more than arranging a few wooden blocks in different patterns in hopes a patient will be able to follow, and it’s certainly about more than watching someone throw a ball or push a sequence of lights rapidly in hope of finding some inadequacy. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are important and my hope is not to diminish them; rather, to turn your attention to something bigger, something greater. I’m talking about observing how a patient manages the unexpected or the unplanned. This is where our true power in observation resides. Help them find the road less traveled.
Most people can handle the ordinary. Actions such as tying your shoes, finding your way to work, deciding what’s for lunch are all challenges most of us have conquered. In a therapeutic setting we could raise the demand by asking a patient to close their eyes while tying their shoes, or ask them to find a new route to work tomorrow, or even sample a cuisine they’ve never tasted, and then sit back and watch to see how they adjust or adapt. But how does vision therapy take beyond a simple adaptation which solves a small challenge and move into the larger scale disequilibrium and re-calibration?
Surely, there’s several ways to find the road less traveled, and the above pictured concept pieces are one of my favorites. They have become my favorite for a few reasons, not the least of which is the number of options provided in even the most simple of activities. For those not familiar with these blocks, they can be sorted into four basic categories: size, shape, color and thickness. From there, the sky is the limit in terms of creativity for challenging patients. When working with patients on these blocks, and really with any activity, I’m always looking for a few key aspects which guide me to the road less traveled.
- Identify Their Road – First, can I identify their path of thinking or method of reasoning. Some people are linear, some people are simultaneous, and some are completely spontaneous. No matter which method they use, or which combination of the three methods they jump to and from, this becomes the key element in creating a powerful perceptual activity.
- Create A Fork – For many therapists I’ve encountered, this is the toughest step. We therapists are sometimes quick to assume our patients understand or have mastered a level based on a very small sample size, and we ALL know what happens when we assume. The key is to ask questions. Questions in the affirmative, questions in the negative, questions which make the patient defend their position, questions which make them question your position, questions which create a fork in their road of processing and asks them to stop and consider their options as completely and carefully as possible.Remember the kid in third grade who asked way too many questions, and no matter how thorough or precise the teacher’s answer was, the kid had another question? And another. And another. And another. And another.In my therapy room, I try to be that kid.
- The Road Not Taken – The final line in Frost’s poem tells the story: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Teaching patients skills they’ve already learned, or reinforcing skills they’ve already mastered gets us no where, and is an injustice to the patients we serve. Push your patients, in the metaphorical sense, towards their road less traveled. Find the question or challenge which not only makes them defend their position but asks them to use visual input, logic, reasoning, and problem solving in unison in a way they have never done before. Make them explain and defend an idea backward, forward, and upside down until you’re sure they’re sure they believe what they see and believe their conclusions. If you can do this, it truly does make all the difference.
A few ideas on how to accomplish this coming soon in my conclusion…