Why 20/20 Doesn’t Mean Perfect Vision and What You Should Do About It

Posted by The Learning Turtle | October 22, 2015

Green eyeball

Pigtails and purple bottlecap glasses walks in the classroom. Sits in the front row of Mrs. McCoy’s Ninth Grade History class. Pigtails wants to like history. She really tries to.

She pulls out her textbook, pulls it close to her face, and tries to finish last night’s reading, another in a dirge of history pages atop her literature class pages, when Mrs. McCoy calls out, “Pop quiz! Books away. Take out your pens.”

Pigtails has just learned how to swear, and she does so under her breath. She failed the last two reading quizzes. Last night, she mustered a mild interest in European dictators. Unfortunately, she fatigued halfway through her reading, and fell asleep. She awoke in time for dinner, and did her math work afterwards. Because she knew she had a geometry exam today. She thought about her unfinished history reading on the bus this morning, and the mere thought made her sleepy again. Instead of reading, she zoned out snapchatting her best friend, the freckled girl sitting in the back of the classroom.

She leans over the quiz until her nose almost touches it:

Question 1. Benito Mussolini was the dictator of which country during WWII?


She immediately misreads Benito Mussolini as Benedict Mu—something. And she’s pretty sure the last Pope was from Germany, maybe Munich. She circles A.

The beginning of failed quiz number 3.

She confuses fascism and racism; she mixes up left and right during the geography portion, confidently circling Slovakia as left of Germany (try Switzerland, please); she randomly writes that the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called Italy “ the lion of the south,” when the teacher is looking for “the soft underbelly of Europe.”

If Pigtails doesn’t get help she is likely to fail history this year. She is frustrated, because she’s decently smart, and her parents just took her to the optometrist in August. She doesn’t know why she gets so tired.

She tries to focus on other things. She makes JV Volleyball. She does well in biology. She engages well in conversations with adults, and gets a position on Student Council. Failing history classes will not get her very far in government.

So what’s wrong with Pigtails?

First of all, she doesn’t see entire words when she reads. Her ability for visual closure is low. She skips words and loses her place on the page. She strains so much she often gets tired. She also often confuses left and right, and although she is good at volleyball, off the court, she is clumsy.

Low visual closure is evaluated on the Structure of Intellect (SOI) as the Cognition of Figural Units, or the CFU ability. It is one of two abilities that form the basis of all learning. The second is Cognition of Figural Classes, or the CFC ability. This relates to visual conceptualization, which Pigtails is actually good at. She understands the diagrams in her Biology books, and can grasp adult concepts when she speaks to them, exceeding many of her peers in this area.

But CFC without CFU is like an oak sapling with half of its roots. If Pigtails has such trouble reading, how will she do in college, when she will be assigned more heavy reading and research papers? How can she make visual concepts when she lacks visual closure?

Beyond CFU, Pigtails probably tests low in several other cognitive abilities— the ability to make visual judgments, called Evaluation of Figural Units, or EFU, which when weak causes letter reversals; the ability to track detailed information, called Cognition of Semantic Systems, or CMS, which when weak contributes to her lack of focus; the ability for visual concentration, called Memory of visual Symbolic Units, or MSUv, which when weak also contributes to fatigue; and the ability to hold or process a sequence of visual data, called Memory of visual Symbolic Systems, or MSSv, which when weak causes retention issues during the act of reading itself.

Yet Pigtails is bright girl with plenty of potential. She shows us that phonics and reading comprehension quizzes do not suffice. What she, and children like her, need is to work with instructors trained in visual learning. The SOI tutors are such needed instructors. In severe cases, a child may also benefit from seeing a visual therapy optometrist. However, 90% or more children with reading problems caused by low visual performance make drastic improvements with SOI exercises alone. In some documented cases, children have gone from non-verbal to high gifted in reading abilities after a year of weekly SOI work.

We must not neglect these students. SOI education tools are an obscure practice to most, but they should not be. The tools to help low visual performers are forged and waiting for you— SOI exercises have proven to elevate children’s reading abilities in a way that a 20/20 perscription never will.

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