It has been determined that 80% of what a child learns in school, is learned via the visual system. This is not surprising when you realize that 67% of all the nerves that enter the brain originate from the eyes!
Why would the brain dedicate so much of itself to vision? Survival. Our visual system can process more information, more quickly and simultaneously, than any other sensory system. It gathers information from a distance, so that we can move our bodies when and where we need to; to survive.
Then something happened that changed the visual requirements for survival forever; the invention of the printing press (about 450 years ago), and the technology to mass produce paper (about 150 years ago). Then, compulsory education came into play. Physiologically though, our brains are no different than they were 50 to 100 thousand years ago.
So survival today isn’t running from a beast, or hunting one. In clear contrast to the skilled movement through dynamic three dimensional space required by our ancestors, survival in the 21st century is sitting quietly, looking at a two-dimensional language symbols placed 16″ in front of your eyes for hours a day: reading and writing. If you are skilled with this, you will “survive”; that is, get good grades, go to college and get a good job.
Many children’s visual systems are simply not developmentally prepared to contend with this. For them, it is a biologically unacceptable yet socially necessary task. Children’s natural drive is to move, talk and engage in the manipulation of dynamic three dimensional space. Confinement to no movement, no talking, just sitting and looking at a flat surface of language symbols can result in significant behavioral consequences. Some of these behaviors masquerade as ADD or ADHD.
To test the visual system only with the antiquated Snellen Chart (the 20/20 eye-chart), is cruel to a child. If passed, it gives everyone a false sense that the visual system is prepared for learning.
What we know today is that the visual skills necessary for learning go far beyond the ability to see clearly. Only a full battery of physiological and perceptual tests can help determine if a child is developmentally prepared to engage in the demands of school.
“The problem is not with their eyesight, but with the way their brains process visual information.”
Corinne Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Education at Syracuse University.
“There is no question that there are a large number children who are diagnosed at some point during the course of their education as learning disabled. I firmly believe that one possible cause for this, is the failure of the visual system to process information in a normal way.”
Thomas Albright, Ph.D.
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
“I feel guilty because I thought that my son was lazy”
Joe Figuereo- Father of a child with a learning related visual problem
“Examining the research on school dropouts, juvenile delinquents, gangs and drug-abuse, points to one common factor – lack of school achievement. If one were to carefully choose a target for improving all the aforementioned areas, it would be improvement of the visual system which undergirds the ability to read”
Shirley E. Forbing, Ed.D.
Program Director Special Education
San Diego State University