Teaching kids to focus, hear

Some schools are experimenting with therapies to retrain students’ hearing and vision, reports USA Today.

It’s a bid to reverse problems with the ability to focus and learn brought on by years of excessive TV, poor nutrition and, for some, in vitro drug exposure.

At Gordon Parks Elementary School, a charter school in Kansas City, Mo., 60% of kindergartners in 2004 failed a visual-skills test. Most had 20/20 vision, but they struggled to focus on moving objects, track lines of print and refocus from near to far.

The school also provides training in hearing skills.

Is it a fad? The research is “inconsistent,” says skeptics.

I remember trying to play catch with my daughter when she was four. She could throw reasonably well but couldn’t catch to save her life. The next year, her kindergarten teacher suggested we get her vision checked. She turned out to be far-sighted and cross-eyed, giving her very little depth perception. It didn’t affect her academically — she was reading at 2 despite the far-sightedness — but it soured her for life on all sports involving a moving ball. (After a few years wearing glasses, her depth perception became near normal but it was too late.) At any rate, it wouldn’t surprise me if some kids need help developing visual, listening or movement skills.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. More nonsense brought to you by the field that first introduces methods and therapies into the classroom and then does the research to determine whether they are effective.

  2. Schools are continually spending money and time on unproven methods (including most of their curriculum). All any salesperson has to do is show up with one study that says it’s effective and the adminsration is drooling all over it. Never mind the studies that didn’t work, or the massive number of other interventions that were included that muddy the waters of whether the technique itself was effective or these other changes. And they’ll even ignore the demographics of groups picked in the study and assume that because it worked with that group it would work with their group. School directors really need an education in how research should be presented.

  3. linda seebach says:

    “in vitro drug exposure”?

    Perhaps that should be “in utero”?

  4. Richard Nieporent says:

    Most had 20/20 vision, but they struggled to focus on moving objects, track lines of print and refocus from near to far.

    So how do they manage to play all those video games if they can’t focus on moving objects?

  5. Kim said, “School directors really need an education in how research should be presented.”

    Many school directors, principals, etc., do indeed get an education in how research is conducted and presented and also how to be a wise consumer of research. I have taught it to many, many, many of these folks over 30 years. Mostly, they ignore the education that they receive about research in favor of their own personalized knowledge, which is the type of knowledge that largely drives educational methodologies.

  6. So how do they manage to play all those video games if they can’t focus on moving objects?

    A bunch of pixels on a TV screen isn’t an object.  It requires no change of focus, no decoding of depth cues.

  7. Richard Nieporent says:

    According to the experiments, which are reported in the May 29 issue of Nature, people who play action video games can process visual information more quickly and can track 30 percent more objects than non video game players.

    http://tinyurl.com/lnacj

    I use the same hand-eye coordination to play video games as I use for surgery,” said Dr. James “Butch” Rosser, 49, who demonstrated the results of his study Tuesday at Beth Israel Medical Center.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4685909/

    Engineer-Poet, I guess you better inform them that they don’t know what they are talking about.

  8. How fast is Rosser’s patient moving toward him as he wields the scalpel?  How does tracking blobs on a screen at a constant distance relate to gauging the motion of an object moving in 3 dimensions?

    You don’t seem to understand your own references.  They do not support the claim you imply.

  9. I see no conflict in the study linked to by Richard Nieporent and the statement by engineer-poet. The study says that video games may “train the brain to better process certain visual information”. That may well be true. But it is still perfectly true, as engineer-poet says, a video screen does not require decoding depth perception cues. So it makes perfect sense that a person could have no trouble visually perceiving and interpreting a video screen, yet be totally at a loss as to where a moving ball in space is.

    I remember from many years ago my mother commenting that young children may or may not be able to interpret a picture. If a picture shows a house and a dog, don’t assume the child sees a house and a dog. Find out. Ask leading questions. The child might just possibly be surprised to learn there is a house and a dog in that picture. Of course a lot depends on the age of the child. Here’s an experiment I discovered myself, not so many years ago. Take a new magazine. Turn it upside down and look through it cover to cover, paying attention mostly to the pictures. Then do it again the next day, and maybe a day after that. Then, after getting familiar with the magazine upside down, look through it right side up. You may find it surprising what you did not see looking at it upside down.

    Interpreting a picture has nothing to do with perceiving depth in space, of course, but the point is that the normal brain develops many skills in the course of growing up. Some of these skills may be invisible to us, unless and until we know how to look for them. The normal brain also, I think, develops many compensations that can mask deficits. This makes it hard to discover those deficits. An example of this, and a very common one, is when parents discover their child needs glasses, though they had no clue before going to an optometrist.

    So I would predict in the future we will hear a lot more about this sort of thing. If we learn to look for deficits in new ways, we will definitely find them now and then. When we find them, we will want to do something. Some of this sort of thing will be bogus in one way or another, I would think, but not all of it will be.

  10. Richard Nieporent says:

    Action video gamers tend to be more attune to their surroundings while performing tasks like driving down a residential street, where they may be more likely to pick out a child running after a ball than a non-video gamer.

    The research also suggests that action game playing might be a useful tool to rehabilitate visually impaired patients or to train soldiers for combat.

    “It is certainly good training for people in situations where they need to detect things in their visual environment at any time in any location, like ground troops going through uncharted territory,” said Daphne Bavelier, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

    Brian, it would help if you actually read the reference before you dismissed it. Google “hand eye coordination video games” and you will see a large number of references on this topic.

  11. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I wonder if some of this retraining might be aimed at kids from “impoverished environments.”

    Apparently, even now, in modern America, there are kids who arrive in school who have never colored a picture, played with clay, played in the sand, held a book, been to a parade, listened to music, gone to a zoo or museum…….

    It’s hard to believe, since none of these things need a lot of resources (I know, because we do them all with our kids…)
    But teachers assure me there are lots of kids like this and it’s not hard to imagine that they’d lack the skills normally acquired by taking walks and coloring and going neat places.(My husband, ever the realist, points out: “When you spend 3000 on the latest TV and 100.month on cable and 200/month on games for your Xbox360, there’s not alot left over to buy the kids crayons on 30,000 a year……)

  12. Take a new magazine. Turn it upside down and look through it cover to cover, paying attention mostly to the pictures. Then do it again the next day, and maybe a day after that.

    Just don’t try this in public, or at least not in front of your employer.

  13. Bart: You could always claim that you learned to read upside down when you were three years old, by watching as your father read from the Bible.

    Does anyone remember which famous dead white male actually did learn to read this way?

Trackbacks

  1. […] can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]