In 1971, Dr. Martin Kane was the first optometrist to receive COVD’s prestigious Skeffington Award for Excellence in Optometric Writing.  In addition to writing many traditional “journal articles,” Dr. Kane took full advantage of his position as editor of the Journal of Optometric Vision Development (now Optometry and Vision Development) to write many editorials.  One theme that ran through many of his editorials is the need for “grass roots” efforts to promote COVD’s philosophy of vision care.  Actions that ultimately result in positive changes begin when individuals “make themselves available to facilitate conditions that will lead to improved patient benefits.” At our recent annual meeting in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, I realized how much COVD’s doctors, vision therapists and students are out in their communities, “making themselves available.”   You may have seen them performing vision screenings in pre-schools, providing services at Rehabilitation Centers, examining babies at no charge as part of the InfantSEE program, educating parents, school nurses and teachers, conducting clinical research in their offices, etc.  COVD’s members are investing time and energy in a myriad of ways to address societies unmet needs. I think Dr. Kane would be very proud of COVD’s members today.

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Dr. Kane co-authored an article entitled “The Impact of Visual Training on Intelligence” that was published in the Journal of Optometric Vision Development in 1988.  The article considers the concept of multiple intelligences proposed by Gardner in his book, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences” which was published in 1983.  The authors begin by presenting a definition of intelligence.  Intelligence is the skill or efficiency to internalize data, integrate it into an image (idea), and apply alternate strategies in using this image for solving new problems. When examining a patient with learning related issues, the optometrist will often review reports from a clinical psychologist in search of “IQ (Intelligence Quotient) scores.”  Usually these IQ scores measure 2 types of intelligence:  verbal skills, or the ability to manage information via oral communication, and performance skills, or the ability to manage information presented visually.  This approach is very limiting because it neglects “those intelligences which are critical to effective behavior.”  According to Gardener’s model, there are many different types of intelligence.

  • Linguistic intelligence is the ability to understand and produce language to solve problems.
  • Visual-spatial intelligence is the ability to apply visual imagery to interpret, remember, reconstruct, and understand our spatial world, and to remember what we see.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is the skilled control of body movements and the ability to continually refine body parts to solve problems that require movement.
  • Musical intelligence is the powerful and compelling reaction to sound, that provides us with the ability to appreciate, understand and produce sound/music.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence is the knowledge of the internal aspects of self and the ability to access one’s feelings and emotions.
  • Interpsersonal intelligence is the capacity to notice distinctions among others—their moods, desires, motivations and intentions—and to adjust, adapt and blend harmoniously with people.

Intelligence is not only multi-faceted, but extremely dynamic and malleable. Given the right opportunities, patients can utilize past experiences and prior learning to solve new and more complex problems.  Visual training can create those opportunities.  For each type of intelligence, the authors describe various ways visual training activities can be selected or utilized to enhance those abilities.  Some examples: when patients describe the strategies they are accessing to solve a particular problem, they are enhancing their linguistic intelligence;  asking patients to perform activities involving balance boards and trampolines encourages the development of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence; the relationship between a patient and vision therapist supports the enhancement of interpsersonal intelligence.

Many of my young patients are brought to the eye doctor to “rule out” a vision problem because they are experiencing reading difficulties.  Upon questioning, more often than not, it becomes evident that their difficulties extend beyond the ability to read and understand words.  When vision problems are, in fact, “ruled in” and these children are enrolled in a vision therapy program, often these children blossom and grow in ways that neither I nor their parents expected.  By reaching into these multiple intelligences, vision therapy enhances their abilities to process information, communicate ideas, interact with others, and make decisions.  Dr. Kane’s article has helped me understand why and how vision therapy can be a turning point in a child’s life.

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