a guest post from Linda Sanet, COVT


From the American Institute for Learning and Human Development web-site:

“The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. [Gardner’s theory contends] that the traditional notion of intelligence… is far too limited. Instead… [he] proposes different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential…

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

“… Our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence….However … we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in… other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live. Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts don’t receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids, in fact, end up being labeled ‘learning disabled,’ ‘ADD’… or simply underachievers, when their unique ways of thinking and learning aren’t addressed….”

…And as you know, many of these individuals turn up as patients in our therapy rooms!


tamayRecently my husband Bob and I visited Viet Nam to celebrate a milestone birthday.  We had the opportunity to do some trekking in tribal villages in the region of Sapa, near the border with China. Residents of these villages live simply, without many of the so-called modern conveniences. Our guide was a beautiful young woman named Tamay.
Tamay, whose name means “first daughter,” is 26 years old, and a member of the Red Dao people.  In the photo she is in the daily dress of her village, minus the traditional head covering, and proudly sporting Adidas shoes rather than the customary plastic footwear.

As a child Tamay had to help support her family. They are poor farmers, and because of this, she has never been to school.  At 17 she entered into an arranged marriage with a much older man, whom she had never met. He did not agree with her desire to become educated and independent, so she left his home  and returned to her family with her young son. She taught herself to read and write last year – “only the basics,” as she says – with materials she found at a post office. Tamay has never travelled outside of Sapa, and dreams of being able to visit Hanoi. Some years ago her family briefly owned a television, but gave it away because her mother felt everyone was getting “too lazy.”

Tamay is an excellent navigator, with incredible knowledge of birds, animals, and the healing properties of plants. With access to limited supplies, she has become an accomplished chef, and sews intricate designs with the tiniest of perfect stitches. Hearing a person say just a few words, she can immediately identify the tribe and village they come from. She understands and speaks many dialects, is up-to-date on world events, and except for a challenge pronouncing certain words like “umbrella,” speaks perfect unaccented English, being familiar with American slang and appreciating our humor. Her only training in English has been through various encounters with tourists.   If you have ever tried to learn another language, you understand how amazing this is.

Although she might perform poorly on any standardized test, Tamay clearly demonstrates many types of intelligence.  I surely would want her nearby in any emergency.



“Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times.Berta Lippert

… and in different ways…

In the real world those whose intelligence shows up in unconventional ways are often made to feel inferior, while those achieving in traditional ways are applauded. I graduated from college magna cum laude, yet find myself seriously lacking in mechanical and map-reading intelligence (Bob says, “thank goodness for GPS”).

In the therapy room I try very hard to help patients understand that they are intelligent, that I believe in them, and that there isn’t anything “wrong” with them. The key for me is to discover what types of intelligence they do have, ask the right questions, present the right challenges, encourage dialectic and self-realization.  My mentor, Dr. Harry Wachs, the noted Optometrist and Piagetian scholar, taught me that it is OK for patients to make mistakes, be confused, question, and doubt.  In fact, it is to be encouraged. It is through resolving these conflicts that knowledge and understanding come about. When trying to solve a problem, I keep hearing Harry say, “I don’t want to hear the right answer; I want to hear your answer.”  My goal is for patients to expect and welcome challenges, and to delight in trying to meet them.  There is nothing more exciting than to see this transformation!  And as Vision Therapists we are so very fortunate to be able to contribute.