Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

Dr. A.M. Skeffington first described the “four-circle figure” as a pictoral representation of vision in 1963. This model of vision is made up of four intersecting circles, with vision emerging from the intersection of all four. Through this intersection, Skeffington’s circles demonstrate how vision as a whole is made up of four parts, and is much more than just sight. The four circles are:

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Anti-Gravity: the total motor system of the organism that is used by it for exploration, locomotion and organization of itself within the environment.

Centering: provides the awareness of me-it relationships that come from movement through space.

Identification: the performance area that provides “whatness” to the objects within the environment.

Speech/Auditory: permits and provides communication skills completely unique to humans.

Skeffington’s Circles have withstood the test of time, and can now be viewed through the windows of both clinical practice and emerging research.  For example, the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT) lives within the “Centering” circle, and the interplay between the visual and vestibular systems begins in the “Anti-Gravity” circle.

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Focusing on one circle is often useful when considering vision development, but one must never lose sight of the fact that the circles overlap: one circle affects all the others.  Even when a particular activity or type of therapy is designed to develop a particular skill “assigned” to one of the four circles, chances are improvements in that one area are going to spill over into the other circles.  As a result, the more varied experiences you can provide for a child’s developing brain, the more opportunities that child will have to build solid visual skills. 

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What better way to provide those experiences than with old-fashioned schoolyard games at recess? 

These games develop the ability to move through space and interact with objects in our environment.  They at first incorporate Anti-gravity and help the child develop a better of sense of self; of “where am I” in this environment.  But, after many experiences of this type, there is refinement and the development of localization; where is it?  Centering develops as the child learns to select an object for attention and directs the body, head and eyes toward it. Identification is likely to follow with visual discrimination of shapes, colors, letters, numbers, etc. And of course, schoolyard games come with loud boisterous voices and laughter–the final circle, Speech/Auditory.

There are so many reasons our children need outdoor, unstructured playtime as part of their education, and development of healthy vision is no small part of that list. If you believe your child may be struggling in any of the areas of Skeffington’s circles, Locate a Doctor near you to schedule a comprehensive vision exam!

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