Denizens are generally held to be those who establish residence in a region from which they didn’t originate. When I give my seminar about vision to OTs, PTs, SLPs, and Educators, I point out that Jean Ayres – the godmother of sensory integration therapy – comported with the philosophies of developmental optometrists in Southern California, but didn’t write about the extent to which she was influenced by their approach to vision. In contrast resides the Dennisons, Paul and Gail, who emerged in Southern California at about the same time and freely acknowledged the influence of behavioral and developmental optometry on their approach to movement-based learning.
Mary Rentschler, M.Ed., wrote a nice article in the Journal of Behavioral Optometry in 2005 about the Dennisons and their system known as Brain Gym, which evolved into Educational Kinesiology or Edu-K. In his 2006 book, Brain Gym and Me, Paul describes himself as having been a mediocre student tormented by reading. This ultimately led to his career path in helping individuals through remedial reading centers and in his Burbank location, he shared space with the developmental optometrist, Richard Sowby. Dennison describes how Dick Sowby introduced him to Gerry Getman, and how he began to incorporate some of Sowby’s activities (without lenses, prisms, or other optometric equipment) for use with his own students. Within weeks of beginning this new movement program, he was dumbfounded by the changes that he saw. Not just in reading, and not just with children, Dennison began to observe changes in all of his clients in their ability to write, spell, do math and their ability to relax, concentrate and communicate in all phases of their lives.
I was reminded of Dennison’s book when relating the incredible essay written by our patient, Julia, and her vivid description of visual stress as related to reading. Dennison writes (P. 203): “Because of my training with developmental optometrists, I’ve become convinced that, even though reading isn’t primarily a visual skill, certain visual skills are basic to the acquisition of reading. These are (1) pointing the two eyes together (called binocularity); (2) crossing the visual midline; and (3) moving the eyes from one place to another (known in Edu-K as focus recovery). By the same token, I’m convinced that visual stress can prevent a successful linguistic experience, and that if any kind of stress is preventing the use of one’s skills of vision, then one can’t readily acquire abstract language abilities. The visual skills of a reader must be learned in such a way that they become automatic and vision becomes a non-issue.”