I freely admit that periodically I get bent out of shape over issues that appear to be beyond my control. I have this vision that what we can accomplish through our individual developmental optometry practices, visionhelp.com, this blog, and our national organizations can influence the world. I’d like to share with you a refreshing perspective that came my way today through LinkedIn, which gives me reason to believe that perhaps it is my business to get bent out of shape over certain professional matters that touch upon the patients we help every day. It’s from a link to a blog on the site LD Resources, titled The Battle Rages: Phonological Versus Visual Causes of LD and Dyslexia. It’s written by Sanford Shapiro, M.Ed., owner of the Bend Learning Center in Bend, OR. Mr. Shapiro writes: “Even though the preponderance of the scientific evidence points to the primacy of phonological weaknesses as a root cause of dyslexia and reading disabilities, there is a need for a crack to open in our collective expert phonological minds. Just open enough in order to allow that there may just be very important visual processing aspects to success in reading for some folks.”
A very fair and balanced statement, wouldn’t you say? It’s what I read in the next paragraph that raised my eyebrows. Mr. Shapiro goes on to state: “The problem that leads us to a steadfast denial of the above’s validity, is the amount of overselling from “the other side.” There has been an irresponsible overstating of how conditions can be “cured” with all sorts of gimmicks and lenses, etc.”
To whom is Mr. Shapiro alluding? One doesn’t have to go far to find a particular company promoting its proprietary tinted lenses incessantly in every LinkedIn forum these days that relates to learning, reading, dyslexia, or vision therapy. It’s a very clever marketing strategy, based on anecdotes, testimonials, YouTube videos, sponsored “studies” and so forth. The principal proponent of this company’s proprietary lenses, which can only be made through certain labs, notes that clients have to be pre-qualified by answering a questionnaire that makes it more likely they have a visual form of dyslexia. Yet the approach is fraught with the peril of over-selling and under-delivering.
Thankfully, Mr. Shapiro is able to cut through the marketing hyperbole to continue with these observations:
“What gets lost in all the hyperbole, is an open-mindedness to consider the degree to which our brains and sensory systems are indeed impacted, negatively and positively, by light, color, shape and size.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of professional time and energy defending the primacy of language-based and phonological issues in literacy development, and caution people all the time about needlessly investing time and money in unproven methods. However, in the interests of kids and research, I believe we need to think more holistically at times. As much as I pin my profession on evidence-based approaches, double-blind studies, although rightfully the perceived pinnacle of evidence standards, are not the be all and end all. Absence of evidence is not proof that something doesn’t exist.”
So for someone like Mr. Shapiro, who represents the garden-variety, in-the-trenches educational professional, we’re making a difference. As he indicated in a direct exchange we had through LInkedIn, it’s not as much about “being right” as it is helping the individual child. There comes a time, when magic proprietary glasses and promises of cures give our field a collective black eye, for some of us to get a little bent out of shape. It’s okay. It’s healthy. It enables insightful educators like Mr. Shapiro to differentiate the visual baby from its murky bathwater.