Skeffington Circles at SUNY

It was sunny and in the sixties today at SUNY, a gorgeous time to be in midtown Manhattan as part of a Friday Residents’ Day seminar on the 11th floor at 33 W. 42nd Street.  If you’ve never been the University Eye Center, it is housed within impressive real estate, opposite the New York Public library.  It was wonderful having our Resident, Dr. Christopher Lehman attend, and it was great being together with familiar SUNY faces in the form of Drs. Adamczyk, Han, Mozlin, Rutner, and our colleague from Connecticut, Dr. Randy Schulman, as well as Dr. Jason Clopton skyping in from Tennessee.






The day was the brainchild of Dr. Rochelle Mozlin, and after she introduced Skeffington’s Circles, and Dr. Rutner reviewed research supportive of the concepts, I spoke regarding the orphan or forgotten circle:  speech-auditory.  I cited a marvelous chapter by Dr. Merril Bowan titled “The Neurofunctional Basis of Sensorimotor Integration: Integrating Vision with the Other Senses”, in a monograph on Vision and Sensory Integration still available through OEPF, with Skeff’s speech-language-communication circle elaborated for its temporal attributes.


After overviewing speech-language-communication, and the parallels between auditory and visual processing, I recounted how there is one institution that is perfectly situated to integrate and update “the four circles” for the 21st century.  They are at the nexus of optometry, orientation and mobility, and audiology.


I tried to pursue this about 10 years ago, but the conversation went around in circles.  Perhaps it is time to try again …


3 thoughts on “Skeffington Circles at SUNY

  1. Great post and photos. Certainly, as you have written elsewhere, Len, there are parallels between auditory and visual perception. But when I think of the four circles, I think language. I imagine that during action, image and word are combined. “Fetch the stick” for instance, combines vision, motor, and language. Action words are real, but just as vision plays tricks on us when we change the environment (binoculars, for instance, fooling us into believing we are looking into “one” aperture, or poles appearing to bend as they enter water, or mountains appearing tiny) , so when we divorce words from action, we take the change of our analogies providing illusions. Wittgenstein described this when he said, “you know what 5 oclock means here on the earth, but what does 5 o’clock mean on the sun? Still the 4 circles are helpful. Vision emerges from recognition, position of self, position of object, and language. Fetching the stick requires all of these. Emergents are greater than the sum of the parts. Vision cannot be reduced to its parts, no matter how much those parts help us to understand vision. The beauty of a sunset or a child’s smile cannot be reduced to the four circles from which it springs.

  2. In the 70s, at the annual Skeff Conference in Wash., DC, i delivered a paper on then other Forgotten Circle., TIME. It would be great if you could organize an on-line discussion about the Four Circles of Skeffinton and their impact on modern Optometry.

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