Optometric Education’s Best Kept-Secret

Ralph Garzia

If VT is Optometry’s best kept secret, then VT’s best kept secret has to be Ralph P. Garzia, O.D., Associate Professor and Founders Faculty at UMSL College of Optometry.  Dr. Garzia was my principal mentor at P.C.O. during my Residency year way back when, before he joined Dr. Jack Richman at Ferris State prior to spearheading UMSL in its formative years.

In reviewing material for the Binovi Academy, I came across Ralph’s lecture notes again on Perceptual Motor Models from 1995.  It’s long, but so good that I’m reproducing it here for your reading enjoyment and edification.  And now you’ll know why I was blessed to have him as a mentor.

I. Introduction

In the years following World War II (you know, the BIG ONE) a whole new field of study was emerging as a “hot item”. The development of a child’s personality, motor and sensory skills all were topics of keen interest by many investigators. Most of the work in this field followed the pioneering efforts of Piaget. By recording observations of his three children, he set the tone for many subsequent researchers including:

*-Arnold Gesell and Gerald Getman -Raymond Barsch

*-Newell Kephart -Robert Wold

-J. J. Gibson -Bryant Cratty

We will discuss the theories of the top two (asterisk) investigators. It is important, however, to first look at what most researchers agree about visual perception.

A. Motor learning: most agree that as a child develops, he/she learns from moving through their environment.

B. Perceptual systems: these extract information from the environment using the sense organs as tools. It is an ACTIVE PROCESS.

1. The word is presented to an organism as a series of “To Whom It May Concern” Memos (Frank, 1966).
2. There is considerable argument over which perceptual system dominates. More fundamentally, there is considerable argument over what perceptual systems exist!

3. Many researchers agree, however, that visual processing is very important to the overall perceptual development of the child. This is where the optometrist comes into the picture.

4. In particular, a large group of developmental experts agree on one thing: high level mental processes depend extensively on a properly developed motor system and adequate perceptual skills. These, then, form a “base” of a “learning pyramid”.

C. Stages of perceptual development: most theories of development include a sequence of stages that the child must reach. Most think that these stages must be achieved in their particular order to be internalized. The stages fall into two broad categories:

1. The development of a space world: The child’s’ environment must make sense to him/her. It must have a particular order to it.
2. The development of sensory-motor integration: a change from tactile manipulation of the child’s environment to visual investigation of an environment.

D. Delays in development: these occur if the child has difficulty organizing their perceptions to achieve a particular stage of development. This can be due to:

1. an actual breakdown of the perceptual system(s)
2. a slowly developing perceptual system(s)

II. The Perceptual-Motor Development Theory of Newell Kephart

He believes that development of most behaviors arises from a hierarchy of motor achievements.

A. The central core of Kephart’s theory is that motoric responses to a child’s’ environment is the central core to all behavior. Motor activity = behavior is not an over exaggeration of his ideas.

1. Kephart was one of the first researcher to incorporate neurological networks into his theory of development (i.e.. behavior is ultimately defined by a “neurological process”.
2. A very important idea that Kephart proposes arises from the above statement. It is called a perceptual-motor match.

a. it relates to the discovery by the child that certain movements can affect his/her surroundings in a predictable way. Certain movements, then, are learned and planned by the child for a particular purpose
b. the development of eye-hand coordination is a good example of Kephart’s views:

i. random movement of hand
ii. hand touches object of interest and the eyes move toward object for visual investigation

iii. a correlation between what the hand reaches for and what the eye sees is completed and learned

iv. “the eye learns to see what the hand feels” (this is the hand-eye step)

v. the eye takes the lead in this motor activity and leads the hand (this is the hand-eye step)

vi. eventually, the eye alone can investigate and identify an object without tactile reinforcement , as the perceptual and motor input become better matched (this is the perceptual-motor match step)

3. Kephart believed that all perceptual development rises from a hierarchy of motor skills. Learning disabilities, then, represent one of two things:

a. a general slowdown of achievement in motor development
b. a breakdown of achievement at some point

4. His hierarchy includes (in order of complexity):

a. movement control:
b. systematic exploration:

c. perception:

d. intersensory integration:

e. concept formation:

5. In order to achieve each stage of this hierarchy, Kephart proposed that there must be a solid base of motor ability: “…the efficiency of the higher thought processes can be no better than the basic motor abilities on which they were based”. He proposed four bases of motor learning:
a. Posture: a basic movement pattern that allows the child to wage the war against gravity
i. serves as a point of reference
ii. safely function while learning more complicated motor tasks

b. Laterality: recognition of the two symmetrical halves of the body

i. the ability to detect the two different sides, not name them
ii. important for keeping balance as more difficult motor tasks are attempted

c. Directionality: translation of laterality cues to objects in free space

i. relative position of two objects is understood
ii. requires fairly developed eye and hand movements

d. Body image: knowledge of different body parts in reference to the child’s midline as well as to on another

i. relationships to other objects in space is also a component
6. After achieving the “four bases”, the child is able to move about with some purpose. To effectively learn from the environment, the child must learn four basic movement patterns.

a. Balance and Posture: the child needs to have balanced, controlled movements
b. Locomotion: slower the locomotion longer it takes for spatial exploration

c. Contact: the ability to reach, grasp and release with extremities

d. Receipt and Propulsion: bringing things toward the child and pushing them away

7. Kephart (and Eugene Roach) developed a test battery to evaluate the perceptual- motor development of a particular child. It is called the Purdue Perceptual-Motor Survey. It will be discussed later.

III. The Basic Sequence of Development Theory of G. N. Getman, O.D.

He believed that development of learning follow a sequence in the pre-school years. His theories are more visually oriented than Kephart’s.

A. Getman believed in a learning process of perceptual skills, like Kephart, but it differed in some fundamental ways.

1. Vision perception is the supreme skill for mastering complex concepts.
2. These perceptual skills gradually develop from actual contact and motor learning.

3. Visual-motor integration, a process by which a child slowly learns to visually investigate an object for identification (like Kephart’s perceptual-motor match), is an active process during the child’s first eight years.

a. Ages1-3: motor activities lead visual activities in ability to gather information (motor-visual stage)
b. Ages 4-5: motor and visual activities become more equal partners in overall learning. By the age of 5, vision should be equally effective in gaining information.

c. Ages 5-7: visual system gains an advantage and is used more because it is more efficient (visual-motor stage)

d. By the age of 71/2: visual investigation should replace motoric (tactile) investigation of a stimulus

B. Getman constructed six steps to his basic sequence of development:

1. General Movement Patterns: “lays the foundation of all performance”
a. learning requires movement:
b. a baby’s first attempt to explore environment:

c. this movement must be practiced and refined:

2. Specific Movement Patterns: body parts are used in unison to achieve a particular goal.

a. part of what we notice as “grace” or “clumsiness” is the child learning to use body parts in concert to achieve a particular goal
b. eye-hand coordination is one example of the specific movement pattern stage

3. Eye movement Patterns: eye movements are learned as a necessary part of “speeding up” visual processing

a. allows “reduction of action”:
b. hands are free to be used as tools instead of inspection devices:

4. Visual Language Patterns: establishment of relationship between vision and language.

a. relationship between lack of eye-movement control and inadequate speech:
b. language skills are more economical than reaching for an item:

5. Visualization Patterns: allows the child to examine the differences and similarities in objects, numbers and words.

a. it involves recognition of a symbol or picture and the ability to relate the symbol to actual events that the child had participated:
b. it involves discrimination between other symbols or pictures that are not appropriate

c. an important ability to support reading:

6. Visual Perceptual Organizations: the ultimate stage of development of the child.

a. formulation of ideas and concepts from abstract:
i. identification of an item based on its description:
ii. visual interpretation of words and numbers:

b. it represents the beginning of a child’s ability to “learn from reading”:

C. Getman developed a test for visual perceptual abilities called the Winterhaven (Gesell) Copy Form Test.

4 thoughts on “Optometric Education’s Best Kept-Secret

  1. I was always blown away with Ralph’s knowledge of not just optometric literature & research, but educational and psychological as well. He is a gift to us. But don’t forget that he co-authored the DEM.

  2. Len,
    I need to finish reading this in the evening when I have more time. I think that you have a type on 2bv under Kephart. I believe that you want eye-hand coordination. I just wrote a little about amblyopia, vision therapy and plasticity. The pioneers that Ralph referenced did not need to know that Hubel and Wiesel would prove neuroplasticity and that Elizabeth Gould would find that new neurons are produced in the brain and they certainly did not need to know about epigenetics to see what was not working well and design and implement ways to help. As Robert Smolinsky writes in Behave, if the politicians need to see the brain research to be sure that there is a problem, they have a problem.

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