LD Volume 3: A 50 Year-Old Gem – Part 2

In Part 1 I shared some gems from Jean Ayres in a 50 year-old book, much of which remains as timely today as it was when it first appeared in 1968.


Life is full of ironies.  I had purchased the book due to a reference from the one of the speakers I discovered when revisiting handout material from the historic Why Can’t EYE Learn Seminar in 2001. That seminar was chaired by the ophthalmologist Harold Koller, who collaborated with the neuropsychologist Kenneth Goldberg.  Buried further back in the LD book (on page 453 to be exact) was a chapter co-authored by Herman Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital together with Philip Drash, an Assistant Professor  of Medical Psychology at Hopkins, titled “The Ophthalmologist and the Disabled Reader”.  So to a great extent, Koller and Goldberg had patterned themselves after Goldberg and Drash.


As you will see shortly, Herman K. Goldberg, M.D. wasn’t kindly toward Optometry.  But first, a little institutional genealogy.  The Children’s Rehabilitation Institute at Johns Hopkins opened in 1937, and in the early 1990s was renamed the Kennedy Krieger Institute owing to a large philanthropic gift from Zanvyl Krieger.  The “K” in Herman Goldberg’s middle name stands for Krieger, and from what I gather his wife was Zanvyl’s sister.  So, you connect the dots …

In the section The Role of the Ophthalmologist in Reading Disability, Goldberg and Drash make some interesting observations:

  1. “The importance of low degrees of refractive error has been greatliy exaggerated.”
  2. “The effort to overcome phorias and to see binocularly may cause fatigue and discourage reading to some extent, but these difficulties are seldom of major etiologic significance in extreme reading retardation.”
  3. “In a continuing effort to understand the optometric point of view one has to consider what is meant when it is claimed that 95% of the children with reading probes have poor ocular motor skills.”
  4. “It is a popular misconception that ophthalmology is only interested in far point activity and pathology.”
  5. “It is necessary for us to provide understanding of the facts without bias.”

You get the idea.  This chapter is basically a Rube Goldberg machine of opinions masquerading as facts claiming to sidestep the very biases that it is constructed to perpetuate.

Dr. Nathan Flax’s article on Visual Function in Learning Disabilities published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities in 1968 effectively dismantled the Rube Goldberg machine, but it was back up and running in 1972 in the form of the first Joint Organizational Statement on The Eye and Learning Disabilities spearheaded by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  This set the gears in motion for a long chain of Joint Statements by Medical Organizations, countered by rebuttals from Optometrist including Flax, Suchoff, Solan, Bowan, and Lack, and Joint Policy Statements by Optometric Organizations.


Colbert Quote

2 thoughts on “LD Volume 3: A 50 Year-Old Gem – Part 2

  1. For all of the wonderful things that have been brought to us by Johns Hopkins, Leo Kanner was there in the 1940s with his adamant position on autism. It isn’t always fair to look back and judge people based on today’s knowledge, but Kanner’s views did harm many families.

    • I agree that history is highly contextual. It may be the height of irony that the current Chief of the General Eye Service @ Wilmer/Johns Hopkins, holding Goldberg’s old job, is Eric Singman, MD, PhD – as a neuro-ophthalmologst specializing in brain injury, one of the strongest supporters of VT in the medical community.

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