A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing


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How is it that some children never get the help they need with readiness skills for reading, and remain on the outside not being able to effectively look in?   In her new book, Maryanne Wolf – one of the worlds leading authorities on reading, writes the following regarding struggling readers (p. 155):  “Specifically, six developmental profiles emerged that can help teachers and parents understand what each group needs and how each group learns to read best from the very start.  Two of the profiles comprise children who are either average or very much above average and will need only good instruction to excel.  Another group has difficulty with letters and sounds and may well come from environments where there is little exposure to the alphabet or the English language.  We can redress these issues fairly straightforwardly.  Some children in this group, however, may have more rare visual-based difficulties that need further testing.” (emphasis added)

And so it was for Chaim, a struggling reader whose parents dutifully did what Maryanne Wolf suggested, and took him back to the pediatric ophthalmologist who originally evaluated him.  Parenthetically, this pediatric ophthalmologist has two optometrists who work in his practice.  Here’s what they learned, as documented in a letter written by the pediatric ophthalmologist to Chaim’s pediatrician:

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Take note of the doctor’s conclusion: “His visual acuity is excellent for reading and he does not need vision therapy, and should be able to read as well or better than other children.”  (emphasis added)

How is it that some children never get the help they need with readiness skills for reading, and remain on the outside not being able to effectively look in?

7 thoughts on “A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

  1. The doctor’s “extensive sensorimotor testing” brings back memories. In our area, there was an ophthalmologist with an orthoptist on staff, who took measurements for strabismus surgery and sent home pencil pushups for convergence problems. The doctor would tell patients, “We do vision therapy, and your child doesn’t need it.” Acuity, while necessary, is obviously overrated. You can obtain excellent acuity viewing a chart through a drinking straw. For that matter, when you view the visual process though a drinking straw you can easily reduce vision to acuity. The report-writing doctor is viewing both reading and vision through the drinking straw of optometric-ophthalmological politics. Sad.

    • That strategy must have made the rounds of pediatric ophthalmology business coaching. We had that here too, except instead of pencil push-ups, a local p-OMD actually got so sophisticated as to dispense an HTS once. No orientation or monitoring of course; just dispensed it once so he could say “We do vision therapy and if your child needed it, of course I would tell you that he does. But he doesn’t.” I used the metaphor of sheep in the title if this piece because this p-OMD’s “extensive sensorimotor testing” is a way of fleecing the public in a paradoxical way: by pretending to be an authority in a field about which one has just enough knowledge to be dangerous. To be fair, there *are* p-OMDs who have the intellectual honesty to say that this isn’t their area of expertise. I met one once.

  2. Is Wolf’s book worth reading Len? The most malignant pOMD around me also dispenses HTS occasionally and says she does VT. Sad indeed. But there are others around me who refer at least for CI.

    • Wolf’s book is an enjoyable read, particularly in making distinctions between “deep” and “superficial” reading as reflected generally in paper/print vs. electronic readers.
      We have a cross section of pOMDs in our catchment area. Of the ten, the breakdown is: four are overtly anti-VT; three are of the “I do it and I’d tell you if your child needed it” variety; two are encouraging; and one is actively pro. That strikes me as reasonably indicative of the national trend. We carry on by collaborating with the neutral/pro variety, and celebrating when families overcome the best efforts of the naysayers.

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