“The Tachanun Factor”: When Posture is More Important than Words

I’m writing this blog to acknowledge the self-awareness of Yaakov – a bright 12 year-old whose mother came to a community talk I presented in Lakewood, New Jersey several months ago.  After the presentation, she spoke to me about her son who had been struggling with reading.  Although he had made progress in working with a reading specialist, there was still a considerable gap between his intellect and his reading capacity.  Glancing at his Keystone Visual Skills results it’s easy to see that he has a convergence insufficiency profile, consistent with a reduction in stereopsis to 4 out of 10 Wirt Circles.


Fixation disparity testing revealed that Yaakov’s binocular instability was related more to his right eye than left eye.  After further testing and prism trial, we determined that he would benefit from an asymmetrical amount of low base-in prism at both distance and near.  In explaining his profile and the options for treatment, I pointed out to his mother that Yaakov rotates his head subtlely to the right, to favor viewing with his left eye.  We discussed how this was adaptive in reducing the conflict that might otherwise result in instability of print or double vision, sometimes resolved by covering or shutting one eye. At that point Yaakov interjected, saying: “Yeh, it’s like by Tachanun.  I’ll do that sometimes, and sometimes I close one eye when I read and that makes it easier.”  

Tachanun Position

In My People’s Prayer Book, Daniel Landes notes that Tachanun, a form of supplication or confession, is referred to by rabbinic sources as falling on one’s face, because “the posture assumed is more important than the words“.  As in the photo above I found online, the viewing distance to the page is so close that it invariably requires rotating the head or closing one eye to see the print.  Yaakov had, in essence, already diagnosed himself.

Bright children never cease to amaze …

4 thoughts on ““The Tachanun Factor”: When Posture is More Important than Words

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