The Mislabled Child

Assessing and Helping Children with Learning Challenges

The Mislabled Child is one of the first books I would recommend for concerned parents and educators. The authors, Brock and Fernette Eide, are neurologists who were invited to address the College of Optometrists in Vision Development in 2006, due to their enlightened understanding of children with learning difficulties. They recognize that learning problems have neither a single cause nor a single treatment. They explain why children with learning problems require a thorough, multi-disciplinary evaluation based on their signs and symptoms. They also explain who should do the evaluations and how diagnosed problems should be treated. Continue reading

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember The Stroke that Changed My Life

IMG_8590

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

This is the story of a young woman’s troubled life told by her now much less-troubled self. I recommend the book due to the quality of Christine Hyung-Oak Lee’s writing and how she is able to share the experiences of her stroke at age thirty-three. While the effects of all brain injuries and diseases are not the same, the mental, psychological, and physical experiences she lived through are similar to those of others. She also addresses the life-changes and challenges of those who are caregivers to this population of people who are changed in invisible ways. Continue reading

Who’s in Charge

Michael S. Gazzaniga

There is one excerpt from this book which I feel is particularly powerful. In our ego, we applaud our higher thinking abilities and other than sports, musicians, and some crafts do not highly praise skills which are highly dependent on practice and automaticity. Yet most of what makes all of us function efficiently are those skills which we have developed to an automatic level. Our ocular motor skills are low-level skills on which our perception of the world is reliant. Hours and hours of play and experience are necessary to develop ocular motor and perceptual skills. When that has not taken place naturally, the challenge is for us to develop those skills through vision therapy. To be effective, they must be developed to an automatic level. We can each think of many instances in which conscious thinking really gets in the way. Walking downstairs is just one example. The excerpt below shows to a surprising degree how strong this effect can be.

stairsfall

It is easy to show the difference in timing between automatic responses and those where consciousness intervenes. If I put you in front of a screen and have you push a button when a light flashes on, after a few trials you will be able to do this in about 220 milliseconds. If I ask you to slow this down just a tad, say to 240 milliseconds, you wouldn’t be able to do it. Your speed would be more than 50 percent slower, it would drop to about 550 milliseconds. Once you put consciousness in the loop, your conscious self-monitoring of the speed takes longer, because consciousness works at a slower base speed. This is something that you may already be familiar with. Remember practicing the piano, or any other instrument, and memorizing a piece? Once you had practiced a piece, your fingers could really fly until you made a mistake and consciously tried to correct what you did wrong. Then, you could barely even remember what note was next. You were better off starting all over again and hoping that your fingers would make it past the rough patch on their own. This is why good teachers warn their students not to stop when they make a mistake while playing in a recital, just keep going, keep that automatic playing automatic. The same is true in sports. Don’t think about that free throw, just plop it in as you have the hundreds of times in practice. “Choking” happens when consciousness steps into the play and throws the timing off. Natural selection pushes for nonconscious processes. Fast and automatic is the ticket for success. Conscious processes are expensive. They require not only a lot of time, but also a lot of memory. Unconscious processes, on the other hand, are fast and rule-driven.

piano

The Intuitive Parent

 

Stephen Camarata

Stephen Camarata defines intuitive parenting as “focusing on your child, enjoying the moment, and reacting naturally to whatever your baby is doing.” This may sound simplistic and naïve, but we now have research to support our intuitions. Continue reading

Sleights of Mind

By Stephen L. Machnik and Susana Martinez-Conde

With Sandra Blakeslee

This book, written by two specialists in visual neuroscience with the help of a science writer, uses magic and visual illusions to explain perception. The use of magic makes the book fun to read and it is fascinating to realize that magicians have had an empirical understanding of visual attention, perception and distraction for centuries. The following excerpts address some of the illusions that we have about how we function. Continue reading