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Visual Factors Which Affect Reading Achievement

Visual Factors Which Affect Reading Achievement

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Published by: qwedcxz on Jan 06, 2012
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VISUAL FACTORS WHICH AFFECT READING ACHIEVEMENTby the AMERICAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION,PROPERTY OFIOWA STATE COMMISSIONFOR THE BLINDAn Article By NATHAN FLAX, O. D.American Optometric Association7000 CHIPPEWA STREET
ST. LOUIS, MO. 63119VISUAL FACTORS WHICH AFFECTREADING ACHIEVEMENTThe relationship between vision and reading achieve-ment is complex. Both vision and reading are in them-selves complicated acts, neither of which is easilydefined. Both are highly dynamic and involve per-ceptual, motor, and associative aspects. It is unlikelythat two such complex and incompletely understoodprocesses are apt to bear a simple, easily definedrelationship.The thoughts presented in this paper are intended toacquaint the educator with the meaning of the termvision. Only on the basis of full functional investiga-tion of the various aspects outlined here can there beany attempt to relate visual performance with readingachievement.There is no single over-all index of visual function.In any search for cause and effect relationships be-tween vision and reading one must be careful todefine terms and to recognize the limitations of theuse of specific measures as criteria for evaluation.It will be the purpose of this paper to analyze visionwith regard to providing a basis for relating vision toreading achievement.Vision is the process by which we learn of the worldabout us utilizing the information gathered by theeyes. It is necessary to differentiate between the abilityto see clearly, or visual acuity, and the over-all processof vision. Unfortunately, the two are frequently erro-neously equated and 20/20 visual acuity is inter-preted as perfect vision.Vision is a cognitive act, involving the converting ofthe raw data of sight into something meaningful. Itinvolves the ability to look at an object and to knowwhat is being seen. It involves determining such things
 
as where the object is, how big it is, what its texture is,how far it is from the observer and from other objectsin space, how heavy it is, what its color is, its rate anddirection of movement, and all else which can bedetermined by visual inspection. This involves farmore than merely seeing a sharp outline. This involvesthe integration of visual cues with data from hearing,smell, taste, touch, kinesthesia, proprioception, andall of the other sensory information available, as wellas language and previous experience.This is a slowly developed, ever-expanding process,dependent upon highly elaborate integrative, motorcontrol, and memory factors for its fulfillment. Visualacuity, as measured by the ability to read letters on aSnellen Test Chart, is but one factor of many involvedin vision as an information gathering process.Certainly the ability to see clearly is necessary forreading achievement. The resolving power of the eyemust be sufficient to allow for the seeing of the printwe read. It need not, however, be the arbitrary 20/20.Indeed, some studies indicate that 20/20 or betteracuity is found more often among poor readers thanamong good readers.In order to begin to relate vision to reading, it be-comes necessary to somewhat arbitrarily segment thecontinuous process of vision into a series of sub-systems or functions to allow for quantitative andqualitative investigation. Visual acuity would be oneof these classifications. The more important of thevisual skills are as follows:1) VISUAL ACUITYThe ability to see small objects clearly.2) FIXATIONThe ability to accurately aim the eye. Althoughthe human eye can see over a large area at once,it is capable of clear vision only over a limitedarea of approximately IV2 degrees. This placesa premium on the ability to fixate accurately.Fixation is generally considered in three aspects.a) Direct fixationThe ability to aim at a stationary object.b) Pursuit fixationThe ability to follow a moving object withthe eyes.c) Saccadic fixation
 
The ability to shift rapidly from one objectto another.3) ACCOMMODATIONThe ability to adjust the focus of the eye as thedistance from the object varies (such as shiftingback and forth between book and blackboard.)4) BINOCULAR FUSIONThe ability to simultaneously integrate the datafrom the two eyes to form a single percept. Thecondition known as suppression occurs when oneeye is ignored.5) CONVERGENCEThe ability to turn the two eyes toward each otherto look at a close object.6) STEREOPSISA fine degree of relative depth discrimination pos-sible only when there is good binocular fusion.
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 7) FIELD OF VISIONThe area over which vision is possible. This in-cludes the central portion where fine form dis-crimination is possible and the periphery whichis less sensitive to form vision, but more sensitiveto motion and to low levels of illumination.8) FORM PERCEPTIONThe ability to organize and recognize visual sen-sations as shapes.These basic skills are reviewed one at a time.VISUAL ACUITY is a function of the eye itself and ofthe conducting pathways to the brain. At this pointit might be well to note that there is no actual visionat the eye itself. The eye acts as a collecting device
which responds photochemically when light strikes it.This photochemical reaction triggers a portion of themillions of nerves which go from eye to brain. Theelectrochemical transmissions along the nerves haveno aspect of vision until they reach that portion ofthe brain which can interpret them as sight or vision.The eye may be considered as the television antenna,the nerves as the antenna wire, and the brain as thetelevision set. There is no picture in the antenna or

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