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Tachistoscope


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Joined: Nov 03, 2005
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Posted Feb 10, 2002 at 9:16:56 AM
Subject: Tachistoscope

There was a thread a while back about vision therapy that was very interesting to me but due to the lack of time I was unable to post. So, I thought I would start a new thread.

My son had vision therapy for focusing issues and did very well but there seemed to still be a problem. Thus, we got the Computerized Perceptual Therapy program which has a task that involved a Tachistoscope. The Tachistoscope is an instrument designed to help individuals process visual information presented rapidly. This program requires patients to identify a group of targets presented all at once for a brief exposure speed. Because of the rapid presentation, the patient can only perform one fixation. Tachistoscopic preception requires perceptual speed, visual memory, visualization and simultaneous processing.

Mary in MN, this sounds to me like your dd's problem with the flashcard. My son did this computerized program with the tachistoscope for 50 sessions and never did make it through the program. I tried to help him by typing in the letters for him thinking that I would limit one task so all he has to do is to use his vision. But, he would say "Mom, I didn't see them all". (He got up to 3 letters. This program when up to using 6 numbers or letters.) He just couldn't seem to process the letters or numbers fast enough to see them all. No wonder his reading is slow. If he can't process the letters very fast, how will he ever read fluently.

I agree with the comments that when a child doesn't know the code to the letter symbols, he will not remember the symbols well enough to put it into a word. But, in my son's case, he first has to be able to process the visual symbols before he can put them into the code which, if given time, he could do easily.

Just my thoughts!
Donna in MO

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Anonymous
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Posted:Feb 10, 2002 6:46:41 PM

Tachistoscope studies were very popular with the Dick and Jane theorists who believed (falsely) that words were taken into the brain in one chunk of meaning and so they thought (again, wrong) that the way to improve kids' reading was to flash words faster and faster and stress speed and immediate response -- see my previous thoughts on Pavlov and dog training.

Yes, visual memory is important and speed is a good thing to have. But it's a weird thing that the more you consciously think about speed, the worse you get. (you may refer to the old centipede joke)

Even Olympic racers usually say after their best runs that they just felt "relaxed" or "in the groove" and they were NOT thinking about speed at all.

Think about your own fields of expertise, whether typing or cooking or car repair or piano playing a fast tune -- do you do a better and faster job by thinking "I've got to be faster, I've got to hurry" or do you do a better and faster job by really getting involved in the work? The more you consciously think about speed and hurrying, the more you tense up and the more errors you make and have to go back to correct, until finally you get all tied up in knots and are all thumbs and have to quit for a while before you can work at all.

If stress is this hard on you as an adult and expert in some fields, how bad is it for a child who is just learning, not just reading but his/her self-concept? With a degree of effort, you can make your students hate and fear reading for life as a stressful and painful activity that they can never be good enough at.

When I'm tutoring kids in reading and most of the time in math, I spend hours and hours telling them to slow down. Take your time and get it right. There's no value in a fast mistake. If you're going a hundred miles an hour north and your goal is south, you're getting further away every minute. Reading/math is for information and entertainment - there's no Olympic gold medal for speed. If you run off in all directions and you don't know where you're going, you aren't likely to get there.

The funny thing is that after ten to twenty hours of slowing down, then they generally speed up and go faster than they ever could before. As I've mentioned before, I figure I'm successful when the kid grabs the book out of my hands and insists on doing it himself because I'm too slow.

Back to tachistoscopes, you can't *force* your brain to work faster. You can't *force* your eyes to focus harder. I just last week saw an excellent video on LD teaching at a Laubach seminar. The presenter modelled bad teaching behaviours, one of which is to raise your voice and tell someone "Look harder!" As he then asked, what the heck does that mean, to look harder? I don't know how to look harder -- I look at something or I don't - how do you look "harder"? On the other hand, direct instruction in visual analysis can be a real help.

Tachistoscopes are a useful testing device for judging the speed of visual scanning and analysis. OK, now you have the information, what to do with it? Well, I would tend to try to train the student in visual scanning skills - something that can be trained. You can use commercial programs, and/or you can work on reading and train/model syllable grouping. Three letters in the visual memory are enough to start with for syllables.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Feb 11, 2002 7:27:43 PM

Victoria, I appreciate your comments but I think you miss understood me. My comment was about visual processing skills, not encouraging a student to read faster. My main point was that some kids process visual information more slowly than others. This slower processing speed makes the task of reading much more difficult.

Take the flash card situation that Mary in MN was talking about. When a card with 6 letters is held up for, let's say, 1 seconds. One child, who processes visually quickly, sees all the letters on that flash card. However, another child, who processes this information more slowly, sees only the first three letters during this 3 seconds. This make forming the exact word from that card impossible because that child did not visually process all of the info fast enough. Thus, my point was that visual process speed can influence how well a child reads.

Also, your comment of "you can't force your brain to work faster" is interesting. I had three separate optomestrists recommend this computerized vision therapy program for my son. Why would they recommend this program, which is designed to improve visual processing, if the brain cannot be trained to improve in this area? You suggest that one can improve visual scanning. Why can you improve vision scanning but not visual processing? Thanks for your input.
Donna in MO

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Anonymous
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Posted:Feb 13, 2002 3:24:16 AM

The point I'm trying to make is a fine one, but I believe it's important:

You can *teach* and *educate* and *train* yourself and others to go faster, but you can't **force** yourself or the student to go faster.

Example:
I have been working for the past two months with a couple of girls in Grade 3 in French Immersion. Both were reading very slowly and inaccurately. I have been reading with them, having them slow down, sound out words, look at endings, spell sounds, etcetera. One picked up some speed -- too much, getting inaccurate again -- almost magically over Christmas. The other finally has started to read closer to her grade level, late Grade 2 books. She has started to show some interest in the reading just last week and has actually asked to finish a story in a day rather than complaining about having to do more than one page. She has also nearly doubled her reading speed, thus making it possible to finish a story. Discussing this today, she said herself, no prompting "I'm reading better because before I was trying to go too fast but now I'm going slowly". So by deliberately going slowly she has doubled her reading speed . . .

The point I'm trying to make is that when you focus on speed and on finishing at all costs, you lose focus on the meaning of the task you are doing - any task, from ski racing to clarinet playing to reading. If, on the other hand, you focus on doing the task and on doing it well, you will speed up once the processes are automatized.

Yes, you can train yourself to recognize more and more letters at one fixation. The only way I know of doing this that works is to first slow down and take as long as it takes, one second, two seconds, or more, to read all the letters. You practice and practice and practice until you can read x number of letters. THEN you speed up the same number of letters faster. After you can do three letters at speed, you slow down again (although maybe not quite as low) and re-start with four, then again for five, and so on. Going the opposite way, starting with a certain arbitrary high speed and increasing the number of letters, is usually a recipe for fatigue and failure and frustration. One method is giving yourself/the student an opportunity to learn; the other is testing before learning and generally leads to bad feelings and no positive result.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Feb 13, 2002 8:51:21 AM

This makes a lot of sense to me and is consistent with my experiences with my "slow" son. I find in fact that when he speeds up he makes mistakes and thus I have to make him slow down. He is currently doing Neuronet and on one exercise on a calculator the therapist now wants me time him. Her comment was that he has become automatic enough that now we want to go for speed.

I also have used exercises like Brainbuilder with my son which is somewhat (I think) similar to what Donna is doing with her child. I found I needed to change the settings and make them slower in order to have any success.

Speed is vital in real life but in my experience the way to get that is to master it slow first.

Beth

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Anonymous
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Posted:Feb 13, 2002 1:58:27 PM

Thank you Victoria and Beth for you input. But, I don't think I am making myself clear with my origianal post and maybe by this time it doesn't matter. But, let me try just once more. Thank you for your patience.

My original point was that some kids, as my son, are not able to process visual information as quickly as others. Thus, this inability to process visual info can affect one's ability to read. I am not talking about trying to make him visually process information faster at this point. (That is a whole different thread and I am having a hard enough time with just this thought ;o) I am just stating that slow visual processing skills can cause problems with functional tasks such as reading, and the Tachistocope program is how we found this out with my son.

Here is an example of what I am trying to say: There is a new TV show called "The Chair". One of the tasks that the contestant has to perform is to look at 10 (I think) pictures that are flashed up on a screen very rapidly. Then, they answer one question that asks a specific question about one of the pictures. This requires, in my opinion, good processing speed because you have to visually look at and process the visual information from the picture quickly as it is there only for a very brief time. (I know that it requires other things like visual memory, concentration, etc.. but I am just trying to illustrate my point on visual processing.) My son and I will both participate in this task by seeing if we can say the answer before the contestant can. I don't remember not ever getting this wrong and I feel that my visual processing skills are good. But my son gets it wrong about 75% of the the time and most of the time he will say "I didn't even see that".

That is what I am talking about. Because he can not process this visual information quickly, he can not gather the data in his brain. Without this info, he can not make a guess on the question because it never got in his head to even think about it in the first place.

Thus, my original post is that visual processing can play a role in reading in the fact that some kids aren't able to process the letters that they are reading quickly thus it affects their reading.

WOW! Sorry to drag this out! I hope my point is as clear as mud now ;o) As always, I love the dialogue and the thoughts posted on this board. They are always welcomed!
Donna in MO

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Anonymous
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Posted:Feb 13, 2002 3:06:23 PM

Donna,

Oh, I totally agree that slow visual processing can impact reading. I also agree with your unstated assumption that many people think that reading is only about understanding and knowing the code. For my child (and yours), it is more complicated than that, although code knowledge is certainly a big piece of the puzzle. I suspect that both Victoria and I responded to your reported failure to improve the rate using the computerized program.

Improving the speed of visual processing is another issue. Personally, we saw improvements in speed of visual processing doing the circle the letters exercise in PACE. But I know you already have done that.
Beth

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Posted:Feb 14, 2002 2:45:13 PM

Beth, My son actually improved 2 years with processing speed after PACE. We only got to level 10 on that specific task which we had stopped to do MTC. I think it would be worth returning to. Maybe making it to the 12th level, which is what his age is, would help. Thanks for the reminder!

We also are still working with neuronet. I am hoping that doing that will also improve process speed. I am doing a lot of visual scanning tasks that I hope will help.

Thanks for your comments.
Donna in MO

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Posted:Feb 14, 2002 3:37:12 PM

I have not seen the TV program you mention, but can give you this prediction: I would fail that test miserably. I would probably do worse than your son and might get zero on it. You see, I have a combination of eye problems: farsightedness, and astigmatism, and amblyopia from bad diagnosis and refusal of treatment in my youth, and weak tracking . . . I can only focus on one point at a time. For years I failed the kindergarten "find the puppy" type puzzles (figure-ground) in children's newspapers etc. I developed some ability to do figure-ground in my twenties and can actually do the little-kid ones, but it still is an hour's hard work for me to do the "find the ten differences" ones. Despite this I am an extrememly good and fast reader, a safe driver and driving instructor -- I just leave even more space than the textbook recommends -- and a fairly good downhill skier. It took many years of lessons to figure out the skiing, what with the fact that all I see close when moving is a blur, but it can be done. And the reading is more than fine. So when people say a kid can't read because his vision or visual memory is a touch less than perfect, I say "Ha!". You **do not need** to memorize a bunch of words by sight -- forget that and concentrate on phonics, and he will process fast enough to be *better* than the memorizers.

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Posted:Feb 15, 2002 4:20:09 PM

Victoria,

I have said this before but I think vision kicks in mostly when there are also auditory and/ or phonological problems. My child still skips lines, even after vision therapy. He tests low normal. I really don't think his fixation would be an issue now, at least, if he didn't also auditory processing problems. All of us can compenstate for weaknesses. It is when kids get hit on multiple fronts that you have real problems. Then I think the only sensible thing to do is to try and strengthen them across the board.

Personally, I am very weak on the auditory end of things and much stronger visually. I couldn't help my then second grade daughter with her phonics homework because I couldn't do it, even though I read everything and read so fast I was once accused of cheating on a reading speed test. Now I have learned the code along with my LD son so will be much better prepared with my youngest child!!!

Beth

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Posted:Feb 16, 2002 4:17:21 AM

You're there dealing with the problem, and we're off in the distance replying to a couple of paragraphs summary; of course you know more about what's happening.

I tend to come on strong about the vision and a couple of other things because I so often see people beating their heads against a wall to no purpose.

I tend to work a lot orally because that's what kids seem to be missing. You're probably onto something when you say that the vision follows the auditory.

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Posted:Feb 16, 2002 11:06:37 AM

Donna, there is research that has shown that some people process visual/language stimuli more slowly, measurably more slowly than the norm. The "impulse" actually travels more slowly through the brain. This is probably part of the great wide world of human variation. This deficit will show up in rapid naming tests and is an absolute BEAR to significantly remediate. Like all things, over-learning helps, but the shear time involved in overlearning the quantity of material is staggering.

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Posted:Feb 16, 2002 6:10:18 PM

Anitya, If you have any web sites, research articles, and/or books on this subject I would be interested in having those. I have heard that this is hard to remediate.

The public school says that they don't have any rapid naming test so I have no way of knowing if this is an issue with my son.

Any information is appreciated. Thanks for your post!
Donna in MO

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Posted:Feb 17, 2002 8:18:02 PM

Hi Beth,

This is somewhat off topic but I'm intrigued by your comment that <I read everything and read so fast I was once accused of cheating on a reading speed test.>

In any article that I've read about improving reading speed (for adult non-LD readers), people who read very fast do not mentally vocalize. While I am more than an adequately fast reader, I do mentally vocalize when I read and I know that slows me down. How does one NOT mentally vocalize while reading?!

Blessings, momo

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Posted:Feb 17, 2002 9:47:59 PM

Thanks for your comments, Victoria. They are always appreciated!

My son seems to have problems with visual and auditory processing skills. He also seems to have a slower reaction time with motor tasks. (We have a card game that you have to slap the card quickly to win. The person who processes the info correctly (is the card correct or not correct) and then slaps appropriately, gets the card. My son comments about how he "stinks" at this game because he is slower than his brother.) (I guess one could respond that this is also showing slow visual processing skills. It's so hard to decide what really is the problem so that one can address it.)

My thoughts are like Beth's. Visual processing alone may not be a factor. But in my son's case, when there is other issues, it becomes a huge problem.

Thanks again for taking the time to post.
Donna in MO

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Posted:Feb 18, 2002 12:19:02 AM

The research that claimed that fast readers do not vocalize was not exactly sterling scientific quality even in its time, and its time was the 1930's or 1940's.

As I've mentioned before, if you wouldn't drive a 1940's car or ride in a 1940's airplane or go to a 1940's doctor (pre-antibiotics until 47 or 48), then why do you trust 1940's reading/learning/neurological research?

In fact recent research with slightly higher tech* has shown that (a) all good readers subvocalize -- we just do it with tiny throat movements rather than full speech movements, and (b) our brains light up in both the speech areas and the muscular/speech production areas, showing again subvocalization. I'm sorry I can't direct you to the exact papers -- read the abstract many years ago -- but if you want to check up on it the info is out there.

[*My habit of British understatement. The original researchers had black and white movie cameras and their own eyeballs and fingertips.Modern research has delicate electronic sensors, MRI machines, and so on.]

Doing a report on reading research over ten years ago, I did a search through ERIC, the education outline/digest/summary. ERIC is available online and if you want to find all sorts of interesting stuff, this is a place to start. It will guide you to fascinating journal articles and you can read them at a good university library, or ask for reprints.

One of the best things I found was a wonderful article that managed to be both scholarly and funny. It was titled "How Fast Are The World's Best Readers"? and I strongly recommend finding a copy or reprint. (date would be probably in the 1980's as I read it in 1988 or so) If it ever comes out of one of my still-packed boxes I'll happily send a photocopy.

This article totally demolished the claims of speed-reading trainers and supporters. The conclusion was that all top readers, whether self-taught, school-taught, or "speed-reading" trained, read the same way and at about the same speed. All skim for general ideas around 2000 words per minute, read light entertainment at about 800-850 wpm, and slow down to 250 or less for really deep stuff. The claims of detail reading over 1000wpm are just snake oil. And so are the rules of non-vocalizing.momoMO wrote:
>
> Hi Beth,
>
> This is somewhat off topic but I'm intrigued by your comment
> that <I read everything and read so fast I was once accused
> of cheating on a reading speed test.>
>
> In any article that I've read about improving reading speed
> (for adult non-LD readers), people who read very fast do not
> mentally vocalize. While I am more than an adequately fast
> reader, I do mentally vocalize when I read and I know that
> slows me down. How does one NOT mentally vocalize while
> reading?!
>
> Blessings, momo

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Posted:Feb 18, 2002 11:40:45 AM

There are several rapid naming tests, usually as part of another test. Try any test of "phonological awareness." I can't think of the name of the one we use, but it has a comprehensive rapid naming test. The child is shown things like a page of blocks of colors, sequenced in rows. The child is instructed to "read" the colors horizontally, like we do in reading. The examiner times the reading. It is just the same several common colors repeated in random sequence. Then there is a similar test using numerals and one with pictures of common nouns. For some people the actual processing time to see something visually and produce the name of the object is just much slower than the average. Add to this the task of decoding the letter/sounds as well, and you have a really formidable task.

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Posted:Feb 18, 2002 12:39:01 PM

I do subvocalize. I think I just acquired the skill of effectively skimming very young. The test I referred to took place when I was in 9th grade.

I think it may be partly a style of reading too. I can't read serious academic articles very fast but I breeze through novels, magazines, and the like at an amazing speed. My husband who reads very slow has a hard time understanding it. I think he approaches everything like a scientific article and thus gets through very little.

Beth

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Posted:Feb 19, 2002 2:47:48 AM
Subject:Exactly!

I'm going to try to find the box that has that project and article reprint in it!!

Again, "How Fast Are The World's Best Readers", written probably some time in the 1980's (I was researching in 1988). Both scientifically defensible and funny, a real tour de force. Do try to read it.

Your husband could probably learn to read faster/semi-skim if he had any motivation to do so. Most good reading teachers/tutors could help him. The main point with an adult is whether he wants to go to the trouble, or whether he feels fine as he is.

Ummm - tests given when you were in Grade 9 maybe should be taken with a grain of salt? I wouldn't want any of my test results from Grade 9, academic, medical, vision, or personality, used to judge me now; I'm a whole different person after 38 years of life experience and several university degrees and whatnot; and the testing given in my high schools was not always of the highest academic and scholarly standards. . .

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Posted:Feb 19, 2002 3:07:18 AM

Well, I don't have any formal testing results on this, but this is one of the areas where I am amazingly weak myself. I tend to miscall things, to stutter, to reverse orders, and finally to stress out totally on this kind of test. I have been trained/trained myself up to a level of mediocrity by using coping skills such as pointing a finger at each object as I name it, holding myself to a rhythmic pace and not rushing, and insisting that the tester not push at me.

I miscall words in speech frequently, especially nouns. I stutter somewhat in speech, mostly cleared it up myself but it returns badly when I'm tired. I reverse orders in numbers all the time (weird as I really am an advanced math person, and unlike many math people I do mental calculations -- with double-checks for order.) I get directions muddled and was over 40 before I was at all consistent with left and right, still making mistakes. I have a trial with spatial/body orientation.

What makes this weakness peculiar is that I'm also an excellent reader, a writer, a proofreader, and an advanced math person. I'm one of those people who glances at a sign on the highway and then reels off the full content. I do well on multiple-choice tests -- pointing my finger at each number so as not to lose it.

Since I am *worse* than most of the students I teach on rapid naming, on memorization of formulas, on general visual skills, and a host of other things, I tend to think that there is something else besides these skills involved.

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Posted:Feb 19, 2002 8:41:08 AM

I agree about ninth grade!!! Don't still have those zits either. It is just that I still am a very fast reader---I read an incredible amount of stuff!!!

On my husband, I think there is a personality effect here too. He can't believe I don't read everyone word. He is a much more detailed kind of guy and I think it goes against his basic personality to not be thorough.

Beth

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