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Gordon Dutton’s Blog (18) Seeing fewer things at once, and why.

Parallel Processing

Since the advent of more security channels, airport queues have become shorter and quicker. Each channel is handling the same number of passengers at the same speed as before, but the increased number of channels has led to shorter queues. The same can be said for computer RAM. The number of computer programmes that can function at once has increased enormously since the early days of computing, because increased RAM means more processing channels.

We've discovered the benefits of parallel processing - handling more information by increasing the number of available parallel channels.

Another way of getting more people through airport security would of course be to speed up the process. Computers have done this as well, with the development of faster processors. Faster linear processing increases efficiency too.

As children grow up, their ability to handle increasing amounts of information at any one time increases, and their capacity to handle ever faster information increases too. In other words they become able to parallel process progressively more incoming information, increasingly faster, as they grow up.

Baby books showing only one thing at a time, evolve through books for toddlers, into books for teenagers, with progressively more information to handle on each page, with school expectation of increasingly faster processing speeds. By progressively crowding more onto the printed page, publishers aim to match children's increasing capacity to parallel process, but this is done by tradition rather than by scientific evaluation of what children can cope with as they grow up. This means that some children start to lose their reading skills, when print crowding exceeds their ability to process the information. This tends to happen around the age of 7 or 8 in my experience, when the material that is age matched intellectually, may no longer age match visually, culminating in reading setback. When I was 8, my dad asked me if I wanted 'Preserves'. In the 1920s, when he was a boy, these were glasses that magnified the print to bridge children through this printer's mismatched empiricism. Not much has changed!

So, as they grow up children see more in a single glance, and they become better at listening and looking at the same time. This indicates that they become progressively better at parallel processing the incoming information that makes up their worlds.

A published paper featured on this website shows the remarkable finding that children with reduced visual capacity due to white matter injury early in life (as is common in children with CVI) have significantly less cabling inside their brains than typical children. Fewer nerve fibres means less parallel processing capacity, seeing less at a glance, and using their vision less effectively, especially while listening or thinking about other things. This is born out by their lack of ability to

  • see a toy in a toy box, or
  • see a toy on patterned bedspread, or
  • find a parent in a group of other people

It potentially explains the difficulty in being able to listen to someone and look at their face at the same time.

In blog 2, I wrote 'Children develop best in an integrated family, where they are loved and fully understood, and that this understanding is extended to making sure that all their needs are accommodated in a way that is positive, dynamic and fulfilling. This can only come through everyone knowing everyone else's strengths and abilities, and taking them into account, in spite of any 'weaknesses' '.

Arguably, applying the KISS principle (keep it slow and simple), while referring to what your child is experiencing (and not what you are experiencing), is the way to cater for lesser degrees of parallel processing of information by the mind. For each affected child, always staying within the child's ability to learn, is the universal rule for parenting children with CVI.

Clear articulation of the voice, keeping clutter to a minimum, and enhancing their experience with immediate clear brief explanation after each experience, are the mainstays of teaching affected children. By showing that the pathway from the occipital lobes to the information processing centres in the posterior parietal lobes and onward to the frontal lobes, the superior longitudinal fasciculus, has significantly fewer fibres the article cited provides remarkable supportive evidence for this approach.

The new reading software on this website, Look (that we aim to develop further), is designed to help children with visual parallel processing difficulties, to learn to read, by sequentially presenting one or two words at a time against a plain background.


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