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Gordon Dutton’s Blog (8)

Thinking in Threes - a practical way to encompass lots of information

The topic of cerebral visual impairment is enormous and in my experience is big enough to be a degree level subject (and more!).

This means that I find it helpful to have a way of thinking about the subject that gives me a working model to 'hang my hat on'...

...but apologies this is quite a lot to memorise and master! (But I recommend doing so.)

I've found that it helps to think in five sets of three.

1. The three main groups of those affected...

  • those with visual difficulties alone
  • those with additional difficulties with movement
  • those with superadded intellectual issues.

2. The visual system has three main functioning parts...

  • The computer in the occipital and adjacent middle temporal lobes at the back, analysing the incoming information.
  • The library of imagery in the temporal lobes where our visual memories are stored, ready to compare with the analysed information to identify it.
  • The 3D map of our surroundings built up in the posterior parietal lobes, which also contains the nerve pathways that allow us to see the ground ahead

3. Each part has three main purposes...

  • The computer processes the moving image, the overall scene, and the middle of the picture (for clarity or acuity, contrast and brightness, and colour).
  • The library allows us to recognise people and animals, objects and shapes, and topography (for route finding, orientation within our environment, and of our stored possessions)
  • While the map guides movement (of our upper limbs, lower limbs and body), allows us to search and find things (in the distance, in a room and within reach), and provides the detail in the scene to allow the front of the brain to give attention.

4. We use vision for three main activities...

  • To interact socially by recognition, identifying someone we know in a group, and understanding and reacting to body and facial expression language
  • To gain information, whether it is in the distance, middle distance or within reach
  • To guide the movement of our upper limbs, lower limbs and body

5. When vision is impaired we adapt in three ways by...

  • Using alternative strategies
  • Using enhancing methods (like magnification)
  • Training ourselves to make better use of what we have

Five to the power of three works out at 243 combinations and permutations, which is why everyone with cerebral visual impairment has their own unique normal way of seeing.

Once vision is profiled using this model of thinking, whether one is a parent, a carer or a professional, one can use this information to ensure that:

  • social interaction has meaning
  • information is accessible and
  • optimal movement is attainable

Children can only learn from what they can see, hear and understand.

I believe that every child needs moment to moment enhancement of their experiences for optimum learning at home and at school, but they can only be provided with this if their unique needs are optimally catered for by ensuring that this enhancement is:

  • visible
  • audible and
  • within their intellectual capacity.

I use this thinking tool for everyone I see. It is by no means comprehensive, but it helps one make sure that one creates a good profile that I believe, in an ideal world, everyone needs to learn and master for each affected person if we are to ensure optimal learning and development.

PS: For me tick boxes don't work so well, because the information can so easily just be recorded on paper and filed, rather than:

  • understood
  • remembered and
  • acted upon

The visual system has three main functioning parts 1) the computer 2) the library 3) the three-dimensional map.

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At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.