SOI CFU: Filling in the Blanks

What’s the big deal about CFU? Ask Brian.

“Brian can’t tell the difference in a 5 and a 3 and he sure can’t begin to read! He’s severe! Good luck on that one!” That was my first introduction to a very “special” student as I began my career in education.

Brian had a problem with CFU. CFU is just one of six intellectual abilities that you have to have to be ready to read. What does that mean? And what does identifying a picture tell me about being able to read?

In the world of the Structure of Intellect, CFU stands for Cognition of Figural Units. It is the ability to look at a picture or representation of an object that has been partially erased and to be able to tell what that object is. In other words, it is the ability of your brain to fill in the blanks and make sense of what seems at first to be only random marks on the page. This skill, when applied to letters or symbols, makes up the gateway to reading.

Remember picture finding in your “Highlights for Children” magazines? It wasn’t just a fun activity, or a not so fun activity if you were unsuccessful. There was a reason for it! I now know that each of Brian’s eyes were seeing something different. That “dreamy” look he had when I looked at him now makes sense. How do you tell the difference in a 5 and a 3 when one eye places the right angle at one spot on the page and the other eye places it elsewhere? And, maybe it doesn’t place it in the same place the next time I look at it. How do you make sense of that, much less use that figure to mean something?

Did you know that accomplished readers do not use phonics to read? They use phonics to problem solve or decode words that your brain does not immediately recognize. Accomplished readers at a glance realize the “picture” that is the word and transform that picture/word into a visualized meaning almost instantaneously, thus accomplishing comprehension. If a person is unable to do this, the amount of work that it takes to identify a word creates a problem. By the time he has solved the puzzle of the word, the meaning and continuity of the other words around it has become lost and comprehension and meaning has been lost. Alas! No movie in your mind!

CFU is the ability to scan horizontally with your eyes. In order for this to happen, the eyes must be able to move back and forth from point to point in tandem, landing at the same point at the same time. If the eyes do not move smoothly together, they do not take in the same message at the same time. What they see are miscellaneous lines on a page. They are unable to construct a meaningful “picture” of two separate visual messages coming at the same time. If it’s this difficult, no wonder they lose attention and choose not to read or choose to disrupt so that no one knows that they can’t figure out what seems to come so easily for everyone else!

A person may be able to decode single words and understand the sounds of vowel combinations and consonant blends in isolation and still fail at reading. They know HOW to read, but reading passages that require the stamina to sweep back and forth in smooth motion so that the sequences of information can develop and make sense is lost. Comprehension goes out the window.

This person doesn’t have a problem LEARNING to read, they have a problem WITH reading, i.e., the physical act of reading. How many times have I heard,   “__________is so smart! I can’t understand why he/she is unable to do this! They are such a puzzle!”

With SOI, we are able to identify the problem through a series of cognitive, sensory and visual assessments and screenings. The best news is, we just don’t hang a label on it. We can remedy it.

written by: Renee Anderson, SOI Systems Senior Program Consultant

Renee is the founder of Synap2it! Learning Development Center.

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