Visual Defect Makes Boy See Upside Down (Apr, 1939)

Visual Defect Makes Boy See Upside Down

DUE to a peculiar visual defect, Frank Balek, 12, of Chicago, ill., sees all objects upside down, but he has managed to overcome obstacles which educators once classified as hopeless, attaining grades of 85-90 in such subjects as writing and free-hand drawing. He can also read books rapidly, although the pages must be held in an upside down position. In the photo at right, Frank has written a message which you can read by turning the page around. Note that he starts writing at lower right and works upward.

  1. Charlene says: January 27, 20105:34 pm

    Poor kid; that’s often a sign of a problem in the cerebellum.

  2. Daniel Rutter says: January 27, 20106:02 pm

    There’s something very fishy about this story.

    Normal human beings can actually adapt just fine to having their visual field inverted by trick goggles; it takes a while to stop feeling dizzy about apparently being stuck to the ceiling above an infinite drop every time you go outside, but after a few days, you adapt:…

    There’s not really even any clear meaning to the term “sees all objects upside down”. Does that mean that if you asked this kid to point at a passing bird, he’d point down at the ground?

    (It’s conceptually similar to the old one about whether everybody sees colours the same way. If some people see green trees and others see what-the-first-people-would-call red trees, and it has always been thus for the people involved, no actual difference in behaviour is likely.)

    I suspect that whatever was wrong with this kid, if anything at all, it wasn’t a simple inversion of the visual field. Perhaps something akin to dyslexia. Or, as Charlene said, some kind of brain damage, perhaps causing an agnosia of some sort.

  3. KD5ZS says: January 27, 20107:11 pm

    Frankly, I think that today’s computers could be easily modified for this boy’s needs

  4. Charlene says: January 27, 20107:35 pm

    Daniel, it’s a rare condition but one known to medicine. It’s almost always due to a problem in the brain itself – often a stroke, but also a benign tumor or even a bad head injury can in rare cases cause this.

    I suspect the writing on the chalkboard was simply a trick for the photographer, but the phenomenon is very real and it isn’t as easy to compensate for as you’d think, especially when it happens after about age five.

    I am trying *so* hard not to make a Fresh Prince of Bel Air joke.

  5. JMyint says: January 27, 20107:38 pm

    I have the problem of seeing backwards sort of. It’s not really a problem, I had no problem learning to read though I had problems early on with writing. I can read and write as well backwards as fowards now. I do have problems using a screwdriver or wrench when looking at my hands and I don’t use a mirror to shave. I can use screwdrivers or wrenches in both hands and inverted.

    Yes I do have damage from meningitis as an infant.

  6. Charlie says: January 27, 20107:54 pm
  7. Mike says: January 27, 20109:48 pm

    ???s ? ???? x?? o? s?ss?l? l????ds ???? ? ¡??lqo?d ???s s??? ???? ?

  8. katey says: January 27, 201011:35 pm

    Reminds me of Dudley from The Royal Tenenbaums. “Can the boy tell time?”

  9. jayessell says: January 28, 201012:15 pm

    Reminds me of the classic joke:

    Kid 1) “Look at the dead bird!!”

    Kid 2) {Looks up.} “Where?”

  10. /\/\ike says: January 28, 20104:15 pm

    I don’t know if this has bearing here, but it seems very ironic to me that in 1927 there were reports by doctors from several Chicago area hospitals that there were “…no deleterious effects shown to be forthcoming from the fad of letting female pilots fly planes upside-down whilst they are heavy with child.”

  11. Arglebarglefarglegleep says: August 7, 201012:34 am

    Re #10, considering there are still superstitions about pregnancy that people swear are true, the flying upside down comment doesn’t surprise me that they’d have to reassure people there wasn’t a problem with it. Hell, even doctors will agree we only use 10% of our brain in spite of decades of clinical reports to the contrary.

  12. Firebrand38 says: August 7, 20106:16 am

    Arglebarglefarglegleep: We only use 10% of our brain? No, doctors don’t say that. It’s a myth.

    I figured it appropriate to refer to Neuroscience for Kids

  13. Teacherman says: October 30, 20119:57 am

    This phenomena is much more common that people realize. My theory is that most children that have severe difficulty learning how to read in Kindergarden and Grade 1 are actually inverted readers, and the best way to teach them how to read is to let them do what comes naturally. Then they will quickly figure out how to “turn it over” on their own. For videos of primary children actually reading and writing upside down, and more information about Print Inversion GOOGLE “pireading” . You will be surprised at what you see…

  14. gary says: January 10, 20124:54 am

    Guyz its simple .,.,its just our eyes actually sees everything upside down only.,.but for normal people its just get identified by the brain @ optic chiasma , so its lyk our brain identifies the upside down image to be correct gives us the normal image.,.For tis guy tis identification part of the brain is not workin !!!!!!!

  15. Len says: February 11, 20128:54 am

    I”m tutoring a 3rd grader (female) whose world is totally upside down to ours. She reads very well with a mirror.

    I’m looking for a medical referral to someone with experience in vision therapy that can help this young lady adapt to a normal world if possible.


  16. Teacherman says: February 20, 20127:58 am

    Please look at my website – then contact me via e-mail. I have seen more than a dozen children exhibiting the same ability and have been working with them successfully to become excellent readers and writers. [email protected]

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