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I’ve noticed that my Perfect Non-Reader, when she attempts to catch a ball, by instinct brings her hand up and out toward the ball, rather than moving her hand with the ball as it comes to her. This is one reason why such attempts so rarely succeed. Another reason is that her body and head generally flinch away from the ball, and then she also closes her eyes fairly often as well. Not really very good at catch, my Perfect Non-Reader, but she reads well and does arithmetic like a champion.

I tried to explain about moving your hand with the ball as it comes to you. I may have been successful at imparting the concept. I was certainly unsuccessful at improving her rate of success.

I don’t think I ever had a real problem catching a ball that was thrown right to me. I have horrible depth perception, though, so a ball thrown on an arc from any distance is a mystery to me. I was a terrible outfielder in Little League, and am still a terrible outfielder when I make the rare attempt. I have soft(ish) hands, but I have trouble getting to the ball. And I’m slow and have a lousy arm.

My arm isn’t quite as lousy as it was when I was a kid, though, largely because when I was in high school I finally figured out follow-through. Mostly as applied to bowling, but I was able to see how it worked more generally, which improved my throwing, batting, and pool playing as well. I’m not sure how I managed to get to sixteen or so without getting follow-through, but then, I expected myself to be lousy at sports, so I attributed my lousiness at sports to my asthma, nearsightedness and, I’m afraid, my verbal and mathematical ability (as if it was a trade-off, and people who were good at sports had to be slow-witted, which was observably untrue—some people are slow and some are quick, some are bright and others dim, some are big and others small, and some people are quick and bright and big, and some people are slow and dim and small, and even the slow, dim small ones have a spark of the Divine fire, but try telling that to me when I was ten years old, if you want to waste your time travel). And to be sure a good deal of my lousiness at sports was due to my asthma, nearsightedness and meager size, but some was due to my not learning how best to use what height, eyesight and wind I had.

I don’t think much of the theory of multiple intelligences as cognitive science, but it does seem to be a good source of vocabulary for talking about people being different, one to another. Whether kinesthetic intelligence is an actual thing or not, I imagine it’s clear when I say I am kinesthetically stupid; my body does not, on the whole, do exactly what I want it to. I can’t draw a straight line, for instance, nor kick a ball with any real aim, nor navigate through a room without bumping into the furniture three or four times out of ten. But just because I read quickly and easily, I don’t think it takes any great wit to be able to read, and just because other people are dextrous and strong doesn’t mean I can’t catch a ball that’s thrown at me. And, in fact, in my teenage years, I learned to juggle, spending hours and hours and hours throwing a ball from one hand to the other until it usually went where I wanted it to.

I don’t care if my Perfect Non-Reader learns to juggle. I would like her to overcome her kinesthetic stupidity to the extent of being able to catch and throw, and sometimes hit a ball with a bat. Mostly, I don’t want her to believe, as I did, that her kinesthetic handicap prevents her from reaching that level, because it doesn’t, unless she lets it.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,



It was something of a revelation to me to discover, as a senior in high school, that sometime around the middle of my sophopmore year, I came into my own, in terms of agility and enjoyment of sport. Sadly, PhysEd was no longer a requirement after 10th grade in my school system, and I'd already dropped it like a bad habit, having convinced myself I was No Good At Sports. I flirted with frisbee and in-line skating after that, but never having developed habits of enjoying physical activity, I mostly did it to hit on girls, and when the relationship in question was over, so was my interest in that particular sport.

Another thing I did to hit on girls was take up smoking, and I'm sad to report that as a pick-up technique, this was far more effective than exercise.


I'm curious if you would be more accepting of Howard Gardner's mulitple intelligences theory if it were called multiple skillsets or multiple talents? To me, it seems uncontroversial to say that different people are innately better at different things, and that those things can be roughly grouped. (So if you're good at gross motor control, you'll have an advantage in both soccer and baseball.) Gardner's work tried to do two things: first, argue that those groupings could be far better refined than simply a binary physical and mental; second, ask teachers and academics to stop treating many people as dumb overall just because they aren't as gifted at particular intellectual tasks.

Does your Perfect NR like gymnastics?

i had some success with a kid once teaching to catch by tossing bean bags and letting them hit the body, with trying to catch. just to watch them arrive and feel the contact. "the ball is my friend" is so immensely useful.

The thing about multiple intelligences that I don't buy is that the divisions laid out actually correspond to what's going on in the brain, that is, that there is a neurological and evolutionary basis for the categories. If you are willing to ignore that (which is, as far as I can tell, the entire scientific basis for the theory), then you are left with a way of describing what, as you say, is just people being different, one to another. Actually, I like the term intelligences because it to some extent devalues verbal and logical aptitude, which are nice and all, but have been a bit overvalued.

The idea that a soft ball (or bean bag) at moderate speed won't actually hurt you if you miss it and it hits your head is really useful, as is the later idea that getting a few bruises will hurt you but not enough to make a big deal over. But we're a long way from there, I'm afraid.

And smoking is gross. Ew.


I'm not up on Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences theory, but my understanding is it is well established that motor memory and recall of facts and events are handled by different processes in different parts of the brain, so I accept that there is likely little correlation between basic aptitudes for mastering physical skills and for retaining and synthesizing information. Emotional sensitivity is also a quite separate aptitude from cognition in terms of brain function, as I understand it. How many different kinds of intelligence does Mr. Gardner propose?

On the subject of ball-catching: does your Perfect Non-Reader want to catch the ball and like to play catch? If so, then the skills will probably come round with practice.

Perhaps approaches to developing hand-eye coordination and practice catching the ball that don't involve a ball coming RIGHT AT one would help build the ease and confidence that could help overcome the flinching reflex? Does your Perfect Non-Reader like to throw a ball up in the air and catch it when it comes down? Or bounce a ball and catch it when it comes up? Or play slow-motion instant replay versions of throwing and catching? I have not (yet) taught a child to throw and catch (we are working more on sitting up and rolling over at present), so these suggestions are not tested by experience, but they come to mind as possibilities.

Mr. Gardner defined seven types of intelligence and I believe has added another since.

To his credit, he has criteria for what constitutes an intelligence and what does not, but I don't know enough about neuroscience to be persuaded either way. I do know that a lot of what education experts claim is settled neuroscience is, in fact, horseshit, so I remain skeptical. However, I do think that it's a useful vocabulary for talking about people (who are different one to another, which makes the world interesting and fun) and their abilities, and it also appears to be useful in education, although of course it ain't no magic proverb.

My Perfect Non-Reader seems to enjoy catch (or soccer catch), but is frustrated by her utter inability to actually catch, so doesn't stick it out to get the practice. A bigger limiting factor is that YHB is frustrated by her utter inability to catch, and so I don't stick it out to get her the practice.

The note was sparked by throwing the ball up and catching it on the way down, or rather, not catching it. Actually, YHB was entertaining the youngest member by juggling three brightly colored balls (he is an easy audience, and is delighted by drops as much as by smooth cycles) when the matter came up, and I showed her the basic move, throwing from one hand to the other, which led to the whole incident.

The Youngest Member, bye-the-bye, appears to have substantial kinesthetic intelligence; not only does his body do, on the whole, what he wants it to, but he picks up new physical tricks with amazing rapidity. Curse him.


oh man, how did i type "with" for "without trying to catch" when it was so critical? mabey somebody needs to semll the coffee isnteead of cdirnking int.

with for without

Nah, I guessed that. Didn't make sense the other way.


"context is also my friend."

In the bean-bag vein, another possible way to work on catching for the Perfect Non-Reader might be an Oball.

Light, slightly squishy, non-hurty when it bonks you in the head, and lots of surfaces to grab make for easy catching. At least, I would think so.

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