Chances are that you have heard of TED Talks. They are short live presentations designed to inspire awe, wonder, and curiosity. Or, as TED says, “ideas worth spreading.” Initially on the subjects of Technology, Education, and Design (T.E.D.), now talked cover almost every conceivable topic. I highly encourage you to find some mind-blowing Ted Talks to watch.
If you live in a moderately large large city, you probably have TEDx Talks.This is the local, independent version of TED, where everyday people can share what they are passionate about. Several years ago I presented a TEDx talk on the subject of hyperlocal social media and it was a lot of fun.
As the years pass, TEDx talks get better and better. I am happy to present 3 TEDx talks below about the important of vision and vision development.
From TEDx Victoria: Overlooking Our Vision
Sight is something many of us take for granted, but as Cameron McCrodan shows, there are many aspects of sight that are simply overlooked – and they can have a massive impact on our quality of life.
From TEDx Lincoln: Curing learning-related vision problems
Optometrist, Dr. Vicky Vandervort explains what it is like for a person to have eyes that work but do so inefficiently causing the person to exert extreme effort to see. When this occurs, people, especially children, do not realize the drain on their brain.
From Tedx Pioneer Valley: Fixing My Gaze
Susan R. Barry, Professor at Mount Holyoke College, talks about solving her severe visual problems through vision therapy. “As I began to straighten my eyes and see in 3D, I learned that the adult brain is indeed capable of significant plasticity. Rewiring in the adult brain requires the presence of novel and behaviorally relevant stimuli, the conscious abandonment of entrenched habits, and the establishment, through intense practice, of new ones.”
Enjoy these talks. They are a nice introduction vision therapy and shows why Dr. Beth and I are so passionate about in our work at Bright Eyes Family Vision Care and Bright Eyes Kids.
People constantly ask me about floaters. This is good because they are paying attention and they know that they have been told that if they have a sudden change in floaters, either size or amount, they should call or come to the office right away to evaluate for potentially vision threatening problems.
But for most people, it turns out that we have floaters normally, we just don’t notice them that often. Right now, if I look at the computer screen and space out, I can see them, but I haven’t thought about them all day.
This is a nice little video that my mom sent me that explains floaters in an easy to understand way. I thought it would be good for sharing.
Most people are surprised to hear that the American Optometric Association recommends eye exams to begin at six months of age. By six months, your child has met several important developmental milestones. At birth, the eyes begin to focus about a foot away from the child, mostly looking at faces. Around two months old, the child is learning to look around. At this point, the eyes don’t always coordinate well together. Your child should be able to track moving objects by four months old and begin reaching for things. As their eye hand coordination improves, they will become more accurate in reaching for things. Continue reading →
Minecraft doesn’t come up in conversation every day at Bright Eyes Kids, but pretty close to it. I typically ask all my patients, young and old, what they do for fun and Minecraft is the first thing many kids say. And if you spend any time at a mall, school, or other place with kids, you will see lots of kids in Minecraft-themed t-shirts (but you might not get the jokes unless you have played it yourself.) And now Microsoft just bought the company that makes Minecraft for $2.5 Billion (with a B). Clearly they think someone is playing this game.
We have known for years that there is a link between how the eyes work and attention. This is why there are so many children who have both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and visual coordination problems. Pediatric optometrists see this in the exam room every day and it is our job to help sort out how much of a child’s difficulty is due to ADHD and how much is due to not being able to visual focus and move their eyes efficiently.
There is some new research about ADHD and eye movements that is very compelling. Researchers in Tel Aviv, Israel, led by Moshe Fried, MD, have found that by simply monitoring involuntary eye movements, ADHD can be diagnosed.
“This test is affordable and accessible, rendering it a practical and foolproof tool for medical professionals,” said Dr. Fried. “With other tests, you can slip up, make ‘mistakes’ — intentionally or not. But our test cannot be fooled. Eye movements tracked in this test are involuntary, so they constitute a sound physiological marker of ADHD.
The study also showed that Ritalin (methylphenidate) does work in improving ADHD as measured by eye movement control. What was not researched in this study is how much other treatments that also improve eye movement control influence ADHD. Optometric vision therapy is commonly used to help patients improve their voluntary and involuntary eye movements.
Clearly more research is needed to better understand the relationship between ADHD and eye control, but this new study is a step in the right direction.
I know it is the height of summer. But the “back to school” season is right around the corner. New schools, new teachers, and new challenges await every student. Good vision is among the many skills children need to read, write and learn their best. Many parents do not realize that vision is more than being able to see the words on a page or board clearly, but it is actually a form of fine-motor skill. Just like it takes years to master the fine motor skill of controlling the tiny muscle of the fingers to write legibly, it takes years to master the coordination of the even smaller muscles that move and focus the eyes. Continue reading →
This is no April Fool’s joke! Bright Eyes Kids is open!
This is the moment that we have been waiting for…We are ready to see general children’s appointments at Bright Eyes Kids, as well as Vision Therapy, and Orthokeratology patients!
Bright Eyes Kids is the only optometry office around dedicated specifically to children’s vision. We do care the same great infants and children’s glasses that you can find at Bright Eyes Family Vision Care. The new office is located at 15303 Amberly Drive Suite C, Tampa, FL, 33647. It is office Bruce B. Downs, near the Bank of America and LA Fitness. The hours currently are Monday and Tuesday 9am to 5pm.
If you have a special child in your life that needs their eyes and vision checked, call us at 813-792-0637 (yes, the same number as Bright Eyes Family Vision Care) for more information or make an appointment. Bright Eyes Kids also has its own Facebook page.
I can’t tell you how excited my kids and I are about The Lego Movie! If you haven’t already seen it a bunch of times, here is the trailer.
Here is the backstory – LEGO® products played big role in my childhood- first as toys and then more as versatile structural elements of engineering and science projects. When my mom told me she sold my entire collection (a full Hefty sack worth) for $10 at a yard sale, I was very sad indeed.
Somehow in the process of getting multiple degrees and learning to be a business owner (i.e. growing up), I had lost touch with LEGO® fun. And it wasn’t like I was missing them – my world just didn’t contain them. But now that I have kids AND live close enough to LegoLand Florida to make it a frequent day trip, I am re-connected with the bricks and having a wonderful time.
I am also glad to discover that while I haven’t thought much about LEGO® products, they haven’t stopped. Oh my, how much they have changed since my youth! There are hundreds of mini-figures, different themes, games, and many, many cross-branded sets. Yet the basic brick remains fun and functional.
It has been fascinating playing with Legos with my kids. Not only because it is fun, but because I know a lot more now about child development. Truly, the sets are wonderful because while they come in box that requires following directions in an orderly fashion, after that, the fun and explorations are truly unlimited.
As a pediatric optometrist, I also keep some mini-figures in the exam room. Not only are they fun to trade (bring some!), but they also are good to use during the exam as fixation targets for little ones. Recently, I have started to use these bricks in the vision therapy room as well for their developmental value.
Here are some of ways that LEGO® products support visual development:
Visual Discrimination – Let’s face it – the studs are small. You really have to pay attention to visual detail to find the one you are looking for. And the mini-figures (and especially their accoutrements) have subtle details that give them personality. While most children naturally are able to distinguish these details (such as ones with amblyopia), some need to be motivated to really TRY to see those details.
Form Distinction – When looking for the right brick, it makes a big difference if you are looking for a one that is straight, and if you pick one that is curved or tapered, it simply will not work as well. You will learn by trial and error that it is more efficient to look at the shape first before trying to build with it.
Color Distinction – Bricks come in MANY colors. The Duplo® bricks come in primary colors that may be used for teaching the names of colors. The newest LEGO® come in dozens and dozens of colors, and you really have look to distinguish green from dark green, for example.
Visual Figure Ground – Figure ground processing means sorting out the important details from the background noise. Is there anything more challenging that looking through hundreds of bricks to find the perfect one?. Doing this efficiently requires visual strategies of scanning for details such as color, size, shape, and texture, and it does take practice. How many times have you heard, “I can’t find his special hat anywhere!” or a similar statement from your child when he can’t find it seconds. This is Visual Figure Ground.
Visual Planning – LEGO® building is more sophisticated than it may look. I have been told by parents that some kids are builders and some are players. Both require strong visualization – seeing in the mind’s eye what the final outcome will be and then making it happen. Very few people build haphazardly by randomly attaching bricks – they plan what they want to build, begin, and then modify as needed to accommodate a brick shortage or structural inadequacy. Think of how the Master Builders visually plan their huge projects!
Visual Motor Integration – Most people think of this as “eye-hand coordination”. Once you have envisioned what your project will look like, your hands have to make it happen. And if you make a mistake, your eyes have to tell your brain what is wrong and what needs to happen to fix it. And some of those bricks require some serious strength to remove. At least now we have the Brick Separator!
All of the above are reasons why LEGO® products are good for visual development. But let’s not forget the most important one – they are fun! Kids learn through play. And the more fun they are having, the more creative they become. The more they can challenge themselves, then the more they will learn. Our brains absorb more via novel repetition, and the novelty never ends with unlimited play.
So if it has been a while since you have gotten down on the floor to build with your kids – just do it! It will be good for them, and you will be amazed what they can come up with! And then in February go see the movie!
If you have tried to get an appointment recently, you may have noticed that August is a very busy month for us. And rightfully so. August is National Children’s Vision & Learning Month. I spend much of this month – and every month – helping children develop the visual skills they need to read and write. I routinely hear how after appropriate glasses and/or vision therapy, patients are reading better than ever, not fighting over homework, checking out books for fun, doing better in sports, and so many other achievements.
Here is one:
And you can find many more videos like this one at on YouTube.
If I’m not convincing enough, read these quotes from more well-known people and organizations.
“25% of students in grades K-6 have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning.” – American Public Health Association
“When vision problems go undetected, children almost invariably have trouble reading and doing their schoolwork. They often display fatigue, fidgeting, and frustrations in the classroom—traits that can lead to a misdiagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities.” – American Optometric Association
“It is estimated that 80% of children with a learning disability have an undiagnosed vision problem.” – Vision Council of America
“Early diagnosis and treatment of children’s vision problems is a necessary component to school readiness and academic learning; and that vision screening is not a substitute for a complete eye and vision evaluation by an eye doctor. Comprehensive eye and vision examinations … are important for all children first entering school and regularly throughout their school-aged years to ensure healthy eyes and adequate visual skills essential for successful academic achievement.” – National PTA Policy Statement 2005,
“Early testing for vision problems is key to preventing learning disabilities or, in some cases, significant visual impairment in children.” – Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, Task Force Chairman, Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“A three year study of 540 children found that those children who had visual perceptual and eye movement difficulties did poorly on standardized tests.” – Dr. Lynn Hellerstein, FAAO, FCOVD,
You can find tons of information on vision and learning on COVD.org. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take part in Vision and Learning Month by reading and sharing your success stories on COVD’s Facebook page! And, of course, if your kids haven’t had their back to school exam yet, schedule one here or call us at 813-792-0637.
Although this article by the American Optometric Association was released in 2009, its message is still pertinent and important, especially during this time of the year. While parents are getting their kids prepared for a new school year by purchasing supplies and meeting new teachers, it might be easy to overlook their child’s vision. In fact, a shocking 86% of children start school without ever having an eye examination. This is an alarmingly high figure given the strong correlation between vision and learning.
At Bright Eyes, we advise the eye exam schedule that is recommended by the AOA: first eye exam at 6 months, 3 years, and right before school. This allows your eye doctor to identify and treat any vision related problems before they start to adversely affect your child’s learning and development.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the screenings used at school are not designed to replace a full, comprehensive eye exam. These screenings offer very little beyond determining clarity of vision. A full eye examination will further test how well the eyes work together in unison at tasks such as reading and computer work, as well as assess the health of the entire eye, inside and out.
The article also suggests signs for parents to look for in their child’s vision between eye exams. The AOA recommends that parents contact their eye doctor if their child frequently:
Loses place while reading
Avoids close work
Tends to rub eyes
Turns or tilts head
Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
Uses finger to maintain place when reading
Omits or confuses small words when reading
Consistently performs below potential
Struggles to complete homework
Squints while reading or watching television
Has behavioral problems
Holds reading material closer than normal
So as the school year begins, if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s vision, do not hesitate to call our office and schedule an appointment.