This is an Guest Post by Stephanie Leary, who is training to be a Vision Therapist. Although her story is long, I encourage you to read it because it is not written by a doctor or by a newspaper reporter, but from a mother how has experienced how vision therapy can change lives. - Dr. Nate
I cannot thank my eye doctor enough for all that his vision therapy program has done for both my son and me. The transformation that has taken place in both of us is profound and absolutely life changing! I am writing our story in hopes that it will be given to any person diagnosed as needing vision therapy. I hope that our story will help them decide to pursue the treatment. I know that they are skeptical and I thought that hearing our story from the perspective of a college educated mother who herself experienced vision therapy with her son might shed some light on very unfamiliar territory. I want them to understand the varying degrees of these vision problems and their implications behaviorally. I want them to know that no matter what the severity, pursuing vision therapy treatment will help. Unlike psychology, which is subjective, vision therapy is measured and you will see the results, in black and white, printed out for you from the Visagraph. The computer will show you what your eyes are doing while you read and evaluate your comprehension. The Gardner Test will further evaluate your visual abilities, including things like visual memory and visual discrimination.
The following two paragraphs describe what I mean about varying degrees of vision problems and their implications behaviorally and academically for that matter. The Visagraph showed that my eyes jumped 110 times, 70 is the norm for adults, and that I had poor tracking. My symptoms were that I lost my place while reading. When I got to the end of the line I had trouble getting to the next line of text and would often skip lines. As a child, I went to a reading tutor who taught me to put a piece of paper under the line of text that I was reading so that I could not skip lines. I read slow and hated doing it. I could not remember half of what I read so I learned to become an excellent listener and take great notes. I watched every book that I ever had to read in high school. I rented the super old version of the movie, you know the one that they would show you in class after you read the book and took the test. I avoided reading. I could do it, I just wasn’t very good at it. My brother had to read the movie Dances with Wolves to me because I could not keep up with the subtitles. I could not do a puzzle for the life of me and I was gifted a C in high school geometry. I simply did not understand it but I tried, I went to after school tutoring, so my teacher passed me. I graduated from college with a 3.24 grade point average and a degree in both management and marketing. I did not know that I had a problem and I thought that I was smart. When the Gardner Test was administered and scored I could not believe how poorly I had done. I mean embarrassingly low scores, no pathetic. My visual memory score fell in the negative 1 percentile and many other scores were in the 3rd and 11th percentile. When I told my grandmother who was a teacher, she asked how I ever got through school. I told her that it was certainly not by reading the books. I compensated by listening really well. I was the master at taking notes.
In contrast, my son’s Visagraph results showed that his eyes were jumping 400+ times when 100 was the norm for children, and that he too had tracking problems. When he looked at print on paper, it literally moved around the page. It did not sit still. Because this is how he had always seen, he did not know that others did not see things the same way and I had never thought to ask what it was that he was seeing. Below is the rest of our story and how we found our miracle – Vision Therapy. All I can say is that this treatment is worth every penny. I know that it can be expensive if insurance does not cover any of it but I hope that you will consider this. It is not any more than you would spend on braces for your child and it is so much more important. This treatment can mean the difference in being “learning disabled” and being at the top of your class. That was certainly the case with my son. There is not a person alive that would not benefit from vision therapy, but some people will not be successful without it.
I had this little guy that was struggling. He seemed so very angry at a very young age. I could not figure out why at ages 3, 4 and 5 that he was so angry. His behavior was out of control and punishment did not affect him at all. He did not seem to care. He would not look you in the eyes and he avoided doing any type of schoolwork like flashcards, coloring or writing. He would not even play hand held video games. He would say that he was not smart and that he wanted to switch brains with me and with his little brother. He just seemed frustrated/angry all the time. You had to threaten him in order to get him to do anything. I was sure that when school started that I would be in the principal’s office every day.
At age 3, I took him to a psychologist. She labeled him ADHD/ODD/Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Autism category) and many other things. She suggested that we go to developmental preschool, which was free through our school district, and see her again when he was 5, just before entering Kindergarten. He received speech and occupational therapy through the school and it helped a little. The summer before Kindergarten, I went back to see the doctor as instructed. I was hopeful but was shattered by the doctor’s analysis. She said that he had all of the things listed above and that he was going to be in a self contained special ed class and need an Aid to get through school. I was mortified! She continued to tell me that therapy would not work, that I could spend millions of dollars and would just be wasting my time and money. The only thing that would help in her opinion was medication, "a magic pill". My reply was with a question with which the answer disturbed me immensely. “You said that he has numerous disorders, yes? You would not give someone with ADD/ADHD the same medication as you would someone with Autism or ODD, correct?” She replied that she would give my son ADHD medication and based on his reaction that would tell her if he definitively had ADHD. It was her theory that you rule out possible disorders based on chemically altering a child and observing their behavior. In other words, she wanted to use my 5 year old as her lab rat to rule out possible disorders. I now refer to this doctor as Dr. Rx. I said that I did not believe in medicating a five year old and that I would go waste my time and money on therapy. How dare she portray the bleakest of futures for my son! I refuse to let that happen. I will show her, nothing motivates me more than being told that I can’t. I dedicated the summer to private therapy. I was determined to prove Dr. Rx wrong and fix my son before he ever had a chance to fail in school.
I went to the pediatrician to tell her of the experience that I had with Dr. Rx from their referral and asked if they knew of a psychologist that believed in therapy and not medication. Even the pediatrician made the comment that it was ok to explore therapy as long as it was not affecting the other kids at school. Again, another pro-medicator. There are tons of them out there. She gave me another referral and I went to check out. I happened to push over one of those free Arizona kids magazines onto the check out ladies desk. She looked at me disgusted, so I immediately picked it up. It was all about summer camps around the valley. I took it home and began my summer of therapy. I decided that the things that one needs to be successful in life are to read, write, speak and hear. Inside the magazine I found an ad for a handwriting summer camp. I thought to myself how cool, exactly what I need, so I gave them a call. The owner answered. I told her that my son was entering Kindergarten in August and he was still fisting the pencil. I told her our story and said that I was not sure if he could just take the class or if he would need more help than just that. She said that she was an OT that specialized in handwriting and would evaluate him. They offered private OT as well as the classes so we would see where he would best fit. She evaluated my son and thought that he had convergence insufficiency. She said that when you look at something on a piece of paper, your eyes come together to look at the point (converge) and when you look up, your eye separate back out to normal. She said that she was not seeing that with him and she wanted us to see a behavioral optometrist for screening.
I had never heard of such a thing. I came home and started researching all this stuff: Behavioral Optometrist, Vision Therapy, Convergence Insufficiency. I discovered that I also had a form of this so I made an appointment for us both to be screened. Turns out that yes, we both needed vision therapy. How can this be? I had been to an optometrist every year and worn glasses since I was in the sixth grade. I have never had an eye exam as thorough as the one I received from my COVD certified Optometrist. He not only asked me to read an eye chart to evaluate my eyesight, he went further and evaluated my vision at close range. This further probe evaluates the skills needed for reading and schoolwork. Since Dr. Rx said that therapy did not work, I decided that I would go through it with my 5 year old son and see for myself. OMG – it was the most amazing thing that we have ever experienced! With every single visit, I noticed a considerable difference in my son’s behavior. After 4 units in five short months, he was cured. He never talks about not being smart anymore. In fact it is all about how brilliant he is. Vision Therapy was able to solve his problem before he was ever unsuccessful in school and disliked it. Before it ever had a chance to affect his self esteem. We were very fortunate to have found this when we did and I am eternally grateful! Prior to vision therapy, my son did not know his ABC’s and just yesterday he brought home an all-star student award from his school and he gets to go to an NBA basketball game as a reward. Only the top three kids academically and behaviorally were chosen from each classroom. This is no easy feat, as my son goes to a college prep elementary school where they are doing 1st grade work in Kindergarten. His success brings me to tears – happy tears!
Speaking from someone who has experienced vision therapy. It makes everything in your or your child’s life easier. Things that I could never do before now come so easily. My speed and comprehension in reading have more than doubled! I am able to process information more quickly, therefore I think faster and react faster. My peripheral vision has also increased. I am so fascinated and awed by the transformation that has taken place in both myself and my son, that I want to be trained as a vision therapist. I have an overpowering need to help others and save them from the struggle I, and more so, my son experienced. I need to save all the children from medication! I want to use my marketing background to spread the word. Vision therapy is the cure for learning related issues and most behavioral issues. The change that has taken place in both of us is so profound and so powerful that it feels like I have the "cure for cancer" and I want to shout it from the rooftops!! How can people not know about this?
Please share our story with potential clients. I want them to know that if they are skeptical or hesitant at all, please know that they have made a wonderful decision to pursue vision therapy. It is worth every penny that you will spend on it and then some!! It makes everything in your or your child’s life easier!
For all of the parents out there who have children that have been diagnosed with some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder and have been sold false hope time and time again, this is the treatment for you. THIS ONE WILL WORK! It can change your family forever in a way that you never thought possible. It will change your life and that of your child’s forever in the most positive way imaginable. Your retina is actually made up of brain tissue. Your eyes are actually an extension of your brain (80% of learning is done through the visual system) and by changing how your child’s visual system behaves, you will open up and change their brain forever. Visual skills are learned and your child has an underdeveloped system. Learning to use your eyes is like learning to ride a bike, once you get it, you never forget. If you are still skeptical, I beg you to give it a shot. Do it to prove me wrong if you must, but just do it, I dare you! Give it one last shot, take one more leap of faith, it certainly won’t hurt. The very worst that can happen is that nothing changes. I bet that you will be pleasantly surprised, no make that ecstatic about the results. Please share your stories and experiences, both good and bad, with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be your biggest cheerleader and I wish you and your family the best of luck!
We love to see these stories! If you have a Vision Therapy Story, send it it and will will post in on the blog and link to it from Facebook book and Twitter.
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.