Growing up, I always enjoyed reading. I read everything from the Hardy Boys, to Choose Your Own Adventure books, to the family’s Time-Life Science series. However, I’ve never been a particularly fast reader. It look me a long time to finish any book or magazine and when I was very tired the words would run together on the page. I knew some other kids who could read very quickly, but I just thought they were exceptional readers. I figured that I was a normal reader because my grades were good.
When I was about 11 years old, I failed the vision screening during P.E. class. I remember, because Mr. Gray thought that I was just messing around (like I usually was). But I really couldn’t see the eye chart hung up on the gym wall. So my parents took me to the Optometrist who said I needed glasses. This was no big surprise, because both of my parents had glasses as long as I could remember. The doctor also mentioned that it was harder for me to cross my eyes than it is for most people, but he didn’t make a big deal about that.
Fast forward 15 years: I was in Binocular Vision lab at the Illinois College of Optometry, learning about the various tests that Optometrist perform. One of the tests is called Near Point of Convergence (NPC), in which a small object is brought close the the patient until it becomes too uncomfortable or they see double. I performed NPC on Ryan and was so amazed that he could follow the object all the way to his nose. I, on the other hand, saw the target become double at about one foot from my nose. This, I learned, was NOT NORMAL. (Try it on yourself. Hold your finger far away from your nose. Slowly bring it towards you can notice when it becomes double. It should be less than 6 cm from your nose, if at all.)
About the same time, I was having trouble with other techniques that are used to examine the eyes. All of these techniques had one thing in common: they required that I use both eyes together at the same time.
I was referred to the Binocular Vision Clinic for an evaluation. (I didn’t know it at the time, but this is the same clinic where I would do my residency.) After a thorough evaluation, I was diagnosed with Convergence Insufficiency. This meant that I did not have proper control of my eyes to turn them inward while looking at something up close.
Although the clinic was very busy, Dr. Helen Gabriel made time for me and I began Vision Therapy. In the clinic and at home I performed various techniques to improve the control I had when my eyes moved, focused and converged (turned inward).
After a few weeks, I noticed something while sitting in class: I had better depth perception! I could really see how far the professor was and how far the screen was behind him. Not only that, but I developed better optometry skills! I could perform the evluations without seeing double. Also, I could look all the way to my nose without double vision! I was still a slow reader, but words didn’t move around on the page any more when I was tired.
It was this experience that made me love vision therapy. I am very happy that I received vision therapy. But sometimes I wonder what would have happened if my first eye doctor who had found my convergence insufficiency had recommended vision therapy when I was 11 years old. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to work quite as hard at school. Maybe I would have had extra time to work on creative areas like music, which I love. But I tend to think that things happened for a reason and I am pretty sure that if I didn’t receive vision therapy in Optometry school, I wouldn’t be providing it now.
So if you come to the office and notice that I get excited when talking about vision therapy, you’ll know why. It is not only that I like offering it to patients, but I know first hand both how powerful it can be and that it can only be effective if it is provided when it is needed.
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.