Sunday, May 10, 2009

Busy with Home Vision Therapy

One thing that has me busier than ever of late is the fact that last week I began administering vision therapy exercises at home to my older son (age 11) under the guidance of our Behavioral Optometrist.

I have shared in the past that this son was diagnosed with a mild farsightedness as well as convergence insufficiency, an eye tracking visual processing disorder (learning disability, a neurological condition).

Here is the timeline in case anyone is interested in his course of treatment including the home vision therapy.

Consult March 2008 - received diagnosis with Behavioral Optometrist. Put on waiting list for rental of syntonic phototherapy unit.

June-July 2008 - had 21 days of syntonic phototherapy at home under direction of Behavioral Optometrist. Significant improvement during that time, reading longer and larger books and reading on his own up to eight hours a day when he had a great book to read.

July 2008 - recheck evaluation at end of 21 day treatment, he doesn't need more light treatment.

February 2009 - recheck visit, 90% resolved but reading speed a little slow, ranking at speed just below his grade/age level. Recommended return for recheck appointment to be trained on home vision therapy in May 2009.

May 2009 - Visit #1 was trained to do four vision therapy exercises, 30 minutes a day 6-7 times a week. Recheck in 2 weeks.

The overall plan is after training on the exercises, home vision therapy for weeks, recheck visit tweaking the exercises, home vision therapy for two more weeks, then third visit and tweaking and more home vision therapy two weeks, hopefully ending at that point. That is a total of six weeks of vision therapy at home.

One Power Struggle

One other issue that affected my son's reading ability that aggravated his neurological system was that until February 2009 he was refusing to wear his glasses unless he was sitting down to read for 30 minutes or more. He was doing all his close work for homeschooling and computer work for his math problem without the eyeglasses on. We were having a power struggle over this and I just gave up.

In February 20009, I asked the Behavioral Optometrist if he should be wearing them more and he said yes, every time he reads even for 5 minutes he needs them on because to read without them overtaxes his neurological system and tires it out. He said that my son would be able to only handle learning/reading/processing half the information for half the time before his brain was worn out. The example was that if the glasses were worn he could read for an hour before his brain was maxxed out and tired out and if he didn't have the glasses on he may go only for 30 minutes. Therefore in order to not over-tire the neurological system, to not overwork it and to get the most out of the child's brain, wear the glasses!

I had the doctor explain this to my son in a logical manner and my son agreed to comply. He as been pretty good about it except he still reads in the car without the glasses and in the bathroom and here and there. It is hard because we are at a point when puberty is taking over and my son's raging hormones and the sometimes flaring temper rule over his logic and he is beginning to rebel more and more against what his mom says he should do.

The issue with over-taxing the neurological system is is an issue with children with a learning disability that some people just don't know or understand--when the child's mind is 'worn out' no matter how good the teaching is, no matter what deadlines exist or goals or whatever, the mind is shut down and the learning is done for the day. Any amount of information attempted to be taught to the child will just go in one ear and out the other, or it could be said that once the cup is full of water any more water poured in will just keep overflowing and will run out and go down the drain. It is not true with LD kids that the more water that is poured in, that the cup will grow larger and larger and can hold limitless capacity. I don't even know if that analogy is true for non-LD kids but in America today the notion held by our society is that all kid's minds are like the cup and the more that can be poured in, and the earlier, the larger and larger the cup will grow. In America it is thought that if only the adults pour larger and larger amounts of water into the child's cup that then the child will know more and be smarter and 'have what it takes to be successful'. I know the issue is not true for earlier formal learning despite parents, teachers, and politicians thinking that if they just start earlier schooling then the child will be prevented from being hindered in some way in their future schooling (earlier teaching will prevent learning struggles later). It is not in line developmentally with the human mind and body to push learning to younger ages. It has not been shown with studies that earlier learning helps later progress. And the sad thing is that all this talk of more learning and earlier leaves the LD kids hurting and leaves them even more behind, because if wrong thinking is applied to kids without any learning struggles, those adults are closed minded and ignorant about the same logic and same educational programs applied to kids who have one or more LDs.

Seeing my son with this situation over and over with his mind maxxed out and unable to learn any more that day, I cannot help but feel sorry for children enrolled in schools who are forced by standardized programs and curriculums and forced along by a schedule and carried along by the class's progress. It is so easy to leave a child with a learning disability behind. Mass schooling and standardized programs simply cannot work for a child with one or more learning disabilities, it really would be better if the child's education could be customized and individualized.

From what I have seen of public school's special ed programs and despite IEP's, they are simply not good enough. Some may think they are good enough but I know that kids can thrive and do better when they have even more individualized education plans (such as special private schooling or homeschooling).

I feel this is due in part to the fact that kids with LDs are complex and their performance is not steady and smooth, their pace varies from rushing forward with ease to stalling out and plateauing, to sure and steady progress. Sicknesses and various environmental conditions including emotional stress can negatively impact this progress or impede the child. I just can't see how public schooling can truly provide a 'good enough' let alone a high quality individualized educational plan for learning disabled students.

A better situation than special ed labels and IEPs in public school, would be special school (not available in all areas and usually quite expensive such as $40K-$50K per year) with specially trained staff with very small classes and highly trained, patient and dedicated teachers.

Homeschooling can also work if the parent is dedicated and patient and flexible and if they are willing to go above and beyond what is the norm homeschooling (already a large feat) in order to self-educate and consult with experts about treating that specific learning disability and making customized education plans.

For more information: click on the label below "eye tracking" to read more of my blog posts about eye tracking problems.

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Arlene/Daniel said...

My daughter has been scheduled for a vision therapy assessment. Your blog had been very helpful as I researched on the terms associated with vision therapy.
It is encouraging to know that there are many out there who are in the same situation.
My little girl is very precious to us and I do hope that the treatments will help her improve in school.
I salute you and all the other parents who choose to find the answers and be the advocate for their kids.

WVC said...

Here is my story... Feel free to visit (Located in Tampa, FL)

I initially started out as a patient at Walesby Vision Center in 1992 as a 5th grader, struggling overall in all school subjects. My behavior was a problem, completing assignments on time was a rare occasion and I was constantly complaining of headaches just to list a few symptoms.

I was a bright kid. I understood concepts being taught but my family, primarily my mom, was concerned because my work wasn’t reflecting knowledge of those concepts. I wasn’t achieving up to my full potential. (Sound familiar?)

So, here’s where my mom began searching for answers. She had my IQ tested (which proved to be above average) She had me checked out by a psychiatrist for all of my complaining and constant excuses to get out of doing any at near work for extended periods of time. She also had me tested for ADHD which was also eliminated as a factor contributing to my struggles.

What was going on???

My mom called all around looking for answers but to no avail.

She started doing little things to help me like coping my notes over for me, getting me a tutor, having teacher conferences and she also had a daily log of communication with all of my teachers.

I distinctly recall one of my teachers calling my mom at work to tattle on me about something and fortunately for me my mom didn’t get to the phone in time. My teacher had to leave a message. She did just that but when she was finished she didn’t realize she didn’t hang up the phone completely. Upon checking her messages, my mom proceeded to hear her bad talk me in the teachers lounge to other teachers. This was proof for her I was misunderstood and it validated her concerns, there was a true issue here.

She continued researching looking for answers. I’m sure my next visit would have been to a neurologist in another attempt to see why I wasn’t performing as my intellect should reflect. Finally, she heard through word of mouth about Walesby Vision Center.

I was an average student where grades were concerned but upon completing vision therapy I earned straight A’s for the first time the very following year. The end of that same year I was also nominated most improved student.

Thanks for reading!


WVC said...

My personal interpretation of my vision therapy success is truly indescribable. My teachers didn’t have to be on me all the time anymore, my behavior drastically improved and my performance and grades started to finally reflect success!

I continued getting my regular eye exams at Walesby Vision Center through out high school. My first year in college came around and I needed a job… I began working at Walesby Vision Center as an Assistant Vision Therapist under my own Vision Therapist, Cris Walesby. I continued working there while I went to Hillsborough Community College until I received a call from the head softball coach and was offered a full ride scholarship to play for him. Due to the demands of school and a heavy practice schedule I had to quit working. I graduated from HCC after 2 years and was accepted to the University of Florida where I majored in Telecommunication-News. That’s right… I was to be a news anchor, reading live on the radio and live on television for allll to hear. I went from counting the number of paragraphs until it was my turn to read out loud just so I could pre read and be somewhat familiar with the passage, to reading out loud where anyone and everyone could hear me.

I must say the fact that I eventually became great at writing, great at reading and even a great student is founded on my experience and successes from Walesby Vision Center.

Because Vision Therapy truly changed the course of my life, I made it a point to do as many stories as I could on Binocular Vision Dysfunction while attending UF. This was my attempt to spread the word of such a common but unknown solvable problem. I can easily say with out vision therapy I would have never even gone to college let alone a top university like UF, attending the number 3 Journalism College in the United States.

I parted ways with the news for my own political reasons and pursued sales with a couple of companies. In the interim, I also became certified to teach elementary school in Florida. I began teaching and subbing but Walesby Vision Center never left my mind.

That’s when I decided to return to Walesby Vision Center with hopes of giving back what I was given… The ability to accomplish the unthinkable and to help kids achieve dreams they don’t yet have.

I could say Walesby Vision Center creates miracles but I encourage you to experience it yourself. I finally felt smart and my school work would finally reflect just that. I can’t forget to mention my additional successes as an athlete, becoming the first freshman on my High School softball team EVER and actually playing as the designated hitter.

Your search for answers can end here!!...

This is my story and Vision Therapy is my PASSION So, Please feel free to call or email with questions. I love to give kids and adults alike the hope that IS ATTAINABLE!!

Thanks for reading!

Please feel free to visit our website at (Located in Tampa, FL)


Kat G. said...

I was so happy to find your blog not only for our commonality with Vision Impaired children but also the fact that you homeschool. We have been trying to get our insurance to cover my 10 year old son's vision therapy to no avail so now we embark on trying to pay out of pocket with a family of 6. Homeschooling out of pocket and now this. It was comforting to hear that I am not alone and that others have been there because it alarming how many are unaware there is anything past seeing 20/20. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am curious to know how your son is doing now. Has the therapy helped long term?

ChristineMM said...

Hi Kat G,
I think I did a post with an update. On the 24th month after the intial consult my son tested right at normal for age and grade level for visual processing speed. That means not only did he "keep up" with his developmental age but his therapy caught him up on what he was behind with.

We had a 6 month recheck in fall 2010 after that report. He is overdue by one month for his next 6 month recheck.

He is doing just fine. Now he is at the end of his 8th grade year. He has made big changes this grade including doing Algebra I and is doing okay with the long processes of the fraction work and the algebraic operation steps (a processing challenge to remember many steps).

He reads about 3 hours a day minimum and if he has the time will read 2-3-4 hours for pleasure a day now. He likes to stay up late reading riveting novels like The Hunger Games series and Maze Runner. I have to fight to get him to sleep before 11pm and sometimes he sneaks to stay up to 1am or 2am reading a favorite book.

He is able to read all sizes of text and no longer is afraid of thick books.

He also reads magazines and stuff on the Internet.

Last week he electively started reading a nonfiction book written for adults bc it is about LEGOs, called LEGO a Love Story and he likes that.

Also for some courses he is reading high school textbooks and although they are B-o-r-i-n-g he can get through it.

We have seen a huge surge in his spelling.

We also continue to use several "visual spatial" study techniques together or him alone.

I have found many things cross over such as occupational therapies recommended by Dianne Craft overlap with the behavioral optometrist recommendations which overlap with Davis Dyslexia program things.

We did not spend a lot of money in these last 3 years of consults and services. I hope you find a doctor that won't overcharge you and lets you do various exercises at home.

Shelly Slader said...

I just discussed this with a friend. She goes to and her doctor was explaining it all to her. I admire you for all your work and patience!