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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