Learning Problems Can Be in the Eyes: A Back-to-School Message
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Courtesy of COVD.org press release, Aug 2014

Learning Problems Can Be in the Eyes


A Back-to-School Message

In preparation for the new school year, families around the world focus on making sure their children are ready to go back to school. “However, in addition to filling their children’s back-to-school checklists, parents also need to include a very important school supply-an eye examination,” says Dr. Ida Chung, COVD President. “Most parents assume incorrectly that their child can see well enough to learn.”

When a child struggles with reading, attentive parents can often see that something isn’t right. They can see there is something wrong with how their child’s eyes move when he/she is trying to read. Teachers will often tell parents that they think their child has a problem with “tracking.” But when the child is taken to the pediatrician, the parents are told that their child’s vision is fine.

This is what happened for Suzanne Torres, mother of five. When her middle daughter, Mary, was in first grade she starting having difficulties with reading. She knew her “wall words” (individual words put up on the wall for Spelling) and was even ahead of grade level on her words, but she couldn’t recognize these words when they were in a paragraph. The pediatrician said that Mary’s vision was fine. However, Suzanne could see that her daughter’s eyes didn’t seem to move correctly when she was reading.

Mary continued to struggle throughout first grade, and nothing seemed to help. According to Torres, “Her principal was convinced that ‘Reading Support’ was the way to help Mary, so we tried that. And even though we didn’t see any improvement, she was put in Reading Support again in second grade.”

“Once again, she made no progress at all. I questioned the school and was told they had kids sometimes in Reading Support for 8 years or more.” Torres shared her frustration, “I thought that’s all well and good but I kept thinking about Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” She knew she had to do something different.

“We were beyond frustrated and unable to find an explanation for the difficulty our daughter had reading. It didn’t make sense that she tested above level with her vocabulary words listed in columns but then was unable to read them in a sentence.”

It was time for some serious research. In looking for answers Mrs. Torres stumbled across literature relating her symptoms to the muscles of the eyes. Her daughter was suffering from fatigue, difficulty concentrating or staying on task, and had trouble moving her eyes smoothly. Having five children helped. Torres could easily see something wasn’t right; “Mary would come home from school in tears because she was so exhausted. At that time I didn’t realize it was from her vision. I just knew her problems were so different from our other children.”

“Fortunately we found an eye doctor close to home who had answers,” states Torres. The type of eye doctor Mary saw was an optometrist who provides an in-office program of optometric vision therapy, also known as a developmental optometrist.

Mary had an eye coordination problem called convergence insufficiency, which is a very common condition. It can cause double vision and make words look like they are moving on the page when trying to read.

After treatment for the convergence insufficiency with a vision therapy program Torres reports, “Mary was a changed girl! This year, not only have her grades improved, but she enjoys going to school! She arrives home with a smile instead of tears. Many times she hugs me and tells me how much easier it is for her to read and do math problems now.”
Read the rest of the story here
At Hellerstein & Brenner Vision Center, P.C., we have seen many children in the Denver-Metro area, who had struggled for years before finding out they had an underlying vision problem. When children struggle with reading and learning it can cost their parents dearly in time, money, and frustration. In addition, there are significant costs to the schools when students have undiagnosed vision disorders. Click here and here to hear from some of our successful patients on how vision therapy has changed their lives.

As the new school year rounds the corner, NOW is the perfect time to make sure your child has all the visual skills required for academic success. For more information, or to find a doctor near you visit covd.org.
With love and gratitude,

Lynn Fishman Hellerstein, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO

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