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Lynn Hellerstein
July/August 2011 Newsletter

Hidden Roadblocks: What Parents Need To Know About Vision and Learning

ReadingHard to believe, it’s close to Back-to-School Time! Wow, the summer flew by. Is your child ready for school? Here’s a story about a 4th grader who struggled in school and the successful answer to her learning problems.
 
As a mother trying to determine why her child was struggling with reading and learning, Robin Benoit found it very difficult to locate answers. According to Jillian’s fourth grade teacher, even though Jillian was very bright, her academic performance was lagging behind. She had poor handwriting, left many of her class assignments unfinished, skipped words when she read out loud, would daydream during silent reading, and was consistently going to the restroom during math. 
 
Jillian had been diagnosed with amblyopia (also known as lazy eye) but despite following the treatment prescribed by the ophthalmologist she continued to struggle with reading, spelling, and math. Her mom started searching the internet for information regarding vision and learning. Her pediatrician and ophthalmologist were not supportive when Mrs. Benoit thought she found the answer to her daughter’s problem. But she followed her heart and continued pushing forward to help Jillian. This push led Mrs. Benoit to optometric vision therapy and a developmental optometrist who was able to help Jillian.
 
Jillian and Robin BenoitThe results from optometric vision therapy changed Jillian’s life, making it possible for her to learn and do many things she'd never done before. When they learned how widespread these types of vision problems are, Jillian and her mother decided to share their story by writing a book to help other parents who are struggling with reading and learning issues,  Jillian’s Story:  How Vision Therapy Changed My Daughter's Life.
 
Most parents don’t realize that undiagnosed and untreated vision disorders can cause tremendous difficulty with learning. In fact over 60% of children who struggle with learning have undiagnosed vision problems. Thanks to Jillian’s Story more parents are learning that their children, too, can be helped.
 
Mrs. Benoit was asked by the American Optometric Association to speak at their first ever School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision held last month in Washington, DC. She shared her daughter’s story with attendees there, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the American Federation of Teachers.  And her daughter, Jillian, shared a message via video, “Trust me when I say that it’s really hard to learn when you can’t see.”
 
According to information released by the American Federation of Teachers, “Even the most gifted students will struggle academically if they have trouble seeing the blackboard or focusing on a book. A tremendous amount of learning happens visually, so proper vision care is crucial to helping students reach their full potential… Every one of us has a role to play in providing our children with the best education possible.”
 
Vision Check ListWe see patients at our office, Hellerstein & Brenner Vision Center, PC, all the time with stories similar to Jillian’s.  The best thing parents and educators can do is become familiar with the signs and symptoms that a vision problem may be contributing to the child’s difficulties. Download a free vision checklist.

Robin and Jillian Benoit have joined with the College of Optometrists in Vision Development in promoting its 16th Annual August is National Children’s Vision & Learning Month Campaign to help bring awareness to this vital issue.  Mrs. Benoit shares a special message with parents: “Parents need to trust their own instincts and understand the difference between a vision screening at a school or pediatrician’s office and a comprehensive eye exam.  Jillian had vision screenings twice in preschool and at two annual physicals at her pediatrician’s office.  All of the screenings and trained professionals missed the fact that she was legally blind in one eye.  If parents think there is a vision problem, there probably is. Just because the doctor you see says ‘everything is fine’ or ‘it’s just a learning disability,’ you still need to follow your heart and take action. The only way to be certain that a vision problem isn’t at the root of your child’s learning difficulties is to take them to an optometrist who diagnoses and treats binocular vision problems.  Ideally you would see an optometrist who also provides an in-office program of optometric vision therapy.”
 
We would like to thank Mrs. Benoit and Jillian for helping us to spread the word. For more information on National Children’s Vision & Learning Month, or to find a developmental optometrist near you, visit www.covd.org.


Feel free to send questions, comments or insights on your journey of transformation.

With love and gratitude,

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


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