As an optometrist who specializes in vision therapy, I am often questioned by parents who are trying to grasp why their child’s visual dysfunctions have gone undetected by both the educational and medical communities. In their recent blog posts on the Vision Help Blog (http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/), doctors Dan Fortenbacher and Leonard Press have addressed this very topic. Likewise, in her groundbreaking book, “Fixing My Gaze”, neurobiologist, Dr. Susan Barry, tells of her own journey through the educational system as a child with a compromised visual system and how gaining stereo vision changed her life forever.
I am excited to announce that this Thursday I will be introducing these driving forces in the effort to spread the word about developmental optometry, Dr. Susan Barry and Dr. Leonard Press as they conduct a free educational webinar. In honor of August being National Children’s Vision and Learning month, COVD (www.COVD.org) will be hosting the webinar to all those who are interested in learning more about how so many children have been left to struggle needlessly. The webinar is open to parents, teachers, and members of the community who are looking for answers.
To register for this event, please go to www.joinawebinar.com and enter your email address as well as the event # 547-423-251. I truly hope that everyone reading this blog will forward this important information to the parents, grandparents, and teachers of the struggling students in their lives.
Ever since I can remember I have always been a slow reader. When my teacher would send students down the hall to read I would always get in trouble because I’d come back pages behind everyone else. When I read aloud I spoke correctly and pronounced all the words but I never knew what I was saying. Eventually I figured out that if I took my work home then I could take as much time as I needed. I was probably the only kid in school who actually enjoyed homework! In my mind the problem was fixed and my grades never suffered. However, on standardized timed tests my problems were only magnified as I could not escape the fact that I was just an incredibly slow reader. Unfortunately in today’s society both a school’s and a student’s performance is measured by these tests and by all accounts I didn’t measure up. As I continued my pursuit of higher learning the “reading monster” came back to get me again. Universities emphasize a more self-directed curriculum which involves divulging important information from required texts. This was a formidable challenge for someone like me. I noticed that I was spending an inordinate amount of time studying relative to my classmates. When I would take tests I was constantly one of the last students finished. This again was not a serious problem except on tests which took most of the students the entire time. On those tests I felt so rushed that I would bubble in answers to questions I never read and still not have time to really think through the questions that I actually completed. My grade point average suffered because of it, however not enough to prevent me from being successful. In my mind, being able to achieve my goals allowed me to overlook a problem that never really went away. I was able to continue this pattern until I attended medical school. Medical school is just as tough as people describe and thus my problems were exaggerated more than ever. The amount of reading required in medical school seemed unbearable. However, I have always been told that medical school becomes your life so I thought I made the same sacrifices most other medical students make. I isolated myself because I had to study “all the time.” Even still, it seemed that my methods just weren’t cutting it. I tried to keep up with the readings but I just couldn’t do it. When I would read I would fatigue and get headaches. My retention and comprehension seemed to get worse. Eventually, I even got glasses because I thought that was the problem. I continued to struggle but the school told students to expect that you might not be at the top of the class because of the difficulty of the curriculum. However, I never expected to be near the bottom. At the end of my second year that’s when things finally came to a halt. I had to take another standardized test, the first part of the medical licensing examination. This exam is a grueling seven hour endeavor. After taking the exam twice and failing both times I was left in disarray. My dreams were in limbo and I was left in despair. On a suggestion by my mom I went to the Flint Vision Therapy group to get tested. She had told me that they had treated students like me with similar complaints in the past. Within ten minutes of speaking to Dr. Habermahl he seemed to understand exactly what I had been going through. He diagnosed me with convergence insufficiency, which he said was treatable. We sat down, made a schedule and got right to work. I worked directly with one of Vision therapy’s trained staff members, Kyle. The one-on-one therapy with her allowed us to build rapport. Kyle was able to continue to challenge my limits without pushing me over the edge. I started with different games and exercises to get my eyes to work together and then we worked on my reading speed. In a three month time I was able to move from a third grade reading speed comprehension level up to a first year college student. I was able to make up a lot of ground in a short time and more importantly I was able to finally pass my licensing exam. By no means will I say I’m completely cured but through the Vision Therapy Group I was able to learn the necessary tools that I had been missing for years. Now I can concentrate, remain focused, and read better than ever before. In addition I was given tools to better adapt to the learning style I have developed to compensate for my poor reading. The combination of improvements will help me throughout the rest of my education and my medical career. I feel blessed and fortunate to have been able to find out about the Vision Therapy Group and get the help I needed. Now I hope to spread the word. There are so many kids that may have similar problems that I had and early intervention could make a world of difference. I hope to those who read this they see how important reading skills are in education. They are vital and with them they allow students to reach the maximum of their abilities. Thank you Vision Therapy Group for all the help you provided to me and to all the other people you reach.
Recently, I was drawn to the news of an eleven year old girl diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome who was found after being lost in the Florida wilderness for over four days. Nadia Bloom was reported missing by her parents in Winter Springs, Florida after failing to check in from a bike ride. She was rescued by James King; a local man who explained that he knew where to find Nadia because “the lord told him where to look.” Nadia, who is home now recovering with her family has been described as a creative girl who often thinks out of the box and who may have gotten the idea to wander off from a book she was reading. Her safe recovery appears to be nothing less than a miracle and a testament to the young girl’s resilience and courage.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) defines Aspergers Syndrome as a milder form of Autism. It recommends that parents take immediate action if they suspect their child may be displaying traits linked to either Autism Spectrum Disorders. According to the CDC website, those with ASD may exhibit any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Not respond to their name by 12 months
- Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
- Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
- Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
- Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Have delayed speech and language skills
- Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Give unrelated answers to questions
- Get upset by minor changes
- Have obsessive interests
- Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
- Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
If you have a concern for a child in your life it is important to have your child evaluated by a specialist. For more information on ASD, please visit the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html . The Vision Therapy Group and Sensory Learning Center will be offering a free seminar on sensory processing disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome on May 11, 2010. Please call to reserve your seat 810-736-6673.
I previously wrote about the power of the internet and social media to connect those across the country and across the world. In the blink of an eye, the idea of a single person can spread within days and create a dynamic force. Recently I was approached by an optometrist from Tampa Bay, Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, who imagined creating an international day for the social media site, Foursquare. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Foursquare, it is a site that allows its users to connect and check-in as they visit stores and restaurants in their communities. Foursquare can be a lot of fun and its competitive component helps businesses to connect with customers and grow! For more information, please take a look at their site: http://foursquare.com/businesses/
International Foursquare Day has grown from one man’s idea in Tampa Florida to event with meetings scheduled to take places in venues from London, England to Flint, Michigan. The Vision Therapy Group is excited to host our own Foursquare event from 5:30-9:00 at the Davison Country Club on April 16. Drinks and food will be available for purchase from the delectable DCC menu. The dress is business casual (no jeans). I hope to see you all there! It will be a wonderful time to connect with family and friends and learn about a new way to spread the word about the amazing benefits of vision therapy and how it has helped so many children who struggle. Please visit our Facebook and let us know if you will be joining us.
The latest 3D movie to come to the cinema is earning critical acclaim. More families will be flocking to their local theaters to take in the special effects of “How To Train Your Dragon”. Before you add this movie to your list of “mustsees” be sure to read why you may be surprised with what you get.