Dillon was 8 years old when I first examined him. A very bright boy, he was referred to me for a behavioral optometric evaluation related to learning difficulties. He also had 'attentional issues' that the school had noted, but was not on any medication. He had problems with reading, writing, copying from the board, spelling, math and comprehension was also a problem. I asked Dillon what his favourite thing to do at school was. He replied :sport and art". I also asked him if there was anything he didn’t like doing at school. Dillon told me he didn't like reading and writing because it was just too hard to do. He wasn’t as good at it as his friends were.
Dillon clearly didn’t enjoy reading. He skipped words and lines when he read, or else he used his finger to keep place. Comprehension suffered. Copying from the blackboard was difficult. His mother commented that he was always last to finish assignments. In fact, he hated school in general. His mother said it was difficult getting him ready to go to school in the morning and he would often fight or say he was too sick to go to school. Dillon was also receiving some special help at school and this made him feel like he was a failure. His occupational therapist noted a 'tracking problem' and suggested that our Vision Therapy could help.
His mother thought it was unusual that Dillon should have a 'vision problem' since he seemed to be able to see everything well and in many cases, better than she could! He passed the screening test at school and at the pediatrician’s office, but she made the appointment with us to be sure. My examination showed excellent, 20/20 vision in each eye at distance and near however we also found that Dillon:
Under converged at near (convergence insufficiency)
Had miserable eye movement skills
Had difficulty relaxing his eyes
He also had great difficulty moving his eyes without moving his head.
It is important for all involved to understand what is going on, so I was careful to demonstrate everything that I saw to his mother so she could clearly see what my concerns were.
I informed Dillon’s mother of the significance of the findings and how his eyes and vision were interfering with his school work. We discussed treatment options, including the use of a mild pair of glasses which made it a little easier for him to read. Then I looked him straight in the eyes and said “Dillon, I think you are a very smart boy, but I think your eyes are holding you back. If you will let me, I can help you.”
We then discussed the option of vision therapy to improve his visual skills and exactly what that would entail. Dillon said he wanted to do it and after some discussion his parents also agreed to proceed.
At the first vision therapy visit (orientation appointment) I asked, as I do with every child, why they are here. I then asked Dillon what they wanted to get out of vision therapy and what their goals are. Dillon said that he wanted to play soccer better and finish his homework sooner. His mother, naturally, wanted him to do better in school, to like school and to read better.
I explained that they would notice changes in performance in the exercises he was doing from week to week, but that it would take about 4 to 5 weeks to notice changes outside of the specific exercises, such as with homework or reading. To my surprise, Dillon's mother told me that we had already made a difference.
Since we had not even started the first exercise at his first VT appointment, I was curious to say the least. She then explained that “Dillon no longer fights me when it comes time to go to school. You told him he was not stupid, but that the problem was with his eyes. It has already made a huge difference”
I was wrong in assuming I had done 'nothing' yet. I had done nothing in terms of procedures for his visual system,however I learnt something from Dillon and his family.
Dillon is currently in vision therapy. I will give you an update on his progress when he finishes.
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