This week I took Darcy back for an evaluation with her new prescription. Dr. Davies was pleased with how well her eyes are now working together and with how the contacts fit. I was relieved to know that she doesn’t need vision therapy! I am wondering: how many of us are stuck with prescriptions that just aren’t right? This issue was further brought home for us this week when I went with my 21-year-old daughter for a checkup. She has been wearing her glasses (instead of contacts) for a few months because she didn’t want to deal with going to the eye doctor while at college. Turns out that one of her eyes was overcorrected and she also doesn’t need the correction for astigmatism. The same thing happened last year: she was overcorrected in one eye. When Dr. Davies had her wear the new trial contacts, she was amazed at the improvement in her depth perception! It was a dramatic difference for her. I am thrilled that she is seeing so much better.
From what I’ve been studying over the course of the past couple of years, our eyes fluctuate greatly during the day. What we eat and drink affects our vision immediately, and other factors such as general health, exercise, fatigue, and sun exposure also have an effect. The glasses or contact lens prescription is a snapshot of what we are seeing in the distance at that moment and we are frozen into that focus by the lenses that we wear. I have been amazed at how much fluctuation I experience now that I have been under-corrected for more than a year. Sometimes I see really well and other times not so much. Processed sugar has an immediate detrimental effect for me, a fact that has been supported in my study of the issue. The problem with such claims is that they are not supported by scientific study. Who would study the effect of regular food on our eyesight? There’s no money in that! For me at least, a healthy diet, exercise, adequate sleep and sunlight have been very beneficial. My research continues!
It is time for us to retire the Snellen eye chart. After 150 years, surely we have learned there’s more to vision than 20/20 acuity! Yesterday, I mentioned to my brother (who has now decided to use his amblyopia as an excuse for not reading) that maybe he ought to get his two little girls’ vision tested. He and my sister-in-law assured me that their doctor had tested their vision and they are fine. Yep, that’s what my doctor and my optometrist also said and now I understand how UNTRUE it really is! Even if they do test other aspects of vision (which is rare) and detect a possible problem, they don’t refer patients to a developmental optometrist like they should.
Case in point: my experience last year with my regular optometrist who said “Yes, she has a little tracking problem, but she’s FINE.” (Code for “She has vision issues I don’t deal with and I don’t want to lose your business, so I recommend you just ignore it. . .” (See my blog post “It’s more in the family than I thought”) Now, I’m experiencing this yet again with my 11-year-old. I took her in last week for a regular check up and discovered that one eye was under-corrected (which I requested of my regular optometrist last year) and the other was OVER-corrected. So, either her one eye changed A LOT, or something funny is going on. Needless to say, her eyes weren’t functioning well together as a team, so Dr. Davies is going to re-evaluate Darcy this week after she has a week to adjust to the corrected prescription (through a trial pair of contacts). I talked her into trying the vision therapy program on the computer today and she didn’t last long before she told me the picture changed and she couldn’t see what she was supposed to see. Looks like she might be needing therapy too. We’ll know more in a couple of days.
Once again, the Snellen chart (and an optometrist’s evaluation) failed to detect vision issues that are more than a little problematical. Just because we adapt well to our visual challenges doesn’t mean they don’t exist! I highly recommend that every parent and educator read Dr. David Cook’s book When your child struggles: The myths of 20/20 vision (What every parent needs to know). In this 2004 publication, Dr. Cook outlines the 7 visual abilities necessary for learning: 1. accommodation (focus ability), 2. eye teaming ability, 3. eye movement ability, 4. visual perception ability (understanding what is seen), 5. eye/hand coordination ability, 6. visual imagery ability and 7. 20/20 acuity. The only one that is really tested is the last skill. It’s also the only one that’s corrected by a visit to your regular eye doctor!
Dr. Cook lists signs to watch for in each of the categories. Highly trained individuals (like your pediatrician or eye doctor) often miss the signs (and I certainly did). How much longer before we demand and facilitate the type of vision screening which will let us know how our children are REALLY seeing? Mere 20/20 (or 20/40)–without stereovision– is no longer good enough for me, so why would I accept it for ANY of my children?
About three weeks ago, I took my son to the optometrist for his regular eye exam. He needed new contacts and the prescription had expired. I chose to take him to my vision therapist just in case there might be other issues, but I didn’t really suspect anything.
It turns out that my 16-year-old son has a pretty serious case of convergence insufficiency. It’s basically the opposite of what I have. His eyes give up on focusing together up close and then one eye turns out. (When eyes don’t focus together properly, the brain shuts off one image in order to avoid seeing double, and that’s when the eye turns in or out to move out of the way.)
As with my daughter, I had not noticed his eye turning out and he hadn’t complained about his vision. Andrew’s eyes have been red at times, but I attributed that to a lack of sleep. However, he has always had difficulty completing his schoolwork. It has been an all-or-nothing proposition: he either does it and gets an A, or doesn’t do it and gets an F. He tends to start out the school year OK and progressively go downhill. I think he just gets tired of fighting it. I know he’s extremely bright and all the learning tests have indicated he can do the work, but he hasn’t been doing it. Since he’s not motivated to do schoolwork, he convinced himself he’s lazy! I didn’t believe it before, and I certainly don’t believe it now!
The good news is that it’s really easy to teach the eyes how to converge properly and it should only take about four months of vision therapy. I’m wondering– how much frustration could we have avoided by having this diagnosis occur about 10 years ago, before he told himself he’s lazy? Isn’t it time we really tested VISION, not just 20/20 eyesight?
I promised some time ago to share how my youngest daughter, Abby, age 9, became involved in vision therapy, so here is the scoop! (I mentioned her in my November blog post “All in the Family.”) What I’m discovering is that there are many more hidden vision problems than I ever dreamed.
In January, my vision therapist shared a book with me entitled When your Child Struggles: The Myths of 20/20 Vision, (What Every Parent Needs to Know), by Dr. David Cook. I was interested in it because as a substitute teacher, I noticed reading problems in my students and wondered if they were connected to vision issues. I wanted something to share with the principal at the school where I was substituting long-term. After reading the book, I decided to ask Abby the questions listed in the chapter on eye teaming. She had an eye cross when she was about 2 which was remedied by putting her in glasses. She was far-sighted at the time, and is now near-sighted. When I inquired at last year’s visit, the optometrist told me she had a little trouble tracking but that “she is fine.” This was from an optometrist who claimed to have a background in vision therapy.
I asked Abby whether the words ever split apart so she sees double. The question is actually posed as a visual question with your hands. You place your palms together and then slide them slightly so the fingers are alongside one another rather than superimposed. She said “yes.” Then I asked her if she ever covers or closes one eye when reading and she also responded “yes.” I had not observed her doing this. I asked if she holds the book to one side or turns her head to one side when reading so that both eyes cannot see the print at the same time and she also said “yes.” I was blown away! Abby has never had any trouble with reading; she learned early and has always been way above grade level. She never complained of any difficulty in seeing the words: indeed the only reason I asked was because she sometimes skips a line in scripture study and once she jumped over to the next column for a couple of words. The other family members thought it was really funny, but it caused me concern.
I have another daughter who also sometimes skips lines, so I had my husband take both of them in for a checkup. Dr. Davies found Hayley’s vision to be normal, but Abby has esotropia, just like her mom. He calls her a mini-Denise. I think if I had had vision therapy at age 9 instead of 48, it would have been just as easy for me. It’s been a couple of months, and Abby’s vision is much improved. We’re thinking it will only be a couple more months and she’ll be done. Her brain is learning rapidly how to use her eyes together as a team.
In March we had another surprise in this regard. More about that later.
I am inspired today by a chapter in Kevin Hall’s book Aspire: Discovering your purpose through the power of words where he introduces the words Sapere Vedere (sah-PARE-ay veh-DARE-ay). This was the motto of artist/inventor Leonardo da Vinci. In his inspired way of looking at the world, da Vinci envisioned innovations that would not become reality for hundred’s of years. Sapere vedere was his secret tool: knowing how to see. For da Vinci, “believing is seeing,” not the other way around. According to Hall, “people with sapere vedere look forward as well as inward; they are capable of believing and seeing what others don’t.”
Sapere vedere combines hindsight, foresight and insight, so it’s three dimensional, just like my goal of seeing in stereo. My 3-D vision starts with hindsight: leaving the past behind while learning from it; foresight: looking ahead as I progress to my ultimate goal, and insight into the ways to arrive there. Then, as my two eyes work together as one, I achieve a single mindedness which propels me forward in my life vision.
My vision therapist told me he’s not giving up on me and we’re in this for the long haul. YES! Whatever it takes. Sapere vedere says if I can envision it, I can achieve it.