Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seeing double

Monday was a big day for us.

It was the day my oldest son completed his Vision Therapy sessions for the summer. We have been going to the eye doctor from 9 to 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday this entire summer. On days off, we do about 30 minutes of homework.

I have been meaning to write a post about Vision Therapy for the past few months. My husband and I had never heard of Vision Therapy until about a year ago, so I thought it might be helpful to other parents to know what it is, what the sessions are like and whether it helped.

I was skeptical of the idea of Vision Therapy when my son's eye doctor mentioned it during his routine eye exam going into first grade. Not all eye doctors offer Vision Therapy, and we just happened to choose one who specializes in it.

The eye doctor asked me if my son had any troubles with copy work, spelling, handwriting or grew tired easily while reading.

"Hmmmm," I thought. "Well, yes, yes, yes and yes."

But at the time, we weren't ready for the expense and time commitment that the therapy would require.

Almost a year later, when my son was struggling with these same issues in second grade, we took him to a reading specialist for an evaluation. The teacher said that his reading was well above his grade level. However, she did notice that he was "moving his eyes funny" when he looked at the paper. She tried several different colored overlays, but nothing seemed to help.

The final nudge I got to try Vision Therapy came this spring when I attended several sessions at the home school conference on how to identify learning struggles. My oldest son is uniquely intelligent in many ways that just blow my mind. But other simple things (such as spelling and writing) seem to drain him of all of his energy.

This speaker mentioned that many times kids with these struggles actually have an issue with their eyes. The eye muscles aren't working properly together, which also is called eye "teaming" or "binocularity".

Those were the same terms the eye doctor had used to describe what was happening with my son's eyes! As I read about this problem, I found more sources that confirmed that many children have an issue with their eye muscles that might be causing all sorts of problems in school, but it is never identified.

So, we decided it was time to give it a try.

Vision Therapy consisted of 21, one-hour sessions. (In some cases, medical insurance will pay for the therapy, but so far, we haven't been so lucky.)

During the sessions, my son worked with a therapist on a combination of computer programs and other types of exercises that helped strengthen his eye muscles, improve his visual memory, and increase his ability to focus.

Many of the exercises we did at home involved holding two objects in front of him at varying lengths. He had to focus hard on the first object until he saw two of the object in the background. At first, he could only hold his focus for less than a minute. By the end of the sessions, he could hold his gaze for as long as six minutes.



Some of the activities seemed really silly. One was called pursuit reading. He had to read a book while walking around the room and moving the book in circles.



I asked the therapist if she would also like him to stand on his head and do cartwheels while reading, but she said, "no". =]

So, did Vision Therapy help? We really don't know at this point.

The doctor said that the therapy is sort of like riding a bike. Once he has trained his eyes, they will always work better together.

However, we are supposed to continue his eye-strengthening activities several times a week. For how long? Well, I guess it's like lifting weights. The more he does it, the better his eyes will work.

Have you had any experience with Vision Therapy? I would love to hear if it worked for anyone else!



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5 comments:

Llama Momma said...

I did vision therapy as a kid because I had a "lazy eye." Mine was due to nerve damage because of a high fever. (That's the eye that drifts to the side...) Anyway, it worked for me! As a kid I loved going to therapy because it was a bunch of games....and it successfully cured my lazy eye.

When I'm on heavy drugs (like I was in the hospital on bedrest w/ the twins), my eye drifts. So apparently I must actively control it without even noticing! Very cool.

So...I'm glad my parents made the effort! It sounds like a different issue for your son, but hopefully it will pay off!

Jane Anne said...

This is so interesting to me. My oldest son had strabismus (essentially a lazy eye). We noticed it when he was three. His stronger eye was crossing to help out his weaker eye. He got glasses at age 3. Now, he still needs glasses but his eyes do not cross even when his glasses are off.

I hope the vision therapy helps your son.

Great pictures!

The 3 Amigos said...

For more about Vision Therapy, please visit www.covd.org. We are also on facebook and twitter!

Anonymous said...

Hey Emily... I've just been researching Vision Therapy for my son... he has intermittent exotropia - a form of strabismus (which is basically like Jane Anne said a lazy eye)... anyway, the doc keeps suggesting surgery but I'm not convinced that it's to that point - they haven't ever recommended patching or glasses or anything else so far... so to mea surgery is a bit premature... anyway, I've been looking up info on the internet & learned all about this... very interesting stuff... I'm lucky enough to have some coverage thru my other work tho... it'll be interesting to see what the doc says later this week (and another one next month!)
another good site I found is www.childrensvision.com
Laurel

Anonymous said...

Hi
So nice to find another mom in the same situation.

My son was diagnosed in 3rd grade. Now at age 11 we started therapy this summer. We go once a week and have daily homework. Vision Therapy is very expensive that is why we have just started him now.

I knew there was something going on with his eyes as he would and still does read the first few letters of a word and then makes up the rest. He also skips over words. (tracking issue)

I am hopeful that VT will help. The benefit to him now is that he realizes the different focusing ability his eyes have.

Youtube has some interesting videos if you search on vision therapy.

I would love to hear from some moms who have been there too.

Is there some hope?

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