According to multiple reading experts, Pediatricians, eye doctors and the daughter of a former President, vision therapy is likely the single biggest missing link which would help struggling readers.
Given that the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the Nation's Report Card says that nearly 70% of America's students are not reading at grade level, it may be time to take a look at a solution such as vision therapy to solve one of the biggest crises America faces.
Dr. Erin learned to read easily at age four, and is a Pediatrician today who is extremely grateful she had vision therapy in the first grade to help her solve her reading problems.
Clearly vision therapy exercises worked for her, and had she gone on to struggle with reading, not solving her actual tracking and focusing problems, she feels it is unlikely she would be a Medical Doctor today.
"I don't know what would have happened if my reading problems were not solved by vision therapy," exclaimed Dr. Erin. "If the eye doctor has not discovered what the teacher could not, I could have gone on in school thinking I was not intelligent because I had so many reading problems."
As I teach teachers and testify on the increased need for better vision screenings in schools - ones that actually diagnose the skills needed for reading as opposed to the distance eye screening on the chart most kids get at 20 feet away, I find that vision therapy eye exercises are frequently the solution and biggest missing link in solving our nation's reading problems.
Since the Snellen Chart is usually the single reading readiness test in most schools, I have to wonder how many children read their books from 20 feet away while covering one eye?
The Snellen Eye Chart is for distance eyesight only and has nothing to do with reading at near point. When this is the only screening instrument for reading, many kids who have undiagnosed reading problems look as if they have learning disabilities when they don't. If teachers knew what vision therapy is and what good it could do, then they could refer children for the one treatment - vision therapy - that makes the biggest difference.
"Many conditions such as learning disabilities and ADHD are often resolved when a child has vision therapy," says Frank Barnhill, M.D., author of Mistaken for ADHD. "If a child has a reading problem and is unable to make meaning from what they see on the page, or even has trouble throwing or hitting a ball, their symptoms can look just like ADHD."
Dr. Kristy Remick, optometrist and fellow of the College Of Optometrists in Vision Development, author of Eyes on Track, and Director of Community Outreach and Assistant Professor Clinical Optometric Outreach Faculty at Western University of Health Sciences agrees about vision therapy and its benefits.
She worked with the juvenile delinquent population in San Bernardino County Juvenile Hall and following a few weeks of vision therapy, the repeat offender rate dropped by 80%.
So what is vision therapy anyway?
According to the World Health News Segment, vision therapy helps children and adults control their eye focus, their visual processing and allows them to understand what they see.
Watch this YouTube segment on vision therapy from World Health News says it all about vision therapy:
If you suspect your child might benefit from vision therapy the best eye doctors to see are optometrists who specialize in learning related vision and vision therapy to improve reading, learning and even athletics.
Here are some questions from the Eye-Q Reading Inventory ® which will help you determine the real cause of your child's reading problems, and whether to take them to a developmental optometrist to see if vision therapy can help them.
1. Do you notice that you or your child often skip lines or sentences when they read?
2. Do you sometimes lose your place when reading?
3. Do you get tired easily when you read?
4. If you have a blank sheet of paper, do you write sentences uphill or downhill on it?
You can continue taking the Eye-Q Reading Inventory here to find out if you might benefit from vision therapy.
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Kristy Remick's book, Eyes on Track, which is a part of the I Read I Succeed Program which has home vision therapy exercises in it. It answers additional questions about what vision and vision therapy are.
Sight is the ability to see (i.e. Snellen Chart acuity), but true vision is the result of a person's ability to understand and interpret(get meaning from) the visual information that comes to them through the eyes.
Only when a person has efficient visual understanding abilitites does he possess the "readiness skills" needed to fully benefit from classroom instruction. These visual foundations are critical and vision therapy can correct those which are lacking.
Poor near visual skills usually result in frustration or anger being expressed by teachers, parents and children if they are unaware of the effects of poor eye-tracking and vision perception skills. The consequences of failure when basic learning abilities are not developed are well-known:
- "I'm dumb" (low self-esteem or guilt
- "The teacher and other kids don't like me" (assumed feelings of inadequacy
- I hate school" (I'm a failure, I don't like to be in a place where I fail)
These feelings can result from a failure to learn and can cause serious emotional or social problems in otherwise intelligent people. These are the students that are "smart in everything except school. Vision therapy can certainly change this reality for many children.
Children with near vision problems think everyone sees the page the way they do and have no idea that others see and understand the page clearly, so it is easy to see why they feel like a failure. Vision therapy can make a big difference for these children.
Parents, teachers and students often make dangerous assumptions and expectations about vision, but as you see in the YouTube video above, vision therapy can change these assumptions.
For example, parents might just assume their child has "perfect vision" because she or he passed the vision screening given at the Pediatrician's office or by the school nurse. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to vision and vision therapy can make all the difference.
Teachers assume all students in their class have the same vision skills. Again, unless a child has a learning related vision exam and vision therapy if needed, all students do not see the world or print the same way.
Teachers assume that if a student can see letters on a blackboard easily then the student will be able to read words in a book for extended periods of time without difficulty.
Students assume they should learn and perform the same as their classmates."
The bottom line is to understand that not everyone sees the printed page the same way and unless an eye doctor who specializes in learning related vision exams and follow-up vision therapy if needed examines your child, he or she may have undetected vision problems which can cause problems in school and in life.
As it turns out, there is a solution to near vision problems that usually cause the most problems and often go undetected and that is vision therapy.
The PTA (Parent Teacher Association) adopted a resolution about learning related vision problems at their national convention in 1999. At that time they "estimated nearly 10 million children, ages 0-10, suffered from vision problems.
They too understood the value of proper vision evaluations and resolved that "the National PTA, through its constituent organizations, urge schools to include in their vision screening programs tests for learning related visual skills necessary for success in the classroom."
Ultimately they understood that children could benefit from a proper eye exam that relates to learning and reading, and the follow-up to that may be vision therapy to solve reading problems. At this time, 34 states are adopting better vision screen legislation; however few are following through with the vision therapy needed once they discover the problems that warrant it.
Daughter of the former President Lyndon Johnson, Luci Johnson nearly dropped out of school when she was 16. She credits vision therapy with helping her graduate with honors. More on vision therapy as the solution to America's reading problems in other articles below.
Pat Wyman is America's Most Trusted Learning Expert, founder of HowToLearn.com and best selling author of Instant Learning for Amazing Grades and Learning vs. Testing. She is a University Instructor and testifies on vision screening legislation for schools, is a reading specialist and expert in vision therapy.
Read more articles and find out why Luci Johnson, daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson finally succeeded in school after she had vision therapy.
You can also visit COVD.org and OEP.org to find out more about vision therapy.
Posted by +Pat Wyman, author and founder of HowToLearn.com