I’ve had a ton of questions lately about why we chose to do vision therapy with our 7 year old. I thought I’d just go ahead and answer them here in hopes that it might help another struggling parent.
Why did you send Nash to vision therapy?
Nash was in first grade. He was struggling. By the second semester, I began to notice his frustrations increase. Homework was a nightmare. I conferenced with his fabulous teacher several times and observed in class. Nash had zero focus. He had fallen way behind in reading. He was still pulling average grades, but again with lots of frustration. We began lots of home studying in addition to homework. Math improved but reading still lagged. He could read any word I put in front of him, but could not focus in reading group or read the assigned task. All the while making 100′s on math tests most of the time. All of us moms think our child is the greatest. God makes us that way so we can not kill them after they color on your suburban interior roof with a permanent marker. But truly, I felt like I had a brilliant kid trapped in a maze that he couldn’t figure out how to get out of. His teacher would tell me, when he answers a question his context and thought process is amazing…. or he can’t even tell me the question I asked. He is a very smart , resourceful little boy. After yet another conference with his teacher, she suggested that our issues may be physical. I left with a list to do. Hearing test (passed), vision screening (passed), and a possible test for ADD due to his inability to focus. She also mentioned she had heard great things about Snider Vision Center. A bell went off. My husband and I had just had dinner a few weeks prior with a couple who had a child in vision therapy. Our husbands sat together and wives chit chatted like we do. I vividly remember Lu telling what all our friend had said about his daughter in vision therapy. I thank God for this conversation b/c as moms we handle most of this kind of stuff. Sometimes Dad is a harder sell on things of this nature. Lu was totally on board. We went to the eval at Snider in our hometown. He failed with flying colors. We were referred on to the Snider clinic in Birmingham. I began to read…read… and read more. By the time I showed up I could have been a therapist. I read these things:
Children with convergence, sensory, and tracking issues can present these symptoms:
1. lack of focus (Nash’s eyes didn’t team so he couldn’t follow a book with more than one line. He loved to read comic books…hello….no lines. His eyes would not refocus when going from desk to board to desk…producing ADD symptoms.)
2. children can have sensory issues like: irregular sleeping patterns (a freight train couldn’t wake him up…some kids don’t sleep or have night terrors), sensitivity or non sensitivity to pain (stub his toe and it was a 20 minute dramatics display like you have never seen. Some kids can cut themselves and not know it.. 2 different extremes). I will go ahead and admit as moms, you do what you gotta do don’t you? He is currently wearing 16$ a pair Underarmour underwear b/c the war of I’m not wearing underwear with these tags became more than I could handle. The same thing with seams in socks…
3. For some strange reason kids with vision issues keep lots of things in their mouth. He was constantly chewing on his shirt neck or fingers…gross.
4. He was very shy when meeting people even when we coached him on how to shake someones hand and in a situation of new people or surroundings he would begin totally inappropriate behavior and say crazy things…. more so if he was nervous.
5. He craved motion. (there is a hypo and hyper to vestibular issues, some kids get sick really easy with motion). He constantly flipped, spun, rode the baddest roller coaster in Disney 2 times until Lu said he couldn’t go again…at 6 years old. Constantly sat on his feet when he did sit still.
6. This is where Nash was atypical. Nash did not have many behavior outbursts. I did begin to notice in exciting situations I lost control of him. New, fun, loud, crowded situations I would joke , was that even my child? ( Now I know it was too much input for him at one time producing the wild behavior). Nash also excels at sports. Lots of children with vision issues lack balance and coordination and begin not to like sports. I will explain more about that in a bit
7. He began to dread school and dread coming home to do homework. I began to dread him coming home. Our afternoons consisted of him crying then me crying. Then after he went to bed the mom guilt kicked in on how I had lost my patience and then the next morning he would apologize for not being a good boy when doing his homework the night before. Then I would drop him off and cry again. The whole process would repeat its self the following day.
8. It boiled down to this. I knew my child was struggling. I knew he wasn’t being lazy, it’s not his nature. I knew his ability was trapped inside and we had to figure out how to break him out of this thing that had a hold of him.
we prayed…and prayed…and prayed some more.
What was the eval in Birmingham like?
It took most of the day and they ran a battery of tests on all of his senses. Vision, hearing, comprehension, timing skills…. you name it. It was a tiring day but he thought portions of it were fun, so he hung in there. You have a break in the middle. We went to eat lunch and visited Bass Pro..therapy for little boys :).
What did you find out from both evals?
Nash’s vision and brain together were taking in somewhere between the size of a straw and a dime. A normal 6-7 year old’s vision field should be the size of a dinner plate. About 15% of vision patients have this small of a vision field. His auditory processing was not working correctly. He could only repeat 4 of 12 words he heard correctly.( how many times had I lost it when I told him a list. Go get your shoes and jacket…get dressed…any type of list skills were non existent b/c he was not processing them in his brain…they got lost between what he heard and then processed) His eye teaming and tracking skills were almost nonexistent.
Mom Language: This kid has been seeing the world through a straw. Do you know how hard this kid had to work to pull A’s and B’s, play sports competitively, and in general function everyday? I knew he was extraordinary but God showed me then we had one scrappy, amazing, persevering, fighter on our hands. He is meant for greatness and I know the door to walk through to get him there now. On a side note..the 100′s on math tests…he had memorized every single fact. I later realized through tutoring in the summer he had no idea how to get answers…we had to work through that. His memorization skills were a coping mechanism. The therapist even had trouble testing some vision at one point b/c after seeing a card full of words one time he had memorized the order and was reading from memory. Our kids ya’ll….they are truly amazing. Nash was smashing the ball at 6 years old in baseball, but had almost no fielding skills. All he could see was the ball ( remember the straw…). He couldn’t field the ball b/c he had no view of the game around him.
So what did you do from there?
Nash started an intense light therapy. We went in a dark closet once a day an stared at several different colored lights for 15-20 minutes. I have no scientific explanation for this for you. All I know is that it works with the brain to open the vision fields. After those 27 days we retested his vision fields…they were the size of a pie plate…amazing I tell ya. He began reading road signs we had passed a hundred times before like he had never seen them. He stopped chewing on his shirt and hands. Then we were prescribed 48-60 therapy visits in the Snider therapy office in our town. We go twice a week. We added a pair of glasses for reading. He did not need them but they are a +1 reading lens to relieve some eye strain when reading for long periods of time. There is an intense 12 day therapy in bham some children do. Nash was lacking several of the sensory components that this therapy addresses ,so we opted for the 27 day light. This is a decision the doctors and therapists will help you make. I was a little overwhelmed at the thought of the 12 day but I decided at that point to put on my big girl pants and do it …what was 12 days in his whole academic/work career if it made his world easier?
What improvements have you seen since you started this past June?
What have we not seen improve is the question. He is reading chapter books. He has started to love to read. He will run back in the house and grab a book if we are going somewhere in the car. I had gotten to the point that I didn’t push reading. He hated it and it was an argument. It does me so much good to see him enjoying books now. His demeanor is sweeter. He greets others with more confidence. His athletics have improved. He can field the ball incredibly and we even watched him dive from 3rd and catch a foul ball. He had no peripheral vision before and slow reflexes. He is excited to go to school now and told me he never knew school could be this fun. He is way more apt to try new things.
Is Vision therapy the only thing you’ve done?
No,but it’s made the greatest improvement. We’ve done several other things. We got a tutor. She is amazing and he loves her. She happened to be a good friend of ours. He wants to work for her. I’m not too proud to say…I couldn’t do it anymore the way we were doing it. Our relationship had suffered from the homework chaos in the afternoons. This has saved some heartache on my part and his. It is working and if someone else can do a better job at it than I can, as a mom I’m not to proud to ask for the help.
We had a Zytoscan done. This scans his body for stressors. I mainly had it done to figure out why his allergies were so very bad. I took him off of 2 rx medications for allergies b/c I learned they produced ADD symptoms. Boy do they, huge difference in his behavior when off of those meds. But, the tradeoff was a severely stopped up sneezing kid. I’m going to be honest…that Zytoscan is like going to see Mrs.Lamar for you local peeps. Crazy stuff, but it was right on the money. He was gluten sensitive, highly sensitive to mold and mildew, and had a chemical overload in his body from a chemical found in scrubbing bubbles. We use that on our shower. He likes to lay down in the shower every morning…I clean it constantly b/c it grosses me out that he lays down in it….go figure. He was also vitamin deficient in Vit D which has been linked to kids with allergies. Several other things too lengthy to explain. I removed gluten from his diet and 3 DAYS LATER HIS ALLERGIES ALMOST DISAPPEARED. That’s a whole other post, but it wasn’t that hard and seeing such quick results motivated me.
I guess you would say we took a step back and looked at his whole environment. I think vision therapy has been the largest improvement, but the other things definitely have contributed to the overall improvement.
Would you recommend this to other parents?
Absolutely! Go have the eval and then decide for yourself. I do not think it is the correct path for everyone, but it was for us. It is working by leaps and bounds. I do think you have to allow yourself to think outside the box. This therapy is not something your family physician is going to do cartwheels over. I also think our segment of the country is slow catching on. It’s not easy. There is homework we do 3-4 times a week outside of the therapy appointments. I will say you get out of it what you put into it….just like anything else worthwhile in your life. There are mountains and valleys. Nash’s vision fields opened up so fast we went through a rough 2-3 weeks b/c his little body had to learn to process all that new visual information his brain was receiving. It was tough, but the therapists held my hand and told me to hold on…it would get better…give it time. It did. They know what they are doing and they’ve seen it work.
Is it expensive? Will your insurance pay?
It is expensive. I won’t beat around the bush. From the research I’ve done most insurance companies in our areas don’t pay. I made mine deny me 3 times in writing before I gave up. I’d always file. I’ve read of military companies and more northern insurance companies paying more regularly. We decided he needed it and we’d sacrifice to do it. We prayed about that a lot too and God provided. There’s not much to say about this other than ask questions up front so you aren’t surprised and weigh your options.
Mom Guilt Questions:
Am I an overachieving mom who is pushing too hard on a 6/7 year old who is just being a boy and needs more time in a traditional school setting to excel? Am I pushing for an A student when my child just isn’t? Am I letting the over-achiever in me taint his school career?
That is one you have to gut check yourself to answer. I finally got to the point where I saw his frustrations were real and I needed to make learning fun for him. You have to know your child. You know them better than anyone. You know if they are just goofing off or if he really can’t figure things out. You know…
I have come to a new level of understanding though. I know now he is trying so hard. I don’t push as hard…I have more patience…and grades don’t mean much anymore. I want him to love learning and love to read. I want him to enjoy school. If those things are happening, that report card can fly out the window for all I care. I want him to find the things he enjoys and be good at them. Vision therapy is giving him the skills to excel at what he enjoys.
The day he came home and told me, ” mama I think I might like to read” and then ” I never knew school could be this much fun” was the day I knew God had led us in the right direction. Those two statements made all the heartache, cost, busy summer days of therapy, and crazy things we were doing all worth it. I’ve got a kid that loves to read now, he enjoys life more, he is less reluctant, he is more caring….it’s all been worth it.
Vision therapy has also corrected issues with autism, dyslexia, and speech impairments in other children.
*I am no Doctor nor a Developmental Optometrist. I have simply explained things as I understood them. I COULD HAVE EXPLAINED IT INCORRECTLY. GO RESEARCH FOR YOURSELF. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER FOLKS.
If you have a question I haven’t answered you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to set up an eval in our area call Snider Therapy at 662-328-3190.
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