People unfamiliar with vision therapy and the work of a Developmental Optometrist often wonder what it is we do at Clarendon Vision. While we could show the research, the medical evidence, today we wanted to bring you a different perspective.
We recently spoke with a parent of one of our vision therapy patients. Heather is Ryan’s mother and talked with us about Ryan’s experiences in vision therapy at Clarendon Vision.
Q: Tell us about what originally brought you to seek vision care with Clarendon Vision for your son, Ryan.
A: When he was in second grade, our son Ryan would frequently complain while doing homework. He’d be sitting at the table crying, complaining that his eyes were burning and he had a headache. He would tilt his head from side to side. He couldn’t keep working on homework for more than a few minutes. While trying to understand the issues better, we spoke to his teachers. In school they said he often had a headache in class. They said he seemed to have trouble going from working on the board to working on his paper.
Q: So you sought a diagnosis from Dr. Spokas?
A: Years ago an occupational therapist had recommended a functional vision exam with Doctor of Optometry to consider whether vision therapy might help Ryan. At the time we didn’t have the ability to add one more activity to a busy family calendar. When these troubles with school and schoolwork didn’t improve and were causing Ryan a lot of stress and discomfort, we decided that it was time.
Q: So tell us about Ryan’s experiences in vision therapy. What are the appointments like? How frequent did you come?
A: We had one vision therapy appointment a week for 45 minutes. At home we tried to do the vision exercises recommended by the vision therapists for 20 to 30 minutes at least 3-4 times a week. We did vision therapy for about 8 months with Ryan. [Editorial note: Most vision therapy programs of care last 32-36 weeks. This will vary somewhat because each vision therapy program is designed for the individual. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam to start the conversation.]
Q: What kinds of things did Ryan do in his vision therapy appointments?
A: They were a lot of fun for Ryan. They played fun games with balancing. He did tracking exercises, reading. The vision therapists always made it fun.
Q: How long before you began to see improvements in Ryan’s schoolwork and ability to do focused work at home?
A: We saw some improvements within the first few months. To keep Ryan’s enthusiasm up, we used a rewards system to make it fun to both go to appointments and do the exercises at home. It was hard to figure out how to make time at home for the home exercises, but we worked it into the regular routine before too long. Once the kids get the hang of it, it’s easy to keep up with the exercises at home.
Q: Can you describe some of the exercises you would do with Ryan at home?
A: We had a ball hung from the ceiling and would pass it back and forth between one of us and Ryan. He would also take a bean bag and toss it from his left hand to his right hand. A side benefit to the vision therapy is that he’s become much better at telling right from left, which he used to have trouble with.
Q: What are some of the other benefits you saw or are seeing after Vision Therapy?
A: Well, Ryan seems to have better spatial awareness. If he turns around you can ask him which way is right and which is left and he gets it right. On schoolwork, we see huge improvements. His handwriting used to be on a slant without good spacing between words. It’s much better now. He started vision therapy wearing glasses, but now after completing the 8 months of vision therapy he doesn’t need glasses any longer. We used to have to sit with him to help him stay focused on homework or reading, but now he can get his homework done on his own and he reads independently. He’s just started fourth grade.
Q: Any final thoughts for parents thinking about vision therapy?
A: Do it! Out of all the therapies out there, vision therapy can help in so many ways. We highly recommend figuring out a way to do vision therapy, even if it’s not paid for by insurance. So many kids are misdiagnosed, and parents don’t seem to know much about vision therapy, but it really helped our family.