Monday, June 4, 2012

The Critical Link Between Vision & Learning

.....Parents and students are sharing their success stories to celebrate August as National Children’s Vision and Learning Month and help educate others about the critical link between vision and learning. After years of struggling, families across the U.S. are now seeing their children succeed after an underlying vision problem was diagnosed and treated with optometric vision therapy.
Kim Stickdorn’s 10 year old daughter, Chloe, had poor reading comprehension, used her finger as a pointer, complained of headaches, would lose her place when reading, took forever to complete homework, avoided reading, skipped or reread lines, had difficulty focusing and had a short attention span. Despite working with a tutor, Chloe continued to struggle. She was labeled ADHD and was on a variety of different medications including Adderrall, Concerta, and Vivanse, none of which helped.
It wasn’t until they discovered that Chloe saw the words as moving on the page, which was the result of an eye movement disorder called convergence insufficiency, that they actually understood why Chloe was struggling. After a comprehensive vision examination by an optometrist identified the vision problem she started optometric vision therapy. Since doing vision therapy, Chloe no longer needs medications, is more involved in class, has improved grades, and is more outgoing. Her mom states, “If we could help one child that is on ADHD meds to get off these terrible drugs, it would be great. How many kids are misdiagnosed and put on these meds?”
Kathleen Hayford posted her child’s story on Pinterest, “Our son struggled in school starting in second grade, once reading was required. He was frustrated, anxious, complained of frequent dizziness and headaches and was withdrawn socially. Over the years, he was diagnosed with various disorders, including ADD, Processing Disorders, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, anxiety, OCD. He had Occupational Therapy, Psycho Therapy, medication, and EEGs. Every year his vision was tested and he was 20/20. Clarity was fine.”
“Davis would scream out, ‘I’m stupid!’ more times than I'd like to remember,” Hayford continues. “He thought so little of himself.  Constantly frustrated, he developed anxiety that interfered with every aspect of his young life. It was heartbreaking for us as parents knowing he was a remarkable and intelligent boy, trying everything we could think of to help him, and not finding the appropriate help.
“Based on a tutor's suspicion he had Dyslexia, Davis was referred to a Developmental Optometrist who tested and diagnosed him with convergence insufficiency, an eye tracking problem, and accommodation disorders to compensate. Basically, he had suffered with double vision because his eyes did not track together.”
After completing optometric vision therapy, Hayford shares, “He’s a new boy!!! He’s off the variety of medications he was on and is now an A/B student with increased confidence, less anxiety, and has better relationships. He is happier and has hope for his future. I wish we could have spared him the years of struggling and pain.”
Charles Thelemann didn’t find help until he was 21 years old. According to his mother, “He stumbled through school, was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and Dyslexia, and went down the wrong path as a young teenager. We had no idea how low his self-esteem was.” Fortunately, he was finally diagnosed with convergence insufficiency and started vision therapy. His mother is delighted to report Charles is already experiencing improvement from vision therapy.
When parents suspect their children have a vision problem that is contributing to their learning difficulties they often go to the pediatrician or the pediatric ophthalmologist only to be told their vision is fine and that they can see 20/20. “It is important for parents to know that when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems that interfere with reading and learning, they need to see an optometrist that provides an in-office program of vision therapy in order to get the in-depth testing that is required to determine if their child has all the visual skills required for academic success,” states Dr. David Damari, President of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.
Gracia Pinzino’s daughter Isabella, had a lot of difficulty with reading and was held back in first grade. Pinzino shares, “Reading frustrated her and it took forever to read one page. She would leave out words, repeat words, skip all over the page. It was disheartening, as she loved books and tried so very hard to read, but with little success.”
Pinzino continues, “Feeling alone and frustrated, I called upon all my friends for advice. One friend suggested vision therapy. I researched it and so many of her symptoms fit. I was overwhelmed, as finally we found answers, help and hope!”
“After only eleven sessions, we noticed improvement in her reading. She now reads at grade level and doesn’t need to go to early morning reading anymore. She reads with more confidence and great enthusiasm.” Pinzino finishes, “With 100% certainty, I can say that vision therapy helped Isabella.”
Despite volumes of evidence-based optometric research, many pediatricians and ophthalmologists continue to state that vision has nothing to do with learning, referring parents to psychologists, learning specialists, etc. Yet parents and patients all around the country say otherwise. More parents are stepping forward on a daily basis.
Parents and educators are invited to join the August is National Children’s Vision and Learning Month campaign. Share your story on COVD’s Facebook page or email your story to COVD at info@covd.org.
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IMPORTANT NOTE: All the parents quoted in this story are willing and available for interviews. Please contact COVD for more information and to arrange an interview. The Stickdorns are located in New Lexington, Ohio, Mrs. Hayford is in Springfield, Missouri, Mrs. Thelemann is in Frederick, Maryland and Gracia Pinzino is in New York City.

About COVD
The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is an international, non-profit optometric membership organization that provides education, evaluation and board certification programs in behavioral and developmental vision care, vision therapy and visual rehabilitation. To launch their 2012 campaign, a series of public service announcements (PSAs) were released to help raise awareness that vision problems can not only interfere with learning, but sports performance, and other activities of daily living. These PSAs also address vision problems that impact individuals who have autism spectrum disorders or those who have suffered a head injury. The organization is comprised of doctors of optometry, vision therapists and other vision specialists. For more information on learning-related vision problems, vision therapy and COVD, please visit www.covd.org or call             888.268.3770      .

CONTACT:  Pamela R. Happ, CAE
COVD Executive Director
            888.268.3770       tel
Email: phapp@covd.org
Website: www.covd.org

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