How efficient would we be if we were only able to get 20% of given information? What if the other 80% was distorted from the mechanics that brought us the information? No one likes to watch a fuzzy TV or listen to a radio that has static, we try to improve the reception and make the experience optimal. You may have a great TV or radio, but is the rest of the process that has to work for enjoyment. Vision is the same, the eyes may focus 20/20, but do the eyes work as a team? Can they focus far then near then far again easily? Is the information about what is seen complimenting what is heard or felt or does it even fit the picture?
Dr. Lynn Hellerstein is a Developmental Optometrist and the author of the book, See It, Say It, Do It! The Parent and Teacher’s action guide to creating successful students & confident kids, sees many kids in her practice that have troubles with their vision, not just acuity, but processing and working together. She knows that she can work with these kids to improve their physical abilities, she has written a book about helping the other parts of learning; the visualizing, the convictions and the actions to help kids meet their own potentials.
Dr. Hellerstein talked with me about what parents and educators can look for in kids who are having some learning struggles that might point to vision problems. Vision is a sense that is usually checked off the list as soon as the free in-school eye exam is done. Kids are typically ruled out for vision problems when they ‘see’ 20/20. Like many sensory issues, it cannot be obvious to those around a child, or even the child himself what the root cause of learning and social difficulties is. Realize this is how this child has always seen and they might not suspect it not seeing properly even themself.
Dr. Hellerstein stresses that 80% of learning is done through vision, with that number it seems to be the most important tool your child can take to school and it better be working right. You can have a pencil, but until it is sharpened no writing can occur. Children can easily be identified as having a vision or visual processing problem by a developmental optometrist. Vision problems can also be ruled out as to seek other answers for learning difficulties. Your Optometrist and Occupational Therapist or other therapist can work together to come up with a good treatment plan.
When you take in account the 15 visual skills, good vision plays a role in all daily activities. The first tier is Physical Integrity that includes eye health, visual pathways, and eyesight. The second tier is Visual Efficiency; look, track, eye coordination and focus. The third tier helps us function and carry out tasks, it is Visual Information Processing; spatial perception, eye-hand-body coordination, visual memory and visualization. When we have a good visual foundation we have the fourth tier, Life Activities; school, sports, work, play and relationships.
Dr. Hellerstein suggests this chick list for assessing your child for evaluation by a Developmental Optometrist:
-One eye drifts or points ‘in’ or ‘out’ in a direction different than the other
-Turns head to see
-Head is frequently to one side
-Squinting, closing of one eye, or covering an eye
-Poor eye-hand coordination
-Frequently bumps into things
When Reading or Doing Homework:
-Hold the book unusually close
-Frequently loses place
-uses finger of marker when reading (after 2nd grade)
-Rubs eyes during or after short periods of reading
-Unable to read for long periods of time
-Headaches or eyestrain
-Motion or car sickness
-Visual complaints (blur, double vision . . .)
Carefully observe your child. Look for some of the more common signs of vision problems. If you check off several items, take your child for a thorough vision examination testing visual efficiency skills. Don’t send your child to school without all the appropriate tools for learning success, especially visual skills!
Many of Dr. Hellerstein’s patients are referred to her by an Occupation Therapist, OT, who has evaluated the child for other sensory issues. Vision Therapy, VT, needs to be supervised by a Developmental Optometrist and the progress check regularly. When VT is prescribed, it strengthens not only the visual integrity, it also helps the communication what is seen with how the body interprets information from the other senses. As vision improves, the other senses will adjust to the new perception and whatever activity or task is being challenged, success will follow.
We all have the least expensive therapy available to our children, play. Dr. Hellerstein stresses the importance of play, non media time. Children need to use their vision with body movement, learning about riding bikes, making puzzles and interacting with others builds a better complete foundation for all the senses. We do have a lot of great technology available to us for learning and playing, the lack of physical play and movement can contribute to problems. Getting kids out to play helps them do their own therapy and if they have visual problems they are at least giving the rest of their senses information. With VT the free play can be enjoyed more. A child who maybe struggling with their visual perception might not be comfortable riding a bike. Giving them opportunities to work the pedals, their legs get the muscle memory of biking. VT will give them correct perception of the world around them building confidence to tackle bike riding on their own.
Confidence to do daily tasks, to take on new challenges can be difficult if a child is having any visual problem, when that is overcome they can see the world in a while new way, you never know what they will accomplish.
To find a Developmental Optometrist near you click here for The College of Optometrists in Vision Development
To contact Dr. Hellerstein click here, for more information about See It, Say It, Do It! Click here. To purchase her book and her upcoming organizational book click here.
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