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Ben (1) Learning Related

Vision therapy does work. Making the World a Better Place…One Child at a Time- Ben’s Mom

My only child walked, talked, named colors and did air math far ahead of normal, but by the time he started school at the age of four, he hated school. He hated reading. He hated writing. In fact, he hated everything about school and flat-out refused to do class work. He said the kids made fun of his reading and writing, and, he felt they all hated him. Every morning while attending a private preschool through first grade, I literally, physically dragged him to the car while he bellowed like a school-morning octopus sprawled across the gap of the open car door. Needless to say, we were late nearly every morning. I met with teachers/aides before and after school always asking, “Is he doing his school work? Is he reading and writing?” The answer was always “no”. When asked why he didn’t want to do his work the answer was always the same, “He is very, very bright, but he doesn’t want to do his class work, especially reading and writing. He dilly-dallies a lot. Well, he is a boy and sometimes boys just don’t want to do the work. He is just being stubborn and defiant.” Picking him up from school always resulted in meltdowns and he would scream, “Kill me, just kill me. I want to DIE. I hate school.” He cried himself to sleep every night. (And, me too!!) He began losing his only recess for ‘defiantly’ refusing to do his class work. In first grade, I took him to a psychologist until my credit cards maxed out without finding the answer to my son’s meltdowns and unwillingness to read and write. The only thing confirmed was that he was, indeed, very bright.

At a new school during second grade, meltdowns intensified and I found myself more baffled by my son’s worsening behavior. Though laborious and choppy, he was reading at home. He reversed his b ‘s and d’s, but he was working very, very hard to read and write. I begged my only child’s teachers at this new school not to take away his lone recess (and social time!!!!) as a consequence of his reading and writing ‘defiance’. I was told, “Tough it up, mom. It’s the only consequence we have to give him”. Still, no one could tell me what was wrong with my son. Finally, a part time experienced special education teacher recommended testing for dyslexia after suspecting something more going on besides ordinary reading difficulties. After being tested at a private learning center, he was diagnosed with ‘significant’ dyslexia and dysgraphia (extremely difficulty with writing) explaining his reading and writing ‘defiance’. He scored at just the 35th percentile in reading, 14th percentile in writing. Reading, writing and math interventions were implemented. And, needless to say, I demanded the return of his only recess!!!!

During summer going into third grade, we suffered economic effects of 2008. I earned a half scholarship and borrowed the balance for the $13,500/yr private half-day learning center for dyslexia intervention. But, after morning drop-offs no one realized my son hid in the bathroom until mid-morning recess. I was accused of being a bad mom for getting him there two hours late every day even though I told them I literally dragged him – kicking and screaming – into the car to get there. He attended yet another new regular school (a wonderful school, I might add) in the afternoon where after a few months another special education teacher thought to ask him a very simple question: “What do you see when you read?” His answer was that he saw words and letters scattered about the page (I guess a bit like dysfunctional double vision), wiggling words and words blending together. I made vision therapy screening appointment at Chapel Hills Vision where he was diagnosed with weak eye muscles.

After the vision therapy program (during third grade) at Southern Colorado Vision Therapy to strengthen his eye muscles, his reading improved. And improved. And IMPROVED!!!! My son’s reading skills went up 280% from reading at the 35th percentile in second grade to the 98th percentile by the beginning of 6th grade!!!! (If not for self-esteem issues, these improvements would have occurred much sooner). The 98th reading percentile is considered gifted!!! His confidence and self esteem has increased dramatically – and he has increased his grades by two grade levels!!! And, he is so much happier and no longer screams out that he wants to die. Vision therapy was a success!!

Also, I had the opportunity to work as a part-time school math teacher and teacher’s aide where I had the good fortune to have K-8 children with reading difficulties read for me. Children who struggle with reading find it very, very uncomfortable, especially the young ones who buried their heads in their arms, cover their faces, turn away, act goofy/fall of off chairs and crawl under tables with embarrassment. One child told me, “I just can’t read. I can’t do it. I try and try. Everybody, my parents, my teachers, they all tell me I can read if I only try and work harder. I get punished at home because I can’t read.” (This is where I had to turn away to cry.) All of these children – while reading – skipped lines, misread words, back tracked to try again, struggled to discern between b’s and d’s, word guessed and many complained of headaches and eye pain. I asked them the ‘non-leading’ question(s) about what they saw when they read. All of them, 100%, described blurry words, words/sentences blending together, seeing multiple words/letters about the page and words fluttering. Even kids who were marginal readers reported the same symptoms. I have friends and know teachers whose kids struggled with and hated reading who, after telling them my story, made vision therapy screening appointments. And, BINGO!!! They were ALL diagnosed with poor visual skills or related issues.

I am sharing our story to enlighten others who may have children with reading difficulties and/or learning difficulties. Please know, for many children, reading and learning challenges CAN BE CORRECTED through vision therapy. I am not a doctor or health care provider, but I do know from experience and observation of others, if eyes aren’t working properly it affects ALL learning. Children feel very badly when they can’t read and learn as their classmates do. It destroys self-esteem, erodes self-confidence and dampens future dreams and accomplishments. Recognizing poor visual skills is crucial to your child’s learning, success and happiness. Detecting poor visual skills and entering into a vision therapy program can save your child a lot of pain, especially as they get older.