So after all the testing, my hubby and I went to find out the results. The good news was that he had 20/20 vision at all distances. But as we learned, vision for reading & writing has so much more to do than sight itself. Think about all that has to happen for you to read these words. Your eyes(both of them!) need to work together to physically see the information. Your eye muscles need to move along the line to the end of the line and then continue on to the next line. Then you need that information to be transferred to your brain. Then you need to keep that information in your short term memory long enough to think about what you are reading and comprehend it. If you then need to write a response, you need to determine your response in your brain and then your brain needs to communicate with your muscular system to remember how to form the appropriate letters and spelling of your response. Then your muscular system needs to do what your brain tells it to do – including determine where the line is that you need to write in, how close together to form the letters, how to form the letters(what direction b & d goes:), etc. And your brain needs to remember what you are wanting to write further in the sentence while your muscles are writing the thing you are currently writing!
Ok – so this is a very simplistic, non-medical explanation, but you get the idea! (On a side note, if you think about all that needs to happen for reading and writing to take place, it’s awful difficult for me to think that all this just evolved simultaneously without help from an awesome, amazing Creator! But I digress…) The point is that there is A LOT that needs to work together for a student to be successful!
Here’s a summary of the findings:
Our son had problems with focusing ability. This meant that there was intermittent blurring of the print. I think of it like an autofocus camera – it takes a second to get it into perfect focus. Focusing was taking a little longer than “normal”.
Our son had problems with eye teaming. The visual system is designed so that the eyes and muscles work together as one. He had severe difficulty in his eyes working as a team. This was causing overlapping and even movement of words while reading, so to compensate one eye would sometimes block the vision of the other when trying to use both eyes together. Additionally, the muscle movement needed to shift his eyes quickly from one point to another was below normal levels. This was what was causing him to skip whole lines or words when reading.
One of the more fascinating results was his deficits in the area of visual memory(being able to hold information in your brain) and visual sequential memory(being able to hold a series of facts in your memory). This explained why he would sound out one syllable of a word; sound out the second syllable and then forget what the first syllable was. Or why when he was doing mental math, he couldn’t “hold” the first figure when he was doing a multi-step problem. However, he scored in the 99th percentile for visual-spacial relations. This is why he had “faked me out” that he was reading. He knew words by their shapes rather than by their individual letters!
It was found that he did have a mild subset of dyslexia called dysphonesia. This makes it difficult to develop phonetic word analysis. He has a hard time sounding out words and often guesses at words based on their shape or first few letters of a word.
The recommendations were about a year of vision therapy…that was not going to be covered by insurance and was quite expensive!
My husband was interested in the science part of this – had it been tested? What proof did the doctor have that vision therapy worked for these problems? He asked many questions because, unfortunately, it is difficult to do regular scientific studies on vision therapy. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest one is that you really can’t have a control group. If there are two groups of struggling readers, no one is going to do absolutely nothing to one group to be able to compare them with those who have received some help – at least I wouldn’t sign my kid up for that! So then it is difficult to determine if it was just the extra time of maturing that helped improve their reading, if it was the reading tutor the parents paid for, etc that may have helped. Additionally, vision therapy is extremely personalized. No two people have exactly the same symptoms and many have compensated in a variety of ways. So being able to re-train the brain will look different in each person. I now know several people who have gone through vision therapy, and though we have done some of the same exercises, they aren’t done in the same order because different people may have different issues. This is why it is so important to really research the background and get referrals of the doctor you are planning to see to make sure they have been successful in treating others with similar(though not exact) symptoms.
My husband came out fascinated by the brain and how it works. I walked out of the meeting completely overwhelmed and with an incredible sense of guilt! First of all, it was so much to take in that I really relied on my husband’s knowledge of all that was said. Much of it he had to re-explain to me in the car! The guilt came in because…well, I was his teacher! I’ve often said there is very few types of guilt like homeschool mom guilt! How had I not caught this before? Had I waited too long? Would he be scarred for life?
And then, my wonderful husband began speaking truth to my heart and mind. He reminded me of God’s awesome “everyday graces” in this situation:
1) Because I was his teacher, it was actually caught earlier than it may have been had he been in “regular school”, especially because he would have “faked them out” too! After all, he was “technically” reading grade level readers. Many times this is not caught until the child enters about 4th – 5th grades. This is because at this point, many teachers transition to multiple choice testing. Multiple choice leaves less words for kids who struggle with this to “guess” or try to figure out the context based on words they actually know. Pictures are also not as prevalent so context can’t be drawn from them as they read.
2)Although it would have been nice to “catch” this earlier, the truth was that at that point in our lives we were in seminary with little or no income and didn’t even have any health insurance much less the money to even try to pay for this kind of treatment. How much harder would it have been for God to reveal this when we could have done nothing about it!
3) We also had just moved 4 times in 4 years! God’s perfect timing was that we were now in a stable situation where we could work on this without having to find new doctors in new locations. Our younger kids were now a little older – even potty trained! – so that we could focus some time on this.
4)We actually had the money to pay for it! Our health insurance has a high deductible, but my husband’s employer gives us the deductible in a Health Savings Account. We had not used our HSA money the previous year because we had been healthy! The money was there waiting for this treatment!
5)At the time, BW had a day off during the week. So he could watch the other kids while I took him down for therapy or vice versa. Last Fall, when he began teaching at our church school, we were in a routine that made it ok to take the other kids down with me.
6)God had just provided us with a new vehicle! Our old van would not have been able to make the hour drive up and down our mountain every week!
7)We had just moved into a house in town where our previous rental had been 30 minutes from the freeway which would have added an hour to this journey each week!
So, although, my urge was to beat myself up for being a horrible mother and teacher, it was truly amazing to see God’s perfect timing as He had indeed provided the resources and time for us to begin this Vision Therapy journey. Great is His faithfulness!
Next entry will talk about the start of vision therapy…