So as we were going through the whole process from the past two posts, we shared what we were learning with friends and family. And we found out that several of our friends – many adult males – said that they remember having the same struggles when they were young…and some of them continue to make adjustments today. I also learned that one of my brothers had been diagnosed with similar problems when he was young, but my parents could not afford the treatment. One friend related a story of getting m’s and w’s mixed up and would turn his paper upside down to write it correctly(he’s now an engineer btw). Another vaguely remembered going to vision therapy himself and remembers that something clicked and he was able to play sports better after that year. It was fascinating to see how common these types of vision processing issues actually are and the different coping mechanisms people have used over time to overcome them.
We made the decision to go begin vision therapy in December of 2009. Although we were a little concerned about the amount of money it was going to cost, we reminded ourselves how much people are willing to pay for orthodontics, private school, club sports, etc and that being able to read was at least that important.
We had an auspicious start. BW & I decided to both go down for the first appointment. A winter storm warning had been in place for that afternoon. All week long there had been predictions of snow, but there was nothing on the ground. That morning, it was raining, but the temperatures were still fairly high so we decided that the meteorologists had it wrong again. A teenage friend had come over to babysit our other kiddos. We had been talking and praying about this for so long that we really just wanted to get started as soon as possible. We took our boy out to lunch, went to Target & Trader Joe’s(something we don’t have in our mountain town).
Honestly, I don’t remember much about that first appointment after meeting our wonderful therapist because I was staring out the window. The rain was coming down HARD and I knew we needed to get on the road and beat that storm! We learned the exercises we were to do with him that week. Someone needed to stop for coffee and cookies as I recall… And then we were on the road trying to get up the mountain before the storm did. When we were two exits away, I received a cell phone call from a friend telling us to be careful for snow and an accident up ahead. We past the last exit before ours and the snow was really coming down. And then…traffic stopped… And it hailed and it snowed and we waited. And then we turned off the car and we waited. And we waited. And it started to get dark. And we waited. For 5 hours we waited! And even on that day, there were God’s Everyday Graces:
1)We had just bought a blanket at Target – a soft, thick, warm one so I could cuddle in the backseat with my boy.
2)We had snack food from TJ’s to munch on.
3)My other kids were being well taken care of! Love you, Emily!
4)We always had cell phone coverage so we talked to lots of people during that time to see how others were faring in getting home during the storm.
Once we finally did start moving, we found we had only been 2 miles from the exit and 3 miles from home! (FYI – I will always give meteorologists the benefit of the doubt once “Winter Storm Warnings” have been predicted). Our babysitter ended up staying the night because her own family had been snowed in at their house(another FYI – I will always have a spare toothbrush in case someone needs to stay over in an emergency).
Anyway, back to vision therapy… Despite that first hiccup, we went back the next week! (though we promised him we would never go again if snow was predicted).
Every week, we would go down the mountain and our boy would meet with the therapist. They would do exercises together. At home, we had exercises to do 4 days/week that were changed every two weeks. Initially, I could not understand what most of the exercises were really trying to do, but over time I began to get the picture of what we were doing. I wish I could say it was always fun, we always did all 4 days and we both loved every minute of it. That would not be true – life happens. attitudes happen( both him & me!). But over time, we were getting it done.
Changes started pretty gradually and weren’t really noticeable at first. I began to notice his handwriting improving and that he was staying on the lines better. I began to notice him picking up a book during his free time. I began to notice that math lessons were going a little quicker. Then there were fewer reversals. Baseball season started and he consistently made contact with the baseball, getting at least one hit in every game during the season. After 24 sessions, he was re-tested. He had gone from a 1st grade reading level to a 4th grade reading level! We continued for another 6 months, and though the changes weren’t as drastic as they had been at first, he was steadily improving. We took a month off during the summer to give both of us a bit of a break, restarted in August. We began school, and it was just well, easier than it had been the year before!
God sovereignly gave us just the vision therapist our family needed – a woman who had homeschooled her own flock of kiddos back when it wasn’t “in” through high school. She was so patient whenever I brought my brood into the office!
Last Friday, my son “graduated” from vision therapy after over a year of weekly sessions. There are still follow up exercises to do. School can still be a struggle some days, and he may always struggle a bit in some areas. But I was brought to tears last week as he read The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe under a blanket on the couch in one afternoon – just because he wanted to! And I love seeing him reading his Bible in the morning – what a gift to be able to read God’s Word for himself! And all the driving and all the “exercising” and all of the money and even some of the battles we went through over the past year, fade away because my son can and enjoys reading now!
So to sum up our Vision Therapy journey, it has been an “Everyday Grace” in our lives. For our family, it has been worth it. I know that there are children out there whose parents may not be able to afford this kind of treatment, and my prayer is that just as insurance now covers chiropractic care that it didn’t cover 10 years ago, vision therapy will someday be offered to a wider range of children.
I am by no means an expert in this field and I know that this type of treatment is not a cure all for every struggling reader. But I do praise God for His timing, His direction towards this treatment and His provision for it.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are ALL THINGS. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36