The Eyes Have It
The local Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association (SEPTSA) group that my mother and I are members of met recently and the topic of the guest speakers’ presentation was of great interest to me. It concerned the expanding field of Vision Therapy and how it may help struggling students to correct visual processing issues. I believe this could be of tremendous help to the students in my area, but I am hoping that it can also help me with my visual processing problems as well.
During my time in elementary school, I experienced some problems with my visual processing which greatly affected my academic performance. I found common school tasks such as reading the blackboard and recognizing people coming toward me in the hallway quite taxing; just walking down a hallway could be difficult for me. In addition, I had trouble with tracking objects, focusing on spots I needed to pay attention to, and recognizing people and objects if they were oriented in a way I was unfamiliar with. I was able to read a book up close and handle deskwork with few problems, but every other aspect of visual learning was a challenge for me. My parents and teachers could see that I needed help, so my parents arranged for me to have Vision Therapy. These exercises helped me to improve many of the problems I was having in and out of the classroom. I have not had Vision Therapy in many years, but I believe it could help me further because I still have some visual processing issues that I deal with as an adult. I have a hard time crossing the street on my own because many times I cannot tell if a car is coming toward or away from me or if it is moving at all. I have problems in parking lots because there is so much movement between walking people and moving cars; I cannot track it all and make my way into a building without someone’s help. I cannot drive because I cannot visually process everything that is happening around me quickly enough and actually drive a vehicle at the same time; it would not be safe for me to be on the road.
During the presentation, the speakers touched on areas of vision that can affect the way a child learns:
- “Convergence” means getting the eyes to focus on certain spots. When convergence does not happen, double vision can occur;
- “Directionality” means determining the positions of certain shapes so one can recognize them. If you are confounded by an inability to tell the difference between the letters “b,” “p,” “d,” and “q,” you most likely have this problem;
- “Form perception” means recognizing matching objects or recurring patterns;
- “Span of recognition” means being able to distinguish the form and meaning of a series of words all at once;
- “Visualization” means being able to form pictures in one’s mind of key concepts;
- “Tracking” means being able to keep one’s focus on a moving object or between multiple objects at once.
Children with vision issues often find themselves straining to make out small print or text printed very closely together. They may struggle to maintain focus on close-up work and may have fine motor problems. Copying text from the chalkboard onto one’s paper may be challenging, and these children may have difficulties coping with patterns from fluorescent light bulbs. Other troublesome tasks may include: utilizing “bubbles” on standardized tests; decoding a haphazard grouping of spelling words; taking timed exams; filling in crossword puzzle grids; being asked to read aloud without being alerted beforehand; and to immediately distinguish between left and right. A student may also have several different handwriting issues. This then leads to the student having visual processing problems, making it harder for them to comprehend the lesson because it is a struggle to just simply get the information to their brains.
To identify if a person will benefit from Vision Therapy, the prospective patient must first go through an assessment of their visual system to identify any potential problems. Vision Therapy consists of using special optical devices and exercises designed to help patients to retrain their eye muscles to make their visual movements more fluid, less strenuous, and more productive. The patient’s brain is then better able to handle and process the information received from the eyes. The program usually consists of office visits as well as activities to be carried out at home.
I plan on going through my own evaluation soon to determine if I require Vision Therapy. I feel this therapy could be quite useful to a number of people, and I am hoping that if I am a candidate for its implementation, I can improve my own visual processing. If the therapy is successful, I will be able to move more freely without assistance when I am in certain environments. This would then enable me to move forward with another huge step towards my independence!