Tonya is sitting in my office on Friday, as we continue our interview over a lunch break during the SUNY Residents’ Seminar. As noted on our SCO website link, it’s important for us to discern that the Residency applicant understands the distinction between institutional and private practice residency experiences.
Interviews can be stressful, and I was impressed with the thought that Tonya had given to why she was applying to our Residency program. Although no one should be as open as the gentleman above, Tonya was refreshingly forthcoming in noting that she had made application to several other private practice residencies, and two institutional residencies. But what she told me next almost floored me. She had decided not to interview at one of the institutions, because of that College of Optometry’s response to her inquiry. In her cover letter she indicated interest in, among other things, vision-based learning problems and how vision influenced behavior and development. The reply that she got was that she should seriously consider whether this program was a good fit because, essentially, they “don’t believe in that stuff”.
It was almost inconceivable to me that a College of Optometry faculty member would write that to an applicant. To be fair to that program, I’ve not yet seen it in writing. But is it possible? Absolutely, and I found out why over the weekend. I participate in an online forum regarding dyslexia. Last night a dyslexia researcher who trivializes the role of vision cited an article in defense of her position. It was published in Perspectives on Language and Literacy, a quarterly publication of the International Dyslexia Association, Winter edition 2011, co-authored by an optometrist from — you guessed it — the same College of Optometry that told Tonya they wouldn’t be a good fit for her Residency interests.
Here is what that article concluded:
“Given the evidence in this article and other reviews (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2009; Barrett, 2009), children with academic problems should be referred for vision exams using the same criteria as any other child. Visual acuity is critical for supporting reading, and people need to be able to see print sharply, clearly, and comfortably. However, routine screening for ‘vision-related learning problems’ is not warranted and would not be expected to have a major impact on the reading performance of children and adults with well-defined reading disabilities …. The fact that vision therapies (and therapies based on visual information processing) continue to proliferate despite decades of research reflects in part the degree to which parents are desperate to remediate reading problems.”
One might say it’s disappointing to see a College of Optometry faculty member put her name on an article that regurgitates the anti-VT bias of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Indeed, as Dr. Fortenbacher and I have pointed out, the Section on Ophthalmology of the AAP doesn’t even follow the guidelines of the CITT study that office-based vision therapy is preferable to home based VT. Nor, by the way, does this College of Optometry offer any office-based vision therapy, but that is a subject for another day. On this day I will encourage Tonya to continue her vision quest. Irrespective of where she does her Residency, I am confident that she will travel far on the path that Dr. Monroe “Puggy” Farmer put her on at age 6. She is already a step ahead of the faculty member at a College of Optometry who dismissed the AOA’s Clinical Practice Guidelines on Care of the Patient with Learning Related Vision Problems out of hand. She can think outside the bag.
- Leonard J. Press, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO