Just like other doctors specializing in the field of developmental and rehabilitative optometry recognize, many patients find their way to our practices through a referral by a primary care optometrist who enjoys working with children as well as understands the role of vision in child development. Another equally strong ally is the professional who works with children with developmental and/or rehabilitation issues, specifically the occupational therapist (OT), speech language pathologist (SLP) or physical therapist (PT) who recognizes the children with visual problems that involve poor eye coordination, visual processing or visual integrative skills. These may be children with developmental delays, sensory processing disorder, autism or other medical problems that contribute to delayed development such as cerebral palsy.
Last week it was my pleasure to lead our team of doctors from Wow Vision Therapy to a Lunch and Learn presentation to the professional team of therapists at the Memorial Children’s Hospital, Children’s Therapy Center in South Bend, Indiana. Here we were able to present case studies. One was a child in vision therapy with a binocular vision dysfunction called intermittent exotropia, another child with cerebral palsy suffering from oculomotor dysfunction and a host of others developmental vision delays. Our third patient had a complex array of vision problems associated with autism.
One common theme among all of these patients was the fact that within one year prior to seeing me, they all had received an eye examination and all of them had been found to have normal eyes…normal eye health, normal eye sight and no need for eye glasses. But, all 3 children had serious vision problems that significantly impaired their ability to effective progress in their other therapies (OT, SLP, PT) due to the serious nature of the delays in their visual development.
In response to this apparent failure for some eye doctors to recognize the obvious, a question was posed to me by one of the attending Occupational Therapists. With a sigh of frustration, she noted that too often her patients with developmental delays and apparent visual problems involving poor eye coordination, such as binocular vision problems or oculomotor problems or visual processing problems have been told by a previous family eye doctor that this child’s eyes are normal. So, with that in mind she wanted to know how to explain to a parent that, “Yes your child may have good eyesight, but from what I can see, he has poor vision skills and that it is important that they make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in developmental vision for an examination?”
While the question may look complex, the answer is not. Simply put, “Vision occurs not in the eyes but in the brain. The eyes are the sensory receptors. Yes, it is absolutely essential to examine a child’s eye health, eye sight and to determine whether there is a need for corrective eye glasses, even as an infant. But, when a child has developmental delays, those delays will often effect the dominant sensory system of the brain…vision. Therefore a child may have good eyesight and still have bad vision…that is to say, delays in vision development. These conditions are diagnosed by a doctor of optometry who specializes in developmental vision and vision therapy.”
An additional important resource that I recommend to parents are these two books:
Another resource are videos from the VisionHelp YouTube Channel. Here are a couple selected videos:
And one final suggestion for the primary care optometrists, ophthalmologists, occupational therapists, speech language therapist, physical therapists and other professionals in the rehabilitative community to consult with a doctor Board Certified in Developmental Vision and Vision Therapy. To find one in your area go to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development… and click on the Doctor Locator and look for the initials FCOVD.
Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD