One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons, and there are many, is a picture of two dogs handsomely dressed in a bar, raising martini glasses to each other in a toast and declaring:
“It is not enough that dogs succeed; cats must also fail.”
This has been the historical position of many ophthalmologists and pediatricians, whether through public policy statements, or in advice dispensed to patients in their offices. It is as if they represent the dogs at the bar planning their tactics, referring to other practitioners with whom they openly disagree as cats who must fail.
One of the most heart-breaking questions we hear from parents after their child succeeds in vision therapy is, “why wasn’t I encouraged to look into this before?” A recent newswire release from COVD, The College of Optometrists in Vision Development, sheds some light on this. It is so important for parents to be aware of this, that I want to share it with you verbatim.
When parents assume that their child’s vision is fine it can be quite a maze for parents to navigate to figure out why their child is having so much difficulty with reading and learning, especially when professionals disagree and vested interests are involved. Many parents get overwhelmed by all the information and conflict and just let the system take care of their children by making accommodations. Other parents refuse to be tackled and keep searching until they find real help.
Dr. Katherine Donovan, a psychiatrist from Charleston, S.C., was one of those parents who didn’t give up, “It wasn’t until my own child had problems with reading that I discovered that my medical training was missing a very valuable piece of information which turned out to be the key to helping my daughter, Lily. While I had taken Lily to many ophthalmologists and learning specialists, desperate to understand why this very bright child still could not read well, or write legibly at age 12, I always got the same answers: ‘her vision’s fine’ and ‘she’s dyslexic’ “.
“As a physician, I had been taught that vision therapy was controversial and could not treat learning disabilities. However, my personal experience with my daughter proved to me that vision therapy worked, when nothing else did,” Dr. Donovan shares. “While vision therapy cannot treat learning disabilities, per se, it absolutely corrected a vision problem which was blocking Lily from being able to learn. After a visit with a developmental optometrist who tested over 15 visual skills critical to reading and learning, I was shocked to learn that Lily was seeing double out to three FEET—which meant that when she tried to read, the words were double. No wonder she hated to read!”
Following optometric vision therapy, “Lily now reads 300 pages a day, in her free time; she puts down ‘reading’ as her favorite hobby; and she has a 95-average at Buist Academy with NO help from me on her homework! Prior to this, I’d been spending three to four hours each night, for many years, tutoring Lily,” Dr. Donovan shares with delight.
Even though there is a wealth of optometric research which proves vision therapy works, as Dr. Donovan mentioned there is false information in the medical community about vision therapy. This can be confusing for parents, especially when it comes from their child’s pediatrician.
Dr. Joseph Manley, a physician and medical expert witness for medico-legal cases, states, “The conclusions (particularly the failure to recommend vision therapy for children likely to benefit from it) of the American Academy of Pediatrics report on Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Vision are based on exclusion of the most relevant data and inconsistent application of the Academy’s stated criteria for selecting evidence. They fail to acknowledge abundant published and anecdotal evidence supporting the use of vision therapy. This overlooked evidence includes controlled trials, observational studies, case reports and consensus of experts—the same kinds of data that underpin the daily practice of medical professionals.”