Our good colleague, Dr. Dominick Maino, said it best when he wrote that the Policy Statement about Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision from the American Academy of Pediatrics is an exercise in hypocrisy, duplicity, and double standards.
This morning a colleague sent me a blog piece from a company formerly called CogniBeat and now called BrightStar Learning has a program called BrightStar Reader. Regarding the pronouncement by Sheryl Handler, MD, on behalf the AAP and their misleading policy statement dismissing VT, the blog notes: “It seems strange that Handler’s group comes out and says that there is a small group of people for whom dyslexia is caused by magnocellular issues and then goes back on this statement by stating that ‘insufficient evidence’ exists to support the magnocellular theory, thereby invalidating offering that suffering subset a treatment. That doesn’t make much sense. Either they (the subset with magnocellular impairments) exist or they don’t. If they exist, why the heck wouldn’t you offer them a treatment geared to them? Keep in mind that dyslexia accounts for 80% of all learning disabilities. A small subset is still going to be a significant number of people to treat.”
Kudos to BrightStar! They hit the nail on the head. Though I haven’t used their product, their methodology of using nonverbal reading-readiness therapy for reading has some substance to it. Take for example their Word Chains Tutorial. It’s essentially a training version of the TOSWRF test.
The TOSWRF (Test of Silent Word Reading Fluency) was poularized in Optometry by Dr. Harold Solan, whose conducted excellent research in visual attention therapy and its effect on reading that was conveniently ignored by the AAP. In our practice we have used the principles employed by AgileEye, using the TOSWRF as a training tool. An “A” and “B” version of the test preserves its re-test validity.
There are other elements of AgileEye that we employ in vision therpay, such as its versions of The Stroop Test as a therapy tool, and its animal version of The Stroop Effect for younger children. Perhaps best of all, when the user performs the tracking activity by keeping a car in the center of the highway, there is a pre-activity warmup with a scene that encourages the patient to fixate centrally while being aware of stimuli peripherally. You can tell that the developers of the program have been heavily influenced by optometric vision therapy principles.
CogniBeat has a section on white papers that relates to its methodology. My hunch is that much as the CITT proved that in-office therapy for CI has much better results than home-alone therapy, the same might hold true for AgileEye. Yet AgileEye’s principles remain solid, and a potentially useful adjunct to a comprehensive therapy program that isn’t top-heavy on language for kids who have failed to respond to layers and layers of “just needs more educational therapy”. Right now it’s available in beta version as a free download from their site.
– Leonard J. Press, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO