“MD’s have not been trained to think about vision. We have been trained to understand eyesight, or visual acuity, of each individual eye. Double vision is briefly discussed during neurology lectures, really in the context of new onset of double vision and evaluation for a stroke or brain tumor or some other new cause of double vision. Everyone knows that vision is important for learning, but vision processing – how the brain is interpreting what the two eyes are seeing together – was never discussed. The specific vision skills needed for reading – eye teaming, saccadic movements, pursuits, convergence in the same place – these were never mentioned during any of my training in medical school or residency. Ophthalmologists are trained to evaluate each individual eye, the visual acuity of that eye, whether or not disease is present, and if it needs surgery. They are not trained to evaluate how the brain processes the information coming in at the same time from both eyes together. I have had no training in ophthalmology, but I know this because a few months into vision therapy, I took Zach back to his ophthalmologist and discussed vision therapy with him. His response was, “I really haven’t been trained in this.” Then he went and got his ophthalmology text book and showed me what it says about vision therapy. It was not more than two or three sentences. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was something to the effect that there is no proven benefit. I have not read every study that the ophthalmologists did to determine if they believe vision therapy works or not. I did read a couple, though, and they were looking at visual acuity in each eye at 20 feet, having the patient do vision therapy, and then rechecking visual acuity in each eye at 20 feet. When they found no change, they concluded vision therapy did not work. I believe that if they understood what was really supposed to change and measured it, they would conclude that vision therapy does work.”
The quote above is from a phenomenal two-part interview of Janna Jannings, M.D., who is not only a pediatrician but a mother of a young boy who underwent vision therapy. She credits vision therapy for literally saving his life. It should be required reading for all parents, and would make informative reading for many professionals. Zach’s story will be featured in Robin and Jillian Benoit forthcoming book, a follow-up to Jillian’s Story.
NOTE: As of February 2020, these interviews no longer appear on Dr. Wittman’s site. There is a Review of Optometry article referencing the interview here, and if anyone has a link to the original interviews, please let me know.