Here is a very odd freelance article from an online forum named The Chronicle of Social Change. I say it’s odd because the opinion piece reflects anything but change. It’s essentially the same selective criticisms of vision therapy packaged as controversy in a much more detailed New York Times Sunday Magazine article over three years ago. The Chronicle article cites a disgruntled LA school official who labeled contracting with optometrists to provide vision therapy services “a scam”, adding that research has found such interventions to be ineffective. Huh? What research? Of course, as you read on, there is no research presented to support the claimed ineffectiveness of optometric vision therapy. I will say this — the ophthalmologist that the writer quotes is environmentally friendly, evidently a strong proponent of recycling. The problem is that the “evidence” that is recycled doesn’t reflect research at all. Rather it represents a 2011 opinion paper from the American Academy of Ophthalmology – a carefully contrived spin piece whose antecedents have been rebutted many times and continues to be flawed as I’ve addressed before. Our colleagues, Dr. John Tassinari and Dr. Gary Etting, are quoted in the Chronicle article.
Adding to the oddity of the article, our vision help.com website is mentioned as some sort of proof that studies purporting to support vision therapy are too small in size to be valid. Not surprisingly, this is another willful or unintended distortion – one that is squarely addressed in the Vision Facts and Fallacies section of the vision help.com website. What is particularly egregious is that the detailed research summary by Dr. Tannen on the website is overlooked. Again, none of this is new or represents any change; I have chronicled the misconceptions in many forums before. In a nutshell, the ophthalmologic position is cloaked in a mantle of scientific concern but thinly veiled as time-released poison to discredit vision therapy – perhaps to deflect attention from its own practices that are unsupported by the “evidence” they claim is lacking in optometric vision therapy – quite a paradox as I explain here.
As if the article didn’t contain enough misinformation, the writer actually contributes some new poison. He concludes by citing the disgruntled LA school official, James Astle as follows: Astle also argues that some of the evaluations done by optometrists are outside their area of expertise and should be performed by other specialists instead. “They’re giving perceptual [tests] that really should be done by a school psychologist,” Astle said. ‘These optometrists check functional vision. That’s another controversy. Why would you give educational, psychological development tests? Why would they be done by optometrists?”
Shame on you, Mr. Astle. You haven’t done your homework. The most widely used standardized visual perceptual test conducted by optometrists is the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills (TVPS-3). And guess what? The manual clearly states that the test is designed for use by psychologists, educators, occupational therapists, and optometrists. Evidently yet another example of willful or unintended ignorance on the part of optometric critics. In fact, the real Chronicle for Social Change would be reform based on the inefficiencies in the special education system when visual problems are swept under the carpet, as noted in this call for reform in New Jersey by the Commission on Business Efficiency in Public Schools. Indeed, that report was used as the basis for a Pilot Project that became law in NJ, but filibustered from implementation by the same specious arguments presented in this “scam” article. Perhaps Mr. Astle’s arguments, and the concocted controversy, is a bit of a scam all it’s own. At the very least, it’s the latest time-released poison. But not to worry! I present to you the latest antidote.
This book was just published by Charles C. Thomas and is an eye-opener for anyone sincerely interested in the issues and research related to vision and learning in general, and reading in particular. Apropos to our discussion, the author notes (p. 81): “In many instances, a school may be reluctant to refer a student to a vision specialist based on Visagraph recording data or his or her own comments about visual discomfort. This is unfortunate and not in the best interest of the student who demonstrates excessive difficulty with binocular coordination. The cost of going to a vision specialist to secure visual training should be worked out in the best interest of the child.”
Note that the suggestion here is not that school districts should be required to pay for all visual services required by a child. After all, if your child needed glasses to see the board, you wouldn’t necessarily expect the school to pay for them. The key point is the mis-statement that there is no evidence that optometric intervention is helpful at all for vision based learning problems. This book is Taylor-made to counteract that misinformation.