Optometrists Change Lives, Part 2
In Optometrists Change Lives, Part 1 I discussed my early years and my struggles with reading and playing sports. I talked about my long-undiagnosed visual issues, which I now understand were primarily responsible for my struggles. These visual problems didn’t go away. I just learned how to deal with them differently in order to get through school. Problems with eye movements, eye teaming and focusing rarely go away by themselves. If we’re lucky we do learn to cope with them and often manage to get by. Many children however do not fare as well. Studies have shown that between 75% and 90% of juvenile delinquents suffer from these kinds of visual issues. Other studies showed that when the visual problems were properly diagnosed and treated only 10% instead of 80% of these young people ended up back in prison.
I was fortunate to grow up in a loving and supportive family that valued education. This helped me to have enough will to succeed, which kept me relatively on track. I never did become any good at sports like baseball, basketball or football. I tried tennis for a while with only mediocre results - the same visual issues kept me from getting much better than a good beginner. We didn’t have soccer the way we do today as kind of an entry-level sport for children whose eye/hand coordination causes them to shy away from other sports. Not that soccer doesn’t require good visual skills, but it moves much slower than most sports, especially during the early years. It shouldn’t be surprising that eye/hand coordination depends heavily on the eyes - or more accurately the brain that tells the eyes and hands what to do. After all, the primary purpose of the visual process is to direct action. Most people that do vision therapy in my office report that their sports performance improves noticeably.
Vision Therapy: It’s Not Just For The Young
I started in a vision therapy program at the age of thirty - the same time I started in optometry school. Not long after starting my vision therapy I became known as the fastest test-taker in my class. In fact, at our class graduation party my classmates awarded me a "Quickest Test Taker" plaque, which still hangs in my office. Vision therapy helped make my time in optometry school less stressful and more productive.
I know now that I had eye teaming, focusing and tracking problems at a very early age. This was never detected despite annual visits (if not more) to the best eye doctors (mostly ophthalmologists) that my parents could find. In fact, it is likely that these problems were instrumental in the seemingly perpetual increase of my nearsightedness. Many of my classmates became more nearsighted while in optometry school - I was not one of those. In fact I began my myopia reduction program shortly after beginning vision therapy.
Knowing what I know now, I am convinced that my issues in school and my lackluster performance in sports were due to my visual problems. It makes me feel good every day to know that I am helping children avoid the kind of difficulties I lived with throughout my childhood. And it makes me feel good to be part of a profession whose mission is to do this same great and rewarding work for children all over the world. There is no telling what impact a vision therapy program can have on a struggling child…or adult. It really is true that Optometrists Change Lives.
Next time: Vision Therapy and Self Esteem