Dr. Suess and the Wibbly-Wobbly Words


On March 2nd, the nation celebrated the birthday of the one and only Dr. Suess.  Teachers across the country honored the beloved children’s author by reading his works in classrooms, and hosting activities and exercises to promote reading at any age, in any way.  With his nonsense rhymes, invented words and colorful imagery, Dr. Suess has made reading fun for children for generations.  It’s no wonder that we kick off March as National Reading Month in celebration of this great innovator.

Bringing reading into focus is important to helping parents and educators understand how children learn.  Reading, especially Dr. Suess books, should be fun!  So why, even on a day meant to celebrate reading, do some children struggle?  There is little pressure put on students at these events to read at a certain speed, or perform at a certain level, yet some children show frustration and avoidance of even the most enjoyable literature.  And, in the words of the dear Doctor, “When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun.  Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”Oh,_the_Places_You'll_Go

According to the American Academy of Optometry, one in twelve children suffer from a condition called Convergence Insufficiency, perhaps better understood as near-double vision.  The direct and indirect effects of this serious learning problem can make reading an exhausting chore, instead of a fun way to expand the imagination.  Words on the page seem to overlap, split apart, re-arrange and jump around, leaving the child confused and feeling stupid for not understanding what their classmates so clearly comprehend.  An entire month focused on reading can draw attention to students who have perhaps learned how to get by in school, but still struggle with the fundamentals of reading.

It is important for parents and teachers to understand that near-double vision, and other visual problems, are not always obvious.  They present in varying degrees of severity, and sometimes clever children find methods of coping with their struggles, like closing one eye to read, sometimes inadvertently shutting down the image from the weaker eye so that the dominant eye can process independently.  But if the child still completes their homework and accomplishes assignments, why look further into vision-related learning problems?

On these days of extended focus on reading, even the best students can start to show signs of restlessness and frustration.  They complain of headaches, or rub their eyes, and try to avoid the long silence of sustained reading.  Even though these students seem to manage reading assignments with relative ease, the extended focus on words that will not seem to sit still on the page can lead to defeated attitudes, and even behavior problems.

2Since these children have never experienced normal binocular vision, their struggle is impossible to explain.  They make excuses, or say that reading makes them tired — and it does!  Their brains are working twice as hard to make the words on the page fuse into one and stay put.  And since they are unaccustomed to not performing their best, they find that reaching out for help is even harder.

1

“I’m sorry to say so

but, sadly, it’s true,

that Bang-ups

and Hang-ups

can happen to you.”

— Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go

 

So, as we venture through the rest of Reading Month, let’s keep our eyes open for children who don’t always struggle, but maybe find extended reading a bit tiresome.  Let’s keep them motivated, and watch for signs of vision problems that could be holding your best and brightest back.  At Wow Vision Therapy, we want to help all children, regardless of the severity of their visual problems.  So whether your words are wibbly or wobbly, don’t ever give up, you stupendous somebody!

“You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So get on your way!”

— Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Near-Double Vision: Understanding Why Your Child Struggles

When a child struggles in school, the biggest question for a parent to answer is “why?”  While setting up study plans and establishing goals can be effective, many parents discover that their child’s avoidance behaviors cannot simply be corrected by rules and expectations.  The child is frustrated with reading, and grades continue to drop, despite their best efforts to improve.  Tensions rise within the family when a child cannot overcome their study struggles.

At this point, parents usually consider alternative reasons for their child’s learning block, and start to look for answers.  What if their vision is the problem?  A standard eye exam checks eyesight and for ocular diseases, but doesn’t always test the efficiency of the visual system — specifically binocular vision.  According to the American Academy of Optometry, one in twelve children suffers from a condition called Convergence Insufficiency, or what could also be described as “near-double vision.”  That means that two to three children in every classroom experience near-double vision on a daily basis, and their parents don’t even know.

GR-Far-Double

Far Double Vision

Double vision is the sensation of your entire visual field splitting into two duplicate images — each eye producing its own, separate picture.  A person experiencing normal double vision would know immediately that there was problem.  On the other hand, near-double vision is, by comparison, inconspicuous.  It presents as a blurring and splitting of letters and words while reading.  Numbers and letters float around the page, because the eyes cannot effectively turn inward to look at the same near target.  As a result, the child sees moving and overlapping letters, making the task of reading unbearably challenging.

The child often complains of headaches or tiredness when trying to read, but is unable to explain why.  To unknowing teachers and parents, it looks like avoidance or laziness.  Because near-double vision usually starts in early development, children don’t know that how they see is different from other people.  How would they know that their vision is flawed or unusual? After passing a routine eye exam, “blurry vision” sounds like just another excuse to avoid and fail at reading and schoolwork.

Near-Double-Vision

The consequences of undetected near-double vision can reach far beyond declining grades.  In addition to being easily distracted, the child quickly realizes that their reading speed and level is below that of their peers.  When asked to read aloud in class, they stumble over basic words, and struggle to understand and retain what they read.  They look at the same sentence over and over, trying to decode a blur of letters into something with meaning.  They are scolded for not paying attention, or mocked by other kids. They feel dumb or inadequate, and their confidence suffers.  They start to define themselves by their limitations, instead of their strengths.  What started as just a visual problem grows into an attitude of “I can’t,” as the child abandons hope in their own potential.

But there is a solution.  If your child struggles with reading or learning or suffers from any of the symptoms of near-double vision, office-based optometric vision therapy is the proven solution.  A comprehensive evaluation with a developmental vision specialist will help identify if there is a visual cause for your child’s learning challenges.  The sooner you can understand why your child struggles, the sooner you can help them make real strides toward improvement, and a brighter future.

ADD: Treating the Cause, not the Symptoms

Over the past several decades, ADD and ADHD have become some of the most common behavioral labels of our children today. In 2011, the CDC reported that approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million in the US) have been diagnosed with ADHD. But how often do we stop and think about the underlining cause of these conditions?

The standard treatment approach is to medicate with stimulants that force the child or adult to focus and engage their attention on tasks like reading and other school work. But is this approach just a bandaid?  Are we really helping our children overcome ADD and ADHD with medication alone?  What if there was another way?

Let’s face it. We all, at times, have trouble focusing our attention on tasks that are challenging.  Learning, by definition, is a challenge for the brain.  Learning is also a critical part of living a full life.  Our modern culture has made reading ability the prerequisite for efficient learning.  All too often, when children struggle with focusing, attention and learning, the problem begins with their basic ability to read.

Our vision and vision efficiency are the most critical human abilities that impact reading speed and comprehension.  If our eyes don’t scan words on a page efficiently, work well together as a team, or communicate information with the brain effectively, the most basic reading functions become overwhelmingly challenging tasks.  If a child can’t read as efficiently as their classmates, they fall behind.  When they fall behind, their teachers and parents become concerned.  The child is unhappy, frustrated and acting out.  The parent is unhappy and questions whether it’s their fault.  The entire family unit falls into chaos because the other children feel neglected.

Vision Therapy is the process of developing more efficient functions of the visual system and the brain’s comprehension and processing abilities of the information we read on the page or computer screen, as well as many other areas of daily living.  When a child or adult has difficulty focusing or maintaining attention on a single task, in many cases, a vision dysfunction is a likely cause of attention deficiencies.  So rather than treating the symptoms with medication, we treat the cause with noninvasive Vision Therapy.  As a result, the patient is able to focus on vision intensive tasks, like reading, with greater ease.  Comprehension is improved, which makes learning easier and ultimately the patient feels more competent, confident, productive and in general, happier.

The Wow Vision Therapy Challenge to support children’s education begins!

This week kicks off the start of the Wow Vision Therapy Challenge to support children’s education.

Our goal is to help children’s education projects through DonorsChoose.org  in our region. We are  pleased to announce that our first selected project is  Ms. Kniebes-Wilmot’s technology project, “I Can See Clearly Now”,  at Coloma Elementary School.

Ms Kneibes-Wilmot

To make this even more fun, our doctors and vision therapists have created a special vision therapy challenge involving 4 teams with 3 of our patients per team. That translates to 12 kids involved, competing in two categories of high-tech vision therapy activities. The Wow Vision Therapy Challenge will utilize The Sanet Vision Integrator in these two categories:

SVI1. Expanding Peripheral Visual Awareness

2. Rapid Visual Scanning

The winning team in each category will then have the opportunity to participate in the following week’s challenge..The Wow Ball Toss Challenge where scoring points in the game will translate into dollars donated by Wow Vision Therapy to Ms. Kniebes-Wilmot’s Classroom. It all starts on Monday, December 10, 2012!

Stay tuned and by all means we invite you to join in our cause. You too can help us support Ms. Kniebes-Wilmot’s class at DonorsChoose.