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.


“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.


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.


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.

Specialized treatment comes to Grand Rapids for children who struggle from vision and learning problems

One in 12 children struggle with serious vision problems that cause reading and learning problems yet those same children will pass the standard vision tests. Collin is one of these children who endured the struggle with frustration and lowself-esteem, but with his office-based optometric vision therapy treatment he has blossomed with new abilities and confidence!
Wow Vision Therapy is recognized as one of top specialty vision therapy practices in the US and is now open in Grand Rapids, Michigan on East Beltline! For more information take a look at our website at www.wowvision.net .
You can also learn more details on the impact of vision problems affecting learning by reading Dr. Fortenbacher’s VisionHelp article: How does it feel to have a vision related reading or learning problem?

Vision and Learning – What every parent should know

A brand new and uniquely informative video from some of the leading US experts in the field of developmental vision who speak about the human brain and how vision problems can lead to reading and learning problems. This video also features one of Wow Vision Therapy’s patients, Reece and her father David who tells her story before and after vision therapy throughout interesting segments of the entire video. Dr. Fortenbacher, Founder, of Wow Vision Therapy is also a contributing expert in this important public awareness VisionHelp video.

A young girl’s life of frustration when misdiagnosed with ADD

Frustrating? Yes. Upsetting? Of course! When a bright young lady has struggled for years at school, only to be assumed she had ADD. And just because her teacher suggested her behavior was probably ADD does not mean her teacher was at fault. Her behavior did look like ADD! But that is where the problem lies, because this is a common assumption made by many people when a child has behaviors of poor attention and concentration with reading. Immediately ADD or ADHD comes up and the child is too often put on psycho-stimulant medication without the necessary rule-outs of other conditions.

But thanks to Madison’s pediatrician who performed a simple test of Madison’s binocular vision called a Near Point of Convergence Test, she found Madison had a vision problem called Convergence Insufficiency, a vision problem that affects 1 in 12 children, and referred her to see me for a comprehensive binocular vision evaluation. Take a look and hear from Madison’s mother, who tells the story about her daughter’s struggle with attention and concentration at school, disinterest in reading and loss of confidence transform into her success from the treatment of her binocular vision problems through advanced vision therapy care at Wow Vision Therapy.

Madison’s story of success through office-based optometric vision therapy is validated in the latest scientific research  and published in: Optom Vis Sci. 2012 January ; 89(1): 12–18, Improvement in Academic Behaviors Following Successful Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency.

In addition, more evidence of Madison’s successful treatment is outlined by the American Academy of Optometry published in August 2013 a position paper entitled,  American Academy of Optometry Binocular Vision, Perception, and Pediatric Optometry Position Paper on Optometric Care of the Struggling Student for parents, educators, and other professionals.

If you are located within Northern Indiana, Western or Southwestern Michigan and have a child who exhibits ADD-like behaviors, struggles in reading comprehension, homework is a battle, has headaches with reading or has other learning related difficulty, call our office and our patient care coordinators will help you by making an appointment with one of our Board Certified Doctors.  If you are not within the region of Wow Vision Therapy go to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development at www.covd.org and click on the Doctor Locator to find a specialist nearest you.

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D.,FCOVD

Jayce’s Story…from struggle to confidence

Jayce’s Story…Hear from a young boy’s mother how vision therapy gave him a new outlook on reading and learning. Like so many children, when struggle turns to ease and success the emotional outcome is confidence! Too many children fight a senseless struggle with vision problems that affect reading and learning. If you agree we hope you will  share Jayce’s story.


Wow Vision Therapy: Using Skype to Treat Patients Long-Distance

Using Skype to help a long distance patient have access to care is an emerging new technology at Wow Vision Therapy. In this short video, we show our patient James and his parents, Joel and Gina, and their 700 mile journey of success as James completes his Skype vision therapy treatment. — at Wow Vision Therapy.

Strabismus: Fixing Aloise’s Gaze…A mother’s story

For those families whose child has esotropia strabismus, crossed-eyes, here is Aloise’s story. See the surprising chain of events that lead to Aloise’s parents finding out about vision therapy and the marvelous changes that they never expected!

Fixing Aloise’s Gaze

In this short video you will see 6 year old Aloise overcoming her constant right esotropia (crossed eye). Take a look at Aloise show off her emerging ability to consciously straighten her eyes. This important “motor fusion” ( eye muscle control) is an essential step in her ability to gain “sensory fusion” which is her neural “visual lock” and 3-D vision experience through binocular coordination of her eyes. When Aloise began with us at Wow Vision Therapy she had a constant 25 degree right eye-turn (with correction) at distance and near. Her right eye also had moderately reduced visual acuity due to amblyopia (lazy eye). Aloise is moderately farsightedness and wears spectacle correction full time including a bifocal. She works with us 2 days a week in office-base optometric vision therapy and does 15-20 minutes a day of home oriented activities on the days she is not here. She has never had eye muscle surgery as part of her treatment.