We are approximately 12-weeks into our 40-week vision therapy program. When Dr. Tai recently asked my daughter whether she was noticing any improvements since starting VT, she said no. She says that reading and math are still hard, (and I imagine they are), so by her measurement things have not changed. However, what my daughter doesn’t realize is just how far she has come. Indulge me as I share with you how things were prior to starting vision therapy:
• she rubbed her eyes and yawned frequently while reading;
• she could only read for short periods of time, and even then it was like pulling teeth to get her to sit down and do it;
• she moved her head a lot, from side-to-side while reading;
• she had limited reading comprehension;
• she frequently lost her place, skipped words, missed the first letter of the first word at the beginning of a sentence, and she missed entire sentences unless she could use her finger to follow along;
• she had difficulty copying from the board at school, and even from material she held up close;
• she had difficulty with basic math concepts, and was unable to notice subtle changes in size or shapes (this was evident during the patterning unit of second grade math – that was torture for both of us!);
• she had trouble extracting the main idea from the insignificant details. This was troublesome during tests and independent work assignments;
• she had messy printing and her hand would tire quickly;
• she reversed certain letters and words such as “b” and “d”, “was” and “saw”, “when”, “where” and “were”;
• she had trouble with right/left differentiation;
• she struggled with remembering how to print certain letters and numbers such as 2 vs. 5, 6 vs. 9, or “q” vs. “g”;
• she was able to orally respond accurately to questions, but she really struggled to write answers down on paper, and eventually she stopped doing it altogether;
• she has motion sickness in the car.
As her mother, and the parent who does the bulk of the vision therapy homework (my husband is very supportive, but he works long hours) I have been observing my daughter very closely. This is what I have noticed since we began vision therapy twelve weeks ago:
• she no longer yawns or rubs her eyes while reading;
• she is reading for longer periods of time and reads grade appropriate material (without protest);
• her reading comprehension is substantially better;
• she loses her place and skips words less frequently, and she no longer uses her finger to follow along;
• her printing has improved dramatically (and according to Dr. Tai we haven’t even started the grip portion of VT);
• gradual (yet noticeable) improvement in copying from the board in class and up close;
• her spelling is improving and she also self corrects when necessary;
• we’re seeing less reversal of “b” and “d” and she is quick to notice when she has printed them backwards;
• noticeable improvement in answering questions on paper;
• she is more calm;
• her confidence is starting to return.
However, the realization that vision therapy is actually having a positive effect on my daughter was the day I forgot she was doing her homework. Prior to VT – and even in its earliest days – completing homework at our house was the equivalent to … I can’t even think of what unpleasant experience could compare. My daughter’s response to, “time to do your homework” ran along the same lines as if I had told her that Christmas had been canceled, chocolate birthday cakes had been abolished or her best friend in the whole world had moved to the moon – it wasn’t pretty. On this particular day my daughter sat at the kitchen table to do her homework without protest (I didn’t say anything for fear I’d jinx the situation), 5-minutes in she asked, “Mom, does wanted have an “ed” at the end?” I replied, “Yes.” And that was the last I’d heard from her. I went about making dinner, helped my 5-year old son with a few things, and answered a few emails when the realization hit me, it was quiet. I wasn’t hearing, “I hate this!”; “This is torture!” “This book is too long!” “I can’t do it!” She was doing it, unassisted, and she did it correctly.
We are not out of the woods, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us, (and more than a few hurdles are likely awaiting us) but I can say with confidence that we are heading in the right direction!