20 Weeks: More than a glimmer of hope!

Standing in the Sky Pod of the CN Tower, nearly 1500 feet up from street level I was experiencing heart palpitations and vertigo while my children were completely unfazed by the height at which we stood over looking the city of Toronto. Standing on one of the seven modern wonders of the world, I was in awe of the view, but more so by my little girl who I am certain a few months ago wouldn’t have dared step off the glass elevator of the top floor (over 1400 feet up) let alone want to climb further and step outside where we currently stood. She and her brother were giggling and laughing, pointing out various buildings they recognized from our home city.

CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Our little girl has come a long way, in a short period of time. Spring Break is coming to a close here and my family and I spent some time visiting various attractions that are less than a 30-minute drive away from us, and yet we still hadn’t taken the time to enjoy. At the CN Tower and the Royal Ontario Museum our daughter and her little brother ran from exhibit to exhibit pointing out their finds, and reading the little placards outlining facts about the artifacts on display. Once upon a time – not too long ago – our daughter wouldn’t have ventured out on her own and voluntarily read aloud, especially with crowds of strangers nearby. My husband and I exchanged a knowing glance and a smile. Slowly, our daughter is gaining her confidence back, and that enthusiasm for learning we saw when she was a toddler is starting to reveal itself again.We recently had our 20 week assessment, and our daughter is progressing well. Improvements are obvious since her last assessment, particularly her ability to track. Previously she moved her entire body to track the small silver ball Dr. Tai moved from side-to-side and in figure 8’s. Now her head barely moves, and her eyes flow much more smoothly with the movements.

Her reading has come a very long way. For the first time since starting VT my daughter can say that she has noticed how it’s easier for her to read, that she doesn’t lose her place as often and rarely skips words. (When fatigued she will occasionally repeat a line, but she has improved substantially compared to how she was reading 5 months ago.)

There are still areas that need improvement. For example, she experiences intermittent double vision when looking in 3D, and her eyes still tire, but we’re headed in the right direction.

She’s been working extremely hard and the pay-off is evident in her improved reading, but she’s also carrying a lot of stress. School is still challenging at times, and being in second grade the various dynamics with her peers has been contributing to her stress levels. Children are quick to compare, and voice loudly (and in some cases not very kindly) what they perceive as being different. We’re working through that together, and are committed to looking for ways in which we can help our daughter navigate her way through the social hurdles that appear from time-to-time at school.

City of Toronto, view from SkyPod, CN Tower

City of Toronto, view from SkyPod, CN Tower

Life is busy, school moves so quickly and the workload in second grade is heavy, even for a child who doesn’t have the added visual challenges our daughter has. As a result, making the time for fun things is more important than ever, hence our venture to the top of the CN Tower. The extreme height left me weak-kneed and with sweaty palms, but it was worth it to see my children feel very confident in their own abilities to stroll around the lookout deck. So much so my 5-year old son begged to do the Edge Walk. (For those not familiar, the Edge Walk entails being suspended by rope from the very edge of the CN Tower with just your toes brushing the edge.) There’s no way that was happening! It was enough they were jumping on the glass floor (by the way, I wasn’t the only parent standing on the sidelines holding their breath not wanting to project their fears on their child).

The skeletons of 10-metre tall ferocious dinosaurs featured in the Giants from Gondwana exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum is more my speed!

Giganotosaurus, "Giants of Godwana" Royal Ontario Museum

Giganotosaurus, “Giants of Godwana” Royal Ontario Museum

A Vision Therapy Success Story ~ Fabian Tai, O.D.

The majority of the stories I have encountered regarding Vision Therapy involve children who are struggling in school, or adults & children with amblyopia or strabismus who lack consistent stereo-vision. Their struggles are what prompted them (or their parents) to pursue Vision Therapy.

As I read about Vision Therapy I have learned about its benefits for athletes, stroke survivors, individuals who have sustained concussion and the side-effects post-trauma. I have also learned that some developmental optometrists and vision therapists were drawn to their respective professions through personal experiences or that of someone very close to them. However, it was during a candid discussion with my daughter’s optometrist, Fabian Tai, O.D. that I realized there’s another group of people for whom vision therapy is beneficial. Those who did well in school, are successful in their professions and likely don’t even realize that there’s anything wrong within their visual system.

Turns out, Dr. Tai is one such person.

As a weekly regular at the optometry clinic opportunity has allowed for casual discussions with Dr. Tai and some of his staff. It was during one such discussion that Dr. Tai shared with me how he came to pursue developmental optometry and more importantly, how he came to discover that he [unknowingly] had issues with his vision for years and is now undergoing vision therapy to correct them.

(I assure you I am sharing his story with his blessing, and perhaps it will inspire some of our readers to share theirs.)

Generally, Dr. Tai did well in school.  He was a straight A student and yet he can recall as early as the second grade being confused in class. Rather than ask for help he’d look to the classmates seated on either side of him for clues to help him figure things out because he couldn’t understand the instructions the teacher had given. He likened the experience to that of one of the Peanuts characters in a Charlie Brown television special and the “wah-wah-wah” sound of an adult’s voice.

He recalls scoring excellent grades in school, usually achieving top marks in his classes.  However it wasn’t easy and he often spent long hours studying for tests, eventually falling asleep because his eyes hurt.  Sometimes he felt anxious and frustrated when having trouble with his studies, but he thought this was normal for a typical student.

It wasn’t until after Dr. Tai became an Optometrist and attended a vision therapy course in the United States that he realized a missing piece in his practice.  He knew there was an association with how people performed in their eye exams and their visual process to see the world. But the specialized area of Vision Therapy was not taught at his school of Optometry in Canada. (It is more commonly taught in Optometry schools in the United States.)

He knew he had trouble crossing his eyes and had attempted to correct it with classical therapy of pencil push-ups and computer programs.  But it didn’t help, and eventually he gave up, not realizing the link between his ability to cross his eyes and reading performance.  After he began his training in Vision Therapy, Dr. Tai realized how hard his body worked to read. There were treatment exercises he just couldn’t do and others made him physically exhausted.  Hence his pursuit of a Vision Therapy program for himself, one he is still undergoing.  (By the way, he has finally solved his problem of being unable to cross his eyes, through treating the whole visual process rather than just focussing on the single issue as the classical treatment methods do.)

In addition, Dr. Tai has always wondered about children’s natural curiosity for the world around them and why some of those naturally curious children lose their enthusiasm for learning when they get older. His understanding of the development process of the visual system enables him to look for more specific signs that would contribute to this [seemingly] sudden loss of motivation to learn and the visual- specific signs that may deter a child from wanting to learn to read or write.

But Dr. Tai tells me this wasn’t the only revelation that motivated him to offer vision therapy in his practice. Fatherhood was the other.

Like most of us who have children, Fabian Tai experienced that 180 degree shift that comes when you find yourself responsible for the well-being and development of someone whom you love more than life itself; his daughter.   While too young to determine whether she’ll need vision therapy, she still plays a role in Dr. Tai’s quest to help his young patients reach their full potential. As a mother of two young children, I can’t think of a better motivation.

Dr. Tai understands what his Vision Therapy patients are going through, because he has walked a similar path himself. His first-hand experience leads him in his practice to help both children and adults who may be struggling with specific skills such as reading and writing, as well as those who are working hard, investing considerable energy in common day-to-day tasks, and are still not able to reach their full potential.

Fabian Tai has compassion for his patients and wants to see each of them succeed. This has been evident to me through my daughter’s experience with vision therapy.  We feel very fortunate to have found Dr. Tai and his team.

 

 

If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area and are looking for a Behavioral/Developmental Optometrist consider Fabian Tai, O.D. www.drfabiantai.com in Mississauga. Are you outside of the Greater Toronto Area? Please refer to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and click “Find a Doctor” located in the top right corner of their page.  Or visit the Optometric Extension Foundation’s webpage and click on “Find an Optometrist.”

Gallopintovision.com ~ Steve Gallop, O.D., FCOVD

As I have mentioned in earlier entries, since discovering our daughter’s visual issues (Convergence Insufficiency, issues with eye movement, accommodation, eye-teaming and tracking) I have done a lot of reading to educate myself on the latest research about behavioral optometry and vision therapy. There are several books, web sites and blogs I refer to regularly (many I have mentioned here on our blog; more that I’ll review in the future); one such web site and blog is gallopintovision.com by Steve Gallop O.D., FCOVD.

Dr. Gallop is a Behavioral Optometrist in Pennsylvania who works with people who have visual challenges related to learning difficulties, autism spectrum behaviours (including ADD and ADHD), Cerebral Palsy or Acquired Brain-Injury, athletes and more. He is also the author of several published articles, and books including, “Looking Differently at Nearsightedness and Myopia – The Visual Process and the Myth of 20/20” and more recently the co-author of The Kingdom of Should.

As a parent with little knowledge of optometry I find Dr. Gallop’s web site and accompanying blog very helpful because it is concise, well-written and easy to understand. When I wasn’t sure how to articulate my daughter’s situation in a way her teachers would understand, I referred to Dr. Gallop’s article The Visual Process and Learning.  The content was clear, easy to process and helped me convey my daughter’s situation without having to decipher doctor-speak. His article What is Vision Therapy/ Vision Training?  is very informative, and I encourage anyone who is considering (or undergoing) vision therapy/vision training to take the time to read it.   Actually, I encourage you to bookmark gallopintovision.com. It’s a resource you’ll find yourself referring to often.

Stay tuned for future blog entries about other resources I have found helpful and reviews on books I have read recently. (I have been a very busy reader of late!) I will also be dedicating a future entry to The Kingdom of Should – if you haven’t already please visit The Kingdom of Should’s interactive web site. Any description I give you couldn’t possibly do it justice. It’s an experience you (and your child or patient) should really enjoy for yourselves.

 

Do you have a story to share?

One of the best ways to increase awareness about important issues – such as the benefits of Vision Therapy – is through word of mouth. That is why I’m extending an invitation to our readers to share their stories about Vision Therapy. Whether you’re currently undergoing treatment, thinking about undergoing Vision Therapy, administer treatment, have graduated from a Vision Therapy program, or feel you have a helpful story that relates to Vision Therapy; we’d like to hear from you.

Send your story to theviewfromhere.me@gmail.com, and we will post it here on our blog to share with readers.

Prefer to remain anonymous? That’s okay. Mention your preference in your email.

We look forward to hearing from you!

“Never Give Up! … Beanie’s Story” by Beanie Leffler

I recently learned about Beanie Leffler and her remarkable story. Beanie struggled with reading for most of her life. Despite pursuing many opportunities to try and help her with her reading she continued to struggle. Eventually Beanie began working with a tutor who sent her to a reading specialist. The reading specialist asked Beanie if she’d ever had a Vision Perception Test. Beanie had not. Turns out she had issues with her vision that she was previously unaware of, and learned that help was available.

Beanie discovered Vision Therapy at the age of 55 years! Together with Vision Therapy and working with her tutor, Beanie’s reading has improved.

Her journey and struggles, inspired her to write “Never Give Up! … Beanie’s Story”, with illustrations by Kathy Kuczek.

“Never Give Up! … Beanie’s Story” is a 32-page, hardcover children’s book with colorful illustrations and a remarkable story of the importance of perseverance. Through her story, Beanie hopes to prevent other children from going through what she did; struggling with reading and not knowing that the right help was available.

Take a moment to visit Beanie’s website, Beanie Leffler. Read her personal story, peruse the testimonials and consider purchasing a copy of her book to add to your children’s library or your office for the benefit of your young patients. (I ordered two copies. One for our home library and one to donate to my children’s school library.)

Never give up! (Beanie didn’t.)

"Never Give Up! ... Beanie's Story"

“Never Give Up! … Beanie’s Story”