We first noticed that Jake was having trouble with schoolwork in Kindergarten. He kept reversing his letters and numbers. He had difficulty with reading and writing that didn’t match the grasp of vocabulary and language that we saw in other areas. His teacher explained that this was normal and that he should grow out of it. It persisted, however, into first and then second grade. He was great at Math. Beginning in second grade, he also started to have behavioral problems in school. He was inattentive, talking and playing at inappropriate times. His teacher used terms like “needs to stay on task” and “needs to focus”. We could see this same behavior at home when trying to complete homework. It was grueling. What should have taken 30 minutes took 3 hours. He was behind in reading, testing at a first grade level even though he was in second grade. When we talked to his teacher, she seemed to describe a child with ADHD or something like that. We were told we had to work harder with him outside of school. We even hired a tutor. His progress report showed he was in danger of being left back. Jake hated reading. He would skip words and see words that weren’t on the page. We thought he wasn’t trying and just being lazy. He was obviously a smart boy and there was no good reason for his academic difficulties. It was during this time in the beginning of second grade that he complained of headaches. We kept Tylenol in the car because he was coming home with headaches every day. We decided to have his eyes checked to see if they might be part of the problem. We never imagined that his eyes could be the whole problem.
Randomly, we chose the Draisin Vision Center and it was the best choice we ever could have made. During the first eye examination, Dr. Shealy determined that Jake had a problem not with his eyesight, but with his vision. His eyes were not working together. At the doctor’s suggestion, we signed him up for vision testing, which is different from a regular eye exam. It didn’t take long for the specialists at Draisin to diagnose Jake. Before the testing was even complete, the specialist was seeing the problems and behavior that we had noticed and even some things that we hadn’t noticed. She knew about the headaches, about the reversed letters, about the behavior problems, and about how he was good at Math. She even guessed that he was having problems riding a 2-wheel bicycle. After the testing, we were convinced that vision therapy was the answer. Therapy was a long commitment of time and effort. It was a leap of faith, but we determined that our failure to act could have far reaching effects on Jake’s future.
Jake began therapy twice a week for 45 minutes each session to be spread over 6 months. In addition to that he had daily homework that mirrored the exercises of his vision therapy. It was about two months into therapy that we started to see progress. The first sign of progress was when he started reading street signs, business signs, and bumper stickers. Then he started reading things on TV and video games. He was enjoying the empowerment. In a matter of months, he went from reading on a first grade level to reading on a level equal to that of an end year second grader. He was becoming the student we knew he could be. His behavior improved and he was paying better attention at sc hool. His reading and writing improved. The headaches went away. Homework was so much easier. The clincher came the night when he turned the television off and we found him reading on the living room couch. The boy who hated reading was reading on his own in his free time.
He has met and surpassed his teacher’s goals in the Accelerated Reading (AR) program. He started breezing through AR books. He even scored 100 on the test for “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” which is a fifth grade level book. He loves those books and it does not bother him one bit that they are over 200 pages each. He is currently finishing the third book. Reading every night before bed is no longer a chore, but a pleasure for Jake. He has even said that he loves to read, this from a boy who would cry when he looked at a book. The turn around has been 180 degrees and we owe it all to vision therapy at the Draisin Vision Center. For anyone who is considering this for their child, ask yourself if any of this sounds familiar. I hate to think of how Jake would have struggled if we had not taken the leap of faith and made the financial sacrifice to meet this challenge. The staff in Vision Therapy at Draisin have been the most caring, pleasant, and professional people who have truly enriched our lives.
Tami and Dave McKeown