We first noticed the turning of Cadence’s eye right around her first birthday. The turn was not 100% of the time, but as the weeks passed, it became more and more apparent that there was a problem and it was not going away on its own. During that time, I learned that both my husband’s father and older brother had corrective surgery when they were young to fix a similar eye problem, so I knew the problem was most likely hereditary.  I talked with my pediatrician about Cadence’s eye and he recommended and referred me to the Storm Eye Institute. As I waited the many months it took to get our first appointment, I decided to do a bit of research on my own. I wasn’t even sure what exactly the issue was with her eye. Was it a crossed eye? Was it a lazy eye? What did those two terms mean and what was the difference? How was her vision affected? Was there an alternative to surgery? After a bit of research, I found out that what my daughter had was called strabismus or crossed-eye. More importantly, the problem was not with her eye, it was actually a communication issue between her brain and her eyes. Of course, I began to read everything I could find on Strabismus and the treatment options. It did not take long for me to learn that surgery is not always successful and sometimes multiple surgeries are required. Furthermore, surgery does not always fix the visual problems associated with strabismus. In fact, surgery can often be considered a success even if the benefit is “cosmetic improvement only.” I was shocked! “Cutting and moving the eye muscles will not automatically change the brain or the signals it sends to the eye muscles. This is why patient’s eyes often “go back” or deviate again after surgery. Frequently, the surgeon recommends a repeat surgery. It is important to understand that while eye muscle surgery can improve cosmetic appearance, it does not necessarily improve eyesight or vision.” (www.strabismus.org)  On a positive note, I also learned that there is an alternative to surgery with lasting benefits:  Vision Therapy. “Vision Therapy is an individualized, supervised, non-surgical treatment program designed to correct eye movements and visual-motor deficiencies. The sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to control: eye alignment, eye teaming, eye focusing abilities, eye movements, and visual processing.” (www.strabismus.org)  What I had read so far was so clear and made so much sense that I was surprised by the amount of resistance from both family members and doctors. I had two ophthalmologists assure me that vision therapy would never work for Cadence and that surgery was her only option. My mother-in-law also told me to just get the surgery and that anything alternative was a waste of time and money. Exploring alternative treatments seemed like a no-brainer to me, but I knew I had an uphill battle to fight.  I called the Draisin Vision Group immediately and made an appointment for the following week.  By this time, Cadence’s right eye was turned in about 90% of the time. Dr. Draisin was completely honest with me and informed me that Cadence was a “tough case” and that surgery could still be an option somewhere down the road, but I had already decided that I would explore the therapy route before having any more thoughts about surgery. What could it possibly hurt? Together we decided that when she was old enough (around 5 yrs. old), she would start vision therapy. Until then, I was given a list of simple exercises and lifestyle modifications to start her down the path of improved visual function.  We started vision therapy in January 2011 and I was immediately impressed. Each of the therapists were so passionate about what they were doing and seemed to care so much about Cadence. I was invited into the therapy room not only to observe but to try the exercises myself so that I could begin to understand how Cadence saw the world around her differently. The more I learned, the better I could help her when we practiced at home. Her evaluations with the doctor showed improvements right away. I quickly noticed that she no longer missed her mark when she went to reach for something and that her overall balance and spatial awareness were improving.  Cadence has worked so hard over the past few years and has already surpassed my expectations. She still does not always use both of her eyes together without prompting, but she can recognize and tell me whether she is or not. If you were to meet her now, you would not know that she ever had a crossed-eye. Cosmetically, her eyes are almost perfectly straight, something I was told would be impossible with vision therapy alone. More importantly her brain is being trained to send the proper signals to her eyes so that she will learn to see with binocular vision at all times, not just when she is doing specific exercises.  Cadence is an avid reader and has just tested into the gifted and talented program for next school year. She takes ballet, drama, and woodworking, and she plays the ukulele and guitar. She goes to vision therapy once a week now instead of twice, but we continue to do her at home exercises as often as we can. I now have the full support of all of my family and will continue with vision therapy for as long as we have to.

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